P.H.O.B.O.S Interview 2/5/2009
1. Tell us about how the project known as P.H.O.B.O.S. came into being?
I’ve initiated P.H.O.B.O.S. as a band in the early 2000s in Paris, FR, including people playing guitars, drums, keyboards, etc., with the intent to create heavy, dark and hypnotic music, yet without tagging it as “doom”, “post hardcore”, “drone” or whatever. These trends were emerging, and like many musicians I was into it. But coming from a metal and industrial background, I wanted a much more produced and synthetic sound for P.H.O.B.O.S., compared to what was (and still is) the norm in these genres, often live-oriented. Rehearsing as a standard band, with limited visions, was not the best mean to search for a new sound and push the envelope. Then, during the former years, after recording of one demo and playing once on stage, the band quickly narrowed itself to a duo, then to my solo project. Since 2003, P.H.O.B.O.S. is about experimenting in studio, to produce records, still as regards to the original focus.
2. Your debut CD "Tectonics" came out on Appease Me/Candlelight. Why the move back to your own label with your latest release "Anœdipal"?
In fact Appease Me was a sub-label run by members of Blut Aus Nord, and most of the signatures are/were experimental studio projects. Candlelight Records, in charge of marketing and distribution, were complaining about the bands for not being cooperative enough (no touring, no posturing pictures or videos, etc.). On the other hand, we blamed them for not knowing how to promote special music in the mainstream metal market. Finally, they decided to drop the Appease Me rooster, end of story. Afterwards, I was in touch with less important but dedicated labels, which seemed excited to release the new album. But financially speaking, they would not have been able to handle the release in a special format, or they wanted the album almost for free, with little promotion. Then I decided to take care of everything, and to release “Anœdipal” with my own money, on my own label. Hence the long time between the recording and the release date.
3.Your music has a strong mix of Halo, Godflesh, early Voivod and Swans in sound and style. Were these bands road maps at all for your current sound?
Yes, I cannot deny their influence on my work, sound-wise and artistically speaking. During the late eighties, I was crazy about the very few bands that dared to push the boundaries of metal, namely Voivod, Celtic Frost, and let us not forget Coroner. These innovators were not afraid to introduce electronic, industrial or classical parts and effects in their music, despite the adversity of the average metal crowd blinded by the thousands of Slayers or Metallicas wannabees. Later in the electronic camp, the same process occurred towards metal, with early Ministry, Die Krupps, Front Line Assembly, etc. Those bands opened my musical curiosity during my formative years, and I am deeply thankful to them for that. As for other old landmarks, the darkness of early Bathory and the psychotic sounds of Skinny Puppy were crucial too. But above all, I now realize that Swans had the deepest impact on me. The most underrated artists of all time, doubtlessly, and they inspired a lot of awesome bands too (Head of David, Godflesh, early PitchShifter, early Treponem Pal, Halo, Neurosis, Scorn, The Young Gods, etc.) Their former drummer Roli Mosimann has been the producer of a lot of my favourite albums also. More than Black Sabbath, Swans remain the source of everything heavy and hypnotic, and to this day I keep on digging into their entire work and side-projects. I can say that P.H.O.B.O.S.’ identity has been unconsciously built under the guidance of all the pioneers quoted above, yet without trying to rip off one in particular.
4. Do you find the mix of industrial and doom is a very select taste, or with your releases have you found a greater fan base?
I am not sure about the understanding of your question, but if you wonder whether melting doom and industrial may be too peculiar for the masses, my answer is positive. Pure industrial or ambient music are closed niche markets, doom metal too, and this is worst for black metal. I mean, most of the fans/musicians of one style do not really listen to another one, because of lack of curiosity or simply because of their restrained musical culture, wanting to stay ‘true’ to a few coded genres, hence killing the freedom of creation. I personally have no problem to deal with very different types of music, if mixing them efficiently ‘against nature’ can lead to a new bleakness and insanity. Fortunately, some people are open to this process, and I consider them as the elite of sonic arts lovers, above the crowd of entertained sheep. Talking about a “great fan base”, I do not figure out what P.H.O.B.O.S. does really represent among the “scene”. Despite I can hear and read encouraging feedback, like how original my style may be, super heavy, dark as fuck, intelligent, etc., album sales stay confidential. And as you surely guess, sales figures are not significant of the quality of a band, especially nowadays, when culture is still consumed, but not bought anymore.
5. Does P.H.O.B.O.S. perform live often, or are there any real shows? I would see it more as a ritual in sound rather than a band setting. Would I be correct?
Very first and final show occurred in 2003 in Tilburg, NL. I wanted to give it a try, but I knew that playing live without suitable material support (i.e. conceptual lights and screening) was not the best medium to transmit the obscure and twisted feelings of P.H.O.B.O.S. Elaborate and dense compositions are shattered when exposed in a live rock environment, where people are not 100% concentrated, disturbed by all human things and by their own chit-chat. The main problem comes from the common opinion of music, which is sadly shaped by images first, not by sound. Moreover, “playing live” today is a great swindle, especially in the electronic/industrial field, where so-called “live performances” are reduced to one guy just monitoring his fucking laptop after pushing “play”. I won’t drop any big names, but a lot of experimental artists, impressive on records, often deliver disappointing shows. Very few succeed to go beyond their complicated work. At worst they ruin the magic of it. As you have suggested, to discover my sonic world is a solitary effort, almost a ritual, to dive through the thickness of the tracks. To fully experience P.H.O.B.O.S. for the first time, one has to immerse oneself with good headphones at loud volume, preferably in the dark, and then penetrate another dimension, hopefully. This is claustrophobic inhuman sound for introvert people.
6. P.H.O.B.O.S. seems to care equal with the art and construction of packaging as much as the musical creation. Do you feel in this day the need to complete package to be over the top and excellent to get the buyer or consumer interested on buying the title?
Yes, I think that when you consider your music to be special, and if you want to spread it as a material object, you must think about an outstanding packaging too. I am from a generation which spent time to dissect the artwork and words on records, before religiously laying the vinyl on the turntable. This was an important part of the approach, and this is still my favourite way to discover new albums. Call me a fetishist, but I miss the old days, and I which I released P.H.O.B.O.S.’ albums on this support. But there is a price to get seriously into this, and a long format CD packaging has been preferred so far, to release something different and captivating. For impenetrable music like P.H.O.B.O.S., putting an effort in illustrations and unveiling the lyrics is more helpful for the listener’s experience than playing live, or just sending a payable link to download the album.
7. Is P.H.O.B.O.S. a fan of the digital / 21st century media (Myspace, Webzines, Youtube, Internet radio and Mp3's)? Or do you miss the days of tape trading, Fanzines and Radio shows?
Some digital media like specialized webzines or official websites are useful for updated news, and to discover music, despite the low quality of compressed/encoded sound. P.H.O.B.O.S. is supported through its own online visiting card, www.phobosdrone.org, the only official resource which takes care of everything (contact, track excerpts, shop, etc.). Since live posturing and image are not the promotion axes, it is useless to be linked to the other continuously changing media of the web that you have quoted (yesterday MySpace, today Facebook, tomorrow another trend…). There are so many bands/projects polluting the internet with unconfirmed news, unfinished work, false friends, etc. They guess that uploading their first rehearsal on YouTube is more important than working hard to build their own identity. These are the signs of the times: Image before substance. Since I am not really into socializing, it would make no sense to expose how many so-called friends/allies/parasites or bands are in touch with me. I may be wrong in my way to broadcast the plague, but first of all, I want to stay honest to myself and keep P.H.O.B.O.S. far from the technological fashions. I do not need to participate in this big idleness to believe in my music. If intelligent people are searching for sounds like mine, they know how to reach them, without to be fooled by digital over-information. Back in the day, tape trading or paper fanzines, although laborious, were much more passionate ways to promote music, involving real activists. Yet, I was not really into it. Not because of disinterest, but because of the place where I grew in, out of Europe, when just finding interesting records and magazines was already a hard task. I did not have the underground culture to discover “beyond the mainstream”. I surely missed some great metal demos, but on the other hand, at an early age, I was forced to listen to the various music styles that were available, and to take the best out of them.
8. There seems to be a more experimental element in the new release "Anœdipal". Will you be expanding on the more open textures and drifting drones on future releases?
I would not say that “Anœdipal” is more experimental than “Tectonics”, sound-wise. The process to create new sounds and to blend them in the music was quite similar (sampling, field recordings, effects, etc). But the album construction is much more consistent, and my dark feelings were assumed by enhancing the black metal vibrancies buried inside of me for a long time. As for future sounds, P.H.O.B.O.S. has always been about open textures, drones, weird layers, walls of sound, noises, etc… This is my modus operandi for every release, but I cannot predict to which level it will go next.
9. Will Megaton Mass Products be releasing titles outside of P.H.O.B.O.S.? Or will the label be a home to your creations only?
The label was mainly launched to release my works. Other material is waiting for completion, and if I feel the music too far from P.H.O.B.O.S. style or sound, then Megaton Mass Products could be the easy way to publish it under another side-project’s name. Other wishes, as previously told, would include the release of vinyl records. But all these P.H.O.B.O.S. related plans need high investment, if I want to maintain a respectable standard for packaging and production. Thus, even if I would like to, the label is not viable enough to help other original acts. Please do not send any demo yet …
10. Is there a theme or ideal that P.H.O.B.O.S. holds throughout the releases you have created?
Graphically speaking, all the albums or demo cover artworks, which mainly feature lava, fire, volcanoes, rocks textures, etc, seem to be geologically-oriented. This is reinforced by the earthshaking frequencies of the music. But when paying attention to the lyrics, one would observe that P.H.O.B.O.S. deals with my personal thinking and experiences: the end of times, humanity, the meaning of life, sex, self-destruction, etc. I try to transmit these miscellaneous themes with my own metaphors and by referring to some psychoanalytic / psychological / sociological / religious concepts. Without a main concept, my writing embraces various sides and thoughts of the same person. I do not tell stories but mine; past and future.
11. Your website is impressive. Tell us how http://www.phobosdrone.
Since its launching in 2002, phobosdrone.org has almost kept the same structure. To frequently renew and update your website is the rule in the internet world, to give the impression that your band is alive. But web mastering is long and boring compared to creating music, it would be a real pain in the ass to completely rework the website. During the past years, I have just done some minor modifications, like adding or deleting some modules (shop, guestbook, etc.), and I have embellished its aesthetic with my own sounds, photographs and graphic works.
12. Does the artwork for "Anœdipal" tie in with the theme of the release? Who did the amazing artwork as well?
The lyrics of “Anœdipal” are much more thoughtful and psychoanalytic than on the previous album, whose artwork had been executed by me, based on my personal volcanic pictures. This time it was a too difficult task to reflect the abstract and twisted images of my mind, and I accepted the offer of Stefan Thanneur for this hard job. In addition to being a close friend, he is a talented graphic designer too (check out is blowing work at www.manifeste.net). I trusted him throughout the process, from the packaging definition to the entire illustrations. With little input from me, he has succeeded to catch the very few human and organic elements of the tracks, to melt them with truly disturbing yet evocative matters and colours, sometimes recalling the geological trademark of the previous album.
13. Do you feel a kinship with current drone artists like SUNN0))), House of Low Culture, Nadja, etc.?
Not really. Despite I am into bands like Sunn O))) and affiliated, P.H.O.B.O.S. is much less minimalist, more articulated, almost “song-oriented”, and incorporates very different extreme styles. A common ground would be the slow, heavy, or hypnotic atmospheres. As for HOLC, Nadja, etc, or other laptop sounding projects, I do not feel in connection to their style either. Finally, talking about ‘drone’, one cannot bring all these bands together under the ‘drone music’ banner. According to me, drone remains a process, not a musical genre, in order to reach a specific feeling by low frequencies control. Same goes for the core of black metal or industrial: this is all about feeling and frequencies. And by the way, the ‘drone’ in my website name should be taken in its first acceptation, meaning that there are droning or buzzing passages in P.H.O.B.O.S., not that P.H.O.B.O.S. plays ‘drone metal’.
14. Thank you for your time. Any closing thoughts please place here.
Nothing to add, Clint, so much has already been answered to your interested questions. Thank you for your support.