My first experience of French grind act Miserable Failure was their ultra-short ‘Hope‘ EP, which impressed me thanks to its deft mix of songwriting nous and utter savagery. Their guitarist Romain was kind enough to answer some questions via email about the band, their releases and their outlook.
Ok. Please start by telling us how, when and why Miserable Failure got together…
Romain (guitar): The project was born something like two years ago. Bleu [vocals] and I have known each other almost since childhood. I started playing in bands when I was a kid, and Bleu started an underground label at approximately the same time. Over the years, he released some of the records I played on and used to tour a lot with one of my previous bands. Eventually, we ended up working together at our regular day job. We were talking about a project for years, something different from the usual stuff (i.e. me as the musician, him as the label guy / touring buddy).
One day, at the cigarette break, we finally decided to set this up. I went back to my home at the end of the day, tried a few riffs with the guitar plugged into the computer and the day after, when he listened to the stuff I did, he said : “perfect, that’s what I was expected.” That’s how Miserable Failure was born.
What had you all done before this band? How do you think this impacted or influenced what you do with Miserable Failure?
Romain: I’ve played in various with my friends bands since my childhood. I had a hardcore band that offered me the opportunity to tour a lot all over Europe for eight years. Beside Miserable Failure, I still play in three other bands with my friends (all those bands are basically the same crew since I was 15) and I’m doing some black metal with one of my best friends when we both have a moment for that. I think all those experiences led me to do something very different with Miserable Failure. All of my bands are something quite hard in their own genre, but none is as uncompromising and extreme as Miserable Failure. MF is basically a distillation of everything I do with my other bands combined with my experiences in life in this strange world.
Grindcore, to me, should be one of the most ferocious forms of music around yet it’s one that I’m frequently disappointed by because of the lack of bile. Why do you think so few grind bands sound genuinely angry?
Romain: This is a very interesting question and I’m glad to talk to someone seeing grindcore the way I see it.
Basically the answer is, in my opinion, in the question. Because YOU HAVE TO be angry, you have to carry a burden and hold a grudge against something to play that music. That’s also one of the reasons we did Miserable Failure: because we did not find the grindcore we loved anymore – nothing was angry enough, nothing was dark and hateful enough to satisfy our needs.
Of course there are some exceptions, I instantly think of Pig Destroyer or Thousandswilldie but generally speaking, I agree with you, it lacks this anger and madness we grindcore fans are looking for. To me, grindcore is not metal, and that’s why it doesn’t appeal to most metalheads. Grindcore is a kind of music made by the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. (make your choice…) for the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. Not everyone is prompted to like it. We all have our limits of what is acceptable/likable and what is not, and I understand why most metalheads don’t like it. To me, you can’t make such extreme music for no reason and I see it in my daily life. Not just grindcore, but all the guys I know who are doing such extreme and uncompromising stuff cannot be considered 100% sane, including myself.
On the flipside, Miserable Failure sound incredibly pissed off. What would you say are your biggest grievances when it comes to modern life, and how would you say you address them as a band?
Romain: You know, we did not choose this name at random, we chose it because that’s the way we see ourselves: miserable failures at modern life. You’re talking about grievance; it’s exactly what it’s about. To name a few, I’d say living in a world where you can’t find your place, where the only choices you get are “eat or be eaten”, “suffer or make them suffer”, “plague or cholera” (even if things tend more toward ebola those days…). Living a life where everything is conflict, where every human relationship is, in the end, completely blank and senseless, where each time you show an ounce of kindness toward your siblings, you are instantly punished… Like we say in France “trop bon, trop con.”
In terms of grindcore – or, indeed, any fast, aggressive music – what would be your five ‘go-to’ records when you need a quick blast of negativity? If you could explain your choices a bit that would be great.
Romain : Ahah, the hatelist ! lets go for it. Hard to pick up five of them nonetheless.
Teitanblood – ‘Purging Tongues’
That’s just pure HELL: an endless fall into a bottomless pit. It’s so ridiculously violent and completely mesmerizing at the same time that this record is some kind of mystery to me. It’s not just music, it’s an experience. Their music is technically very simple if you look at the guitar work for example, but they play it in a way that’s very interesting and the song writing is perfect. Writing a 15-minute track of such pure death metal stench the way they did is very impressive to me. Their latest release, ‘Death’ is a masterpiece too, but considering it’s a full length, it doesn’t fit into the “quick blast” category.
Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Insect Warfare – split
Seven minutes of pure hate. ANb takes the lead, four songs in five minutes, Insect Warfare closes with six or seven songs in two minutes. Everything is pure savagery, and so well done. If you like this kind of release, try Thousandswilldie if you do not already know them.
Integrity – ‘To Die For’
This is a full length, but things go pretty fast. This is Cleveland style at its best (even if Blind To Faith comes close second to me). They have done a lot of other releases that are great but I have a special love for this one. This is angry, the sound is tight, everything is harsh and hits you like a ton of rocks.
Regurgitate / Dead infection – split
The Regurgitate part of this split is vicious as fuck. The vocals are so harsh they tear out the speakers. It’s violent and at the same time, the sound has that mesmerizing vibe that make you dive into the atmosphere instantly and almost puts you into a trance. The punk/hardcore side of their music is especially apparent on this release and they combine it with their death metal side perfectly.
“The infamous” Gehenna – ‘Land Of Sodom’
This is dirty; a kind of hardcore made in the depths of hell. Everything is raw and sounds like it’s recorded in a cave by the most angry guys on the planet with the devil himself behind the mic. I like the simplicity of their music, it’s straight forward and thought to be an like an insult to the listener but it flows incredibly well despite the dirty nature of their music.
To me you play a very stripped-down form of grind, yet there’s still a lot going on and some quite complex passages. Is it a conscious decision to balance these different elements? Do you find it challenging to be raging and interesting within grindcore’s limited time constraints?
Romain: Once again, ; its so rare in here to find someone with such a deep understanding of grindcore, I feel that you have the same conception of extreme music as us. Come and do a track with us on the next one, you’re welcome.
Yeah it’s a complex thing for us. Everyone thinks grind is “stupid”, that it’s just random open strings played over repetitive blast beats. But it’s actually far more complex than that in most cases.
I’m trying to do a mix of everything I love in those short songs and my main goal is to balance things between the simple and the complex, so yeah, it’s a totally conscious decision. For example, we say “ok, now it was straight forward blast of hate for the last 30 seconds, we’re starting to lose grip and the thing will fall apart if we do four more steps of this riff, so now, let’s try do throw some dissonant stuff to regain the listeners interest.”
And, like you said it’s very challenging for us. Grindcore has short songs, it’s very fast and straight to the point. Adding different elements can easily be tricky, or even dangerous; and I can’t say we are 100% comfortable with it. But since that’s what we want to do, it’s all “trial and error.” We are taking the time to experiment and see what’s working and what’s not; and like a lot of things in life, finding the right balance is difficult.
Can you talk us through your releases? How do you think the band has developed or changed over time?
Romain: Well, actually, our first release, the split with Infected Society and F Stands For Fuck You is the first songs we ever wrote. I’m satisfied with those because they represent our stuff pretty well. There is the brutal side, there is the punk hardcore side but it just lacks a little blackness for me.
Then we released a split with Total Fucking Destruction and four other bands that are our labelmates. It has the same pros and cons as the first one to me. I especially love ‘Martyr‘ on this record.
Then, once again, to me, I think things start becoming interesting with our EP ‘HOPE’. Its short, but the sound is very tight, and it’s the first release where we finally achieve the violence and aggression I was aiming for. This EP bears something special for us, as we wrote it, recorded it and finally released it in period of time that was bad for us in our personal lives. I think that’s something that can be heard on the record. The opener says it all regarding what you’ll find along the other tracks.
Then we released a split with Atara. And that’s the record I’m the most satisfied with. The overall violence and anger is really high, the darkness is here, and despite and the noise and blast and everything, the despair is here too.
As I mentioned in my review of the split with Atara, the guy you sample on ‘May You All Be Cursed Forever’ is a bit of an arse. How did you find that sample, and what’s your view of it now you’re more aware of the man behind the words?
Romain: Thanks for this review man.
I saw this guy on the news on French TV.
To me, music and what we want to illustrate goes first. I’m not saying that the “who’s the guy?” question is not important but only his words on the record count. You’re listening to a record and you’re listening to what’s happening, you dive into the atmosphere created by the band and, if some spoken words are thrown in, it’s just to reinforce the immersion. I know what you’re thinking right now: “But, if it was Hitler or someone like that?” Answer: Yeah, but he is not Hitler. I mean, that’s not because we are talking about someone or something that we agree with what is/she is doing.
I mean, look at Slayer that we all love. Are they Nazis ? No. Do they fuck dead bodies? No. Do they actually kill people in excess of rage ? No.
I think the comment you did in the review is a bit judgemental toward us, but no prob, really. We are not kids, we know what we are doing and we know what we want to illustrate. This record had a theme, a theme illustrated in the title, and we built our song structure and general overall structure on this record according to that theme. If you understand the point of the record, then you’ll understand that there could not be better words to close this last track.
I’m not going to check everyone’s life or go back to fucking Jesus Christ each time I want to quote someone. In the next record, there will be quotes from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens because I love this story, period. I’m not going to check if Dickens was left wing or right wing or if he cheated on his wife or if some of his descendants were in the Waffen-SS. Because that’s simply not the point, I’m just here to make music and make the few people who appreciate it dive into something different than this shitty world for five minutes. If your question was aiming at knowing my political opinions, here’s the answer: I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about the world. This world can burn, all of those motherfuckers can burn with it, and me with them, I don’t give two shits.
One thing that the sample made me think of was the fact that both the UK and France (along with other parts of Europe) have seen far-right politics gain a thin veneer of respectability/acceptability over the last few years. Do you have any comment on this, or have you noticed how things have changed? If not, please feel free to skip this question!
Romain: You know, besides the fact that what you are saying is true, I will talk about France, because that the only placed I lived in all my life. This sample was here because of one major thing; Because I think that, nowadays, aside from the rise of the extremes, France lacks what I like to call “The 1789 spirit.” During this time that we call “The Terror,” the people was so fed up, hungry and desperate that they murdered their leaders in public places. We, 21st century French people, lack that revolutionary attitude our ancestors had. And I sincerely not understand how such things can happen nowadays without leading to a revolution. Because the words in this sample are true: “we, the people, are scammed, robbed, etc… all of this in the most disgraceful manner… by our leaders.” A month or two ago, a French politician was sued and charged for not paying his taxes. The reason was: “I forgot to pay my taxes, I have some kind of tax phobia.”
Seriously ? What kind of joke is this? Aren’t those people supposed to act as example for their citizens?
So now, MY question is: Why are we waiting to drag this fucker out of his golden nest and make him an example not to follow? My words may sound paradoxical to my general everyday attitude and everyone know that the extremes are not the best solutions, but, as simple people with no power except numbers, what solution do we have? The elections ? The suffrage? Like I said earlier, it’s choosing between plague and cholera. I guess that the human spirit is, at times, very simple and straight forward and that extreme conditions demands extreme responses.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of playing in a band like Miserable Failure?
Romain : I’d say that the biggest challenge is to find the balance we were discussing earlier. Keeping things interesting. I’d like to keep Miserable Failure like it is in the future, adding elements to the mix without denaturing it. That will be, to me, the biggest challenge.
What are your future plans for the band? Do you have any more releases in the pipeline?
Romain: We have just finished recording the new one. All the instruments are done. We are now working on the lyrics. It will be something… ”special”; still extremely violent, but going beyond pure grindcore this time. This EP will be a kind of appendix to our usual style, because we wanted to explore something else and I’m very satisfied with the result; I really can’t wait to release this stuff, hopefully next summer.
We have another split CD in the works and I’m also working on the full length… but this will take a little while.