Successfully creating a personal sound, Of Blood and Mercury is a project that infuses you in the most hidden inner places. They recently staged, exclusively for Roadburn, a breathtaking material called “The Other Side of Death”. By mixing deep lyrics and dark musical themes, they’ve produced an album worth keeping. We talked about this and many others with Olivier and Michelle in an electrifying interview.
CVLT: Hi guys! Thank you for this opportunity to do this interview together. Let’s start with the very beginning: How was Of Blood and Mercury born?
Olivier: Hi Miruna (and Florin), thanks for the interview. I met Michelle in Brussels while she was recording an album with her previous band Bathsheba. Sometime after we got further in contact with each other. At that time, I used to be part of a recording studio to mainly work with my bands (Emptiness, Enthroned). Both of us were tempted to dig into another style of music than the heavy and extreme metal we were used to doing: an eerie sound with a synthetic touch of 90’s nostalgia, groovy rhythms, and otherworldly drones. Both of us gathered ideas and compositions, which turned into a whole album. As creative minds and music lovers, the idea to make alternative music was unequivocal to us. A true will to explore other sonic landscapes and to increase our composition skills while making the tunes we like to listen to
What does the name Of Blood and Mercury signify?
Michelle: Blood, something from the earth and our lifeforce. Mercury, the planet and the element in the table of Mendelejev, has something more strange, mysterious, and inhuman. Olivier and I have always felt like strangers in this world. Never fully belonging, although having been lifelong inhabitants of this planet. The name Of Blood and Mercury, we thought was a beautiful representation of that and the red line through all of our songs.
What can you tell us about your new release “The Other Side of Death”?
Michelle: “The Other Side of Death” is a commissioned music piece written for Roadburn, played and recorded at Roadburn. It consists of 6 new songs and an alternative version of “Walk the Void”. The theme is the universal knowledge in literature and history about death and conceptually our 45-minute piece represents the very first moments/seconds of after-life. For this concert, we integrated old tapes from people who already passed away into the songs. We also built a noise box as an instrument for the live show. This is a wooden box with piezo microphones in it. On the box itself we used artifacts of human life; everyday life; a spring, a bike bell, a spinner, … We decorated this with more natural elements like stones and shells or bones. We then connected the box to effect pedals for guitar and rehearsed ‘playing’ this as an instrument for the live set. The lyrics and vocals were written by me and all of the music was written by Olivier.
Describe your creative process when you write new music.
Olivier: To me, the best thing comes with an impression of randomness, when it isn’t from a sparkle of brief creative feeling to keep an elaborate afterward. I tried to sit down hours, uninspired, with theory and chords progression logics, to elaborate a structure, and so on…and I don’t find it rewarding. It is like a working task and I prefer not to keep these music files, as they don’t serve an artistic purpose to my definition.
A few notes, a theme or melody that suddenly comes from “nowhere” is enough to build around.
It always makes me wonder how an individual appropriate creative idea…are they genuine to one individual? Or is it like borrowing them from a collective frame, and in some kind of altruistic procedure, to use the creative tools and skills to give it back for a greater understanding? Then, I take my main pleasure to craft sound from scratch, layers, and layers, to arrange it all together afterward.
Who wrote the lyrics? There is a hidden meaning of them?
Michelle: The lyrics are about life after death. Our general knowledge, as a society, is, well… lacking, to say the least. Olivier and I have been lifelong readers of more esoteric topics. There is a red line moving through all of the scriptures and literature. Of course, the story is told differently every time, with different characters or different angles, but it never changes. That is the story we have tried to tell, from the perspective of Western musicians in a Judeo-Christian-based society: The universal story of the first moments of death, bearing in mind that time does not exist as we know it.
Do you plan to include darker themes in future albums from Of Blood and Mercury, something more akin to your other projects like Bathsheba or Emptiness?
Michelle: It depends what you mean by darkness. The other side of death is a darkness that is abstract, more abstract than for instance a psychopath or a war. Death can be seen as something very neutral or dark depending on the observer. So what is darkness to the observer?
This question is for Olivier: You’re a member of three great musical projects, but does being such a prolific artist affect your personal life?
Olivier: I’d say these are part of my personal life, because of the artistic aim and involvement they can take. But let’s not misconceive the task of being prolific here, it doesn’t take an enormous time, it is just a bit of organization here and there, occasionally touring or travel for the show. A passion doesn’t feel like a heavy burden either. These are more hobbies than a full-time job, so even if the influence of all these bands on everyday conversations, creative drive, satisfaction feeling, ego-feeding, annoyances too, can’t really be labeled as an overload to a “personnel life” configuration, when, as an artist, you already tend to step out of conformity.
Speaking of art, do you dabble in other art forms apart from music?
Olivier: To stay in the traditionalist standards of “art”, yes I’m doing painting work, mostly between surrealist school and abstract. I try sometimes at sculpting mixed media, nothing academic here. I always wonder what to do next.
This question is for Michelle: What has been the best performance of your musical career so far?
Michelle: Roadburn 2021 where we brought our commissioned piece “The Other Side of Death”. To have the chance to work under such professional conditions, with such a crew, and to have that recorded both on video and on audio tracks… That’s a bit surreal. The experience alone; it was Olivier and me under these very strange covid conditions in an empty 013. The atmosphere created by teamwork was unique. The lights and quietness did something to us. Because our music is very introverted and we don’t interact with the crowd we didn’t miss a crowd. We didn’t play for a crowd, we played for ourselves. I also somehow felt that it might have been the last concert I played. So yes Roadburn Redux has had a big impact on me.
If I may, I do have two others that make a very close second and third: The farewell concert with Bathsheba in your beautiful Romania at Dark Bombastic Evening. Just wow! The atmosphere, the crowd, the team was very good, … We could not have wished for a more hearty goodbye. Therefore my bonds with Romania are very special. Never seen such a grateful and intense crowd. My bandmates from Bathsheba are very special to me too. It was a very touching event.
And a third was the concert at Into The Void in The Netherlands with my black metal project called Leviathan Speaks. It’s a very underground project and quite extreme. I team up there too with Olivier. For our live concert, we had Dani Robnik (Ex-Enthroned, Ex-Gorgoroth). It was a doom metal festival where I also played with Bathsheba as well. We brought intentionally a very repetitive, chaotic, 20-minute black metal song with jazz drums on it, for a doom crowd. Full strobes, very noisy, … It was the most extreme concert I did. We all loved it because it was so against the grain, there was no middle ground and that was kind of freeing. If you were there, love it or hate it, you’ve witnessed something very unique.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
Michelle: Normally no. It’s what I love doing and it’s a natural thing to me. The very first gig I ever did, I was dying of nerves though. Never really happened again luckily. Roadburn Redux was a strange exception. I was very nervous 2 days before the show. Realizing everything would be taped and recorded forever, there is a lot more pressure. We expected big things from Roadburn but when we were there rehearsing, seeing the crew, the lights, 6 cameras, etc… It really smacked me in the face. For some reason, on the day of the show, I somehow accepted that pressure. I remember thinking ‘I gotta do it’. And the stress somehow went away. It was also such a wonderful experience, to share this with my beloved Olivier, to be lucky enough to get the chance to do something so unique. To have the chance to really show our best and have that taped. On the day of the show, I looked up at the sky at the sun. I made a photo of it and on it was a bird flying freely. Somehow that gave me a sigh of relief. And from that moment of acceptance, the nerves were gone.
Are you planning a tour soon?
Michelle: We had contact with a tour manager to play some shows/a little tour together with a band we discovered on Roadburn. (Up to you to guess what band!). This would have been for November but we had a feeling it wasn’t going to happen due to Covid. So it is postponed to 2022. Nothing concrete yet. As I said above, I had the feeling I might never play a gig again. It sounds dramatic but I somehow feel like that.
2021 was a good year for music. Can you recommend some of your favorite albums?
Michelle: I have not heard one new release this year, to be honest. So, I keep to the old stuff mostly. Since the end of the previous year, I started listening to Dope Lemon. Great stuff!
Olivier: Far from any will to be narrow-minded or narcissistic, but I was mostly listening to the album I released with my other band Emptiness. This is why I was doing it too, to listen precisely to what I like on that chunk of time. One of my close friends sent me his latest recording with his death metal band Lvcifyre. I liked it. That’s about it for this year lol… I haven’t paid attention to what else was released.
Thank you again for your words guys! Was a pleasure talking to you! Wanna add some words for your Romanian fans?
Michelle: Since Dark Bombastic Evening in Romania, I have experienced the hospitality, thankfulness, and enthusiasm of the Romanians. The Romanian crowd is the best crowd I ever had. The Romanian fans are the most grateful, kind, and supportive. Thank you!
Interview conducted by Miruna Vitriol & Florin Popa
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Cover photo: (c) Ivan Galasse
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