Elfika was supposed to perform at Kraken Metal Rock 7, but the Covid-19 virus made us all keep inside of our houses (except for the white jackets). I prepped myself for this great festival and adored their music. As I didn’t want to waste the chance to help a great band I found Manu BasseKiller, founder, composer and bass player for Elfika disposed to answer my questions.
First question: from where does the name of the band come? What does it mean?
Elfika as a music band exists since 2012, the basic idea and concepts are much older. I imagined the band much earlier. I drew my inspiration from the discovery of symphonic metal, of course, but especially from my passion for the Heroic Fantasy universe and his numerous readings, especially J.R.R Tolkien. It is by discovering the language invented by Tolkien, "the elf", “Elfique” in French, which the idea came to me to create Elfika. Note that at that time, the number of groups whose names ended in "a" was much less than several years later. Despite this "common" side, I decided to keep my original idea intact.
How did you all end up together, making symphonic metal?
From the very beginning, Elfika was a project for symphonic metal. I have been a fan of metal since my youth, but also of classical, symphonic, lyrical and orchestral music. The whole project "Elfika" was built over the years on this objective. This explains in part that it took a long time to set up, because symphonic metal is a particularly demanding music if you want to make it in the most beautiful way.
All the musicians who have been part of Elfika, and who currently compose the band, have been chosen on this main criterion of musical orientation. This does not prevent everyone from having his own musical culture and being able to enrich the band’s music with it.
The hardest part was finding our singer. When Laure introduced herself to the band, she immediately imposed herself as the "voice" that would carry Elfika.
Do you get the same vibe that it’s getting harder to perform as a female fronted symphonic metal band as I hear more and more that festivals who focus on this genre are more and more calling it a day?
We are aware that there is a rather lively debate around the concept of female fronted symphonic metal band... Indeed, many festivals have been born around this concept and have very much, if not completely, based their communication on the "female fronted metal band". But all this must not obscure the most important aspect of this concept. First of all, there is the richness of this music which more than any other mixture of musical styles of all horizons. The presence of a frontwoman is a fundamental component of this musical richness. Before the frontwoman there is the singer, the artist. We should not forget that they are extraordinary singers with fabulous voices and immense talent.
In addition, I particularly like the idea of a metal band being led by a Frontwoman, which shows that in the world of metal, a woman can be just as charismatic as a man at the head of a band. As a metal fan since several years, I have just as much admiration for Floor Jansen as I have for Bruce Dickinson.
I find it a bit unfortunate that we are making accusations of intent at festivals that highlight the talent of women in the world of metal. But that remains a purely personal opinion.
You are based in Paris, but there is also a link with Belgium?
Yes, indeed, in addition to being an accomplished artist, Laure is also a "European" artist more precisely Franco-Belgian. She is from Belgium and came to France to pursue her studies in the world of dance and music. That’s when we met her again.
How was it to create an album like Secretum Secretorum? Forgive me my lack of knowledge of Latin, but what does the title mean?
The creation of an album is a really unique and very intense experience. Especially when it is a first album. You can’t imagine all the steps necessary to finally hold your CD in your hands.
We’ve been through every step very, very intensely. It has not always been easy, there are moments of doubt, worries, about musical, technical and artistic choices. With Laure, we started working on compositions as early as 2016. We took the time to work them in depth. However, even during the registration and production process, we have made further improvements.
The Secretum or Secreta Secretorum (Latin for "The Secret of Secrets"), also known as the Sirr al-Asrar (Arabic: كتاب سر الأسرار, lit. 'The Secret Book of Secrets'), is a pseudoaristotelian treatise which purports to be a letter from Aristotle to his student Alexander the Great on an encyclopedic range of topics, including statecraft, ethics, physiognomy, astrology, alchemy, magic, and medicine.
The title of the album was chosen in direct relation to this book. We did not want to create a concept album, but just to take up the basic idea of Aristotle’s treatise which addresses many very different topics, at least in appearance. Everyone can find his own interpretation and the link between the songs. But we leave it to our listeners to form their own opinion and interpretation...
Who designed the album cover?
The album cover was designed by Sylvain Leboeuf.
Sylvain is an old friend of the band. He is also the designer of Elfika’s first logo and the designer of the demo cover produced in 2015. I love working with him because he has a complete vision of what the visual universe of a band must be, especially symphonic metal, music that he knows very well.
We started working together on visual concepts while not all the pieces were written yet. This work of visual design carried out in parallel with the composition process has allowed us to create a very detailed graphic universe and perfectly in accordance with our music.
How did you end up signing Valkyrie Rising?
We were contacted by Valkyrie Rising during 2017. They knew us about the release of our demo on Facebook groups that they administer. They obviously liked the demo and after a few exchanges, they offered us a contract for the upcoming album. We did not expect such a proposal from a label, which is more German, for our first album. The discussions with our contact at Valkyrie went very well and led to the signing of the contract.
You decided to cut the album in several parts in order to tell the story of the album, but can you tell a bit about it for those who still have to buy the album?
The title within which this cutting is the most obvious is of course "Dark Virgin".
This piece tells a story that really required a musical evolution through several parts as distinct as complementary. Each piece of the album obviously has its own theme and a story to tell, but "Dark Virgin" has really pushed the limits of this concept with its 4 parts. The theme of "Dark Virgin" is in the continuity of the theme of Inferno (title present on the demo and completely reworked for the album). These two pieces are very closely linked.
After there are three versions of the album. A digital version with the basic track list, a first digipack CD with a bonus title, and a second digipack CD, a special edition with two bonus titles.
This original cut-out is a choice of Valkyrie Rising. But we didn’t choose the bonus titles randomly.
The bonus title of Digipack 1, Starlight is really very different from the other titles of the album.
Totally inspired by the world of power metal (Helloween, Stratovarius) it represents an artistic and musical orientation that we wanted to try, while remaining aware of its difference with the rest of the album.
The bonus titles of the Digipack 2 CD were chosen for other reasons.
One Day is a pseudo mid-tempo ballad from the Demo that we wanted to rework, but that we had trouble placing within the album.
The idea of putting it as a bonus title on the second digipack was thus quite naturally imposed, allowing us to make the listeners travel in part of our musical universe.
But the most daring bonus title of the digipack 2 CD is Enfant de la lune. This was the very first title composed for Elfika at the origins of the concept. It was then reworked in order to be put on the demo, but it was not realized for lack of time. We then decided to make a completely different version with this magnificent piano arrangement by pianist Laura Nicogossian. And it’s also the only song sung in French. A perfect candidate for a bonus as amazing as it is different.
Will there soon be a clip?
Yes of course. We have a lot of ideas with our official photograph and video producer Vincent Zafra (Illusion Story). It is more a problem of time but also of means. With Vincent we design our clips as real short films. This requires a lot of time but also substantial budgets. For the moment we have decided to mobilize all our resources for our preparation for future concerts, with the aim of presenting high-quality shows to the public. This intensive preparation is currently our priority, the clip will follow, in a second step.
Redemption is according to me the track that might make it, but how do you feel about it?
Redemption would actually be a great title for a video clip. But it is part of "Dark Virgin" for which we have a great clip project. There is a particularly rich and profound history behind "Dark Virgin", and with Vincent we have long evoked this titanic project that would correspond more to a film than a simple video clip.
Other tracks will certainly be the subject of a clip before we can realize this particularly ambitious project.
To be honest it was also hard to cut tracks from each other as sometimes one track runs over in the next one, was it done on purpose? I suppose you won’t do it on stage?
When we prepare the track lists of concerts, we reflect according to several criteria. Our major constraint, of course, is the amount of time we have on stage. We are aware that this time must be scrupulously respected, so everything is timed to the second. Depending on the time we have, we build our set to make it as attractive and dynamic as possible. We rarely cut a title, but if it has to be done, we make sure to maintain the musical and thematic coherence of the songs.
Some parts of the piano sounds reminds me of NIN/David Bowie collaboration on the Outside album. What do you think about it?
First of all, I would say that this is a startling as well as a flattering comparison. I am not a fan of David Bowie, and my knowledge of his albums is far from sufficient to claim to have been inspired by his music, but I have great respect for his work and the immense artist he was and continues to be long after his death. But this question highlights something that I find really magical when you make an album available to the public. It’s how people take ownership of our music and feel it. I think it’s absolutely amazing that every listener can feel our music with their own sensitivity and their own musical references.
You are supposed to play at Kraken Metal Rock Fest 7, the 9th of May 2020, but due to Covid-19 they have to look for another date (possibly in 2021), how do you feel about it?
We were informed by the organizers of the Kraken quite quickly. It is a courageous and common sense decision that we fully endorse and support. Of course, we were particularly proud and eager to perform at the Kraken, but for the pleasure of sharing these moments of live music to be total, this must not be done at any price. The safety and health of our public is paramount.
We are aware that this period is particularly difficult for festival organizers, and we think of them and all the work that this organization represents. Of course we will be there and more motivated than ever when the Kraken can propose a new date.
Are you all ok on this date, how much does it affect you and how are you trying to keep going? Some people are working with live streams or are releasing video’s from live sessions …
In a first time, each member of the band took the necessary time for himself and his family. When the containment measures took effect we were in the midst of preparing our new show for the Kraken. We have therefore intensified our individual preparation, while staying in contact very regularly, so that we can resume our group preparation as soon as possible, as soon as containment measures are terminated. We have time to work finesse the titles of the album for their live performance. Also we use this time to prepare videos from our previous live sessions. We are also working on new compositions. There is no shortage of projects.
Do you have something to close this interview or is there a question I should have asked you (and answer to it)?
First of all, I want to thank you for this interview that will allow the audience who don’t know us to discover us better. We are particularly proud and pleased to have been selected by the Kraken, and we would like to thank the organizers. We are really looking forward to presenting "Secretum Secretorum" to the Belgian public. After spending a lot of time in the studio to design our album, we are really looking forward to getting back in touch with the public and our fans.
And especially in these troubled times, we wish everyone the best, take good care of you.