Interview By Andy Axworthy
A band unafraid to liberally sprinkle some synth and associated electronica into the mix, Amiens’ C-Rom are an intriguing mélange of styles, ranging from the mellifluous and melancholic through dance and darkwave to martial metal, all dusted with a soaring, soulful vocal. With second album “Flames of Knowledge” now safely under their belt, Femme Metal caught up with vocalist Christelle to talk about the latest release, styles and themes, opera and amongst other things, a penchant for of tea and cakes.Hi Christelle, welcome to the Femme Metal experience. Let’s start, if we may, with a little of the story so far. How did you come to join C-Rom and could you introduce us to, and tell us a little about your fellow band members?
I started with C-ROM in 2001. At that time, the band had only begun rehearsals for a few months, and had only 3 members: François (keyboards and programming), Cédric (guitar) and Laurent (bass). They were looking for a clear female voice and my first tries were conclusive as they wanted something contrasting with C-ROM’s first songs. After 2 demos, Christian (guitar) and Axel (percussions) joined the band and gave C-ROM a new dimension on stage.
What about the band’s name? How did you all decide and settle on C-Rom?
The founder members wanted something short, without any “real” sense. The only connotations that can be found suited C-ROM quite well: the similarity with the terms “cd-rom” and “serum”. You are well established in France with your second album “Flames of Knowledge” released in December ’09. What have been the personal highlights for you in the 12 months since the album launch?
We have not played live that much in 2010 but “Flames of Knowledge” received a lot of good reviews in magazines, fanzines or on the web. We are proud of that album, because it looks like we wanted it to become since the first songs were written by François.
“Flames of Knowledge” plays as a rock opera with its theme based upon the myths of Prometheus and Pandora. How were you drawn to this idea and do the tracks play out as episodes from the original stories or is there a more contemporary message within the songwriting?
Most of the structures are composed by François as I told you above. Then everybody works on them and gives his/her ideas in rehearsals, but the main structures generally remain the same. Some songs were composed by Cédric too. As for the lyrics, we really tried to work as a group. François and I, as well as one of our close friends who already worked with us for “The Winding Star” worked together on the lyrics. The Prometheus/Fire theme is also represented in the album cover. What can you tell us about the idea and design for the artwork? Fire had to be represented on the cover and booklet as every song is linked to it. We also wanted technology or science to be on the cover. These were our only criteria and wet let our new designer Flo work on the subject. Her first drafts were mainly the cover and elements people can see on the cd. She immediately understood what we wanted, and is really professional. Like for “The Winding Star” we also wanted a symbol representing the album…Christian who had designed the “Star” for our first album, started to design the “atomic fire” (as we call it) and Flo improved it in order to include it in her project. Then it could be used for our tee shirts and sweatshirts too!!!
I’ve seen the band’s sound described as electro-metal but that does not really begin to sum up the range of styles to be heard, be it from plainsong to gothic, choral to industrial, sometimes all in the space of one track. Who or what are the band’s main influences and if you had to pick a word or phrase that best represents your sound, what would that be? Yes, all these styles can be stuck on C-ROM’s songs. As we always have to put labels on bands or albums, we kept “electro metal”. Speaking of style, is “Flames of Knowledge” still a metal album?? Some people or reviews speak of “darkwave”, “pop” or “electro pop” with catchy melodies, and sometimes even “disco industrial” and “dance floor”…We invite people to make their own idea of our music, by listening to “Flames of Knowledge”.
Your voice easily switches from light and lyrical to strong and sustained during the songs. How did you get into singing and how do you warm up when signing either in the studio or for a live concert?
I’ve got a good song teacher (who is the choir master of my lyrical group). With her, I practice many vocal exercises and learn many things. I need to work/warm up my voice before singing, and I need to be alone to do that. It helps me to be more relaxed. Before the studio, it’s easier: I can sing in my car, I’ve all the time to get prepared! Before a live concert, I try to isolate myself while guys drink some beer!
I understand that you also sing opera. Can you tell us a little about that part of your life? What is your favourite opera, part or aria?
I sing in a lyrical group called “Les Mezzos Sopranos”. Currently, we play Jacques Offenbach’s “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” which is funny, fairy and really interesting.
I play the role of a man who collects women: “Le Prince Qui Passe Par Là” (the role was rewritten for soprano voice). I sing alone (very impressive!) and sometimes sing together with the choir. I like operas because it’s a complete art: I can be a singer, an actor and share many good moments. At the moment, I work (during my lessons) on a beautiful aria extracted from “Il Re Pastore” from Mozart. Otherwise, I like “La Traviata” from Verdi, Puccini’s opera: “Turandot”, “Madame Butterfly” (very sad but beautiful), “Carmen” from Bizet…
What a good idea! If we decided to write this kind of album, I would like it to be an opera that opens on different horizons. “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” could be this opera. It talks about love (and many other feelings), about women’s place in the society, new experiences. It stimulates imagination. We could use our electronic, industrial and symphonic sounds…why not?
As beautiful as your voice is, do you ever get the urge to grab a guitar (or any other musical instrument) and let rip during any song or when you are in the studio? : ) I’m unable to play the guitar or any other instrument. The only thing I can do is using my little keyboard when I read a part!
“Temptation” is a good lead out video for “Flames of Knowledge”, introducing the fire theme and setting the stage for the rest of the album. What can you tell us about the video shoot? “Temptation” was shot by our usual director Xavier Labarre. He is a friend of ours, and is very receptive and open-minded and works hard on all his projects. As a non-professional director, and with our “no or low budget” he always manages to create something we can be proud of. He really works well.
Both “Temptation” and the video to “Doubt” (from first album “The Winding Star”) feature a motif and use symbolism to help illuminate the songs and their themes. What is the story behind this? Does it represent a common thread within each album and can we look forward to this continuing with future C-Rom videos?Yes, the symbol used on the albums should be used in the video clips….and the flames can also be found somewhere on our third video clip (“Narthex”, which has just been released…this is a scoop: cf. link below). In a way it is a graphic summary of the albums’ themes. Our third album would probably have one too. But it is too early to say…
What is your favourite C-Rom song, and how or why does it inspire you?
It is very difficult to choose… It depends on my temper! In “Flames of knowledge”, if I had to choose one song (and only one), I would say “Mercy of the Gods” because it’s dark and full of great emotions. Every time I listen to it, I’m carried away (even if I know it by heart). I could easily cry on this song!
When you are touring is there any venue that you really look forward to playing? Also, if you could play a show/festival anywhere, where would you choose and why would that be?Touring in Europe with bands like Samael or Pain would be great. Their public and ours is sensible to the same things and we would enjoy to meet another public which would be more electro and “darker” than the one of female singing voices bands.
How about having 24 hours to call your own and to do what you want. What would be your perfect day?
First, I would wake up with no alarm clock. I would like to go to Axel‘s studio, to work on a new album with a lot of “cups of tea and cakes”… I would go to the swimming pool too…and walk in the nature. Then in the evening, I would cook dinner for my friends….
It could be a very good day…
Finally, I’ve read that Laurent has hinted you might already be working on new material. Can you tell us anything about that and C-Rom‘s plans going into 2011?
We are currently looking for shows but nowadays in France, it is hard to find places to play. And when we find some, we have to accept to play for nothing or on stage with bad conditions. But we always enjoy playing live and meeting public. We are OK to play in any kind of festival: contact us !!! We are also thinking of our next album. Some songs have started to “grow” in François’s head. We just know that it will be more un-organic with more machines.
Thanks so much for speaking to us Christelle. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers as a finale?
It was a real pleasure to answer your questions (even if you had to wait a lot… very sorry). It was a very complete and detailed interview. Thanks for your support.