"I came across Zeal and Ardor by chance, lured in by a friend at Reflection Records' description of the band as a blend of “African American spirituals, blues, and black metal," says Vice and many other articles about this unique project start similarly.
The Swiss musician Manuel and his newly added bandmates play Prague's Roxy on April 24. The entry is free. We have a short interview about the unusual blend of music styles he makes.
You grew your project into a band only recently, what were the challenges of the process?
It was surprisingly pleasant. The band consists only of people I genuinely like and consider friends. They also happen to be excellent musicians. There was a bit of work transcribing the elements into band format and of course lots of rehearsal, but it worked out great. It's a new group and of course there's routine and habits that will build over time, but that's not something we can plan or work on in our boundaries.
Do you spend a lot of time together, and will your bandmates be involved in songwriting?
We do spend a lot of time together and rehearse every chance we get. The songwriting is still something I do on my own. It's simply quicker that way and time is not a resource we have too much of right now.
What is your live show like?
There's going to be a lot of new material. Since the record is not too long, we had the chance to include new elements into our live show. We're a six piece band, so there's a dynamic on stage I'm very fond of.
I guess you'll just have to come see!
Your genre is pretty unique and your themes are not that easy. Do you get any angry reactions from bigoted / prejudiced people who dislike the topics of your songs?
There have been some voices showing concern, but talking to them convinced them most of the time. There was also a number of people that approached me from corners I didn't expect with kind words.
It's a mixed bag.
How is the Swiss society reacting to your genre?
Very warmly. Switzerland has had an interesting couple of years musically. There are a lot of exciting acts emerging lately. Strange, catchy and exciting stuff. I think this might be a fertile ground for weird new music.
At first I was worried that people here wouldn't understand my music, but I was simply very wrong. I'm happy to admit that.
Are you yourself religious?
No, not at all. But I'm fascinated by religion. It's something that's a huge part of the lives of so many people that ignoring it would be very naive. Maybe it's exactly the fact that I can't quite understand it that makes me gravitate towards religious themes.
What are your favourite books, movies and paintings?
I like strange speculative fiction. I recently read China Mieville's Perdido Street Station which was a very refreshing take on a somewhat stale genre. Other favorites are David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and Finnegan's Wake (which I only partially understand, but the parts I can make out are actually quite funny). I also love movies. I rewatched Haneke's Amour and it lingered with me for quite a bit. City of God, Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari and The Thing are other favorites. I don't know If I have a favorite painting, but I like Rembrandt, Francis Bacon and Egon Schiele a lot.
What we should know about Zeal & Ardor?
I think the more you know about something the less exciting it can get, since the parts you fill in with your own imagination disappear. So I guess as little as possible. Haha!
See Zeal & Ardor live on April 24, Roxy, Dlouha st.