Original photo by Anthony Dubois.
Believe it or not, France is steadily becoming a beacon for excellent metal, as evidenced by this year’s stellar debut releases from Uneven Structure and Betraying The Martyrs, the latter of which are currently embarking on their first ever tour in America, supporting Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, and Carnifex [show review here]. I caught up with Betraying the Martyrs bassist Valentin Hauser for an exclusive interview in which he discusses the origin of the band’s name and the troubles of getting a European band into America. I also make a fool of myself by pronouncing his name wrong. Luckily, Valentin is a great sport and a friendly dude!
Alright, so for everyone who doesn’t know, who are you and what do you do?
I am Valentin and I play bass for Betraying the Martyrs.
Oh! “Valentine!” I’ve been pronouncing it like “Valenteen” this whole time! [laughs]
Yeah, in French, “Valenteen” is a name for a girl…
So please, don’t do so! [laughs]
I apologize! I am very American…
So this is your first time in America, right?
As a band, yeah.
Oh, so you’ve been in America before?
Yeah, I spent like a year in California.
Oh yeah? That’s cool. You had your first show last night, right?
Yep, very first show in Dayton, Ohio, I think.
How did that go?
It went pretty well. We had a major problem with the clicks and samples. It just didn’t work, but we managed to do the show anyway.
So you guys crashed at Born of Osiris’ house, is that correct?
When we got to Chicago, yeah. We spent like two days there and played yesterday.
So were they good hosts to you guys?
Oh, they were moving houses, so we went to their older house.
Oh, their old house. So they weren’t there?
They weren’t there. We just saw them rehearsing, which was kind of amazing. [laughs]
So the band’s name is “Betraying the Martyrs.” What does that mean?
It’s a name we took because when we made the band, at the beginning, we wanted our band to give a message, you know? We didn’t want it to be only music.
And we were thinking about all the people who are doing things to make this a better place. They’re nameless, we don’t know them, they’re just working their way to make something good, and every time you do something wrong, you just… I’m not very good to explain this in English…
The fact is, it’s just a reminder that every time you do something wrong, you just kick someone in the teeth; all those people who try to do good things, like those who help older people, who help the poor, and everything. All those guys. When you do something wrong, you just betray those guys who try to make this world a better place.
So you guys are a Christian metal band. Does everyone in the band practice Christianity or is that just the vocal majority?
I’m going to tell you something; Christianity is very different in France. You can be Christian and not be “practicing.” I don’t know if that’s good…
It’s much more conservative here.
That’s it! In France, it’s like you say “I’m Christian. I don’t go to church, but yeah, I’m Christian.” They have no problem with it. So basically we say we’re “French Christian.” [laughs]
[laughs] So what does the writing process look like for you guys? Is it a collective process?
The lyrics or the songs?
Anyway, they both are the same! Everyone works on ideas, riffs, melodies, and then we get together and say “Oh I got this,” “Well, let’s see… well it’s going to work perfectly with this…” Everyone works at their home, and we just meet and do songs with everything we have. That’s the main process. Then after, we do pre-production, which is like a kind of test for our songs, and we say, “oh, we should add a little bit of this, or take this part away,” and after, we get a proper song.
We also did like two or three songs on the last album that were composed a long time ago, like right after our first EP. We played those songs a long time live, so we kept changing them for over time to see the audience reaction.
And you’re in another band as well, right?
Yeah, Beyond the Dust.
How is the work on that going?
Pretty good. We have at least 16 minutes of music, we just have to record it. We just toured in Europe with Becoming the Archetype and Immortal Souls; it just ended before we got to come over here. I’m here for a month and the other guys are working on the album right now.
Do you also play bass in that?
Yeah. I just only know how to play bass. [laughs]
[laughs] So you guys are from France. What are some local maybe lesser known bands that you’re friends with that’d you like to bring the light onto?
In France, there are some really good bands we know. There are our good friends in As They Burn, we’ve been touring with them for a long time. We’ve got Bridal Procession…
Oh, I know Bridal Procession, yes!
All those bands, we rehearse at the same place, Checkmate. We’re all rehearsing in the very same room, so that’s why we know them very much. Other good bands we have, Gorod, Gojira, Hacride, Sybreed. France has, really, lots of good bands. I don’t know how they just don’t make it to America.
I’ve heard of most of those bands though, so I guess they’re doing a little bit better than you might expect! [laughs]
Yeah, but they don’t tour over here though.
Ah yes, speaking on that, a lot of people don’t know what it takes to get a band from Europe to America.
It’s really difficult. You have to get a visa, and even then… we went to customs and we had our visa and we spent three hours down there. “We’re in a band…” “…really? Hmmm… let me see… you have long hair? Hmmm, let me check your case for any drugs!”
[laughs] Yeah, they didn’t let another Sumerian band over…
Yeah, that was The HAARP Machine.
Yeah! HAARP Machine.
What it takes is you have to be a full band with a full lineup for at least a year, and you have to give them tons of reviews, interviews… stuff to prove that you’re a real band. They say “this band is okay, this one is not,” so we’re really lucky that we got through that process.
Yeah, so a lot of people on Facebook are like “come to my hometown!” It’s not as easy as all that!
First of all you have to have plane tickets, which is very expensive, and then you have all the stories about visas and everything, so I know of French bands who made a tour through the US but when they enter they’re like, “Oh, we’re tourists. We’re not gonna play at all! Oh, I have my guitar? Huh! It’s nothing, it’s for a wedding.”
[laughs] It’s just completely circumstantial.
Yeah, and they did little tours, but not professional at all. They had to hide all of their dates on MySpace, and just enter secretly. They all have guitars and bass and drums and all that stuff, but they’re “not a band.”
[laughs] We like to ask more personal questions to sort of get to know the people behind the band. Obviously, being a band is very expensive and it doesn’t pay all the bills, so back at home, what do you do to make money?
I’m a counselor, working in schools and camps with kids. Like “hey kids, today lets do whatever activities you want…”
That’s basically what I do. I know Lucas [D’Angelo, guitar — second to the left, below] is doing some sound engineering stuff. Baptiste [Vigier, guitar — far left] is a bar tender. Victor [Guillete, vocals/keyboards — left of center] is giving piano lessons… so we don’t live off of our music yet.
Okay, so if you didn’t do music for a living, what would you aim for your career path to be?
Video games. [laughs]
[laughs] Video games?
I mean, I’ve worked in video games. Basically, I did tons of studies working in video games. I’ve been working there, and it’s just… like, you spend 60 hours per week working there, and you don’t have time for music, so I just left! [laughs]
[laughs] Oh, that’s awesome! Hey man, it’s been great. I’ll let you guys get unpacked and set up!
Oh, thanks man! Take care. It was nice meeting you. Are you staying for the show tonight?
Of course! We’re big fans!
Excellent! I hope you do great things with your site.
Thanks a lot!
The man gave up one dream job for another dream job? Lucky! Be sure to let him know how envious you are when you see Betraying the Martyrs on The Discovery Tour. Check out the band’s Facebook page for tour dates and more info. Breathe in Life is now available on Sumerian Records in North America and Listenable Records everywhere else.