Posted on by Oran

Defying all the odds and by default, creating a new strain of Metal is no easy challenge, however Zeal & Ardor’s Manuel Gagneux continues to blossom with his unique cross pollination of musical influences.


Sitting in the confines of his dressing room, the softly spoken artist, talks to Overdrive about how his powerful new album was came to be during one of the most globally disruptive times of our generation.

OD – This being Zeal & Ardor’s third studio album, can you elaborate a little more on what you meant in previous interviews where you state that there’s more of a narrative to this album to that of the previous two?

MANUEL – Well the previous albums were just an amalgamation of songs I had at the time, where this LP is, since we had plenty of time to sit around and write, I wanted to have more of a consistent flow to the whole thing. Basically, with the previous albums I had a number of songs but in this case, I wanted to have a larger body of work that was connected.

OD – In light of the events that took place over the last two and a half years, did you find yourself re-thinking the lyrical approach to the album, and also, did you find that the unfolding events from racial, to political to human were almost overwhelming, to say the least?

MANUEL – Honestly, I wouldn’t say I made a conscious effort to include current events, but it was impossible to ignore, so I would say that it was more of a subliminal influence on the music. Writing music is kind of like my own therapy. I don’t really try to digest this type of stuff but in this case, over the last few years, it’s been impossible to ignore.

OD – Having recently been touring with Meshuggah, there were some dates on the tour that saw you performing in places for the very first time. Do you approach these shows with a different mindset, as it’s a debut – a first time?

MANUEL – For the sake of consistency, I would have to say, no. We can’t really afford to do that. I don’t really know how to cater to new cities apart form what we do with all of our shows. I don’t think we could adapt that quickly, so it’s just safe to stick to what we know and try to do the best that we can.

OD – From the debut ‘Devil is Fine’ [2016] to ‘Strange Fruit’ [2018] to this self-titled, there is a noticeable swell of confidence and evolution with not only the music itself, but also with the lyrical content. Usually when an artist decides to self title an album, it is usually interpreted as somewhat of a new beginning, was this the case with this latest album?

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MANUEL – It just kind of felt like where I wanted to go with this project. I fell like this was us in full bloom for this cycle of songs and in some ways, it just felt right to self title the album. Also… we didn’t really have too many good ideas for a strong title! [Laughing]

OD – Was there a lot of excess ideas that you’ve put to the side from the sessions leading up to the recording of this album, that have now, have blossomed into finished material?

MANUEL – Yeah, I tend to create music by volume and not by quality, because I can’t really control the busts of creativity I get from time to time. There was a lot of ideas recorded, but I cherry picked, what I believed was the right collection of songs for this album and the rest of those ideas exist in a dropbox somewhere [Laughing]. When it comes to writing and recording, then the process of choosing what songs will work best…as a collection, or a full body of work, I just follow my instincts and almost let the creative energy take over. It’s kind of hard to explain but I just know when something is completed, or if it needs more work.

In this case, I felt that this was the right amount of songs, and the right songs for this album, at this particular time.

OD – Always one to push boundaries, do you have any wild aspirations of what you’d like to do going forward, but feel that it’s “too soon” for where you are right now?

MANUEL – Yeah, I am always thinking ahead. There is a feeling of relief for me, knowing that this self-titled album is complete, and has been released into the wild. It kind of feels like a completion of this era..it’s silly calling it that, but people wouldn’t be too angry if we got a little bit more experimental with other elements right now. I’m throwing a lot of pasta to the walls and seeing what sticks, if you know what I mean.

With regards to wild ideas, there’s a few ideas that I feel enticing, but it’s not the fact that I think it would be too much for people to understand right now, it’s more about me not really knowing how to pack it up and translate what I’m thinking. At the moment, some of these ideas are in a primitive stage, and I just need to keep working on them. The truth of the matter is these ideas are not ready for me.

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OD – With regards to the ‘bending’ of genres, do you find that Metal fans are by-and-large more accepting to blurring the lines when it comes to music these days?

MANUEL – I think we started touring at the beginning of that element of open-mindedness. I’ve really noticed a huge shift in experimental music becoming acceptable amongst the heavy music community. It’s taken a long time for some ideas to become a reality for the masses, but with so many bands taking chances and pushing their creative boundaries outside normal blueprints.

Bands like Primus did so much for experimental music and they were so far ahead of their time with everything they did.

OD – If you could change anything about what you’ve experienced in this business to date, what would it be and why?

MANUEL – I think the music industry is very male dominated. It’s like a boys club of sorts. We really want to make sure that we make an effort to have women tour with us because there’s this exclusionary aspect to women’s roles, not only in heavy music, but in the entire music industry, and we’d like to change that.

It’s such a shitty, weird hill to die on. I don’t get the gatekeeping aspect that keeps this industry very much as a “boys club“. There’s not a lot of people interested in opening these gates and offering more roles to very competent, educated and talented women. It’s very interesting to see the slow shift in things these days with so many fantastic talented female musicians getting noticed within heavy music genres, and also seeing so many people shitting their pants because they know how good they are.

OD – Have you ever considered collaborating with any other artists, or working on anything, such as a graphic novel like many bands’ seem to be doing these days?

MANUEL – I would love to work with Mike Patton, Bjork, Tom Waits… I just love the people that do things out side of the box. With regards to a graphic novel, it’s funny that you should ask that question because I’m actually working on an idea right now. It’s in the very early stages but yeah, I’m a huge fan of graphic novels and fables, etc, and I’ve been wanting to do this for the longest time. I’m working on a few script ideas right now, so hopefully the next time we speak, I’ll have more information to divulge.

OD – Speaking of other projects, you released ‘Set Me on Fire’ via your Birdmask project. Can we expect more music in the near future and a possible vinyl release of some of the older material?

MANUEL – I was thinking about putting some Birdmask stuff out on vinyl, but the delays that are happening world wide with vinyl production is just putting me off. However, this is definitely something that I want to do, for sure, when the time is right. With regards to releasing something for Birdmask this year, I’m not allowed to talk about it right now, but you can understand what that means.

Zeal and Ardor’s self titled album is out now. Pick up a copy here. For more information on Birdmask, please visit this link.

Oran O’Beirne

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