After a very interesting interview with a non metal band (Varsovie), it is time for another out of the box encounter, with the Belgian band Of Blood and Mercury. The two members, Michelle Nocon (vocals/guitar) and Olivier Lomer (guitar/effects) are not new to the metal scene as both have (or still are) playing in several well known bands. This interview is about their new project they started together, the amazing Of Blood and Mercury. Enjoy and spread their words!!
1. Hello again Michelle. Last time we spoke, you were still in Bathsheba. Many things have changed in your life since then. How have you been in these past 2 years?
Michelle: Hello Matei. I have been alright, thank you. There were necessary changes as you can see. But all good. These past two years I was really looking for who I am and what I wanted and change was a big part of that.
2. The news of Bathsheba’s demise came somehow as a surprise for many of your followers. How did Of Blood And Mercury came into being, was this project already “alive” at the time?
Michelle: The idea for Of Blood and Mercury slowly started to take form since the summer of 2016. In 2017 Olivier and me started writing music. As much as I loved Bathsheba I felt the need for more artistic development. I think Olivier and me both had to urge to explore outside of the metal scene. As we started to know each other more it was clear that we had a rather eclectic taste and that we both enjoyed much more types of music than we were making at that time.
3. Earlier this year, you have released your first Of Blood And Mercury material, the Untitled EP. What have been the reactions so far, how did media and fans alike receive the EP?
Michelle: The reactions have been very positive. We had no idea what people would make of it. The metal fans appreciate that melancholy that Olivier and me bring in whatever music we make. We are also making new fans and approaching to a whole new audience which is interesting.
4. I already asked you this question during the Bathsheba interview, but I think it applies here as well. How would you describe Of Blood And Mercury to somebody who has never heard of this new band of yours?
Olivier : I would describe our music as dreamy, atmospheric with shimmering tones, together with a groovy rhythmic session. We tend to use pop structures, we like sonic details and moody keyboards pads. Michelle her voice enhances this wistful ambiance with her enigmatic lyrics. This album goes through several moods, from luminous nostalgic feelings to more obscure emphasis.
5. Besides Of Blood And Mercury, Olivier has his roots in black metal (with Enthroned and Emptiness) and you played in several metal bands as well. With OBAM you both approach music in a different way than before and the result is this beautiful “ghostpop”, as you labelled it. How big is this step between extreme metal and the softer side of music? How does it feel to go out of the comfort zone for a change?
Olivier: It seems like a big step from outside, indeed, but our music is still inspired by that eerie vibe. There’s a darkness that spontaneously sparks in every genre we tried so far. Despite softer tones, we still feel it. The black metal genre has its code, and the music is mostly driven by frenzy instrumentals, but our creativity emerges from the same feelings. To write an album like ‘Strangers’ just required different techniques, whether in the mix or in the musicianship.
6. As artists, do you have any limits or boundaries, when it comes to your music? How open minded are you in the creative process?
Olivier: I would say that only technical and budget issues might sometimes set the boundaries of expression and creativity. You can’t truly put limits to imagination. But when you play in a band, and sometimes stick to a specific genre, there are understandings to take in consideration. Some of your fans follow you for a specific genre, and a band is allowed to build its whole reputation around it. It’s good to be true to yourself and make things evolve in order to not betray your vision, but the bounds of so-called set of values defines a limit. There’s another thing too, for example, when everyone wants to be involved in composition, it happens that making compromises is the key to finalize a project. Fortunately, some projects are made to be a full genuine work of expression, to crystallize a specific mood in a period of time, without question, and it mostly a matter of organization to put all elements together in order to settle a design.
7. Michelle, I know you are a very outspoken person and I really appreciate that, cause nowadays speaking your own mind has become less and less appreciated. People tend to watch their mouths and be afraid of expressing themselves openly, for fear of being labelled as extremists. Do you think this “politically correctness” applies to music as well, to artists, media and fans alike? How can this nuisance be fought and defeated?
Michelle: This is an absolute problem. How many times I see bands say things or make moves in order to jump on that political train to get things done. And it’s not for the sake of empathy. I also think that people need to grow up and feel less offended. And especially artists shouldn’t live by the rules of politics. I also find truth, of higher value than empathy, especially when truth is used to serve a good purpose and not just to insult. Olivier and me try to be as honest as we can in the kindest way we can. If people feel offended by so many things nowadays, they should maybe think about becoming hermits. How arrogant can you be to demand that your feelings and thoughts have to determine what other people can say or even think. The world is build through debate and ideas. I truly believe that the society reacts to anyone who has stupid or evil ideas. The danger starts when you have stupid or evil ideas brewing and you don’t share them with anyone so no one can correct you.
Olivier: Freedom of thoughts and opinions are some of the most precious rights of man, so any citizen can think, speak, write or publish. To repress creativity under the fear of manipulation is a real danger to freedom. Mostly, a huge range of the music business seems corrupted by this tendency. We know there are some rules, like image rights, defamatory statements, the differences between public and private sphere, but if some do not believe in freedom of expression for the people they despise, then they do not believe it at all.
8. All the bands you both have played in before have been quite different in style, but they were all deeply rooted in the same darkened place. What made this darkness so special to you, what attracted you to it so badly?
Olivier: First, it goes beyond the musical expression, it’s a general mood and aura around every creative action. I guess it was by always feeling a stranger to any society. There’s also a vivid yet ambiguous concern about the dream world. I am not referring to any imaginary realm, wherein one can define the edge of imagination essence, but to a world of ideas and mental actions, out of which all form as you think of it emerges. This is an inner universe rather than an inner world, that operates as a creative level in which probable acts are expanding in symbolic form. From these you choose the most appropriate for physical expression, and if you’re able to recall and filtrate some of these pieces of mind, you can translate them in the solid world.
9. In one of your Bathsheba songs you kept repeating the verse “life is pain”. Do you still see or feel the truth in that line, after 2 years?
Michelle: Absolutely. Both Buddha and Nietzsche said that life was suffering, and as far as I can tell, it is. But I also agree with Jordan Peterson when he adds to that that you can overcome all that suffering when you give some meaning to your life. We are taught to be weak victims in our society, we should be taught the opposite: man up a bit, try to do your best for yourself and your family and maybe you can be of some use to society as well. Stand up and bear the heaviest burden you can carry so that you are strong and you don’t make more of a mess of things than it already is. Try to carry yourself so that no one else has to do it. People can maybe look up to you and admire you and stop making a mess out of their own lives too. I think that is a better alternative than installing cry closets in universities for weaklings who can’t cope with reality.
10. Mercury can have multiple meanings, in astrology, alchemy, occultism etc. Blood mainly means life, without it there is pretty much nothing. However, if we mix the blood with quicksilver, what would we get? What does Of Blood and Mercury really mean for you as a band name?
Michelle: Something from Earth (blood) and something from Space (Mercury). Something concrete and something abstract, something we know and something we don’t know.
Mercury is also an element in the table of Mendelejev, our logo is based on that. We are inspired by life itself, wondered by the biology of things, and nature. We wonder how natural nature is, is it part of the supernatural? Isn’t the supernatural nature? Everything comes from just a few atoms and with that, a whole world is created. We stand in awe for what we know and what we don’t know. Of Blood and Mercury is the constant search for all the elements that confine life and death, also the unknown elements. A part of that may be found in biology, astrology, alchemy, … There are really no boundaries to what may be the right answer.
11. You recently had the first live appearance with Of Blood And Mercury, in Ghent, in an old Franciscan church, Parnassus, which now serves different purposes. How did it feel to perform in such a place, do you think a church and its acoustics can suit your music better than a normal concert hall? Where there any (holy) ghosts in that majestic place?
Michelle: We were a bit scared at first because our sound is very drown in reverb, so it was a first try out but it worked well. It’s very important for a band like us to play at the right places. Playing in a party bar at 2 in the morning… you could see how that could go wrong. We want to attract the right audience at the right place. I think playing in the Parnassus church was a great opportunity for that. It also brings us in the right mood to play. We are lucky to have a booker who understands this.
12. The 3 track EP came out in February. When do you plan to release the debut album, are the songs ready? Have you also considered doing a tour to support it?
Michelle: Consouling Sounds will release our debut album in April 2020. We are happy to work with them as they are very open minded and leave the artist to be the artist. The album will consist of 10 songs (the 3 songs from the ep and 7 new ones). But before that album will be released we still have some surprises. Definitely keep an eye out on social media for that. In 2020 we are going to do a few gigs to present the album and write further on a new album. More lives and maybe a tour will follow in 2021.
13. Olivier, I know that besides being a musician, you are also a painter. Recently you had your works exhibited under The Current Order moniker.
What do these paintings represent exactly, do you see them as the visual representation of your music you create with your bands?
Olivier: The Current Order is a new project that will expand and focus on different conceptual works. My main painting work evolves through a series called ‘dissolution’. It depicts, in a minimalist and reductive way, the last moments of an ethereal life and the loss of the physical data that accompanies it. There are many stories about what we commonly call ghosts, and there are as many of these apparitions as there are people. When the moment has come for these conscious energies to end and leave the universal cycle, this ultimate alteration allows us to witness the last remains of how these forms were once projected to their observer. I tried to paint that feeling the way I conceive that idea.
Unfortunately, we have reached the end of this interview. I want to thank you both for the opportunity and as always, the last words are yours.
Michelle: Thank you very much Matei. I would like to end with a quote from one I admire:
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” -Carl Jung