In this episode of The Rock Metal Podcast, we're chatting with Olivier Allard of the band Cydemind about their new album ‘The Descent’ out now.
During our chat we touch on a lot of great tips for musicians, such as choosing the right producer.
‘The Descent’ was mixed by Simon L’Espérance (Karcius) and mastered by Tony Lindgren (Fascination Street Studios). The cover art for the album was created by Alexander Dagenais.
For fans of Dream Theater, Leprous, Symphony X, Tigran Hamasyan.
Cydemind's Website - Connect with Cydemind!
Guest Music Video
3 Heavy Hitters
1. Choose to work with a producer because you love their sound and their approach to making records.
2. Stand out in the metal scene by capturing real instruments in unique spaces, rather than relying on samples.
3. Even without lyrics, think about how the music tells a story from the individual song to the entire album. Take the listener on a journey.
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Show Notes // Transcript
Jon Harris: So, Olivier, go ahead and say hello to all of our beautiful listeners.
Olivier Allard: Hi, everybody.
Jon Harris: And it is absolutely freaking great to have you on. Let's go ahead and chat about this. I have here as a quote "with Erosion, we were young. We were still trying to define our own sound." Take us back to that first album. In trying to define your own sound, what's happened since that time between then and now? And do you feel that you're any closer?
Olivier Allard: Okay, that's a great question. We were in our early twenty's and we really had no knowledge whatsoever of how to produce an album. We knew how to write, we knew how to play, but we had really no clue how to produce an album. That's why we asked Chris Donaldson to help us out in that he made an awesome job. Honestly, we have nothing to reproach to him. Only thing is, it sounded like Chris Donaldson. It sounded like what he used to do with death metal bands. And it's a very aggressive approach. We wanted for a second album to try and find something that's more well, that's more us. And we had COVID to kind of learn everything. And we really had time to dig into production and refine the guitar sound as we want, the keyboard sounds also. So we had a lot of time to make tests and also find a mixing engineer that would help us out, but like, hear also our ideas and understand where we want to go. So I think it's been a very very enlightening experience we're on the right track. I wouldn't say we're totally happy with the end product. We're really near. Of course, we still have some things to learn along the way.
Jon Harris: You know, maybe you're in a band, you're looking for a producer, mix engineer. You brought up a really good point. Chris Donaldson, he's great, he's fantastic, he's super talented. He also sounds like Chris Donaldson. And a producer usually imprints their sound, or a mix engineer usually imprints their sound. And there are a few who kind of don't that come to mind. But I mean, even a Mutt Lang, if you listen to all of Mutt Lang's records, certain things sound the same because it's just the way that he's processing the band's material or even influencing the band's material.
Olivier Allard: Yeah, exactly.
Jon Harris: So always take that into account when searching for a producer or mix engineer is what does this person's work sound like? And do I want my band or my record to sound like that? And if the answer is yes, then go to the races.
Olivier Allard: Exactly. I think we also have that questioning for mastering, actually, because some people go with certain mixing engineers and then go to other mastering engineers just to have a different colour, just to have a different opinion. And that's actually what we did. We went to Fascination Street Studios. We got our album mastered by Tony Lindgren. He kind of got this European prog metal sound that we love so much, so we were really glad about that.
Jon Harris: Abso-freaking-lutely. Now, Tony Lindgren, that is a definite legend for anybody who doesn't know Fascination Street Studios is also Jens Bogren. And if you don't know who he is, just think like Amon Amarth. Definitely some heavy hitters in the European metal scene. Now, you mentioned some trials and tribulations as far as working on The Descent is concerned. And obviously each stage of the creative process itself has its peaks and valleys. What was the greatest moment in producing this record?
Olivier Allard: For me, I would say it was the violin tracking. I recorded my tracks in four days, and it was really the most challenging four days of my life. I remember after the first day, completely tired, I think I went to bed at like, eight and I woke up and got back to the studio and four days in a row, like, that really, really tiring. But I'm really happy with the result. Everybody in the same room. We're all tracking in each separate room, and it's kind of a lonely experience, and you're just yourself with your instrument and playing so many takes until you have the one you prefer. So it's a lot of focus, concentration, but I'm very happy with the results. So I'd say that was fun. I think for everybody else, it's going to be different. I really liked tracking grand piano with Camille. We went to a very, very nice studio, actually, it was ancient. It was an old church that was renovated into a studio. And there was a grand piano there. We tracked everything there. The grand piano. It was only the grand piano there. I was the kind of producer there. There was Camille on the grand piano, and I was kind of leading him. Do that again. Do that again. Can you try this? Can you try this? And we kind of build it, the performance together. It was a very fun experience.
Jon Harris: Yeah. I mean, using those old renovated spaces like a church, the particular grand piano that they had, all of those things that you're capturing in time are unique to the record and can't be used anywhere else. And I know there are so many samples available nowadays and they'll get you by, but it just sounded so easy and so fluid, Olivier, for you and Camille to just go down to this unique space on this unique piano and create a unique moment in time.
Olivier Allard: Exactly. I mean, in metal, there's so many samples in metal music, it's really rare that you're going to hear a real piano. I mean, our biggest influence, Dream Theater. I'm not sure they even used a grand piano, a real grand piano in any of their records. It's only Jordan Rudess with his keyboard, even if he's a concert pianist, he's really trained as a classical pianist. But we felt that's a sound that we want to explore having the grand piano. I think it really comes from our Tigran Hamasyan influence. I don't know if you know that guy. He's a jazz pianist. He's doing really odd time signature stuff, and Armenian melodies on top of that is really good. And he has a very Meshuggah-like approach to his songs. It's really your heavy and lots of low end punches on the piano. So I think we get our sound from him.
Jon Harris: Yeah, I mean, Olivier, you hit it on the head. There are a lot of samples in metal, but if you can do something unique on your recording like you guys have done here, so that it's organic and unique to your record, then bonus points. And then also as well, it sounds like you're pulling influences from many places, but then connecting those dots. I mean, you mentioned jazz with Tigran Hamasyan, but that it's Meshuggah-like. So we're connecting the dots back to metal. Which takes me to my next question. What was the biggest challenge for you on this record? And I guess, how did that, what did you guys make of that challenge?
Olivier Allard: Biggest challenge? Well, it was a long process. I think what's keeping us motivated was maybe one of the challenge, because we wrote those songs, I think a year after we released Erosion, all the songs were already done, so it took us a four year after that to release everything. I think it was kind of long. We had some delays with studios because everything closed at the moment we wanted piano recording, so we had to wait a year and then everything closed on the day we had our first music video, everybody caught COVID, so we had to delay everything. So I think that was the biggest challenge, was to keep the momentum, even if we had so many delays.
Jon Harris: Yeah, abso-freaking-lutely. Staying motivated. I mean, come on, baby. Especially since the pandemic. How many listening in right now have tried to get a band off the ground, or a music project, or any project for that matter, and have found it difficult to do so and how to stay motivated. Now, something else that had come up with regard to the notes that Asher Media Relations had sent out was "with The Descent, we delved into the concept of obsessions and the abyss into which they can plunge the human mind", says Olivier, which would be you, Monsieur. So...
Olivier Allard: Haha, yeah, that's me.
Jon Harris: What was the main inspiration for these kinds of themes on the record?
Olivier Allard: We find the inspiration. We write the music before thinking about what it's going to be about. Since we have no lyrics, we kind of find the themes after. At least that's how we work right now. And I actually would like to do the opposite, maybe next record, and find the theme and work musically on that. This record was really written the music before, and then we thought, where does it lead us? How are the shielding? And we really thought that it was a descent into hell if you get the first song and you ditch it out because it's kind of an overture. You start at Hoax and then going down to Breach, Call of the Void, Hemlock. They all get longer, more complex, more darker, and you kind of get to a point in Slumber where actually you don't know if you're dead or alive or you don't know where you are. And then the last song is kind of more epic finale. But I think we delved. We chose the obsessions theme because mainly there's themes that go that reappear in every song. So you kind of get that obsession late movie like. We say that's appearing in many songs structurally review was how dark and how low can one go from something that's really fun. Hoax is really uplifting, really exciting. And then Breach is also catchy, but it's going to be heavier. And then Call of the Void is already a lot darker.
Jon Harris: Yeah. So what I want to kind of unpackage there from that one was telling a story. So the music was written before the themes and as you mentioned, next time you'd kind of like to do the themes first and write the music around it. But what I want to zoom in on is when you said and then we thought, where does this lead us? Where does this lead us? It's about telling a story with the music and then you guys were able to craft a compelling and as you said, catchy and even dark and heavy, right? But you were able to craft a compelling story. Now, one of the other things I wanted to chat about was, you know, you guys had mentioned grand piano a few times. Samples sort of somewhat came up a little bit. I'm curious, in terms of telling the story, are there any other pieces of equipment that may have come in that surprised you or really became a part of the recording?
Olivier Allard: A few things still with the grand piano, we had the idea to mess around inside the piano with the big strings. We had one penny and we were messing up with a sound inside the piano. It actually ended up being the end of our album, The Last Stone. You kind of hear those little almost like a guitar pick on a piano and it sounds really a movie soundtrack and very epic. So we like to and it really was kind of a moment thing. Let's just try this on the piano and see how it sounds. And it sounded great. Other than that, there's my electric violin here, but I tracked everything on my acoustic one for that record. There was no electric violin in that record. I think we like to have that more classical approach with the grand piano and the acoustic violin. It really gives a more organic sound and the challenge is actually to blend it with guitar and bass and drums and make it sound as a whole.
Jon Harris: Using the grand piano in various ways, I mean, instruments, you know they're there for your enjoyment. Just because it was, I guess, designed to be played one particular way doesn't mean you can't get under the hood and start tinkering around and end up with some really cool things as a result of it. So, I mean, if you're listening in right now and you're kind of stuck on a project, maybe start using snare drums the way they're not supposed to be used. You know start getting out of your comfort zone a little bit.
Olivier Allard: Exactly, be creative with the instrument you have.
Jon Harris: Exactly, baby.
Olivier Allard: Exactly, think outside the box.
Jon Harris: Except this time you went inside the box.
Olivier Allard: Haha, exactly.
Jon Harris: How would you define success at this stage of your career with regard to this release, Olivier?
Olivier Allard: We're happy with how the album got received. You know, I think self producing that album was a risk because I think there was a lot of interest on our first album just because it was Chris Donaldson who was producing it and there was a name behind it. So people got curious for that. And it was a challenge for us for that second album to keep that interest. Because first, it was five years ago, so everybody forgot us and then we self produced our album, so we had nobody to help us with anything. But we learned so much from that process that we wouldn't change anything. And we're really focusing on that being I only have the French word autonom. I don't know if you know what I mean.
Jon Harris: Yeah, autonomous, like being on your own by yourself?
Olivier Allard: Being able to do everything yourself. And I think that's where we want to keep pushing. And same thing for our third project. It's going to be self produced. We enjoyed so much the whole process of pre-production and production and post production. It's something that we like to do on our own.
Jon Harris: So enjoying the process, basically, of self producing, because, as you were mentioning, that, it made me realize that finding a great producer, or even a great mix engineer, anybody else along the way, is almost like finding that fifth band member.
Olivier Allard: Exactly. In our case, it's our 6th band member.
Jon Harris: Yeah. And honestly, you're listening and you're thinking, man, I need to find a great producer. You will, in time. And when that time comes, it'll happen. I know that sounds quite serendipitous, but it's true. So either try a different producer every album or just do what these guys are doing. What Cydemind is doing, self produce, be happy with it, get the good feedback, enjoy the process, and eventually the right person, their ears will perk up and say, I know I can help you guys.
Olivier Allard: Exactly. We like to do that because we like to learn. And if we go see a producer and we tell him, just do your stuff and we're not interested in what you're doing, some artists are doing that. It's fine and trusting a producer is really good, but I think knowing what they do actually and how they do it and maybe challenging them and work with them, I think we're more looking for collaboration than just give our music to somebody and he makes whatever he wants with it.
Jon Harris: Haha, that sounds so aggressive, Olivier.
Olivier Allard: Haha, yeah, sorry there.
Jon Harris: Then just take it and do with it what you will. Now, speaking of collaborating, obviously being a musician is a collaboration between fan and the artist. So my next question is, what's the number one thing that you want people listening right now to do? Is there a website that you want them to go to? What would you like them to do right now?
Olivier Allard: Well, we released two very nice music videos. So I think if you don't know the band, if you don't know Cydemind, you should check us out on YouTube. Our music video Hoax, is really a very good highlight of our music, of our album, The Descent. We also have a very, very nice music video called Winter, which released a few years ago, which is actually an arrangement of Vivaldi's Winter Concerto, and that's also a very epic music video. We have the opportunity to be working with my brother, who is a director, who's a movie director, so he's very generous of his time and he's really good, actually. So usually music videos, especially for metal bands, are kind of generic and bland, and it's not the highlight. You just listen to the music and don't really check the video because they're usually not that good, but they're worth watching.
Jon Harris: You didn't just scream into a light bulb, is what you're saying.
Olivier Allard: Exactly.
Jon Harris: Okay, very cool. So everybody listening in right now. Go ahead and head over to TheRockMetalPodcast.ca. In the search bar, you can search up Cydemind, and there you will find all of the music videos for the record as well as Winter that Olivier had mentioned, as well as any other relevant links so that you can get in touch with Cydemind and become their next big, greatest fan. Olivier, thank you so much for coming.
Olivier Allard: Thank you, Jon. Really, really nice to chat with you.
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