Wheelfall are a band that defy easy categorisation. Formed in 2009 in Nancy, France, and led by multi-instrumentalist and writer Fabien W. Furter, the band’s earliest releases slot neatly enough into the Stoner Metal genre. However it’s with the release of 2015’s phenomenal “Glasrew Point” that the band seemed to almost entirely re-invent their sound and aesthetic, to become a captivating mixture of Post-Metal, Atmospheric Sludge Metal, Industrial Metal, Avant-garde Metal and Noise Rock. Having released a follow-up, “The Atrocity Reports” in 2017, and their most recent work earlier this month, “A Spectre Is Haunting the World”, it is clear that Wheelfall will never tread the same ground twice, with each release taking the band’s sound into uncharted new territories. Through it all, Fabien’s singular, dark, dystopian vision has created a world of out of control capitalism, societies in disarray, loss of meaning, serial killers and existential despair. Put all these ideas together with the intensity of the music and you have the crushing beast that is Wheelfall. Keen to learn more about this band, I got in touch with Fabien to ask for an interview. I discovered an extremely friendly and thoughtful guy, and I was really fascinated by his responses. I hope you will be too.
Hi Fabien, thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed for Blessed Altar Zine. Below are my questions.
Fabien: Hi Tom! Thank you a lot for these questions… So, here we go!
The new album “A Spectre Is Haunting the World” sounds great and it looks great and you’ve got all this cool merchandise alongside the release. Has the situation with Covid been a major disruption to how you would normally promote and support a release?
Fabien: Thank you! Of course, the covid crisis had a big impact on the new album: in terms of promotion, we would normally book a tour to spread the word everywhere we can. With these lockdowns this can’t be done at all, and it can be difficult because I think live music and the energy of people who listen to it in the same room is a very important part of what we do. But we have no choice, so we have to find solutions! And nowadays, for better or for worse, we almost all are on social medias several hours every day… So, we focused the promotion on social media, basically. Finally, it’s not that different than before: it’s still word of mouth that is the most important. The challenge is to be heard!
The album has an interesting concept to it. Could you talk a bit about how you came up with the ideas and the theme of the album?
Fabien: The album retraces the story of a citizen like you, me, everyone, who find himself on the verge of assassinating the director or the International Monetary Fund; and every track following the first one is a memory of a key moment which led this man from his quiet existence to an irredeemable act. Actually, the idea in itself came to me during a sleepless night, an after party: I was with Niko (the previous drummer of the band), and we watched a debate on the internet, with Alain Damasio (a SF writer) and Aurélien Barrau (a famous scientist) about the disturbing state of our world. And at one time, I just say “man, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, someone absolutely lost, backed up against the wall by an absurd society, decided to kill the most important people of the world”. And weeks after that, I found the idea very interesting, so I decided to develop and include it in the album! The whole story focuses a lot on global capitalism, on how the world became so artificial, ruled by productivity, invasive technology and market laws, and the character in the story decides that the director of the IMF represents everything going wrong and wants to make a statement.
So, ultimately you know what is this “spectre” which haunts the world! The title of the album is a nod to the title of a famous manifest by Marx and Engels, and a nod to Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo too.
How did Wheelfall first come together, and how did your intentions at that time compare with the impact you want the band to make now?
Fabien: Ho, nothing really fancy here: at the time I wanted to form a band, and Flo too (the guitarist and only member of Wheelfall, besides me, who is still in the band now). We wanted to play music loud and to be free of doing what we wanted, and we formed Wheelfall. Even with the very first EP, there’s a story told through the tracks: I guess it was spontaneous, I wanted to tell something through stories. And this first EP, we produced, recorded, mixed ourselves (with the limited knowledges we had at the time), then we gave it for free on the internet. So that’s it! Several years after, we still play our music loud, we still do exactly what we want, we still doing things in independence, almost as a collective (because we love to include others arts and artists in our albums, writers, painters, photographers, illustrators, remixers etc), we still tell stories through our albums. The music changed, evolved as I evolve through the years, but I think the idea remains the same!
What led to the band having such a drastic change in style from the kind of Desert/Stoner Rock/Metal of the first album to the incredibly dark and atmospheric Sludge Metal (if I can call it that) of Glasrew Point?
Fabien: Yes, it can be confusing (laughs) indeed! I often consider Glasrew Point to be the real foundation of Wheelfall to be honest. When we formed the band, we wanted to play stoner/doom rock, so we did: it was more of an impulse I think, and it didn’t last long. The year before Glasrew Point was particular for me, and as the composer of the band I questioned myself about what I wanted to really do; I have really strong roots in the industrial music movement, the hardcore-punk scene, and I obviously like loud guitar driven music. It seemed very natural. The other members were really supportive and as the line up didn’t change (we even added Thibaut at the time, who already came with us at every live show to help us), we kept the same band name.
In addition to the story concept of your latest release, the title of your first album Interzone looks like a William Burroughs reference and I wonder if The Atrocity Reports might be a nod to J.G.Ballard in some way. There was also a novella coming out of Glasrew Point. How important are literature and storytelling to Wheelfall in general?
Fabien: You’re right on everything here! As I said, I’ve strong roots in the Industrial movement, and this movement not only includes music: it is more of an idea driving all art forms. At first it was really influenced by the beat generation (Burroughs), and Ballard was an influence too. When I discovered them, I was absolutely shocked by how free it is! No, fucking, rules. It was surrealist, very political at the same time, extremely provocative… High Rise and Crash are even today two of my all time favorite novels. I love that a same theme can be seen differently through different arts, you don’t receive it the same way and I wanted to bring that in Wheelfall. And I love telling stories, for me it’s like being a scientist: I create something in a Petri Dish, I add a disruptive and let’s see where it leads (laughs)! Well, by saying that, I realize that it’s what I do with music too. I believe that music can be narrative too, so I try to do this.
What other themes and topics are you interested in exploring in Wheelfall and your other musical projects?
Fabien: I don’t want to restrain myself in Wheelfall: until now, the themes of the releases are largely about our society and how we can live our lives into it. It seems like everyday brings loads of things to talk about, these days… So, we’ll see! I have an other musical project named Death Whore: it’s some hardcore-punk mixed with death metal. I wanted something quite stupid and nasty, here the themes are gore and provocative like a Henenlotter movie, and it’s very fun (laughs)!
How important is the visual aspect to your music?
Fabien: As I said earlier, it’s a matter of seeing the same theme through different arts. It’s not speaking the same way and I really like that. For “A Spectre is Haunting the World”, we did a fanzine with 8 artworks made by 8 artists, one track each: we sent the track with the concept and the lyrics to an artist, and we gave him/her a total freedom! And I’m glad to say we had 8 really superb artworks, it’s absolutely awesome that everyone involved in the project was so motivated and did so much great things. We’re really grateful for that. It’s not only a music album, it really is a collective work!
Speaking of visuals, I’m morbidly fascinated with the cover of the latest album. It’s quite brilliantly disgusting, like A Vulgar Display of Power for the dystopian age. How did you capture that picture?
Fabien: Ho, thank you A LOT for this comparison! “Vulgar Display of Power” is one of the most iconic album covers of all time… And to be honest, I didn’t think about it until now! Awesome, it really makes sense. What is quite funny with this cover is that it was completely spontaneous: we had an artist who had to do the cover artwork, and we gave him total freedom at the beginning of the summer… And he simply threw away the project at the end of August without any warning. The album had to be ready 2 weeks later, so we had to figure out what to do. It was quite some stress (laughs)! But one night, we drank altogether at a bar, and all of a sudden, Max and Thibaut M. (actual drummer and bassist) said “it would be cool to have you vomit something really white on the cover! It would be aesthetic, yet striking and it resonates with the concept!” … So, 15 minutes later, we called a friend who is a photographer (Antoine Labreuche) to talk about this and he was up for it. 2 Days after I was vomiting milk in front of a lense (laughs)! Honestly, I would never have a better idea. I think this is what this album needed, and I find it really relevant regarding the times we live in.
You named your label No Good To Anyone and I’ve seen you mention Today Is The Day as a reference point to Wheelfall. Is the name a nod to their last album, or just a coincidence? Has their music been a significant influence?
Fabien: Absolutely. Today is the Day is a major influence for Wheelfall: their music is really raw, it gets into your guts, it has so much emotion… And I love how Steve Austin works with his music, in some ways I really can relate to that. Our music is certainly not the same as TITD, but I really think it can be related: the way both bands mixes different genres to make something extremely personal and free, the freedom to do anything you want, the most honestly possible. It’s weird, but it’s kind of a totem-animal-band for me! For “A Spectre…” I needed a new label: I want Wheelfall to create its own model, like Fugazi did in their time with Dischord, so we work in independence with a model that fits our artistic vision since the creation of the band. So, I was looking for a name, and “No Good to Anyone” is such a powerful sentence! And it was unused as structure yet, I didn’t think twice!
Do you think things will be able to get some way back to how they were for musicians before the pandemic, or is the landscape altered forever now?
Fabien: I think nothing ever gets back. We always go forward and we must learn from what we live… And ultimately, yes I think the landscape is altered forever. Is it a good thing or not? I don’t know but I’m sure and I hope we’ll be able to take something interesting from this whole thing.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thank you a lot for this opportunity, it’s been a pleasure! Be curious, support your favorite artists and support the alternative way of thinking!
Thanks again to Fabien for taking the time for this interview. Be sure to visit Wheelfall and No Good To Anyone on Bandcamp and follow the band on social media.
“A Spectre Is Haunting the World” is out now on Vinyl, CD and digital.
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