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Nicholas Soulat of Outcast took some time to answer a few questions I sent his way via e-mail. It didn’t take long for him to write back with the following answers.

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Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. How is everything on your end? I hope all is going well for you.

Nicolas:
Hi, Nicos Here (Guitars). Everything is going fine, we’re on this great period where everything is shaping well : new merch, tours planned, compositions etc. Everyone is fine and ready to spread the music.

Awaken the Reason clearly isn’t your first time in the studio. Prior to this you did two demos, one under another name, as well as an EP and two other full-length albums. How has the recording process changed for you over the years? Do you feel that every time you go in you end up coming off a lot stronger from your past experiences?

Nicolas:
I joined the group in 2004 and as far as I’m concerned I can say that every writing/recording process had brought a lot of changes and evolutions. The influences aren’t the same today than they were 7 years ago. Our approach of music and making metal became more and more subtle and every day spent in the studio was different. The two first albums were recorded at home and sounded very mechanical and clinical, only one of the two guitarists recorded all the guitars (except the soli), all the part were mixed and engineered by Aurelien Mauro (Skeleton Crew) with his own gear. The result was very rough and massive but we definitely missed that warm fluid which can more and more be found on our favorites influences (Textures, Protest The Hero, Converge etc.) So that idea led us in this very direction and we asked Jochem Jacobs (Textures) to be in charge of the mixing part at Split Second Sound Studio which is a actually a professional studio. This choice was the best thing that could happen to our music and allowed it to sound more organic and bigger than the last ones.

Was there anything really different as far as the recording of the album went this time around as compared to the first two albums?

Nicolas:
We recorded all the parts at our own studio with JF [Jean-François Di Rienzo] : The Office/The Artist. Studio. The gears used were different, new guitars, new preamps and new DAW (Pro Tools). As the musical parts are more technical we worked a lot on our respective instrument to be ready and take a reasonable time for the recording process. We wanted a good compromise by mixing a live atmosphere with studio overdubs (Synths, Choirs and additional guitars).

Your last release, Self-Injected Reality, was issued back in October, 2008, and then Awaken the Reason in February, 2012. What delayed this album so long? Were you guys dedicated to making sure you had quality material going into the studio? Or were there other reasons?

Nicolas:
Well we all have a personal life with issues and commitments so it has become more and more difficult to keep a solid motivation every day and be fully dedicated for Outcast. Furthermore Self Injected reality which had received dithyrambic reviews in general didn’t keep its promises speaking about sells and tours. But we never stopped writing and arranging music, that particular point was the core of our motivation and as we were very satisfied with the music itself, we decided to put the riffs and idea in front of our approach and transcend it to its maximum. So that’s why we take that time between those two album. 3 years for the composition, one year for the recording and one year for finding the good label.

For Awaken the Reason, I sat back really picking up a strong Groove Metal influence much of the time that came into play with the more Progressive music and ideas. Would you say that this element has advanced more in your music on this release, or do you feel it’s about the same?

Nicolas:
That’s correct. Progressives influences such as Yes, Dream Theater, Steve Vai and Devin Townsend took more and more importance within the writing process. That was very exciting trying to reconcile colored and melodic materials with modern Death Metal stuffs. Self-injected reality was pretty cold and Awaken the Reason more organic and warm. Those two album are progressive but in different ways.

How about the evolution of the band so far? Line-up changes aside, looking at your new album and thinking back to the earliest days you can remember, do you feel that the band has really changed a lot, musicially or in brotherhood with one another since then?

Nicolas:
The Line-up changes is one thing you have to deal with sometime in a band. We tried to give it the best happening we could. Every member came with its own influences and musical approach and it changed a lot the way Outcast writes music. It’s also very important to keep strong relationships between us to ease dialogs and evolve as musician.

Outcast issued their previous album through Thundering Records, but yet this time around you went with Listenable Records. How has this shift treated you? Are there any big differences, positive or negative, between the two labels?

Nicolas:
Listenable is a very well-known label which allows bands to enter the professional part of the business. These guys know how to motivate us and it’s a real pleasure to work with such receptive people who can bring contacts, who can facilitate every single way available to promote our music. To be honest we wish we could release self-Injected reality with Listenable.

I wanted to ask you about some of the songs on here. First of all, “Elements.” This is just such a bizarre track on here, you guys can’t seem to sit still for any short period of time with the music. Was this the intention of the song? If not, what exactly was Outcast trying to do with this first song?

Nicolas:
That was totally the intention. Elements was the sixth song composed for the album. It was written by JF and me and we try to elaborate a crazy mix between The Dillinger Escape Plan, Steve Vai and Sikth. If you listen many (many) times you could easily unmess this crazyness and find repetition of riffs and patterns than can help to read the music.

How about with “Awaken the Reason – Part IV: When Dawn Brings Clarity.” This instrumental is a very moving piece, and I was really surprised by some of the classical composition ideas that found their way into the song. How did it come to be that this song existed? Were you aiming for something along these lines, or was this beautiful passage spawned in a different manner?

Nicolas:
This is my fault, I’m really really into Movie soundtracks and wanted to bring other influences (which by the way influence our metal side too) in front of the scene and assume those. We love Steven Wilson, Thomas Newman or Craig Armstrong and the idea of put this kind of trip in a metal album was very challenging. To be honest I almost wanted to put this song in tracks n°2. It’s really a song and not an interlude as our previous album could incorporate. We are really proud of the result as it represent a musical side we’re going to explore in more or less obvious ways.

“Isolation” was another one of the songs that stuck out, I’m curious as to why it was placed as the seventh track when it seems to carry very similar musical atmospheres and beauty close to “Awaken the Reason – Part IV.” Is this part of any concept to the album, or did it just happen to get placed there? Please explain.

Nicolas:
This is the longest track of the album, it seemed more intelligent to us to place it somewhere in the middle. It’s a particular adventure combining Dream Theater influences with Textures. All is very progressive, the music as the structure. It starts slowly and finishes with a sort of trademark in Outcast : an Outro (haha) It’s close with ATR part IV just because of the clean part just before the outro but the isn’t any kind of link between these two songs;

I really liked the fact that the bass become more of a pivotal tool for the band instead of just being there to back-up the guitars. When the band wrote the music for this release, or even in the past or for future releases, is the bass always taken into account so highly as it clearly was here? Please explain.

Nicolas:
This idea of the bass taking more and more importance on the music was just an idea we couldn’t achieve before maybe by lack of maturity. But as our musical language became much organic, we really wanted to have not just massive support on bass frequencies but also some personal grain. Thanks to Jochem we think we have succeed reaching some groovy agressivity underneath the guitar which maintains a great coherence with the drums. This is now a direction we want to keep in our future compositions.

I’ll wrap things up with asking what’s next for Outcast? Will there be any touring in the near or distant future, maybe shoot a music video?

Nicolas:
There are many plans of touring (we will open for Textures late March) we’re going to play at the UK Tech metal Fest in England.
Many other plans are the pipes and we hope to play in as many countries as possible.

Is there anything else I didn’t touch upon you’d like to mention?

Nicolas:
That’s pretty much it, thanks very much for the interview and the support. Take care.