Having recently reviewed the new release from French band AKIN, I really enjoyed their musical style. So I wanted to find out more about the band. Here is my discussion with rhythm guitarist Julien Chometton.
Jerry Lucky: Why don’t we start by telling us how Akin first got together?
Julien Chometton: Back in 1998 we were schoolmates, we had the same love for rock and metal music and we decided to start a cover band. As we raised our technical skills covering songs from Anathema, Moonspell, Edge of Sanity… we thought the time had come to make our own songs and we recorded two demos that enabled us to be sign to Sacral Productions. That’s basically how our story began.
JL: You received a lot of notice in the prog-metal world. That’s a very crowded musical scene these days, what was it that drew you to that side of prog?
JC: Musically, we naturally gave a more progressive rock feeling to our songs these last few years. It might be because we grew older, because we started to listen to bands like Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Thin Lizzy, Jeff Beck, The Beatles and so on, or because the main composer of the band became a jazz/rock teacher between our new album and our previous record… Anyway we honestly don’t sound that progressive, none of our songs is longer than 6 minutes for example. We just like to build surprising structures and arrangements and to put together different musical feels within the same song.
Because of that more progressive feeling we now give to our music I thought it would be good to describe the band’s music as “progressive rock/metal” on the promo pack we’ve sent to record labels and magazines. That little detail seems to have caught the attention of the “progressive world” to which we didn’t belong before, and we’re very pleased with it! The prog sphere appears to be quite enthusiastic with our new album so I guess it was a good intuition.
JL: Going back in time, what was your first contact with anything progressive rock? And what was your reaction?
JC: I discovered the rock/metal universe when I was a teenager with Iron Maiden. I started with their first album and my favorite songs were definitely “Remember tomorrow” and “Phantom of the Opera”, the two more progressive tracks of the record. It felt so “inspiring”! Then I skipped directly to “Somewhere in time” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, which are by far my favorite albums of the band : there are so many ideas in those records, such an inspiration, they are to me the most achieved combination of powerful melodies and musical intelligence in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
JL: Your first album came out in 2001…what was the response?
JC: Very good despite the many faults the album holds that were obvious to us, such as the lack of experience of studio recording and perfectible musicianship. “Verse” enabled us to become a band considered as a very promising one by the French national press, and drew us to open for bands like Within Temptation, Dark Tranquility, Epica…
We are very proud of the composition work on that record, but we regret its perfectible realization. I hope one day we can re-record it.
JL: Then after an EP in 2004 you took a long time off. Was the band active at all during that period?
JC: Yes we were, but we all entered the professional life at that time, some of us got married and got kids, some moved to Paris, our original singer and drummer left which led us to recruit new members… It became very hard to keep on rehearsing every week. We thus decided to stop rehearsing in 2005 and concentrated our efforts on the composition process during the week-ends.
JL: So that brings us to 2009. What brought the band together again?
JC: I have to admit that we began to think that we couldn’t continue that way, and that maybe it was time for us to drop the guns, but only after we record a new / last album, in order to end this adventure with a positive event. That’s why we decided to call the album “The Way Things End”. We asked our former singer and drummer to join the project and started recording the song we had been working on for years with the very same line up that recorded the first album.
It appears that we finally found a new working process that allows us to think that the journey is not over yet!
JL: Is the band a full-time proposition or are day-jobs necessary to pay the bills?
JC: We all have full-time jobs and to be honest we are aware of the fact that AKIN will never be neither a famous nor a profitable band insofar as we will never make the necessary sacrifices to step up to the next level. We all have family lives and jobs, and we won’t risk losing it by investing too many hopes on our band’s activities. In fact AKIN is a costly passion, we invest quite a lot of money in it and we know that the sales probably won’t even suffice to cover our initial investment. That’s the way many passions are usually experienced around the world and we’re OK with it!
JL: Your new album The Way Things End shows a much more musically diverse side of the band. I made mention in my review that you hardly sound like a prog-metal band anymore. I really like the new sounds. What led to the change in musical direction?
JC: As I mentioned before we naturally gave a more progressive rock feel to our songs these last few years. The explanations of it might be found in the fact that we are older now and that we listen to a lot of bands we didn’t use to listen to before. We also wanted a “natural” sound, with a rather light distortion on the guitars, which has obviously softened our sound.
JL: What has the response been?
JC: Most of the reviewers in the French metal sphere seem to be positively surprised with this progressive rock evolution, but we have to admit that some of them have regretted the softer sound / feel and the relative complexity we chose to give to our music.
As for the reviewers from the progressive rock sphere who discovered us with “The Way Things End”, mainly “foreign” reviewers by the way, we have been really pleased to receive such a warm welcome in the progressive world. Every single review we got is a good one, and many prog fans sent us congratulating messages to express their surprise of never having heard about us before.
JL: One of the more intriguing sounds of the new album is the use of strings. What prompted the band to use the string quartet?
JC: As I mentioned above, given the progressive rock feel we wanted to give to our songs for this album we agreed that we needed a more “natural” sound, with very little compression on the guitars and so on… Adding string arrangements to the music appeared to be a good option, and as we were quite happy with the job we had done writing these arrangements we thought it would be a shame to use MIDI sounds or keyboards. So we got the idea to contact a string quartet from the Conservatoire National de Musique de Lyon so that they could help us give life to our MIDI arrangements.
JL: I find the strings provide a wonderful contrast to the heavier elements of the rock sound. Were you pleased with the results?
JC: We are so happy with the result! I think we found the good formula for AKIN and we intend to use it again in the future!
JL: Tell us about the live environment. Are there lots of opportunities to perform live?
JC: We have recently received a few opportunities to perform live in good conditions, but we just can’t honour them due to our professional and personal lives that are already taking us too much time. We have chosen to continue only as a “studio band”, unless we are proposed really good touring opportunities during summer holidays, which is not the case for now.
JL: Some bands are quite happy to exist just in the studio, do you like to get out in front of a crowd and perform?
JC: Our recording studio experiences are part of the best times we had in our lives. I personally hate getting on stage. I’m not really self-confident by nature and moreover I’m not comfortable with the standard visual aspects of a rock/metal show. That said, my band mates quite love it!
JL: What’s next for Akin?
JC: A third album I hope. We have just begun working on it, I think we could start recording it by 2013.
JL: Thanks for taking the time to respond.