Opera Multi Steel can be considered as truly ‘veterans’ from this scene. Set up in 1983 by the French trio Franck Lopez, his brother Patrick L. Robin and Catherine M. Marie the band started releasing their music on the good-old cassette format. Later on they released vinyls and CD’s while today you can find their work at digital platforms. Their band feels like a safety home where they can accomplish their very own music style and their taste and passion for literature, poetry, paintings ao artistic formats. They last year released their newest album “Au Fief Des Rémanences” on Meidosem Records. It also was an opportunity to speak about Franck Lopez and Patrick Lopez Robin about the past and the present.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Opera Multi Steel started in the early 80s. Even today the 80s remain a real reference for artists and music lovers. What did this decade evoke to you and how did you see yourself as band and musicians evolving throughout the years?
Franck L: The 80s will remain for us the decade that saw us setting up this band. After the 70s, dominated by symphonic- and progressive rock that gave birth to virtuoso musicians, the arrival of punk and his sudden death combined with the democratization of the drum machines and synths injected a new breath to rock and pop. This fact uninhibited many people who could, without being expert in their instrument, engage themselves in music and composition. We were part of this generation. Thanks to the latitude from that time our musical and literary imagination could emerge at the surface without any censorship or a specific, increased musical knowledge. The emergence of new creative artists initiating new styles, still present today, was a great stimulant for us. After all, if they could do it, why don’t we?
Electro-pop, synth-pop, cold-wave, new-wave and so on come from this decade; this era was not monolithic stylistically speaking. The fact that we are still here today, besides that creating is vital for us, is the proof that the styles initiated in the 80s were constantly rediscovered in the following decades and that the audience managed how to renew itself. Therefore many groups born very recently can claim this aesthetic, that’s the proof of a flagrant vivacity. Over the years, Opera Multi Steel has evolved together with the influence of emerging musics without losing the singularity that draws in the sound of some vintage instruments; a way of making songs undoubtedly very eighties-like mixed with everything we have been able to digest over the years and throughout our human respective experiences, which are not without any influence on our lyrics and compositions.
Q: Opera Multi Steel went through several breaks, the members got involved in different side projects, but in the end you’re still alive and kicking. What has been the impact of it all on your music and the newest album “Au Fief Des Rémanences”?
Franck L: We indeed have been involved in various projects outside Opera Multi Steel, but we have always returned to the original band despite some judgments that we never considered final. Some projects have even been run concurrently with Opera Multi Steel. In fact, it is the O Quam Tristi project that mobilized us most during the 2000s because we still made four albums under this name and all Opera Multi Syeel members without exception were part of this heavenly medieval electro act under various pseudo names.
Apart from that I also sang in the Franco-Brazilian electro pop band 3 Cold Men with which I recorded three albums. These two projects were the most engrossing ones but, together or separately we have collaborated or still collaborate in many other formations (Collection d’Arnell Andréa, Thy Violent Vanities, Seven Sobs Of A Sorrowful Soul, Tiramist …) These experiences outside Opera Multi Steel are for us the opportunity to deepen styles that we only touch on with our heterogeneous group. These different experiences came to feed the evolution of the group, but without altering its deep roots. That said, the mix of electric- and acoustic instruments was already present in the beginning of the band as well as our love for folk- or ancient music (Middle Ages, Renaissance). We can also find them all in our last album. “Au Fief des Rémanences” includes very pop songs, very dancing ones, some others more oriented towards introspection, some darker ones, some cold-wave like, others more folk… We are ‘multiple and various’, the band’s music is the reflection of this diversity without any form of restraint. What binds the pieces between them is the treatment and use of particular instruments that we have never really abandoned over the years and albums (Elex keyboard, Casio VL1, bass pedals, recorders etc …) and the very special lyrics that Patrick writes in his so special style.
Q: The title of the album is quite intriguing and dark, but what’s the deeper meaning of the title and the lyrical themes running through the album?
Patrick L. Robin: At the beginning of this Century, only a few days went by without the media echoing technological innovations of all kinds. Occultism and witchcraft are two particularly affected areas, often wrongly.
To restore the balance and cope with the noises that run, we needed to reclassify all this and relativize the phenomenon or rather those unexplained phenomena with sounds that move and thus with chants that speak in a fief protecting these metaphysical values which come and go, go back and come back like past like recurring membership and which still are perceptible from Before to Now and from Today to Tomorrow (Remnants). Hence the title of this album.
Once open those different doors of the Below, we have compiled eight ones that correspond affectively to our metaphysical concerns towards the Hereafter. Each one of this title composes a part of the album: “Les Litanies”, somber stubbornness that, by a trance or beliefs effects, can lead to the inner revolution and perhaps to the madness of adoration in a “Chapelle Sixteen” or various small churches that are often the subject of “Représailles” from the biggest ones.
Fortunately for us, no need to bury ourselves in caves where to scratch the walls. We can, thanks to the artistic genius of the great painters, contemplate and then illuminate to surpass ourselves and finally pour into the wonder where we can find “Solutions De Félicité” in the absence of anything else.
Affect is a way of relaying our visions with the help of “L’ Emotionnel” which rises in arrows among various societies with all the upheaval that it may cause, rightly or wrongly (unreasonably elsewhere), leading us unknowingly towards our last home where to be chastised (“Le Châtiment Ultime”). Thus, redirected to an imaginary and morbid purgatory, we will be able to get out of it or not, especially if we manage to avoid the Fatal Judgment, “Le Coup De Grâce”. We could, then re-illuminated, stay on our guard in a stronghold under a high spiritual supervision.
Q: I always have seen Opera Multi Steel as a ‘total artistic concept’; it’s much more than only the passion and love for music and lyrics, but there always have been references to painters, sculptors, poets etc…. What means this artistic exposure to you and more especially the ‘artistic freedom’? And do you think artistic freedom has some limits?
Franck L: The group is not only for us a way to expel our fantasies, our neuroses and psychoses more or less well digested. We do not miss to use it for that through our texts in particular!
But Opera Multi Steel is also the big patchwork of everything we are passionate about in our everyday life outside of music. The covers and jackets of our discs reflect our inclinations for symbolist-, mystical- or Sulpician painting, among others; our songs are dotted with references in the form of sound effects that evoke near or far artists or eras of which we are nostalgic, but also events or situations that only make sense for us and that ends up as a kind of sound memory album with which we try to share our universe which can sometimes seem hermetic to many people.
The different labels that have trusted us have always left us free of our artistic choices. Effectively artistic freedom has its limits which are those of cutting us off from an audience that could not understand the meaning of our texts, who could sometimes find our songs too different from each other by their style or who think that we do not enough obey to the precise dogmas of certain musical movements or who could be allergic to our iconoclastic imagery. It is true that by embracing here and there all genres that please us we end up either with a non-style, or with a too marked style that could cut us off from a wider audience. But the main thing is to make us happy, to have fun and to give with each of our albums some good time to all those who apprehend our music as a ‘total artistic concept’, to use your expression, or simply as a ‘quite’ normal band providing more or less pop songs or more or less dark tracks… Music has never been our way of getting rich, it is our way of feeling alive. This is probably the main reason why Opera Multi Steel has survived the years.
Q: “Au Fief Des Rémanences” appears to me as one of your most ‘electronic’ works to date although still featuring the use of ‘authentic’ instruments. What did you try to accomplish sound-wise and where do you place this album in the band’s discography?
Franck L: I do not know if this album is really the most electronic one. It depends from the point of view. We have always used ‘authentic’ electronic instruments (TR 606, TR 808 mainly) to realize our rhythm tracks, our synths being also electronic in some kind of way… Now we use a lot more sampled sounds, but we remain faithful to the instruments that we used at the beginning of the group even if we do not use them as physical units. Perhaps it is easier to judge this situation for someone outside the band. One thing is for sure, we are huge fans of ‘electro-pop’ music even if it not always an explicit way in our sound.
Covenant or VNV Nation both are part of our flagship groups although they’re not from our generation and their music is much punchier than ours. The fact that we always use acoustic instruments (guitars, recorders among others …) tempers our electro inclinations, but perhaps we will slightly move to something more ‘radical’ in our future works. Who knows?
Q: I already evoked the ‘darkness’ running through your composition, but it often feels that authentic it rather appears to be ‘torment’ and ‘despair’, but still a kind of ‘therapy’ to exorcize internal demons. What does music and especially this band really stands for?
Patrick L. Robin: It is an “Initiatory journey in the land of Music and Magic” (Norma Bowl in Paranormal Sciences Institute Review 1983). This is indeed what makes me think your question contains already the answers that I will briefly raise and summarize, in spite of all false ideas of what we think or would like to convey … The “Curious”, the “Worrying”, the “Irrealist” are often found inside our lyrics.
‘Darkness’ and ‘Despair’ are indeed recurring and allow us to adhere to the walls of a well which we would like to reach the bottom, to raise the head, to raise the eyes towards the Sky, to help us to redirect our existence and why not the listener’s ones who would gain by this introspection a kind of mind therapy and to wake up then as transformed. We would not speak of true exorcism, but rather of dispossession of loose ideas, commonplaces and standards that only clutter the eyes and ears of the non-blind and the non-deaf that we are, insensitive to the point of not wanting to read between the lines and unable to change our point of view when it’ s still time! Alas, this well is without bottom and we find ourselves facing the “Appearances Of The Inaudible”, “The Remanences Of The Invisible” because they goes hand in hand. This self-proclamation remains the best solution, final or terminal for a new life, a new ‘elsewhere’ towards infinity and beyond!!!
But all of this remains fundamentally ver-ti-gi-nous!