Chaos E.T. Sexual, a French trio from the South-East Parisian suburb of Maisons-Alfort formed in 2010 and play a fascinating amalgamation of industrial, hip-hop/trip-hop and post-metal or to put it in their own words, ‘Gangsta Doom’. Taking their cues from the likes of Neurosis, Dälek, Techno Animal and Godflesh, Only Human Crust is the band’s long awaited follow-up to 2013’s Ovna and their most overtly political effort to date. It is also their first on Chien Noir and was mastered by Chris Fielding, Bassist of Liverpudlian sludge doom behemoths Conan. The band kindly afforded me some time to ask a few questions.
Welcome to The Sleeping Shaman guys, please could you introduce yourselves to the readers and give us an idea as to how you first got together.
Hi! And thanks a lot for this interview.
Chaos E.T. Sexual is a three-piece band with Yves playing barytone guitar and doing some backing vocals, Thomas playing guitar and taking care of the main vocals, and Tarik doing the drum machine, the drums, the samples, some backing vocals, the mix and the mastering. Actually we met at the university in Paris, where we were all studying physics/maths/electronics.
Yves was playing in a death metal band called Corrosive Elements and asked Tarik to join as a second guitar player (in the end, we are now all playing in this band!). Then, Yves and I had the idea of a musical project that would blend the drones of Sunn O))) with the industrial hip-hop of Dälek and Techno Animal.
As we knew that Tarik was also a beat-maker, we asked him if he would be okay trying something together. He was, so we began rehearsals some months after, when some friends that were organising the Zoophoniq festival in the west of France told us ‘we need a band, you’re talking about your band project for a while, so you’re on the bill’. This was a bit more than ten years ago.
How did you go about selecting the band name? Were there any other names in consideration?
The name come from a Bolivian expression that a friend was often saying to explain that his quite big belly was not from too much beer, but from too much sex. He called that ‘callosidad sexual’, and we thought that it was summarising quite well the heavy, but sensual music we were playing together. Then, we just picked some words that we liked and which were sounding like this expression.
But, it is not always a name which is easy to bear. Thus, often, when people are asking about our band name we answer that ‘Chaos’ is the heavy and deep baritone guitar played by Yves, ‘E.T.’ is the weird and dreamy guitar played by Thomas, and ‘Sexual’ embodies quite well the industrial beats produced by Tarik.
we just improvised hours and hours (we were living together at this moment) until everything would come naturally…
‘Only Human Crust’ marks your first release in seven years, was there a reason for the long gap between albums?
Plenty. Between 2013 and 2015, we toured quite a lot in France/Europa, and we played many gigs in the Paris area. Thus, preparing all the gigs so that we would be able to give the best of us at every show took lots of our time.
We also needed at least three or four years in order to know what we wanted to display on a new album. To that end, we just improvised hours and hours (we were living together at this moment) until everything would come naturally. These great years have also been very useful so that Tarik could learn playing the drums, and we all try to develop our skills in recording, mixing and mastering.
Besides, during all these years we spent a lot of time on our other musical projects, from the release of our album Toxic Waste Blues with Corrosive Elements to the role of live musicians for the band NNRA (a project of Louis, our label boss at Chien Noir, who also plays for the great Ddent and Krv.
So yes, seven years is a long time, but it was mandatory for us to be able to offer something that is different from the ancient albums and something we are very proud of.
I’m usually pretty good at interpreting album covers and their themes, but I was a little mystified this time round, what was the reason behind its choice and what were you trying to convey with it?
Actually, even if Ony Human Crust is not a real ‘concept album’ there is some kind of a scenario that follows the album proceedings. Gangsta Doom and Asile are here to set the stage of a dark universe where people are monitored and enslaved by a class of wealthy leaders. Then, we try to express the consequences of all this among the people and we attempt to consider the multiple ways out, from migration (Tomorrow, Prudence and Eldorado), art and spirituality (1674-Now: Many Thousand Gone, Solace Exhaust) or action (Tumulte and Only Human Crust).
This is the story we told to Paul Emgalaï Grafik when we first wrote to him and asked if he would be up to work on the artwork. There, we also suggested to him (based on graphical ideas inspired by Gustave Doré’s engravings or the anticipation movie La Planète Sauvage) to illustrate colourfully our musical story, by a graphic story of a revolt that would come from beneath, and that could be embody by some kind of rats.
And, actually, this is what can be seen on the main artwork, with a quiet and imposing civilisation made of eyes and big buildings facing an uprising, which seems just to begin. We will never thank Paul enough for his work, since the result is even better than our expectations.
I noted influences from the likes of Godflesh, Dälek and Neurosis. Who were some other artists that inspired you along the way during the recording process?
Our influences are wide, abundant, and come from many different styles. However, if we should pick the ones that are maybe the most significant for the music of Chaos E.T. Sexual, and in particular for the new album, that would probably be :
– Scorn: we learned a lot by listening to his beats and bass lines. This is really music that brings you in another world, where time doesn’t count anymore.
– Earth / Sunn O))) : as already mentioned, the stunning drones of these bands (as well as the wonderful desert landscapes of Earth’s 00’s albums) plus the industrial beats of Dälek and Justin K. Broadrick related projects were part of our founding influences prior even playing together.
– Old-school hip-hop such as Mobb Deep, NTM, or Gangstarr: the atmospheres are really great, as well as the sound of the beats and the way samples are used.
– Killing Joke: this is quite a perfect model, with so many great albums from many different styles released by wonderful and committed musicians. Cop Shoot Cop corresponds quite well to this description too, even if their discography is much smaller.
– Type O Negative: probably the band we listened to the most these past years, very unique, with awesome skills for writing both complex and efficient songs.
– NecroDeathMort: this band is less famous than the others, but we were really into their album The Colonial Script when it came out.
We also all listen to dub music, death metal (Napalm Death, Demilich, Morbid Angel, Death,…), or electro (Boards Of Canada, The Prodigy, Massive Attack, …), and you can find a bit of all this in our music. We are also immersed and inspired by the French underground scene, but we’ll go back to that at the end of the interview.
we felt the need to show our fear towards the direction our world is taking, even more in a context of a metal scene that seems, to us, a bit too mute and loose on these subjects…
‘La Française Des Jeunes’ the preview track for the album was one that intrigued me the most. My French is tourist level at best, but judging by the video I sensed a less than complimentary commentary on politicians. Would this be an accurate assessment?
Yes, you’re absolutely right. First, the title La Française Des Jeunes refers to the ‘La Française des Jeux’, which is the operator of France’s national lottery games. The idea of this choice was to express that luck has become the main vector for achieving social success.
Also, the speeches, and the main theme, are sampled from the Belgian-French TV show from the 90s Strip-tease, as a homage towards this really great series of documentaries that were really giving the floor to the working class. In the first part, the samples describe the daily life of young people left on their own, with no future prospect, and who execute nihilistic acts as a consequence of the general distress, induced by unjust social inequalities. The final sentence could be translated to ‘impoverish to better deceive, stupefy to rule better: this is political power’.
This track is one of our attempts to talk about those who are left on the side of the road by the big machine, that is our society and that always wants to go faster and richer, with the sacrosanct but highly questionable concept of growth.
Finally, the goal of the video was to address a more direct criticism of French politics and more generally of all the ruling classes that look at people, and at their history, with a lot of condescension and disdain.
Your album was described in the promo notes as your most politically orientated to date, is there a reason for this?
History and politics were already present in our two previous albums, with for example quite a few sampled speeches, either from people we agree with, or people we don’t. However, it was never going a lot more far than that. Since 2013, things have changed, as well as ourselves. We have learned a little more every day to know and understand what surrounds us, even if the road is still long. Also, we share the feeling of being at an inflection point in history, with important things happening.
In the actual circumstances, it seems that playing in alternative places in support for causes and people we get behind, is not sufficient anymore, because the elites power is still growing while they take less and less care of the consequences of their acts. Lots of stories and pictures of inequalities moved us a lot in the past years, from people dying in the Mediterranean sea, to the size of the biggest fortunes in the world or some recent French law. Thus, we felt the need to show our fear towards the direction our world is taking, even more in a context of a metal scene that seems, to us, a bit too mute and loose on these subjects.
A more practical fact that also explains the more political aspect of the new album is the vocals are more present here than on the old ones, which lead us to write lyrics with a minimum of meaning.
Seeing as we’re in an ongoing pandemic and live shows are on hold at the moment, are there any plans to do any live-streaming promotional events for the album?
We are thinking about organising something that would allow people that just discovered us with the new album to have an idea about how Chaos E.T. Sexual looks like and sounds on stage. Even more because we are quite different live, maybe a bit more free and wild, as compared to our studio recordings. Nevertheless, the priority since March was first to take care of all the things surrounding the release of the album, from finding a label to the making of the music videos, for instance.
We had also, prior thinking about doing some live-stream or live performances, to learn how to play these songs in a live configuration. In fact, we added lots of layers during the studio process, and there are also some things, such as the shared vocals or the real drum playing, that we are not used to do on stage. When you’re at home for the recording, you have plenty of time to make it right for the record, but this is a completely different story on stage. It seems we’re now ready, and actually have some shows planned for February. Concerning the streaming things, we have to find the right way to do that, but it’s in our heads.
Being English and living on an island means I am less than familiar with scenes around Europe (and the world in general). What is your opinion of the Parisian underground music scene, are there any bands you would recommend to the Shaman readers?
Yes, the Parisian scene is a quite active and owns many great bands, as well as very committed people. We have to begin the list by talking about our closest friends with whom we shared concert bills and European or French tour: Revok, Ddent, Bob Cooper, and BadBad. Many other bands should be also cited, as the suburban new-wave of Jessica93, the desert songs of One Lick Less, the frenetic post-punk of Frustration, Belmont Witch and their great songs, the powerful stoner-rock of Red Sun Atacama, the nightmare music of Oktober Lieber.
En Veux-tu en V’la!, Fauchage Collectif, Arrache-Toi Un Oeil, Le Non Jazz, Fuzzoraptors, Stoned Gathering, Smart And Confused, Below The Sun. These are the true engines of the underground Parisian scene…
In 2018, I had the privilege of visiting Paris for the Christmas holidays where I visited the Le Caveau de la Huchette for some live Jazz. Are there any other live music venues you could recommend for my return visit post-COVID?
Sure, even if this is complicated to know which ones will still be there after the COVID crisis. In all cases, even before that, it was already difficult to maintain venues that were open for noisy and/or unique music in Paris. Many great small venues have closed in the past ten years, crushed by real estate pressure and neighbours’ complaints.
But, let’s be optimistic, and here are some places and associations to watch out for your next trip:
– ‘Les Instants Chavirés’, a small temple for experimental music in the nearby suburbs.
– ‘Le Cirque Electrique’, a nice circus with a really cool bar and a room where live music is loud and often really good, with many different styles.
– ‘La Station’, moreover if you like electro music.
– ‘L’espace B’, where you can find a lot of indie music, usually great.
– ‘Le Klub’, one of the rare small rooms where we can still play metal.
If you want to dance a little you can go to ‘Supersonic’, it is more mainstream but you can have very good surprises. Considering slightly larger concert venues, we have to also mention ‘Glazart’ and ‘Petit Bain’, both having solid indie and metal line-ups. For original jazz music, you should try L’Atelier du Plateau, Le Triton, or La Dynamo de Banlieues Bleues.
Last but not least, and maybe before anything else, you should look prior to your trip at the agenda of the following great associations and collectives: En Veux-tu en V’la!, Fauchage Collectif, Arrache-Toi Un Oeil, Le Non Jazz, Fuzzoraptors, Stoned Gathering, Smart And Confused, Below The Sun. These are the true engines of the underground Parisian scene.
Finally, I am a huge fan of James Plotkin who mastered your last album ‘Ovna’. How did you find the experience of working with him and are there any plans to do so again in the future?
This went fine and rapidly. On the first album, Ov, we did everything on ourselves, and thus for Ovna we wanted to know what could bring a professionalism to our music, and even more someone that would know very well the kind of sound we produce. We sent him our mix and our vision of the thing, and we got the master very quickly. We gave him lots of feedback then, and the second version was the good one.
But, actually, during the seven years that have separated Ovna to Only Human Crust, Tarik developed his skills in mastering so that he handled it for the new album, without any external help, except for the vinyl edition. In fact, since it was the first time we were editing a vinyl, we didn’t want to do it the wrong way. Thus, this is Chris Fielding, from the almighty Conan, that made the vinyl master. As James Plotkin, Chris is a professional that works very well, and his first try was the good one.
Thanks go to Chaos E.T. Sexual for answering our questions and Only Human Crust is out now via Chien Noir.
Interviewed by: Reza Mills