‘Click Interview’ with Har Belex: ‘Writing new songs is never something planned’
Har Belex is the meeting between Manix S. (owner of Pail and Caustic Records) and Salva Maine (Culture Kultür). Eight years ago now, they released the first album “Chandelle” revealing a surprising neo-folk work. The musical genre sounds like a real antithesis to their respective electro-focused projects. The new opus “Campo De Urnas” – reissued by Caustic Records, is a judicious mix of Neo-Folk, Ballads and Chanson which could appeal to lovers of Rome and related groups. It’s a beautiful, sensible and passionate album that led me to ask a few questions to the two protagonists.
(Courtesy of Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: I have always considered Har Belex to be an atypical project. I mean, you wouldn’t exactly expect two artists involved in EBM/industrial music to put together a neo-folk focused project. What led you to set up Har Belex and what does this project mean to you alongside your respective bands?
Manix S.: Har Belex was born mainly from the friendship that has united me with Salva for many years. We are two people who share social, economic and religious “NO” positions, who have great respect and passion for nature and everything related to it, and who are also passionate about dealing with related issues. to the dark, evil and crazy nature of our society.
I’ve been a guitarist since I was 14 and even though I haven’t played this instrument live for many years, I compose with the guitar continuously. So in 2012 I already had a handful of songs written with acoustic and classical guitars and wanted to do something different with my Pail Electronic project. The germ of Har Belex was probably a holiday in southern Spain. Meeting Salva there, I suggested to him, half seriously, half jokingly, that he improvise to sing along to some songs I had composed on acoustic guitar. From the first second, we both saw that it could work and we started shaping it all.
Currently Har Belex is my main project and Pail is on hold. I have some new songs that will probably be released in the future…or not.
Salva: I’ve always had pretty eclectic tastes in music, so I have no problem immersing myself in other styles. On the contrary, it is interesting because it offers different possibilities when it comes to interpreting the songs. When Manix approached me with the idea of forming Har Belex and showed me the songs he had, I was immediately interested. For me, Har Belex and Culture Kultür go in parallel, each with its own sensibility.
Q: The new album “Campo De Urnas” has been released after a long break. What made you start writing new songs again and what kind of album did you have in mind?
Manix S.: Writing new songs is never planned. It’s just an ongoing process throughout my life. When I have enough material that I consider to be of good quality, I am offered to complete an album. It was clear to us that Har Belex was not going to be a one-album project since the first album had a huge impact, which allowed us to play in Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and in Portugal. And in addition, we really appreciate this project.
The period of time until this second album was completed was long. Salva and I have other projects and activities, in addition to the day to day in our respective jobs and with our respective families.
Q: What did you try to convey through the title of the work and what were your sources of lyrical inspiration – which I think are not so typically Neo-Folk?
Manix S.: For the title, we were inspired by the culture of the “Fields of urns” (literally “Campo De Urnas”), a period of the Bronze Age with a new funeral rite in which corpses were cremated and the ashes deposited in semi-buried urns in the fields and mountains.
It seemed interesting to us to associate this concept with the current “ballot box” that the planet as a whole is becoming: social, religious and moral necropolises, devastation of ecosystems and nature, wars continue with their fields of battle filled with “urns” (unfortunately today more relevant than ever), death, mythology and megalithic architecture… all of this is in our songs, and the title “Campo De Urnas” includes all of this.
Salva: There are four themes on the album: existentialism, history/legends, nature and war. In the end, I guess it all depends on what the human being is, what he does and why he does it.
Q: “Campo De Urnas” has something deeply sensitive and even emotional about it. I should say it sounds more “authentic” compared to electronic music. Is it something you recognize? Do you have to be in a particular mood or state of mind to work on Har Belex?
Manix S.: Yes, indeed the atmosphere is essential to be able to compose something emotional and dark in Har Belex. It’s very different from composing electronic music, where the emotional state is also important, but the transmission of this state to the music is more direct and more precise when writing “acoustic” music.
At Har Belex, we try to convey directly and accurately to the listener, both musically and vocally, the intensity, passion and feelings that we ourselves felt while writing and creating these songs. We maintain a “less is more” criterion to try to achieve these sensations with the right amount of instrumental tracks, arrangements and vocals needed.
Salva: As I said before, different styles allow for different nuances when interpreting songs. If we go to the extreme of the most “hard” electronic music, a distorted voice leaves little room for detail. Singing with acoustic instruments gives you a lot more range: you can sing very softly or hard, depending on the song, and it opens up more possibilities to express feelings more precisely and intensely.
Q: How did you work together? What is the contribution of each and do you manage specific references and/or criteria in the composition and production process?
Manix S.: Salva and I live 800 km from each other. I live in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, and Salva in Granada, in the south.
The composition process is always the same. I write, compose and arrange all songs and play all instruments in my studio. When I consider a song finished, I send it to Salva so he can write the lyrics and release the vocal melodies. On some occasions, I also write lyrics or propose the main idea to Salva in order to develop it.
For the composition of the songs I record the string lines with synthesizers, but for the album we have the help of Lucas Valera, a violinist from Granada, who is the one who records the tracks of real violins on the album. In addition, Lucas is the one who currently accompanies us to the shows to play strings in our concerts.
Salva: When Manix sends me a song, the first thing I do is put out a melody and send a working mix to Manix to see if he likes it or if he wants to make any changes. Then, depending on the music that inspires me, I think of a theme to develop the lyrics.
Q: How did you see Har Belex evolve from the album “Chandelle” to “Campo De Urnas”? And do you already have ideas for other productions?
Manix S.: The truth is that even with all the time that elapsed between the two albums, the album remained very ‘Har Belex’ for us. The instruments used in both works are virtually the same, as well as the song structures, theme, arrangements, etc. I think with only two published works, we got our own sound which is easily recognizable in each of the Songs. I don’t see any big differences between the two works, except on the technical aspects of production and mixing.
At the moment, I’m not working on new ideas in the studio. Now we have to focus on organizing and structuring the format and the songs that we are going to take live, and continue promoting this new album “Campo De Urnas”.
Salva: Yes, the main difference I see is the mix, although on this album we used less literary references in the lyrics, so I guess in that sense this album is more “us”.