->back to list of interviews

  • O Quam Tristis

interviewed by Will Z. of "In Winter Bleeding"


The following interview was conducted by Will Z. of In Winter Bleeding and Palace of Worms Records' USA office with Hughes Dammarie and Tomek Ashkenazy Isaac of "O Quam Tristis..."

When I approached "O Quam Tristis..." about an interview, I was as curious as an associate of the label just as much as I was curious as a fan. The band hails from France and their music is best described as a blend of medieval music with modern atmospheres and euro-pop beats. Woven between this are beautiful male and female polyphonies. Their moods take the listener from darkest atmospheres of past times to the dance-floor. All of the lyrics from the debut CD, "Funerailles des Petits Enfants" are sung in Latin and come from the religious text known as the Gregorian Manual. When the interview was complete, I felt as though I had more of a personal connection with the band and their CD, and thus, I had become more of a fan.


1 / First off, I would like to say greetings and thank you for letting us do this interview for the Outcast Zine. I suppose we should start off with a question regarding the history of "O Quam Tristis…Could you please tell us how this project began ?

Hugues: This project is the fruit of a convergence between five people coming from different musical horizons to share in common their passion and love for ancient music, electro and latin language. This particulary taste was not easily exploitable in the previous or current musical projects in which they were involved… " O Quam Tristis… " is a way to express some deep feelings of serenity and in a certain way a manner of spiritualizing music by using sacred lyrics. For the moment, the history of "O Quam Tristis…" is very short, the band only exists since one year and a half…

2 / How did you meet our friend Guido at Palace of Worms Records who has now released your cd ? What is your opinion of the music of some other bands on POW ?

Hugues: Some of us got in touch with Guido after an invitation to the "Storm the Palace" compilation, showing a great interest from Palace of Worms for medieval and Renaissance inspired musics. The song, "Laudamus te" by OMS was composed by some of us and Guido liked it a lot. Then we sent to the label a demo with 14 songs sung only in latin , the roughs of what would become our first album…

We have been quickly seduced by the musical paths explored by POW artists.

Even if our music cannot be compared with Bleeding like Mine or Stay Frightened that are more atmospheric projects, I think we share the same interest for an alternative in music, even if the artistical ways that we use are not exactly the same. One goal, one quest and one million different songs to reach them…

3 / It’s my understanding that all of the lyrics for "Funérailles des Petits Enfants", your debut cd, come from the religious text known as the Gregorian Manual is and why were all of the lyrics to your album written in latin ?

Hugues: As I told you before, we wanted to create something more homogenous than all that we had done in our other projects. Even if we had sung in latin some few songs elsewhere, we had never explored the pleasure to sing in this dead language all along an entire album. The Gregorian Manual is a book that was used for every liturgical ceremony. It shows the words to say, the words to sing, the way to act and even also features some musical scores for singers at church. We chosed the chapter related to the young children’s burials because the theme was talking to our souls in relation with the lost childhood from which many of us are deeply suffering all along our life… We can also notice that latin is a very singing language, these words are already a music in themselves and you will never know how inspiring they are while putting them on our own musics.

4/Do you consider yourself to be "religious" or "spiritual"? Any comments regarding the place of spirituality in the underground gothic, darkwave, or similar areas of music ?

Hugues : We all have got a "spiritual" education in our respective youths. Alas, we cannot say that we are nowadays some real fervent faithfull guys and girls. We would like to trust in something better than man. But without mankind, no God ! So all artistical Man’s things done to glorificate any invented God are interesting in an esthetical point of view. When we try to same up all the negative effects of religions all along the centuries, we are afraid… So, I prefer to tell you that we express in our music something more spiritual than religious. We don’t want to be some kind of preachers, rather the Sandmen of some lost serenity.

I think that the place of spirituality( and above all christianism emanations) in underground gothic or darkwave is more decorative than the real reflection of some true religious feelings..

5 / I must admit, I was wondering why an album whose name in English means "Funerals for Small Children" would be used in connection with a religious text. Could you please tell us why you choose this title ?

Hugues :The explanation is quite simple. We used a French version of the Gregorian Manual. Even if the liturgical lyrics are in latin, the titles of chapters and every annotations concerning the ceremonies are in French. This special chapter was just containing all songs and liturgical facts to observe during the religious offices of young children, going from the benediction of the corpse in the house of death down to the cemetery including the church ceremony. Therefore, the title is the only way to note that we are based in France.

6/ Since most of the readers of this zine, if not all of them, won’t be familiar with the latin language, can you please tell us what a few of the tracks are about ?

Hugues : The whole tracks are liturgical chants, so they have not a personal signification for us and for any listener. They are originally words of praise and hope in something better beyond life, some consolation sentences for the dead as well as for the defunct’s family . The whole musical rhythm of these words that were made to be sung is the first reason for us to use them as well as the mysterious feeling which is always emanating from something we don’t clearly understand. Latin is one of these mysteries… it goes through times and space keeping some old fashioned secrets …

7/ What do you find to be most inspiring-both musically and non musically ? What inspires you to create your art ? What can you tell about the creation process for "O Quam Tristis…"? Are you usually inspired musically or lyrically first ? What type of surroundings do you prefer around when you create your music ? Does French Society influence your creativity in your music ?

Hugues: Each one of us has got his musical influences, some likes Vocal and instrumental music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, some others likes also electronic musics, this melting pot gives in the final the songs we create. When we play or compose, we also keep in mind all our favorite painters from the English Preraphaelite School that inspire us perhaps much better than other musicians in a certain way. Trying to put some music on images is something we do certainly unconsciously but it’s important too.

When we create, we always choose and take a text first and then we put music on it, it has always appeared to us the more logic or the quite simple thing to do even if we perfectly know that there are many other ways to process. Before beginning to compose, we usually close the shutters and the curtains, we light some candles and we burn incense. Then the songs come…without any hurting or moral dilemmas of any sort…

8/ How important are certain emotions in the music of "O Quam Tristis…" ? Is it necessary for you to be sad, depressed, or even happy when creating your music?

Tomek :It does not represent a special condition because we mix each one in this state of mind when selecting the lyrics, composing the music. First of all points, we always feel sad and depressed when we are unable to create something "good" for the both of us. Out of this action of creating, we feel the same things but effectively we are happy when we have created something all five united.

11/ It seems to me that is is too common when many artists in the ethereal, goth and darkwave related styles compose lyrics which are very depressing with little or no question of hope. Do you agree ? Is this too common in these styles of music ? Do you think that things like hope and love belong in these forms of music ?

Tomek :Yes, we do, absolutely; it’s just a question of balance. It’s common, effectively to share those feelings but we are not of that style, just because we add hope and love in our form of "Spleen and Ideal" creation; but anyway, music forms don’t belong to us, we just try to belong to them.

Hugues : Therefore, singing for the Children’s Funerals is not for us a morbid preoccupation but rather a way to help their souls to reach any kind of better Paradise, if there is one… Someone I don’t remember the name told one day that each dead child’s becomes an Angel because they were leaving Earth because having been corrupted by Man’s turpitudes.

12/Someone who interviewed me in a Romanian zine asked me this next question. It was an interesting question so I would like to ask you… What was the most hated, stressing moments from which you came? Is there any nostalgia for that time ?

Tomek :Perhaps our birth and the fact of not having really having been invited to live… We don’t feel nostalgia, happily, because we don’t really remember those moments based between the first and third years… but I think than the most of our sufferings comes from that unavoidable fact and all the unconscious and repulsed feelings that we bring all along our life…!

Hugues : Thinking about bad moments is a way to resist to adversity by avoiding to make new errors but it’s also the better way to stagnate and to be merged in depressive feelings. We all hope to find the good balance between these two extremities. Nothing particular to declare except sentimental clashes , family misunderstandings, unavoidable ego problems… but that’s just what’s life is made of.

13/ If God and Heaven exist, what would you like God to say when you die ?

Tomek : "Each Human being is a star shining at its own living, acting and going to sleep and die, but not eternally…"

Hugues: " Don’t worry about what’s happening after your death, I am just the creation of your intelligence . So, what can you expect from Man’s things ! I don’t exist and you are not God, you are nothing . Don’t fear about Beyond … Go in peace." I would be certainly reassured!!!

14/ I would like to know your thoughts about this quote which is one of my favorite quotes. "A man walks up to Buddah and asks, "Are you a god ?" Buddah replies, "No". The man asks, "Are you a king ?" Buddah replies, "No". The man then asks, "Then what are you ? Buddah replies, "I am awake."

Hugues: The Buddah, or those who brought his sentences to us, said many intelligent things about vanity of Man. I don’t know why a such clear teaching has never been better spreaded and understood around the World. Perhaps because Buddah is the typical case of the one who is opening some already open doors. Everybody agrees with the most of his philosophy but the World is going on the wrong way. I think it’s more comfortable to be hypnotized by his own certitudes than to open the eyes on his own vanity.

What’s the meaning of being awake if we are nor God and nor King, it’s really a better solution to keep on sleeping than to realize that we are nothing in fact. We already have a so big weight to carry just thinking that the goal of Life is Death? Isn’t it ?

15 / It would seem to me to be almost magical, in this day and age of computers and the Internet and also how music in the underground genres can transcend boundaries of language, culture and such. For example, here I an American, interviewing a French band who sings in latin and who also appear on an Italian label. I’ve gotten a couple of nice letters fromRomania and Australia. To me, the fact that people in those countries listening to POWs cds is amazing. What do you think of all of this ?

Tomek :It’s amazing, in Europe we have many different forms of Christianity (or christianism). It’s a chance to be accepted hundred of years after singing in latin, which is considered as a death language, after all… The drill, the accentuation, the tune of of those words are very exciting and give strength to the body and mind. We don’t know why Rome has decided to kill them while they translated them into every national languages of Europe, perhaps to get a more modern look …

16/ Most of the artists that I have met who play music in the Goth, ethereal styles have been very humble and true to their art. What is your opinin of the difference of artists in the underground styles of music like-goth, darkwave, darkwave, neo-classical, apocalyptic folk as opposed to artists who compose more commercial music ? Do you think there is a difference in their attitudes ? Also, do you think there is more competition and concern in making music for money in more commercial genres and less competition in genre such as ours ?

Tomek : Difference can permit to be classified. Commercial is an opinion, a type of earning money easily without changing the habits and customs of a people. We don’t feel opposed to them, we respect them. They just want to go faster. The problem is we are very many bands in competition waiting for the changing of genres such as ours. The fight is the same, the battle so, then we will see… after the War !

17/ Returning now to the topic of "O Quam Tristis…", Have you performed any live shows as "O Quam Tristis…"? If not, do you expect to ? What type of effect would you like to present for your live show ?

Hugues : We still have not thought about this, the band has a too small existence. In our more foolish dreams, we could think about many scenical and visual ideas. We would like to restitue the atmosphere that we share when we create the songs( projections, candles, incense… and more) to the audience but as everybody knows it’s better to be humble with great ideas because everything leads to the unavoidable financial and human problems that often occurs to prevent all good initiatives…! We will do something in this way when we will be sure to have the perfect ways to realize it the best we can…

18/ I found the quality of the mix between the music tracks and the vocals on your cd to be done very well. What sort of equipment are you using to produce your music ?

Hugues : We use a simple analogic 16 track reel recorder coupled with usual studio effects and peripherics . It’s a very fiable equipment but even if the sound that he gives is good, all the mixing work is made my our human brains and hands and this is more difficult to explain. The help of our sound enginer is also very precious to help us to save time during sessions and to concentrate mostly on the final result and not to ask quality questions about the takes of each one of us . He makes the sound, tells us if we are good or not while performing when we are unable to judge (it happens sometimes!) Then we make the mix.

19/ Can you tell us of any new inspiration for music that you have had for "O Quam Tristis…" ? Is there any new inspiration for new music ?

Tomek :Just a return in our former days of singing at the church every Sunday morning. New? What is new ? We are just collecting moments of our best past on this planet and trying to share them with listeners and probably audience . At least that’s what we expect to.

Hugues: We already have a brand new demo with 18 songs . So we are ready to make a new album with a selection of these songs . I think that it will be both more vocalistically polyphonic and more electronic in a certain way . The general atmosphere of "Funeral" will be preserved. All the lyrics in latin, always, have been taken from a small XIXth century home triptycal showing the whole ritual lyrics of

The liturgical celebration office. Putting in music this kind of antique hung on one of our rehearsal room’ wall has something very symbolical to our minds. We really hope to be able to give a life to this project within the next months.

> top of page