VOX TENEBRIS - Interview - 06.06.2024

REGARD EXTRÊME "...the extreme look at the inner universe..."

V.T.: Vox Tenebris today hosts the French musician Fabien Nicault, protagonist of the solo-act Regard Extrême. Welcome to this interview, it's a pleasure to have you with us. Vox Tenebris today hosts the French musician Fabien Nicault, protagonist of the solo-act Regard Extrême. Welcome to this interview, it's a pleasure to have you with us.

R.E.: Hello, I am happy to meet you and answer your questions. It is always comforting to meet passionate people who invest in promoting music genres that do not receive mainstream media attention. It's wonderful to see people championing lesser-known music genres!

V.T.: Let's start with the biographical basis: you founded your project in 1990, after an individual musical education that began in 1978, first through listening to the mainstream sound on the radio, and, subsequently, with the fortunate discovery of the underground scene, again thanks to the diffusion of independent radio stations in the 80's. Tell us about what you remember about those musically fundamental periods and how you decided to create your project by orienting yourself towards a style as transversal as the one you play: I'm interested in knowing your artistic adventure from those distant times until today..

R.E.: Indeed, between the ages of 10 and 15, I immersed myself in the charts of the time, dancing to disco and funky music while also listening to my late grandfather's 78 RPM records. That's where I discovered Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and others. Occasionally, I'd come across tracks like New Order's 'Blue Monday,' which piqued my curiosity. Despite being part of the charts, they stood out and intrigued me. I wanted to explore what was coming from England... Then came the "New Wave" era. I discovered all the English bands and later, the Belgian ones. My heart oscillated between coldwave groups like Siglo XXX, And Also The Trees, and others, and the colder, more synthetic sounds of Trisomie 21, Neon Judgement, Front 242, and so on. Simultaneously, I developed a passion for minimalist music. It all began when I watched Peter Greenaway's film 'The Draughtsman's Contract.' The aesthetics of both the visuals and the music left a profound impact on me. I discovered composers like Michael Nyman, Wim Mertens, and Philip Glass, and I drew connections to Bernard Herrmann's work. When did the desire to launch the 'Regard Extrême' project arise? I believe it was while exploring the works of In The Nursery, Laibach, and Test Department that I realized the possibility of blending all these musical styles together, creating a synthesis. That excitement fueled my creative journey.

V.T.: Also in the 80's, you hosted a radio program for ten years in which you proposed music that was almost unknown at the time but was emerging, such as Techno, Cold Wave, Minimalist, Neo Classical, Ethereal and Industrial. They were years of great creativity and the birth of legendary projects. Do you remember if the audience that listened to you was sufficiently receptive towards those sounds so different from the easy-listening ones they were used to, or yesterday as today it was difficult to overcome the barrier of the mainstream?

R.E.: Back in the day, there were no computers, and the only way for people to discover music was to listen to local radio stations. I was lucky to be on a local radio station that was influential in my city, which allowed for good promotion of alternative music. Even in the West of France, as opposed to the East and North, it was mainly Rock and Punk that were very trendy, notably with the label “Boucherie Production” which produced bands like “Béruriers Noirs”, “Les Garçons Bouchers”, “Mano Negra”, etc. But overall, it was the golden age of creativity, with small independent labels being promoted by local radios. This continued until the arrival of the big FM radio stations, which gradually bought out all the local stations, thereby imposing their monopoly. That’s how little by little, we started hearing the same music everywhere on the airwaves.

V.T.: This question is always a bit long-winded, but it is essential to precisely frame your music: listening to the entire discography of Regard Extrême, I perceive a progressive maturation and an increasingly solid structuring of the sounds from the debut album "Aux Morts" of 1993 to the most recent "Legacy" of 2022: in the various phases of your repertoire, overall I can distinguish the elegant symphonic balance of the Neo-Classical, the rigorous and military emphasis of the Martial, the daring experimentalism electronic of Industrial, the romantic and introspective obscurity of Darkwave, plus the ancient - and sometimes dark - melodicism of Neo-Medieval. The resulting sounds - always based on the specific songs - are atmospheric, epic-romantic-decadent orchestrations full of solemnity, often cinematic and predominantly instrumental, based on a massive use of synths and sequencers that emulate string and wind instruments, often punctuated by 'soldierly-parade' drumming. The vocal sections, where they're present, spread an evocative and suggestive aura of magnificence. Fabien, now it's your turn to define your sound: no one knows its essence and meanings better than you...

R.E.: I think your synthesis is very good. My music indeed encompasses all those elements. The feeling of maturation is normal because it reflects the changes that have taken place. First and foremost, the equipment used played a significant role. During the initial phase of Regard Extrême's existence, before the long break, I worked with very limited technical means to create my music. This imposed a tight framework and inevitably influenced the outcome of my compositions. Furthermore, apart from my training on a few classical instruments, I started without any knowledge of music creation or audio techniques. I am entirely self-taught, and over the course of my productions, I've improved. In summary, I would say that aside from the continuous improvement with each new production, the technological resources available to me now, 30 years later, have allowed me to push the boundaries of creativity. Lastly, during this period, I deepened my understanding of ancient music and its incredible instruments. This influence is indeed evident in my latest works.

V.T.: Intermediate question that intrigues me a lot: 'Regard Extrême'. Exactly, what does the nickname 'the extreme gaze' with which you called your project refer to?

R.E.: The project name “Regard Extrême” is a direct reference to the French band Brigade Internationale, which produced a tape also titled “Regard Extrême”. This tape was released in 1983 / 1984 and is known for its cold-wave style, characterized by slow, gloomy, minimalist music centered around the keyboard and marked by the presence of a trombone. The album “Regard Extreme” by Brigade Internationale is a classic example of the synthetic cold-wave sound with industrial or even post-industrial influences. The album was later reissued in 2009. So, the name of the project “Regard Extrême” is a homage to this influential work by “Brigade Internationale”.

V.T.: Let's talk about your discography: if we include the album "Die Weiße Rose", created in 1995 in collaboration with the Industrial / Ambient / Neo-Classical solo-act Les Joyaux De La Princesse, we can list eleven longplay's. Which of these do you personally consider more significant than the rest and which one had the greatest response among your audience?

R.E.: In fact, I tend to listen mostly to the latest composition I've just created because it becomes a part of me after living with it for a year. Then, I quickly move on to the next one, and as a result, I forget the previous ones. For me, creating "Legacy" was important because I wanted to revisit some of my older works and explore how far I could push my creativity to make them more beautiful and powerful. I'm very happy that I embarked on the Legacy project for this reason. I believe the Album that had the most impact is "Die Weisse Rose". I think it is due to the seriousness of the theme addressed, to the tragic destiny of the protagonists. Its resonance has left a lasting impression.

V.T.: What are the topics that you have most frequently dealt with and metaphorised in your albums from your debut to today?

R.E.: I would say that the themes I choose typically fall into two categories. First, there's a desire to express emotions despair, suffering, regret, and similar feelings. Second, I explore topics like the passage of time, mortality, courage, loyalty, and passion. These themes allow me to delve into the human experience and create music that resonates with listeners. The story told in the album "The Odyssey" allowed me to address all these themes, such as the cyclical nature of time, the hero's journey, and the emotional struggles faced during the voyage. Each track became a musical chapter, weaving together these universal themes.

V.T.: What projects have inspired and continue to stylistically inspire your sound? Allow me a personal consideration: in some albums I perceive a lot of In The Nursery vibes in them. Such as "Anaphore", for example...

R.E.: As you mentioned earlier, I hosted a radio show focused on underground Dark music for many years. Consequently, I've retained a broad musical culture that influences my creative process. Among the projects that I believe have influenced my music, I've already mentioned the early works of 'In The Nursery' and 'Laibach.' Additionally, we can include 'Dead Can Dance' and classical music in general.

V.T.: What messages exactly do you want to communicate with your music? What type of listener do you imagine is able to fully assimilate the sound of Regard Extrême?

R.E.: I mainly aim to evoke deep emotions through my music. Whether it's melancholy, introspection, or passion, my compositions invite listeners to explore their inner worlds. My music can be seen as a spiritual journey. It invites listeners to contemplate existence, mystery, and the interconnectedness of all things. Through my melodies, harmonies, and poetic lyrics, i try to create a Dark but enchanting world that resonates with those who have an affinity for unconventional aesthetics. I think that a listener comfortable with ambiguity, open to interpreting music in their own unique way and Fan of diverse genres, as "Regard Extrême" blends elements from various musical traditions should appreciate the sound of Regard Extrême. Finally, I invite listeners to embark on a sonic journey, where emotions, spirituality and creativity intertwine..

V.T.: If you had to choose two of your albums to listen to to those who wanted to introduce themselves to the music of Regard Extrême for the first time, which ones would you recommend?

R.E.: First, I would recommend the "Legacy" album, which serves as a synthesis of my work and provides an overview of Regard Extrême’s music over the past 30 years. This album offers both an introduction for newcomers and a nostalgic revisit for long-time fans. Then I should recommend “Tempus Fugit” that was released on 2019, and it offers a captivating blend of neoclassical, symphonic, martial, and ambient sounds. After twenty-six years of instrumental music, my voice finally adorns the tracks this album. It's a new layer of emotion and depth to my compositions. A reflection on time, memories, and the passage of years.

V.T.: I should have asked you this specific question at the beginning, but I wanted to reserve it for now: over the years, you could have chosen to play other underground genres, but you decided to orient yourself towards a very refined and less shareable style compared to others, such as Coldwave or Techno. This choice was the expression of your iteriority through your sound, or is it just a simple question of musical taste

R.E.: The direction my music has taken is the result of my constant musical and sound research. I always want to invent something different, I look for surprise and emotion. Musical tastes of course play a crucial role in this exploration. Complex and profound music is undoubtedly a way for me to reflect the intricacy of the world and existential themes that transcends the mundane and touches something deeper within us.

V.T.: Have you collaborated in the past, or are you currently collaborating on any other projects? Also, which artist or band do you dream of playing with?

R.E.: I am currently taking Lyric singing lessons and also participating in a Baroque Choir, which takes up a lot of my time but allows me to improve my vocal technique. As Regard Extreme, I have indeed collaborated on several projects with artists, which has been enriching for me. It allowed me to explore other musical styles and experience team composition. Currently, I don’t have a strong desire to collaborate with any specific artist. Instead, I’m focused on increasing my productivity in terms of my own productions and becoming more technically efficient to enhance my creativity. If I were to share a dream, it would be to work with musicians and perform my music on stage, as my previous stage performances have always been solo.

V.T.: Besides France, in which country is your music most followed? And what is the furthest country from which you have received feedback?...

R.E.: I think the country where I have the most followers outside of France is Germany. The farthest country where I have fans buying my records must be China or Shanghai.

V.T.: You have been publishing ultra-alternative music for over thirty years: how have you perceived the progressive change in distribution of releases initially carried out solely through physical CD's and vinyl and in recent times also through the digital concept of 'liquid music' on the web?

R.E.: When I was young, discovering new album was a real adventure. We used to go to the independent record store, spending our Saturday mornings listening to vinyl records that we selected from the shop. In search of the Holy Grail. Then came the large retailers like FNAC, which killed off the passionate small record stores and reduced choice by imposing their monopoly. Next, we were sold a dream with digital distribution. Artists could finally expect fair financial compensation for their work. However, it’s clear that this hasn’t happened while intermediaries have changed, they still take a significant slice of the pie, leaving little for the artist in the end. Consumer habits are shifting, and physical record sales are declining. CDs, according to music industry professionals, have become little more than loss leaders, and artists often need to rely on concerts to make a living. As for streaming, apart from a few honest partners like Bandcamp, there isn’t much left for the artist.

V.T.: World Serpent, Allegoria, Cynfeirdd, La Esencia, Steinklang Industries, all illustrious labels, including the brand you run called Perspectives: what are the advantages and, if there were, the disadvantages of being distributed by a home records for a project belonging to a particular and specific musical genre like yours?

R.E.: The advantages are that they allow us to avoid dealing with CD manufacturing and distribution. They grant me complete artistic freedom. The disadvantages are that they handle promotion in a limited way. Additionally, it's sometimes challenging to find a period to release a new CD because times are tough for labels, with continually declining record sales.

V.T.: How would you describe your live concert experiences?

R.E.: Attending a live concert is an electrifying experience that engages all the senses. It’s a symphony of sights, sounds, and emotions. My live concerts are a cinematic journey, where the visual elements are as integral as the music itself. I incorporate video segments based on cult movies, which adds a layer of nostalgia and depth to the experience. The visuals are carefully curated to complement the themes of our songs, creating an immersive atmosphere that transports the audience into the narrative we’re weaving. It’s like watching your favorite films come to life on stage, with the added dimension of live music. As a solo artist, I take the stage armed with my instruments and my voice. There’s an intimacy in performing alone—it’s just me, my music, and the audience. The spotlight narrows, and I become the conduit for emotions, stories, and melodies. The absence of a band creates a vulnerability that draws the audience in. They’re not just witnessing a performance; they’re sharing a moment with me. It’s a delicate dance—I feed off their energy, and they respond to mine.

V.T.: Are Regard Extrême songs always conceived, written and played exclusively by you, or did you happen to create them in the studio with other external musicians too?

R.E.: As the sole creator of Regard Extrême, I use to compose, write, and play all my songs exclusively in my studio. The creative process is deeply personal to me, and I find inspiration in solitude. While I appreciate collaboration and value the contributions of other musicians, Regard Extrême remains an intimate expression of my artistic vision. There was a notable exception: my collaboration on the "Die Weisse Rose" project. We worked both together in the studio and individually. This dates back several years, but it remains a cherished memory. Naturally, for our concerts, collective preparation was also necessary, which sometimes involved working in the studio with other musicians to fine-tune our live performance. For “The Odyssey,” our collaborative composition work was entirely done remotely.

V.T.: What are the next initiatives of your project? Can we hope for a nextcoming release?

R.E.: I am thrilled to announce that my next initiative is the release of a new 10 tracks CD: “Eco Solemnis” on Steinklang before summer. For this new album, I continued my exploration of synthetic sounds, seamlessly blending them with my usual instruments. The result is an album that is resolutely dark, epic, and nostalgic. To sum up, the album explores themes of solitude, reflection on time, and spiritual virtues. It delves into the human experience, expressing emotions from desolation to hope, and contemplates the ephemeral nature of life and dreams. You can check out the trailers for it on youtube or my Facebook page. The pre-sale period will start soon!

V.T.: Fabien, in this space you can say whatever you want to readers and fans...

R.E.: Hello everyone! I hope you’re all doing well. First of all, I want to express my gratitude to all the fans who have supported Regard Extrême over the years. Your passion and enthusiasm mean the world to me. Regard Extrême has been a journey, a musical exploration that began a long time ago. It’s a project that has evolved, adapted, and stayed true to its roots. The dark ambient neo-classical style has always been at the heart of Regard Extrême, and I’m proud to continue creating music within this emotional dimension. As for tradition and culture, they play an essential role in shaping our artistic expression. While Regard Extrême draws inspiration from various sources, including personal experiences and emotions, it’s impossible to ignore the cultural context. Our roots, whether they’re deeply embedded in European traditions or influenced by broader global culture, inform our creative process. To all the readers and fans, thank you for being part of this journey. Your support fuels my passion, and I look forward to sharing more music and experiences with you in the future.

V.T.: Vox Tenebris greets and thanks Fabien, who with Regard Extrême contributes to the creation of cultured and timeless music. It was nice to learn more about your project. I wish you all the best.