In only a few years, french folk-metal-sextet has become one of the hottest Bands in the french Metal Underground. At the end of May 2020 they released their third full-length „La Halha“ (pronounce: La Haya) to great response in the scene. They sing about their life in their home-region, the Gascogne, in the Southwest of France. About Legends, Rugby, the party in the wine cellar, the tall, big and odd guys, the country and the nature. And they are a hell of a great folk metal Band. I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Lead Singer Baptise. Great fun at the trip to the Gascogne!
1. You can tell from our magazine’s name, which kind of divine beverage WE guys love! So what about you? French wine, a gascognian liquor or something else? Or is « Boisson Divine » a metaphoric statement in the end?
1) (Baptiste) We used to say: To each his divine beverage! But to get this status of Divine Beverage there are several conditions to respect. It can only be a beverage that has a history, that requires a lot of work, a great know-how and is made in an artisanal way or almost.
It can be an old Armagnac, a good wine, a superb beer, an excellent whiskey but … it cannot, in any case, be a soda. Soda = total industrial piece of garbage. People who cut their whiskey with soda should be arrested immediately by the police. This should be considered illegal activity or even utter blasphemy. I’m sorry for your webzine name guys (laughs) …
2. You album cover as well as your most recent music video depicts a small, light stone cross. What is it all about ? Some kind of gascognian legend ?
2) The cover represents the cross of Beliou (Abelion —-> Beliou), the sun god of the ancient Pyrenean pantheon, which is still found at the top of a mountain. Originally, this cross was not one, because pre-Christian, it was discoid, testifying to its solar attributes. During the Christian era, this stone was removed, but the torrential rains which followed for 40 days, pushed the clergymen to put it back in place, nevertheless undergoing a serious facelift. And under this, the legend says that Milharis is buried there. The myth of Milharis, 999-year-old shepherd, guardian of a golden age is also the subject of an eponymous song from this album whose legend is as follows:
A long time ago, in the heights, lived an old shepherd. He had never seen the snow fall and yet, one morning, he woke up surrounded by white. He called his people and said, „Children, this is a bad sign for me. My father used to say to me, „ When you see the white earth, you will die before sunset. “ Tonight I will be dead, at the age of 1,000 years less one day … When I am dead, take the most beautiful of my black cows, she will walk straight in the valley until the earth no longer white. Follow it and where it will stop you will find warm waters that will one day make the fortune of the country. And the old shepherd died. The children did as instructed and when the cow stopped, they found the promised water and the black cow was turned into a rock.
These two characters (Milharis and Abelion) will form the mythological diptych of „La Halha“ which we recall, is the brazier, the big fire, the representation on earth of the solar star invoked during the solstices. The fact of having chosen mythical elements and mythological for the cover allows us to be part of a tradition, like the link of a chain.
3. I know a little french from being back in school (not good enough to have an interview, though), but your Gascon language sounds more like latin or the Romanche of southeastern Switzerland to me. Do you want to elaborate a little on „your language“. What are its characteristics and how well established is it still in the Region ? Was it ever a question to sing your songs in English?
The Gascon is a Romance language classified in the family of the Occitan languages. It is an evolution of vulgar Latin on a Basque substrate. In terms of sound, it looks a lot like Catalan and roughly, for a foreigner we can say that it is between Spanish and French, which is normal because geographically, it is true and the Romance languages forms a “ linguistic continuum „.
Today, it is still spoken but its use is declining day by day. It has lost its social role and natural transmission is almost at standstill. The last generations of natural speakers will die within a few years. To survive, it is now learned in bilingual schools (where children learn Boisson Divine songs!). In a few years I think that the majority of people who will speak Gascon will be those who are really interested in it. It will no longer be the popular language of a people but that of a small group.
It’s sad but the French language has definitely won his place here. This is the case of many regions in France (Brittany, Basque Country, Corsica, Elsass …). The French state is a rogue state and everything has been done to kill the different languages that were present on the territory to build a so called national unity which is based only on historical lies and acculturation. It’s really disgusting, but we are still trying to preserve our heritage against the wind, because we don’t want to disappear. It is difficult to see the Gascon disapear gradually, but as long as we are there and people are willing to follow us in our approach, it will not die.
After this paragraph, I don’t think I need to explain to you why we don’t sing in English 🙂
4. Your new Album „La Halha“ is very diverse. I know it is always hard to describe or even judge your own „children“? But what would you point out from YOUR point of view and what would you point out to convince a fellow metalhead outside of France to have a listen?
La Halha is simplicity in complexity, coherence in diversity, violence in beauty. It’s a musical anomaly, the diary of a schizophrenic. It is a sumotori who wears ballerinas, it is playing rugby in moccasins, it is Johannes Gutenberg who writes on a computer in 1431, it is Brahms who plays the violin with the pick … „La Halha“ is everything and nothing …
More seriously, it is a very varied album indeed because we have a lot of influences: Heavy metal, punk rock, traditional music, polyphonic singing. The tempos, the tones, the instruments and the moods are very different from one song to another and that’s what makes it possible not to get bored on an hour long album. As we like to evolve from albums to albums, there are always new things like a bluegrass banjo, neo-classical bridges, death-melodic riffing, blues solos … I know it’s a lot and it may seem incoherent but all these elements can only be married together with one condition: write real songs, well structured with striking melodies. I think that when you have that in mind, you can afford all the possible mixtures.
I am far from being a competent interpreter and being a good technician. When I see the average level of musicians on the internet in the metal scene, I tell myself that I’m pretty bad after all. I am unable to shred a solo in sweep picking for example. However, when I was 13, I became interested in composition. I listened to albums at night, focusing on each instrument. I have listened some records dozens of times to try to understand everything. I learned a lot from this: how to structure a song, how to harmonize melodies, how to find interesting arrangements, how to write catchy choruses …
„La Halha“ is the culmination of all these years, it is a message of hope for all musicians: You don’t have to be a technical god to make songs that touch people . Beautiful and simple well-arranged melodies can be enough (this is no excuse for being lazy at practice, just like me lol).
Do what you have to do and don’t ask yourself the following questions: Who will it please? What audience will listen to this? If your approach is sincere, you will find your audience. But once you find it, with each new album, don’t ask yourself: Are they going to like it? No, if you have things to try, try them, do not curb your creativity for fear of losing your fanbase, otherwise you will stop being an artist to become an order picker, a deliveroo of music.
5. I read in your biography that the two original members of the band are childhood friends. How did you find the rest of the guys to complete the band (was it hard?) and what do you guys do apart from being musicians and cultural torchbearers? J
We released our first album in 2013 with only two members, that’s right. We had not planned the following and we had not thought of playing live. We didn’t know anything about the music world, how it worked, we had very little contact in the metal scene. But, our album was very well received by the press with superb reviews and the promoters then asked us if we were doing concerts. Unable to play live because there were only two of us, we refused many dates at the beggining until we decided to recruit the other members.
This happened very naturally, the guitar-player was in the same rugby team as us, the bass player was the drummer’s brother. It took more time for the bagpipes and the flute because these are rare instruments and generally the people who play them are not necessarily amateurs of metal music, but we met the good people who were then at the conservatory of traditional music, only one hour from our hometown. Since then everything has been for the best and we can’t imagine playing without each other. Boisson Divine is a story of friendship, we do few concerts but each of these concerts is a precious moment that allows us to spend time together. For nothing in the world we would stop that!
In life, I’m a winemaker on my own estate with my father, the drummer work with dogs, the bass player do video-editing for the TV, the guitar player is in agriculture and the traditional instruments players are…real musicians!
6. I am sorry for your flute and hurdy-gurdy Player Ayla. With 5 guys in a band is very special for sure ! @Ayla : Tell us one thing you like and one thing you dislike about being the only woman in a 6-piece band. And please give reasons for each one, i.e. WHY do you like/dislike it?
(Ayla) It’s more convenient that you might think. To be totally honest, I love to be the only girl of the band. It would be a pain in the ass if we were two! (Laughs). I feel protected and privileged. On stage, I’m in charge of bringing sweetness, sensuality and feminity among roughness. You can’t miss me and I love it! If you knew how much I laugh in their company… The best parties of my life are with them during rugby after-match!
It’s frankly hard to find something I dislike with the band. I spend my time laughing! Yes, the most painful thing is to understand all the rubbish they are saying as it never stops. But I’m a fast learner! For nothing on earth I would give somebody my seat, especially not to a girl!
7. The last words are all yours. Go!
Thank you very much for your interview. We would be very happy to play in Germany one of these days! Excuse our very Gascon sense of humor and remember kids : soda is very bad for your health, drink wine! Tannat grape variety can potentially make you immortal, so go ahead, throw your shitty aluminum cans and go get some beautiful bottles of wine! Cheers from Gascony!
Boisson Divine are :
Baptiste Labenne (Vocals, guitar)
Adrian Gilles (Drums, vocals)
Ayla Bona (Flabuta, hurdy-gurdy, vocals)
Pierre Delaporte (Boha, accordion, vocals)
Luca Quitadamo (Guitar)
Florent Gilles-Waters (Bass)
La Halha (2020)