Interview

EQUILIBRIUM (English Version - 2016) - René Berthiaume (Guitar & Songwriting)

After 15 years of following EQUILIBRIUM, I finally have the great opportunity to meet his mastermind René Berthiaume. I needed to talk about the band, its evolution, and of course, know a little bit more about the discrete man behind the EQUILIBRIUM mask.

SBM: Hello René, thank you very much for agreeing to meet me!


René: Oh you're welcome.

How is the tour going?

Really good I have to say!

It seems that you have a very tight schedule, you only had one day of on that tour. How do you manage to stay in shape?

We try our best! Actually the thing is that on most of the dates it wasn't that cold, today is really colder. A few days ago we've been in Spain, in Barcelona, and in Toulouse, Paris, and it was very warm, even London so it's ok. Of course everybody has a cold but it goes around because of the bus and the air conditioner, but so far everything has been great.

And I'm very happy to be able to see you on tour in France, there wasn't much dates during the past tours. I had the chance to see you at The Hellfest two years ago and you have five dates in France during this tour. How is the French public responding to the latest album and EQUILIBRIUM?

Oh really good and I was also surprised because we've been for the first time in Toulouse in was full and nice. So it makes sense to play not only in Paris but also in the cities around France.

Well I hope Lyon won't disappoint you ! (Laugh)

(Laugh) Yeah it'll be great!

I've been following the band since I heard the song “Met”, back in 2003. It's been a long time, so when you think about all the things you've done with EQUILIBRIUM through these years, how do you feel ?

Well so far, I think I'm quite happy! I'm doing what I've always wanted to do, making music, living from making music. It's not always totally perfect of course but in general it's fun and it's my passion so yeah it's cool!

Speaking of making a living, do you earn your life only with EQUILIBRIUM or do you have a job beside the band?

When I started EQUILIBRIUM I was already working in the music industry, I worked in a sound studio, I was already producing and recording. Then EQUILIBRIUM took more time so it was just a smooth move you know, I spent more time in the studio but when EQUILIBRIUM became more successful I spent more time with the band and less at work.
At the moment I'm almost only working for EQUILIBRIUM so I can live with it so it's cool. If one day I need more money I’ll get a job again of course but for now it's possible to live with it.

Now I understand why the production of the record is so great! You're the last former member of the band, you're the Angus Young of EQUILIBRIUM! (Laugh)
It seems that you write, produce and mix everything. Is it a choice or is it because the other members haven't much time for that?


Actually it was already like this when we started the band, I always started writing music on my own because it's how I make music. I think I'm just not the kind of person who write a piece of music and share it to the others. I know it works for a lot of bands but for me it's more like I'm in my own nutshell, I have this vision of a song and I try to write it.
Of course the other guys bring their ideas, say what is good and what is shit, but in general I really try to make it on my own.

Well I'm not complaining because I really love what EQUILIBRIUM has become! Especially since “Erdentempel”, there was a big change with this record. What has caused that?

Well I think it's just my personal taste. A lot of persons think that because of the musician or singer's change, the music will change. But it doesn't really affect the music. Maybe a singer change could affect the music because it's now lower, but in general that was not the point.
I don't think too much about it, I just write music and see what comes out. I don't think: let's put more folk influences, more guitar etc… I just start writing.

Yeah and beside the sound, the other change is that we have now more instrumental parts within the songs, and it's something I said in my review: “it has been written by someone who loves music”. What is your musical background?

It's quite huge I would say, I listen to a lot of soundtrack music, music from video games, movies and cultural music also. I really love music in a general way, I don't put too much boundaries. I could go in the streets and enjoy a band playing south African music with flutes.

That's true that we have a lot of flutes in EQUILIBRIUM, pan flute if I'm right. Why do you like the flute this much?

Yes I write a lot of melodies with flutes… I don't know, maybe because I played flute when I was a child, it has maybe influenced me! (Laugh)
I like the sound of it, it's a great sound for melodies, it has live, you have this breathing, I really like it, much more than the violin, it fits to EQUILIBRIUM.

Great cause I love it too! (Laugh)
Earlier you talked about video games influences, we clearly can hear it on “Helden”, which I love! It's powerful and fun at the same time. What inspirations do you take from video games?


The epic side of course, but in general, it's the atmosphere. It's obvious that now video games aren't just for fun. It's a huge melting pot of art, storytelling, music and it really inspires me. A game like Skyrim for example was covered by EQUILIBRIUM. I started video games when I was six years old with Nintendo stuff and it was already an influence because you had a lot of melodies, of course it sounded like “tit tit tit” but they are still there!

And sadly I can't understand the lyrics that go with it because I don't speak German at all! But some songs are written in English so will you one day do a whole record in English?

I don't think so… I'm sure that we will write more songs in English but we will always have German lyrics because it's an important part for us and it also depends on the song itself and for the “Armageddon” songs it was that: “For this song English fits better, for this one, German fits better”. But of course it was also a way to reach more people, so they can understand the lyrics.

Sabaton did this: they recorded their album both in English and Swedish. Is it something you could be interested in?

No I don't think so. I had the idea for “Armageddon” but then I thought that I didn't want to have two versions. I thought “this one is the original and is in English, that one is originally German”.

Ok that's understandable. And have you ever considered writing the translation?

Yeah it would make sense, maybe we should put something like that on our website…

That would be great! When I sing in German in my car it's basically chewing gum! Awful! Well… back to serious! (Laugh)
You seem to love storytelling, through games or movies, have you ever wanted to write you own story, making a concept album?


Well maybe! You never know. For now there are no plans because we've just finished the new album, but I can imagine that one day we'll maybe make a concept album, something a little complex, I wouldn't say no!

Oh great I'm looking forward to hear it!
For the first time, Dom is making some vocals, and he's good, have you ever thought using him more in this way or do you really want to focus on Robse ?


Yeah he has an appearance on the Armageddon album for the screams because he has a higher voice, and I'm pretty sure we'll use him for the future because they really fits together, it's a nice combination.

Is he the one screaming on “Zum Horizont”?? Or” Rise Again” I don't remember...

Both of them actually, but especially “Rise Again”.

Ok so that was him!

Yes.

Sadly we haven't the chance to have him with his band Nothgard tonight… Why ?

Well it's just a logistical thing. They did shows in places near their home, German show and some countries around. I think they will come again tomorrow in Switzerland.

Well I guess I'll have to catch them another time!
As I said the band has been existing for quite a while now. What is your best memory with EQUILIBRIUM?


Oh that's really hard… (Laugh) Well I would say something that happened a year and a half ago now, but it's still fresh in my brain. It's when we went to Miami for the 70,000 tons of metal cruise. A lot of new people, new influences, a new country, the trip to Jamaica. It was really fun and I love to think about it.

I can easily understand it, I wish I could do it one day… Well tricky question number two: What band would you like to play with as opening act?

Oh if I could choose it would be DreamTheater, even if we don't really fit. We played with a lot of bands on tour or festivals but we don't spend our time saying “Oh look that's a guy from this band !!” but with Dreamtheater I do! There's still this magic! (Laugh)

(Laugh) A fan boy!

Yeah exactly!

Why especially this band? Because of the musical work?

Everything! Of course I like the technical stuff but it's a band able to combine musicality and virtuosity, there's a lot of emotion in their music and I really like it.

Is it something that influences you with EQUILIBRIUM?

Yeah although it's not this technical and progressive, but especially when I started with the band it was an inspiration concerning arrangements you know. In a lot of songs from our first album we didn't really have choruses, it was “There's a part there, there's a part there etc...” or in “Mana” the instrumental song, I think it was really an inspiration, there are more complex arrangements.

The EQUILIBRIUM songs have good arrangements actually. You use folk instruments, orchestrations and it never sound cacophonic… How do you manage to do that ?

Well I don't really have a recipe you know (Laugh). I don't start with all this ideas already there, you have a piece of something and them you put some details, you move them away, you change it, it's a long process.

Does the song change a lot between the first ideas and the final result?

Yes, sometimes it goes very quick, sometimes I work a whole week on one part before I have it!

Yeah that is long! How many time have you spent on “Armageddon”?

Well last summer I sat down and started writing week after week. I don't write a song, then I stop for one month and I write another one. I write everything in one go, with of course some days off when you don't have any ideas or you need a break, but I really like to concentrate on one thing. So that took me a year, the writing was until February of this year, and then recording and mixing.

Is working alone at home gave you more freedom, without pressure?

Yeah but there is still that deadline of course from Nuclear Blast (Laugh). I had to deliver the album before… May or something. Of course it's good to be at home, when you're in the studio you have to pay every day or every hour, and I think that could really hold the creativity back. That's why a lot of bands are doing this: the pre-production is made at home, like 70-80% and the rest is made in the studio.
I was already fine with the things I did at home, the recording was made at home, I didn't see any need to go to the studio again, except for the mastering that was external.

Have you recorded all the ideas are there some letf for the next one?

Well it's still a little unclear, ideas are floating around, so I can't really say how it would be but I'm already motivated to write new stuff. I'm collecting ideas and then I'll sat down!

Looking forward to hear it!
Last tricky question. What is your favorite EQUILIBRIUM song ?


Oh it's hard… Hum… Well the most emotional song for me is still “Mana” for the “Sagas” album. I don't know why… It has a lot of elements that I like, I think this one is definitely still in my top five!

Well noted!
As I said it's the 15th anniversary of the band. Will you do something to celebrate it or will you wait for the 20th one?


Well this year would have been a great celebration but we already have “Armageddon” and I don't wait to do two things at the same time. So I think we'll wait the 20th year….

And for this occasion would you be interested in recording something acoustic, revisit the songs?

Yeah actually we like that idea, on “Rekreatur” we've added some acoustic versions of the songs on the bonus CD. I really liked it so I would like to do this again… But I don't know when.

And what about a special show with real instruments live?

Actually we've sometimes done that when we were in Munich, with flutes, accordion, but it's hard when you're on tour, it's a lot of logistic, it costs a lot. But from time to time we'll do these special shows. I don't know for the real orchestra, it depends, but it would make sense.

Well I hope that will happen in France! I've reached the end of my questions so I leave yu the final words if you want to conclude or say something to the French fans.

I'd like to say that we're very happy for the fans who came on this tour and their reactions about “Armageddon”, we really hope we'll see you again!

Ok message will be passed! Thank you very much René for that interview! Danke schon!

Bite schon! (Laugh)

(Laugh) Have a nice show! Bye

Bye!
 
Critique : SBM
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