Lalu's Atomic Ark is one of 2013's not to be missed progressive metal releases featuring an all star line-up. Here we have an interview for our readers with creator Vivien Lalu and Sea Of Tranquility writer Scott Jessup so keep reading to find out more about Vivien and this fine new album.
SoT: Hi Vivien and great job on the album, Atomic Ark is a fantastic release.
Vivien: Thank you! Without "ears" to appreciate, music would have no meaning, no reason to exist. I am always happy when people take the time to listen to my music and tell me they like it. It gives me a reason to work hard and continue delivering.
SoT: Was it hard assembling such a notable line-up? (Publisher's Note: this album contains performances from- vocalist Martin LeMar (Mekong Delta, Tomorrow's Eve), bassist Mike LePond (SymphonyX), drummer Virgil Donati (PlanetX) , guitarist Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios), keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment) guitarist Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie) keyboard player Jens Johansson (Malmsteen, Stratovarius) guitarist Joop Wolters (Shadrane), drummer Peter Wildoer (Darkane, James LaBrie) and vocalist Mike Andersson (Cloudscape).
Vivien: No, everything went smooth, I consider myself very lucky that these musicians liked the music enough to participate; I don't have enough words to say how lucky I am.
SoT: Did they have much input in the songs on this album besides their performances?
Vivien: I was the only one to provide any sort input. I am Mr. composer, the guy responsible for the music. I always come up with guitar riffs, bass lines, then I play the drums on keyboard myself and shape the songs with my synth sounds. Vocal lines come after once I sent my pre-production versions to Martin LeMar. I end up sending all the parts to each musician so they can learn what they have to play and I allow them "freedom" in the interpretation because it's important they can express themselves – I have to do this in order to get the "band feeling" I'm looking for. I would say guitars is the thing that doesn't really change. Because I'm kind of a dictator when it comes to guitar riffs - since my guitar players never changed any of my riffs, I never had any problem.
SoT: How long did it take to put the album together?
Vivien: I'd say 2 years. I wrote the music 5 years ago but then I stopped to concentrate on soundtrack jobs for TV/movies. It's only 2 years ago that I resumed the production of ATOMIC ARK. Composing the music was the fastest part. I am always 'quick' write songs. What is slow – on the other hand – is the actual production (preparing, recording, editing, mixing, mastering etc.)
SoT: I didn't realise when I wrote my review that the funds from this album would be going to a charity that was such a generous and thoughtful move on your behalf. Can you please tell our readers about the organization you are supporting?
Vivien: From the old MySpace days, when I announced the project on my artist page I mentioned this album was for charity and that I would give part of my royalties to the animal cause, but the truth is: I had no clue about 'who' to support. I didn't want to give my money to PETA or the likes. I wanted to witness real people at work, with my own eyes, because there were so many little organizations struggling out-here, I didn't want to support the big ones. I ended up working with ALERTE-SOS from Paris after my wife contacted them. These folks are amazing; they literally give every hour of their own lives to save animal lives. I know my album won't do much... Health care for rescued/sick animal can cost between $500-$1000, even more sometimes. I know the album sales won't be able to save loads of animals but it's always better than nothing – better than just writing lyrics about it. I wanted to do something for real. It scares me that a guy like Michael Jackson – one of the most known human beings ever – sold billion records and made songs like "Heal the World" but it didn't change anything in the end, music is powerless, lyrics from a little progressive dude like me wouldn't do anything. At least I know the album will help to save a few animal lives for real.
SoT: How has the response been to Atomic Ark?
Vivien: Positive so far, I'm crossing my fingers. A second album is always difficult because listeners already made an idea of the music thanks to the first disc- you never know how they're gonna react to a second one if it's different. Especially that ATOMIC ARK has shorter songs, no odd time signatures (only a few). It's the most common complaint I've read by the way. It seems people want longer songs and don't like to hear "short binary songs" in Progmetal. They also want more keyboards. At the end of the day you must think to everybody: the prog fans who are disappointed by the raw thrashy songs, the thrash metal fans who are disappointed by progressive songs like "Follow the Line", etc. You can't please them all, unfortunately. It's life, and overall I must say that I am happy about the album's reception, even though some comments can hurt me, sometimes...given all it costs to bring this music to listeners (not even talking about money).
SoT: What styles of music do you listen to and which progressive bands are your
favorites? It was great to hear Martin LeMar of Tomorrow's Eve as the vocalist on Atomic Ark, hopefully one day we will see a new release from that group.
Vivien: As a composer I listen to all styles of music. I write cues for a living so I obviously enjoy classical/ochestral music, new age etc. it's usually my job to write stuff in any given genre for my clients. Be it for video games, or documentary films. This "versatility" helps me a lot when writing progressive music for my own CD's. About my fav' progressive bands I'd say... Yes, Symphony X, Dream Theater, Devin Townsend etc. I was also very happy about having the opportunity to work with Martin a second time. I can't reveal any details yet but I can confirm Tomorrow's Eve are back at work and a new album is in the making (according to Martin). That's all I can say for now, haha! :)
SoT: Who are some of the keyboard players you take inspiration from?
Vivien: Jens Johansson, Mike Pinella, Jordan Rudess, Derek Sherinian, Matt Guillory...so many more...they all have a particular "voice", an own flavor, even if my all-time favorite remains Jens and it will never change. He's everything I need to hear.
SoT: Who would you like to appear on the next Lalu recording?
Vivien: Devin Townsend. But it will never happen because if Devin likes to show himself around like a cool guy, and likes to invite guests himself (like Ihsahn, Anneke Van Giersbergen etc.) he's not guesting on other people's works. At least that's what the folks over at his record label told me. So I guess I'm destined to hear him on his own music. He is very lucky that people accept to guest on 'his' albums. It sucks so much when the artists you want to hire the most remain unapproachable. Life, once again!
SoT: You also do film and television soundtrack work, how long have you
been doing this?
Vivien: I have been doing this for five years now. I must say it's completely different than making music for my own albums. Composing for others can be difficult but I am used to it and fascinated by the challenge to understand what people want. I deliver drafts till I can reach the client's "vision", I try to understand what their feedback means (sometimes you got to translate lol) and I send it back with changes till everybody is happy.
SoT: Does it have an influence when creating the Lalu albums?
Vivien: Totally! But I tried to stay away from it... I could have used my orchestral sample librairies for a song like "Bast" for example. But I wanted to this album to feel like a progressive metal album, not a movie soundtrack, hence why I refrained myself from turning it into an Hollywood sountrack. I used synth sounds on purpose, even for strings sections. But I still tried something "Cinematic" with the last song - REVELATIONS. Maybe for the next album it's gonna be different and I'm gonna unleash myself...I gave you a clue.
SoT: What's next for Vivien Lalu? Any possible live performances ?
Vivien: About live, it's too early to reveal anything but we've been invited to a festival next year and there will be an ATOMIC ARK Euro-tour (small one). We are setting it up at the moment – we're doing our best to make it happen. I love the idea of bringing this music "live", which is usually impossible with these kinds of studio projects...
SoT: Thanks for your time Vivien, and I hope the new album enjoys the
success it deserves to receive.
Vivien: Thank you so much for your words, for listening to this music and for the great interview! I am going to leave this keyboard to play on "another" keyboard now, because I am very inspired all of a sudden. Thank you and see you for the next album I hope!
(Click here to read our reviews of Atomic Ark)