Last week we had the chance to have a phone interview with Werther (bass) from the French metal band Dagoba, which is releasing its seventh studio record, Black Nova by the 25th August. So we wanted to ask him about this record, the band’s recent line-up changes, Star Wars and… ABBA. You can check the interview below :
So first things first, could you please introduce yourself and your band to our readers?
Hi ! My name’s Werther, I’m playing bass in a French band called Dagoba, we began playing in 1997 in Marseille, and we’re releasing our seventh album, Black Nova, the 25th August, we’ve also recorded an EP back when we began, and a live album. We’ve undergone a few line-up changes, but we’re always on the road and constantly writing new things. We’ve also been playing the biggest festivals in Europe (Wacken Open Air, Graspop, Hellfest, Brutal Assault, …) and toured across the world with big names such as Metallica, Korn, In Flames, Dir En Grey for example.
Well, that makes a lot ! How does it feel to have done all of this ?
To be honest, we don’t really realize this. I’m 37 today, I was 17 back then, and 20 years later we still have the same rage and passion, and that’s what makes this band still running I guess.
So your new album, Black Nova, is being released in August, two years after Tales Of The Black Dawn, and only a year after you changed your line-up (both drummer and guitarist left the band in November 2016). Why this rhythm ?
Well the creativity is still there, we had new ideas, we wanted to broaden our music, and after we’ve been a bit slow on the global scene, following a not-so-wise label signing, we preferred releasing a new album. When we come to write a record, the ideas come from Shawter (vocals), we’re being helped by our team, everything is very well oiled so that we can focus on our creative tasks, and avoid the white page syndrome. In this case, Black Nova was written one year ago, and also after our line-up change.
Your previous record, Tales Of The Black Dawn, contained 10 tracks like Black Nova, has Black in its title and has the same kind of artwork. Were these similarities on purpose ?
Of course, this is something we’ve been thinking about. There’s a common theme, some kind of idea of darkness that reflects in our wild and enigmatic artworks for example. Black Nova, for us, is metaphoric, it represents the rebirth (Nova), as we always try and evolve as we’re going forward. We wanted this album to be more open, more melodic. All the musical choices were guided by the band, not by any label. We’ve had bad relations with our previous label, that’s why we wanted to self-product this record. This was an big risk, both artistically and financially, so we’ve gone into a big brainstorming about what we needed to do, which traps we had to avoid. But still, we considered everything before doing it, and our reputation helped us doing this, and as we’ve been around for a long time, we knew what we wanted, such as releasing our album abroad, having a big advertising campaign…
Black Nova has a massive sound, even more than before, did you have a directing idea in terms of atmosphere, when you wrote this record ?
Everything is linked : the choice of the production (Jacob Hansen, who also worked with Volbeat, Evergrey, Epica, …) as we wanted to have more of an industrial sound, more like Rammstein, but we also wanted the industrial songs to have a different feeling from the others. The sound is more dynamic, and we wanted to use less triggered drums, but we still wanted to sound metal. We also wanted to have more guitars, which is a strong decision from us on this album. Also, we needed the production to serve the song, and not individual qualities. Our music isn’t there to put the spot on only one guy. We don’t have an element that’s apart, and if there’s an instrument that’s down in the mix, it’s so that the song is played in the better way.
The electronic and industrial sounds come from the fact that we love electronic music (pure electronic music or in Industrial bands). This side of our music has already been present in our sound, but drowned in our symphonic elements. This time, they are more down, but don’t worry, the basis stays the same !
As we’ve told before, half of your band members were changed back in November, did it have an influence on the writing of the record ?
Not really when it comes to the writing, but more with the interpretation. I mean we gave Bastos [new drummer] full permission on his parts, and we did the same thing for the guitar. This record features our first guitar solo, and a chorus effect at times, for example, and all of this gives us a fresh new look on our music. So their addition is felt more in terms of arrangement than in writing.
And how do you feel about both of your former partners leaving the band ?
When the motivation isn’t there anymore, you have to do something, even more when you’re a hard working band as we are. There is one of them who couldn’t be touring anymore, and we decided to have those two changes at the same time, as the other one wasn’t really motivated anymore, as he was more in need of popularity. Without a change, the band couldn’t have continued. A music band is a human adventure, and this wasn’t possible anymore. Because of that, we had to decline tours, we’re not superstars but some had impossible requests, so… When passion isn’t there, you mustn’t hesitate to say that things don’t work out well.
Did you feel any particular pressure when creating this album ?
There’s always a pressure, without this we’d call it quits ! Music exists because there are people going to shows, buying records, and our only pressure was to satisfy the people who like our music, because there’s always some of them. We are in a state of mind of convincing people, playing powerful shows, with an in-your-face sound, and an important choice of songs in our setlist. We also have to prove that we made a good choice by going independent, which is another form of pressure. This is a challenge, and we’re ready to take it ! We’re so proud of this album, because we are making music that we would like listening to. But the pressure stops there, so it’s a good one.
You’ve been touring across the world, according to you what are the differences between different audiences across the world ?
There are a lot ! In Japan, the first time we got there was also our first time in Asia. The public is respectful, they’re not moving, they’re enjoying the music and listening, but they are big fans, devoted to the band, and they know every line of the songs, which is very pleasant to see ! We went to the US two or three times, as an opening act, and everything went perfectly ! And in Europe, the audience is more expressive, they are more used to circle pits, walls of death, and all these kinds of things than in the US for example as it is forbidden in some venues. I have to say that I’m impressed myself every time I see this !
As you’ve said, your band is playing a lot of shows, with tours almost every year, do you have any favorite song to play live ?
Well I know that Black Smokers from our album Poseidon is quite one of the fan favorites, it’s very well appreciated by the crowd. Then we have I, Reptile, from Post Mortem Nihil Est, which has a big impact when we play it live. Our latest single from Black Nova, Inner Sun, has the potential to become one of my favorite live ! We’ve been playing it at the French edition of Download Festival, and the crowd welcomed it impressively well ! They seemed to love it, so…
You know, when you achieve a song’s recording, and after the vocals are recorded, we know if this song is going to be part of our set. But on the other hand, sometimes you can be surprised by a song ! For example, our song The White Guy and The Black Ceremony wasn’t meant to be part of our shows, but the fan’s appreciation of it made us consider the fact that we could be playing it, and now it has become an iconic song among the others, people love it. Sometimes songs get a reputation online, and that’s what’s making things work, so we’re cool with this ! On the opposite, sometimes it happens that the song doesn’t work very well… well it doesn’t really matter, we switch this song with another one, and that’s fine !
And since you’ve got a consequent discography now (7 albums), how do you manage to conceive your setlists ?
First of all, we’re always trying to get prepared for an 1h15/1h20 show. A metal show is really exhausting, moreover for the drummer, so we can’t really keep a good rhythm if we play more than 1h20 every night, you know… But to answer your question, it’s always complicated to calibre everything we want to gather, on a 15 songs set list. It’s a mix that we’ve been working on over our career, but also there are songs that we’ve been bored to play, and some other songs that the fans are expecting… That’s a lot to take into account ! But for this tour, we’ve been preparing for 1h40 worth of songs, so you know we’ve got 25 minutes worth of songs that we can use to switch between two different shows.
Which bands did you prefer sharing the stage with ? And a band with whom you’d like to play ?
Of course, playing with Metallica was a great honor for us, they are the band we all want to become when we begin playing music, so it was a big moment for us !
The other band we’ve been really happy to play with was Deftones. We played with them twice in France, and you know, I’m a big fan of them, so it was so cool !
Oh and about the bands I’d like to play with, first of all, an impossible dream, Pantera. This band influenced us, and it would have been such a huge thing for us to ever have the chance to play with them ! And in a more realistic way , my absolute pick would be Guns’n Roses, it would be a childhood dream !
And do you have a newcomers band that you’d like to introduce to us ?
Well they’re not really newcomers in France anymore, but lately I’ve been really impressed by Smash Hit Combo’s latest album, which is very well produced and executed. Their sound is reaaally well crafted ! We had the chance to see them evolving, and they really came from the underground scene. But one thing that bothers me nowadays is this big wave of new bands playing djent, or djent-y kinds of metal. I mean there always was a lot of waves, such as mathcore, deathcore, but now it’s djent. I think it’s a shame, when you see that metal is such a diverse genre, to stick to one sound, because that’s what’s trending now.
A few more questions : do you have a song that you like but you wouldn’t admit it ?
Well… Not really. The only one I could think of right now would be Rasputin by Turisas. I mean the song is fun, but man, Rasputin…
Don’t tell me about this song ! My little daughter wouldn’t stop singing it, so now I really hate this song !
And last one, your band’s name, Dagoba, comes from the Star Wars series, as Dagobah is the name of a planet. What do you think of the franchise’s comeback ?
Yeah, we’re huge fans of Star Wars, but you know we wanted to get away from this, we didn’t want to sell Star Wars-themed merch, and it worked out very well ! But talking about Star Wars 7, we’ve been wondering if Disney could live up to the hype, we’re still not big fans of the new movies, but it’s the beginning of a new story, so wait and see ! But I think that we’ll stick to the original movies !