Oi! since 1994, and literally dozens... and dozens of releases to show! Needless to say it was only natural, and about time, to have a little chat with Paris Violence's front man and mastermind Flav about the past, present and future! Enjoy!
Hi Flav, thanks for taking the time to do this interview! How are things going at the moment?
Hi! Thanx for this interview and your interest! Everything’s fine here. Some new releases out as you know, some other coming, and working as always on future ones…
Paris Violence formed back in 1994 already, could you give a brief history of the band so far?
Yes, PV was originally formed as a 3-members band, releasing 4 demo tapes in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, then our first 7’EP Humeurs noires, our first split 7’EP Violence urbaine and our first album Temps de Crise the same year 1998. Some songs were already performed by me playing all instruments, and in 1999 PV became a one-man-band. On several later periods I used to work again alone. But there were also various line-ups, for example with Spirou from Molodoï from 2001 to 2004. Our sound engineer Jhon also performs lead guitars on our latest full-length album, on which also still appears Sylvain, who regularly plays keyboards in PV since 2005. Around 2010 we also built a side-line-up dedicated to live performances. The two guitarists Yann and Manu then joined studio recordings on several recent releases and I guess we will go on this way. Since 2002, most of our albums covers are drawn by Alexis Bert, a professional painter. I write all lyrics and compose all musics, even some were co-composed with Thierry in the 90’s; Yann and Manu also participate now in composing, and Sylvain composed some instrumental/ambient intros and outros. But I still write 100% of the lyrics from the start.
I think since you formed the band there hasn't been a year without one, or several, releases of Paris Violence. Can you even keep up yourself with how many records you have put out under Paris Violence's banner?
It’s hard to check. Including all formats, special issues, limited stuff, foreign editions, etc. etc. I guess PV’s full collection may represent between 80 and 100 CDs and vinyls… But considering the category of the releases only, PV’s discography represents 15 albums, mid-length albums, mini-albums or split albums, 12 7’EPs or split EPs, 11 anthologies or “lost & found” stuff released on vinyl or pro CD, 16 official demos on CDR or cassettes… more or less. There a page dedicated to our official discography on our website; even if several very limited releases are missing for the moment it’s the most reliable list. Most of other online PV discographies have mistakes.
Where do you find the time, or even more the inspiration, to write so much music and lyrics? What influences or inspires you?
The year PV was born was the year I got my first recorder, an analogical 4-tracks cassette recorder; so for me writing a song has always meant recording it immediately, even if it may have to be re-recorded later to make it sound better. It’s not the best way for a stage project, with practices etc., and that’s maybe one of the reasons why PV made so few stage performances. But it’s the best way to get inspiration, each track can inspire another one and so on… In 1999, I bought a 8-tracks cassette recorder so it gave me more possibilities of additional instruments and vocals, stereo tracks, better sound quality, and in the early 2000’s I got a 16-track digital recorder which I still use today. Even if some albums were entirely re-recorded in professional studios like En attendant l’apocalypse, and if many other ones are completed by other musicians, mixed and mastered in professional studios too, I can record anytime what I have in mind, and get home-studio material with good quality. That’s the reason why 2007 and 2008 were very productive years: I could start thinking about writing something on Friday night and have 7 or 8 tracks ready to be pressed for the Monday after, including artwork. It’s the main advantage of the DIY habits I took from the beginning. Independence always makes you more creative.
Paris Violence always had a very significant sound, what are your thoughts on the sound? Do you consider it to be unique?
I guess every sound is unique, every album from every band – or it should be so. The first PV sound could be described as Punk-rock with 80’s bands influences, using a drum-machine with a programmed bass guitar, melodic guitars and Oi! lead vocals. Little by little guitars sounded more heavy-metal influenced, voice came stronger, and keyboards more and more present. In 1999 or 2000, while Mourir en Novembre was being released, a friend of mine said that PV’s sound could be called “Oi!-wave”, because of mixing Streetpunk/Oi! basis with new-wave synths and lyrics who could look like post-punk/cold-wave topics. This label is quite simplistic like all labels, but some people still use this expression to qualify our style.
Recently the latest compilation, "Impossible N'est Pas Français", was released through Common People Records (on LP, 500 copies) and through your own Islika Produktions (on CD, 100 copies). Can you explain how this release got together and what can people expect of it?
Jordi asked me to re-issue the demo tape L’Esprit français (1995) on LP. I already had some proposals about it, I always thought that the 2 CDs issued in 2004 and 2006 were enough for this quite old material. But he absolutely wanted to make something with PV’s earliest recordings; so I thought it would be more interesting to release a compilation of tracks from the same period but not only from this demo. Some had been already released on the Paris 95 tape, but because of its format and its limitation very few people had it. So thanks to Common People, it’s now possible to listen for the very first time to those debut recordings on vinyl, and overall Jordi made a very nice artwork. I made a CD issue so it could be available on each format in the same time, but the main issue is the vinyl one because I think it’s the more interesting one for this kind of stuff. And the funny detail is that after 22 years of existence, Impossible… is the very first PV’s release which went out the same day on both formats.
Given that the recordings date back to 1995, do you think the music still represents Paris Violence's sound of today? Or do you consider it to be food for the (die-hard) fans?
1995’s Paris Violence can’t be 2017’s Paris Violence, and the contrary would be curious. But it shows the beginning of a progress which lead to what PV is today. Of course it’s closer to our 90’s demos than to our latest stuff, and maybe the way I was singing, or the 2 electro-pop-wave tracks will sound strange for some people; but I can’t say who will like or dislike this record: people’s reactions are most of the time unpredictable, some releases I was quite proud of had a low success, others I really didn’t like had some unexpected fans, and at last there are even others that first seem to get few interest then suddenly get some success 5, 8 or 10 years after … It’s a quite strange thing, but which happens regularly: I guess the best example is Le Vent divin soufflé toujours: both 2008 10’ Mini-LP and 2010 full-length CD issues sold very bad first, and now it seems that it’s one of our releases most appreciated by the fans.
I already mentioned Islika Produktions, could you tell a bit more about Islika and Trooper Records?
I created Islika Produktions in the same time as Paris Violence as a tape-label who could release our demos as a self-production, but with a name and a logo. It also allowed me to release some tape compilations (Une façon de voir les choses vol. 1 & 2, Chaos à Paris…) in the 90’s, on which PV appeared with other bands of the period and so could get known a bit before starting distributing the demos. When we started releasing CDs and vinyls, I kept this label to co-produce or self-produce some PV releases. Trooper Records was independent from Islika, it was another label put up to release PV exclusively, but built by 6-7 friends, the webmaster of our very first website and guys from various labels who were used to work with PV. So we had two complementary structures dedicated to PV, which allowed to be independent and regularly worked together, even if I officially owned Islika only and didn’t belong to the Trooper team. But we also worked in the same time with various labels, in particular Combat Rock for our main releases to have for them a bigger distribution. Lots of PV releases have been co-produced by Trooper / Islika and Combat Rock. Trooper stopped in 2014 after 10 years of existence; the mate who made the most part of the job had no enough free time anymore, because of his family life and professional life. So even if Islika was existing yet, we decided, my wife and I, to give it a more important stature so it could still play its role but also Trooper’s one (and release Saison Froide too). We also built a brand new website, with a new online shop, newsletter etc. Islika officially released 43 references today (I say officially because most of cassettes and CD-R came without reference number).
Releases are usually pretty limited, do you just like your releases to have a bit of exclusivity or is the limitation due to other reasons?
I wouldn’t say “usually”… Most of our releases are pressed at normal or even big quantities, with maybe a normal issue and a special issue for the vinyl versions, like many bands do.
Limitation on some releases can have various reasons:
In the 2000’s, I decided to release some ultra limited stuff for close friends and fans, on funny formats (shaped vinyl, one-sided vinyl, 8’, 5’…). Friends those releases were made for were previously informed so they pre-paid their copy at the price it would cost. Of course they shouldn’t sell it back because some collectors may buy it at a very high price… And of course some were anonymously sold this way! So I re-released the whole collection with Shout Proud Records on the La Mort en toute intimité LP compilation.
Some other stuff is limited because it has a limited audience: a new full-length album interests more people than a demo reissue or a Saison Froide’s release.
At last, some releases came limited because of their format, for example the La Dernière Garde 7’EP: the first issue came on flexi disc, and in this time there were no factory pressing flexis so I had to make them pressed one by one. Same method for the picture disc edition of the same EP, 300 or 500 copies would have been too much expansive. For this kind of material we don’t make dubplates like some people do, but professionally-pressed vinyls.
Anyway all those kinds of limited releases always soon come on formats accessible to everyone like singles collections CDs (2 volumes released yet, Du Futur faisons table rase and L’Avenir commence mal, both co-released with Combat Rock with big distribution).
Besides Paris Violence, you also have another project called Saison Froide you started in 2001. Could you tell a bit more about this project?
I used to listen to cold-wave since long but in 2000-2001 I rediscovered French 80’s bands like Leitmotiv, Odessa, Enfants de l’ombre, Tanit, T21… Now with dark-wave / gothic rock / neofolk revival some people discover those bands, but in that time they were mostly unknown and/or forgotten. So around October-November 2001 came the idea of recording some tracks in this style, and Saison Froide was born with its first demo tape Lassitude.
Paris Violence already had wave influences, but with Saison Froide your total focus is on cold / dark / new wave. Did you start this project because you couldn't mix too much of your love for wave music into Paris Violence's sound?
Some famous punk and even oi! bands had their new-wave period, like Blitz or UK Subs. It would have been difficult for me to do the same, maybe just because of the experimental guitars on Saison Froide and overall the way I sing on it that has no common point with PV’s vocals. So even if everyone knew SF was my side-project before I told it to anyone, even if there are some common keyboards sounds, I preferred SF to keep a project independent from PV. Wave influences could remain in PV, but SF allowed to go further in cold topics and aesthetics; and anyway while I was working on SF, I was still working on new PV tracks in the same time. I guess melting SF into PV would have denatured both projects.
Looking at Saison Froide's discography, you aren't as active with this project as you are with Paris Violence and you only did four releases in 16 years. Why is that?
Because Paris Violence has always been my main project, Saison Froide is more something like an experience who allows me to work from time to time on something completely different. Inspiration for Saison Froide isn’t the same that for PV, because of the very specific ambient and topics, even in the way I write SF’s lyrics, in a cold and impersonal style.
While we are on the subject of releases... what has been your favorite Paris Violence release and why?
It’s still very hard to answer to this kind of questions. En attendant l’apocalypse may still be one of the albums I’m the most proud of, because of the superb work of Spirou as musician and sound engineer, Alexis’ great artwork, and first appearance of 1900/decadent themes. Today I would say that Promesses d’immortalité is our most original full-length release, it can sound strange when you hear it for the first time because of its very special sound but it belongs to the global concept of the album, which is supposed to give you the impression of a hard hangover. In all modesty, I think it contains the most elaborate lyrics I ever wrote.
If you want to know what are my favorite PV tracks, it’s the tracklist of our 2 best-of CDs… knowing there will be a third volume.
And your least favorite? Please explain.
Maybe L’Âge de glace. It was a very ambitious project, but with too limited means. I wanted some kind of “progressive” album, something more mature than the previous material, with complex song composing and unexpected ambients… I guess the result was quite disappointing, I should have released it in a big studio with good musicians instead of working alone with low quality home-made recording. Maybe I would have this result re-recording it all with Spirou, but in this time he just worked for PV on mixing and mastering. Same thing for the cover, which would have come better painted by Alexis, but I hadn’t met him yet. The strangest thing is that this album seems to be one of PV’s fan’s favorite ones, even their favorite one…
I know that there is still a lot of music in the pipeline that needs to be released. What can we expect of Paris Violence in the (near) future? Do you need help with any future releases to come?
Yes of course, there are many pending projects. We just released 4 new tracks about World War I, they will come soon on a quite original vinyl format through Shout Proud Records with a French edition by Islika; it’s at the pressing plant yet. Vinyl version of Promesses d’Immortalité should also come soon on double gatefold LP on Randale Records. New “lost & found” stuff with other reissues of oldies and rarities will follow. We are also thinking about a split EP with Spanish band Acero Condal. There are also brand new songs that could make new releases, and yes all labels are welcome: a concept-7’EP about “Paris under ice” with 2 long songs; a concept 10’ or 12’ EP with 4 tracks about absinthe; a live Mini LP featuring our first and still unique stage performance at The Back On The Streets fest 2015; the vinyl issue of the trilogy L’appel des Ténèbres (La Tentation du Néant / La Nostalgie du Chaos / La Fascination de l’Abîme) which were issued separately on CD only and would make a nice double LP; the second volume of Confins de l’Enfer (split EP with Kid Chaos), which is waiting for a label since 2013… And many other possibilities, including participating to compilations and samplers.
Artwork is ready for most of these projects, so feel free to contact us if you’re interested, we’re always interested in working with labels worldwide…
Alright, I think this is it! Thanks again for your time! If you have anything to add to this interview, feel free to do so!
Thanks to you for this interview, it was a pleasure! Love music, fuck politics and keep the faith! Oi!