Cowards make me feel dizzy. There’s this sense of confrontation, of aggression, of someone slapping the back of my neck just out of the blue. When I wrote about “Rise To Infamy”, their newest full-length to be released next Feb. 9th through Ruins, Throatruinerand Deadlight Entertainment , I had just come home after a rough Scottish evening filled with liquor and second-rate characters. Few seconds into it and this dubious roll of pictures start popping up in my mind: Issei Sagawa acting as the best butcher you’ll ever find and Catherine M. spreading her legs for the whole world to see.That was what infamy looked like for me that night, while slowly smelling and tasting my own hobo breath. I got it all wrong? Well, I might, I actually fucking might, mate. That’s why you gotta go straigth to the source and, so, as they’re about to play the Portuguese Burning Light Festival, this sharp interview happened in the right time.

What is the exact relation of Cowards with France / Paris? I’ve read interviews in which you say that your surroundings don’t actually matter, but most reviews and press releases talk about your tough love for the city you live in.

Well, I really don’t know where that came from. I mean, we’re from Paris alright, but I don’t believe being from Paris has more impact on us than being from any other major city in the world, apart from the cultural print from our homeland. I guess Paris has this kind of aura that stains every and any other band from here. Or it has to do with the fact that we insist on keeping our music as urbaner as possible. We’ve never mentioned or featured Paris, or any landmark in any of our lyrics, artworks, shirts and whatnot. It also might come from the fact that we apparently are reminiscent of Kickback who have made prominent use of Paris and France in their extra-musical features.

That was my next question actually: do you believe that there is some sort of ‘Kickback syndrome’ upon you? I see them mentioned every now and then.

I’m not sure what you mean by Kickback syndrome, but there is no denying the influence of one particular release from them to us, I’m talking about “No Surrender” here. Musically, as of today, it stays in my top list. Aside from that, even when I wasn’t such a big fan of the music, they’ve always displayed that candor in pure hateful releases that I’ve always felt in phase with and that I’ve always yearned for in heavy music.

I mean that a lot of reviewers mention the vocal similitudes and this aura of human decay, almost depravity.

Well, vocally, we’ve been aiming for that type of voice from the get go, but keep in mind Kickback aren’t the only band with that kind of vocals. The only reason for that choice is that to me, to us, it’s the only type of voice that rings with true rage, anger, hate call it however you want, but that aggression, sincere and untamed. Growls, or grindy type of vocals have always sounded shallow and callous to me. And while I can appreciate something a little less harsh, like say, Unsane type of vocals. I find they convey a sense of complaining that makes me nauseated.

As far as our similarity with Kickback in terms of human decay or depravity, I believe we share as much as we don’t. I mean we like to party, and we might go to some extremes, at times. But as much as I share Stephen’s sense of active nihilism, and kind of a craving for the world to end, I don’t believe we advocate the same means. It’s a contradiction, but as much as I’m daily disillusioned by the world, I have a very, very strong sense of love, respect, and unalterable principles that guide my life. Principles, rules, that I try to abide by day in day out. I’m pretty sure the guys over at KKK find that very thought disgusting. I mean, call me naive, but I’ve always felt that you can’t properly hate if you can’t properly love and how can you love anybody else if you don’t love yourself. So I’m not in a depravation/degradation trip, I love myself. I don’t yearn for self-destruction. Let it be noted that my understanding of Stephen’s views comes solely from interviews and lyrics, so I might be way off.

That’s a great insight. So the hatred which you refer to is a hatred towards humanity in general rather than pointing it out to a particular individual, group or city? I mean: you can respect and love the next one, but at the same be angered by the human condition.

Yes, something like that. It’s not really anger at human condition. It’s more anger at people who have everything to be decent human beings, and I mean, to be a decent human being, I’m sorry but you need to work for that, in the same way that your love story is not going to last if you don’t work for it. You’re not a human being just because you’re born. You have rights, but duties as well. Read up, listen up and shut up.I don’t mean you personally, of course. Just, you know, those people who just wait for everything to drop from the tree. Those people who have everything to be decent human beings and just do nothing. Those people, they’re not my peers. And let me very be clear that I’m not targeting any special group of people. They’re everywhere. I have some in my own family. Everybody’s got a lifetime, you’ve just got to do something with it. It’s more frustration than anger. Does it make sense to you?

So, Cowards are actually frustrated by the cowardice you see every day.

That’s sounds about right. But our own as well. I mean, as much as we all fight to stay human beings, we have our moments of weakness. I believe the key is to be sincere at all times, especially with yourself, see your shortcomings, acknowledge them and work on it.

As I see it, that is actually the opposite of nihilism and the whole idea of ‘Détruire le monde moderne”. There is in your life approach the will to fight for something better, to improve, rather than the need to destroy what we already have.

Actually, no. As much as I believe I can stay on top of my game, I’m not as sure that everybody can. And while I’m not going to partake in destroying anything, I believe that getting the best seats in town to watch and do nothing is already pretty active. We’re not taking stand to advocate self-improvement. We don’t care if you get better, it’s just frustrating to watch you stay the same, day after day. We’re not teachers, we’re not guides, we’re not leaders, we’re just very entertained observers. As for “Détruire le monde moderne”, well that would be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it? To advocate for that on Skype.

So if you constantly see your neighbor with his lousy daily job and overall dismal life, you don’t care for him, you’re just frustrated by his stalemating attitude.

Yes, him, my coworkers, the public opinion, the elite, the opposition, the powerful and the meek. All of them. And guess what, ourselves as well, at times. I’m sorry our philosophy really comes down to such simplistic and candid terms but there you have it. It’s mundane, nothing exceptional type of thing, just like our lives, our music and our goals.

I find it very interesting since most bands which have aphilosophy keep saying «find it yourself» or they just don’t give any interviews whatsoever.

Oh, I wouldn’t miss this kind of opportunity for the world. I enjoy having a slot, as dishonored, unloved and unsung as might be to think out loud. I still don’t believe anybody cares, but I enjoy it, very, very much.

As an individual, you would like to have more listeners and readers. A lot of artists out there affirm that they are not concerned about if people listen to them or not. The fact that their product is physically out there is good enough.

Well, good for them. But as much as I don’t really care if people relate to my lyrics, believe me, we’re not doing this to stay unlistened. We’ll consider every and any opportunity to play, as long as our personal schedule allows it, we’re not going to pretend we don’t care if people listen or not. I’ve said it earlier and many times before when I’ve had the chance, we love ourselves, and we take great pride in what we do. So, yes, call me a gold digger but we want to get our music in as many homes, cars, earphones and venues as possible. What’s the point in capturing it on record if you don’t care if people listen to it? We know our music is not going to change anything, but let’s face it, even in such an overdone thing as heavy music, you’ve got to have a sense of pride in what you do, take it just a little seriously, honestly and admit it: you want people to have your record, be it digital, for free, bought or on vinyl, CD, cassette, whatever. Or record your music, put it out, say you don’t care and be an ugly little liar in the face of the world.

I wouldn’t call you a gold digger. To live your life as a musician who plays this kind of aggressive music is even harder than winning the lottery perhaps. I would rather say that you are driven by an egotistic sense, a self-centered stance that is pretty honest, after all

Can’t say you’re wrong there. Honest and self-centered. That sounds boring. It’s probably a good idea for a tattoo.

It would not be the worst tattoo I’ve seen.

I bet.

How do you keep Cowards away from being just another piece of this frustrating world? To prevent that it does not become another mundane, boring task.

Simple: we don’t aim to make money with it. So it’s not work. So it stays entertaining. Then again, this question might come a little soon, we’ve only been around for three years or so. There is no time to get caught up in routine in three years. And then, once again, very naive, it just so happens that we’re all music driven. We’ve all had times in our musical lives when nothing was going on, and it all drove us crazy.

Only around for three years, but already with two LPs and a EP, so you’re definitely more proactive than most bands out there.

Records wise probably, yes. But that’s part of the few things we decided upon doing from the start. Keep writing as quick as satisfying and put it out. I’m not sure it really weighed in our favor. I mean probably if we had focused on playing more shows we’d be a bit less unknown. Plus it seems to me that the years 2K have really put the focus in the absence of a way of creating hype, demand. We’re not big on creating the mystery I guess.

Perhaps that is starting to change. I’ve seen that you’ve been mentioned at MetalSucks yesterday or so, so maybe you will reach a wider audience with “Rise To Infamy”.

That’s the goal. But in any case, we’re probably going to write some new stuff in the coming months and plan for another record.

Another LP?

Probably not. Probably not because, and that’s our pride talking here, we feel that we’ve really completed something with “Rise To Infamy”. And, like any other band, even if it doesn’t feel that way, we try to avoid repeating ourselves too much. We try to evolve. We’ve known we wanted to put something like “Rise To Infamy” since our first record, but we don’t know yet where we want to be with the next. We’re not thinking about it, or brainstorming about it, it’ll probably just pop up like everything else always does. And then we’ll do it. But we have to get back to writing mode for things to evolve. Even if it means discarding riffs, songs, idea, etc. I think we’ll begin trying at the same moment we did for “Hoarder”: when Rise… is out.

We’ve been talking for a long time and I’ve not asked you about the details of “Rise To Infamy”. Maybe because it is such a cliche question. But why did you try to change for this record after what you did achieve sound wise with “Hoarder”?

It’s not really the way it happened. We didn’t decide upon changing, what we had decided upon was to put out something like “Rise To Infamy”, from the beginning. You can consider our first two efforts like botched attempts at doing so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still proud to have those two records to vouch for. They’re pictures of what we were and what we could do back then. We either didn’t take enough time to achieve something like “Rise To Infamy”, or weren’t good enough, or possibly we didn’t have enough cohesion as a band. All we needed was time I guess, for us to do what we meant to do the first time around. Musically speaking, of course, because everything else is just the same. Unfiltered mundane thoughts screamed over feedback and silly riffs. We booked three days for Hoarder in the studio. We booked 3 weeks for “Shooting Blanks & Pills”. For “Rise” we went the whole nine yards and a half, we booked 5 weeks. And there you go, we got more time to fine tune everything, push to the extremes and just shape it out of our original goal. Then, of course, there are the technical stuff that pops at us when we listened to “SB&P” and “Hoarder”, that we focused on getting better, but I’m not going to bore you with such details.

So with “Rise To Infamy” being your, let’s call it, magnum opus, will the next record constitute a whole new starting point?  It’s way too soon, I know, but maybe there is a before “Rise To Infamy” and an after “Rise To Infamy”.

Ah, if only it were so simple. Today I’m telling you we want to keep evolving, pushing it but there is a great chance that tomorrow our next record will sound just the same. We have our goals, our wishes, we’ll work towards them as we always do but as arrogant as we are, I must admit we have no idea where we’ll go. We’ll keep the basic canvas for Cowards: stupid, catchy, aggressive and sincere. We’ll go from there. I wish I could tease you with a great concept we’d be working on, an exceptional epiphany we had, and how it’s going to blow your mind.

Maybe the fear of repetition will speak louder, since stagnation seems to be a thing to avoid. And that can be a nice teaser already.

Yes, I’ll admit to that, we’re very afraid of stagnation. But picture this: in a year from now, we have new songs, but they’re just like b-sides to “Rise To Infamy”. What do we do? What would prevail: our fear of stagnation or our will to shit yet again on everyone’s front porch with a new record? It sounds silly, but it’s the kind of question that can leave me sleepless. And we’re back on the topic of how it matters to us that people hear our music. I’ll even let you in on a little secret: when people dig our music, it makes me hard. I guess it’s one more contradiction to add to an already long list, we spit on any and everything but, still, somehow, it matters that people hear what we put out. At least for me personally, I couldn’t speak for the others.

Contradictions are quite natural, I guess. It’s difficult to make a clear path for everything with not a single bump. For that question which makes you sleepless, maybe the Neil Young’s cliche question is a good advice: it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Haha.

I hate Neil Young. And don’t take it for you, I get you’re being whimsical, but that’s a really stupid thing to say. It’s an admission of defeat in the face of adversity, veiled behind a carpe diem poetic stance. Plus it’s a tongue in cheek, treacherous way to say one’s running for glory. Fuck glory, in the words of Baldur. I know I’m repeating myself, but everybody’s got a lifetime, and it all comes down to how you’re going to use your time. So no, it’s not better to burn out, I’d rather fade away, and take all my time for it. Once again, nothing against you, just the quote.

I agree with you and it is not a coincidence that the guy who actually made that quote glamorous was Kurt Cobain, in his ill-famed suicide note.

Shit, I hate Kurt Cobain, his band and everything he stands for even more. He’s the icon of what irritates me the most. Don’t get me wrong, I have a sweet spot for grunge bands – well, only Alice In Chains to speak the truth, and I guess it’s another contradiction that I’ll have to live with, considering the singer’s fate – but, shit, they always sounded so much more sincere and uninterested thanNirvana.

Do you hate Grohl as well? Everyone loves the dude for no specific reason, he just gets praise for everything

Well. I don’t hate the guy. He’s been nothing but dedicated and quite low key as far as I can tell. I’ve always thought he was a hell of a better drummer than a singer/guitar player, I’ll tell you that. Maybe he’s getting all the love from being a Kurt disaster survivor. But you have to admit he looks pretty good, standing next to Kurt, who wouldn’t?

I was trying to avoid this, but since you’re willing to throw your thoughts out, I’d like to know how did you see all the Charlie Hebdo episode and the #jesuischarlie thing? I’m asking this, and it seems out of context, but since you’re a French man from Paris I guess you have something to say.

Ah, I guess I had it coming. It’s complicated, and this is the kind of topic that goes way beyond my grasp on everyday life. Let’s put it that way, I’m not mourning the loss of specific individuals, although I am mourning the loss of human lives, especially in a similar context on my homeland. I believe our elite, French and worldwide, have, probably more willingly than not, created the basis for this kind of situation to happen, although I’m pretty sure they never thought it could backfire on them. I also refuse this stance on free press and censorship that seems to have taken over because I believe this right to free speech is impaired by double standards. Of course, I enjoy my right to free speech as much as the next guy but then again, shouldn’t it be the same standard for everybody? Every day you can be a witness to censorship, in France, I’m willing to bet in Portugal, in the U.S.A., anywhere. I wouldn’t mind if it were advertised as such, but it’s not. It’s yet another fight I won’t partake in and it’s really not haunting my mind and thoughts. We (our country, the west, the elite, call it what you want) thought we could wage war under false pretense and believed no one else would. And call me a coward, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go, I really don’t believe I have the knowledge to say more and stay credible. I’ll also say it for those of you who wonder, a Dutch friend of mine asked me recently, so it’s safe to assume some others are: no, the army is not present at every crossroad and although we definitely are, it doesn’t feel like we’re at war.

Right after 7 January, it definitely seemed Paris was at war, but I guess it’s just the common reflection of a typical media portray. So, to round things up, next Feb. 8th you’ll have 30 minutes to play in Lisbon. Any words for those who will be there eager to watch you? There’s a good number of people, perhaps mainly due to Ruins Records, who are hungry to watch you on stage.

Ah, good, good. I guess we’re as eager to play there as people over there might be eager to see us. It’s going to be the first show under the banner of “Rise To Infamy”, so we’re definitely taking it seriously. I hope people show up and I hope we’ll deliver. We’re definitely not used to nice, clean, big stages, in opposition to dirty basements, which we really, really dig, like almaemformol in Porto. We don’t feel as much as home on a nice stage I guess, but then again, maybe it’s just a question of habit.

Oddly enough, that HQ clip where you’re playing “Last Card” was recorded on a nice stage. It actually resembles RCA Club a bit.

Haha, yeah, it was at BBC near Caen in France. We didn’t feel quite at home on that show. But it was late, so we weren’t quite sober anymore and neither was the audience. It’s going to be different to play at 5 p.m. something.