Classic albums: ‘L’âge de glace’ by Paris Violence

Paris Violence has never exactly played standard-issue Oi, but 20 years ago, Flav took things to the next level when releasing L’âge de glace – an album informed by his earlier ‘Chaos en France on a rainy Monday’ sound, but also by the eminently continental ‘cold wave’ genre and NWOBEM (New Wave of British ‘Eavy Metal). The result was arguably one of the coldest and strangest albums linked to the Oi genre, fully living up to its title: ice age.

L’âge de glace has just been rereleased by Common People Records. Matt Crombieboy sat Flav down for a song-by-song account. For an older interview we did with Flav, click HERE. Or else, just read on.

Flav in 2001

Your 2001 album was called L’âge de glace. What was the idea behind the title? I note that Joy Division/Warsaw had an early song called ‘Ice Age’— and although your work often contains literary references, I can’t think of any work of literature of that name.

You’re right, this album has no direct link with any essay or novel. Joy Division may have influenced the concept because 2000-01 was the period when I rediscovered cold wave music and formed my side project Saison Froide. My aim was to make a concept album about ice and cold. This choice was influenced by the cold wave genre, but above all by two metal records, especially their artwork: Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and Venom’s Temples of Ice. I’m a fan of the period when Venom had Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan as frontman, which I consider underrated. It was also the moment when some people started classifying the Paris Violence style as ‘Oi wave’, so I may have been influenced by this classification and taken it as a challenge.

Well, yes – I was actually going to ask you, half-jokingly, if Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time had anything to do with it. The guitar playing does seem to have a strong Iron Maiden influence, and it was your first album where keyboards featured prominently.

You would have been just one Maiden album too early. Or maybe not, considering that Seventh Son is a kind of continuation of Somewhere in Time… so, it’s not a joke at all. The harmonised guitar leads were inspired by Maiden too, and they continue to be so today. I guess that the first instances of these elements are found on the previous album, Mourir en Novembre, but they became more present on L’âge de glace, where they were backed by synth chords. The rhythm guitars were also heavy metal inspired, but that had also been the case since Mourir. Another new element was the ‘tapping’ on guitar solos. All those elements were absent from Temps de crise and the other 90s stuff, but they have remained with me to this day. Let’s say my influences at the time were Oi, metal – NWOBHM and symphonic black metal, that is – and new wave.

The songwriting was different from the previous records too. I suppose less punk and more like ‘architecture’ – big building blocks of music. What caused this change of orientation?

That’s quite well put. I was listening to a lot to Manowar, especially progressive/power metal albums like Kings of Metal. My intention was quite ambitious: I tried to construct a ‘progressive Oi’ album with long tunes, atmospheric breaks, patterns directly inspired by prog rock resembling Pink Floyd, who I was a fan of as a kid. Maybe it was all a bit presumptuous… More than anything else, the album would have needed professional musicians and material, but it was a 100% DIY effort.

Where and how was it recorded?

Exactly in the same conditions as Mourir en Novembre, except one year later: at home, in the spring and summer of 2001, on my 8-track tape recorder. I played all the instruments myself. I had met Spirou from Molodoï the year before, and he had already mastered the Rayé de la carte EP. He still owned the same Tascam multi track recorder, but with digital outputs, and he offered me to mix the whole thing.

What about the original artwork and the new artwork for the reissue?

There was a painting I loved in the booklet of a Zabriskie Point album, which was a friend band [a 90s punk band from Nantes – Editor]. It had been painted by one of the guitarists’ brothers, who was an art teacher. This is what I used for the original edition.

It was very rare at the time to use a painting for a punk/Oi – it was more of an 80s-90s heavy metal thing. So it was quite an original idea. But as the years went by, I thought the cover wasn’t so nice anymore… Above all, I didn’t own the original painting, and it was a very poor quality print: pixels everywhere. So I asked Alexis, who painted almost all of our subsequent original covers, to do it again, keeping the same scheme and colours but adding various details and a skinhead touch. It’s much better.

What do you think of the album in hindsight?

When it came out, I was totally disappointed – I thought the difference between my original vision and the result was ridiculous. I never even understood why it was a favourite album for many Paris Violence fans as it was the worst one from my point of view. Spirou’s mix and mastering didn’t sound too good either, the layout was bad, and there were typos in the lyric sheet and even in some song titles. That’s the reason why I declined any reissue proposals for 19 years.

The worst thing was that the preceding album, which had been mastered in a big studio, looked and sounded so much better than L’âge de glace. I had released my first proper album in 1998, a sophomore album that was catchier and more professional in 2000, and with the third one it felt as if I had gone a step back.

Now all these aspects have been rectified and improved, and for the first time the album takes its rightful place between Mourir en Novembre and Ni Fleurs ni couronnes. Never too late! I also chose the vinyl colours, and I’m very happy with the iced effect on the hazed copies; the aqua blue ones also perfectly match with the colours of the cover. I’ve always loved coloured vinyl and colour effects, so this point was also very important for me. The original issue was on black wax, plus 100 pressed on transparent wax.

OK, for the rest of our interview, think of one of those vintage metal mags like Metal Hammer. They always had a section where a band would explain their latest album song by song, ‘in their own words’. So – tell us a bit about every song on L’âge de glace.
 

Great, I was a Metal Hammer fan! We had a French version.

Le crépuscule des idoles:
The title is one of Nietzsche’s essays: Twilight of the Idols. The theme of the song is something like the ‘decline of the west’, but not in the sense that some conservative authors gave to the expression. It’s closer to Orwell and Huxley, who are both mentioned in the lyrics: the feeling that humanity was entering a new era, a non-human one, precisely what I was referring to as ice age. Ultra-technology, the digital world, the loss of direct human relationships, environmental issues… At the time, I didn’t own a computer myself, and social media didn’t exist yet. In hindsight I guess I was quite right.

Douche froide:
Some said that Paris Violence lyrics were all written in a depressive vein, just me talking about my bad moods. So this track was written about the false comfort of staying depressed to avoid the struggle of living your real life. The character in the song is taking pills and thinks he lives in a horror movie, but in reality he just subsists in the emptiness of not living his life. ‘Douche froide’ – cold shower – is a French expression for the feeling when you make a brutal discovery, a hard reality that you suddenly have to face.

Psykhouchka:
Psikhushka is the Russian world for USSR psychiatric wards where political opponents were sent and their minds and neural systems destroyed. The song denounces all totalitarian and authoritarian police state methods, political prisons, torture, the killing of all opposition… Which reminds me of a movie based on true facts that I watched only recently, about a kind of Catholic sect in Pinochet’s Chile, led by an old Nazi who was also a paedophile. The cult lived in quite a big monastery with torture chambers.

Troisième nuit dans la bagnole:
This one’s inspired by French 70s-80s thrillers and films noirs. Some titles of movies in this vein are mentioned in the lyrics. The song describes a man – a secret agent, a policeman, a detective, or maybe an ordinary person – watching the entrance of a building for three days and nights. He is hiding in his car with his raincoat on, a loaded gun, and cold coffee. It’s a tribute to this kind of movie – the title means ‘third night in the car’. A funny piece of trivia that shows how stupid some people are: I read a review of the album, and the reviewer was criticising that the song was written from an autobiographical point of view to describe scenes I probably hadn’t lived in real life… I had already read some pathetic comments along similar lines about Mourir en Novembre before: one reviewer wrote about my songs on World War I that I was probably too young to have personally fought there!

Raison d’état (semaines sanglantes):
After the French Revolution, the whole French 19th century was a series of coups, rebellions, revolutions and repression. This song is a tribute to the main events when the people took to the streets and were usually massacred by the police or other authority troops. I didn’t mention the 1830 July revolution because that one was quite peaceful, even if there were some fights in Paris during those three days. I focused on three events that met with particularly bloody repression: the insurrection of June 1848, which was a workers’ and social revolution, whereas the February Revolution had been quite a soft bourgeois one; the 1851 resistance to Louis Napoleon’s putsch before he became Napoleon III; and of course the 1871 Paris Commune.

Dans la tourmente:
Hanging around in Montmartre all night long. Drinking. Going mad. Then in each refrain, looking at the sun rising over Caulaincourt Bridge and Montmartre cemetery with a serious hangover. Again and again and again.

Non conforme:
Another one in the vein of ‘Le crépuscule des idoles’. It’s against conformity, against people all thinking in the same, living the same way, having the same ‘dreams’, the same idols, wearing the same fashion, sharing the same absence of self-awareness … It’s a song that speaks of a standardised humanity that lives in a universe of fast food, TV and videogames – a one-world US model.

Dur d’être un ange:
Nights in the Pigalle district of Paris. Night bars. Aggro. Prostitutes, transvestites and pimps. Backstreets. Neon lights. Sex shops & peep shows. Drinking vodka on an isolated chair at the back of the bar. Lap dances. Knives in the dark. Waiting for something that never comes. “In blood one cleanses his honour, but only in alcohol the soul can live”.

Demi-saison:
Something like a strange dream that gives the impression of your soul drifting away, maybe on the Nile… The kind of nightmares that you have at the end of the night just before waking up: they prepare you for the awakening.  

Aurore glaciale:
The album starts with a twilight (“crepuscule”), so it ends with a dawn (“aurore”). For a symmetrical effect, it ends musically in the same way as it started, i.e. with atmospheric keyboard parts. The song itself is a call to recover strength and energy after a long, dark, night-like period: that’s why most songs of the album describe nighttime scenes.

 



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