In the autumn of 2016 Empusae, the musical alter ego of Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe, will release an album on Consouling Sounds. We therefore introduce him this summer by releasing his music on a Consouling split album, released on the occasion of the Ghent city festival ‘Gentse Feesten’. This split is a collaboration between Consouling Sounds and Wool E Discs, the brand new label of Wool-E-Shop, and brings Empusaes music together with that of Klankdal. For the occasion of Empusae releasing his music on Consouling, we meet up with Nicolas and his girlfriend Chris at their home.
Nele: Hello Nicolas. You live in a remarkable universe, I find. There’s an atmosphere of melancholy, by the presence of objects and images dating from the fin-de-siècle. Mixed with orientalism, the interbellum period, a confrontation of cultures and emotions. Is this where you get your inspiration?
Nicolas: I’m basically a melancholic person. I love dark romance. This is the key to understanding where my stage name comes from. Empusae is the Latin name of a type of mantis. I found it by browsing through a book with pictures of insects and it stuck with me. Moreover, in Greek mythology the empusae were the daughters of Hecate, demons who devoured trespassing travelers. This coming together of on the one hand the terrifying and on the other the aesthetically pleasing, this mix of beauty and transience … yes. This idea and this word expressed exactly what I wanted to achieve with my music.
Nele: When did you start with Empusae?
Nicolas: When I was 14 I played the drums in a garage band. But in 1995 I wrote the first note for Empusae. I was 18 then and I bought a digital piano and a computer, and started composing melodies. Live performances followed the year after, and in fact I’ve never stopped since then. At the time I also made videos with super 8 tape and projected them with music underneath. The next seven years I constantly made music, sent out demos, and finally a first release was published on Divine Comedy Records, a label from Marseilles, which unfortunately now no longer exists. As a result, the music was really picked up, a lot of reviews appeared, and many performances followed. Later on, Empusae released on the German label Hands Productions and on Ant-Zen. I performed a lot in France and Germany at the time, because the music I made flourished in those countries. Now that’s all gone. Change of government, especially in France this had a big effect: all those clubs and organizations disappeared. If there are no more places where you can play … then the rest will disappear almost immediately.
Nele: That precarious state of the music scene, it is something to be aware of, especially in these times. But nonetheless, you have made a fascinating musical journey. I believe you even have other musical projects besides Empusae. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Nicolas: That’s right. Over the years I’ve played in several bands, sometimes as a full band member, sometimes only for live performances. Tzolk’in is a project where Empusae joins Flint Glass. This Morn ‘Omina, I’ve played there just 2.5 years but I could not completely live out my artistic vision there. Ordo Rosario Equilibrio, with this band I still play. And also with Onus. And then there are the live bands I’ve played in or still play in: Triarii, In Slaughter Natives, Ah Cama-Sotz and Consoulings Barst. In the projects I am highly involved in the ritual always plays a major role. The inspiration for Tzolk’in for instance is the pre-Columbian mythology. Such things are very inspiring to me. That translates into a trance feeling in my work. I also get this from the music I prefer to listen to. To name but a few artists: Vidna Obmana, Hybryds, … Bach also. And Philip Glass. The reason I am working on so many projects is that I constantly long for new inspiration. Without this I would get bored pretty quickly.
Nele: Is Empusae then the project you always return to? As some sort of spine?
Nicolas: You can definitely say this, yes. Empusae, that’s me, through and through. The music has changed tremendously over the years, coming from more noisy and post-industrial to what I would call more “organic”: nature is more pronounced, it sounds less clinical but more acoustic, there are field recordings. If I think about it, nature has always been an inspiration, but only now this is fully surfacing. And the latest development is the involvement of Chris, my girlfriend. She contributes so that the visual is again an integral part of the performance. Chris has a set of visuals and improvises with them during a live performance. The images are manipulated on stage. There is no story or given scenario. It is the visual translation of how I make music. And it makes sense for the both of us. As a couple we have come to be so close to one another, also in our artistic practice. Our life revolves around art. In fact, art is the reason for our existence. This feeling also has grown organically.
Nele: And now you will release on ConSouling Sounds. How did that come about?
Nicolas: When I discovered the Consouling label, I was triggered by a lot of new music. But not only the music, also the community that has grown around it, and this felt good. I kept listening, and at some point this found its way to Empusae. One day I suddenly had a stretch of 15 minutes of music of which I thought: I must let you hear it. But there was still something missing though. Another musician, who had already released on the label, filled this in. It may remain a surprise at the moment, which musician I’m talking about. The vibe that surrounds the label has been quite stimulating to my creative process. To me it just seem to fall into place, and I was satisfied that it seemed right for you too.
Nele: It surely did. For the Ghent city festival, we invited you to release the split album with Klankdal. To be continued in the autumn, when you will present your full album. Thanks for this interview so we could get to know you better. See you soon!
Artwork voor Empusae wordt ontwikkeld door Nesisart:
Portret door Leon De Backer.