Version en français - Mai 2001



This month Heavy Metal Mania hosts Holy Graal, a French Progressive Metal band, and seeks some more information about their past and their latest release "Just A Signal", a review of which can be found in the underground reviews section. Frederic Isnard (bass, vocals) is on the other side...

Q. Hello there, how are you today?

A. "Very well thanks. How are things doing in Greece?"

Q. Pretty good I'd say... First of all I want to express my congratulations on your Demo CD "Just A Signal...", which I found quite refreshing...

A. "We're glad you like it. We tried to put in this demo the most representative samples of our music, as we explore different atmospheres depending on the titles."

Q. Would you like to give us a small bio of Holy Graal?

A. "Holy Graal was formed in 1989, with the following line up :

Frédéric GUIONNET (Guitars)
Frédéric ISNARD (Bass and Lead Vocals)
Gil PINATEL (Keyboards)
Fatima TAAMALLAH (Vocals)
Cyrill TOSQUELLAS (Drums)

It's still the same line up and the band is someway a second family for us. Since its creation, Holy Graal released several demo tapes :
1990 : "Track One"
1992 : "Mind lookin' for an empty shell"
1995 : "Lookin' at the windows"
with the related concerts over the years. The very important thing is that the stability of the line up maintains energy and motivation in the band, and guarantees our musical sincerity."

Q. Holy Graal... May I presume that your name has any relation with the Holy Grail, the known religious artifact?

A. "There's actually nothing to do with religion, except that the Holy Graal is part of the Christian mythology.

The idea of the name first came from Monty Python's Holy Grail. This is the not serious motivation of the name...

Beside that, Holy Graal (with double 'a', like it is written in French), is really interesting because it represents the Quest of some perfect and universal relief, and it exists in several cultures and religions. Therefore we have something we can explore.

If we think about it seriously, the Holy Grail must be taken as an open and universal concept. This is how we see and understand the concept of the Grail."

Q. Do your lyrics have to do anything with religion?

A. "Not in the sense of some religious proselytism. There are mentions or metaphors about God & religion in some lyrics, but it's rather a way to say : "Hey my friends, wake up ! Religions and ideologies can be a tool to manipulate you and this can drive you to hatred, war, obscurantism... and stop killing your neighbors because they have a different way to pray".

If we look at the different songs, especially in the demo CD, here's many other subjects. "Birds" is the beginning of the story when this guy receives a sign and realizes with irony how sad is the world he lives in. "Insane" is a more introspective moment when he looks into himself and his personal problems, and the difficulty to communicate with somebody else that he loves. "Now you understand" is getting close to the solution (and close to the end of the concert usually) as another character of the story that appears in other songs ("Beholder"), drives him to finally accept his personality and his role in the world. This naturally goes to the last song, "Global Awareness", which is a sort of synthesis of all the messages and keys that can solve his personal problems and bring answers and solutions about his concerns about the world in general. Then it ends up in a positive way. Some hope doesn't hurt…"

Q. I guess that someone could place you within the Progressive Metal boundaries, however I believe that your music is more than that. What do you think?

A. "We used to be against being put in a precise category of music, but if you refuse stereotypes and classifications it's difficult to be recognized by people and especially by 'music' producers who should first be called investors. And those guys need to identify you quickly to be able to put your band in one of the empty spaces of their range of artists.

Having said that, progressive metal or progressive hard-rock could be the closest definition for Holy Graal."

Q. However the basic characteristic of your songs is the very strong space/trippy atmosphere, isn't it?

A. "It probably reflects the songs of Holy Graal as a whole. We maintain this trippy and strange atmosphere and we alternate with strong and violent moments that express the contradictions in the lyrics. Actually all the songs are part of a global script or story and the ambiance is the link between them all. You can feel it when we play live."

Q. Furthermore, there were times when some of your songs brought in my mind oriental tunes and melodies. Are you interested in embodying elements of other cultures in your music?

A. "There was no plan to do it. It rather comes from the fact that I've been traveling quite a lot in the Middle-East and Asia and I brought back these influences. We all appreciate oriental and Asian tunes, and I would like to put more in our music the future, as long as we have fun doing this."

Q. The keyboards play a very important role in your sound. Do you think that keys are equally important as guitars for example?

A. "Yes, keyboards are essential as well as our 2-voice 'system', especially for our atmospheres. We use keyboards for sounds, noises, or sometimes they simulate a second guitar, even if guitar/bass/drums remain the base."

Q. Are you self-taught musicians, or have you taken any lessons?

A. "Most of us are self taught musicians. The drummer learned."

Q. The vocals is something else that I wanted to talk about, since they are not like the ones people are used to listen to, they are literally used as another instrument...

A. "For us it's another instrument, and what I call our 2-voice system is somehow our 'trademark'. Fati and I really worked on it and the results are very interesting. We always try not to use the easiest voice arrangements in order to create some original atmospheres."

Q. Now let's talk about the Rock / Heavy Metal scene of your country. What is your opinion about it?

A. "It's quite poor in France, not because there's no band nor creation skills, but because it's not really a country for that. France doesn't really have a rock culture, and the image built for heavy metal in France during the 80's (violence, Satanism, fascism, extreme-left... anything you want) really hurts. This image still persists for heavy metal, whereas you can make a really violent Rap album, but there's a business & marketing system around to "protect it", provided you've got a "parental advisory" sticker on it. Besides, producers in France don't take a risk, and they will only look after stereotyped bands fitting in market proven styles."

Q. Yeah, I know what you mean; It works the same way in Greece too... How difficult is it for a French band to draw the attention of foreign label companies?

A. "It's already difficult in France because we are talking about a style which doesn't mean a large market in our country. The second thing is that we write and sing in English, and this prevent some cultural or musical organizations to help or to promote us in France. Therefore I guess, for a foreign label company, it's risky to endorse someone who doesn't sell much on the home market."

Q. Have you made any plans for the promotion of your band and "Just A Signal..." in particular? Any live appearances?

A. "Well, "Just a Signal" is now on the catalog of Musea, which is one of the largest European label for Progressive Rock, and will be soon available on a couple of web sites. We also work on several concert dates for the coming months."

Q. Can you name some of the bands that you would like to play with?

A. "Well, you know, bands like Queensryche, Metallica, Skunk Anansie, Marillion, U2, Police, Dream Theater... and many others in different styles. Some of them are not as good as they use to be... Well, seriously, we were asked to open for Fish or bands like Angra, Royal Hunt when they play in Marseille, but most of the time the Tour Manager imposes a band he's already have an agreement with."

Q. O.K. then, I have run out of questions... Is there anything you would like to add and I forgot to ask?

A. "If there's anything (concerts ?) we can do to promote our music in Greece, let us know !!! We're coming..."

Q. Thanks a lot for your time.

A. "Thanks to you, Loukas."

© Vlavianos Loukas


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