Har Belex is the meeting between Manix S. (Pail and Caustic Records owner) and Salva Maine (Culture Kultür). Eight years ago now they released the debut album “Chandelle” revealing a surprising Neo-Folk driven work. The music genre sounds as a true antithesis to their respective, Electro-driven, projects. The new opus “Campo De Urnas” –released again by Caustic Records, is a judicious mix of Neo-Folk, Ballads and Chanson which might appeal for lovers of Rome and related bands. It’s a beautiful, sensible, and passionate album which brought me to ask a few questions to both protagonists.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: I’ve always considered Har Belex as an atypical project. I mean you don’t exactly expect two artists involved with EBM/Industrial music setting up a Neo-Folk driven project. What brought you to set up Har Belex and what does the project mean to you next to your respective bands?
Manix S.: Har Belex is born mainly from the friendship that has united me and Salva for many years. We are two people who have in common social, economic and ‘NO’ religious positions, who have great respect and passion for nature and everything related to it, and who are also passionate about dealing with issues related to the dark, evil and insane nature of our society.
I have been a guitarist since I was 14 years old and although I didn’t play this instrument live for many years, I have been composing with the guitar continuously. So in 2012 I already had a handful of songs written with acoustic- and classical guitars and I wanted to do something different from my Pail Electronic project. Probably the germ of Har Belex was a vacation in the South of Spain. Meeting with Salva there, I suggested to him, half seriously, half jokingly, that he improvise to sing over a couple of songs I had composed on acoustic guitar. From the first second we both saw that it could work and we began to shape all this.
Currently Har Belex is my main project and Pail is on standby. I have some new songs that will probably be released in the future… or not.
Salva: I’ve always had quite eclectic taste in music, so I have no problem delving into other styles. On the contrary, it is interesting because it offers different possibilities when it comes to interpreting the songs. When Manix approached me with the idea of forming Har Belex and showed me the songs he had, I was instantly interested. For me Har Belex and Culture Kultür go in parallel, each one with its own sensibility.
Q: The new album “Campo De Urnas” has been released after a long break. What incited you to start writing new songs again and what kind of album did you’ve in mind?
Manix S.: Writing new songs is never something planned. It is simply an ongoing process throughout my life. When I have enough material that I consider to be of quality, it is proposed to close an album. It was clear to us that Har Belex was not going to be a one-album project since the first album had quite an impact, which allowed us to play in Spain, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Portugal. And besides, we are really enjoying this project.
The period of time until this second album was finished has been long. Both Salva and I have other projects and activities, in addition to the day to day in our respective jobs and with our respective families.
Q: What did you try to express by the title of the work and what have been your lyrical sources of inspiration -which I think are not that typically Neo-Folk like?
Manix S.: For the title we were inspired by the culture of ‘Urn Fields’ (literally “Campo De Urnas”), a period of the bronze age with a new funeral rite in which the corpses were cremated and the ashes were deposited in urns, which were semi-buried in fields and mountains.
We found it interesting to associate this concept with the current ‘urn field’ that the planet as a whole is becoming: social, religious and moral necropolis, devastation of ecosystems and nature, wars continue with their battlefields full of ‘urns’ (unfortunately today more topical than ever), death, mythology and megalithic architecture… all this is in our songs, and the title “Campo De Urnas” includes all of it.
Salva: There are four themes on the album: existentialism, history/legends, nature and war. In the end I guess it’s all about what the human being is, what he does and why he does it.
Q: “Campo De Urnas” has something deeply sensitive and even emotional-like. I should say it sounds more ‘authentic’ in comparison with Electronic music. Is it something you recognize? Do you have to be in a particular mood or state of mind when working on Har Belex?
Manix S.: Yes, indeed the mood is essential to be able to compose something emotional and dark in Har Belex. It is very different from composing Electronic music, where the emotional state is also important, but the transmission of this state to the music is more direct and more precise when you write ‘acoustic’ music.
In Har Belex, we try to directly and accurately convey to the listener, both musically and vocally, the intensity, passion and feelings that we ourselves have experienced when writing and creating those songs. We maintain a criterion of ‘less is more’ to try to reach those sensations with the right and necessary amount of instrumental tracks, arrangements and voices.
Salva: As I said before, different styles allow different nuances when interpreting the songs. If we go to the extreme of the most ‘harsh’ Electronic music, a distorted voice offers little room for details. Singing with acoustic instruments gives you much more range: you can sing very softly or harshly, depending on the song, and it opens up more possibilities to express feelings more precisely and in a more intense way.
Q: How did you guys work together? What’s the input of each other and do you handle specific references and/or criteria in the composition- and production process?
Manix S.: Salva and I live 800 km apart. I live in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, and Salva in Granada, in the south.
The composition process is always the same. I write, compose and arrange all the tracks and play all the instruments in my studio. When I consider that a song is finished, I send it to Salva so that he can write the lyrics and take out the vocal melodies. On some occasions I also write some lyrics or propose the main idea to Salva in order to develop it.
For the composition of the songs, I record the string lines with synthesizers, but for the album we have the help of Lucas Valera, a violinist from Granada, who is the one who records the tracks of real violins on the album. In addition, Lucas is the one who currently accompanies us to live shows to play the strings in our concerts.
Salva: When Manix sends me a song, the first thing I do is taking out a melody and send a working mix to Manix to see if he likes it or if he wants to make any changes. Then, depending on what music inspires me, I think of a theme to develop the lyrics.
Q: How did you see Har Belex evolving from the “Chandelle”-album to “Campo De Urnas”? And do you already have ideas for further productions?
Manix S.: The truth is that even with all the time that has elapsed between the two albums, the album has remained very ‘Har Belex’ for us. The instruments used in both works are practically the same, as well as the structures of the songs, the theme, the arrangements, etc. I think that with only two released works we have achieved our own sound that is easily recognizable in each of the songs. I don’t see big differences between the two works, except for technical aspects of production and mixing.
At the moment I’m not working on new ideas in the studio. Now we must focus on organizing and structuring the format and the songs that we are going to take live, and continue with the promotion of this new album “Campo De Urnas”.
Salva: Yes, the main difference I see is the mix, although on this album we’ve used fewer literary references in the lyrics, so I guess in that sense this album is more ‘us’.
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