Interviews About Albums: Bruno Karnel - Hic Sunt Dracones (2023)

In this new interview, we sat down with the French Progressive Rock/Post-Rock artist Bruno Karnel to ask some questions about his album "Hic Sunt Dracones"

1. What can you say about this new album?

This new album “Hic sunt dracones” was essentially written during the lockdown, and it took 3 years to make, which is a lot for me. Usually, I write the music first, but at the time I had a lot of unused lyrics that I liked very much : so I took advantage of the lockdown to try to work the other way. And I enjoyed it, it took me to new territories, I realised that I wanted to have some heavy guitars in my music again, a thing I haven't done for a few years. Then I contacted Pavel (the drummer) and Julien (the bass player), and a lot of other guest musicians as well. I knew that I wanted to have a larger range of instruments on this project than on the previous one (“Las Ilusiones”) : this is why you can hear cello, mellotron, guitarrón, celesta... This was very fun to work with all this new palette.

2. What is the meaning of the album name?

“Hic sunt dracones” is Latin for “Here are the dragons”: on the maps of the Middle Ages, this phrase was used to designate the limits of the known world, the strange, dangerous and extreme places where terrifying monsters were supposed to live. My new album explores some of these extreme places, lost in the ice ("Tromsø", "Mare Congelatum", "Opération Septentrion"), crushed by the black heat of ancient Mexico ("Thiua") or smothered in desert sand (Lima, "La grise, la triste, l'horrible").

3. Which one is the composer of the album?

I do compose all the music, write all the lyrics and arrange all the tracks, even though the guest musicains have their word to say concerning the arrangement they play ! For instance, I don't play drums nor cello, so Pavel and Polina arranged their own parts. And for the track “L'orme mort”, which features great jazz/funk bass player Antonin Smirr, I wrote a very simple bass line, and let him do the rest!

4. If you had to pick one song, which one would you pick?

I like all the songs, but my favourite one is probably “Thiua”. This track was inspired by the “Relación de Michoacán”, one the few books left by Native American cultures before they were destroyed by Europeans. This is a subject I often write about, as in older songs like “Nuit des Olmèques”, but I feel that this time I was finally able to capture the right tone, the right words. This is a very heavy song (for me !), a very sad one as well, but you can also feel a lot of rage and anger. It's also a great one to play live, with a special energy!

5. Is there a special message in this album? If there is what it is?

No, not really. And this is no concept album, even if some of the subjects are closely related one to another. It is just a collection of songs that fit together. But as I said before, the global theme is extreme places, places you can fear because they seem sad and lonely, or inhospitable because of the cold... or the heat!

6. Are there some lyrics that you'd love to share?

Well, I'd love to share with you the lyrics of “Tromsø”, because they are partly in English. They were fun to write, because I tried to imitate a bit the Scandinavian bands of the 90's, like Anekdoten, Landberk or White Willow. OK, they are a bit cliché, but that was the plan actually!

“In this small wooden house
we would watch the sun fade away
now I feel it'll never come back
I remember the lights
green ghosts wandering in the night
preventing us from feeling so sad
We were never afraid
of the wind wheeping endlessly
we believed we would run away
In this small empty house
there'll be nothing left of you
now I know you'll never come back
Quand tu t'en iras
un monde de neige
arpèges éteints
un crépuscule sans fin
Le bruit de tes pas
hier encore était vivace
ton parfum s'efface
cédant à la nuit & au froid
Quand tu t'en iras
Quand tu t'en iras”

7. Which inspirations have been important for this album? Like musically or friends, family, someone you'd love to thank specially?

As always, I was inspired by travels (before the lockdown, of course) : Mexico, Peru, Scandinavia... And also by books, because I read a lot and often take inspiration from that. Lyrics about the daily life... hmm, that's not for me, I find that terribly boring. Of course, I'd like to thank all the musicians and artists that worked on the project, especially my friends from Ukraine, Polina, Anton and Oleh. I also have to mention Florent, the engineer, Thomas, who did the mastering, and all at Bitume, my label. And of course my wife Sonia and my family!

8. Something to add?

Thank you Jon and Breaking the Core for this great interview ! I hope the readers will be curious about the album, listen to it and like it. This is not really Metal, not really prog or post rock... but I think you can find a bit of all these influences amongst others in what I propose. I'm already working on the next album, "Villa Solitude", which will be really different, a lot darker, with unexpected post-punk influences. We have already recorded all the bass guitars and the drums. I hope you will like it too !

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