Interview mit Julien Prat von Ixion

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On their latest record „Return“ the French IXION significantly changed their sound. The once rather dark and mysterious doom metal has made place for brighter, airier songs with post-rock influences and acoustic parts. In this interview, singer and multi-instrumentalist Julien Prat tells us about how this new sound is connected to the previous album „Enfant De La Nuit“, why the band will never turn its back on metal and why the bandleader has lately been a bit disappointed by the genre’s pioneers Paradise Lost.

Greetings! Thank you very much for answering our questions. How are you doing?
Well, we’re fine! And thank you very much for your interest! We’re still in post-release phase, stepping back, looking at the reactions to our last album… And I’m currently switching back in “composition mode“, as well as updating my home studio before starting some production again.

At last you released your third album „Return“. Do you think that you have developed some kind of routine as a band up until now?
I don’t feel any kind of routine for now: We’re exploring our musical universe at our own pace and I think it is vast enough to introduce some significant variations.
The process has also changed: Even though I stay the main composer, IXION was initially a duo with Thomas, then a trio with the arrival of Yannick, and for our last album we have worked as a duo again, but Yannick and myself this time.

In our last interview about „Enfant De La Nuit“, you said that you already had plans for a follow up album, that would consist of songs that you had already written. Is this how „Return“ was created?
Yes, exactly: Back in 2012-2013, I had composed about twenty tracks, half of them were used on “Enfant De La Nuit”, the others on “Return”. Basically, we selected the darkest for “Enfant De La Nuit” and the brightest for “Return”; even if things are a bit more mixed as both albums are punctuated by some more melodic/gothic tracks.
However, the terrestrial and oceanic themes on “Return” have been chosen more recently which led to some new arrangements and interpretations during the recording.

I suppose that the album’s title isn’t just about your return as a band with this release. What are the record’s lyrics about and how does it explain the title?
The title is about the story narrated in the album: The return of a spaceship crew to Earth after hundred years of interstellar journey. They find an unrecognizable planet, under the flood, and discover that humanity had to find a new path…

As the artwork suggests, I feel like the album is lighter and airier than its predecessor. What is the reason behind this?
As previously mentioned, it was a deliberate choice to make a brighter album. We wanted to mix our post-rock and cold-folk influences with doom metal and ambient, using some clean and acoustic guitars as well as clean vocals in a more present way. I think that we tend to shed a different light on our universe on each album, and this one is particularly luminous (for a doom metal release, I mean).

Keyboards have always been very prominent in your music. However, I think that you have taken a step further away from metal on this record. Was this intentional?
This is an indirect consequence of this brighter orientation. In fact the melodic doom metal core is still present on most of the tracks (while mixing the album we were saying that we could release some “metal parts only“ mixes to show that!) but it is layered with more keyboards and other reverbed sounds. Our goal was to give the sensation of floating in the atmosphere or in the ocean.
And beside the analog strings layers, I must admit I have also played more with 70’s-80’s synth sounds, like the pad used as a solo at the end of “Into Her Light“… I just love these sounds!

Would you also consider doing an album completely based on keyboards?
I don’t think so. I love doom metal as much as ambient/electronic music, and our identity is really based on this combination. These genres can be mixed in the same parts, but it should be interesting to create some ruptures between some more rough metal parts, and purely ambient or electronic ones.

How was the general feedback to this little change of your style? Did some of the listeners feel alienated by it?
There are two kinds of reactions after the release of “Return”, and I must say that this is what we expected, and we respect both of those points of view: Some people really love the album, while others find it too bright.
I think being an atmospheric/funeral doomster is not enough to like the album – perhaps you need to be also a fan of ambient music or post-rock – either way opened to non dark or non metal genres. The album involves a panel of tastes to be fully appreciated. Luckily, this is the case for most of our fans, which is not so surprising because we have always worked on that combination.
So finally the feedback is largely very positive!

The album was released a while ago. If you look back now, is there something, that you would change about it afterwards or are you still completely satisfied with it?
When you’re directly involved in the production process, there are always a few things you would improve – even if these things are sometimes nearly inaudible details!
But globally we’re really satisfied with “Return”, the tracks in themselves, the production, the consistency between the music, the story and the visuals…

One of the new tracks, „The Dive“, is a continuation of „Fade To Blue“ from your debut. In which way are those two songs connected to each other and why did you choose exactly this track to be continued?
The two tracks are about leaving this world by fading in the ocean, literally (on “Return”) or in a final dream (on “To The Void”). And above all they are connected by the use of celtic instruments. I like to play with that influence on some tracks, especially using Ullean Pipe which is such a melancholic instrument. When I composed and conceived “The Dive”, it was an evidence for me that it was a kind of continuation, another part of the same concept.

Is there a track on „Return“ that you especially like? If so, which one and why?
I’m perhaps an old-school guy. (laughs) I like to listen to whole albums, and I like “Return” as a musical journey and hope this is the same for our fans.
And I have a particular affection for each track: “Into Her Light” for its contrasts, “Hanging In The Sky” and its post-rock shades and epic final, “Contact” for its “progressiveness”, “World Of Silence” for its emotion, “The Dive”…

As already mentioned you had already planned another release on Finisterian Dead End by the time you released your previous album. Now that you have done this, will you stay at the label or will you look for a new one?
Things are going well with Finisterian Dead End, both professionally and on an human level and we will certainly be happy to collaborate again in the future!
Of course we’d be proud to be contacted by a bigger label (and I know Laurent would also be happy), but with our particular universe, I think we’ll keep a quite moderate sized, yet passionate, audience!

What are your next plans for IXION? Do you already have ideas about which direction you will take on the next record?
This is a refreshing time for us right now, because there’s a blank page to be written!
But I accumulated a lot of ideas and musical snippets, and some concepts to explore. One of my desires is to make a really dark and cold record, a kind of counterpoint to “Return”, in the vein of the track “Doom” on “Enfant De La Nuit”.

Let’s end this interview in accordance with our tradition with a
Paradise Lost – „Medusa“: I’m not sure what to think about this one. I’m a really huge fan of Paradise Lost and love most of their records/periods, which are all marked. But I’m a bit more circumspect with their “back to roots” last works. This is directly linked to my tastes: I prefer when they add and mix all of their facets (layering keyboards with metal, using reverb and delay on guitars…) so I simply prefer albums like „Draconian Times“, „Symbol Of Life“, or „In Requiem“ for example!
Emmanuel Macron: I don’t like to blend arts and politic, but what I can just say (I really speak for myself here) is that I’m curious about him and what he could achieve – France needs to be reformed and I have a careful but interested look at what is happening in my country. I think I belong to the “no left no right” generation, and above all no extremes!
Post-rock: It could surprise some people but our main musical connection with Yannick is here!
Sigur Ros are one of my musical gods: Their music is fragile yet powerful with rough rock moments, melancholic and sometimes childish, atmospheric… a perfect combination for me. And I’ve recently been blown away by their live performance. I think there is sincerity and perfection in what they do! And I also like some tracks from Mogwaï, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Favorite French dish: I love dishes from different French regions: savoyarde fondue, bourguignon beef, britain galette… and I particularly like provencal food.
Extreme metal: Extreme doom aside, I’m not often listening to this quite vast category, because as you can imagine I’m mainly searching for melancholy, melodies, and atmospheres. But I respect it if it stays sincere, and not a posture to be “the most extreme on the market”.
IXION in five years: Two new albums, I hope!
Of course we’d like to touch more people – but first and foremost to stay true to our musical identity, creating new extensions of our universe.
The dream of playing live is also here, but we still have the same difficulties about it.

Thanks again for talking to us. The final words shall be yours:
Thank you for this interview. We hope that our music keeps taking our fans and listeners on a journey, far from their everyday life!

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