Right before the gig of Epica, Metalpaths had the chance to sit and talk a bit with Skeptical Minds from Belgium. Michel and Karolina talked to us about their excitement about playing Greece for the first time, their future plans for MFVF and a new album, and of course Motorhead!
For those who don’t know about Skeptical minds here in Greece would you like to say a few words about your band?
Michel: Ok. Skeptical Minds come from Belgium. We exist for 10 years and our music is a mix between three main influences; the influences of the three former band members, electro-industrial elements, metal guitar riffs female melodic singing. That’s it. That was the starting point. We started from a more ambient, dark music and now it’s more complex electro and more powerful. That’s it, in a few words.
I’ve read somewhere that you are a multi-cultured band. Every band member comes from a different country.
Michel: Yes. In Belgium, just like in Greece, we have a lot of different nationalities. We met each other, it was not decided, it happened like that. So, we have one Belgian guy, Karolina, the singer, is from Poland, the bass player is from France, the drummer is Italian, and I’m Greek! A European band!
You all live in Belgium, right?
Michel: Yes, yes. We said we are from different countries but we all live in Belgium. When we met Karolina for example, she was the only one not living in Belgium. She was in Netherlands, and before that in Ireland, and we practiced in Netherlands for a while, and then she moved to Belgium. So now we are close to each other
This mix must be interesting!
Michel: That’s interesting because everybody has a different culture, different mentality, also different influences…
And brings something different to your music.
Michel: Yeah, yeah! When people listen to Skeptical Minds, they say “you sound different from usual female fronted bands”, it’s not extreme, it’s not just symphonic or melodic. We have different elements, because we also mix sometimes traditional or more cultural elements and that gives a different tone.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Karolina: When you have different members in a band, we have different folklore, we like different things. When we came together, one liked classical music, the other was into Arabic music, or more rock ‘n roll so we put that all together. As for the lyrics, they are sad, aggressive, and depressing. The reason why we present that to people is because we want to show them that they are not alone. For example today your boyfriend broke up with you, and you feel like shit, but perhaps the girl who sits 5 meters away from you has the same experience, and perhaps the same happened to me, and that’s what we see it. Not to make you feel depressed, but to show you support, that you are not alone.
Michel: And most songs of Skeptical Minds speak about women or girls who have experienced different stories in life. It’s also related to the name of the band. We are skeptical. We don’t believe what we see at first sight. Everybody hides things, everybody has riddles and secrets. We start the song with something that looks like everything is nice and cool, but when you go to see behind, you discover the hidden things. Everybody on every subject can identify himself to that.
I wanna ask you… “skepticalize” doesn’t exist as a word..
Michel: Now it does!
What does it mean to you?
Michel: We start from one idea, when we write the song. It can be a melody on the piano, just one melody, and we develop a first stretcher, and after we say between us “ok, let’s skepticalize it”, that means we’ll make it sound like Skeptical Minds. And then we bring the electro, we bring the influence of everybody, and start to put the ambience. In the album “Skepticalized” we developed that concept; we go from the white side of things to the dark side. And afterwards, when you start to have that reflex, to skepticalize, you start to search; you don’t believe the first impression.
Could you talk a bit more about how you make a song? You said that you bring an idea and then you “skepticalize” it…
Michel: Yeah. That’s it! It’s not difficult. Mainly we start from a piano melody, or maybe the drummer writes something, or guitar riffs, or sometimes a vocal melody. Then we build around that. We develop the stretcher, as I said, and then we put all the other elements. But we don’t work in the beginning with layers; we don’t finish one thing first and then the second and the third. Because afterwards we listen to it and it’s like a patchwork. Now we build everything together. It’s better mixed.
If I’m not mistaken, Karolina, you came to Skeptical Minds just before “Skepticalized”. Did you help with the lyrics? Did you participate?
Karolina: Yeah! I wrote the lyrics for “Inertia”, “Broken Dolls”, “No Way Out” and that’s all. The guys asked me, they gave me the main idea. For example about “Inertia”, they said “there is this girl who was left by the boyfriend and she feels bad; write something about it”. They gave me music, they gave me vocal lines, and I put myself in this situation, to see what I’m going to do to make the song…I will do this I will do that, I will try this way, I try to feel the character of the song. That’s how I work.
Karolina is a soprano singer. Have you thought of using her full vocal abilities in your music?
Michel: We don’t use Karolina as a soprano singer exclusively in Skeptical Minds. We know that’s what she likes, but she also wanted to adapt Skeptical Minds’ style. So she does that, but she sometimes also uses some soprano technique.”Broken Dolls” is a good example. We mix a bit of everything. The spirit must be the same. She never tried to say “oh, I like that style; I want to sing classical stuff”. No, we mix everything. Like we said before, everybody brings his own influences. But we want to keep the same spirit. The spirit of the band is summarised by three words she said; sad, depressed, aggressive. So we try to stay like that. Also, the soprano doesn’t always fit with the subject.
I see what you mean. Since that is the case Karolina, have you thought of doing something apart from Skeptical Minds, but using your soprano vocals?
Karolina: Well, actually yeah. To be honest, I would like to participate in an opera if I had the chance. I also write some classical music and I try to adapt.
So, this is your first time in Greece.
Michel: For a gig.
Yes, for a gig. How do you feel about that, since you, Michel, are Greek?
Michel: For me it’s special. Because as you said I’m Greek. So, when you are Greek and you have the possibility to play in Greece, you feel inside like when you are in love, butterflies and stuff. In Belgium or around, I’m never stressed to play, because we started a long time ago. But here, today it is special. I feel I’m not stressed like anxious, but more like the butterflies that are moving in your stomach. I’m very curious to meet the Greek crowd. It’s a strange feeling I’ve never felt before.
I’m sure we’ll give our best selves.
Michel: I saw the Greek crowd on other gigs and it was a dream to live that. So tonight I will enjoy for sure.
Karolina: So will I! I love Greek people! You are amazing!
I’ve researched your past a bit…
Michel: Not about prison I hope! (laughs)
No, no, nothing shameful! You have done many live shows with big bands, such as Jon Oliva’s Pain, Moonspell, Arch Enemy. I would like you to tell me what was, in your opinion, your most important live moment.
Michel: I think it’s the first time you have the opportunity to share the stage with such kind of bands. Each time is different and it’s exciting, like today with Epica. They are a big band, here too, but in Netherlands, Belgium, France, it’s a huge band. So you are proud that you can play with such bands, even if you played with other big bands before. I think the first one was that festival with Apocalyptica, Lacuna Coil, Moonspell.You are in the same backstage, even if you are the small band, you are with everybody, you eat on the same tables, it’s like a dream and you also are part of it, but you don’t believe it. Because you are at the same time a fan and an actor. It’s a strange feeling. Like every first time, it’s always a strange feeling but you enjoy and you remember.
Whom would you like to perform with? What would your dream live concert would be?
Karolina: Rotting Christ! Septicflesh!
Michel: She’s crazy about Rotting Christ and Septicflesh. She loves them a lot.
Michel: Me too! But that’s a question that people ask very often and I always say the same. There are big bands, and when you are younger, you would say Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails, or Motorhead. I’m a big fan of Motorhead! It’s exciting, but I search something else now. I prefer to share the stage with people I spend a good evening and have contact, because when you play with big bands, very often you don’t have contact. They stay on their side, you stay on your side…
That’s why I said dream concert. Because feeling comfortable and having a nice time plays an important part in this.
Michel: I won’t say any big bands, because I think I would have bigger moments with smaller ones. Like today, we know each other. Seduce The Heaven are very good friends of ours. We met before in Greece. I enjoy that a lot. Such kind of bands, and also Meden Agan. I can say you will have a surprise tonight. For us that’s a dream. It’s the first time here, too… such kind of dreams are good because you share feelings. For me that’s the most important.
You’ve participated three times in Metal Female Voices Festival. And now you are about to go for the fourth. How did this start?
Michel: It began when we applied for the second and third MFVF and it was not as huge as now. When they started the first one, Epica were headlining, it was 500 persons, it was small. Then it was 2000 persons, now it’s much bigger. And at that moment, it was for us easier to come in that fest. Our great chance was in 2005, the first time we played there. Skeptical Minds exploded a bit in Belgium, so the name grew up a lot, we were on those festivals with Apocalyptica and so on, so the name was pushed up quickly. There was dement and we are from Belgium, so we had a fan base and that helped us a lot. If we were from Italy, or Spain, far from Belgium, we would never play in MFVF. We live 25klm from there. We are close and we have people there. So it’s easy and the guys know we will attract some people.
About Motorhead now. I saw on Youtube your video of the cover you did on “Ace Of Spades”. How did you choose to do it?
Michel: We didn’t choose it!
Karolina: Fans chose it!
Michel: It was fans’ choice, exactly! We were playing in Brussels and we played all we had to play, all that we knew. But the people were screaming “we want more”, but we didn’t have more. And since we were playing in Brussels, we had many friends there, and they know I love Motorhead, because we got together to see their gig. So they yelled “Ace Of Spades!” I started for 5-10 seconds and then I stopped and I said “I’m sorry guys, we didn’t practice together, we don’t know more”, but it came to me like that and I said “we play back in Brussels in one month, the challenge is to prepare something for you, and we’ll play it”. That was the deal. And we made it. And they were so crazy that night, and we called the guy who asked us to come on stage “you wanted Motorhead, now you come and sing with us, you will be less proud”. Everybody was crazy, even us. That was a good experience. We had so much fun, because we skepticalized the song. If you’ve heard it till the end, it starts normally, so that people think we play a simple cover, and in the middle something happens, the skepticalized part comes in. We have fun playing it, so we play it often.
Should we expect something like that today?
Michel: No. Better that that! I will tell you because the gig will be finished when people read this. We will play “Ace Of Spades”, but the better thing is that we’ll have Greek crowd and I think they will be crazy about it. We’ll play it, of course
And we haven’t seen Motorhead in a while…
Michel: Oh there comes dement! (laughs)
Any upcoming plans for Skeptical Minds?
Michel: Yes, sound-check in a few minutes! (laughs) That’s the closest. Tonight is one of the last gigs before the summer, we have another one at the end of June. After that we start to work and record the next album, and some surprises will be prepared too for the MFVF. We have to build a show and bring new songs and work on them. In September-October we’ll start to rehearse and prepare for the festival. So that’s all for the end of this year. Perhaps the album will come out at the end of the year, too.
You’ve been in the metal scene for 10 years. But you come from a country that doesn’t traditionally “produce” metal bands. Can you tell me how you see this situation in Belgium and generally?
Michel:It’s difficult because in Belgium it’s not like some other countries. I compare with Greece for example, because I search a lot for Greek bands and what happen here. In Greece you have many, many bands; metal bands. And many musicians with a very high level that can play internationally with big bands too. In Belgium we have very few bands and the level is very low, very amateur. We don’t have bands that can play in every metal festival in Europe. And we don’t have any help, like structures that will help metal bands. If you play jazz or classical music, we have. But in metal you have to do most of the things by yourself. I speak a lot with people from Netherlands, France; it’s the same situation in many countries. And in Greece, too. It’s very difficult.
Well, I understand you have to go now, so the closing is yours. You may say whatever you wanna say.
Michel: I want personally to say hello and thank you to all Greeks who read you, who will see us tonight, the ones we will meet, because I think there is a party after, and we hope to come back to Greece very soon and we will. And thank you for this interview.
Karolina: This is Sparta!!! Thank you very much for coming here for us, we are more than happy and honored and proud to play for the Greeks. It’s a dream come true!
Interview by: Stella Papaspyropoulou.