Sergi ‘Bobby’ Verdeguer: “’metanoia’ is the journey of changing one’s mind, heart or way of life. This journey is a painful journey to the deepest part of yourself, it’s a very introspect album in my opinion. I think that every strong change comes with pain, and that’s what we tried to tell here.”
Het feit dat Persefone afkomstig is uit Andorra is al lang niet meer de voornaamste wetenswaardigheid over deze sympathieke en uiterst virtuoze band. Zij kunnen bogen op vijf klaterende progressieve metal albums en wereldwijd touren. Nu komt daar het zesde album ‘metanoia’ bij als debuut voor een groter label (Napalm Records). Aangezien dit alweer een knaller van jewelste is, een indrukwekkende muzikale reis qua klanken en inhoud, grepen we de kans aan om drummer Sergi ‘Bobby’ Verdeguer één en ander te laten uitleggen. Het resultaat kan je lezen in dit interview.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 15 februari 2022
Hello Bobby! We are following Persefone since the beginning and glad to speak with you once more, this time on behalf of ‘metanoia’. How are you doing?
Hey Vera! Thank you for having us!! We are super excited with the new release honestly! It’s been a long road!
Congratulations with the new album. That will be released by Napalm Records, so finally a bigger label. I remember you did crowdfunding for previous album, so I guess you are happy with this new signing? How did you manage to enter the Napalm roaster?
Yes! Sometimes I forget about the crowdfunding haha, but it was unbelievable and we could record the album thanks to our fans. We already had a label, Vicisolum Records, but making an album is expensive, that’s why we did the crowdfunding. Anyway, so as I mentioned, we already had a label, a small label from Sweden with an amazing human being behind it called Thomas. He signed us for ‘Spiritual Migration’ when nobody wanted the album, so, much love to him! We still have a very good relation with him. Then we started touring more and more and I guess bigger labels got interested in the band. We know that Napalm Records were aware of us, and they even reached us during ‘Aathma’ era, but it was not long ago that we could sign with them. And yes, the deal with them is really great, we are beyond excited with the new release because even if it’s our sixth record, it feels like the first one in some ways. We are doing a lot of PR work these days and we feel that our music will reach to a lot of new people, so, yeah, feeling super grateful now and Napalm are doing an amazing job with the release! Super grateful!
The former album ‘Aathma’ came out in 2017, so let us pick up the dread around that time. Could you play enough gigs to support that album? (until corona came of course) Which tours or gigs did happen between 2017 and 2022 and what are your memories on them?
Yes sure! It’s the album that we’ve toured the most! Honestly, before ‘Aathma’, the band wasn’t touring that much, we didn’t have that much opportunities, money, etc. So with ‘Aathma’ we did two European headliner tours, small tour in Japan, we toured the US, Mexico and Canada and we played many; many great festivals like Wacken, 70.000 tons of Metal, both Prog Powers (EU headline show and US), really great memories!! Our last show was in ProgPower Europe, late 2019, no more gigs after that… It’s hard to talk about just one gig or festival, cause I have really good memories when we are playing so, hard to pick one! The shows in Japan were great, Mexico was crazy too! Really, thinking about shows just makes me happy!
But you also released (independently) an EP. Can you tell something about that?
Yes, In Lak’Ech! Long story but the thing is that we were in Japan, in the airport, getting back home. And I remember having this conversation with the guys, that, we had to continue playing and rehearsing and working, and not disappearing, cause it was like almost Christmas and usually we spend time with the family and it’s like a ninja bomb and everyone disappears in the band haha. So the idea was to record a new song, to keep the pace you know, and staying focused with the band. Also at that time we started talking with Tim, from Ne Obliviscaris, just casual chats on Facebook. And so we asked him to make a collaboration with us, cause he loved ‘Aathma’, and we loved what he was doing with Ne Obliciscaris. And that’s pretty much the story with the song. It’s the perfect excuse to work with great musicians like Tim, work with different producers, try new tricks on the studio, etc. We might do something like this after a year of ‘metanoia’ release, who knows! But I really like the idea of a single out of nowhere with a cool collaboration.
And you re-recorded your first album ‘Truth Inside The Shades’ in 2020. Why did you do that?
‘Truth Inside The Shades’ was about to turn fifteen years old and we wanted to thank our Patreon community with this re-recording. We didn’t want to just release the album again or just make a new mix, that’s why we re-recorded everything, from scratch! It was our first record and we were still learning a lot back then, we had really bad equipment and with the new recording we wanted to improve those early recordings. Also Carlos was singing in the band at that time and playing guitar! So, with the re-recording Marc recorded all the vocals, I played the new parts, etc. The album was just released on Patreon, with their names on it, and we only sell this in our store, no big labels behind it. So at some point, we were writing ‘metanoia’, re-recording this album and dealing with covid-19, everything together, easy, haha.
Now let us focus on the new album ‘metanoia’. When did you start writing new material and what can you tell about the writing process this time?
Uhm, I think we started talking about the album early 2019 but writing it, late 2019… And as I was telling you, at some point we were re-recording some parts and mixing ‘Truth Inside The Shades’ and writing ‘metanoia’… My advice is: don’t make two albums at the same time haha. About the writing process, well, it’s really difficult to write a Persefone album, at least, it’s the feeling we have all the time. We can only meet some mornings during the weeks, and we want to have the best ideas, riffs and melodies, but sometimes, well, we just can’t. And the process is super long, and we like to take it really seriously and think about every note… ‘metanoia’ has been a really complicated album to make, not only because of the pandemic and those lockdown days, but because we felt a big pressure, new label, new expectations, and as musicians we always doubt about ourselves… Obviously, not everything has been that dramatic, don’t get me wrong, but I guess you understand me.
Why the choice for ‘metanoia’ as album title? I found out that it is a change in life by penitence and spiritual conversion. How did you see this title?
I just found the name googling and looking for inspiration for the album! I saw this picture of metanoia and its meaning, and metanoia was written in lowercases and it was super aesthetic and the name and meaning fit perfectly with our music and our message. We started reading about it and it was a very easy decision. So the picture I found stated that metanoia is the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life, and that was just what we were looking for. For me it’s a continuation of our previous albums, this triad with ‘Spiritual Migration’ and ‘Aathma’.
Persefone always presents us interesting, intelligent lyrics, so can you tell a bit more about the themes and subjects and songs this time?
I always like to say that we are no lyricists, that we are musicians, but I know Persefone lyrics are super important, like our music, and I think they have to go hand in hand. When the guys wrote ‘Spiritual Migration’, they created a whole universe that resonated with many people, and we wanted to continue with this path on our next record, like in ‘Aathma’ and now ‘metanoia’. So the story in ‘metanoia’, is pretty much what the title means, it’s the journey of changing one’s mind, heart or way of life. This journey is a painful journey to the deepest part of yourself, it’s a very introspect album in my opinion. I think that every strong change comes with pain, and that’s what we tried to tell here. It’s easier to write about things that resonate with you and you believe in the words you write.
You have Einar Solberg (Leprous) as guest in the first track. How did this cooperation come into being and what about making this real in corona times?
We toured with Leprous back in 2012, so we already knew each other pretty well. Leprous are without a doubt one of the most brilliant bands out there and super hard workers. We knew we wanted Einar in the record when we wrote the intro and we just wrote him an email, simple as that! Einar is nowadays the best singer in prog/metal, simple as that! We love the idea to have him on the intro because we will play the song every night before starting the set list, so, it’s super badass to have him singing every night for us, right? haha
And there are more guests on the album, so this is the moment to shine a light on these other additions…
Sure! All the people that do collaborations with us are already friends with the band and we have a huge respect for them! So in the album we have Steffen from Obscura, which we will join next September for an European tour, then we have Angel Vivaldi on guitars and Merethe Soltvedt who already collaborated with us in ‘Aathma’. Huge respect for them, they are all amazing, honestly!!
Did you have to cancel a lot of gigs for covid-19 and what about the recording process, how did it happen this time?
Yes we had to postpone our tour with Obscura last year, it was postponed to September 2023. And then we also had some gigs planned for April but we cancelled them even before announcing them, so yeah… About the recording process, we started before the pandemic and during the lockdown we had to stop writing. We can’t write just with the computers and without seeing each other’s, we know some bands do it like this, but for us it’s just impossible. Besides that, the writing process went as usual. We spend some mornings per week writing music, that’s why it takes so long for us to finish an album.
You always work with eminent producers. What about your experiences with David Castillo and mastering by Tony Lindgren?
David Castillo is simply the best producer we know nowadays out there. I think he’s bringing metal to new levels and he’s getting better and better in every album! When you make an album, big part of the sound it’s in mix, and you spent two years working on the album, and then you never know how it will sound on the mix… With David it worked perfectly since day one. Super easy going and friendly dude, we became friends the very first day haha. We didn’t meet Tony this time, but we already knew him and he’s so good at it, you can’t fail mastering an album with him. I met him with my other band Nami, we mixed our albums with Jens Bogren and Tony was all the time in the studio back then.
How would you describe your musical development or evolution between ‘Aathma’ and ‘metanoia’? Is it easy for you to have an overall view on the sound or approach?
We wanted to go further with ‘metanoia’ and escape the feeling of magnitude and warmth that exists in ‘Aathma’. This new album is really dark, cavernous, it’s like a sci-fi movie in a far inhabited cold planet…We want to improve in every record and we don’t want to repeat ourselves, so we’re always trying to get better and better, in every album. Usually the favourite album of a fan is the first one he listens of that band, right? I don’t want that with Persefone, and we’re constantly pushing ourselves with every new release. About the sound approach, to get to this dark and cold mood, we’ve used a lot of news sounds, mostly movie, trailer and sci-fi sounds, to have access to a new sound palette and use it when needed. I think that the whole album is a journey, it’s an experience close to watching a sci-fi movie, at least, for me.
The latter part of the album focuses more on instrumental escapades. Was this done on purpose?
Yes, it’s on purpose. As I was telling you, we like the idea of a journey and an audio experience. We can’t be over the top constantly, people and us would lose focus very easily. Using these instrumental songs and all the dynamics in the album the listener can keep the focus and be surprised often. If we were all the time over the top with classic death metal songs, or just proggy parts, we lose the point of the journey. This is something we’ve been doing since ‘Shin-Ken’ and I think it’s a Persefone trademark now, we love those instrumental pieces.
In which way can ‘Consciousness pt. 3’ be seen as a sequel on some songs on the album ‘Spiritual Migration’? Did you start composing it from the older tracks on as example or did you discover some similarities after writing the new track?
We wanted to continue those songs since the main concept of the album fitted really well with consciousness and the musical message. The song has some Easter eggs, reminding the listener the previous consciousness tracks, this is completely intended, we didn’t repeat ourselves and then were like wow, it sounds like the first songs haha. We like to do that, we started on ‘Spiritual Migration’ and it’s funny to play like this with your own music, riffs and rhythms. In my opinion this new consciousness, pt3, sounds super massive. I really love all the sound design here and the overall production of the track!
The song ‘Anabasis’ is made up of three parts. Can you tell a bit more about these parts and song with different moods?
The whole idea behind ‘metanoia’ was to create a journey based on a particular and specific concept. We wrote most of the music when we started working on the lyrics and trying to create the right structure. To do that, we paid a lot of attention on the sequence of songs to make sure that the listener will understand the album as a whole. When we arrived to the song ‘Anabasis’, we already had most of ‘Anabasis pt2’ already written, but we felt that, in order to create the right mood for the last song of ‘metanoia’, a proper introduction for the final piece was needed. With ‘Anabasis pt1’ we tried to set the mood and come back to the first sentence Moe sings in ‘Katabasis’ to give closure to the concept. Also, we knew that we wanted a peaceful instrumental to close the album, but then we decided to write it as the last movement for ‘Anabasis’, since the piece really deserved that treatment.
‘Merkabah’ and ‘Katabasis’ are singles and graced with video clips. Can you tell about the making of these video clips and the beautiful landscapes? Are you planning more video clips?
For the creation of both video clips, we worked with a great group of people here in Andorra from a company named Citric.tv. They are great professionals and big friends, so they worked very hard to create the best possible result with the resources we had. One of the best parts of being from Andorra is, without a doubt, having nature very close to you at any moment, and we wanted to show part of the beauty of our country with the world by choosing the right spots to film the videos. As I’m answering this question, the new video for ‘Architecture of the I’ it’s been already released and, for the moment, we don’t have any plans to support the album with more clips. All our efforts are heading to the future live performances.
What can you tell about the artwork, the artist who did it and its symbolism?
The artwork has been created by an American artist called Jon Ojibway, @ozhichige on Instagram. For this one we worked in a really different way as we usually do, since we were used to do the music and then start thinking about the art. Then we contact a designer and work the cover and art from scratch, as we did with Travis Smith previously. For ‘metanoia’ I came across Jon’s IG and it was an instant crush. I saw the actual cover for ‘metanoia’ in his pictures and sent him a DM cause I wanted to collaborate with him for the album. So, we bought the art and created some more for the inside of the booklet, did some adjustments… It was weird to work on the art without having the album ready, but it definitely helped us for the writing process. I found the cover really inspiring and the feeling I get watching it matches perfectly with the music. There’s a lot of symbolism in the art, but it’s easy to figure it out in my opinion. If you have the chance to check the inside pictures of the booklet, I think they’re amazing too!!
It is a tricky question in these times, but what are the plans for the near future?
We want to tour as much as possible but it’s the worst time possible to do it right? Haha We have a tour with Obscura in September 2022 in Europe, the one we rescheduled from last year. We are also working on a US tour for late 2022, planning a headline tour for 2023 too. We’d love to play in Asia again, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea… We had some offers for Australia during ‘Aathma’, I hope we can play there too with ‘metanoia’… I think I’m daydreaming talking about all these non-existence tours, but yes, you get the point. We will also start writing a new album soon, so we won’t spend five years to release the new one, let’s see if we can manage to do it.
If you want to add something, please feel free to do it right here…
Just wanted to say thanks for all the support we’re getting with the release; it feels really good when people like the album! Also big thanks to our Patreon and Discord community, they are the best!