Molassess Interview with Farida Lemouchi: “Through Fire Reborn”

molassess (Photo by Ryanne Van Dorst)

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I’ll tell you flat out I was honored to do this interview. And a bit nervous. I was there in 2014 when Lemouchi, Beydals and others took the stage at the 013 to pay tribute to Selim just over a month after his death, and it was one of the most powerful and genuine live performances I’ve ever witnessed. In some ways, it felt voyeuristic to stand and watch the rawness of someone’s grief like that, and now, I’d be engaging that same person — a human being, not just an idea of a person on a stage — in conversation about how she’s moved forward over the six years since. She was, thankfully, kind and sincere and open and honest, and the strength of vulnerability in her telling her story throughout the album came through as much in how she framed talking about returning to music as in learning to focus her energies without her brother’s voice pushing her.

Strength, vulnerability, and the strength to be vulnerable. I hope that’s what comes through here. Thank you for reading.

Full Q&A follows. Thanks to Katy Irizarry for coordinating, to Oeds Beydals, Walter Hoeijmakers, and of course Lemouchi herself.

Please enjoy:

molassess roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Molassess Interview with Farida Lemouchi: “Through Fire Reborn”

You’re on the Main Stage at Roadburn 2019 with a brand new band, who people kind of know through association with The Devil’s Blood, Astrosoniq, and you’re up front. What were you feeling at that point, as you were performing as Molassess for the first time, this new entity?

It was the first 30 minutes of the show, I was very much aware of all these things you’re talking about right now, and I needed some time to shake that loose. I think we all had the same experience with the band. It was not uncomfortable, but it was, well… I was making a statement for myself to be something completely new and completely different, but of course we had this story.

I had to shake it out during the first part of the set. Up front, I was thinking, how should I behave? How should I act on stage? Then I let that go, like, okay, I’m not going to think about it, I’m going to do whatever I feel. But it was hard to do that at the beginning. Then, when we went along, it kept feeling better and better and then suddenly I was one with the music and one with the stage and one with all the people there, and it felt like letting go.

It’s all about that, also, the theme. It fit it perfectly, I guess. It maybe represented the time that I needed to get to that point.

What you’re describing sounds to me like catharsis. After five years from being on a stage like that – or on that stage – aside from being exhausted emotionally, was there a sense of relief, too, because, “we did this thing and it worked?”

molasses at roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)(Laughs) Enormously, of course. Yeah, exhausted, but very energetic and very happy, like okay, so we did it and it was good and we overcome, and yeah. All kinds of emotions like that, yes. And then, of course, it was a good thing that Walter decided to put us on the first day so we had the whole weekend then to party (laughs) and be happy.

They call that “processing.” Time to “process.”

(Laughs) Exactly.

Tell me about creating for Molassess. Obviously you and Selim working together had a bond that went beyond the band, and these are familiar players as well, but it’s naturally going to be different. Can you tell me about writing for this band and how your relationship to this music is different from your relationship to that music?

Well, to start with the second part of your question, the relationship is bound to be different, because Selim is not there anymore. What we had was brotherhood or sisterhood, or yeah, and I’m never gonna have that again, it’s obvious. But we have this deep connection in this band, in Molassess. Of course, the two people that [joined], that are there, I didn’t know up front. So that was a search and a process to get to know each other, but in the rehearsal room, there was this energy immediately, so it fits.

Me and Oeds are very deeply connected also, and we had this experience and this history together, so even on a spiritual level, we’re very close. I was very nervous at the beginning to do this, because I had to let myself get into that again, and I think I was a little bit scared of doing that again, because I had all these uncertainties, that I thought I maybe couldn’t do it without Selim. But on the other hand, it was also this challenge for me individually, like, “Okay, I’m on my own now and I have to do it, and I have to search different ways to do that,” and I think we managed very well along the way.

In the beginning, when we were asked for Roadburn, then it was very clear what we needed to do and we also had lots of plans before already, so it was just like, “Okay, let’s put everything together and let’s do this.” So it went really well, actually. But always with this feeling that, you know, and I don’t want to sound too insecure, but, “What am I doing? Is this really gonna be worthwhile? Is it going to be good enough?” But on the other hand, I think all creators deal with that stuff when you’re working on something. I hear it all the time, so yeah. It’s always a personal process.

That’s something I wanted to talk about too. So many of the themes on the album feel directly personal, and to me, the key phrase is “getting out from under.”

Yes, that’s very true.

And that’s kind of what the album is doing as well. For all of you, really, but especially for you. Acknowledging this weight and getting out from under it as best you can. One thing I was struck by in listening is the power of your voice and the vulnerability of your lyrics. You mentioned going into Roadburn you had this story. Can you talk a bit about writing your story and framing it for yourself in this way?

I can. It was very clear to me that I needed to talk about me, and the feelings that I have and the emotions I went through, because that was the story that needs to be told. But however, I never wrote before. Oeds helped me a lot. Because we are connected so well. But I told him, I don’t know how, I don’t know where to begin, how does one go about that? I think it’s very… It’s like walking naked through the street, right? I don’t know if I can do it.

So we had this like a ping-pong game, where I told him my thoughts and my feelings and of course we talked – all those years we stayed in contact – so we knew everything. Then he kind of asked all the questions, “do you mean this?” and “are you saying that?” and then it became lyrics. He texted me back, do you mean this? And I was like, “No I mean that.” And then like molds, you put it in very poetic – I’m not a word artist myself, but together we created. I think he put my thoughts into this cool.. I’m searching for a word.

Like a frame. He helped you frame your thoughts.

Yeah, exactly. And then the music was there. Most of the ideas came from Oeds and Ron, actually, and we started working on that sitting at my kitchen table or at his place. Well, most of the time here because I don’t have any neighbors who – they are all good with it. We started to work and work and work, and that’s how it went. And then we went to the rehearsal room.

Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)What was is like for you, sitting down and getting back to work and back to songwriting after half a decade-plus?

It felt really good, because I missed making music all day. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to, but on the other side, I didn’t want to. I don’t know if I can explain it clearly, but when you’re mourning, you get all these emotions and all this stuff, and sometimes you don’t know why or what does it mean, or how should I deal with them, so my thoughts went from left to right and everything in between, so one day I was very clear about, “Okay, I want a new band and I want to make music,” and then the next day, “Oh no, it’s a really bad idea. I’m never going to do that again.”

I needed a little kick in the ass. We all talked about it a lot, but everyone was doing their own stuff, and because I was sure that if I would do it again it would be with these people, because we had something to finish – or something to begin, but first something to finish – but we never did it together. So yeah, catharsis again. I think maybe if it wasn’t for Walter, we would’ve waited longer. Someone had to put the seed there and then we all were live wolves, “Yeah! Let’s do this!”

So you had ideas and things loosely in progress then, that solidified after Walter came into the picture. When did you know Molassess was something you wanted to keep going?

It was in the first stage of rehearsing for Roadburn. I think when we were in the rehearsal room two or three times, nobody was a done deal (laughs). So in the beginning, Oeds, Ron, Job and me were sitting, at my kitchen table again – lots of stuff happens at my kitchen table (laughs) – and we talked about, you know, are we serious and this is what we want, and are we going to do this, and everyone was very, very into it. That was even before we asked the other musicians to join us, so we were very clear about it, “Okay, the four of us are gonna do it.”

It was in the beginning already. First three get-togethers, we were very decided. It’s like — always this language is so difficult sometimes when you’re talking emotions — but we missed each other. We saw each other, but musically and on a creative level, we missed each other very much, and it was time. We felt it. It was this energy that felt like being whole again, actually.

And in terms of putting the songs together and putting the album together, what can you tell me about being in the studio again and recording vocals again?

Of course, we recorded the single or the 7”, and I did some studio stuff for friends that went pretty cool. But of course it was very, very different. I had to practice and do stuff to get my voice in shape. But it all went very natural.

The real struggle was to find the power in myself. And that is where Selim came in, because he was always very good at challenging me to give everything and more. And you have to dive deep into yourself, and he could fight me to get the best things. And I didn’t know if I could do it in this form, but it did. I had to do it myself, and I found myself, so I think I’m stronger than ever, actually.

And the studio experience was great. We did it with Pieter [Kloos], and of course we did all The Devil’s Blood records with him also, only he changed the studio. He had a studio in one place, but now he built a beautiful little studio in his back yard, and in the old studio, there was a cellar and I had to go into the cellar and was all alone in a dark room (laughs), sort of a dark room.

And they were upstairs telling me all kinds of stuff through their mic to my headphones, and so I told Pieter, “How are we gonna do it because I don’t want to be in the studio where everyone can see me. I want the dark room!” So he made one for me with black curtains, I could say bye-bye, close the curtains, and sing. It went very natural. It was a really great experience and I think I felt more free.

How do you mean?

Well, it’s the paradox of missing someone who’s not there anymore, and thinking that it was maybe Selim who made me do stuff, or I thought I needed him to get the best out of me. But he’s still here, in one form or another, but it was never him. It was always me. But I had to find that out.

Selim’s style comes into a little bit with what Oeds and Ron are doing, and “Molasses” was the last song on the Enemies record, so in what ways do you feel like Through the Hollow is moving forward from that point?

If you look at it music-wise, you can see the progression The Devil’s Blood made from the first one to the last one – it’s not an official album but it is to me – and also how Selim progressed in his way of thinking. He changed very much. In the beginning, he was very like, “This is what I want and you all have to do it like this,” and he was very… what’s the word?

Controlling?

(Laughs) Well yeah, controlling, it’s a Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)good one. He was controlling, but he also had the whole picture in his head already. He had the vision. Along the way, he started also to be more free, and be more loose. More jams and more intuitive, I think. I think you can hear that also in the music very much, and maybe it is where The Devil’s Blood left, or quit, or stopped, that everyone had their own stuff. I’m making it too difficult right now (laughs).

It developed from there to Molassess, and then Molassess was the last song on the album, also the last song we worked together on, and then we all had time to grieve and grow and develop in all kinds of ways, and yeah. It’s like Molassess picked up maybe we left off, but not exactly at the point where The Devil’s Blood quit, but years later, with all the progression and development. You get that?

You’re saying Molassess aren’t trying to pretend the last five years-plus didn’t happen.

There could never be a Molassess without all those years.

It’s taking what’s happened in that time and translating it emotionally and in terms of musical progression into the songs.

And also as individuals, for each and every one. Even with the new guys, I guess. Otherwise we couldn’t – not to get spiritual – but everything feels very organic and it had to be like this, otherwise we couldn’t make this album.

But it is spiritual. In the sense of something intangible, you’re a group of people coming together to make this thing. Shit, if there’s magic anywhere, that’s it. There’s so much honesty in this record, and you see the frame and the story. Where does it go from here? You get the front to back journey on the record. What happens next?

“What happens next?” (Laughs) Yeah, that’s a good… I mean, who knows? We’re already writing again, new stuff. It goes on, but I mean, I don’t know how, I don’t know when. And also everything is on hold. But we’re moving along. It was very, very good to finish this album because it was also like, “When is it gonna be done? I want a copy and I can’t listen to it” and all that stuff, of course.

Because when you have a story to tell and you’ve told it, then it needs to get out there. Because otherwise you still can’t let go. “So go now, thank you” (laughs). But where, I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I hope… We’re not done, so we’re moving on and we’re moving forward and now that this has been said, we can search for other stuff and grow again. It would be really nice if people like it and want more, but we have more, so this is definitely just a beginning.

It sounds like a beginning. You’re working with the benefit of knowing each other, you, Ron and Oeds. You have this foundation of a relationship, but it is a new exploration, and you can hear that as the album goes on. And there’s the story with that as well. I keep going back to the storyline happening across the album.

It is the story from beginning to end. I can almost not listen to it. Well, now I don’t listen to it for a while now. But it was one thing. It almost feels like, yeah. One book. And it’s the beginning and it’s the end and now we’re gonna make a new album (laughs).

It’s like a memoir, almost.

Well yeah, you could call it that. I never thought of that, but yeah. That’s a good name (laughs). We should’ve called it Memoir (laughs).

What do you take away from the experience of making the record ultimately? You’ve mentioned finding that ability to push yourself, the level of catharsis in this expression, and I’d think the ability to make a song personal for you would have to be satisfying. Having told this story now that’s being put out there, I guess in October, what are you taking with you from this experience as you move forward?

Lots of stuff, I guess. It’s this kind of freedom. This inner-freedom. I don’t know if that’s a word.

It changed me as a person. In the way I feel and the way I think. Not really changed, because you never really change –

Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Wait wait wait wait! Don’t back off that. No no no. Keep going.

Yeah, so I changed. My state of mind changed. It gave me so much energy. New energy, I think, that I haven’t found in my whole life. Maybe also because this was my first experience with really creating something myself that is totally mine – and of course with everyone in the band included because it’s not about me alone – but for me, personal.

I have a child, you have a child also. Something is so yours. It’s in your flesh, it’s in your genes. It’s so hard to give away, and that whole process to really experience that, and yeah. So I’m taking with me that I’m very strong, and I know, I know, I just know, I have to do this and I want to do this and it brought me… everything. That is too fake, I guess.

No, that is not fake. That’s the opposite of fake. That’s is the real thing. You have made a piece of art that has changed who you are. That’s incredible.

Well it feels incredible, and I’m very thankful that I’ve got this chance to do that and I’m in a lucky position that we could do this. And one thing I learned from my brother was that, you know, at the times I was very insecure about, “Was it good enough,” and “Should we do this,” I always listened to him telling me, “If you are okay with it and you did the best you can, then it is good, whatever people will think doesn’t matter anymore.”

That’s how I feel now. When I got insecure, that was what I would think about and say, “I’m good with this. It is fucking good, so yes, move on to the next,” and so on and so on. I changed. It changed me. I’m grown up now. Maybe that’s the thing. I feel very mature (laughs). Not really.

Selim passed away six years ago, and my mother passed away three years ago, and my father passed away like nine years ago. Nine, six, three. So this freedom is also about that, because I’m loose. I have a son, but I don’t have any more responsibilities to my family. In the beginning, also it felt very alone, but I can only depend on me and now I’m very proud of myself, because I’m able to make this great music. Everything I just said, but this is a personal process thing.

The record ends with “The Devil Lives.” Can you talk a little about that?

That was a Selim song, a Devil’s Blood song, that was never finished. And we tried it. We worked on it many times, but it never was good enough, or it was never appropriate. Then it became just another thing that was thrown on the pile of unfinished stuff. But also it was one of my favorites. Way before Roadburn, I had all the guys together, like, “We should finish this song, we should finish it!” so we tried something but it didn’t work and everyone went on doing their stuff again, and then now this was the perfect time to try it again and I think we did a good job.

Molassess Through the HollowWe finished it, but it was Selim’s song. We put it at the end of the album I think too, Through the Hollow is more of a statement like, “And now for something completely different.” It’s very clear that it’s no Devil’s Blood and we’re doing our own shit, but it felt really good to have him there also. We thought it was a perfect ending of this new beginning.

We thought about it, because it’s a very difficult thing. At first when we talked about Molassess, a lot of people were like, “Oh, The Devil’s Blood!” or “Oh, she’s coming back!” and we didn’t want that, but can you really blame people?

It’s like, this is our history, so I learned you need to embrace everything. Also that. When we were thinking about this song, we had also mixed feelings about it, like, “No, but it’s too Devil’s Blood,” and just when we let that go, well, it’s part of us. So here it is.

Molassess, “Through the Hollow”

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