Hello Chris! How are you at the moment?
Hi! I‘m fine, thank you. And you?
I’am fine too! Let’s go… TOUMAÏ… How can you explain the concept of the name of the band?
The name of the band comes from the name of a skeleton that was found in Chad in the early 2000’s. This fossil is one of the most ancient ancestors of Man. We like this idea of a common and ancient root for all mankind. And we also think that it sounds good.
Music of TOUMAÏ is really specific, it’s really big madhouse How would you describe your position in the wide-world metal scene? What do you think about the underground movement?
We are a band from France and we have released our first album entitled “Sapiens demens“. So we do the same as others: composing, rehearsing, recording, gigging. There are so many bands existing today that I guess we are just another one on the list. Maybe we are a little bit different because what we do is not only metal as we try to include other influences but we are not the only band to combine genres. Some people have told us that our music was not as fashionable as it could have been in the 90’s but to be honest we do not care about trends, we do what we like. As regards the underground movement, it has developed so extensively that it is impossible to listen to everything but we know for sure that there are many artists who are very talented. New technologies have opened doors to many bands (including us) and it is easier to broadcast music and reach people today. But at the same time the high number of bands makes it difficult for everyone to draw attention. During the last months we had the opportunity to meet other bands thanks to a compilation on which one of our track was selected. So we got in touch with some bands, shared a gig with the band Dirty Shirt from Romania and it was a positive experience. We hope we can do it again in the future with them or Osaka Punch from Australia.
There are several artists/things that always come to my mind when listening to “Sapiens Demens”. I can hear complexity and technicality of CARNIVAL IN COAL and MR. BUNGLE, aggression and violence of THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN… I also have a feeling that you might be slightly influenced by RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS or SYSTEM OF A DOWN Did I hit the nail?How would you yourself describe the TOUMAÏ sound to somebody, who has never heard the band before?
We grew up listening to MR. BUNGLE, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, INFECTIOUS GROOVES, early RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS, FAITH NO MORE, PRIMUS…. (and the list goes on and on…) so I guess anyone who is familiar with these bands will inevitably feel their influence on our music. We define our material as psyche-fonk-metal because we tend to fuse everything we like: heavy sound, groove, atmospheric and melodic sections, ragga…. I think that our music can be defined as a primal scream on top of a complex architecture. And it’s a pain in the ass to play it live! But it’s fun! We want to avoid the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus structure because we find it more exciting and also because we like challenges. As regards the technique we remain very humble about that because we are not virtuosos. Technique is not an achievement in itself, it is just a way to express some ideas but if the track requires a simple riff then we’ll do it. We must never forget that playing something simple and good is maybe the most difficult thing to do and not everybody can do that.
I found in every track moment which surprised me; it’s like a dream when in the middle of the track entered another group and plays different music. Do you intend to continue in this manner or can we expect something atypical from TOUMAÏ?
It’s too early to say at this point of time, we are now starting a new creative process and I can tell that there are a lot of ideas in the pipeline waiting to take shape but we don’t know exactly what will come out of that and how all these ideas are going to coexist. We tend to do things instinctively first and then we try to make them coherent. I will add that we compose all together. Everybody brings in some ideas, then we jam, set structures, experiment, deconstruct and build something else. Most of the time the final material does not sound like the initial idea. And who knows what will get into our minds in the months to come?
What are your influences? I could not really detect any obvious bands that had found their way into your sound…
We take it as a compliment, thanks. Everybody in the band has a different background and listens to a lot of different types of music ranging from rock, metal, classical, funk, hip-hop, jazz, electro, world music…. anything that’s good. The list of bands and artists and bands that we like would be too long and would vary from one band member to another.
I wish to know more about your lyrics, could you please anyhow in detail describe feelings, you put into them, what do they talk about, how do you compose them, etc.?
The lyrics tend to reflect the era we are living in. A lot of them deal with madness and wisdom. Bankster is about the chaos brought by the financial world, Anachron and Birds are about apocalypse, Petit Punk en Ut#mineur is our response to all those musical TV shows feeding the masses with „junk-music“ (in other words: shit or crap). Sapiens Demens is the only collective effort, it deals with the duality of Man who creates wonderful tools only to slaughter his fellow men. Most of our songs are built like stories with a narrator and a main character who is soon confronted with various situations. The feelings we try to put forward often appear in the same order in those stories. Misunderstanding, anger, rage, despair and finally hope and excitment. But the main thing about the lyrics is that we try to compose them as close as possible to the music and to what it tells. The song writing process is a long and complicated one although there are some songs we wrote quite quickly such as Prey of birds or Petit Punk en Ut#mineur. Usually we start with several jamming sessions where we try different kinds of approaches and themes for the song. Some good things, let‘s call them „Vibes“, emerge from those sessions and then we try to rewrite them, giving them meanings and shape.
Have you already got some responses to your album? Both from your friends and unknown listeners and musicians, etc. …
We have some positive feedback from friends, the press and the people we meet on the road. Some people we have never met have bought the album via our website so it’s pretty cool. Our music has been featured on two international compilations, also it has been broadcast on the radio. And we had some nice reviews on the web. Different organizations have proposed to support us but everything remains to be done to take it to the next step. One thing we have learnt from the music business is that you are not sure of anything until it happens. So we keep doing our stuff and we will see what happens.
The booklet also is very interesting, 24 pages… Whose idea was this and how satisfied are you with the final result?
We wanted to give an extra-value to the music. As a lot of people are into downloading , we thought it to be important to propose a real object and to have an illustration for each song. The idea emerged when we met Nicolas Cluzel, a contemporary artist from France. We started to exchange with him and we found out that we had a lot in common. So the collaboration was something that took shape naturally. We gave him some stuff to listen and he painted while dancing to the sound of Toumaï. He is darker than we are but we think that he managed to create a visual response to the music and we are delighted with the final result. You can have a look at his work at www.nicolascluzel.com
Are any other members of TOUMAÏ active in other bands/ projects?
I play in a band named SP’ËCULONS (www.myspace.com/speculons) and it has nothing to do with TOUMAÏ. It is not metal at all, we are more song oriented. And we try to mix genres but each song is different, it varies from rock, funk, tango, world music, disco… Originally the songs were played during theatre plays but then we decided to form a band. We sing in French, English, Spanish, Italian, German. We have just released a 5 song-EP that we produced ourselves. We are old friends having fun together. For me it’s interesting to play in different bands and styles because it brings a balance and it allows me to improve as a musician. Clement, our drummer, is involved in a photography project. He is working hard on it and we will probably see great things from him in the future. If you visit his website www.cmahoudeau.fr , you can have an overview of what he does. Jules, our master guitar player, is a web designer and a hard worker. He is responsible for the TOUMAÏ website and everything related to communication. Celia, our beloved keyboard player, plays with various people but I have no details about it. She has no website but she travels a lot. Singer Antoine spends most of his time with his masseuse, he gives so much energy that he needs to relax between gigs. To say it briefly, everyone in the band is very busy.
Do you have any specific image or aim what you want to gain during your musical career? what is the biggest pleasure for you after years of hard work? Satisfied listeners, good concerts, …?
What we want is to exist as a band and to continue to express ourselves, having fun and doing what we like. We think that it is the most important thing. Then to have the opportunity to play in front of crowds is very exciting too. To meet people and to share a moment with them is something we also value. Every step in the process of a rock band is good in itself. We love composing and rehearsing in our cave, then we love recording, then it’s good to play live. If people like what we do, then it is jackpot!
What do you think about European and French lifestyle? Are you happy with your mother land?
Well, France is not the worst place to live, there are people on earth who are not as comfortable as we are but things are changing and we can feel social tensions, the consequences of recession and the influence of extremist forces. I don’t feel myself very proud of being French right now. Maybe I’m a pessimist but I don’t like how the future is taking shape. Also I don’t recognize myself in the values of the country anymore: freedom, equality and brotherhood seem to have disappeared in favour of individualism and indifference. On top of that we can witness the apology of foolishness, that is why we do not watch TV anymore.
Of course the fans are interested what they can expect. Are you preparing some surprises?
If I tell you what the future of TOUMAÏ is going to be, it will not be a surprise. So you’ll have to wait! If we want to surprise people I guess we will have to surprise ourselves and keep the process exciting. We are working on new tracks to add to the repertoire but it is impossible to say when it is ready.
And last but not least; the word is free. Is there something you want to say to the people who might be reading this interview?
Thank you for giving this opportunity to express ourselves and for reviewing our album. Hello to all the readers of Rumzine and people in Czech Republic. Support local bands, attend as many gigs as you can. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Crash, burn and throw away your television. You can listen to our album on our website www.toumai-music.net , send us messages or share music and other stuff that you like. We hope we can play in your country one day. Have fun and Happy New Year!