– For heaven’s
by Magali Surcin
(nearly exactly a year after he last played in Paris,
in the Bataclan with 16HP), DEE
is about to
take the stage of the very beautiful venue of the
present songs from his fantastic new album, Consider the birds.
straight from the Netherlands, where he played the night before as a
is obviously quite tired (let’s not forget that at the time
of this interview,
he’d been playing 13 dates in 15 days and 5 different
countries), but as
always, he remains constantly kind and approachable throughout our
of all, how’s
the tour going so far?
Very well. We’ve now been in Europe
for 2 weeks, Ordy (Garrisson, the drummer) and
myself. We’ve already played in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Belgium
; tonight, we’re in Paris,
and tomorrow we’ll conclude the tour in Haarlem (Netherlands).
We have received an excellent welcome everywhere, which is great.
satisfied with this tour.
you tell us
where your mysterious album title, Consider the birds, comes from?
“Consider the birds” is a
quotation from the Bible. It’s rather difficult to explain
let’s say that the expression means that you
shouldn’t worry or be anxious
about the essential, elementary things of life, about existence and our
like eating, clothing yourself, having a roof above your head, that
things. God takes care of this for us, everyday. You have to learn to
yourself from that.
birds” is without a doubt your most intense and intimate
work, but also the
least accessible at first… First of all, because of the
nature of the lyrics,
which are richer and stronger than ever, and quite complex, but also
the musical tones, which are more and more intense and powerful, and
from 16HP's loud energy, but rather stand out through the underlying
behind the music, the colours and the sounds… How do you
describe the evolution
of your music since the first album you released?
never really thought about
the way it evolved, I don’t know… I think that the
main difference between 16HP
and Woven Hand lies in the sound rather than in the songwriting.
sound is more acoustic, more muffled and also maybe more experimental
with Woven Hand, but you’re right, there is in itself the
same intensity and
sense of urgency in the songwriting process. When I write, I
don’t ever really
think in terms of “big sound”. I write, and then
the song progresses and
develops, and takes off. Unsurprisingly, 16HP has a bigger sound, more
and heavier, since there are 3 of us to create and shape the songs, and
more of a “rock band” approach as a trio, whereas
with Woven Hand, I do nearly
everything by myself, from start to finish. But strictly speaking, I
think there is a big difference as far as the writing process is
Personally, it doesn’t make a difference to me…
lyrics of “Oil
on panel” are astounding, especially the passage in the end;
they combine Latin
and English, references to the deadly sins (Ira, Gula, Luxuria),
colour has left you, your colours fall, I paint them roughly, I paint
my sleep”), Jesus of course (“heavy as their holes
are deep”, “Yeshua, where
you go, take me with you”), but also lines that are more
understand (“Roma, Roma where is my
country”)… Can you tell us a bit more about
this fantastic song and its different themes?
It’s quite an old song. The
basic theme is painting, as the title implies. By the way, the title
came to me
very quickly and very naturally, for once. I love religious paintings.
starting point for the song came from a painting by one of my favourite
painters, Jérôme Bosch. It was painted between
1475 and 1480. It’s an
absolutely amazing painting, complex and impressive, representing an
circle with separate parts inside of it, and inside each of those
parts, one of the deadly sins is written in Latin. Around the bigger
there are 4 more circles, showing the different destinations of man
death: heaven and hell are at the bottom, death and judgement on top.
outstanding painting was the starting point for the song. I feel a lot
emotions when I look at it and I wanted to
“translate” this into a song. There
are several very different parts and many themes, it’s rather
sinuous. For the second part of the song, I chose the sins of Wrath
Gluttony (Gula) and Luxury (Luxuria), because they were strongly
what I wanted to express in that song, and I love singing that part.
and the line “Roma, Roma, where is my country?” in
particular, is a reference
to the gipsy culture, and to all those people who have been displaced
and their nomadic lifestyle, always wondering where they come from and
they’re going. The end of the song refers to Jesus of course.
It really is a
complex song… Then all the parts fall together, so the song
becomes a whole,
consistent from beginning to end. It is like a story made up of
I imagine that it's not
play such a song on stage, especially as a duo...
Yes, it's a rather peculiar
song. In the beginning of the tour, for the first few dates, it wasn't
set-list, then we included it progressively, and for the last few
we've been playing it every night, towards the end of the set,
the encore. The version we play is quite different from the album's,
simplified and more focused on the voice and the lyrics. We'll actually
tonight. (editor's note: indeed, the version they played that
night was very
different, the vocals were even more intense and powerful, with a lot
beautiful vocal improvisations which added to the mystical aspect of
both bands obviously have a lot in
common, there are many differences between 16Horsepower and Woven Hand.
is difficult to imagine songs such as “I seen what I
saw” and “Clogger”
performed by Woven Hand, and the other way around: “Chest of
by 16HP. When you write a song, do you make a difference between 16HP
think you're right... But as I said
before, when I write, I don't think about it so much, I don't
it, I won't try to analyse anything on the spot. I let things come out
naturally. I never think “I have to write a 16HP-stamped
song” or “I have to
write a song in the spirit
Hand”. I absolutely do not keep the 2 bands separate when I
am in the process
of writing, I write and I let the lyrics, melodies and structures
naturally by themselves, and it's only afterwards, with a bit of
I “choose” which songs will belong to 16HP's
repertoire, and which belong to
Woven Hand's. The choice happens naturally after the songs are written,
never before, or even during the writing process.
you were working with Woven Hand, your
16HP bandmates, Pascal Humbert and Jean-Yves Tola, started the Lilium
and released the album “Short Stories”, on which
you have been invited to sing
one of the most beautiful songs you've ever performed,
“Whitewashed”. Have you
ever had the opportunity to sing it on stage and if not, would you like
unfortunately, we never got the chance
to play it on stage, although I am very much attached to that song.
ever played it once altogether, in the studio, for the album. We
quickly, I wrote the lyrics while Pascal and Jean-Yves were taking care
music. I think it's a beautiful song, that deserves to be played on
Maybe later, who knows? Anyway, it would be a pleasure to play it on
I'll keep the idea at the back of my mind (smiling).
do you think of your experience with
note: Woven Hand toured with dance company
Ultima Vez, with
a show entitled Blush) I
was lucky enough to see the show
many times, in London
amongst others, and I must say that I was very impressed with the
cohesion of dance and music... I imagine that the work you did was
different from a “traditional” concert. What did
that new experience bring you?
was an unbelievable, exciting experience,
yet one that required a considerable amount of work. It was very
a “normal” concert. You have to completely review
your work methods, your
points of reference, your approach to the stage. You saw the show many
as well as the rehearsal in London,
so you could see for yourself how much work was involved. The day
shows, and even the very afternoon before the shows, we were rehearsing
non-stop in order to work on the cohesion, again and again. The most
was for me to stay permanently focused, I couldn't really close my eyes
myself go while singing, but I had to concentrate and look at the
always pay attention to the dancers, their moves and rhythm, etc. I had
question myself all the time. It was a very different experience from
I'd ever known musically so far. I hope, and I think that it made me a
musician. We'll be playing the final shows in Barcelona
and then Brussels
at the end of January. A DVD should also be released next year.
one of your first interviews for the
French press, you said: “I think that we're on the brink of
the abyss. Man must
get ready to disppear, something awful is about to happen, something
than both world wars put together, I don't know what exactly, but there
are no other
options... However, God will recognise his people”... 8 years
statement, where do you think the world is going? How do you see the
of man's faith and religion in the next few years and decades?
simply think that Man has no control or
power over this. All of this only comes from God and depends on God.
Almighty can make those decisions. Faith is something that God offers
you can't make it up, imagine it or create it according to your wishes.
Everything comes from the Lord. Only Him has the power to choose. Only
control. I deeply believe in the Bible, and I have hope and confidence
Lord. Everything is under his control. He has power over all elements.
know that all of your lyrics, whether
with 16HP or Woven Hand, deal with the fight between Good and Evil,
God and religion. How are your lyrics perceived in the USA?
seen as a “religious singer” in spite of your dark
a good question, but it's difficult for
me to answer you, because it's not easy for me to see how my lyrics are
perceived in the USA.
I don't really know if people understand what I'm on about... I have a
that I am seen as a “tormented religious rock
singer” (laughing), but to be
completely honest, I'm not really worried about all that, about my
how people perceive my lyrics, and honestly, I guess I don't really
they think, it doesn't make a difference to me. The most important is
lyrics may mean something to them and inform them, regardless of how
perceive them. There are so many ways to understand the lyrics of a
know... Even for me, even though I do write them... (smiling, then
One day I'll understand them one way, and the following week, another
see? I write them, I sing them and I deeply feel them within myself,
perception of such and such word, line or metaphor can vary from one
the other, or every time you listen to it.
has now been active for more than 12
years (they band started in 1992, toured intensively for 3 years,
releasing their first album in 1996). With 7 official albums under your
studio albums, 1 EP, a live album, a compilation of rarities from the
years of the band) and non-stop touring, how do you see those 12 years?
years? You're right... I'd never really
thought about that. 12 years? Wow! (laughing) I'm not really one to
but with the distance, I can say that I'm extremely proud and happy
achievements. I wouldn't change anything at all if I had to do it all
again. First of all I'm proud because I think that we recorded good
also and above all happy because we've always done whatever we wanted,
we wanted, following our wishes. We've never been talked into doing
that didn't suit us. We always worked without compromise, and always
we felt like doing. I think we've been very lucky in that regard.
you sometimes tired to be touring nearly
constantly for the last 10 years? Do you consider giving it all up one
lead a quieter life, closer to your family in Denver?
don't know, it's an interesting question.
On the one hand, it is my job, and it's always been, so it is natural
for me to
be on the road so often. Of course, it's not always easy for my family,
it's been going on for years, it's my job, and this is how I support my
The Woven Hand project actually started when 16HP took a break. Jean
breeds horses on a ranch and wanted to dedicate more time to that, and
wanted to focus on other projects, and in a nutshell, after all those
spent together, we took a break, and as far as I'm concerned, I
financially to just sit at home and wait. I had to record an album and
I started Woven Hand. Music is my job, this is how I make a living,
sometimes, I'm actually somewhat tired to be touring so intensely. On
hand, it's much more than just that: it's also my way to
“talk” to people through
my songs, and communicate with them thanks to music. It's a joy and a
pleasure to play on stage, and to create an echo reaching the audience.
the way my life has been for years now.
you go back to Denver after this tour,
do you have projects? Will there be a 16HP DVD? And a new album next
right, a DVD should be released soon,
early next year, it will be a 2-disc set and will include many live
music and promotional videos and interviews. It should have been
the end of the year, but it was postponed. Then, in February, Pascal,
and myself will start working on 16HP's new studio album. I've already
quite a lot of new material lately, especially lyrics, and we will get
and shape things up very soon. To answer your question, yes, a new
indeed to be announced for next year.