Orphan Swords Interview

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Yannick Franck and Pierre de Mûelenaere have a very particular way of understanding music, the techno they elaborate is a mixture of influences emanating from the industrial to silky genres, however, any texture is susceptible to be crushed, degraded and regenerated again. During these 6 years, Orphan Swords has remained firm in its creative eagerness, its style, at the same time that it has evolved, it has remained located in the darkest corners of the afterpunk.

Orphan Swords is a project that was born in 2013 with a clear musical proposal based on industrial sound, where do your influences come from?

(Pierre)  Once we said at the radio “Yannick is the industrial one, I’m the new school guy”. I’m more keeping close to what is happening right now in the field, a.o. for my work as music programmer, but even before that. I check few online records store news releases every day of life, and more of that I try to understand what is happening, what is hybridizing, what is the industry pushing, what are the deep, under-the-surface streams that are signs of music evolving, of course not only hype,- that is funny to read but so ephemeral – but rather long term evolutions. That encounter between us and our respective backgrounds and interest is the foundation of OS with a tone of radicality, darkness and brutal gesture but in a very open way. Ascent is the perfect example.

(Yannick) It’s always challenging to see our influences collide. I like that a lot. To be honest I’m not really the die hard “old-school” industrial guy either. I would rather assert a sense of extreme eclecticism. We have only one life and such an incredible amount of mad-good music to discover. I try to stay away from mainstream media and big trends and dig out whatever stimulates me. Music is like a shelter or an armor to me, but it has giant wings too. I heard Roland Barthes describing the philosopher’s Stone one day, pretty much like a remote control for flying everywhere you want. Something like that.

Both of you are involved in other projects, Pierre is co-programming Bozar Electronic for Center For Fine Arts Brussels and Yannick also works as an art center manager, Orphan Swords develops activities with other artists from other artistic disciplines?

(Yannick) Yes, we like that a lot! Each collaboration is a new trigger for experiences, human, aesthetic,… 

Do you think that experimental electronic music should be more present in exhibitions and art galleries?

(Pierre)  Definitely. Borders between music, live, concerts, performances, installation, clubs, visual arts, technology have disappeared imho today, because the are questioned all the time, that question itself became an art topic. That said the place of experimental music is most of the time restrained to concert rooms by the institution in the best case, or into underground. And music is still more a question of records and concerts. Institution is creating department to create creative dialogs between scientists and artists, which is great, when its not only showcasing science in order to get funding. The Bozar Lab run by Christophe Dejaeger and Georgina Becker at Bozar is doing well, I had the opportunity to co-curate the Tendencies 2019 exhibitions around Raphael Stevens, an independent researcher, essayist and co-author a.o. of ‘Une autre fin du monde est possible’ with Pablo Servigne and Gauthier Chapelle (Seuil, 2018). It has pushed us onto very interesting explorations of today through possible tomorrows. It featured works by Marjolijn Dijkman, Jerry Galle, Kris Verdonck, Pierre Jean Giloux, and the SEAD collective, and was a sound installation by Mikkel Rørbo.

I would like institutions, at least in Belgium, to move forward on developing creative dialogs between painter, photographs, architects, fashion designers, etc. and experimental musicians. And not only – as it’s the case most of the time – to create audiovisual shows. Recently a book and an exhibition has crowned the long term amazing collaboration between painter Ivan Seal and James Kirby. This is a great example of what an art galleries, an art institution or a festival (Unsound in this case) can help support and show.

Belgium was the birthplace of EBM, has there always been a passion for this genre in your country, or has it resurfaced in recent years?

(Yannick) Sure, on the other hand, the Belgian scene is like an ectoplasm, you can’t see it or define it very clearly. It’s all blurry and strange and it quickly shifts shape.

In your first releases, techno was the genre that combined with the rest of influences, but in your last releases we observed that this style is more and more absent, how do you think your music has evolved?

(Pierre) Ascent is a very personal and special release for the both of us. For months, we weren’t sure to release it, then we met Miguel and Andres in Barcelona where they invited us to play and it became clear that this particular record was for them. And that both LPs ASCENT and BREACH had to be released no matter how strange they may seem in our discography and live output. From the very beginning we decided to not to care of being easily labeled genre-wise. We just do what we want to do.

That said, we will come next year with more techno-oriented music in a strings of EP we are working on. Designed for the dancefloor but with a genuine OS sound signature. We started last year playing gigs in the middle of the night for clubs and various dancing crowds with a very hard techno set up mixing drum machine and modular synth.

You recently published Ascent, your first LP, a conceptual work inspired by the search for oneself. Normally the audience doesn’t pay attention to these details, it only captures the emotional part they find in their music, but for the artist, creating a story of his own is his greatest source of inspiration, how do you create this story, can you tell us about it?

We decided to make it very conceptual. Not giving a collection of more or less good tracks but to create a story, a narrative. Because we think what is behind the music counts more than the music. Most of the time, our output is extremely cryptic. “Risk is a new age”, the name of our first EP, for Desire, was in fact an headline taken from the BNY Mellon Website. Same for “The Rise of Liquid Alternative” for example. We create modern day rituals by transforming or perverting nowadays narrative schemes like the language of financial world. In fact, absolutely everything we do in Orphan Swords follows such strategies.

The ASCENT narrative was linked to our personal states of mind at that moment, and both ASCENT and BREACH have been recorded and edited in only few days during summer; in a basement, far from lights. Afterwards, I understood that we used the studio as an environment that would help us to elaborate the Ascent, to push us out of it through music, to create a space to escape. Yannick was coming back from walking alone in the Alps and we started to elaborate about a mountain, but from a basement.

(Yannick) Hence the Ascent – Breach dichotomy.

Abandon, Unsolved, Axe, Evidence, Erosed, Conflict and Land, history migrates from distancing and personal rejection to understanding and approaching oneself, is it complicated to create a sentimental environment with a style like the industrial one?

(Pierre) Industrial can be very emo and dramatically charged, especially mixed with post-ambient and melodic loops. We looked for a strong contrast to create a narrative path, but not too consciously.

(Yannick) It’s pretty much the story of a transformation process. And a rite of transmutation. New age and personal development make people think it’s about surrounding yourself with a nice, chill, atmosphere, But personally I believe you can only find inner balance by embracing contradictions. Find lightness into stone, and consistency into thin air.

The story is divided in two parts, Ascent is the first one and is about introspection, Breach will be the second part, will the concept of this album be more reflective?

(Yannick)  It is actually the same idea, but reversed.

Ascent is an album that expresses a lot with 7 tracks, we can perfectly link its sound to your project but, the style of each track is quite diverse, if you had to catalog it with a single word, what would it be, and why?

They are all working on the issue of elevating ourself to something else, to something new, to die and come to birth endlessly through opening to change, mutation and hybridation. The genre is not the purpose or the guideline, its more a context.

You have published releases in big labels like Desire Records, Clan Destine or Idiosyncratics, this last one was the property of Yannick, but your first album has been published in the Catalan label Hedonic Reversal, a label that a priori is more humble than the rest of labels with which you have worked with, but that does not mean that it is not a great platform, why do you decide to publish this album in Hedonic Reversal?

(Pierre) As said, it just came when we met Miguel and Andres and played for them in Barcelona. We also love underdogs because most of the time the energy behind it is phenomenal. Miguel and Andres are pushing their project a lot, getting very professional and improving their records label. We simply admire it.

(Yannick) Yes, it all has a genuine quality. And this is not so common in the current music business, no matter how alternative the music sounds.

What labels would you like to work with?

(Pierre) We love PERC TRAX. Ali Wells, if you read us… We also love a lot Bedouin Records, run by Salem Rashid and C.S., one of the most interesting and strong experimental labels nowadays.

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