by Louis Hauguel
OccultRock.com: First of all, thank you Michelle for accepting this interview, we're delighted to have you here! So lot of exciting things are going on with the release of Death Penalty's debut album on Rise Above Records and your other band Bathsheba had a four songs demo streamed and an official video!
Let's talk about Death Penalty first, what's the story behind the name, how did you come up working with Gaz Jennings (ex-Cathedral)?
Michelle Nocon: Thank you for having me. Basically loads of material we recorded was already written way before there was any plan of really starting a band. When Cathedral ended Gaz found the time to rework all those riffs into songs and make new riffs. Previous year Lee contacted me asking if I would be interested in singing on Gaz record. Gaz didn’t have facebook so he contacted me through Lee. I passed on my mail address but didn’t really expect to hear anything from it. You can understand I was surprised when I got an email from him asking me if I wanted to sing on his album. In this mail he included 14 tracks. And he soon send another one in which he included another 8 more. I was chuffed! But I told him that I wanted to listen to the tracks first before sending him an answer. If someone like Gaz wants you to jump in, of course you want to do it. But I wanted to do it because I loved the music. So I listened to the first track, which is now the opening song from the album and I remember I was thinking that it sounds cool but I wanted to do sludge black. I was already in Bathsheba and you only have so much energy that you can’t be in 5 bands so I didn’t want to make a wrong decision. If I do something I want to give my all. So meaning if I would agree to do this, there wouldn’t be much time for the sludge black project I wanted. But when I listened to the first track, there was this melodic piece in the middle. Jezus, the feeling I got when I heard it was just so intense… I mailed him immediately to tell him I’m in. Luckily after listening I also liked the other songs or I would’ve had a problem haha.
It’s no secret that Gaz is a Witchfinder General fan and well… there you go for the band name!
OccultRock.com: What are the current plans for Death Penalty, can we expect the band going on tour soon?
OccultRock.com: What kind of themes are you exploring with Death Penalty, how's the writing process working for you?
Michelle Nocon: The lyrics are very personal. They are about life, love, hate, fear, sex, death, revenge… Some lyrics are about energies and others are about experiences in life, surrendering to something bigger than yourself, darkness and light, wanting to sacrifice yourself to someone, inner struggles…
Writing with Death Penalty is a pretty easy process. Gaz writes the music. He sends me the songs. I write melodies on all the wrong parts haha, he adjusts the songs and then I rerecord them with decent lyrics. When I have the feel of the song and the feel of the vocal line I just go with it. Before I start writing the lyrics I just try to feel what this song brings to me; a dream, a memory, something I read that struck me, a vision… When I’m not in the mood I can sit for hours without anything decent. So I leave the room and only return when I feel the time is right, even if it’s weeks later. This method of working is just right for us I guess.
OccultRock.com: Bathsheba is exploring some different paths, more in a pure doom tradition with a ritualistic feeling, could you tell us some more about it and also about the band's name?
Michelle Nocon: I’d be happy to tell you more. Bathsheba started with guitarist Dwight Goosens (Desinterred) and drummer Jelle Stevens (Sardonis). I joined on vocals and later Raf meukens (Death Penalty) on bass. After some gigs we got an offer from someone who wanted to do second guitar. We were actually fine the four of us but we were curious what an extra guitar could mean. So Filip Dupont (Hemelbestormer and ex-Gorath) joined in recently.
|Bathsheba (Photo: Kristof Vandebeek)|
Bathsheba is an interesting biblical character. But depending on what you read and believe you give meaning to her character. She can be a holy woman, she is also described as the woman who made king David a sinner. In the hebrew Bible she is referred to as Daughter of the Oath. She became the wife of King David. She was the mother of Solomon. Many speak of her as being Satan’s child because she seduced King David and so became Queen Mother. She is also referred to as a witch. So apart from the interesting name we loved the many faces she wears. She is never mentioned often but a very interesting character.
OccultRock.com: Was it a strong desire for you to be able to express yourself in two different bands?
Michelle Nocon: Seems I’m a very complex person haha. Most people are balanced somewhat in the middle where I am afraid my balance is in extremities. Death Penalty is the loud Michelle. More the party girl who kicks your ass. In Bathsheba I’m more of a introvert character. Most people probably know me as loud but I am a very lonely person if I can be honest. I live alone, I very often go out alone, whenever I go out I go walking in the woods for hours on my own… I love to be alone… I am very social and anti social at the same time, I’m very light but equally as dark, very humble but I guess I have an arrogance about me as well.... It’s very freeing to be able to express all that on stage. It’s I guess a bigger version of yourself. So it allows me to throw out a lot of shit. I have so much freedom in both bands that all those characters can speak on stage. I always thought I couldn’t do just one musical style because I am attracted to so many things but having 2 very different bands helps a lot. As does the freedom within each band so I can express myself in many forms.
OccultRock.com: How would you describe your musical, cultural influences to our readers?
Michelle Nocon: I’m very open minded. I listen from classical to black metal. Mainly underground stuff though. I try not to be influenced too much. For me it’s more important to do my own thing than to sound like anyone else. I like to keep it as pure as possible (not that I invented electricity or something big). Some of the singers I love are Tom Waits, Kate Bush, Mark Lanegan… Some bands I love are Woven Hand, Om, Ved Buens Ende, Blut aus Nord…
Also cultural I like to explore. I love stuff like paganism and tribes… so definitely some influences there. One of the trips I did was to go to Carnac in France to visit what they call’ les alignements de Carnac’ or megaliths. I went to visit Newgrange in Ireland, Dowth, Knowth, Uisneach… Those things interest me and affect me very much.
OccultRock.com: Do you have any interests in the occult, paranormal, mysteries of this world and have you ever experienced anything weird, out of the mainstream?
Michelle Nocon: Yes very much. I have always been drawn to those things even as a kid. It was very clear I was good with energies from a very young age. Everyone can do something with energy but most people don’t know that. They pay loads of money to go to this fortune teller or whatever. Even I go when I really need it, because my sight too becomes unclear sometimes. But if you allow you can see many things.
I am also very much interested in history, philosophy, occult matters, unexplainable phenomena, religion, conspiracy theories… Everything is connected really. You can never really look at them and separate them. I have seen some very weird stuff. And it wasn’t always pleasant unfortunately so I try to pay attention. When my mother died when I was 7, I had contact with her through her death. That contact became stronger with the years. But of course there is no light without darkness and I do confess I am drawn to it. I was drawn to it a bit too much at times. I guess I have to please both sides ha! But energy is very important. Whenever I sing something or use symbols it’s very important to know what you are doing. Loads of artist end up in the wrong alley because they have no idea what they are doing. There are some who know what they are doing and they sometimes choose to make a sacrifice.
OccultRock.com: If you have to pick up one place in the world to visit, which one would it be and why?
Michelle Nocon: Iceland. Without any doubt. There is something about Iceland. I mean the scenery is magnificent. I can almost not even comprehend it. It’s so beautiful. It has something very lonely and cosy at the same time. Also, some of my favourite bands come from Iceland. I’m telling you, there is something with Iceland. Listen to Svartidaudi, Sigur Ros, Asgeir, Olafur Arnalds… all Icelandic brilliance.
OccultRock.com: What are your thoughts on vinyls, do you have a turntable and listen to some records?
Michelle Nocon: Unfortunately my turntable has turned its last vinyl some time ago! I’m looking on second hand markets for an old skool one. I love vinyl, sounds more real and warmer. Gives more character to the music. Definitely a big fan!
I used to look for records all the time but it got a bit crazy. I got a great collection until something happened and I lost as good as all my records. I still have Danzig, The Misfits, Metallica (first pressing of Ride the Lightening), Woven Hand, Bohren und der Club of Gore… I just don’t start collecting again because it’s silly really. Now I only buy what I really want. Before I would buy all the special version and bootlegs… But after losing everything…
OccultRock.com: What are the last bands you've listened to and what did you think of them?
Michelle Nocon: One of the last bands I discovered was The Austrasian Goat with the song Pyre without Flames. Jezus. Sounds brilliant. Very heavy and pure. Another one is the band Fear of God; with the female singer. The song ‘Drift’ is mental. She sings like she is fucking crazy and I love it. Many technical singers couldn’t do this because she sings from the heart. You can learn many things, to sing technical. But how can you learn to feel and express your feelings and in such an extreme way… I truly respect that. She means it. Well she ment it, she died unfortunately.
OccultRock.com: Last words are for you... Anything you'd like to share with us, any thoughts, any rants, any comments?
Michelle Nocon: Thanks so much for having me and for the interesting questions. It was a pleasure answering. Thanks to all of you for your support. Keep this great magazine going! We are Legion.