Conviction – Emotional CommunionThursday, 28th January 2021
Hailing from France, Conviction lives for the origins of doom metal in their influences and sound. Injecting their epic riffs and deliberate, slow tempos with a sense of melody not only in the vocal presentation but also catchy, bluesy lead breaks – there’s plenty to digest when listening to their self-titled debut album. We reached out to founder Olivier Verron to bring us up to speed on how Conviction evolved from a one-man project into a full band, thoughts on the doom genre as a whole in the current marketplace, interests in scuba diving and visiting ancient places, as well as all of the other activities to expect in the future from these musicians.
Dead Rhetoric: What were some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? And how did you discover metal music and eventually want to perform in bands?
Olivier Verron: My first memories as a child. I was attracted to music very early. In fact when I was like five years old, I used to listen to a lot of classical music thanks to my parents. I was especially fond of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and Mozart’s Requiem, and many other things. When I was a kid I dreamt about becoming a conductor for a symphony orchestra. It didn’t turn out to be so, I actually studied classical music at the university.
About heavy metal and metal at large, I discovered it at the end of the 1980’s. In 1989 I guess, I was playing in a conventional rock band, and we were doing covers. At this time, 1989 I was 14 years old – among the covers we played were some AC/DC and Van Halen – and I was a little more attracted to that. So I started finding… mind you I was living in Egypt at that time, and getting metal stuff was not very easy. A friend of mine started to notice I was listening to AC/DC and Van Halen, it was funny… when you believe in witchcraft, he was afraid of that. He told me he had music, cassettes that frighten me, if you listen to that kind of thing I can sell them to you. I said okay, and it was Iron Maiden – Killers, The Number of the Beast and Live After Death. (laughs). They were my first heavy metal tapes, and I still have them – Egyptian pressings of Iron Maiden, it’s really cult.
Then I went back to France around 1992, there I started getting more into extreme metal and discovering the underground. I played in several bands – finally formed a black metal band called Temple of Baal that you might know about it. At the same time, I used to be very much into black metal and into doom metal as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Conviction started in 2013 as you handling everything – tell us about the transition from being a one-man outfit into a full band? Did you always intend on making this an active group or did things evolve as a process?
Verron: I would say both. I started thinking about playing doom metal very early. Around 1994-95 I saw Cathedral live and I was into doom metal. I tried to find people back then to form a band, but nobody in France was really interested in playing old school doom. I started this band as a solo, one man band. At one point, there was this project or tribute to Cathedral in the French scene. At first, I just wanted to have a real drummer because I used to program the drums and I thought having a real drummer on the recording would be cool. We had a Facebook group where we were discussing everything to do with this tribute. I told the guys there, maybe it would be cool to have a drummer with Conviction. Rachid, who is a drummer he messaged me that he wanted to do it. In the next weeks, I thought we could put up a band with two other guys. I knew who I was going to call – it had to be Frederic and Vincent, because I knew them for more than twenty years. I knew they were very much into doom, Fred plays in Ataraxie which is doom/death, and Vince plays in Mourning Dawn. They were the guys to call, and there we were!
Dead Rhetoric: How did you gain the interest of Argonauta Records who signed Conviction and have released your debut, self-titled album?
Verron: It was quite fast, actually. I just dropped them an email on their site with our Bandcamp where he could listen to the demo. He replied to me within the next day, he was interested right away. I had thought about Argonauta Records for our first time for some time, I was watching them and I liked their way of working. I discussed things with other bands on the label and they were very happy with the way they were treated. It went quite fast and he signed us right away. It’s working cool now.
Dead Rhetoric: Outside of the brief intro, the seven songs are very lengthy and contain many of the old school trademarks of the doom genre. How would you describe the development and recording of this material – and are there specific trademarks that have to be included to make a Conviction song?
Verron: Well, the fact is as you said we play quite old school doom. It’s not what’s contemporary with bands that are labelled as stoner doom. We play doom, old school doom metal. Slow tempos are one component. I like a melodic voice that sings, I’m not that much into screamy vocals for this style. The music style is based on guitar riffs and catchy melodies, and long structures. The length of the songs are due to the slow tempos, and also because of the fact that we like playing guitar solos, and the instrumental parts in the songs. We have a taste a little bit for progressive stuff without it being very complicated. I love long songs, for example of course I love old school doom like Saint Vitus, Pentagram, and Count Raven- but I also like early albums of Yes with songs that can be twenty or thirty minutes. We don’t play that kind of music, but it may have influenced some of my taste for longer songs.
Dead Rhetoric: And where did you want to come across lyrically on this record?
Verron: The lyrics are based on… experiences of my life, but I don’t want to talk too much about what I felt when I was writing those lyrics. I want the listener to interpret those lyrics in his or her own way. I get the feeling that if you start getting too personal to explain in depth why you wrote this set of lyrics this way, it deprives the listener of his part of interpretation, which is important in art. The lyrics are mostly really sad, and that is one big component of doom metal.
Dead Rhetoric: You shot a video for “Voices of the Dead” that combines outside scenery and a stark atmosphere with band performance footage all shot in black and white. What can you tell us about the ideas and treatment for the video – did you pick out specific spots around France to capture some of the visual treatment?
Verron: Yes. In fact, when I started Conviction I had moved to the west of Paris in a small town of the countryside. For the shots in the video, they are filmed around where I live. There are parts of the video that are filmed in the church – it’s an old church, nearly a cathedral. The size just under a cathedral, it dates back to the 14th century. I filmed in the countryside next to my house, and two or three parts of the video are filmed in the Caribbean. Fred our guitar player went there and he filmed a bit of the footage there.
“Voices of the Dead” is inspired by the scenery I have around my house. When you walk in this countryside around my house, especially in the winter when it is foggy, the atmosphere is really like a fantastic movie or 19th century novel. Sometimes I feel like I am living in the atmosphere of a novel from the Bronte sisters, Wuthering Heights. It’s really, really inspiring.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the doom genre as a whole today? Do you believe it’s as healthy and active on a worldwide scale as it’s ever been considering the fifty-year evolvement of heavy metal from the early days of Black Sabbath forward?
Verron: I think the doom genre is really active and seems to be quite healthy and very diverse. From the early blueprints of Black Sabbath there has been a lot of evolution. We’ve got bands that follow the tradition of really pure doom, like Saint Vitus does it. For example, the way we do it. You’ve got bands that follow the epic doom tradition, the guys inspired by Candlemass like Forsaken from Malta. You have all the stoner doom bands who are inspired by Sleep, Electric Wizard, stuff like that. Plus all the sludge, etc. – it really makes the style very diverse. There are quite a lot of bands today, and I think everybody can find some kind of doom according to their own tastes.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Conviction when it comes to your live performances compared to what you hear on record? What do you wish to convey to an audience, and what have been some of the more memorable performances to date for the band?
Verron: We play our music – we are not a theatrical band. We come on stage just like we are in real life. The important thing is to have an emotional communion with the people in the audience. From what we’ve seen in our first live appearances, it works very fine. We’ve mostly played in Paris for the moment, but the crowd is usually very responsive. Of course the crowd doesn’t get as wild as like in a thrash or death or black audience – it’s not a violent crowd. You can see people headbanging and living in the music. That’s what’s important I think – having people internalizing what we present to them musically. Hopefully if they know the lyrics it can ring a bell also and it will help them live with the music. It’s quite a deep relation with the audience.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you are well received in France considering all the different genres that are developed and the importance of a festival like Hellfest?
Verron: We are for the moment, I haven’t seen a bad review or a bad echo about what we are doing. The response to the album is quite fantastic. The journalists I have talked to about the album are quite enthusiastic about it. When it comes to Hellfest, I don’t really know. The future of live shows is rather uncertain. We don’t know if Hellfest can happen this year. I’m rather pessimistic about any shows happening in 2021. Nothing will happen I think before 2022. I hope I’m wrong, it’s going to be very hard to play live until all this COVID stuff is over. It’s going to take time. I can’t wait to go back on stage, and if Hellfest wants us that will be cool. There are lots of other places that we want to play – not only in France. We hope to go play in Germany, Holland, etc. Lots of countries in which doom bands have a strong live doom scene.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries or concerns do you have about the world that we live in? How do you think humanity will handle coming out of this coronavirus which has been life altering for almost a year?
Verron: It’s really weird. I’m a bit pessimistic, not that much about coronavirus because I believe in science and I think that sooner or later we will eradicate this virus. Medicine and vaccines have eradicated many viruses, so I don’t see why this wouldn’t be the case with coronavirus. The fact is, if we don’t react and act for the planet, reduce pollution and try to save the planet, I’m pessimistic for the future. Humanity destroys its environment, I think a lot of viruses may pick up. This may be the first virus in a series, I don’t know. It would be great if humanity started getting conscious about it. Will it ever happen? I really don’t know.
I have kids and I wonder in which world they are going to grow up. I’m quite concerned. I try to do my best here but trying to convince the big corporations and businesses to do something is quite difficult.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your hobbies, interests, or passions that you put your energy into away from music when you have the opportunity and time to do so?
Verron: To be honest, I’m quite focused and a monomaniac about music. Music is my life. I’ve studied music, I’m a music teacher, I listen to music, I write and compose music. Also, I love visiting ancient places, visiting other countries. And for the moment it’s quite hard. I try to visit old churches and castles. We have lots of them in France. When I was young in Egypt, I used to do a lot of scuba diving. I liked it a lot and would like to do scuba diving again. I like planes, and I had actual flying lessons a few years ago, that was really cool.
Dead Rhetoric: As a music teacher, what types of things do you try to concentrate on with your students? Do you believe teaching methods have changed over the years due to all the information and sources available through the internet?
Verron: Oh yes, indeed. I’m a teacher in the low state school – when I was a kid it was all about reading notes and learning the lives of composers. We work a lot now on the internet – since COVID started I didn’t go back to school. I work at home and send work to my students via the internet because I’m a person with risks. It has evolved a lot with the internet and with computers. I tend to try to make them work on computers and make them understand music and compose with computers. Sometimes it ends up imitating twentieth century composers who made music with noise.
Dead Rhetoric: What is on the agenda for Conviction over the next year or so? Do any of the other members have other bands/projects that they will be working on?
Verron: We all have projects. For the next years, Conviction we have released this new album – it has taken quite a while to be recorded and released. Meanwhile I’ve been composing a lot. We have two and a half hours of new music, demos that would be enough for at least two other albums. There will maybe be a new album next year. We have also Ataraxie, Fred’s band, they have released an album Resignes, great doom/death album. You should check it out. Mourning Dawn is working on new songs and a new album. Our drummer Rachid also plays in Moonskin, that’s kind of a doom band with a female vocalist. I know they are working on new songs, so they will release an album sometime in the next year. We also have a band Unnamed Season, with my wife who’s a singer. Rachid and Vincent also play in this band. It’s a mix of gothic, folk, lots of different things with kind of a progressive edge. We are working on our first album for the moment – we’ve only played live for the moment. We have material for our first album, we are working on it right now. There is a lot of music coming out in the next year.