Earlier this year, French avant-garde metal combo Pin-Up Went Down released their second album, entitled 342. It shows a mature side of the band, but retaining their eclectic approach to music and the amazingly versatile vocals by Asphodel. She was kind enough to grant us an interview. What followed was an often candid conversation about the birth of Pin-Up Went Down, their creative approach, their latest album and how Asphodel keeps her voice in shape…
The musical backbone of Pin-Up Went Down is formed by you and Alexis Damien. How did you guys meet up and decide to work and create music together?
Alexis used to play in a band called Wormfood. I made a guest appearance for their album, France. He asked me again if I wanted to make another guest appearance, but this time for his solo project. I tried some stuff on Intrusion. He liked it so much he asked me to join his project on a full-time basis, so that’s the start of us working together.
Pin-Up models were hot back in the 40’s and 50’s. Does this have anything to do with your music and lyrical concepts?
In a certain way, it does. But it deals more with the “unhappy end” of most Pin-Up’s lives than their glory and beauty. Many Pin-Ups died or fell into oblivion, like Marilyn Monroe or Kiki de Montparnasse. She was a photo/painting model and sank down to the deepest misery. So, we never talk about that category of women, but we do deal with the pessimistic side of life and the irony of certain life events.
Let’s move on the new album, entitled 342. It’s more mature in terms of songwriting, arrangements and diversity, while your debut had a more spontaneous feel. How did that come about; was it a conscious decision?
Alexis wanted to play with the organic side of music and sounds. He also wanted to focus on emotions and reflections. Our previous album, 2 Unlimited was created in a very spontaneous, almost explosive way. We didn’t care about musical limits, so that’s the reason it came out the way it did. Many things happened in our lives and that affected our feelings and emotions, that’s why 342 turned out different. It’s still a spontaneous album, but more mature.
The new album has a rather enigmatic title. What does it refer to and what is the thought behind it? How is this reflected in the lyrics?
It’s an inside joke, it’s a way to welcome our new member Nicolas. He happens to be Alexis’ brother. There are no references to this in our lyrics and I wanted to create a real symbol on the new album to say: “Hey, guys, we’re not a duo anymore!”. The title of an album is one of the first things you see, so it was natural to dedicate this to Nicolas!
One of the striking features in Pin-Up Went Down is the musical mash-up of different styles, such as jazz, funk, progressive rock/metal and blues. How do you manage to make coherent songs and make them all flow within an album format? Is a matter of feel or do you have a more calculated approach to composing?
Honestly, it’s completely natural for us. I think when you’re fixated on staying within certain musical boundaries you cannot enjoy the feeling of breaking those boundaries. Those limits are only there when you decide they are actually there. When you create certain categories they tend to get a life of their own. We compose from the essence of music, not from certain musical categories. Sure, metal is a way of life, but being stuck in it and refusing to listen to any other music beside metal is almost a kind of totalitarianism. We use our feelings and emotions as a guide and that’s all.
Your vocals are amazingly varied are the other key part of your music. How did you develop your varied style of singing and how do you manage to keep your vocals in shape? Can you share some light on your influences?
I had this deep depression and during that period I couldn’t sing at all, due to a stressed and tired larynx. I have taught myself to travel within my own mind. I’m a writer as well, so thanks to literature and cinema I started to experiment with my vocals. I approached the lyrics in Pin-Up Went Down as certain characters and I wanted to bring them to life with by using different vocal styles. I don’t have any particular influences when it comes to my vocals. I just try to imagine what kind of emotion a character within a song has and my voice follows suit. It’s difficult to explain really.
When listening to your music you share the eclectic approach of bands like Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Carnival in Coal and slight hint of Faith No More. Are you guys influenced by these bands? Can you tell us some more about the overall influences on Pin-Up Went Down?
Sure, we like bands like Faith No More or Mr. Bungle. But we are not directly influenced by those bands. As I said before, we don’t have any musical boundaries. Alexis plays jazz in another band and he’s a drum teacher as well. Nicolas is more interested in classical music and I personally listen to everything I can. We are more influenced by cinema and experiences in real life than by bands, really.
In your own eyes and words what does Pin-Up Went Down represent? To what level of success do you want to go?
To be honest, being successful is the last thing we think of. After many years of difficulties and obstacles in my life I think fulfilling my poor human being is quite an accomplishment in itself. Alexis just wants to play music without any limitations. We need to learn, not to earn.
How does the tour schedule look like in the upcoming months? Can we expect you guys soon on a stage in The Netherlands?
We’ll probably do a proper tour after the release of our third album. For the moment, we’re experimenting with new studio equipment and we are working on our third album. We would love to play in The Netherlands, so don’t afraid to invite us to come over and play.
As a closing question I would like to know what are your funniest, most bizarre or embarrassing memories/experiences while touring and performing with Pin-Up Went Down?
Thus far we’ve only done one gig: I never rehearsed with the guys, because they live so far away from me! During this gig, I howled an improvised “STOP!”, my guys stopped (huh, we’re safe!), and I made the pit sing the gospel part of Pussy Worship. It was an amazing gig. People were playing with balloons, dancing everywhere. It was really surprising: we didn’t expect such a welcoming reaction.
Thank you very much for doing this interview. If you’ve got any final thoughts or remarks please put them here!
Many thanks for your interview. I’m really, really sorry for the time I took to answer to it… Many kisses and thank you again!
written by Saskia Hemmen