We had the opportunity to have a chat with Stephan/Neige from Alcest, one of the best musical projects around today, when their European tour with Opeth visited Milan last November. Just for who needs to label everything, let’s say that they started as a solo project, a mixture of black metal and post-rock/shoegaze, which eventually removed any heavy metal elements with the last record (Shelter, 2013), thus maintaining an overall dark and melancholic tone.
Alcest live band. From left to right: Indria – bass / Zero – guitar, backing vocals / Winterhalter – drums, percussion / Neige – lead vocals, guitars
Who is Stephan/Neige?
I am Neige, the creator of Alcest, 29 years old, born in France, now living in Paris. And that’s it! We’re now in Milan, after our concert in support of Opeth.
Alcest @ Alcatraz, Milan – IT, Nov. 3rd 2014.
Why did you choose for Neige as a nickname?
I was 14 years old, and a big fan of True Norwegian Black Metal; one day, when I went to the mountains with my parents, I got fascinated by the snowy lands all around me (Neige means in fact snow, even if we probably don’t need to point that out, do we?), so I thought it would have been cool to call myself like that. Snow can be seen as a metaphor for purity also; I know, it’s a bit cheesy, but I don’t care, I kept it for a long time and now people know me as that. Funnily enough, it’s a female word… so I actually have a female name, but I don’t care about that either!
Why should anyone listen to your music?
I don’t think anyone should listen to my music, and I don’t want anyone to be forced to do so. People can discover our music by chance, but if that happens I guess it’s for a good reason, because it’s quite different from the rest, and the message behind Alcest is very strong.
Why did you become a musician?
When I was a kid I had two passions mainly: drawing and music. At a certain point I had to decide which one to focus into, and I chose music, because I think that’s it’s more immediate, it comes from the guts, while drawing takes a lot more time and patience. Some people say that music is the ultimate form of art, because it originates from the soul and directly speaks to it; music doesn’t necessarily need lyrics to be understood too.
When did you start playing music? When did you found Alcest?
I started playing piano when I was five, helped by my grandmother. Alcest was born in 1999, when I was 14. I did a first demo in 2001, while our first record was released in 2007.
When in your plans will your next musical step be?
I’d love to be able to work on the next Alcest album; I know it sounds like I’ve already got something done, but to me each record is a completely different world, and I can’t wait [to build a new one]. We’re touring since December , we toured this summer like crazy and I had no time at all in the last year. I’ll start working once this tour has finally ended.
You already said you live in Paris, so: where were you born?
I was born in Avignon, a Southern France town where everything looks like Italy. I feel a bit Italian because of that too. I was also born in the countryside, and I miss that a lot now that I’m in Paris.
What is Alcest to you?
To me Alcest is the way through which I can express what is the most personal of me. I’ve got other projects, that reflect just one side of my personality. Alcest is the essence, everything that I can’t say with just mere words.