This week, Montfaucon are our featured Meet The Band artist. One member of the band is in the U.S., the other is in Uzbekistan. Their full-length debut Renaissance was recently released. Vocalist/guitarist Valentin Mayamsin introduces us to his band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Montfaucon.
Valentin Mayamsin: Montfaucon was formed in 2002 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan by me on guitar and Michel Cadenzar on piano. We started actively working on composing songs and recording demos. We were selected to perform at the two day Alternative Music Festival 2004, organized by British Council (it was quite an event, I’d say, given that we rarely had metal gigs and just a few metal bands). For our live performances, we found drummer Renat Khidirov and bassist Sergey Sadokov.
Over the course of next few years, we had Denis Raytuzov and Andrey Astashov on bass and at last, saxophonist Andrey Golubev. Today, Montfaucon exists as a project since I moved to the USA and am separated from the other members by almost the entire planet Earth! Thanks to the internet we’re still actively composing new stuff, but unfortunately we cannot perform live. On February 17 we released our first album, Renaissance, which includes our songs written a decade ago.
Describe the songwriting and recording process for Renaissance.
It usually starts with piano. Michel writes the entire composition on piano and then I add guitars on top of it. Then we complement it with lyrics. Drums and bass used to be composed during rehearsal with other members, now we just do it on the computer. Every time we compose a new song, we experiment with the process. Sometimes I offer a few riffs and Michel puts something on top. This is the way we composed the track “Mastermind” for example.
Recording was done at home. Michel recorded all his piano parts in Tashkent and sent them over to me. I recorded guitars, bass and vocals in my bedroom. We were struggling with the quality of guitars first and we decided to hire Michael Keene (The Faceless) to consult on this stuff. He recorded The Faceless’ albums in his living room and achieved terrific sound. He helped us to achieve a high quality recording, but I had to rewrite the guitars and bass a few times. The drums were sampled, so the recording process was not particularly noisy except during vocal parts. I was concerned that my neighbors would call the police when they heard my screams, but luckily they didn’t!
How did Dan Swano come to mix and master the album?
I wrote Dan and sent our songs over email, he kindly agreed to mix them. He runs Unisound Studio and I bet he mixed half of the metal albums out there! He works with both big labels and indie bands and is very busy, so we had to wait for about nine months, but wait was totally worth it. Dan is very professional and experienced. I was blown away by his skills. It was challenging, though, to find the right sound because there are not many bands that utilize such prominent piano parts. But with a few trials, he made it sound perfectly balanced.
How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
I actually have trouble assigning it a certain style, myself. We experimented a lot with different styles and sounds. Progressive piano-doom-death metal? Sounds close enough.
What are some of the lyrical subjects?
For “Prisoner” and “The Last Night” I drew inspiration from The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo. The story is so dark and beautiful at the same time, just like our songs. “Prisoner” gets into the head of a person imprisoned for life. He’s locked into a stone box with a single feeding hole. He faces a choice to live like that in the box or end it all by killing himself, and faces the consequences of his choice.
“The Last Night” is also about consequences. Hanging was a popular way of execution in medieval times. Bodies were left hanging for a long time as a warning to other people. Relatives were not allowed to bury their bodies according to Christian traditions. The story tells about a poor guy who risked his life to follow religious tradition, to save a soul of a hanged man.
Other songs are explorations of different styles and subjects. The lyrics to “Insanity” are in traditional death-metal horror style. The “I Was A Warrior” lyrics were inspired by Sumerian mythology. “Alone” and “Mastermind” share misanthropic themes and abstract style.
Being on opposite sides of the globe, will the band be exclusively a studio project?
I can’t tell yet, we’re focused on our upcoming release right now. But we have proven it can’t stop the creative process. Writing quality music and recording from a distance is definitely possible . Thanks to the internet, we were able to involve the right people in the process and achieve great quality.
How did you get started in music?
I had an acoustic guitar and learned to play it when I was about 14. I played Russian rock songs and some classical tunes. I enjoyed playing guitar very much, but then I started listening to heavier music and tried to learn how to play it. I didn’t have any proper musical education, I didn’t have any friends who would give me a lesson on shredding techniques.
I tried to figure out everything myself. I restored an old Soviet electric guitar, wound up coils for pickups. I built a few distortion pedals from scratch since I couldn’t afford any. I even used them for our concerts, they had pretty decent sound. When I got access to the internet, I learned more techniques and gained more experience.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
This story is probably super common! One day my brother bought a vinyl of Metallica’s Black Album. The first time I heard it, I hated it. But the more I heard it, the more I liked it. It also had lyrics on the inside, so I tried to understand the lyrics and even tried to sing along. I got totally hooked on it and soon started discovering other bands and styles.
A friend of mine introduced me to other bands which was hard to find in Tashkent like Satyricon, Opeth, Lux Occulta, Cradle of Filth, and even some underground bands like Dominium, Psypheria, Archetype, Maudlin of the Well. I was hooked for a long time to My Dying Bride, Andromeda, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura, Sadist and many other bands in different styles.
What’s the heavy music scene like in Uzbekistan?
I moved from Uzbekistan almost a decade ago, so I can’t really tell what’s it’s like today. Seems like not much better than it used to be. There is still a pretty big underground metal scene there as far as know. If you want to learn more about it, I’d suggest visiting a local web site http://harddays.net/. And use Google Translate.
Other than your friends and family, what do you miss most about living in Uzbekistan?
I do miss Uzbek food, it’s the best food in the world. Sometimes I’m nostalgic, but there actually isn’t much I miss about it.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
The Faceless, Deafheaven, The Zenith Passage, Animals as Leaders, Leprous, Ihsahn, Deathspell Omega, Revocation, Obscura…
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Yeah, can somebody explain why American’s elected this clown who talks and acts like Uzbekistan’s previous president-dictator Karimov? I hope the US stays the land of the free and home of the brave.
(interview published February 25, 2017)