First off I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done with your new album ‘Anima’, but not all of our readers might know you guys, so maybe you could start off and tell us a bit about the background for Spheric Universe Experience?
Spheric Universe Experience – Well, back in 1999, Vince Benaim (guitarist) decided to create a progressive metal band. John Drai (bass player) and Fred Colombo (keyboardist) joined him a few months later, we started covering progmetal classics under the name of Amnesya, and then, for some reason, we left this band in order to end with covers and start actually writing music and compositions of our own. Spheric Universe Experience was born in 2002. Franck Garcia (singer) and Ranko Muller (drummer) joined the band later. We composed our debut album “Mental Torments” in 2003/2004. It’s been released in 2005 under Replica Records and Nightmare Records. We’ve had several live concerts, especially the big opening for the Scorpions in 2005, and then we started writing the songs of our second album “Anima”, which has been released a few months ago.
How has the response been on ‘Anima’ and what kind of expectations do you have for it?
Spheric Universe Experience – The response from SUE fans, progmetal fans, media, and people in general on forums and internet is quite good so far. Our expectations are high but realistic – we’re in a style which does not sell millions of albums, and the music industry is facing very tough times these days because of downloading and sales crisis. So we hope “Anima” will make us a bit bigger, that it will help S.U.E to keep growing and sharing more concerts with our fans. Our new partnership with American label Sensory opens up wider possibilities for us. We’re very glad to work with this label.
Where do you see the main differences between this album and your first album?
Spheric Universe Experience – “Anima” is heavier, harder, faster, and also more progressive, more ambient, more… S.U.E.! When we started brainstorming about the way we should compose our second album, we decided that it had to be just MORE. “Mental Torments” was progressive metal, well, “Anima” had to be more progressive, and more metal. So basically this is the main difference. In addition, production is way better, colors are more varied. We tried to keep the atmospheric melodies from “Mental Torments” and make them more heavy-progressive.
If you should choose one song, which represents the essence of Spheric Universe Experience on the album, which one would that be and why, personally I would pick the opener “Sceptic” – a song I feel captures the essence of SUE pretty well.
Spheric Universe Experience – It’s always hard to answer this question... End Of Trauma includes all elements that make the identity of S.U.E. – progressive themes, heavy metal aggressive riffs, dark ambient sections and melodic verses and chorus. But we should also mention The Inner Quest, Heal My Pain, or World of Madness.
If you had to describe your music to a complete musical ignorant – what would you tell him? Personally I used the label progressive metal – but there more to it than just that, right?
Spheric Universe Experience – Definitely. Progressive metal makes sense to someone who knows what metal is, and what progressive music means. Most of the people –either musicians or labels or fans- involved in the progressive music world aren’t even able to give a concrete definition of what prog music is about, so guess how hard it would be to tell a musical ignorant “hey we’re playing progressive metal, can you figure out what I mean??”. Hehe! We often say “we’re composing melodic hard rock songs”. I guess it’s the easier, clearer way to introduce ourselves to progmetal non-familiars.
Let’s get into the album – where did you record it and who produced it and so on…
Spheric Universe Experience – We recorded and mixed “Anima” here in southern France, with excellent sound engineer Charles Massabo from Kallaghan Records. It’s been 6 creative, hard-working weeks. We sent the album to Tommy Hansen from Jailhouse Studio for mastering. He put the final touch to it with the talent he’s famous for. We’re really proud of the production quality of “Anima”, because we’ve been investing a lot of energy, money and time in it, and the end-result is great.
Was the album completely written before entering the studio?
Spheric Universe Experience – It was completely composed of course, but we always find new arrangements and details to be added during the recording process, so some arrangements you hear in certain songs were almost improvised during the recording. But let’s say that 95% of the music and lyrics were written when we entered the studio.
How important is the lyrically side of Spheric Universe Experience – and what has inspired you on the album?
Spheric Universe Experience – Well, we compose a music that’s not only about sound, but it’s also visual music, something you may mentally “picture”, visualize. So we need our lyrics to fit the image created by the music. What inspires us is life, human life. Our lyrics are all about man’s thoughts, reactions and feelings in various situations in the existence. The human conscience is something so complex and rich that we believe it requires complex and rich music. And at the end of the day, the human feelings that we picture in our songs are not so distant, and many people may recognise their own life experience in our songs, they may say “oh... I know this – I’ve been through that – it reminds me of such and such period in my life” etc.
Tell us a bit about the album art work…
Spheric Universe Experience – The artwork of “Anima” was made by Björn Goosses from Killustrations. His style is so dark, and so different. He can create a whole world with only one small image. It’s amazing. When he came up with this cover, we felt it was the right one for “Anima”. You know, our lyrics often mention hard psychological times, sad feelings, doubts, etc. However, hope is always there, in both our lyrics and music, with some major-chord themes, and this oasis that’s emerging and spreading within chaos in the cover is the illustration of this immortal bright magical side of life that always comes back after sorrow.
Your name Spheric Universe Experience is quite a mouthful, what’s the story behind it and is there some special anecdote behind?
Spheric Universe Experience – hehe! No story or anecdote behing it. Just a concept. Spheric Universe Experience may mean we’re living on a sphere, just like the Earth, and we’re surrounded by a huge universe, or we’re unconsciously living within a sphere, the universe is actually spherical, and then what’s beyond it? Anyone can “see” this bandname in different ways and have their own vision of the concept of spheric universe. It’s funny to see people actually brainstorming about S.U.E. before even listening to the music!!
What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment for you and Spheric Universe Experience, not necessarily sales wise?
Spheric Universe Experience – It’s the fact we released albums. Simple as that. Broadcasting our compositions worldwide and playing them live is so wonderful. Five years ago, we would never have believed we would be doing interview for the release of our second album... It’s still incredible to us. Reading fans’ messages from around the world and sharing feelings about our music with them in our forum is one of the most fulfilling experience in the life of an artist, even of a human being.
What are the strengths and where can Spheric Universe Experience improve?
Spheric Universe Experience – Our strength is our will to compose music and play it life. Simple as that again! And the fact we’re close friends is an asset as well. Oh we have many elements to improve – we should keep practicing our instruments, listening to as many artists, songs, and styles as possible, keep watching life and Earth and all of its aspects, learn to compete with other bands, because this is not easy, learn about fans’ tastes and people’s comments and try not to forget them when composing, etc.
Do you have any touring plans for 2007, maybe on the European Festival scene?
Spheric Universe Experience – No tour booked yet but separate gigs here and there. The most exciting one is ProgPower Scandinavia in Copenhagen on November 9th. We’ll share the stage with bands like Andromeda or Threshold which we’ve been listening to for many years. It’s an honour to be playing there.
What would the billing look like on your dream tour?
Spheric Universe Experience – oh... our dream tour would include S.U.E.! I mean, having a tour is a dream, whatever the bands and venues are! Seriously, we’d like to tour with bands that share the same love for music and progressive music and heavy metal, and the same type of fans. The bands we’re playing with at ProgPower Scandinavia are great – having more than one concert with them would be great!
Name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life … and why?
Spheric Universe Experience – You know, we’re five different persons in S.U.E., with different tastes and experiences, so naming one person or album or event is hard. Let’s say that musicians, and especially heavy metal and progmetal composers have influences us a lot (Dream Theater, Symphony X, but also Metallica, jazz artists, extreme death metal bands, electronic music artists, etc.). There are just too many, we can’t name just one. If we consider this question from the standpoint of the S.U.E. history, then it’s surely the day Claus Jensen and Intromental Management offered us a management deal. They made the S.U.E. career concretely start. They introduced our band to labels and media. This is perhaps the most important event in the S.U.E. history.
Give me your shot at some albums you’d rip for your iPod if you were to be sent to the MIR space station tonight.
Spheric Universe Experience – Dream Theater “Images & Words”, Symphony X “The Divine Wings of Tragedy”, Final Fantasy VII O.S.T. (we’re all big video games fans, like most of our fanbase).
Which album(s) have put a big smile on your face and has made you bang your head in the past year?
Spheric Universe Experience – Many! Albums that made us smile: Incognito (some sunny acid jazz played with high musicianship and positive grooving), Steve Vai’s live album including songs from several countries and traditional styles, it’s so fresh and happy music! Albums that made us headbang: Lamb of God “Sacrament”, In Flames, Soilwork “Figure Number Five” and “Stabbing the Drama” and “Natural Born Chaos”, Killswitch Engage “As Daylight Dies”.
I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
Spheric Universe Experience – hmmmm… We just want to say thank you to you for interviewing us, and to our fans. We hope “Anima” will bring pleasure and emotions to as many people as possible and we can’t wait to play it live for people around this whole world! Merci et à bientôt !
Interviewed by Kenn Jensen.