Hamadryad: Back from space

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean

Interview

After "Spaced Out" again an very interesting signing of the canadian Unicorn label HAMADRYAD. Vocalist Jocelyn Beaulieu answered our questions.

Sorry, but I don't know a lot of things about your band.Please tell me something about the history of the band, something about the members!

We met for the first time in 1995 for a tribute to progressive music. At the time, J-F, Yves and Denis already had a band and were doing original material. They had been looking for a singer to "fit" creatively with them, and even though I wasn't necessarily confident in that role, I had lyrical and melodic ideas that I once showed them. After the prog tribute, it just seemed to be a natural match for both sides...

We changed our name just before entering the studio to record "C.O.M.". There were just too many other band projects with our ex-name on it. As we were looking for a new name, my girlfriend showed me the word Hamadryad in Camille Claudel's Bio. After some research, we decided to take it. In mythology, the Hamadryad was a wood nymph fabled to live and die with the tree to which she wasattached. Her mission was to be the link between the mortal and immortal entities... I always thought that it was a cute metaphore for what the musician is doing with inspiration...

Are there earlier releases?

There is no other release. We met Michel St-Père and Unicorn records through an ex-singer of the band who is now with Michel's band, Mystery. That's how we heard of Unicorn Records. We are really happy with the response to our album. We received plenty of goodcritics and elogious comments. We were not expecting that...

What about the influence of other artists to you?

I'd say that Rush, Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, Kansas, King Crimson, Kansas and ELP influenced us as a band. We also have influences in other fields than prog like Pantera, Tori Amos, Queensrÿche, Kim Mitchell, Mr. Bungle. Jesus-Christ Superstar made an impact on me, as did Stephen King, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Frank Zappa and even David Lee Roth... They all influenced the way I write. Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas and Tim Burton are also influences... the list goes on and on...

Is there a mastermind inside of the band or are you more a "democratic" band?

We're more like a democratic band with five masterminds.

How does the songwriting work in the band?

Usually a guy comes up with a riff or a few chords, then we carefully re-arrange it as a band, and at the end of the day, you barely recognize the original riff. Other times, one of us arrives with a whole section for a song. It's never the same but always a new challenge...

How are the reactions of the people in your neighborhood to your music?

Since we spent a lot of time between us, working on the album, only a handful of relatives and close friends really knew what we where working on. So people who are new to the band often have "strong reactions". Some of them are in a state of shock. I think they were expecting something a bit more "mainstream"...

How would you like to develop in the future? Do you think about changing your style?

We consider this band as a work in progress. We're going to let the music talk and respectfully accept it. Of course, the events we live with our first album are going to influence our creativity. And we're open to experimentation...

Is there a most important event in the history of the band?

In my opinion there's two. The first being J-F asking me to join in. The second being J-F asking Francis to join us... As you can see, J-F has an "eye" on rookies.

What about your success/feedback in different countries?

The response is great. We've received really nice reviews and greetings from many countries like Poland, Sweden, Japan, France, Great Britain, Spain, Brazil. The U.S.A. also seems to appreciate our sound. Our latest pleasure came from New England where they wrote beautiful things about us...

What do you think about the situation of your musical genre in the presence and what will change in the future?

We're in 2001, and I think that it's going to be evident in music before long. Big Macs are good for a while, but you always get to a point where you want to try sushis, tandoori chicken, squid soup or whatever... Soon, we may begin to observe the same phenomenon in music and arts in general. But I may be wrong...

How would you see the relation between music and lyrics? Some musicians don't care about the lyrics, others understand the music as a vehicle to fit the lyrics....

Lyrics, in our music, is what dictates the ambiances. We try to tell a story with words, notes, melodies, sound effects, etc. I used to draw "really weird" images on my lyric sheets, so the guys could "see" what I was talking about. We use examples like: "It should sound like a cockroache invasion" or "It's like the first half-hour of Saving Private Ryan" or "Now, the ghosts are crawling out of the battlefield"...

What kind of compromises would you make to push your career?

The compromise we're already making should be more than enough! Most of us don't get to see our friends and loved ones as much as we'd like to. There's band rehearsals, private practices, brainstorms, promotions, interviews, writing the follow-up to "C.O.M.". For the past two years, I've been putting a lot of time and substantial money in my vocal training. I declined a few friday night beers with friends, in order to learn a Puccini Aria or to make sure that my highnotes were healthy and ear-shattering like they should. Don't wanna sound like a martyr but, in this band, there's a lot of love, and a lot of hard work.

Can you tell me something of the process of creating the new record? Were there any problems or went everything well?

Like a lot of bands before us, the biggest problem we met was to learn to communicate... As long as there will be bands, there will by disagreements. But we're civilized, so our "little discussions" really helped us as individuals, as a band and as a creative team.

Can you give me some liner notes to the songs of your record?

Eternal Loop: A little intro to put you in the mood of being in the woods, with a witch running after you...

Amora Demonis: A song about a love triangle between a witch, a prince and a princess... Or how a silly prince found trouble...

Still They Laugh: The need to always laugh at everything, all the times, irritates me. So I wrote a song to "exorcise" my laughing demons...

The Second Round: "The law of supply and demand is not what it used to be". You've got the whole idea. The clown is still around, we shall take care of him... on a boxing ring!

Still They Laugh Pt.2: A reprise with "vertical harmonisation", and cool sound effects...

Shades Of Blue: A dark song about a sleeping beauty who can't wake up. She has everything but is effraid to use it. Melancholy and sadness are the results...

...Action! : A groovy tune sung by J-F. It's about another "beauty". But this one is wide awake, "chrurgically improved", and wants to "crawl under your reason".

Nameless: A war song. Everytime a new war is raging, it brings theconscription possiblity to mind. And as a peaceful guy, I have problems relating to this concept...

The Second Coming: A song about psychological rebirth. A song of hope and joy. It's about finally seeing a light at the end of a tunnel...

Watercourse Hymn: A peaceful tune about nature, harmony, spirits, rivers, uniting god to man (remember the primal function of the Hamadryads). This is a really sweet ending to an album that began with chaos and a horrible witch by your side...

How would you describe your relation to new media as internet, virtual reality, mp3...

The new medias are a whole bunch of golden opportunities to open up to the world. We like the idea...

What is the reason that progressive rock in the seventies went so well and now we have only a small scene without attention of most of the media?

Money and arts were not as pervertly tied together as the are now. Selling albums on a 20 years period was normal then. Now these days, you have six months to sell a few millions units, saturate the market with your face and "deep declarations", and after that, it's welcome to "has been" land... In this context, it's a bit harder to have your listeners thinking about what's going on during your ten minutes long tunes. That's what we're talking about in "Second Round", when we say "another face never seeked, fed on bones without meat...". Things must be easy to swallow, understandable for three year old kids as well as elders, and most important, the customer must get tired rapidly, because they have a ton of new "product" for the next "refreshing" new fashion... In the seventies, the industry was believing in the music. These days, the balance of power has completely shifted. The music must believe in the industry in orderto survive... That's what leaves us with a small scene. But it's useless to brag about it. Instead we must save our energy to try and make a difference. We did the album because we believed that we were not the only music customers, getting the feeling that someone is making fun of us! There will always be a market for honesty and true intentions. It's our task to take care of it and develop it.

Progfans are ignorant and narrow-minded. They live in the past and don't care about the meaning of the word progress.

Before we ever made a prog album, we were music fans from Pantera to Igor Stravinsky. There is no reason why you should not be able to enjoy films by David Lynch and Disney movies equally. That's what we've always done. This album is a big step foward for us. We are not a retro band living in the past...

So you could have the possibility to make this record again. Would you change anything?

This record is a sonic picture of us during the summer of 2000. We did our best and are very happy with the results...

Is each member of the band absolute satisfied with each song of the record?

Of course they are. The songs already existed in demo form before we even saw the studio. So every detail were fixed when the tape "started to roll". It's a good way to work when you want to avoid last minute disappointments...

What about the fact that a lot of people mean a good prog song must be an long track?

They probably want to hear progression in their music, which is legitimate. A ten minutes format allows you to develop your ideas more than a "2 and a half radio standard". But we'd never force the lenght of a tune. Some songs need to be long, some don't! Another thing to look at is the lenght of your text. Do you have a lot to say on the subject? In Hamadryad, we don't believe in solos for the sake of solos. Everything must serve the music, including our egos...

Is it more difficult to write an 15 minute epic than an three minute radio hit?

Is it harder to pilot a space shuttle, a Boeing 747, a biplane? We're talking about different disciplines, but a good try should try each of them, to see where he's comfortable. There's different sets of traps and requirements for each discipline. You should always listen to what the song ask you to be...

http://www.hamadryadmusic.com


© 07/2001 Renald Mienert
DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean
http://www.durp.com/