Vision Éternel Interview For Sadness By Name
This interview was conducted with Alexandre Julien for Sadness By Name on March 18th of 2010.
-Hello Alexandre, can you introduce yourself and let everyone know what your musical repertoire is?
Hello! My full name is Alexandre Julien. I’ve been playing guitar since 2002, starting my first band in 2003 (a band which I don’t very much care to discuss because looking back on it, it was pretty corny). My first serious band was Throne Of Mortality in 2005. I then had short stints with a variety of bands incorporated under the Triskalyon banner, including Vision Solitude, Vision Lunar, Vision Sufferance, Gallia Fornax, and of course Vision Éternel.
Since then, I have played in Projection Mina, Lanterns Awake, Human Infect, Green Territory and Vision Sufferance, which has since been revamped into Soufferance. From 2006 to 2008 I ran Mortification Records and since the folding of that label, I now operate Abridged Pause Recordings.
-Since this interview is trying to focus only on Vision Éternel, we’ll try to keep the questions focused only on the perspective of that band, even if a lot of the other bands you were in are closely connected. Can you tell us how Vision Éternel started out?
Vision Éternel started out in January of 2007 by pure accident. At the time, Triskalyon was already in progress, and had been for about four months. I was recording some jams for Vision Lunar when I recorded this part that was just too calm to fit under Vision Lunar. I think that I could have incorporated it in Vision Lunar, but during that phase of my life, I would actually separate every different type of composition into different bands (something that I still make the mistake of doing). That short song was recorded and later took on the name of “Love Within Beauty“, the first song on “Seul Dans L’obsession“, the first EP. That’s pretty much how the idea originated.
-How did the recording of the first EP “Seul Dans L’obsession” take shape? How was working at Mortified Studios?
In reality, Mortified Studios is simply what I call my home recording studio. The songs were recorded on my computer, and were slightly better produced than the Vision Lunar material of the time. So that’s why I mentioned that it was recorded and produced at Mortified Studios in the album credits. It was the first time that I took producer credits. The recording was pretty laid back. It has always been for Vision Éternel because I never force myself to record or write unless I really feel inspired. “Art for arts’ sake” is a bullshit expression.
-The first single from “Seul Dans L’obsession” was “Love Within Narcosis“. You also made a music video for the song, and it was very similar to the artwork of the album. How was this received when it came out? How did you promote the single and how was Mortification Records implied?
“Love Within Narcosis” was in the first half of the six songs which I wrote for the first EP. From the moment that I showed it to my close friends after it was recorded, they loved it. So it only seemed natural for me to release it as a promotional single. It was really only a digital single, because there never were any “Love Within Narcosis ” CDs pressed. But it was used on a compilation/sampler by Mortification Records, entitled “Triskalyon Promo Pack“, which also featured “Love Within Isolation“.
As far as promotion, it was mostly on Myspace, Last.fm, PureVolume, YouTube, occasional forum posting, that sort of thing… If I may be modest about it, it was well received. People loved it and that’s pretty much what put Triskalyon on the map (along with the two Vision Lunar songs that were released around the same time). But people weren’t sure how to react to Vision Éternel. It was a little confusing because the Myspace page was for the Triskalyon collective, which regrouped several bands. I even gave an interview back in February of 2007 with a girl from California and simply trying to explain to her the difference between Vision Lunar and Vision Éternel, that they were two separate bands but allied together through the Triskalyon collective, was difficult.
The music video was what helped Vision Éternel the most I think. I filmed it in the backyard of my parent’s house, where I had also recorded the album, on a dusky sky night and with this lantern that I had bought at a garage sell. I love that lantern, it still has that nostalgic “Love Within Narcosis” feeling to it. I took the pictures for the album artwork on the previous night and I wanted to recreate that same dusk sky, setting over the forest, for the video. At the time, my computer monitor was dying and the resolution was super dark. So I couldn’t see all the mistakes that the video had while I was editing it. It came out looking much brighter than I intended it to. I’d have to go back to it and remaster it to make it darker and fix up some cuts. It was my first music video though, and I still feel 85% happy about it, so it’s not that bad.
-You then released “Love Within Isolation” as the second single. Can you elaborate on the state of the band at that time? How was the EP doing by then?
To be honest, “Love Within Isolation” was not a huge success, not in comparison to “Love Within Narcosis“. “Love Within Isolation” was my second favourite song off the first EP. And it was also on the “Triskalyon Promo Pack” compilation from Mortification Records, but it did have a different edit from the EP version. And because it was also used on the Myspace page, that’s how it ended up being considered a single. I was doing a lot of promotion during the summer of 2007. Vision Éternel reached No. 6 on the Myspace Shoegaze charts and No. 29 on the Myspace Ambient charts in August of 2007. That was a big deal for me.
-Around this time Triskalyon ended. You also stopped doing music for a while. What was going on in your life at that time? Did you not want to continue doing Vision Éternel or any other music?
It’s a difficult situation to explain because with me I have a lot of downs. Not ups and downs, just downs. And some people really got to me at that time and upset me, so I decided to take a break from music. I had written so many poems and songs over the last year that I felt exhausted and what I needed was a break. It was an emotional separation but in the way of relief. It’s weird to describe it. Anyway, it didn’t take me long before I started to write music for Vision Éternel again. In fact, at the time it was the only band that I actually kept going. Soufferance later came back, and Vision Lunar has had spurts of creations once in a blue moon, but Vision Éternel is really the only band from Triskalyon to have really taken off. That’s why I decided to keep the Triskalyon Myspace page exclusively for Vision Éternel.
-How was the composition and recording period for your next EP “Un Automne En Solitude“? Did you feel you were comparing it to the first EP or did you worry how it was going turn out?
That EP happened naturally, at the beginning at least. One day in May of 2007 it just happened and I wrote “Season In Desperation“. Then came “Season In Neglection“. I did compare the material at times. I wanted it to be in the same theme, a concept of love about an ex-girlfriend. It had a different mood, but it was the same idea. Another breakup, yet this one was more hopeful. That’s the feeling that I get inside when I compare them. “Un Automne En Solitude” sounds more hopeful to me.
The last song or two to be composed for the second EP were a bit harder and were dragged out for a while. It took me longer to complete it than the first EP. I still recorded it myself at Mortified Studios. But just about when “Un Automne En Solitude” was done being recorded, I moved back to Montreal in Canada. The artwork took forever to do because I didn’t have access to a camera. I ended up taking pictures from my cell phone in negative of this construction site outside of my window in the middle of winter at 3 a.m. I really wanted to do a music video for the single “Season In Absence” but again, I didn’t have access to equipment. A big fan of Vision Éternel in Europe named Niels Geybels directed a music video for “Season In Absence“, but I don’t think that it was very good. Finally though, over two years later, I am finally in the post-production phase of the official music video for “Season in Absence“. It’s not going to be anything spectacular because I wanted to recreate what I would have been able to do back in 2008.
-“Un Automne En Solitude” was released on March 14th, of 2008 and you then decided to recruit band members? How did this come about, was it to play shows?
I had been trying out band members for Vision Éternel here and there since the summer of 2007. My friend Philip Altobelli, who was in Triskalyon as Darklink, used to jam with me, playing solos over Vision Éternel songs when we would hang out. That’s where the idea originally came from. I wanted to record some b-sides with Phil doing solos over the songs. Then when I moved back to Montreal, I jammed with Josh McConnell from the band Mad Parish. He and I worked together at the Vinyl Lounge bar on Bleury Street. But Josh wasn’t interested in that style so it didn’t last long. By then, I was considering possibly doing some shows so that’s why I tried him out. It was in October of 2007, after “Un Automne En Solitude” had been recorded but not released yet, that I started jamming with two of my audio production school friends. Nidal Mourad played rhythm acoustic guitar, Adam Kennedy played the solos on electric guitar and I was on rhythm electric guitar. It was really cool. It had a much more indie and full post-rock type of sound to it. I really loved it. Since “Un Automne En Solitude” hadn’t been released yet, I had the idea to put off that EP’s recording session as only demos and not release it to the public. Instead I wanted to re-record all of those songs, and some from “Seul Dans L’obsession“, as a full-length album with the new band. However, we never got to record anything as a three-piece. Nidal left after a couple of weeks because he was bored and Adam naturally gave up after I was bummed out. I ended up releasing “Un Automne En Solitude” as intended, as an EP, again through Mortification Records in March of 2008. It ended up being the last release on Mortification Records because I had started up Abridged Pause Recordings a few months earlier.
-Throughout 2008 and 2009 a lot of plans surfaced concerning Vision Éternel including; a split with Ethereal Beauty, a split with Tasharg, a compilation album, re-issues of the EPs on tapes, a full length album, a third EP, and even of possibly ending Vision Éternel. Can you elaborate on the things that did happen and also of the ones that didn’t, up to about where the third EP comes into the picture?
Wow. A lot did happened during that time. You’ve listed the majority of them. The first of them that came about was the split with Ethereal Beauty. I found out about that band because Jordan Leal had listed Vision Éternel as one of the influences on the band’s Myspace page, and upon checking it out I loved the music. I got along great with Jordan and we decided that we would do a split on vinyl, that I wanted to release on my new record label, Abridged Pause Recordings. Ethereal Beauty has been on a sort of hiatus for a while, but that split will definitely happen some day. It is a promise.
The split with Tasharg came a bit later when I considered doing a series of Vision Éternel splits on 7″ vinyls through Abridged Pause Recordings. I think that I kind of wanted to do the same thing that Poison the Well did with their recent series of 7″s, and then release them all on CD on a European record label. Tasharg kind of went under and disappeared for a while… I haven’t talked to her since the proposal (I’m not even sure there was an official proposal actually), but now she’s back under another band name. I wouldn’t say that idea couldn’t ever happen.
As for the idea of re-releasing the material, this comes from almost the very beginning. Initially I self-released the two EPs digitally (with very limited CD-Rs for friends) on Mortification Records because I didn’t think that anyone cared enough about Vision Éternel to put money into it. Looking back, I should have looked just a little bit further because there were and I missed out on some great opportunities. After the second EP came out in 2008, and more people started to ask me where they could buy Vision Éternel CDs, I really wanted to get them released on CD. Except that I didn’t want to do it myself because it wouldn’t have added much more fame to the band, because no one new would have heard of the band with my limited promotion and circle. I wanted another record label to bring new ears.
Then I started thinking about the third EP… Everything kind of happened at once. I wanted to write new material for a third EP but it wasn’t working out and I had so much trouble writing that I thought that maybe the band may never end up releasing another one. So when I came in contact with Yusuke Ooka of Frozen Veins Records from Japan, what we decided to do was a compilation of both released EPs with some unreleased material. It was in sorts a discography (though even at the time incomplete).
In the summer of 2009, I decided to find someone to re-issue the two EPs on cassettes. I spoke to a few record labels and finally set up a deal with Mathew Nicholls at Winterreich Productions. The EPs were supposed to be limited to 300 copies each. I designed brand new artwork for them, with professional pictures, and I got the songs remastered. I sent everything in to Mathew, but the guy never got back to me and ignored all my emails and messages that I sent him. I guess he lost interest. But that plan will happen some day, I’m conceptualizing a boxed set for all the Vision Éternel EPs to be released on cassettes through Valse Sinistre Productions, a record label from Ramania. Valse Sinistre Productions is a great label that has worked with my other band Soufferance.
-You then released to the public a Rehearsal from November 30th, 2009, for free download on Bandcamp. What was the deal with that?
I really wanted to release “Abondance De Périls” in February of 2010. I had a schedule in the past to always release the Vision Éternel material in either February or March. And I really wanted to get this one out in February. But Adam Kennedy and I worked on the mastering a bit longer than planned and I also ran into some delays with Abridged Pause Recordings’ website not being finished on time. In the past, I also liked giving the fans something extra, whether it was to send them the upcoming single a few weeks ahead, just so long as they asked me, I’ve always been open to fans. So when February was almost over, I decided to find something to release to get the hype going on the new album and start up the promotion.
I had recorded this rehearsal back in November of 2009, right between takes of recording songs for “Abondance De Périls“. I often jam around Vision Éternel songs like that at home, but I never recorded a full rehearsal before, not for Vision Éternel. I thought that it was going to sit in my collection of unreleased b-sides forever. But in mid-February, I created a Vision Éternel page on Bandcamp and I really liked their ideas and ways of handling things. I wanted more people to check out Vision Éternel’s Bandcamp page, because for a first, you can download all of Vision Éternel’s releases for free, in high quality. So the rehearsal was released exclusively on Bandcamp, for a limited time. I’m not sure exactly where it fits in with my releases, or if I consider it an official release, but all I know is that I’ve gotten good feedback from the fans.
-The third EP “Abondance De Périls” was for you a huge step up from the past releases. It was also the album that took you the longest to write and release. Can you tell us more about all the changes from the past releases and about why you decided to have external help for the first time?
That release was really hard for me to finish up. I set myself up to compose new material four different times, in four different phases of my life, which in other words meant that I had four different break-ups and four different girls to write about. But I just couldn’t get anything out. The very first session was in October of 2007 and produced three songs, one of which made it on the EP. The other two were combined into a single song and was re-recorded as “Thoughts As Consolation” and is a b-side. During the second session, I cannot remember if I kept any of the recordings or songs. The third session brought on two songs and the fourth and last one brought on five. At some point, I even wanted to make a full-length album, but decided against it. It just wouldn’t have worked.
Once I was in the post-production phase of the EP, I already knew that I wanted this album to be mastered. I sent it to Adam Kennedy, the same who had previously played in the band, to get it mastered. He had already mastered the first two Abridged Pause Recordings releases. When it came to the artwork, I was totally clueless this time. The album had gone through so many moods since it’s original incarnation that I didn’t know which mood fit. My roommate Marina Polak is a photographer and I borrowed her camera to take pictures. But they all turned out horribly. One night, she wanted to show me pictures that she took which may suit Vision Éternel and that I could use. The very first one which she showed me was the one that I fell in love with. I didn’t need to look at any other ones, I wanted that one. Later on, I found out that she hadn’t actually taken the picture; she simply found the negatives in a garbage can while visiting Europe and decided to say that it was hers. Apparently you can technically claim the rights to a picture if you have the negative. But it looks great. The album is now out on Abridged Pause Recordings for free digital download. I wanted to keep this in the digital format because of the last two EPs which were also digital. I feel like that’s the proper format for music right now. At least for Vision Éternel EPs.
-Will there be any music video for this album? Or any merchandise that will be made?
You know it’s funny that you should ask because we are in the process of creating t-shirts for Abridged Pause Recordings. As far as a music video, once again I would like to, but I don’t have the equipment. I am thinking of something though for “Thoughts As Naïvety“. Video promotion is always really good. That’s why “Love Within Narcosis” is still the most famous song from the Vision Éternel catalog, because of its video…
-Can you tell us about the concepts within all your releases? How do you go about doing them? Each are about past relationships?
In general, the concepts of the albums are based on a specific girl. So far, each has been based on an important girl in my life. Each song takes you through the phases that I went through with the girl, from the meeting to the post-breakup sentiments. There are more concepts within the albums, and they are easy to figure out, so I like leaving some things for the fans to discover.
-What are the future plans for Vision Éternel?
Things are bound to change… But since you asked… The split with Ethereal Beauty will happen some day. The cassette tape box set I hope will happen some day. There will be another compilation in the future. It will be a discography CD (or whatever popular physical format will be around then), but that will only be once Vision Éternel is fully over with… If that ever happens… And it will also have the videos incorporated.
But the current and immediate plans are to do a lot of promotion. I want to have as many new ears for “Abondance De Périls” as I have had combining the first two EPs. Abridged Pause Recordings is a great way to get to all those new ears that are just waiting to stumble upon Vision Éternel. Thanks for this great interview!