Things have been rather busy lately for French groove/industrial metallers Dagoba, who released their fifth studio album, ominously titled Post Mortem Nihil Est, on June 14. With the promotion process for the new record (which by the way is garnering rave reviews across the globe and deservedly so – it’s one of the most refreshing releases in recent years to don the misunderstood groove metal label) still going strong and major touring in sight, it’s no great wonder (pun intended) the band members have rarely had a free moment on their hands. Nevertheless, Dagoba’s ever polite frontman Shawter found the time to quickly answer a few questions of mine in order to broaden Sputnik’s knowledge of the band.
Hello! My name is Magnus Altküla and I am a staff reviewer at Sputnikmusic. How are things in Dagoba’s camp nowadays?
Hi Magnus! I just came back from vacation so I can say everything’s fine. Just before that, we released Dagoba’s fifth record Post Mortem Nihil Est in Europe and gave some good gigs at big summer festivals, so I can say that I’ve had a great time lately!
Your new album is garnering rave reviews across the globe. Have you had a chance to play the new stuff live already and if so, how have the audiences reacted to it?
Yeah we already included some new material into our new set list and we tried it for a couple of gigs. The reactions were amazing! The crowd went crazy and it’s always refreshing for us to have some new songs to offer to the audience.
You play a style of music that is hard to classify – it’s really groovy, fast metal that is both heavy and catchy but doesn’t fall under any specific genre. How would you yourself describe Dagoba’s sound and if you had to label it, how would you call it?
We simply want to play music we want to listen to. Personally, I love metal because you can put whatever you want into it. No restrictions, total freedom! But if I really had to describe Dagoba I could say that it’s dark metal with electro and classical touches.
Some groups wear their influences on their sleeve, some absolutely cut themselves off from the outer world when writing an album. How is it with you guys, do you have certain influences that you try to mold into your own formula, or are you going for something entirely original when writing your songs?
When I compose a new album, I really try not to listen to music for a while. I like to focus on myself, thinking about my own life at that point, my inner emotions, and then I describe all these feelings with guitars, voice, and other instruments. It would make me sad if Dagoba sounded like many other bands (do).
Izakar, your original guitarist, left the band about a year ago. How has his departure affected Dagoba?
He never composed a whole song for the band so his departure was actually great for Dagoba as we got to choose a better guitarist.
What does Yves Terzibachian, your new guitarist, bring to the table compared to Izakar?
He can play tighter, he’s got charisma, and he’s fun on the road. Something called rock ’n’ roll I guess.
Getting to the new album itself, how would you describe Post Mortem Nihil Est in your own words?
Obscure, powerful, lightened and sexy.
Your albums have always had a certain theme to them, but those themes have ranged wildly from record to record. Why is that and how did Post Mortem Nihil Est’s apocalyptic concept come to life?
I really came through a bad time when I composed this record, so it was simply time to talk about the End for me. Plus, “Death” seems to be a good theme for a metal band, doesn’t it ? Haha!
You’re from France but all of your songs are in English. Why did you choose to write in English instead of your native tongue and how hard is it to come up with lyrics?
I’ve always sung in English because I have always listened to English/American music. So it came naturally (to me). I love the English language, it sounds like a well tuned instrument compared to French. I love to write in English because I find punchlines more easily and they’re more „in your face” than when you translate them into French.
Production-wise, the new album is probably your most massive-sounding work to date. How was it to work with Logan Mader (ex-Soulfly, Machine Head) and how did he alter the album’s sound?
Working with Logan was a dream come true. He’s kind, has a great sense of humor, and all of his productions are great. Concerning our record, it was like bringing Mike Tyson some iron gloves!
On each of your albums, you’ve had at least one, short instrumental track that directly leads into the next cut. On this album, such a pair is composed of “Nevada” and “The Great Wonder”, but unlike before, on this album the so-called intro track is rather different from the song that follows: “Nevada” is a tribalistic, electronically enhanced intro to “The Great Wonder”, which is probably the most rock’n’roll track you have ever done. What is the significance of “Nevada” and why did you choose to compose an instrumental like that?
I love instrumental songs. It’s like saying something (important) but without any words. Feelings. Emotions. The step between silence and talking. We always place an instrumental song in the middle of our records, as it’s relaxing for the ears, (especially because) 50’ of metal with double kick drum all along could be…(too) aggressive hahaha!
Regarding “The Great Wonder”: it’s the album’s lead single, but was it built to be a one or did you pick it after the album was done? The track is also quite different from the rest of the album as it’s much lighter in tone, so why did you pick that exact track to be a representative for Post Mortem Nihil Est?
We first illustrated “I Reptile” to represent the record, but then we shot (a video for) “The Great Wonder” because as you said, it’s much lighter, and we always offer that kind of song, for five records now. So, in a way, it’s representative of what Dagoba is about. We will release another video in a few weeks also.
Which is your own favorite song from the new album and why? Also, which song from your entire catalogue would you choose to represent Dagoba and everything it stands for?
My favorite song on this record is “Yes we Die”. I love the melody on it and also the structure with this ending guitar chorus. But to represent Dagoba I would pick “When Winter…”, because it’s dark, fast and heavy too, and even if I’m growling a lot on that one, the chorus is lightened. It just sounds epic to me!
Some, if not most of the reviews for Dagoba touch on the topic of clean vocals in your songs and how they affect the music/how you are viewed. Do you think it’s a big deal at all and what kind of a message do you have for people who turn away solely because of your use of clean singing?
I use clean singing because melody means music. I love fury, devastating riffs, heavy shit, but I love music too.
Even though you have been releasing quality albums from the year 2003, you have only managed a breakthrough in your home country (France). Is international breakthrough something you strive for, or does it not matter to you too much?
We have toured in Europe since 2003 too, and it’s really something we enjoy. The further we can go, we do it, and it’s important for us to play our music all around the world. We will be in America in November (with Dir en Grey) and we can’t wait to be there!!
Musically, where will Dagoba go from here? Do you have a clear vision, or is it too early to talk about that and you’re currently just enjoying the moment?
I have a clear vision of the music we will compose in the future.
Outside of Dagoba, what are you looking forward to this summer?
Vacation, sport, preparing for the tour, and probably a bit of riffing on my guitar
Thank you very, very much for the interview! Do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share?
Thank you for your support!