"On wednesday the fifth of march 2014 the news got out that Selim Lemouchi of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies and formerly of The Devil's Blood had passed away. Various websites confirmed it andvarious roomers have come up online about the cause. Selim Lemouchi was 34 years old.
The band Ghost posted this on their facebook page: "We want to pay homage to our friend Selim Lemouchi (The Devil's Blood and his own Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies) who has passed away and left the world one great talent poorer." As far as I know I was the last interviewer to visit his house and talk to him. I met an inspired and energetic man. Kind and warm hearted, willing to open up to those who were interested in what he was doing. His passing is a sad thing indeed and has left Eindhoven Rockcity quiet."
The Devil’s Blood is no more. The band gained worldwide fame under the rule of bandleader Selim Lemouchi suddenly called it quits, early 2013. The record ‘III: Tabula Rasa or Death and The Seven Pillars’ was released, but after that this chapter was closed. A few months later, a new band appeared as a support act of Ghost: Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies. Lemouchi later played a gig for the Eindhoven home crowed on the 13th of juli in Café Oude St. Joris and 3voor12/Eindhoven was there. Now debut album ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’ is ready to be released. Time to check how things are going, so on a Sunday afternoon we ring the doorbell at the Lemouchi residence.
A new Path
Since we are raised with the right manners, we thank Selim Lemouchi for making the time for 3voor12/Eindhoven. Today the musician has time enough: “It’s Sunday, the last day of rest before we really have to start working for the seventh of December. We can start builing up for the show in TAC (temporary art centre), so it’s really time now. Sugar or milk?” Lemouchi goes into the kitchen to make some coffee and continues talking enthusiastically. While the coffee drips in the pot, Czech black metal sounds on the background. Sitting down on a flight case, Lemouchi continues his story: “I want to offer people more during the release show than just another rock show. Everything needs to be perfect. The music is not the most important, I’d almost say. They used to have better words to describe that, a complete experience, a happening. Music should never become a mass product, no ready made music that gives all it has to offer away on the first play. I want music that sticks to you. If I don’t experience that myself, then it’s not good enough. That’s how I always worked with The Devil’s Blood, I didn’t care what others thought of my music, as long as I liked it.”
He continues: “With the Devil’s Blood, I would always work with the same mold, I had to let that go on the new record. The formula went overboard and I decided to let the inspiration go it’s own way, letting it flow out so to say and choose the direction it wanted to go. That has been a huge stage, that and me opening up to others and working together even. Robbie Geerings (Alabama Kids, mostly known from record store Bullit) even wrote two songs for this record, namely ‘Deep Dark Waters’ and ‘Next Stop, Universe B’. We produced the record together.”
Were these ready made molds and formula’s not the reason for The Devil’s blood to quit, that is the question. Did it turn into that ready made formula of pop music for Selim: “No, I think that within one form you can do endless variations and have an enormous spectrum of possibilities. All music already exists, I truly believe that. That means that one can go anywhere within certain parameters. All records we made, I’m very proud of those. I just think that in this way of working, I said everything I wanted to say. It was time for a change.”
‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’
On ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’, the musical journey of Selim Lemouchi continues. There is a new sound and a changing group of musicians are surrounding him. “I keep wanting to change things, at this moment I listen to plenty of black metal. Maybe that is the next kind of record I would want to make. For ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’ I took it onto myself to not hold back, not to limit myself with goals and targets. It was mainly experimenting, letting in others and collaborate on making music. That was the biggest challenge to myself, after being in full control for seven years. I try to steer the others, motivate them , but also to learn from myself as much as I can.
A cup of coffee is put down on the stuffed table. It’s a mug with the Tazmanian Devil on i tand the tekst ‘100% Animal’. Lemouchi drops down on the couch and grabs his phone to let me hear a bit of music. “When Robbie (Geerings) moved in here after Bullit closed, I handed him a guitar. He hadn’t touched one in years, but just sitting on the couch, doing nothing, I wasn’t having that. So this came out, which made me think: we can go in that way together!”
Lemouchi was sometimes named the dictator of The Devil’s Blood. Is he more the manager of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies? “That’s a good description actually, I think of myself more like a director or producer though. I tell people about my ideas and let them work with those in their own specific ways.”
The next step in his journey wasn’t taken just like from one day to another. Firs there was the EP ‘Mens Animus Corpus’ (mind, soul, body) that got released. A title that seems to be more focusse don the ‘I’ as yet. “That is very true, that record was the first step outwards, it’s like a bridge between how I used to work and the new way; I didn’t feel like letting go of the reigns fully yet. I recorded demo’s until I felt it was safe to hand it over to others, that was also very difficult for me though. But I did let go and took the direction I follow now. From element A in the music, you need to get to element B and there’s only one right choice. You have to find that one, otherwise it doesn’t fit and that’s the inspiration you need to unleash in yourself and others.
That this was not an easy path is something Lemouchi blaims himself for as well: “I demand the best from myself and I’m painfully honest towards others about that they do. I expect that in return from them as well. Some people have a hard time with that, the current group of musicians I work with just as much. At the start, we’d almost get into fights in the rehearsal space. Now everyone knows what I want to achieve and the drive and motivation are there. The music must be great, emotions and ego have to be put aside to achieve that. This is just as true for myself. I think a band loses its quality, when people stop telling them ‘No’. When the keenness and challenge fade. I want to avoid that, but that’s not easy. Artists have to unite creativity with their narcissistic side. Ofcourse, all of it has to do with money as well, but that’s something I never really have understood much of anyways. My role in this band, is to challenge others and sharpen them up. That way, something goo is bound to come out. Maybe the choice for the name ‘His Enemies’ has something to do with that, that hostility towards eachother now and then. The art is the most important thing in the end.”
Art needs inspiration, but the question what inspires Lemouchi will obviously not receive a standard answer. He does give some examples: “I listen to a lot of music, music is something that’s so broad as you can imagine, when you let go of categories and genres. What I listen to know for example. I read about this in a review that a lot of the inspiration for this band comes from Bathory and other classic black metal. My thought is then, that the writer totally missed the point there and was incapable to hear the Czech folk influences in the music or the classic influences. You limit your own framework of reference, that annoys me. Music is like a spider web, everything is connected and all inspire eachother. Wihtout the Beatles there would not be any Pink Floyd and without them none of the bands that followed and so on. Don’t limit yourself to a genre or a scene by locking yourself up in it.”
“When I’m making music, I only listen to my own music, nothing else. When I have something and record it, I just get into that for days and delve into it. I listen to the recordings a hundred times, until I think its perfect or I’m utterly sick of it. Then I start writing my lyrics and fill in the gaps in the music. I don’t even know what is popular right now, I only focus on my own music. Ofcourse I do listen to things now and then, I have a list of songs that I think are the best…” The mobile phone comes up again and a series of bandnames get read out loud: “Jethro Tull, Czech band Root, Coil, Think Lizzy, Beatles, King Crimson and Black Sabbath… and so on. I listen to this when I’m making myself go crazy, but even then I have to force myself.” The term ‘Occult Rock’ doesn’t say much for Selim Lemouchi: “I once filled that in, in one of those boxes on iTunes for The Devil’s Blood. I love those boxes that you fill in with style names and inspirations… The term fitted in with The Devil’s Blood at the time. Later they asked me what I thought of the occult rock scene, but I don’t know any scene. Is Occult Rock a scene? It’s not like we and other bands that get that label meet up and hang out at shows, most of these bands don’t interest me at all or I’ve never heard of them. Ghost did make some good music, but the comparison between us and them? Nah, I don’t see it…”
Many books are being read however, but sometimes non at all again. Lemouchi describes himself as a peculiar reader. “I like to read on the toilet, I always keep a pile of books there that I read randomly. Lately I’ve been reading a lot from the French poet Rimbaud. I enjoy reading the Compte de Lautréamont, who wrote extensively on cruelties. Ofcourse I read plenty of books on theology and theosophy. I started reading ‘An Antartic Mystery’ by Jules Verne again and I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower Saga’by Stpehen King. I’ve always been able to draw a lot of inspiration from those books. ‘Bloody meridian’ by Cormac McCarthy is also a great boo, which takes place in the early days of the United States. Like you’d expect I read plenty of religious books, grimoires and books on archeology. The Bible and the Koran keep providing ideas and inspiration as well. It’s always good to read books in which others try to find the truth. You should always rely on your own ideas, but those of others can definitely stimulate you.”
That this works the other way around as well, can be heared on the record ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’, which is presented on the 7th of December. An elbum, where Lemouchi inspired the band with his ideas. Lemouchi askes the first question about the album himself: “When you listened to it, did you hear one album or five pieces?” I answer it’s double, the songs are very different, but it feels like one. Some songs remind you of Pink Floyd or doom metal, others are more dreamy and kraut rock inspired. “I recognize that, myself, I only listen to the full album in a file of 43 minutes, which I got after the recordings. I have the separate mp3’s as well, but it’s the whole that feels good. The peculiar thing is though, that these are indeed very different pieces of music, written separately, that form a whole. The album feels like the time between sunset and sunrise, the night. Some songs, like ‘Chiaroscuro’ and ‘The Deep Dark Waters’, are simple on purpose, with just one riff. These songs have a very narrating style and are basically quite simple, containing just one guitar riff. They never get too complex, too stifled with extra stuff. ‘Next Stop, Universe B’sounds dreamy. It seems like a very simple song, but it keeps changing, hardly noticeable. It’s like the song ‘Just Dropped In’ by Kenny Rogers, never the same; if feels logical, but it’s completely irregular. It’s almost like we let go of the standard structure of a song in that one. Robbie (Geerings red.) hated it. If I couldn’t write a normal song. That told me it was right where it had to be. We fought a lot over that song, but it really became a very good one.”
Having arguments with people is definitely a side of Selim Lemouchi, very different than the friendly waterfall of words today would seem toe be. In his terraced house in Eindhoven he is calm and patient. Live he becomes someone else. I confront him with the two faces. “Yeas, I read that, but I think I have more than a thousand faces really… No, I think you were right. The friendly side may be a mask, a screen; I present myself as nice to be able to work in this society. On the stage, with my music, I become a predator. I leave the herd behind and a red glow is placed in front of my eyes. I think that’s where I open up, I show myself, because there I have to be in full control and everything must be right. I’m exactly where I should be and do what I have to do. Everyone else around me is required to do the same. The normal values fade away in those moments.”
Lemouchi looks away thoughtfully, he is not entirely happy with that darker side: “I keep working on it, that’s part of the collaborating with others. However, I need to express myself sometimes, even when I don’t wish to. I cannot control that. There is a side of control and order to me, but also the creative, chaotic side. Those are intertwined and I’m still looking for the right balance.
Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies present the album ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’ on the 7th of December 2013. It’ll be available fromt that date on.