XAON: "I think every place in the world has its own hidden gems, and it's very exciting when you get to see the inception of their magic"
Considering the fact I wasn't familiar with XAON until Kman brought them to light two weeks ago, I see myself surprised how quickly they conquered my proggy heart with their new album "The Lethean", which came out on July 1st, 2022, as I'm pretty sure this is gonna find its place in my this year's favorites. While the mighty sound blew my mind at first spin, the depth of their music is still growing on me, revealing more and more of its beauty.
So it's with great pleasure to welcome them on our journey. Singer and producer Rob Carson told me more about the album's story, the band's background and their impressive work, check it out here:
Hey, thanks for making time to answer my questions. How are you today?
Hi there! I feel like an ant walking on barbecue grills, it is hot as balls this summer....
Oh yes, it is... Could you please introduce yourself and XAON to our readers?
We are a Symphonic Death Metal band founded in Switzerland by Mr Vincent Zermatten in 2015, and now based in France since his departure earlier this year. We like long walks on the beach, curling up with a good book near the chimney in the cold winters, and banging our fucking heads on stage.
You just released your 3rd album, “The Lethean”. How do you feel about it, and how was the reception so far?
Well, it's about time we got this record hitting the shelves, as we entered the studio back in summer 2020 and have been waiting for the right time to publish it. It's also our first self-released record since our 1st EP, so the process has been very daunting, but ultimately very rewarding!
Reviews are only starting to come in now, but it seems that people have been very receptive, and our streams have more than quadrupled in the last few months, so that's a good sign too.
Let’s take a look at the mystical cover artwork: What can you tell us about its origins, and how does it reflect the album thematically?
Once again, we hired the fantastic Chris Kiesling from Misanthropic Art, who has done all our album covers and shirt designs. I gave Chris a treatment of the overall theme as well as a color scheme I had in mind, and just let him do his thing to see how that can inspire him. It's always a treat to see what he comes up with, and I think he really nailed it once more.
Indeed :-) Could you dive a bit into the album’s story with us, please?
Here's the premise:
What if before time, there was only a conscious singularity, existing in absolute harmony within itself, in infinite bliss.
What if this singularity shattered into a universe in a Big Bang and end this loneliness, searching to become one again in a Big Crunch.
What if we were all this singularity, broken into a million drifting pieces, longing to be reunited into a perfect union.
But what if unity was so lonely, that fragmenting again and forgetting was the only solution.
The river Lethe was the river from which the dead would drink to forget about past memories before coming back to the land of the living. This is the story of "The Lethean", trapped in this everlasting loop, doomed to shatter and reunite eternally without any memory.
That's an epic story actually! Very fitting to this, your music is brutal and beautiful at the same time, and I love how you melt the different stylistic elements to a mighty, new whole. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
There is no unique place where inspiration comes from. I run a recording studio and work with a wide variety of music, so I can easily get inspired by some of the musicians that pass through my door. It could be a melody stuck in my head that develops into a symphony, or even a single word that resonates inside of me and morphs into a tapestry.
Compared to your previous records, “The Lethean” still sounds unmistakably like XAON, but you managed to evolve your style in an amazing way. Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process, please?
I have a certain system of how I create and orchestrate songs since I've been doing it for quite some time. But being confronted with so much music helps me to break some of my instincts and push my envelope, and sometimes end up with very interesting results.
Sometimes it's as easy as putting a pitch shifter on your guitar and seeing how a riff sounds in a different tuning, like what happened on the song "Wayward Sun", and sometimes it's discovering a new sample library and playing around with some of its sounds until a spark appears.
For XAON, arrangement is key. Being self-sufficient with all the production aspects and having a good idea of how things will fit together once the actual production begins really helps shave off unnecessary elements and focus on what matters - Although that's kind of a lie, since I always end up with over a hundred tracks of orchestrations with elements that will of course disappear in the mix... However their presence still has its importance, and removing them would impact the feel of the songs.
It's a lot of trial and error and a colossal endeavor, but necessary to make the songs work.
I see. Let’s make a little time trip, as behind every band, there’s an individual story. When and how did you get together?
It is a long and arduous story... At its inception, XAON was born from the disbandment of our founder Vincent's old band Ever Since. He and our original bass player founded this new band with the idea of hiring only session musicians, and not having to deal with unreliable people who could slow it down. I got a call during the summer of 2015 to audition as a vocalist through a mutual friend, and fell in love with the project.
When the bass player left shortly after we released our 1st album, Vinc asked for my recommendations on musicians to add to our team. That's when Klin (rhythm guitar) and John (bass) joined in after I poached them from my previous band Bloodstorm. Julien, our drummer, came in when we were about to record "Solipsis". John left us right before covid hit, and Laure (another Bloodstorm alumni) joined us a year later.
Vinc told me at the beginning of the year that he wanted to quit the band. He'd been playing on the extreme spectrum of metal for over 20 years and wanted to change paths musically, as he couldn't relate to playing this kind of music anymore. It was of course heartbreaking, but absolutely justifiable. He has a new band with his wife and Jordan, one of our former drummers, and I can't wait for them to release some music. I produced their album so I might be biased, but I'm really happy I'll still be able to work with him.
This marked the transition from being a Swiss band (even though he's been the only Swiss member for quite some time) to a French band, although our latest recruit and incredible lead guitarist Eerik is from Belgium. All in all I think the band has had about 13 different members since its inception, which is a bit maddening...
How did you come up with your name, and is there a deeper meaning behind “Xaon” for you?
I would love to say yes, but Vinc came up with the name thinking it was cool and left me with the task of finding some sort of meaning behind it... Spoilers, it's 4 fucking letters that are easy to remember... But I love our band name!
Let’s talk about XAON live: What was your most memorable show so far?
Difficult to say, there's been so many... I could tell you about our show opening for Gojira in Arenale Romane in Bucharest (Romania), playing in front of a huge crowd in this old roman Coliseum. I could tell you about this last minute show added on our US tour back in 2018, where our friends from Skinlab were kind enough to host us in Crockett (California), playing on a ground stage between other bands in a completely packed venue and seeing G. (one of our former rhythm guitarist) face deep in some woman's ample bosom to her delight in the middle of a song. Or the time I stripped down on stage for the last song in Nancy (France) because of the dispersed crowd - The fact that I was feeling really under the weather and needed to numb myself with booze to power through and thought it would give a memorable performance. Or all the incredible shows during our Japan tour.
They're all memorable in their own way - Being on stage is why we put up with all the rest of the bullshit needed to have a band work.
How would you describe your local rock/metal scene, and is there anything special about it? Did you notice changes over the past years?
Hard to say, sadly I don't get to go to a lot of shows because of how much I work, but I do see a lot of newish bands coming by the studio. I think every place in the world has its own hidden gems, and it's very exciting when you get to see the inception of their magic and even more to be a part of it.
Absolutely :-) What can you tell us about your future plans?
The first step is gonna be to survive this heat... Next step, get our asses back on stage on the regular, hoping that we won't have to face anymore lockdowns. We're gonna focusing on Europe for the next year, getting back on tour in the spring of 2023, and hopefully the rest of the world afterwards. We've got some more music videos in the works, and a bunch of other stuff coming up. And of course, we'll start thinking about album IV when the time is right.
That's a lot to look forward to! Hope for the chance to catch you live then as well. Before we wrap things up, do you have any further thoughts you’d like to share here?
We'd just like to thank everybody who has listened to this new album - We put everything we had into its making and release. We hope to be back on stage very soon with even more rage and energy than before and give you the best version of the band as we can.
See you all very soon!