Tuesday, 20 January 2015

INTERVIEW: Mingmen



Mingmen released their third album,  in March 2014 which was recorded LIVE at Relief Studios in Fribourg. It reveals the uniquely individual personalities of the four musicians and their Metal compositions with unexpected hints of rock, blues and progressive.

Since Undercontrol was released in 2006, then Back to the Ground in 2009, numerous concerts and a Brazilian Tour in 2011, the evolution and growth of the band doesn't cease to amaze.

Now, lead vocalist and co-founder of the band, Sway talks to Femetalism about the band, their creativity, their desire for 'real' music and what they plan for the future.

Can you introduce Mingmen to Femetalism’s readers?

MINGMEN is an alternative Rock/Metal band I (Sway, vocals & guitar) co-founded in 2011.  After different line up changes through the years we have found the perfect alchemy five years ago when JG (Guitar) joined the band in the composing process of our 2nd album "Back to the Ground" then we called Dem (Drum), I’d known him for a while because he was playing in another band from our area and when he recorded his parts we knew he was the guy we were searching for!  The last one to join the band was Etienne (Bass) I didn't know him personally but I saw him play live, great bass players are hard to find and he fucking rocks the stage. We were really happy when he decided to come in the band!

How did you decide on the name MINGMEN ?

My father is an acupuncturist and MINGMEN is basically a very strong and deep acupuncture point located in the lower back (where girls had tribal tattoo's on the 90's) this point is very strong and can bring dying people back to life. It means "The Door of Life" and also the idea of introspection "the Man turning himself into his spirit". So when I was searching for a band's name my dad came up with this one and I thought it has a great vibe for the music I had in mind!!

How would you describe your sound?

Our sound has evolved along the years and through the albums from electro rock to metal. Our last album "There's a Place" has a way more rough sound than the other albums that are much cleaner, it's the sound we have on stage it's OUR sound with very few trickery like editing, additional vocals backing or guitars, samples or stuff like that, like we used a lot on our second album "Back To The Ground".  This time we recorded everything live in studio in a kind of old fashioned 70's way of producing music and this is because we were searching for authenticity, energy in the sound and more human experience than the "one instrument after the other alone in the control room" way of doing records. We did it in great studio with an SSL desk and lot of vintage gear, that we chose because of its configuration: we were seeing each other when we were recording and we could also sleep, eat and live there together! We did everything from recording to mixing in one consecutive month! GREAT EXPERIENCE but VERY EXHAUSTING!!!

What motivates you to create your music?

I think, like a lot of artists in different forms of art, the motivation to create comes from the NEED to express ourselves, to say something from deep inside, to get out all this feelings out and loud, it's a like a psychotherapy, it's a way to not become totally crazy in a totally crazy world! It is also so much fun to play together our own compositions and hearing from people that understand what we try to do in a less commercial way but still with songs that are not too complicated to listen to.

Where have you drawn your musical influences from for the band?

I don't know what is conscious or what's not because we don't think about it when we're writing and composing songs, we just try to get those energies and turn them out into good songs. But for sure we all have a lot of different influences and there are some bands we all love and respect in common like: Metallica, Tool, System of a Down. JG (guitar) also loves to play jazz-fusion, funk in other projects so we would probably name Scott Anderson, Zappa and he's a huge Iron Maiden fan. Etienne (bass) is a Thrasher in the soul so he'd definitely go for Slayer and Metallica, Dem (drum) and I love Tool and he's a total Meshuggah adept. I also like Folk music songwriters very much (The white Buffallo, Everlast, Tori Amos: Etienne love her too by the way). JG and I listen to Country Music, sometimes. As you can see we are a very eclectic band in our music tastes! It's up to you to tell if you hear some influences in our songs !

You released your third album There’s A Place earlier this year. Can you tell us about the album?

I wrote all the lyrics and for the composing part we have different configurations but for most of the songs JG (guitar) and I came up with ideas like guitar riffs and vocal lines plus some drum patterns or time signature ideas or even bass lines just to make Etienne and Dem hear what we were thinking about while composing the song, and then we played the song at rehearsal, arranged it together, tried to find each songs it's best form, it's own history and feeling.

Every song is different so there's no magical recipe that we can apply for all of them, and that's why it's so interesting and exciting to do! And as I said before in this interview, this third album was all about the process of having the songs showing who we are. We never thought about all the commercial things you should think about when you produce to sell. The song "There's a Place" is over 8 minutes, there are very few backing vocals and post-prod tricks, nothing to soften the sound too much so it might shock the typical symphonic metal fans a little. The guideline was that we had to come up with great songs and melodies that will sound good without all the usual arrangements and played live in studio.

The album art includes an image of your logo burning.  This was created for real up a mountain in a storm, which sounds like great fun!  Why did you decide to do this?

We always have crazy ideas and we're really happy and proud having been able to achieve this one!! Our friend and visual artist, Guillaume Faisant, created our logo for the ¨Back to the Ground¨ album and we always loved it. It represents the changes, the evolution of MINGMEN and what it is now, so we wanted it on a huge format and burning and we wanted to do it for real like the music, no photoshop fake fire! JG and his brother in law built the Iron logo, we went up this mountain with Guillaume and a pro photographer (Louis Dasselborn) and fought the elements to set it on fire, which was harder than what we thought (thanks to the snow and the storm). We didn't plan the snow and the storm actually, we wanted a mineral environment at first, but now we're so happy when we watch the cover (if you unfold it you can see all the panorama), it means all the unpredictable things that can happen to your life, that you have to deal with and that most of the time it's even better than what you planed, you just have to adapt yourself and open your mind!! It's also the amazing souvenir of this memorable weekend together, you can watch the making of on the MINGMEN Youtube channel! It was Epic!!

The band has evolved since it was first formed in 2002 and there have been some changes to the line-up.  How do you feel your sound has changed or developed since your first album back in 2006?

When I started this band I was 15, so I can tell now that I had almost no idea of what I was really doing, except that I wanted to sing, I wanted to rock and I had a lot of things that I wanted to write about. Now the songs are more complex, the sound and especially live is huge and we feel free to make whatever we want! "Back to the Ground" is a great album too but full of samples and backing tracks and was composed in studio. When we had to play it live it was complicated getting a good sounding performance and playing over samples and click tracks. I know a lot of bands do this know to have the "perfect sound" but for us it was like playing with chains and weight (do you understand what I mean ?). Now we are free, we plug and play and have fun together and to me it's what music is all about.

You have played numerous gigs in your home country of Switzerland and in 2011, you toured Brazil. Touring abroad must have been a great experience for you?

An AMAZING experience! Playing for people in a such a far away country, who don't know who you and your music are and seeing how they react to it is a wonderful gift!! And a lot of positive changes have been made when we returned from this tour, I think it was the beginning of the third album process! We wish we could have more opportunities like this one and over Europe. Playing in our country is cool but Switzerland is very small and the amount of venues and festivals, especially in metal, is very limited.

What do you enjoy most about playing live and which MINGMEN song do you most enjoy playing live?

The energy and the immediacy of live!! Sharing all these emotions and feelings with people!! Cross the line is my favourite live song, it brings me somewhere out of my mind and I love it, and the structure of this song changes at every gigs, so we have to listen to each other, be in communication with each other, we have to be on the same trip if we want it to explode, and when it happens it's so fucking good!! Musical orgasm in some kind of a way. The boys love Great Illusion and There's a Place is Epic !! :))


You are now looking to perform outside of Switzerland again.  Is there a particular city or venue you’d love to play?

EVERYWHERE!! But I have to say we have a little USA Fantasy, all the bands we like, the kind of music we love, it all comes from there, so it would just be a dream come true!!

So, what is next for Mingmen?

This USA Tour hopefully... :)), we have gigs planed in Switzerland and we are in touch with people outside in Europe, let see….

We're also working hard on new songs and I can already tell you that's it's going to be better than all we've done so far, I know that's what all musicians say about their future record but for us it's really true, I love those new songs, I feel like we're finding this combination of melodies/riff/interesting musical part and hymn chorus, we're getting closer to what makes us different and how to turn this difference into our strength! I guess it's what we learn when we grow, assume what we are and not try to be someone else, or what people want you to be, like in the Audioslave song I love (oh yeah, I forgot to mention Audioslave!!) Be yourself is all that you can do!!

Thanks a lot for this interview and your interest in MINGMEN's stuff, it was a pleasure to answer!

Huge thanks Sway for talking to Femetalism about Mingmen, we look forward to hearing much more from you guys in the future.

Grab a copy of There's a Place.

Follow the band on:

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Originally posted by Emma Sheridan on Femetalism.