Zeuhl as s style of avant-prog music was maybe the most common term back in the ’70s, when pioneers and also at the same time inventors of the term Magma started releasing their music. Many other bands started playing so called “Zeuhl” music and soon we had quite a scene, which was never far beneath the ground. Genre never really died and these days we have a couple of bands, that are still producing “Zeuhl” music and helping to keep the genre alive. One of them are incredible Rhùn from Normandy, France. The band released album in 2013 titled Fanfare du Chaos. Here’s our brand new interview with them.
You’re fairly a new band coming from Normandy, France. Would you like to introduce yourselves?
The group exists since 2008. The songs of the first album were composed at that time of improvising in rehearsals with Thybo on guitar, Fab de Kerbalech on guitar, Sir Alron on bass and myself (Captain Flapattak) on drums. It was already Zeuhl but very heavy, more in the kind of Black Oni from Guapo, but even more hard. There was no singing.
We four tried to make multiple groups in the previous ten years with other musicians, without ever really finding our identity. Ten years ago we were rather motivated to make music influenced by Gong and Zappa but already the Zeuhl began to interfere in our music. Tired, we made a long break… And we found ourselves all four. We played, and the songs of the first album have been composed in six months, Rhùn had been born, the zeuhl-Rio was an obvious fact, and finally I felt in adequacy with my drums. We very fast wanted brass instruments and voices. We sent the recordings of our rehearsals to my friends Sam and Brhüno by internet, one month after, brass instruments were propped up while I worked the voices with Emilie. And what strengthened the group, it is our second concert. Everything was very fast, it was with Magma at home in Caen.
That was faster than to record this first album…
Were you in any other bands before forming Rhùn?
Yes, before forming Rhùn we were in other bands but they don’t exist any more with an exception of Mosca Violenta in which I play with Sam, but before Rhùn I was not playing in yet. (http://head-records.bandcamp.com/album/mosca-violenta). In fact a lot of musical projects are born between us after the creation of Rhùn. Maybe that started a run-up… I do not know. But they were especially magnificent meetings, Thybo, Fab and Sir Alron didn’t know Sam and Brhüno before our collaboration, and that creates a dynamics, surely.
It’s kinda funny to ask a Zeuhl band about their influences, but you’re also taking elements from progressive rock bands. Anyway let me ask you if there is anything else rather than Magma and related groups of the ‘70s, that influenced your style of playing?
A lot! I spoke about Gong and Zappa at the beginning of this interview, and these references did not go out completely of our heads… Difficult indeed to notice them by listening to our music, but they participated in what we are today as musicians and a group. King Crimson also, Soft Machine, Univers Zero, Eskaton, Present, Henry Cow, Art Bears, Hatfield and the North. A lot of Canterbury groups in fact… Gentle Giant, Yes, The Muffins, Picchio Dal Pozzo, etc. But I am not going to quote the ideal 70’s discography, it’s going to be too long.
It is more a synthesis: we adore the voice of Robert Wyatt, but we mostly play voices in the Magma way in our music (which we also adore excepting Sam…). We did not choose the Zeuhl, it is rather the Zeuhl which has chosen us. Question of temperament certainly.
Is there a concept behind the band?
Originally yes, I dreamed about this group for a long time, I always wanted to make Zeuhl music, and Christian Vander always influenced me (it is enough to see how I installed my drum kit).
So, when I was a teenager I invented a language: Xikuéh … Nothing original in fact… I wrote the words and parts of drums with a pen on the walls of my room, my poor parents! I wrote my small lexicon in a exercise book. And I imagined a whole universe…
With Rhùn this universe is maintained… We shall make a page bestiary on our Web site when we shall have time, with translations of words, this kind of thing…
Now it’s less serious than back then when I was younger, it’s full of humour… You cannot play this music if you have not some humour I think.
Fanfare du Chaos is absolutely an amazing record. What’s the story behind it?
We like very much your opinion, thank you.
So now, the difficult part of the existence of that group. It’s very difficult to record a band like us.
We are many, we have all many groups, difficult to find availability in common. Our music is ambitious what does not help.
The album ends by three compositions from our first recording dating 2008, it was simply a demo. I recorded everything myself with a digital recorder 16 tracks. At first the rhythm section with both guitars were recorded, then brass instruments, then voices. The recording is not my job, then there are certainly weaknesses in the sound… But I think that we found our good energy there.
The first three compositions are originally EP which we recorded and published numerically on bandcamp in 2012. Two of these compositions appeared on our demo. Sam and Brhüno wrote arrangements for the wind quintet Pantagrulair of which Brhüno is moreover a member in the bassoon. Everything was recorded by our friend Muck Luto, a great work when we heard the instrumentation! That set a lot of time, almost one year!
Besides, there were many of the changes in the line-up between 2008 and 2012: Sir Alron left the group and was replaced by Damoon, the same thing goes for Emilie who was replaced by Marion… And we also had big periods of doubt, we did not manage to find of availability in common to repeat, we almost dropped everything more than once… But today everything is at best, Rhùn is strong, we have our rhythm, and we are fast! As ever! We are ultra motivated!
The label Altrock suggested us taking out an album with this track list, it is almost a compilation somewhere, but that is completely held. Big Udi Koomran has masterised the album. I think it was not simple,there is a big difference of sound between the demo and the EP.
And finally here is the album! We are very happy, Altrock makes a great work around Rhùn.
What can you tell us about the cover artwork?
Damoon, our bassist, made it. We had the will of a strong and enigmatic artwork at the same time. As an invitation to be interested in what the cover could mean without giving a clear sense. The kind of music we play is for an adventurous public, with a sense of curiosity. We have a multitude of influences, as well as an original and varied instrumentation, so how to represent it?
At the same time, it is our first album… We have our identity, our sound, and our group will evolve obviously. I believe that our artwork will develop more exactly in time, with our public, and with our music. We like very much what can enrich a universe… We put the bases of our artwork, we have our logo (which the sense remains to polish up, but know that it contains a good part of mythology xikuéh; moreover no Zeuhl without mythology), and I think that it is going to appear again.
Our first album had a great welcome, and if the artwork also, it’s perfect. This artwork is a will to reproduce our identity in image.
Today we continue to improvise all together and compose with what we keep of these improvisations, or a member of the group brings a written composition from the beginning to the end that we remodel in the Rhùn way. It is a rather long process to set up a composition with a group with so many musicians. To write a single piece is faster, but maybe less exciting…
Have you done any festivals or concerts?
In a way, Rhùn is an old group ‘cause we exist for 6 years already, but very young because our first album is from 2013… So we have made some gigs and festival but not a lot (with Magma in 2009 at Caen, Burg Herzberg Festival, and some gigs in small venues in France). But now, with that album, we have some good gigs to come.
Do you have any future plans regarding touring?
I am searching new plans and places for touring, but you know that transport for a group like us costs a lot… Not easy. But Marcello from Altrock helps us a lot! So we can announce that we’ll play in September at Freakshow Artrock festival at Wurzburg in Germany with Doctor Nerve and Le Silo! And, but it’s not confirmed yet, maybe at the Altrock Festival in 2015 and Gouveia Festival in Portugal in 2015. I certainly will found other places to play, but it is complicated, especially in France, to find places agreeing to welcome groups with an esthetics musical as our… and we have no booker…
How about new album? Do you have any material you’re working on?
We are at the moment repeating new compositions. And as most of the members of the group compose, we have enough material for the next two albums… As I said it, the longest is to learn them and to master them. We have to choose what of these compositions will appear on this next album…
We do not plan to invite again the Ensemble Pantagrulair, ‘cause we certainly want a music more “direct” for this second album, maybe to put our side “Zeuhl-garage” forward (a lot of the band likes to listen to punk music). But maybe some guests… In any case we are very happy of what we hear in rehearsals… Sometimes more massive, sometimes more fanciful, but always in the same vein! We’d like to record this second album during the next winter.
What’s your opinion about the current Zeuhl and rock in opposition scene?
Well, there’s good records in Soleil Zeuhl and Altrock… Magma, Univers Zero and Present still exist and it’s a good thing!… Thinking Plague is a really great group! Cheer-Accident too! We regret Time of Orchids and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum… Do you have some news from Larval?.. And there’s a lot of new good groups… Sometimes I listened to groups of this scene which disappointed me. What I would like is that the groups which claim to be rock in opposition are not only in opposition, that they do not forget the rock. It is more often a question of sound than writing moreover… In the worst cases, we sometimes have the impression that we listen to midi files…The rock in opposition, is rock, no? Thus it is alive. If it is alive, it is dirty.
But we are not specialists of the RIO scene, we listen to many different things… In that time, I listened to Verdi and Oxbow, an other one is listening to Purcell and The Jesus Lizards, and other one Coltrane, etc. We are not necessary the defenders of the genre, that’s why we play all different music in other groups…
In France today, there’s a lot of good groups: Vialka, Poil, Aquaserge, Jack Dupon, Bild, Zumba 4tet, Louis Minus XVI, etc.
Will Fanfare du Chaos will get a vinyl release? Speak as a record collector…
We are too! What was planned is that we produce the vinyl while Altrock produces the CD. We had the budget, collected with the gigs we had, but someone stoled us this money… Then we had no more budget. We would again like to make it, then maybe thanks to the crowd funding? We don’t know any if someone has an idea, we are ready to hear it.
Thanks for taking your time. Hope to catch you up somewhere soon. Would you like to send a message or say anything else to your fans and It’s Psychedelic Baby readers?
If the magazine speaks about us, I advise you to continue reading it!
Thanks for your interest and all support!
– Klemen Breznikar