Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Interview with Philippe from Remission

Remission is an incredibly dynamic hardcore band from Chile that I’ve had my ears tuned into for several years now. While they started off with a little bit more of a 90’s crunch to their sound, the last couple releases have really seen them upping the melody and D.C. influence, putting their current sound somewhere alongside a band like Praise.

Their new LP “Enemy of Silence” will be out this summer on React Records and it is definitely among my most anticipated listens of the year. An East Coast run is being put together to support the release as well, so if you’re in the area of their routing, consider yourself lucky.  

I’ve been picking vocalist Philippe’s brain here and there over the last several months, below is our exchange.

First things first, I always like to hear about people's background and roots, so talk a little bit about your family, childhood, and growing up in Chile.

My name is Philippe and I have been singing in Remission for the past 9 years. I was born in Santiago, the capital of Chile and one side of my family are Greek/French immigrants who came to South America after WW2. At the age of 4, I was placed in an American school so I've spoken English ever since and I handle it better than I do my Spanish. That is one of the reasons why this band is sung in English and it has worked to our advantage to get the word out and travel around.

My childhood was peaceful in spite of my parents' split in the late 90’s and growing up in Chile has been interesting. Like most places in the world, there are things about the system that you stand against like the influence of the Catholic Church or conservative politics and social inequality (because the middle class doesn't really exist). Either way, I have friends from all over with different backgrounds (partly thanks to hardcore) and at 32, I'm at a point in my life where I've reached peace with my wife and 2 cats.

How did you start getting into music as a kid, specifically punk and hardcore? What were some of the first shows you went to, bands that blew you away" etc.? 

My older sister and I liked to watch TV music channels and were exposed to bands like Nirvana, Offspring, Green Day and Metallica. In the mid-90s they’d play good stuff that I still enjoy to this day and later in 1997, I got heavily into skateboarding and a lot of those soundtracks were amazing. From the Misfits to Iron Maiden or Public Enemy, I became more open-minded and liked many of the songs on the videos, although I never dug up more information or became obsessed with a genre.

Then in 2000/2001, I met my best friends (two Americans) who had just moved to Chile and they started showing me more punk and hardcore. Simultaneously, my sister was attending local punk rock/ska shows so I was being influenced from many directions. I didn’t like many of the Chilean bands at the time but I remember going nuts when one of them would cover 7 Seconds, Minor Threat or Chain Of Strength.

My first big hardcore shows were 7 Seconds at Chain Reaction and Insted at the Showcase Theatre in 2004. After that summer in California, I knew I wanted to seriously sing in a band.

Did your family encourage you to pursue music when you were young? At what point did you start doing bands, singing, writing lyrics, etc.?

They were always supportive and cool with everything their children did. I was offered piano lessons but wasn’t interested. When I showed an interest for playing bass in 2004, my dad went out and got me one. Back in High School, I was a choir member and when they hosted “Battle of the Bands”, some friends and I performed covers of Minor Threat, 7 Seconds, Gorilla Biscuits and even In My Eyes.

Shortly after when I was a senior, I started writing goofy lyrics about skateboarding, friendship and being straight edge. After graduation, some of those “Battle of the Bands” friends started a band of our own and I became the singer. The band was called Remains To Be Seen.

Did you fly up to the U.S. specifically for those shows or were you here for family/school/other reasons and just happened to catch them? What were your impressions of the U.S. and what similarities and differences to Chile were most striking?

I travelled to California to visit my best friend after graduating High School. The 7 Seconds/Insted shows were perfect coincidences. As a skater I was stoked to ride in cool spots, skate parks (which Chile didn’t have at the time), swim in the warmer Pacific (Chile’s area is pretty cold), go to decent record stores and eat burritos whenever possible.

Nothing really struck me as very different because I think our countries are similar and share the same problems, we’re just racially different and Chile has more Catholics and Evangelicals. The amount of cars was kind of surprising but 14 years later it’s almost the same here.

Tell me about Remains To Be Seen. Did that band write/release/play out much?

The first Incarnation of that band lasted about five months. We recorded a bad demo cd-r and the band tried to sound like Strike Anywhere. When the other four told me they wanted to play metalcore, I quit and they changed their name. I started hanging out more with guys from local shows involved in other bands, zines and a label. Me and three straight edge kids started jamming and decided to redo Remains To Be Seen with the sound I always wanted: mid-to-late 80’s hardcore.

In July 2005 we played our first show and began the second incarnation. That line-up released a demo tape the following year and recorded a seven song 7” called “Defined Identity” through Amendment Records (their first vinyl release). When it came out in early 2007, we headed to Argentina to play three shows with our new bass player (Daniel from Remission) and that was our only tour. We had two more line-up changes and the band wanted to evolve and play more 90’s style hardcore so we changed our name to Remission in October.

In November we played our first show under the new name with Have Heart in the port city of Valparaíso but we kept playing the same songs so to me it was still Remains To Be Seen. Three shows later we called it quits so the guitarist would focus more on his band Approach. Daniel and I played there as well and we continued our partnership. We only wrote one new song (Reach Out) after the 7”, which Daniel and I fixed up and made part of the reformed Remission in April 2008.

Our first legit Remission show was in June 2008 and it featured an entirely different line-up with Daniel on guitar (instead of bass), Cristian (drums) and Diego (bass). That’s when Remission really started.

So when I listen back through the Remission discography it seems to me that the split with Police n’ Thieves marked a real sonic shift from that early 90’s hardcore sound with lots of crush to something with more melody and polish, which really came to fruition on "Pain Understood". How much of the sonic shift over time has been intentional versus just kind of what has naturally came out of you guys as musicians?

Daniel writes all the music and I’m surprised at how eclectic his taste is. After the split came out and he wrote the “Pain…” 7”, he was on a strong dosage of Shadow Season and Godspeed, experimenting with more chorus and reverb than before. Those two songs are the result of heavy listening but everything done afterwards (the nine songs from “Enemy Of Silence”) came out more naturally.

So you guys have had a couple releases that came out through React when Aram was at the helm, then you did a couple through Amendment and now you're back to React for the upcoming full-length. How did you hook up with React in the first place and what has it looked like to travel back to them for the new stuff?

After the “Accept” LP, Aram offered to put out our “Winds Of Promise” EP because he liked what he’d heard and thought we fit in with his work ethic. Our following recordings came out through Amendment because our friend Pablo was living in Montana and wanted to help out. His label isn’t active anymore but even before this, I kept in touch with Evan and tossed the idea of him releasing the LP to which he agreed.

After three 7”s, everyone knew the next objective was to write an LP and React! is the best option to put it out. They’re in touch with current hardcore and already treated us well seven years ago for our U.S Tour. We’re heading back to the East Coast and are glad to be reunited for our record release show. A lot of people respect the label and the bands roster, which is useful to get the word out and be heard in more places of the world.

What was the writing process like for "Enemy Of Silence" and what (if anything) were you trying to do on this one that's perhaps a little different from your past work?

The writing process was very long and everyone chipped in with ideas and influences. We didn’t want to throw out a good song only because it didn’t sound aligned with the others’ styles so the LP is eclectic and fun. I do remember all of us thinking we’d gone too soft with the previous release so this LP had to be harder and more passionate.

The songs are more diverse, the lyrics took longer to write (one on the same week as the recording) and the artwork isn’t abstract or colorful like the previous ones. We went for good old black and white, a sort of homage to the simplicity of early 80’s hardcore and the cover features illustrations done especially for the release by Eric Himle, who did some work for Battery and Boysetsfire.

Just from following your social media I've gathered that you guys really took your time with the recording and mixing was the studio experience and what drove you guys to be so meticulous this time around?

The LP took such a long time to write, after a while we no longer felt pressured to meet a deadline with what followed. The only thing that mattered is that it sounded the best way possible with the resources we have in the city we live in. First drums were recorded in one studio in August of 2016. Then we slacked because life gets in the way and finally laid down guitar, bass and a few vocal tracks in January of 2017 in a different studio called Santuario Sónico. I completed the vocals in February, went on vacation to the U.S, then the band played 2 shows in Argentina in March and I finally completed all voice-overs and touch-ups in April.

The studio experience was fun. It’s a one story house turned into a professional studio with a kitchen for lunch, snacks and lots of tea. Our sound engineer wasn’t hardcore or even a hard rock guy. Adolfo came from Spain and helped us a ton with his knowledge and good ear. The mixing took so long because we wanted to participate as much as possible and that could only happen on weekends when Adolfo’s schedule allowed it. We were meticulous in everything because we owed it to ourselves to put out quality songs we felt proud of.

For five years all we could account for were numerous shows but no recordings and that was a bummer during rehearsals. I’m glad it’s all over and we have something new to show the world and look back on with satisfaction.

Lyrically speaking, what sort of themes will people encounter on the new record and what shaped your thinking as you put words to the music this time around?

The themes are a combination of personal experiences and reflections along with situations that affect others more than me. I deeply empathize with sexual assault victims who as we all know are mostly women, due to the male dominant societies that prevail through unjust laws and archaic mentalities. After some of the stories I heard from my wife or on the news, I felt the urge to address the issue on the song “Unsafe”. The other topics deal with liberation through expression, still feeling out of step, sexual freedom and religious oppressors, corporate greed and more. Inside the LP you will find the lyrics in both English and Spanish.

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