Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: May 7th, 2005
Matt, Rockeyez would like to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Let’s start with your early days. As a child, did you collect anything?
Nope. But the way that interview begins it really makes me feel that I look like a guy who has something wrong or insane ;-)
What was the first concert you attended?
Guns n’ Roses... I was 15 and it was huge, obviously. Some people could consider that it was a “business band” or some kind of kitsch... but it definitely blasts... and it really was the reflection of what I call “rock n’ roll”.
What was the first record you bought?
Quite another style: Rondo Veneziano! I don’t even know if it’s famous in the US, anyway it was the first “band” I listened to which mixed “baroque classic” with drums and bass. I don’t deny my former tastes!
What song sticks in your head playing over and over again as a young man?
Hard to answer... in fact, hundreds of songs stick in my head from dawn to twilight... and it was the case in my childhood as well. But maybe some Ennio Morricone soundtracks themes.
When did you first start singing?
Actually I played guitars in Karelia… but when we formed the band, it was almost impossible to find (at least) a passable vocalist... whereas quite good guitarists could be found by dozens!! ... Then I started to sing in 2001. It was supposed to be temporary... but other members of the band wanted me to stay at the microphone... maybe just because I’m even worse at guitars!!
When you sung as a child who did you make believe you were?
I’ve never imagined any career in music... and never sang in front of bathroom mirror!
How was the feeling the first time on stage in front of a huge crowd?
Well... If Karelia plays in front of a huge crowd it means we’re opening for a much bigger band... and in this case, that’s pretty cool. But as a headliner (less people in front obviously) it’s something else: nobody has to be disappointed, everything MUST be perfect, and it makes me quite nervous insofar as our show depends on technical stuff (all choirs and arrangements are sampled... we don’t play Rock n’ Roll and this implies much more constraints).
What was the first band you were in?
It was a shame: a melodic death metal band called Behind... and if you’re thinking that the name sucks, you cannot even imagine the music we played.
Did you record anything before Karelia and was it released?
No thanks to God! 2001 Karelia recorded a demo in order to find a producer... as the music we do needed some basic investment. But we never released it.
How did Karelia form?
A traditional way, I mean, I created the band with our arranger Lionel Vest. We really wanted to implement a great band including violins, flutes, brass etc... but it was so tough to make all those people gather on Sunday’s rehearsals that we gave up and decided to play with no more than 4 musicians, and to sample the other elements. Then Bertrand (keyboards), Loïc (drums), Erwan (guitars), and Gilles (bass) joined the band between 2001 and 2003... Then we recorded our first album “Usual Tragedy.”
How does the first CD "Usual Tragedy" released in 2003 differ from the upcoming release “Raise”?
Well, we tried to keep our own “touch” but changed many elements at a technical point of view. Tried to calm down the tempo (as nobody left in metal music could still be surprised by double bass drum), it’s modern and very dark... some people even assimilate it to “Gothic Metal”, it’s not the case obviously but there’s no more “happy metal” in Karelia.
Your new CD is coming out soon. Rockeyez our site gave it a 9 / 10. Have you read our review?
I read it and many thanks for it... I’m quite surprised that it pleased you this way!!
How long did the new CD take to record?
It was recorded from September to December 2004... But it was complicated as we needed lots of tracks (strings, brass, choirs, and fx.) and to organize all recordings is just like the logistics of landing in Normandy.
What is your favorite track on “Raise”?
Hard to say, it was a problem to rank the songs on the album as we tried to release homogeneous songs... and not let a rotten 8th track make it!
Well, maybe the first one “Raise” as it’s full of sense for us because of our culture (we live in France at the German border... and are considered in France as “Half-German”)
There are so many great songs on the new CD. My personal favorite is “Unbreakable Cordon” which is a ballad. can you tell us how that song was written and how does a song like that come to you?
That song was composed by Bertrand Maillot (keyboards). It was changed and modified many times, (we even recorded a former version of that song on our first demo) anyway I’ve always felt something melancholic but very soft in that song. It sounds to me like the things you feel remembering warmth you felt under your mother’s wing, and the way you could miss her when you’re too weak to face that complex and cruel life alone.
When you sing “Unbreakable Cordon” and close your eyes. What do you think of?
I just think about the work it was to implement it! Actually, after the release of a song, you don’t think about the theme or the meaning of lyrics... it’s just during the creation and it disappears soon after the release.
Were there any songs you recorded in the studio that did not make it to the CD?
NO, we don’t play song that we are not proud of in rehearsals.
Both your CD’s are on Drakkar Records. What was the main reason you signed with them?
Many reasons: they were much more involved than any other label; they granted us good promotional means, had a good perception of our music style and let us have complete freedom concerning artistic choices, they made us the very best proposal at a financial point of view (amount of advance, royalties rate etc…).
Does Karelia have a (rider) what do you ask for in your dressing room before a live show?
Two roadies are with us in dressing room before the show, they give us some advice according to what they saw watching the crowd (how many people, enthusiastic or not...) and we just feel like a football team at that moment: very close to each other and with a deep will to take part in a success.
If I was going to see Karelia live, what could I expect to see and hear?
All the arrangements and choirs, same drums & guitars sound as on the album. In fact, we were disappointed so many times by bands playing live without arrangements, single lead vocals and with a “basic rock n’roll sound”; we didn’t want to be considered this way by the audience. Performing on stage the same quality as on the album is a proof of respect to the public.
What was the wildest thing that happened on stage or tour?
Trigged drums, sampled choirs which did not work, my capricious voice refusing high notes when I’m tired or sick... but until now we never faced a complete flop (silence of the public or empty hall)... it will probably happen soon on tour!
Tell us what a normal day of Matthieu Kleiber is like?
I’m a teacher in economics, management, and international trade: I chose that job as it really gives me more time for music. I teach an average of 2-3 hours per day and rest of the time is devoted to composing and playing. But it really depends on the inspiration: sometimes you have no ideas and should not try to force them.
Will Karelia play any shows in America?
Wow, that would be a dream, but according to the sales figures in America, it won’t be tomorrow! Even bands like Rammstein considered as superstars in Europe are quite underground in the US... in such a context; we’d rather not imagine such things.
What band would you like to tour with if you play America?
Korn? ... That would be crazy but it’s even easier to imagine us under UFO attacks, or bringing back the holy grail as Knights of the Round Table...
What CD do you currently have in your CD player?
Lot of albums but not metal ones: composing the third album, I now need to listen to something else. Only listening to metal could be a trap for inspiration, ideas and feelings which are locked up by “metal standards.”
What can we expect from Karelia in the future?
In the US, as our label probably will not send us out on a tour... nothing more than a third album next year sold underground I guess... it sounds like a pessimist point of view but we deeply believe that we’re not able to meet the US audience’s high expectations. Why would Karelia succeed in a battle that hundreds of famous European bands already lost?
Does Karelia read their fan mail?
I do it quite regularly, but Loïc (drums) is the most addicted to internet stuff!
I am going to mention a few words tell us what comes to mind.
Karelia - My main project... sometimes my main motivation to wake up in the morning.
Touring - Stress.
Festival - Germany. All festivals are so great in that country!
Vacation - Never. I mean I never had a real vacation (which implies nothing in mind and nothing to do)... maybe one day I’ll forget the meaning of that word.
Internet - Information. And also never-ending needs of mankind to feel happy.
Family - Most important. Basis of everything in life.
God - Never heard about it. More seriously: man’s imagination never created something more deadly than god. It’s an excuse for everything.
Work - Pain. But music is not work to my mind.
Management - Even more important than the artistic point.
Fans - Root of that word is “fanatic”... then I don’t like the basic sense.
Music - Infinite source of happiness and emotion. When I was a silly teenager I thought that metal was the “one best way”... and I was wrong. All kinds of music have something to bring... well, almost.
Matthieu would you like to say anything in conclusion?
YES! Once again many thanks to you Brian and to aaaall the US audience, please just try to have an ear to European metal products... The Atlantic’s a real cultural gap in the way that metal music is composed, played, and listened. Just jump over!!