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  • O Quam Tristis

interviewed Tek Noir


Hello. Thanks for having the interview. O Quam Tristis is not very well known in The Netherlands, but for those who do not yet know O Quam Tristis, could you please introduce the band to the Dutch readers?
The band was created at the end of 1999. This project is the fruit of a convergence between five people coming from different musical horizons to share in common their passion for ancient music, electro and Latin language. Those different items were not easily or plainly exploitable in the previous or current musical acts we were running in those times…. “O Quam Tristis …” formers are : HUgues Dammarie, Katrina Koslowska, Emeric Lenotz, Tomek Ashkenazy Issac and Anna Virsky. Since now we have released three album : Funérailles des Petits Enfants (2000), Le Rituel Sacré (2002) and the brand new one Méditations Ultimes (2005). The Italian label Palace of Worms has produced both these records.

What instruments do you use and what is each member's activity in O Quam Tristis?

Since the beginning of the band, we tried to mix very contemporary instruments (guitars, bass, keyboards, sequencers….) with instruments coming from the medieval or folk scene (psaltery, dulcimer, flutes, krumhorn, mandolas, mandoloncello…). Many of the band's members are quite polyvalent and are able to play different kind of instruments…. Moreover, four of us are singers too…. So it's not really possible to tell exactly who plays what. It may be very different from one song to another. We are not locked in just one post. It opens many possibilities when creating or arranging a track and it's very exciting.

Could you tell us something more about the recording process of the new album? What was completely different this time, what not, who contributed where etc?
Half of the tracks featured on this new album were composed during the sessions of Le Rituel Sacré, our previous one. We had so many tracks in these times that it was quite impossible to include them all on the second album. So we kept them to use them later. And it's done on this new one. The recording process was the same for this album than for the previous. We made all the takes and mixed in the same studio with a sound engineer who perfectly knows what we are looking for… because we are working with him since several years now with OQT and other bands we are also involved in.

The album sounds a bit different from the last one. What was the development as a band like the last years ?
I think each new album is the reflect of what each musician have heard or lived. We do not really feel the difference from one album to another…. But globally we can notice that the first one (Funérailles des Petits Enfants) was a kind of rough for us. We were trying to make our own style with the different influences we had before in our separate or common projects and I think it may be a kind of “first try” album. The second one (Le Rituel Sacré) was really more homogenous, electro rythymed and punchy. The new one (Méditations Ultimes) is more exploring the World of self-introspection with repetitive incantation on mid or slow tempos…. We could say it's a more meditative album… talking more to the mind than to the body…. However, it's just a personal feeling…!

What is the idea behind Meditations Ultimes ? Is there a general theme behind the album, either musical or lyrically? What are the lyrics about?
The concept of the album is partly linked with the cover and partly linked to the band's vision of his own future in those times. We fell in love with this painting when we discovered it several years ago. In those times, we thought it could perfectly fit for a cd artwork but we had not the opportunity to do so. Therefore, we kept it in our drawers...

 This new album was the perfect opportunity. We have always been fans of XIX th century illustrative paintings. This one is by the quite unknown French painter Alphonse Muraton. It shows a medieval monk meditating upon the grave of his brothers all dead from the pest. Therefore, the word Meditation came naturally.We thought about “Ultimes” because we were thinking, in those times, about just making a trilogy. This album had to be the last one... so “Ultimes” came secondly.... But in fact, we have some new demo tracks ready now, so, the fourth is on the way, this one will perhaps not be the last one…. 

 We have used an excerpt from the Carmina Burana's lyrics in Terrae but we will not use some more because many other bands or classical acts have already overexploited these texts. That's the reason  why have been looking, while reading anthologies, for this new album for lyrics written by secular poets of the Middle Ages  (Gautier de Châtillon, Fulbert de Chartres, or Pierre de Blois.....). Their texts are more about love and man's things than religion. We would like, for the eventual fourth one to get some more open-minded vision of the latin language.

Some of our latest album's lyrics are related to religious celebrations (Benedicimus te…) some are Love songs (O langueo…) there is even a lullaby (Non eripit Mortalia…)

Do you compare yourself to bands like Qntal or Helium Vola, which combine medieval and electronic music as well?
Because we are using ancient and contemporary instruments mixed, also because we are singing poetries or canticles from the Middle Ages, we can be compared to these great German acts…and that's an undeniable fact that these two Electro Medieval bands (above all Qntal, the creator of the genre) have big influence on our work and for the love we have for all that is related to a contemporary vision of the music from the Middle Ages   The big difference is, I think, in the way we are arranging tracks…. Since then, we have not managed to compose a song that could reach the dance floors (-:   That's our next goal (-: Our music is still too much introspective. Perhaps one day…?

Where do you gain inspiration for making this kind of music?
Each one of us has his own musical influences. Some of us likes vocal religious and instrumental music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, some others like also electronic music, synth pop and some others are fond of Folk and Celtic Music. This is what gives birth to the music we are creating .When we play or compose, we also keep in mind not only musical facts but also our love for Symbolist / Pre-Raphaelite painters whose images are great source or dreams and inspiration. We have sometimes the feeling to illustrate unconsciously some pictures with our songs…. However, that's just a very confused feeling

Why is the music of O Quam Tristis relevant to today's life?
That's just our opinion: OQT music is not really relevant to today's life but it's one of the best support we have found to afford many worries of this “Today's life”. The music we are composing, playing and recording is a kind of anaesthetic for us. If it could be able to get the same effect for some stressed listeners, it could be the least we could do: To have a relaxing and soothing effect on tired minds….

Do you have any musical influences or idols yourself? I noticed you mention Opera Multi Steel more than once. What is the connection to this band?
Well, I could mention those records that have been and still are on our playlists since many years. In those works may be found the roots of OQT music : Malicorne ”Les Cathedrales de l'Industrie”, Kolinda “Szerelem” Steeleye Span “Below the Salt”, Dead Can Dance “Aion” and “Spirit Chaser”, Qntal  “I and II”, Ataraxia “Historiae” and many more that I could not mention without forgetting some in various genres (electro, synthpop…)

Concerning Opera Multi Steel, it's not one of our idol bands but some of us have played during long years within this eclectic and heterogenous minimalistic French pop act, so it may be normal that you find this name from time to time when talking about “O Quam Tristis…” There is a small part of OMS within OQT but the aesthetic process and mood are really different now.  

What's the creative process of songwriting like for yourself? Do you have to be in a particular mood when making music?
There is not just one rule. We have so many different ways to create a song. It just may begin with one simple keyboard line or a rhythm loop found at random on a beat generator. Then we keep in mind the goal to find the right place for the male or female melody. We have then to find the lyrics that are the more convenient to the melody. Basically, the first ideas are often coming from just anyone of us, but we are all involved in the final arrangement of the song. Each OQT song becomes a collective work at the end of the creative process. We work on just one song at a time but it also happens that some songs are refused when a majority of us does not feel inspired. Some songs are left apart then we try later to rearrange and sometimes what was not working two years ago find an happy conclusion many times later. When we are creating, arranging new songs, we try to put ourselves in the best conditions possible. We close the shutters  and we light candles, it's really helpful to be in a meditative mood to keep close to what's for us the main thing in life but also the most difficult to reach :  serenity .

What can we expect more of O Quam Tristis in the near future?
Our new album is just released, so for the moment, we still do not know very clearly the way of its reception among the Scene…But we just can expect to be able to issue another one in the future. As I told you, we still don't know what will be exactly our evolution in the way to arrange the tracks but I think the next, if there is one, will be stronger … Why not using for the first times, some few electric guitars (real or sampled ones…) ?

What is your opinion on the current medieval scene as part of the gothic scene? What do you consider exciting developments and what not?
I think we should rather employ the term Neo Medieval Scene concerning the one supported by the Gothic Movement because there is since a very long time…. I mean since the end of the sixties, a medieval scene that was more confined within the classical music….and trying to make some kind of “authentic” music even if it's certainly impossible to really recreate what could have been the interpretation of the music in those ancient Ages….

What is new with this Neo Medieval scene is the fact it's releasing itself from any straight vision of “respect” and so on towards a kind of musical purity which is quite impossible to reach because we have in fact so few references to tell clearly what was and what was not. The new generation of musicians that have been or are currently evolving among medieval related musical project is the great liberty that they have and that they show in the reinterpretation of ancient music and lyrics. I mean melting electro, dance beats, traditional and ancient instruments …. This new scene never should have emerged without the emergence of the Gothic movement initialized above all by countries like Germany. The Medieval Era has often been considered, sometimes wrongly, as a Dark period. This terminology fits completely with some sides of the Goth Movement but Neo Medieval music is certainly not the darker movement enclosed in Gothic… But considering this fact, Gothic is perhaps one of the most open-minded musical movement since many years now…being able to count in its ranks fans of  Dark Wave, Electro, Synthpop, Industrial, EBM, Neo Medieval music and I certainly forget some…. Wahoo!  So we can thank the Gothic Movement and also great precursors like Qntal who comes from this more classical school of musicians I was talking about.

Is there any news on related and side projects?
Two members of “O Quam Tristis” have released a duet side project album under the name of “Thy Violent Vanities” produced by Palace of Worms as well. This is a kind of DarkPop Folk concept around a selection of Shakespeare sonnets with the help of two members from the French band Hide and Seek as backing vocalists on some of the 12 tracks.

Would you like to say any last words to the Dutch readers?
Just do not hesitate to connect our official website to get more information about the band and the related musical projects the formers are or have been running.






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