Friday, August 01, 2014

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Interview: Spleen Arcana


Spleen Arcana is the solo musical project of French songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Julien Gaullier.

Formed in 2008, Spleen Arcana is an eclectic mix of Symphonic Prog, Space Rock and Art Rock drenched in melancholic and contemplative moods.

Pairing up with drummer David Perron, and with the help of Marie Guillaumet on backing vocals, Julien Gaullier self-released Spleen Arcana's first album titled The Field Where She Died in December 2008.

Recorded in the same handcrafted way and with the same team, Spleen Arcana's second album, The Light Beyond The Shades (2014), was released in February 2014 and the story is set to continue!

This interview was taken just after the release of his second album and Julien talks about it and about his passion for music and Progressive Rock. Check it out below:


Interview by Diego Camargo



Progshine – So, Julien, tell me about your beginnings. How did you start with music and when you decided to start to record your project, Spleen Arcana, on your own.

Julien Gaullier - Well, I started by learning the guitar at the age of 12 and felt quite early that I wanted to write my own songs. We started a band with some friends, playing mainly grunge music like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and then we played our own songs and did some gigs. I never stop playing guitar and learning new instruments since then. I created Spleen Arcana when we splitted. I've been involved in various projects before Spleen Arcana but when I moved to Paris, I was on my own and I decided that the easiest way to record my first album was to do it alone. Which was absolutely not true of course.

Progshine – And where the name Spleen Arcana came from?

Julien Gaullier - Spleen Arcana may sound odd to english speakers because of the word spleen, the human organ. It comes from ancient greek actually and it's an equivalent of "heart". At last but really not least, in French, spleen refers to a state of melancholy, the word is associated to Charles Baudelaire but was used by romantic literature before.
Arcana is the plural of arcanum and refers to some kind of mystery, or deep secret, but it's also some kind of a special mysterious knowledge. Well, you get the idea about the overall meaning. It definitely has different meanings, and it's what I liked with this name, this and the fact that it may sound odd as well. Every meaning is deeply connected to Spleen Arcana's music.

Progshine – And talking about your two released albums, how different you think they are from each other?

Julien Gaullier - I think the second album is a natural improvement from my debut album. Not in term of songwriting because I wrote all these songs around the same period but in time of production, playing and arrangements. I spent a lot of time searching for keyboard sounds I liked from my favourite records, classic sounds like the Mellotron, the Minimoog or the Arp Pro Soloist that I use a lot on this record.


Progshine – Julien, you're a big fan of music and you have a big CD collection, can you tell us a little about it?

Julien Gaullier - Well, I still love buying CDs. I'm not really into mp3, actually, I don't see the point of mp3 now you can listen to a lot of music through Spotify for example. I'm not saying streaming is a perfect model, I can tell you that I couldn't live with what I earn from Spotify streams but it's a great way to discover artists and then buy their catalogue. I don't consider myself fan of an artist until I own physically some albums from the artist. Anyway, about my CD collection, well I own around 800/900 CDs, mainly 70's progressive rock music, modern prog rock, a lot of 70's/80's hard rock and heavy metal (huge fan of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Deep Purple...), and 70's music in general. I own some vinyls as well, classic prog rock and nearly all Judas Priest catalogue. I don't consider CD as dead at all.

Progshine – On top of that you're also a big fan of musical gear right? What kind of instruments did you use on your last album The Light Beyond The Shades?

Julien Gaullier - Well, I guess I'm some kind of a gear geek ;) I spend a lot of time searching for new guitar sounds and since my debut album, I acquired new gear that replicates vintage gear. I'm talking about guitar stompboxes mainly like my Lumpy Tone Shop which is a clone of the classic Marshall Supa Fuzz used by Steve Hackett for example. I also improve my bass equipement by acquiring a superb vintage Fender Jazz Bass. Also, David (Spleen Arcana's drummer) used his own drumkit on this album, a Tama Starclassic Bubinga, which sounds great!
About keyboards, unfortunately, I don't own any classic instruments but virtual instruments offer fantastic alternative like the famous M-Tron that I played nearly everywhere on the album and give beautiful Mellotron sounds without the pain of changing the tapes ;) I used a large amount of virtual keyboards, it could be an interview on its own ;)

Progshine – And if we're talking about your new album, how was the process of writing and recording it? How much time did it take?

Julien Gaullier - Well it took 5 years because I'm very slow. Recording the drums with David took 4/5 days. I spent a lot of time searching for the right sound for the album actually. I wanted to improve every field of my first album (no pun intended). Drums, guitars, bass guitar as well, I was quite satisfied by the bass sound of my first album, but I wanted to go further, I love bass and it's definitely not just a background instrument in Spleen Arcana. It was the easiest task of this album though, very smooth process.


Progshine – You use all the digital retailers available to distribute your music, like Bandcamp and others. How important is the digital selling to Spleen Arcana right now and how is it to be the artist, the manager and your own label?

Julien Gaullier - I love Bandcamp! It's the main income for Spleen Arcana and the best way to support my music, it really help me to improve what I release. I guess I need the freedom to create and manage my little world as I want. You may think I'm easy to work with, and you're right but creating music is so important for me. I know it ends up as an mp3 files somewhere but it can't be limited to a digital file with all the work behind it, writing, recording and all...
But I think criticism is really important and I know people who give me great advices and I listen to them because you can't stay in your own world all the time, you can't do everything. For instance, I'm absolutely glad that Marie (my beloved otherhalf and webdesigner) worked on the design of this album, she knows what to do and she did a fantastic job! Same goes for David of course. At the very beginning of Spleen Arcana, I thought I could record the drums as I'm a drummer as well, but quite mediocre to be honest, and I wanted the drums to be interesting. I'm so glad and grateful that David accepted to record the drums for both albums, I love his playing!

Progshine – Julien, you're also very present in the digital world on social websites such as Facebook and Twitter. How much this new technological world is important to spread your music? And how  do you handle reviews and such?

Julien Gaullier As I don't play live, I think it's the only chance for my music to be heard. And it's a great chance. I've always thought that I would have loved to live in the 70's to witness all the musical magic that happened at that time but for independent studio projects like Spleen Arcana, the word of mouth that happens in the digital world today is quite unique. It's really a chance of our modern age. But it's not easy though. It's not just a question of being everywhere, it has always been and it's still only a question of good music!


Progshine – Talking about that, does being from France change anything in the way your music is spread throughout the world? Or because Spleen Arcana is a studio project it doesn't really matter in the end?

Julien Gaullier - I don't know... France had great prog bands like Magma, Ange, Taï Phong, Carpe Diem or more recently, Lazuli but to be honest, I don't really think about music in terms of counrty, there's no frontiers really and I sing in english so... I guess it could be a problem for some people if I would sing in french maybe? It could happen actually someday. I talked to some listeners that told me that they would be very curious to hear me sing in french.

Progshine – As a reader, I have always liked to know about my favorite artists tastes such as their favorite bands and albums. If you guys could name your favorite albums and artists, which ones would they be? Maybe give me a Top10 for both!

Julien Gaullier - So difficult! I could talk about my favourite albums and artists for hours!! I could name some of my favourites prog artists : Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Marillion, Camel, Mike Oldfield, Jethro Tull, Rush, Steven Wilson, Astra, King Crimson. And apart from prog music : Iron Maiden, Neil Young, Radiohead, Deep purple, Black Sabbath, The Gathering, Tangerine Dream, Anathema... I think it gives a good glimpse of my musical tastes.
Some of my desert island albums : Close To The Edge by Yes, Selling England By The Pound by Genesis, Brave or Seasons End by Marillion, Rising by Rainbow, Judgement by Anathema, Ommadawn by Mike Oldfield, Powerslave by Iron Maiden, Over by Peter Hammill, Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, Mirage by Camel and of course Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd!

Progshine – In all of my interviews the final space was devoted to messages from the bands and artists to their fans. So the space is all yours!

Julien Gaullier - First, thank you Diego for your work with Progshine, this is great that websites like yours spend time on independent and quite obscure projects like Spleen Arcana. And of course, thanks to all who support Spleen Arcana. I'm always surprised to see that listeners come from all over the world, I think it's great and very inspiring, thank you all for your endless support!
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See more 
Spleen Arcana on Progshine:
News, Articles & Podcasts
The Light Beyond The Shades Review

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