Interview: looking back at 39 years of The Breath of Life (BE) and looking forward!

  Van Muylem    29 januari 2024

I know this band since the 90's, saw them nay times on stage, reviewed a lot of albums and concerts, followed them all along the road and now is the right time to have a chat, starting during the week of Belgian artist and with a release of their album that looks back in time and remembers us on how they have grown and what they have achieved and yes: The Breath of Life is more than Nasty Cloud.

The Breath of Life is a nice name for a band, who brought up this name and what was the idea behind it?

Isabelle : Music has always been very important to me. I chose this name because that’s really what I feel about music.

39 is a long time, but why not wait until 40 or was there a certain urge to do it now?

Phil : Maybe because psychologically 40 would have made us feel older. In truth Spleen+ and we wanted to mark the occasion following our association.

Or did you just want to be a bit a rebel and just do it whenever you felt like doing it and not caring about special numbers?

Phil : That could be. I personally did the same thing as I approached 50. I organized a big party for my 49th birthday.

39 years is even for a couple a long time, how did you manage with each other for so long?

Isabelle : It seems long but that's not my feeling. I think it is important to keep having fun, to listen to each other, to have the same vision and trust between us.

Phil : I had a break for 15 years because I chose to work abroad so that's only 24 years for me. I guess we all have good character. I don't remember a real argument. Maybe some discussions but no non-conciliable dissent. Until now (laughs).

Was it around 1995 that you decided to do some acoustic gigs?

Phil : We actually gave some acoustic performances in the nineties but not so much. Personally I remember the one given at the Fnac in Paris but not really any others. I think it was in 1994.

Cz : I remember one very well, in Germany, M’era Luna Festival 2003. We played just after Wayne Hussey (who also did an acoustic set). Great audience, so many people. I had the great honor to share a drink and discuss a long time with RIP Geordie Walker, one of my « idols ». I think that the same year, we also played an acoustic set at the Steeple in Waregem. Maybe the last event in this legendary place.

Isabelle : I remember we did few acoustic shows in the early 2000 including M’era Luna. playing acoustic is a challenge in my opinion. We need to pay more attention to the rhythm to play well together. iI's a contrast between rigor and letting your emotions go. I have good memories of these shows.

During all those years you tagged along with lots of bands and played on lots of stages. Who was the nicest band/artist you encountered?

Phil : Wow ! It's not easy to answer that. I have good relationships with the other bands but I can't really put one above the others. Concerning the more well-known bands there is sometimes a hierarchy that sets in. I will give you as an example a festival in Germany on an aerodrome - Zillo 1996. The “backstages” were in the control tower and the hierarchy was very well respected. The Jesus and Mary Chain were way above in the control room, below was Frank Black and so on... At that time, our backstage was in the cellars, having to walk on planks because they were flooded. And of course there was control between each floor. In this case the interactions are not very easy.

Isabelle : Most of the time, every band has their own backstage and we all have catering together in the same place. This allows us to communicate with the other bands if we wish and dare … So, we have some fun with the bands but it often remains superficial contacts.

What stage/festival brought you the best memories?

Phil : I won't mention a big stage but a small one in PLZEN called Divaldo Pod LAmpou in the nineties, 1993 I think. The room was full, not everyone could fit in, the heat was suffocating and the atmosphere was incredible. We had a good time there and we went back to play there twice

Cz : My first gig at the Castle Party Festival in Bolkow. It was the first time I came to Poland ! The country of my father. Something special to me.

Isabelle : I have too many good memories. What is important to me is the connection with people. Over the last 39 years, I’m unable to highlight 1, 2 or 3 shows. As soon as the sound on stage makes us feel comfortable and the audience vibrates to our music, it's like a magnificent suspended moment.

Where did you played in front of the biggest audience?

Isabelle : For sure, these are festivals like Zillo, M'era Luna, Dour, Eurorck, W-fest, etc. We also had some great, well-filled venues during the tour with Lacrimosa.

Cz : As I told before, Mera Luna 2003. There were thousands of people.

How did it feel like?

Phil : Playing in front of 300 or 3000 people doesn't really make a big difference to me. It's certainly impressive and glorifying, but it only takes a few seconds of adaptation and then, in any case, we give our all. For me, it's more stressful to play in front of 30 people for a private concert like we did too.

Cz : It depends of the mood of the moment… Playing in front of many people that I don’t know doesn’t scare me. Playing in front of ten friends makes me shiver …

There where also dark sides: sometimes you didn’t get paid, would you mind coming back at these stories?

Phil : I don't remember experiencing that we didn’t get paid……..

Cz : Well, we sometimes had some problems on the road like this broken wheel on our touring bus when we get back from Rome … A great moment of stress, lost in Italy. And also Erfurt in Germany, when we put some petrol in the tank instead of diesel. We had to wait about 8 hours for the rescue in this freezing gaz station. At this time, winter still existed. Not fun when you know we're expected for another concert the same day

At some point you signed on the label that Lacrimosa created, how was that?

Phil : It was of course a big step forward for us because we could increase our audience. We also took part in a tour with them in Germany. It was very positive to us. The only tension was around the cover of the Sweet Party album that Hall Of Sermon chose without consulting us so we discovered it when we received the CDs. Bloody dolls with the title Sweet Party wasn't really to our taste. But for everything else the collaboration went very well.

During all those years you also worked together with some artist (I.M.R. for example), any nice memories?

Isabelle : In 2012, Ralf from IMR contacted me to sing a duet on the song "The paper garden" from the album "Letters from the paper garden". It was a great experience. I remember receiving the album when we shared the same stage in Madrid in November 2012.

If I’m not wrong you are a psychologist Isabelle?

Isabelle : I’m a certified career coach and I studied to be a cat behaviorist.

Do you get sometimes inspired by your work?

Isabelle : Everything can inspire me to write my lyrics. Nature, the news, a novel, a painting, people, my cats and my imaginary worlds.

Didier: over the years you came up with your own band and even got promoted as head of the music department of the (by then sold out) Trolls et Légèndes festival: how do you look back at both?

Cz : Yes, it was the 2017 edition of the Trolls And Legend Festival in Mons. More than 3000 visitors in 3 days. A massive success. I was « just in charge » of the musical organisation. It was a lot of work and a complete year devoted, before the event, to find the bands, to deal the contracts, to book the flight … A great souvenir. I’m proud to have been the first promoter to organize the first venue of Wardruna in Belgium.

About the other bands I recently played (Skeptical Minds) or I still play (Kezdown), I do my best to not disturb my work in TBOL. I hope my team mates agree with it …

Having to play violin on stage gives a special touch, but isn’t it hard to have the sound set right?

Phil : Gio plays an electric violin which makes things a lot easier. It is intended for this use and does not pose any particular problem. It would probably be a different story with a traditional acoustic violin.

A lot of people only know you from Nasty Cloud. First of all when you recorded it did you had that connection: this will become a classic?

Phil : We can't complain. At least they know us. I felt that this song had something special even before we recorded it. Several people regularly came to attend our rehearsals and when we composed this piece I felt that it had a more particular effect on the friends who were there. This appears to have been subsequently confirmed (laughs).

Does it affect you that a lot of people can’t drop other tracks when you ask them about your songs?

Phil : As I said we can be happy that this song is known. In the dark wave scene it has toured the world and we really can't complain. It's during our concerts that we have to convince people to go and listen to our other songs and most of the time it works.

Do you think we will hear these songs during the upcoming gigs and do you want DJ’s/radiostations to play rather these songs (referring to the previous question): Nightmare, Noamina, Fly, The Last Four Days, She Wore A Crown, Ashes To Ashes, Down We Go … (some of my favorite tracks)?

Phil : You are a lucky guy. Excepted Ashes To Ashes, all these songs will be in our playlist in Paris on March 8th.

During the lockdown you aired some covers and one of them was Ashes to Ashes from David Bowie. I’m very happy it appears here as it’s my personal favorite one. Why this particular song from him? What does it mean for you?

Phil : I've loved this song since the first time I heard it when I was 15 and I knew it would be a challenge to cover it. Not only because covering David Bowie is always risky, but I also knew that this song wasn't easy. It seems to flow naturally when you listen to it but in fact it's two long series of different chords. A small particularity is that during the non-sung part the chords run over 3 measures and not 4 as is almost always the case.

Isabelle : You are right. This song is magnificent. I could listen to it on repeat for an hour. It just feels good and gives energy. It is so perfect that it is also a challenge to make changes to it. Until the final mix, we didn't know if we were going to release it. I’m happy you like it.

You also did some remixes and re-recorded some tracks from other artists (Implant for example), how was it to do it?

Phil : There were 2 remix requests which came from Alfa Matrix. As you say, we instead offered to do covers. It was indeed for Implant but also for Psy'Aviah. I am personally very happy with these 2 covers. A video was also published for each of these songs. Individually I also made a remix for Imjudas and for Lovelorn Dolls which are also signed by Alfa Matrix or Spleen+.

CZ : In fact we began in 2017. Phil was just about to re-enter the band. So, Giovanni and I made a cover of « Moving Sands », a song from SIN SIN, the side project band of Kristell Lowagie (Lovelorn Dolls singer). We could have done better I think. Well I hope she doesn’t blame us too much. Anyway, our version has been published on the SIN SIN album.

Can you drop some favorite ones here?

Phil : I am personally very happy with these 2 covers

Isabelle : My favorite one is Implant then Psy’Aviah. I like the groove of these 2 songs.

What will 2024 bring for you all? More gigs, airplay on the radio, a new album or will it end here? Is there something you wanted to say to close this session?

Isabelle : After the release of "Echoes Of Time - A 39-Year Musical Anthology" and its 40-page booklet, I do hope to play more live shows. We also continue to create new songs. So let's stay connected.

Read the review (track by track) here: SNOOZECONTROL - THE BREATH OF LIFE - echoes of time - a 39-year musical anthology (Spleen+)

Some reviews from the past:

SNOOZECONTROL - The Breath of Life – Under The Falling Stars (Wool-E Discs)

SNOOZECONTROL - The Breath of Life – Sparks Around Us (Wool-E Discs)

SNOOZECONTROL - Brand new clip for The Breath of Life: She's Not Real!

SNOOZECONTROL - The Breath of Life launches brand new clip: The Girl in a Box

SNOOZECONTROL - THE BREATH OF LIFE: Cover sessions - Lockdown 2020

SNOOZECONTROL - A Strange Play (Vol.2) – Tribute to The Cure by VARIOUS ARTISTS (Spleen+)

SNOOZECONTROL - The Breath of Life - Down We Go EP (Spleen+)