LOMM: Can you give a little biographical and historical info; who is involved in the band, and how did you guys meet up?
AC: The band was originally created by Eric, Alexandre (Lamia) and I, then we have been lucky that great musicians joined us. All of them are friends and we already knew everyone, then the reunion was quite natural!
About the band history: Nine Skies is a French progressive rock band inspired by many influences : rock, pop, progressive, jazz … The debut album “Return Home” was released in 2017, following by a special edition in 2018. The second album “Sweetheart Grips” was released in 2019. Alexandre (Boussacre) and Freddy (vocals on “Return Home”) left because of personal commitments and Aliénor Favier joined the band on this second opus. This is a double album with amazing guests : Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Frost …), Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon …), Dave Foster (Steve Rothery Band, Dave Foster Band, Panic Room, Mr. So&So …), Riccardo Romano (Ranestrane, Riccardo Romano Land, Steve Rothery Band …), Pat Sanders (Drifting Sun) and Johnny Marter (SAS Band, Marillion and many others). The proceeds from the sales of the album go towards « Ian’s Chain » charity, to raise awareness of suicide prevention and those who have lost a loved one to suicide. The new album is called “5.20” and will be released in May 2021. Achraf Elasraoui (vocals and guitar) joins the band on this new album. It is an acoustic opus including a string quatuor. Damian Wilson (vocals) and John Hackett (flute) have already been announced as guests.
LOMM: Oh wow! That’s one hell of a guest list! Some of my favourite musicians! Cool.
Pandemic has taken an emotional toll on everyone yet the arts have been hit especially hard. The musicians are vulnerable to financial upheaval. How have you guys have been holding up?
Eric: Of course the pandemic stopped all concerts, but Nine Skies may have been a bit less vulnerable as our first live was at the Prog en Beauce festival in 2019 (ndlr: the digipack edition of this concert will be released end of May). We took the opportunity to focus on the new record and had a productive time. We had the chance to get an incredible support from our fans via a crowdfunding campaign. Thanks to them, we can release this new opus end of May. Nevertheless, we are still waiting to be able to go on stage as soon as possible!
LOMM: Tell us about your genre, what does it means to you, why did you choose this genre?
Eric: We are often called a “Progressive” band, but I am not sure we chose a specific genre. Of course we all love progressive music and a lot of our influences are classified as prog, but we all have various influences and listen to a lot a genres: classical, metal, jazz… Maybe the progressive signature in our music is the richness of this variety! The diversity of the bands influences allows to express various feelings while preserving the coherence of the music. We are just trying to express our feelings the best we can through the music and the lyrics.
LOMM: Are you happy with your product? What aspects of it do you think you guys nailed, and what parts do you think you could improve upon?
Eric: We are happy with what we’ve done so far, without any pretention, just artistic sincerity. We succeed to express what we wanted through our music, and I think this is the most important.
I assume that we can always improve the way we are working and the quality of the production, but this is the never ending challenge of making art! Alexandre is currenlty working on the mix for the new album and I think I can say that the sound will be amazing. He’s doing an incredible work!
LOMM: How has the overall reception been?
AC: We’ve got the chance to have an amazing support so far! Of course, we cannot please everyone with our music, but we have a lot of followers now and the feedback of each album (and our live) was really good overall.
LOMM: Have you ever been on a tour? Given live performances? Is it tough for you not to be able to do so now?
AC: Our first and only live performance so far was in October 2019 at the Prog en Beauce Festival (https://www.progenbeauce.com) which is an amazing festival in France. We shared the stage with Clepsydra, Albion and Mystery. It was an incredible experience. Even if it was the first time for us, we are really looking forward to play on stage again!
LOMM: I should check out this Prog en Beauce Festival, thanks. What is the next step for you? How is the future looking?
Eric: We are really excited about this new album. The acoustic concept and the string quatuor are quite a challenge but will add a lot of magic to the music at the same time. This opus will be more melodic than the previous one while keeping the Nine Skies “progressive” sound and identity, with some harmonical tensions and dark atmospheres. We really hope to have the possibility to play this album on stage as soon as possible!
LOMM: Could you tell us about the lyrics / themes /concepts you focus on or plan to focus on? How did the ideas come about, and how do they influence the writing process? Who is writing the lyrics?
AC: I am writing the lyrics most of the time, but Alexandre is writing as well for some of his compositions. I get the thematic by listening to the music and then write the lyrics.
Our first two albums are “concept albums”: “Return Home” relates, through the eyes of the protagonist, the lives of different characters from a contemporary big city. Sometimes metaphorical, sometimes particularly realistic, these different existences show the absurdities of our current world and the way we learn to live with our sufferings.
“Sweetheart Grips” refers to the practice dating back to the Second World War, when soldiers were known to take precious family photos (and Pinup Girl photos) and put them under clear grips on their 1911 pistols, called ’Sweetheart Grips’. Many of the grips were made from pieces of broken plastic windows from bombers. The album highlights the memories and feelings of a young soldier exposed to a post-traumatic syndrome, bringing out the paradox between the obvious violence of the war and the underlying humanity buried in each of us.
The new release “5.20” is not a “concept” album. The personal poetry of this album conjures up a dream beyond various horizons. This acoustic and very intimate opus takes us on a journey using the spellbinding charm of the string quartet, from the captivating melodies to mysterious and more introspective overtones of the album. Each moment suggests a reflection on both a universally human context and the emotional part specific to all of us: a renewed musical experience that gets more enriched with every listening of the album.
LOMM: Who is composing the songs?
AC: Eric and Alexandre start to compose. They can work on their side then after share and add ideas to make songs evolve, or they can compose together. Now that Achraf joins the band, they are three to compose, and it works really well!
LOMM: Which is more exciting? Being on the road or studio?
AC: I would say that both are quite exciting but totally different experiences! It is difficult to pick one among the other. I think a band really need the both.
LOMM: What first got you into music?
Eric: We all got into music very young. I found myself totally stunned by hearing Vivaldi at the age of 7 and then wanted to start learning violin. Alexandre started to play at 5, Aliénor was singing at the age of 4 and a half…
AC: I was “drowned” into music and start to study it since I was a child too. My brother is a music lover and was singing in bands. He made me discover a lot of musical legends!
LOMM: What do you like the best about being a musician? And what is it that you do not like much?
Eric: Music is the best way for me to express my feelings and that’s what I like so much about it. Playing for an audience is a huge thrill as much as spending time creating new material. This is really exciting and there is not much I can complain about so far :)!
LOMM: If you weren’t musicians, what would you be doing?
Eric: History is my second passion. Then I guess I would be historian or archaeologist.
AC: I love litterature and write books when I have time.
LOMM: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
LOMM: Lol, I hear you 😊 What’s more important to you? Catering to the audience or music for its own sake?
AC: We are making music to express ourselves, then if you are sincere in what you are doing, people will love it. You cannot please everyone and this is not the purpose.
LOMM: When you look back your music career, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Eric: In my point of view my best achievement comes from my students. I am particularly proud of how they have musically grown today.
LOMM: Who would you like to collaborate with?
Eric: We already had the chance to collaborate with many great artists, this is incredible when I think about it! But I would say Steve Howe.
AC: Peter Gabriel / Steven Wilson / Steve Hogarth / Ozzy Osbourne
LOMM: Who would you like to go on a tour with?
Eric: Steve Hackett
AC: Marillion / Roger Waters
LOMM: If you could play any festival in the world, which one would you choose? Tell us why.
Eric: Night Of Prog, because this is a “highlight” to me!
LOMM: Name some of your all-time favorite albums? Include controversial ones.
Eric: Dark Side Of The Moon (Pink Floyd), Stargazer (Rainbow), Moonmadness (Camel), A Trick of the Tail (Genesis), but I love so many others in so many different styles! The list would be too long.
AC: Damnation (Opeth) / Led Zeppelin I, II, III, IV / Clutching at Straws (Marillion)
LOMM: What does your collection look like? Mostly Vinyl, Cassettes, CDs, Digital? A bit of everything? A total mess?
AC: A mix of CD’s and digital!
LOMM: What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
Eric: We are from south of France and sadly, we have the feeling that the Metal/Rock scene is quite poor. There are a lot of amazing talented artists but not well represented. Anne-Claire and I are living in the UK since 4 years now and we find it much more “open minded” to this kind of music here.
LOMM: You can invite 5 people to a dinner party, from the future, the past, rock stars, a movie characters, you name it. Who are you having dinner with?
Eric: Antonio Vivaldi, Spartacus, Jean de La Fontaine, Molière and Winston Churchill.
AC: Albert Camus, Victor Hugo, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Baudelaire, Ozzy Osbourne. Such a funny dinner!
LOMM: What is your weirdest memory in your music career?
Eric: Joker 🙂
LOMM: What is the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Eric: I have a couple but my favourite is an elephant soft-toy that was given to me at the Prog en Beauce festival.
LOMM: If you had one message to your fans, what would it be?
AC: Maybe a bit “cliché” but the most important… Just THANK YOU! We couldn’t do anything without you!
LOMM: Anything else you think your fans should know?
Eric: We can’t wait for them to listen to the new album and we hope they will like it as much as we enjoyed working on it! We hope the brighter days are ahead for shows and that we will meet them soon.
LOMM: Thank you for taking the time.
AC: Thanks for the interview! And thanks for everyone for reading it!
Photo credit: Christian Arnaud