Canadian symphonic metal artist Cecile Monique is in the spotlight for this week’s Meet The Band. Her album Genesis was recently released.
Chad Bowar: Describe the songwriting process for Genesis.
Cecile Monique: Genesis was actually a project that I wanted to do for several years and was the culmination of a few years of songwriting for me. The first track I started writing for Genesis was actually “Heat,” which I had started writing just after the release of my single “Breathe Again” back in 2014, so that song kind of shaped the mood of the rest of the album in a lot of ways. I usually write all of the parts for my songs on my own and then bring them to my musicians when they’re fully developed and complete, so we started with “Heat,” and I could feel from their reaction to the track that I was moving in the right direction! I had a few fragments of the other songs in different stages of development, so I started writing the arrangements and tackling each song one at a time until I had all twelve ready for rehearsals and tracking.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
It’s hard to choose just one, since the whole process was so memorable! One of the moments that stands out in my mind was when we were tracking the vocals for my song, “Ashes,” which was a song that I wrote in memory of my grandfather, who passed away two years ago. Stepping up to the mic and running through the track the first time was actually the first time anyone outside of the band had heard the song, and I remember thinking, “I have to do this well, this is for him,” so it was a bit of an emotional moment in the studio that day but it was also really meaningful and almost cathartic to finally get the song recorded and know that it would be my tribute to him on the album and would be something that would live on and help keep his memory alive.
How would you characterize its style/sound?
I would say that the album is pretty representative of the gothic symphonic metal style. It brings in some metal influences with the riffs and solos in songs like “Heat,” “Come To Me” and “Break,” but still has a very haunting, dark tone in songs like “Alibi” while maintaining a very melodic, classical influence too, especially with the heavy symphonic and choral components of the arrangements and operatic vocals in some of the songs. I often characterize the sound as “darkly heavy and melodic.”
What lyrical topics do you address?
The album is definitely inspired by the story of creation and themes of rebirth and beginning again, so a lot of the songs address the idea of overcoming obstacles and starting over, such as the title track, “Genesis,” which is all about persevering after things seem bleak and it looks like the end. There are also several tracks on the album that are a bit more declamatory and are about refusing to be victimized, like “Alibi” and “Break,” so inner strength and triumph over adversity are definitely topics that are examined throughout the album. The album also definitely looks at themes of loss and mourning, which you can definitely hear the most in my song “Ashes,” and which I hoped to be a song that would resonate with other people going through similar experiences.
What led you to go the independent route for the release?
I was very fortunate to receive a grant from my local Arts Fund in support of the album, so I knew very early on that I would be able to receive support for the production of the album, and that made it possible for me to produce and release the album independently, without the need for a label. Up to this point in my career, all of my releases have been independent, but I definitely am still open to the possibility of partnering up with a great, like-minded label when the time is right.
What has the response been to the album so far?
Overall, I’ve been very fortunate that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I was really pleasantly surprised by a few really favorable reviews and features from major European media, such as Sonic Seducer Magazine in Germany. I was also so happy that the response from listeners has been so positive, especially from listeners who have followed my music for years and have been patiently waiting for a full-length release. So many of them have reached out and told me how they felt it was worth the wait and that they love the direction I went in with the album, so that really meant a lot to me. I’ve also been blown away by the number of new listeners that have discovered my music through this new release and have become new fans, so I really couldn’t be happier with the response so far.
How was the video shoot for “Break”?
The shoot for “Break” was a lot of fun! We shot the video at The Imaginarium, which is a very cool escape room destination in Toronto that has a really immersive multi-room escape room called “The Grand Wilshire Hotel,” which is themed like a haunted hotel and looks like something out of a Stephen King film! The details in the room were outstanding and we knew from the moment we walked in that it was the perfect location to capture the eerie, dark feel of the song.
Your cover of Rammstein’s “Reise Reise” has generated a lot of response. How come it wasn’t included on the album?
Although I was blown away with the response, I had decided from before I released the “Reise, Reise” cover that I wanted it to be a stand-alone single and that it wouldn’t be part of the full-length album, since I knew that I wanted Genesis to be a fully original work without any previously-released material or covers. Since it was a release that I knew a lot of my listeners had been waiting for and it was going to be my first full-length release, it was important to me that Genesis would only feature my own songs and would showcase my own voice as a composer.
What has been the most memorable live show you have played?
There have been a few really fun shows so far, but I think the most memorable show to date was still my album release show back in November. It took place in my hometown the weekend that Genesis came out, and the guys and I were able to play the full album, from start to finish, plus we showed a little documentary that I had put together profiling the making of the album, which we screened before our set. I’ll always remember how we requested for people to come to that show dressed in black, and it was amazing to look out into the audience and see every single person wearing a black outfit! It felt like my goth wedding! It was also great to see the very first audience reaction to the album that evening and be able to celebrate the launch of Genesis with friends, fans (some of whom had driven a few hours just to be there!) and even some new fans who came to check us out for the first time. It was definitely the perfect way to celebrate the release of the album and a great experience.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
We just wrapped up a few dates here in Canada, including a showcase at Canadian Music Week 2019, and we are planning to work on recording some new material that will be released throughout the rest of the year, but will hopefully begin booking for next year very soon.
How did you get started in music?
I usually say that I started singing at around age three, but to be honest, it could have been earlier; that’s just my earliest memory! I started out singing as a young kid for charity functions in my local community, my church and for school talent shows and musicals and started doing classical training around age sixteen. At age seventeen, I decided to pursue classical training at the university level and was studying to be a classical soprano, and it was actually during my university studies that I started getting really into symphonic metal and became really interested in production and recording. I started writing original music in my spare time and recording my own demos in my home studio, and shortly after graduating I won a grant here in Canada to be able to record an EP at Metalworks Studios in Toronto, and everything kind of took off from there.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
As a young kid, I was very influenced by classical singers. I loved classical sopranos like Maria Callas and actually used to watch opera DVDs when I would come home from school! I just thought it was so inspiring to see such powerful female vocalists commanding a stage the way that the leading ladies of opera did, and I was always fascinated by the soprano range and the vocal abilities of some of my favorite opera singers. Once I got into my university training, a family member introduced me to Apocalyptica’s music, and I really credit them with changing the direction that I was going in musically. I remember binge-listening to their albums (they only had a few at the time), and thinking, “Wow! These guys are young, classically-trained musicians, playing metal music on the cello!?” It really made me look at metal in a new way and was sort of the catalyst for me to start listening to other European metal bands, especially the symphonic metal bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation, who also have a lot of classically-trained musicians in the band, and it ultimately was what inspired me to start getting into writing gothic symphonic metal myself.
What was the first rock/metal concert you attended?
I think it must have been the first Apocalyptica show I attended many years ago. It was an amazing show and I was completely blown away by their musicianship, charisma and energy on stage. I’ve seen them many more times since then and have had the pleasure of meeting them a couple of times, and they are consummate professionals who never cease to amaze me every time I see them perform.
What are some of your non-musical hobbies and interests?
I’m actually a pretty big nerd, so when I’m not working on music, I love learning new languages! I currently speak four languages and hope to get to fluency in seven, so I love studying new languages and learning about new cultures in my spare time. I also love reading, spending time with friends, watching movies (especially period dramas, horror movies and psychological thrillers), and I love going to concerts and enjoying music as a fan whenever any of my favorite musicians come to town.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I’ve been absolutely hooked on the new Rammstein album. I can’t get enough of the amazing riffs and the catchy melodies on the album and have had it on repeat since it came out! I also really love the most recent In Flames album, I, The Mask and have been listening to it a lot since I had the opportunity to see them open for Within Temptation here in Toronto a few months ago. It’s an awesome album that sounds even better live, in my opinion. I have also been listening to Apocalyptica’s latest Sabaton cover, “Fields of Verdun” and absolutely love it! I can’t wait for their new album to come out!
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I’d love to invite everyone to check out my new music video and remix for my new single, “Break,” which just premiered on YouTube!
(interview published July 27, 2019)
Watch Cecile Monique – “Break”