Azylya is a fairly young and female fronted Belgian band. Their debut album "Sweet Cerebral Destruction” deals with insanity and mind issues. Pest Webzine chatted with Jamie-Lee, the woman responsible for this project, in order to be more enlighted about this band and their releases.
Why did you feel the need to create Azylya? How did you come up with this name?
I have been a metal singer from the age of 13, I replaced singers in bands. Finally, I chose a project that suited me more. I had a story in mind, a story that would take place in a world where anything could happen, a world a little unreal with a lunatic asylum. "Azylya" has come from there, it is a name invented but that sounded good.
How did you find the other members of the band?
Simply by ads on the net. We are now a real group of friends and we all get along very well.
Azylya have released an EP "Thanatos’ Insanity” in 2011 and now a debut album "Sweet Cerebral Destruction”. Why are all your titles somewhat related to the mind and insanity?
As a child, I loved horror movies, movies that make us look at the screen with the eyes hidden behind our hands. My father is a writer and my mother is a psychologist, no doubt that their contact with my passion for film kept me thinking about somewhat sordid pictures and images. I also worked as a student for 15 days at a center for disabled people deep in which the behavior of autistic and psychotic people have challenged me, this allowed me to tweak the images I had in mind. I want to say that I have never experienced the incest and I had a very happy childhood.
Last year you signed to the label Wormhole Death / Aural Music. What is the major difference in having a record label?
Though it is a fact that we can discover great bands that do not have a label, for most people, being signed to a label means we are pros, having no label means that we are amateurs (in the pejorative sense). Apart from that, we never lobbied labels. There is a video of our group on Facebook that has attracted the attention of the Italian studio Realsound who offered the Italian label Wormhole Death. I must say that we are delighted to have been able to register and sign with them as they gives us the best advices and take care of all the publicity.
Azylya entered the studios Realsound in Italy in March last year in order to record its first full album entitled "Sweet Cerebral Destruction”. How did the experience go?
It was winter and the snow was falling heavily, it was magical. We were welcomed with great kindness by Wao and Cristian. These are two recording professionals. We stayed 20 days, we have received advice, assistance and we are excited about this collaboration. Carlo of Wormhole Death came to see us for two days and we had many discussions with him and his advice were also welcome.
The album was produced by Wahoomi Corvi. How much input did he have on your work?
We are a young band and it was our first recording after the EP. We followed the advice given except for certain musicality that we didn’t want in this album, for examples the electro sounds.
As these are pros, everything was done quickly and the product is perfect for us.
At age 14, Jamie-Lee wrote the basic story of Azylya: the misadventures of a young girl abused by her father who, to avoid scandal, abandoned her in an insane and isolated asylyum. Is Azylya’s story biographical considering that the main character in your new album is named Ginger and you use the same name in your facebook profile. Why? Are you Ginger?
The name Ginger comes from a series of films that I adored the "Ginger Snaps". This is actually the name of the girl abused in our history and I use it as my nickname on profile . And then it came a little too coincidentally, musicians called me Ginger at the time and the name came naturally on my page. Maybe I'll surprise you but no, I'm not psychotic and do not have a split personality, even if we all have a hidden face ahahahhahaha! ...
Is the band a way to exorcise the demons and suffering?
Making music and singing was certainly a way for me to escape and exorcise other sufferings but they had nothing with psychiatric problems. As everyone, worries have affected my life and have been the cause of suffering, and it is true that coincided roughly with my entry into the world of metal music.
Growing up, the absolute pleasure of being on stage keeps me going, the atmosphere in the group means a lot as well as being welcomed by the public and the media as well.
What are the topics you approach in your lyrics?
The album is a concept album that tells a story from the first to the last song. Basically this is the story of a little girl whose mother has died and who suffered repetitive touching and rape by her father. She fled but was caught by one who lead her to Azylya to be locked up in an asylum so that she tells nothing. There are moments of fear, anxiety and she will gently slide into madness. It also has moments of sadness, especially in the song "In my cell" where she recalls the times spent with her mother and her sadness for not being with her. At the hospital, the doctors will give her electric shocks and instead of relief, she became psychotic and more aggressive. Monks are called to exorcise, they get nowhere ... Become a killer, she will eventually be released of the insane asylum. And the story can not be over ... because it is an adult Ginger that reminisces ..
Considering that the album also deals with paedophilia. How do you feel about all the cases reported in the media, especially the ones involving priests? In your opinion, should they be castrated or face the death penalty?
This is a sad, sad thing. From the church, it seems to me even more frightening.
But a pedophile is not a sick man that can be cured? Level results about therapies are inconclusive it seems... These sick people will always be fragile and prone to relapse therefore I don’t think it is possible for them to be free. I'm not in favour of the death penalty. So I think these people should remain locked up in special cases adapted to their hospitals, perhaps with more freedom in the area of the hospital, with regular visits of the family but not authorized to be released… at least until the day it is proven that a real healing is possible. To return to the priests, they should not have to support of the church, the priests should, like all persons, live confinement in hospital.
Being a French speaking band, why do you prefer to write lyrics in English?
Fifty years ago, everyone wrote his text in his own language. Then everyone started to think internationally and everyone began to write in English (as at the Eurovision). Today, English has become, without exception, the language of the musical culture of the young. But you can always choose. A group such as Indochina, in France, sings in its native language texts and has become a huge star.
In "Sweet Cerebral Destruction” there are also lyrics in Latin. Why this choice to use Latin? Have you studied this ancient language?
No, I did not study Latin (the language is also studied less in Belgium). Why use it? Probably because of its unique sound. A sound associated with the sacred. It combines perfectly with the arrival of the monks in Azylya. On the other hand, the use of a language that Ginger is not familiar with, helps enhance the effect of being possessed.
But also because I have a special affection for a song (with lyrics in Latin) from the French Era Ameno group.
You are the one gracing the cover of your latest album, however you have a blindfold in your eyes. Care to explain the meaning of the cover?
The cover of our album is the work of Gogo Mélone. It already existed, it was a project of Gogo.
When we saw this cover, it immediately attracted us because it matched perfectly the content of our history. It shows a dark house at the back and the woman looked like me and like Ginger the heroine of the story. Personally, the blindfold represents the loneliness and especially the loss of bearings. If I put a blindfold on you and make you turn, you lose balance, orientation, I think this is the state of Ginger when she was little and when she tells her story as an adult returning to the scene of the tragedy.
When all wounds are healed, do you believe Azylya will be able to continue their journey?
There 's no wounds to heal. We wanted this entry into the world of incest, madness and finally in the world of horror. We wanted a dark atmosphere in this album. Perhaps we will continue in the same vein or not for the second album, but it is certain that we will continue our path in Azylya, a world where anything can happen.
We would describe ourselves as a melodic metal band but if you absolutely want to classify in the kind B & B with a Gothic sound we do not see any drawbacks to it. It must be admitted that, as in many areas (literature, painting, cinema), the boundaries between genres are blurred and permeable.Most reviews mention label you as B & B (Beauty & the Beast) Gothic sound. Do you agree?
All reviews have been quite positive. Did you expect this kind of feedback?
Honestly, we did not expect that many positive critics (thanks to work done by the press service of WormHole Death!). So now we need to be very cautious with the next album because if we disappoint, we will not be missed.
Jamie Lee-Smit is the youngest member and the only one who has experience with past bands. Has being quite a young band affected you somehow?
I'm the youngest and I gained experience during my time in different groups (Skeptical Minds, or Aedden Sad Siberia), the other members have also played in other bands, like Polak and Yohann who starred in "Baraka ". Our drummer is a singer in another metal band and also played in two jazz bands. Anthony, our lead guitarist, was also a member of several bands.
Being young does not detract from the quality against us to prove ourselves to continue our journey.
While being a teenager you were quite mature compared to the other teens. Do you have any regrets for having "lost” your teenage years being so grown-up?
I have not lost my childhood or my teenage years. I did other experiments: the high-level swimming, dance and musical. It is true that at the age of 13, I joined my first metal band, I was surrounded by adults and it hasn’t always been easy to bend to their requirements.
One of the cons is that when I started my secondary studies studying huamnities I found it easier to deal with the older students than those in my class.
How complicated is it being the frontwoman of a metal band?
At the age of twenty, I realise that I spent more than a third of my life as a metal singer and if it could sometimes seem complicated and tiring to me it is due to factors that have nothing to do with music (but rather with the jealousy which was to generate death threats against me).
How have the underground fans and bands treated you?
Well in absolute terms. Every artist must also be given special attention to his fans because besides their kindness and attention, they are the first link in the chain of distribution of your information by word of mouth or on social networks. Now, there is always someone that needs to learn how to manage certain excesses.
Do you think they show the same respect they show towards frontman?
I never had any problems of that kind but if I had, I am able to defend myself hahaha! But as they are adorable ...
It seems Azylya have been quite active, especially in French speaking countries. Why haven’t you "blossomed” in the other European markets as well?
Because since we speak french, natural links are more easily established with the organizers, fans and bands speaking French, at least in the early stages. But over the past year, we came into contact with bands or organizers from the Netherland, UK, Italy or Germany and last month, we played for the first time in England "Ladies Of Darkness Fest 3". A test that seemed successful given the public’s reaction on the website and also on our web pages.
Have you got any plans to play concerts or festivals in the near future?
Several dates are already programmed as "Scarfest" (UK - 90 bands), the "R-Mine Metalfest" (BEL - with Rhapsody of Fire and Nightmare) or "Metal Female Voice Fest" (BEL - with Tarja, Anneke van Giersbergen, Delain ...)
Sometimes when you’re onstage you wear masks. Why is that?
I wear a mask during the introduction to give an unhealthy atmosphere and intriguing before starting the set.
You started singing at a very early age and have fronted a few bands already. Have you taken any vocal lessons? What special cares do you have with your voice?
Yes, I had many singing lessons but as the world of music and the singing were totally unknown to my family, I went through the hands of several professors before finding the one who really suits me (an American actor, singer that worked, played and sung with the likes of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Lena Horne to name a few.)
As for my voice, I take care of it by not smoking, trying to protect my throat in winter, as should any singer without it turning into an obsession.
Is it a mere coincidence that you are called Jamie Lee or are you a fan of Amy Lee of Evanescence?
My real first name is "Jamie-Lee." I owe the fact that my father loves the U.S. actress "Jamie Lee Curtis". That said, I love Evanescence and Amy Lee.
Do you rely much on your looks? Do you think looking good attracts more people to your band?
If the public moves to see a band, it is to hear the music of course, but especially for a show. And a show is not limited only to the sound, there is also the visual side: lights, smoke, fans, game of scene and outfits. This is a band!
Generally, those who do not take that into account have less visual feedback and it is a little difficult to manage the flow of photos.... everyone chooses its own path.
We would go further in our staging but we need financial resources for this, maybe in the future ...
Thanks Jamie Lee for this interview and for your time. Leave a final message for Pest Webzine readers please.
Thank you to you and for your interest in a young band like ours. Thank you for helping your readers discover us. We would like to welcome them if they want to get lost in the Azylya universe. We hope, through our music, to give them a trip into darkness lulled with disquieting moving images for the pure thrill of pleasure.
Questions by Sonia Fonseca
Answers by Jamie-Lee