Since The Baileys fell so hard for Charly Sahona's latest album, we told 'em to put together an interview. So what did we get? Another interview that's longer than... well, a really long thing. Should we call it an "intervi-epic"? Probably not. But here it is anyway.
BB’S: I can remember it now my mum sending me for piano lessons in my short trousers. I don’t know which I disliked more the lessons or the short trousers? How did the tinkering on the ivory’s (as we say in the UK) start for you?
CS: (laughs) well, congrats!!! This is almost exactly the story of my childhood. The difference is that it was not my mother who wanted me to study the piano but my father (who is a pianist by the way). The other thing is that I don't remember me wearing short trousers but if I really did, maybe my unconscious helped me to forget this embarrassing thing from the past!!! My father wanted me to be a classical piano player. I think I had my first lesson when I was 5 and the really amazing thing is : I remember exactly all the notes of the first piece of music I learned Can you believe that ? It was called “La lutine”, I don't remember who wrote it? But I'm pretty sure I would be able to write the score by ear right now. Unfortunately I forgot 99% of the pieces I used to play in my childhood. Well, it's been a long time now...
BB’S: So what was it about Classical music that inspired you?
CS: First I didn't really want to go to the classical conservatory of music but the only music I could hear at the time was classical music and I was a very polite child so, I was doing exactly what my parents asked me to do. Right now I have the biggest respect for the really amazing composers of the past. There is so much richness in classical music....
BB’S: Did you feel any peer pressure from your parents, like you would be letting them down if you didn’t do well?
CS: You got it!!! I felt a lot of pressure at this moment as my father wanted me to become a famous classical piano player one day. Well, I think that's the main reason why I still have stage fright sometimes. I can still feel this pressure when I'm on stage. Right, maybe I should go and see a shrink. (Laughs...)
BB’S: So there you are, the apple of your mammas eye, then one day she comes home and there’s a guitar shredding so fast it sounds like a mouse running over the piano keys at a hundred miles an hour. There’s a disgruntled neighbour saying “he used to be such a quiet boy but now look at him, he’s even grown his hair!” How did your parents react to your love for the electric guitar?
CS: You got the nail on the head one more time! This is exactly how it happened. They reacted very badly. But now things have changed a little bit. Right now, my parents wish I earned more money with my music. They are really not into the kind of music I play but when my father heard the song “why?” from the Venturia “Hybrid” album, he really liked the Rachmaninov vibe going on.
BB’S: Let’s move onto the long trousers and the forming of Venturia did you have a definite game plan with a female and male vocalist?
CS: So, let's move back a few years earlier!!! At first, all the songs were written for a male singer. In 2005, just before the recording of our first album “The New Kingdom”, our 1 st male singer decided to quit the band. At this moment, drummer Diego Rapacchietti and I went in a panic as you can imagine... We quickly find Marc Ferreira to be the lead singer thanks to my friend Gus Monsanto. I already asked my dear friend Lydia to do some backing vocals but as this big event changed the plans of the band in some ways, I asked her if she would agree to sing some lead parts too.
BB’s: were you just trying to offer something different from the pack?
CS: We realized that it was something kinda different that we enjoyed to experiment.
BB’s : We had a little chuckle at your MySpace profile when it lists your influences. You said this on your site:” influences include (in chronological order): Marc Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Lukather, Yngwie J.Malmsteen, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. Later, needing more technical challenges, he got into the playing of the guitarists of rising generation: John Petrucci, the amazing Shawn Lane, Bumblefoot and the very gifted Matthew Bellamy”.
Let’s analyse the bit where you say you need a more technical challenge; are you saying that you surpassed the likes of Yngwie and Jo Satriani and needed to raise the bar even higher?
CS: No, it's not what that means for me. Yngwie and Satriani are part of history of the electric guitar. They have a unique style. I have the biggest admiration for these legends. They inspired a lot of guitarists but nobody can play better as they do. All you can do is doing your own stuff or being a plagiarist. I just wanted to say that I got really excited when I discovered new ways of playing through people like Ron ”Bumblefoot” Thal, Buckethead, Mattias IA Eklundh. Their phrasing and their technique is different from all the shredders from the 80's. Nobody can “surpass” Yngwie, Satch, Vai, Gilbert, Lane and all these amazing people. I just got inspired by them. Now I have my own style but I'm just the genesis of my influences.
BB’s: We have to be straight with you here, we have seen most of the guys on your list and the likes of Yngwie and Jo Satriani have played for us less than three feet away sat next to us in a TV studio, so to be even mentioned in the same sentence as these guitar legends would be a honour. Needing more technical challenges could be deemed as being a bit derogative to these great acts. These guys have made their own mark and what you hear now is either a faster or more intense version of the original. To me it’s the same modes, scales played fast and without any soul. Take the arpeggio sweep picking away and many would sink without a life raft but before you spit the dummy out I did like the riffs and energy displayed on your debut so I will cut you some slack. At the end of the day you have some decent songs and it was the cool “Relieved” tune we spotted on MySpace that made us feel it was time to check you out. Before we talk about the new release here’s another ball biting question, are the songs from Venturia an excuse for you and the others to show off your technical abilities rather than writing songs that could be a little more mainstream?
CS: I totally agree with you and I feel happy you don't see me as a shredder only. About Ventura’s music, if you take away all the technical parts in every song, you will realise how important the song writing is. When it's time to write a song for Venturia, I sit down on the keyboard or with the guitar on my knees, I play and sing along until I find some cool chords, melodies and riffs. When I have something cool, I think about the technical stuff. It's like a bonus, but a bonus we like to use too.
With Venturia, the priority has always been to do the best song writing possible. I feel extremely proud of our “Hybrid” album as there's everything into it. I mean, there are a lot of different influences. You can hear some Rachmaninov, Pantera, Muse, Dream theatre, Massive attack vibes. But maybe the problem is that the album sounds too rich and versatile and maybe it's one of the reasons “Hybrid” didn't sell that much.
Anyway, the other problem for a band like Venturia is that right now, people and especially reviewers don't like it when there's a lot of shred and technical stuff going on. Now, we have to think and write the music in a different way...For me it's like if you ask Michael Schumacher “hey, you're a great pilot but would you please drive safer with a touring car?” But music has never been a competition and right now as times have changed, people want to hear something more classical, with conventional groove and structures. You know, with the internet, the fantastic thing is that all the bands can promote their music but the thing is that you get lost among a billion other indie bands. So, if you want to create a buzz, you have to catch the attention really fast. This way, rich or complicated music has no chance to succeed nowadays I think.
BB’s: That’s a good analogy but maybe you should write from your heart and screw what reviewers think? Don’t sell your soul to the devil; we had all that sheep following in the 90’s. Here’s another groin stroking question, why do you guys sit in front of a camera on you tube shredding?
CS: Because every shredder does it. (Laughs...). To be honest, I put that stuff on the internet for a few reasons. First, I wanted to promote Venturia with the technical aspect too as some people are still into shredding videos. Unfortunately, less and less people look forward this kind of stuff; I should have done it on the youtube debut. The other reason is that I like to immortalize things I create. Music, videos and pics are some kind of ways to be immortal. Maybe I'd like to see it when I'm older and think: “Oh, I was able to play that, it sounds good”, same thing if I have kids one day, if they want, they'll able to check what their father was doing as an artist.
I don't think I will put new shredding videos on the internet. When it's too much, or too long, it's boring as hell. I'm ten times more into writing songs and making music with my friends.
BB’s: well you have had a couple of albums out with Venturia what was the meaning behind the debut title “ The new kingdom”
CS : When it was time to choose the name of our debut album, I first checked all the titles of the songs we had and the name “the new kingdom” sounded obvious to everybody. The lyrics of this song were written a long time ago by a friend of ours. We thought that it was a great name to introduce the first album of a new metal band. It sounds like “enter the new musical kingdom of Venturia”
BB’s: Looking back, which songs bring you the most pleasure from that album and why?
CS: I like all the songs of the album even if I think it sounds a little bit 90's sometimes. I really like the song Dear Dead Bride as there are many things going on. There's a lot of soul, emotion and energy. There's no chorus in DDB and it's a not conventional song at all, for me it's like a little opera rock.....But as this song is not efficient for the stage, we don't play it live. “New Kingdom”, “Take me down” and “Unholy one” are the ones we like to play live.
BB’s: The “ Hybrid" album followed a couple of years later and received some good reviews. When a musician wants to do a solo album it can be seen as the end for a band. You have used some of the same musicians on your solo release Naked Thoughts Silent Chaos so why did you decide to do a solo album? And what have you written song wise that you couldn’t have brought to the table with Venturia?
CS: Actually, I wanted to write the new Venturia album just after the release of "Hybrid" but it would have been too fast.
I wanted to do something more homogeneous, spontaneous, direct and less complicated than Venturia. I also wanted to express myself as a vocalist too; it was a big challenge for me. Doing something new was really exciting. Of course it doesn't mean that I needed to have a break with Venturia. It's just something different I wanted to experiment and that I had in mind for a long time now. All the songs were written after the release of “Hybrid” and for this project only.
BB’s: At what point did you realise that you had a good enough vocal to front your own project?
CS: It took a lot of time before I finally decided to do it. The problem was my underestimation. When I was a child, I wanted to be a singer before I wanted to be a guitar player but I didn't like my voice at all, that's one of the reasons why I 'd been practicing the guitar so much I think. Later, before we recorded the Venturia "New Kingdom" album, I worked my voice again, as our first singer decided to quit the band. I took some lessons but it was the same thing, I still felt uncomfortable with it and I was thinking "shed up and play the guitar". But one year and a half ago, I finally decided that I'll do this album with me on the lead vocals. I set about this project during a French interview for the "Hybrid" release, this way I had no other choice to do it and I did the same with my label Lion music. I was already used to sing sometimes in my cover bands and gained more self-confidence, so it helped me to realize this project. I think it was one of the biggest artistic challenges I’ve ever done so far. Right now, I even feel more comfortable with my new status of lead singer. I take vocal lessons again with a great teacher; I keep on practicing every chance I get..
BB’s: The band are perhaps more powerful than Venturia and there’s only three of you. How come?
CS: The musician’s line-up is the same and we play exactly with the same intention with Venturia. You're right, it sounds more powerful. Why? First, because there are not a lot of keyboards layers, no female vocals, stereo effects and no backing vocals in the background. All these elements soften the music anyway. The other reason is that we worked with another sound engineer who gave a live vibe to the songs in the final mix. The mix of the album is very dynamic, the guitars are louder compares to Venturia albums and we added distortion on the bass guitar, on the vocals and on the keyboards too.
BB’S: So how did you approach the song writing for the solo album and just for the record are you a big RUSH fan?
CS: I wanted to do something raw, more direct and spontaneous than Venturia. The melodies and the riffs had to be the root of all the songs. I found some cool riffs, easy to play so I can sing at the time. The writing process in Venturia is different, more rich, versatile and longer. This solo album is more guitar oriented. Talking about Rush, I used to listen to them a long time ago. I was more into their albums from the 80's but I guess what reference you have in mind. Without the synths, Rush arrived in the 90's with a more powerful trio sound and maybe you can feel the same vibe with my “Naked thoughts “album but heavier and with a lower voice than Geddy Lee.
BB’s: Talk us through 3 of your favourite songs on the Naked Thought Of A Silent Chaos album, the meaning behind the lyrics and what you were hoping to get across to the public?
CS : Lyrically, the whole album is an introspection about the different reasons that pushes an artist to do everything in his life to transcend his emotions, passions, fears, neurosis, libido and more into his art. What pushes an artist to continue his unending quest of perfection? In Venturia I like to talk about different social subjects, with “naked thoughts” it's more conceptual.
Musically, the vibe is quite the same in all the songs (in opposition to Venturia songs which are very different sometimes.)
People receive what they want...If we can interact musically, that's just great...
There's no specific message I hope to get across to.
Well, If I have to choose 3 of my favourite songs I would say “Relieved” which is the opening track of the album and the single as well. “Raise the Shadow” and “It Will Fly Away”
BB’s: Surely if the album receives a lot of positive reviews and offer of work comes in for Charly Sahona you will put your solo project before that of Venturia? This would affect their future. How will you address that situation?
CS: I'm pretty happy with the very positive feedback from the latest reviews of “Naked Thoughts...”. However, Venturia is my artistic priority number one. I'm so proud about this band, it so great to write songs and to play all together, I'm in love with Lydie’s voice and I like to be the guitar player only on stage. Right now, we've been working on the third album we hope to record in the next few months. After that, I'll write songs for a new Sahona album as I already have new ideas in mind.
BB’s: But if David Coverdale requires his services you won’t see his arse for dust LOL So what are the immediate plans to promote Naked Thought Of A Silent Chaos?
CS: So far, I've been reading the reviews and I'm answering a bunch of interviews right now.
I'm trying to book some gigs for Venturia so we can promote both projects and most of all play on stage all together.
BB’s: Are you saying you will do some Charly Sahona songs as a trio with in a Venturia set because that could be quite cool?
CS: Absolutely, last time we played in Paris, we did that. I played a couple of songs from “Naked thoughts” during a Venturia gig. I have to say I feel more comfortable this way. Lydie brings a lot to the band. I think our gigs are more interesting when she's on stage with us.
BB’s: So tell us about the French metal scene is it a genre on the way up or down?
CS: French metal scene used to have a very bad reputation in the past, but now things have really changed. It's a genre on the way up definitely....You can check bands like Gojira, Eths, Dagoba and my friends from Adagio to give you an idea of what French metal is...they're more into dark and black metal but they sound really good. There are a lot of music talents here, believe me. The problem is that it's really difficult to succeed and to tour with this kind of music.
BB’s: Any plans to come over here to the UK?
CS: We'd like to play in the UK so much, we just have to sell a bunch of records there so we have the opportunity to come to England one day.
BB’s: Well if you don’t mention Napoleon we won’t mention Nelson, maybe we can dismiss once and for all the myth that the French all have moustaches, wear striped hooped jumpers and berets to one side of their head, play accordion and drink wine not beer. Well that’s the French women we have met, lol. I think we will see your trio over here at some point if we can help. We will watch this space.
CS: Oh my god, French people looked like that more than 100 years ago. But let me tell you how people in my country really are...The funny thing is you can still hear accordion sometimes on the streets (and I have to say that a lot of people here really can't stand this instrument.), now the accordion players are not French but from Eastern Europe. Isn't it ironical? If you have moustaches, everybody will laugh at you, same thing if you wear striped hooped jumpers. I was about to say that it's the same thing with the berets and the suspenders but if a sexy model is wearing it. It looks really elegant, and well trained. But I don't see it very often. And I have to say that even if French people like to drink beer, they are more into wine. I really hope we'll be able to come and play in U.K soon, so if you can help, I'll be very thankful.
BB’s: Well Charly we do like the debut album. It’s a fine vocal performance and we look forward to seeing the band live at some point in the future. Thanks for the interview and good luck with the release.
CS: Thank you so much for the kind words and for the support, I really appreciate it. The interview, it was quite interesting?
BB’s: The weather is quite interesting but I wouldn’t put it in my Sky box planner!
CS: Oh, sorry for my “frenglish” lol, you know in French we use to say things in a different way, for example we don't say very often things like “It's wonderful, amazing or great” but if something is really interesting, we will say something like “it's not so bad or it's quite interesting”....So, thanks for this interview I really enjoyed to do with you...Sounds better now?
BB’s: Thanks to you Charly you have totally changed my opinion of the French. We found the interview was quite interesting too LOL
Interview by the Bailey Brothers,
07 March 2010