Lausanne brings up the best in Switzerland – beautiful city at the Lake Geneva (which went into rock history through Purple’s Smoke On The Water), great surroundings, and home of MONKEY3, the well known instrumental hard space rocking outfit, who just arrived with a new killer album “Astra Symmetry”. A few minutes before their gig at Cologne, Underground, entertaim.net took the opportunity to nearly talk an hour with Boris, guitarist and speaker of the band, and keyboarder Guillaume, known as dB. They gave us detailed insights to the bands carrier, the artistical approach and the making of the new album, as well as the music scene in Switzerland. It is a pleasure to have them in our magazine! Here we go…
Interview by Carsten Drescher and Martin Hannig / pic by courtesy of Napalm Records
entertaim.net: Today is a monday, and many artists fear that day for playing gigs …
Boris: Yes, it’s not the best day, you know people are tired after weekend. But we are confident for tonight even if it’s not gonna be a huge crowd…. The Underground is always a good venue for us. It suits us in the moment. We played it twice before!
entertaim.net: Now your new album is out and you do a lot of shows to support it.
Boris: Yes, this is the first part of the tour and then other tours will follow. We have to tour to promote the album anyway.
entertaim.net: We just watched you tour schedule and to us it seems quite tough. Like 20 gigs in a row, one day off…
Boris: We have 2 days off. It’s better not having days off, because first of all you lose money. And we might lose our rhythm in a day off. We are like diesels! Once you are in the touring routine then it’s cool not to break it.
dB: When we are back home after all the gigs, the 1st evening we go: what do we play tonight? You turn on the TV and you think: shit, I want to play! (laughing)
entertaim.net: Must be a strange thing – coming back to real life…
dB: It is. You know, when we leave home, go on tour, we forget all our problems. You leave it all behind. You are together with you friends for weeks. It’s an entire different life, incredible. We like it!
entertaim.net: You mentioned this is just the first part of the tour. What will come next?
Boris: In December we will do a tour in Italy, 9 shows. Next year we have a lot of projects, which are work in progress now. We can’t talk much about it. But there will be a lot in 2017. This first tour right now is a lot in Germany. It is the biggest market. We entered the german charts with the record. We always have to play Germany anyway. That doesn’t mean that other countries don’t count. But the first impression we have to give is here. Then we will go to Belgium, Netherlands, Austria.
entertaim.net: There was a label change for you. Now you are with Napalm Records. Did they asked you or was it just a case of networking?
Boris: We were playing the Desert Fest in Berlin, 2012 I guess. After the show they came talk to us, asking to be on the label. We had to think about it, we had a label at that time. It’s not like “okay tschuess, we are off”. You have contracts and stuff. And then it turned out the right way. We accepted the proposal. It changed something for us! The label is serious. They take care of their bands and work really good. It’s really pleasant to work with Napalm.
entertaim.net: Do they have something to do with your tour dates in Italy? You never played 9 gigs there I guess.
Boris: No we have a booking agency. We give an input of what we would like to play, and they try to make it happen. And they have proposals for us, like booking us for a festival. You know, these days the are A LOT of really good bands around. We have a lot of competition. Venues cannot have all the bands always. The audience cannot go to every concert. It’s becoming really tough for the band. On one hand it is cool that there are so many good bands, that means live music scene is alive! But then it’s a lot of tough competition. But it’s all worth it!
entertaim.net: Your new album seems to bring out new sides. In the way of shortening the songs, and we hear a voice, changing your sound…
dB: it’s just the band playing songs, there is no concept of changing. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. We don’t say “oh let’s do something like Pink Floyd”. Sometimes you get new stuff on your keyboards and that’s it.
Boris: Maybe a slight difference you can hear in the sound. We did a 100% analog recording. All live in the studio, 100%. What you hear is the band really playing without any alteration. Basically you come to the show and you will hear what you hear on the record. Not the single notes, but the sound, the feeling. No bullshit on the record! Straight music recording, catching the moment. But it’s not true that we shortened the songs! They are longer. I explain: for the album we had the idea of a concept based around the 4 basic elements water, fire, earth, air, and how human beings interact with those elements and imagine a way of life around it. What you hear on the record are 4 songs, the 4 elements. The first song “water” is like 20 minutes long. The idea was also to express each element around the zodiac. There are 12 zodiac signs. That’s way you have 3 titles per chapter. But it was recorded just as one song, it’s just one take. And then we thought about: it’s great for the vinyl, but what do we make with the CD, with iTunes? How can we sell it? How can we do singles out of it? So we had to cut each part in 12 tracks. If you do that, then the songs are shorter…. But the idea was to have 4 long tracks, like a trip, divided in different parts, like an evolution. You can have that feeling when you listen to the vinyl. You have one side, as one part from beginning to the end. The record was 100% analog, meant to be put on the vinyl. But we are in 2016, we have to do CDs and iTunes. Maybe it was a wrong idea to cut it for digital purposes, maybe it was good. We had to make a choice, and we chose it. And for the vocals, we had the idea of give something human in the evolution story. That was a good idea. It added something to the bands sound. You know it’s our 6th record and we wanted to try something. We don’t want to release always the same record. Some bands do it that way, and we respect that. It’s not what we wanted to do. We want to have like an evolution on each record. And this new record gives us a strong identity.
entertaim.net: How do your songs develop? Is it by jamming? Like the adding of voices, did it happened during jamming or during rehearsals?
Boris: In rehearsals. We chose to have very short time in the studio to keep the live energy, and the freshness in the sound. Everything was rehearsed and prepared for the studio. We do a lot of rehearsing obviously. When someone comes with a song idea, we work on it. Or we have just a small idea and everyone tries to develop it by jamming or singing. And sometimes it’s developing from pure jamming, until you have some kind of structure. So there’s not only one way of working. On the first record it was pure jamming, but then we started to go different ways.
entertaim.net: You always sounded big and fat, and had a pretty good and clear sound on the records, and that’s the main difference to other instrumental bands, we guess. You worked a lot with producer Johann Meyer, but not on the new album….
Boris: We wanted the sound of the band live – so we worked with our sound engineer. We wanted it on the record.
dB: The way you work is technically different that way.
entertaim.net: So you work with the same effects and things live as well as in studio.
Boris: We have exactly the same gear on stage, except different microphones obviously. But coming back to the sound of the record. Giullaume is playing some guitar on it – it adds a different flavour to our sound, and a different quality. So on this tour he plays some guitar live, mostly some solos. As we are instrumental, obviously the lead guitar is very important. When you have someone else doing it, you change the feeling, the sound, the flavour. It’s cool, because we got a kind of balance – sometimes he does it, sometimes me. And you can see someone else playing the guitar and doing that stuff in the live situation, and this gives something to the show. The adding of another guitar player, of vocals, for us is the first step in another direction. That doesn’t mean that we will do the next record with 100% vocals. Maybe we won’t put vocals at all on the record. Maybe we will do a slower record, maybe a violent record. Maybe just one really long song (laughs).
entertaim.net: Like the SLEEP album.
Boris: Yeah! But when SLEEP did it iTunes didn’t even existed, even the internet didn’t existed… (laughs). We do what we feel, not much thinking about it. But we want to evolve. We heard some people are disappointed by hearing some vocals. Some were happy about it. Some say the record is too slow. Some say it is perfect. Just grab the record, listen to it, if you like it: keep listening, if you don’t like it: don’t listen to it. When a band wants to evolve its own music you have to respect that. If you don’t like it, don’t say the band sucks, just listen to the old records! You know I read everything about the record: great stuff, perfect – and the opposite. It was risky to do that record in a way. It’s not as we usually do records. We wanted to put on tape the band as it REALLY is. No lie, no cheating, this is MONKEY3 as it is.
entertaim.net: In the end you shouldn’t listen to all the critics. When you are satisfied with your product, that’s the main thing.
Boris: We are more than satisfied! We are expanding our musical possibilities. We are working to get better as players. We are curious about the differences. But if you are not allowed to do that, on your sixth record, I mean: what’s the point? Obviously when you bring something new for a fan it’s always difficult to accept. Because they think you betray them. Or maybe you become too commercial. You know my favourite band is AC/DC. To be honest: I don’t like the records with Brian Johnson. I like the Bon Scott era. But I don’t say that they suck! I just don’t listen to those records, but still listen to the old ones.
entertaim.net: What is your favourite guitar on stage?
Boris: I like to play Gibson Les Paul. I’m used to it, and I like it. I guess because when I started playing it was my first guitar. It’s the one I feel most comfortable with. But Guillaume he likes Stratocasters. He knows how to make them sound., which I’m not capable off. (laughs). Those Gibsons are fat that’s what I like about them. The wired thing is: all my favourite players play Strat!
entertaim.net: Well except Angus Young…
Boris: He plays SG. I don’t like the SGs. The sound is good, but….
entertaim.net: It has a long neck….
Boris: Yeah I don’t feel comfortable with that.
entertaim.net: Let’s talk about your home country Switzerland. I have the idea that it’s quite hard to make a living as a rocknroll artist, because the land is pretty small and you don’t have that much locations to play. So you are forced to go abroad to make something out of it. Is it right?
dB: Yes it is. It’s a bit wired. We have very good clubs with nice PAs and stuff. But as a musician, you are nobody. What you do is nothing, not serious. It’s very strange. They say: it’s a hobby! Oh you are a musician! Great! What is your work?
Boris: Ah you do music, so you hang out with friends! (laughing all around). So yes you do have to go outside…
entertaim.net: Is it working for you in Switzerland as a band, in terms of selling records or doing shows?
Boris: We don’t play much shows in Switzerland. I don’t know why. You know we work with a foreign label and a foreign booking agency. When we began with the first record we belonged to the stoner rock scene and so we played mostly in Europe. But now with that record, and really TOTALLY unexpected, we also entered the swiss charts! This might change a little bit. But I’m not really sure about it. You know in Switzerland you need to be a foreign band to be big. Or you become a really famous band outside Switzerland. Like Samhain, the black metal band. Through many years they weren’t playing Switzerland at all! People didn’t want them. Then a lot of stuff happened with them outside Switzerland, they became quite famous. And after that they started to call them in Switzerland to come and play. But it took years, and it was difficult for them to start their career outside Switzerland. That’s the way for a lot of swiss bands. Being a swiss band in Switzerland is surely difficult. When you go out of Switzerland people don’t care if you are swiss or whatever, but in Switzerland it’s difficult. It’s possible, but it takes time. I don’t know exactly why… but I can say what I told you is mostly true in the french part of Switzerland. The german part is a bit more supporting for their own bands. I guess the mentality is different.
entertaim.net: So you are talking about a cultural gap between the french and the german part. A different approach to support artists from your own country.
Boris: Yes. And it’s difficult for a french speaking band to play in the german speaking part, at least in the beginning. They want to expand their own bands, which – I think – is kind of right. But it’s also difficult for the german speaking bands to go to the french part. The problem is: the french speaking part doesn’t support their own bands! They want the american bands or english bands… And don’t forget Switzerland is a small country. In Germany we do about 15 shows. You cannot do this in Switzerland! It’s simply not possible. It’s way too close. What you can do: play Saturday in some city, and then you could play the next Saturday in another town. But playing several shows in a row, one day after another: I mean what could you play? 3 shows? Then you’re done. And: in Switzerland we have a LOT of festivals. During summertime I guess there are more festivals than people in Switzerland! (laughing all around). The attention of the audience is caught by those festivals. It’s getting tough for the venues to have strong artists beside the festivals. For an underground band like we are, it’s pretty tough to fight against that. You don’t have any local support.
entertaim.net: In Scandinavia, like Norway and Sweden, the government is giving much financial support for artists, bands…
Boris: Ah no no, we have no financial support. You want money? Go to work!
dB: Except you are making jazz.
Boris: Jazz or classic music getting good support. But modern music guys… it’s just a hobby… but also: you don’t have much media support even! There are not many specialized rock music media in Switzerland. The few I know are also underground media, and they have to fight to survive. But they keep doing something for the band! They try, but it’s not like the big media.
entertaim.net: So your next record must be a jazz record to get more support…
Boris: (laughs) THAT’S a good idea!! We do a jazz rock album! Well we don’t know how to play jazz… so it’s gonna be a free jazz record (laughing all around).
entertaim.net: We took a lot of your time, it was great to get to know you! Enjoy the show tonight!