Ieper Hardcore Fest is known globally as a full on hardcore festival but with such an extended line up they also seem to sneak in some non typical bands each year. This year they've managed to get one of the most talked about acts in metal to their fest. Zeal & Ardor, the brainchild of Swiss musician Manuel Gagneux emerged onto the scene last year and took the world by storm with it's unique blend of black metal accompanied by satanic gospel. RMP Magazine caught up with Manuel to discuss Zeal & Ardor and their upcoming endeavours.
Welcome to Ieperfest, a mostly hardcore fest. This is the first Zeal and Ardor tour and it's taking you to a lot of different places already. Could you let us in where you've been so far?
Yeah, all over the fucking place. Germany, Londen, Luxembourg is the closest we got to here i think. Roadburn fest, Poland, a lot of place.
You opened for Prophets Of Rage recently in Londen and shared the stage with Marilyn Manson. Not too shabby for a first tour…
That's pretty fucking amazing for us too.
Devil Is Fine is Zeal & Ardor's debut and originally it was only on bandcamp. Luckily Reflection Records from the Netherlands picked it up and released it. Reflection is mostly hardcore and metal influenced in their releases. How did a Swiss bedroom project get noticed by them?
I don't know. Johan from Reflection, i don't know how he got his hands on it but he picked it up and he wrote me an e-mail. He wanted to print it. That was awesome.
Next to Zeal & Ardor you also have another project, Birdmask. That actually was your main project before Zeal & Ardor came to life with the genius idea to combine spirituals and black metal. What's happening with Birdmask at the moment?
I'm still recording songs but i don't really have a specific plan for it yet. For me it's important to have both, to have a balance and keep things interesting. Something will happen but i don't know what yet.
Some songs may be considered sacrireligious, and not just for Christianity. Could you explain the 'Haram' sounds on the album?
Yeah, originally there was an occult prayer which is changed. As soon as you change something from the Quran it's Haram. I just find changing a sacrireligious act. Maybe too strong a word. I think it's an interesting thing to do and also very important. Because if we don't change things or norms it will just be stale and stagnant. For progress i think.
What started as a one man project has become a full on band. You even have back up singers. How different is the band compared to what you produced on the record?
The thing is we have different people in the US, for these shows it's different people. Two backing vocals though. It's very different but in the best possible way. Because six people on stage you can't compare it to one, it's so much more energy. Also very flavourfull, because they are all my friends and they are also brillant musicians. They bring interesting additions to the sound.
Your logo and artwork are a direct link to the music and influences of Zeal & Ardor. A pimped Sigil of Lucifer opposed to a picture of Robert Smalls. Both symbols of rebellion in their own way.
What would be the main message that Zeal & Ardor want to transmit to it's audience?
Exactly, I don't really have a message. It's just kind of summarising what is on the record. Again, rebellion, sacrireligious acts, just overstepping boundaries. Or trying too, because that sound fucking arrogant as fuck. Trying to overstep boundaries.
The sigil was also made into a branding iron that may be used to brand fans if they wish too. Any luck so far with the branding?
We've used it on two people so far. They're permantely branded. They have a good souvenir, a lasting one. It's a smell you'll never forget. Burning flesh.
There's talk of new material coming in the nearby future, any details on what to expect?
Since the first record is like only twenty minutes long and we play longer than twenty minutes because that would be a shitty show. There is already a lot of new material we will be performing now. And the next record will be out next June maybe. I don't want to haste too much. That will be interesting.