The French metal scene is something which has gained the attention of surrounding countries for a decade. With a wide variety of bands in the metal scene making names for themselves, Dagoba from Marseille are one of those on the precipice of breaking through to the market growing a loyal fan base over the past 28 years. The natural groove of the industrial elements and the groovy riffs in their music create an overall interesting listening experience. Recently we caught up with lead vocalist Shawter for getting a look into the world of Dagoba.
OBNUBIL: Hello Shawter, could you please introduce yourself and your band with a little background to our readers? In case someone doesn't know you yet.
SHAWTER: Hi, I'm Shawter, I have been singing in Dagoba for 28 years now. I also play guitar and compose all orchestrations and electro ads for the band. I come from Marseille south of France. Dagoba has released 8 records and an EP, we're producers of our music, our latest record is called "By Night" and licensed by Napalm Records.
OBNUBIL: The band was formed back in 1997, from then until now there are many years of experience and styles that have been evolving or changing. What has been the evolution of Dagoba in all these years?
SHAWTER: Evolving is a double process: First of all I think it is simply natural to evolve as a man… with time, experience. And musically I just want our music to evolve, to change, because I would never play the same record twice. I think Metal is extreme enough to let us put whatever we want to hear in it. I always felt free to incorporate sounds and vibes from classical music to industrial electro in our songs. I think the main evolution we had during "Black Nova" composing process, is the will to make the instruments sounds more organic, and the machines way more electro and dark. The contrast is interesting to me.
OBNUBIL: What do you think sets you apart from other bands, back in the 2000s when Nu and Grove metal came popular and after 2010s when there has been a minor revival, what makes you stand out? A special sound or riff maybe? We are not cataloging you under the Nu metal genre, but it is true that it was when most people came to know you, at least it is our case.
SHAWTER: I never knew we were playing new metal, but well, why not haha! I don't think we sound like the greatest nu metal bands (Korn / Limp Bizkit / Disturbed...). We're much more into Pantera / Dimmu Borgir / Metallica. I think our sound is now recognizable. People now know what Dagoba is about. It's martial, dark, with machines and orchestrations around. We always proposed different atmospheres from album to album, but stayed sincere in our music. I think staying sincere and original is part of the key to make a band stand.
OBNUBIL: In just one word: Dagoba is…
OBNUBIL: Your album Black Nova was released in August 2017 through Century Media, two years after Tales Of The Black Daw, and only a year after you changed your line-up (both drummer and guitarist left the band in November 2016). Your previous record Tales Of The Black Daw contained 10 tracks like Black Nova, has Black in its title and has the same kind of artwork. Were these similarities on purpose?
SHAWTER: First of all the guys didn't leave the band, we asked them to leave. Then, the word "black" contained in those two titles is just a coincidence. We could have talked about a Pink Nova, but it wouldn't have been as cool as the Black one haha! Concerning the 10 tracks, a coincidence too. I don't compose counting the track, but more counting the timing. I don't like long albums, 10 tracks of 4/5 minutes are enough to my ears. And for the artwork, yeah we love the work of Seth Siro Anton, so whenever we can work with him, we're doing it. He designed "Black Nova". And even if the cover of "Tales of the Black Dawn" wasn't made by him, we wanted something that looked like his art. It fits well with our music.
OBNUBIL: Your seventh studio album Black Nova sounds massive with rich dynamics, towering riffs, vigorous shouts and infectious melodic choruses all over the place. The equally powerful artwork was created by Seth Siro Anton (Septic Flesh / covers for Moonspell, Paradise Lost, Exodus). Was the creative process something between you and him or was it totally from the hand of Seth? Why him?
SHAWTER: We chose him again (he designed "Post Mortem Nihil Est" too, our 5th album) because he's great and we're friends. It makes things easier concerning creation. This cover is 100% from his imagination, we just talked about the track names, the album title, the atmosphere of it, and he proposed several artworks. We chose this one cause the figure rejecting these black matter balls fit perfectly with the idea of firing some negative members from the band.
OBNUBIL: Recordings of Black Nova, took place at Eagle Black Studio (your home in Marseille), whereas Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Epica, Heaven Shall Burn) took care of mix and mastering. How was the writing, recording, mixing and mastering process?
SHAWTER: Just great, I felt very relaxed and had plenty of ideas. I always have a good time composing and recording, it's definitely my favorite part of this job. Then I went to Denmark to join Jacob Hansen who did an awesome work on the mix / mastering. The sound is both massive and clear, exactly what Dagoba needs.
OBNUBIL: Dagoba’s lyrical content and soundscape always seems to be of a dark nature. Please tell us what is the ideology and inspiration behind the lyrics and atmosphere?
SHAWTER: For Black Nova's, I compare the human feeling to the Universe and his greatness. I wanted to transpose our inner thoughts to the infinite.
OBNUBIL: After Black Nova in 2017, finally, last year 2022, you have released a new album under the name By Night. We think most people would expect the pandemic and lockdown to be a factor of the long wait, but was there more to it than that?
SHAWTER: Actually, the "Black Nova" tour ran over almost 5 years, that is pretty much the reason why “By Night” has been released in 2022. We had the chance to tour all across the world, over 4 continents, twice in Asia, on exotic islands, cruise, etc…it was intense but great to do it!
OBNUBIL: And as for the recording of the album itself, how was this process? Did you all have to record separately? Also, since Black Nova the whole band line-up has changed. How has this affected your work with the band and the sound of the new album? Were they involved in the writing of the album?
SHAWTER: Because of the lockdown, I recorded every instrument on this one, only Ritch came to the studio to record his parts. It was a serious amount of work, and thank god for the next one, every musician will record his own part. Concerning the line up, actually Ritch and Theo joined the band during the "Black Nova'' tour, and Kawa was our tour manager, so he knew about the band workflow. They weren’t involved in the writing process, but none of the previous musicians were into the previous acts tho… I think you can share physical or technical work, but when it comes to creativity, this is mostly about a one man vision. I respect other methods, but this is how the band works.
OBNUBIL: In this new album By Night, you impress with dynamic vocals, covering a wide span of styles from intense and deep growls to strong shouts and precise, clean vocals. How have you developed as a singer, songwriter and human being since then and through the pandemic? Did the pandemic affect the composition and lyrics of your new album?
SHAWTER: Thank you for those kind words. I never talk about what’s happening around me or in the world, politics, religion or so, in our songs. I don’t like that. General, timeless concepts, feelings, like love, death, melancholia, are what I like to talk about in our songs. So the pandemic didn’t really affect my words. But to be honest, having so much time to spend in the studio gave me the opportunity to work way more on the songs arrangements. That’s why “By Night” sounds so meticulous and special.
OBNUBIL: This is the first album you've released through Napalm Records. Black Nova was licensed by Sony Music in France, Ward Record in Japan and Century Media for the rest of the world. How has the relationship been with Napalm Records so far and what do you think they do differently?
SHAWTER: We’re really enjoying the relationship we have with Napalm Records so far. The team is very strong and they have a solid network throughout the world, which helps the band development. That’s exactly what we wanted for the band, solidifying our reputation into the world Metal scene.
OBNUBIL: By Night’s artwork is done in a neon/retro look, including the video clips. You notice immediately the very 1980s look and feel. The artwork is really great. Who was the artist for this artwork? Was the look intentional or rather just the way which things panned out?
SHAWTER: The artists are Skiegraphic and Shadow Sauce, from Italy and Australia. They both delivered fantastic work, 3D and photography wise. The sonorities of “By Night” arrangements are really 80’s/ early 90’s-ish, so we needed that kind of art to make the audience dip into the album as a whole.
OBNUBIL: Groove-infused guitars, pounding drums, and multifaceted vocals are offset by electronic flourishes that give a nice nod to the 1980s while also adding textured ambiance and depth to the songs. Would you consider By Night a concept album? The album seems to tell the story of a wild night from sunset to a possibly fatal last ride.
SHAWTER: It is, and I like each of our albums to be conceptual. Each of them is different, you can’t pick one song from one and put it in another. We’re not that kind of band that just change the cover of the albums, and offer again and again the same music, using the same composing method. It’s so boring. I know doing this is bad to keep a stable audience, but the main important thing is that we have fun by doing this job. And at the end of the day, after 8 records, people now know who we are, and that we’re gonna change something on the next record. “By Night” is talking about a fatal ride, as you notice. You’re drowned into the driver’s brain.
OBNUBIL: The album starts off with an electronic introduction that bursts into "The Hunt”, featuring clean, melodic passages alternating with intense breakdowns and underlined with electro-elements. The video clip for “The Hunt'' is really great with its very cyberpunk looking setting. Can you tell us something about this video and the making of?
SHAWTER: It was half shot in Paris and half in Manchester. Still, to fit with the album sonorities, we had to propose some video with the same vibes. It’s a big budget video, with strong CGI. If you haven't watched it yet, go to youtube and have fun buddies!
OBNUBIL: Your debut album DAGOBA celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. How do you look back on the album today? How do you see the beginnings of the band today and how did you imagine your musical career back then?
SHAWTER: It still sounds good and modern actually! We were so young at that time, I'm very grateful to our fans throughout the world and all the people in the music business that helped us to reach that level. It’s incredible to make Metal music for a living. I wish you all such grace.
OBNUBIL: You’ve been touring across the world, according to you what are the differences between different audiences across the world? Where do you prefer to play, in small concert halls or in big festivals?
SHAWTER: I just love to travel and doing it thanks to the band. I had intense pleasure rocking tiny clubs and big festivals. Recently we discovered Japan, and I can say I really enjoyed it. But I am also a big fan of the US.
OBNUBIL: What was your best live experience? Or a funny anecdote?
SHAWTER: Playing with Metallica in Bilbao was awesome. Concerning anecdotes, what happens on the road stays on the road!!!
OBNUBIL: Your band is playing a lot of shows, with tours almost every year, do you have any favorite song to play live?
SHAWTER: “The Sunset Curse”. I love the ending and the scenography we add to it live.
OBNUBIL: Which bands did you prefer sharing the stage with? And a band with whom you’d like to play?
SHAWTER: We had a very good time playing with Moonspell, Sepultura… but we only got good friends in the business, so it's hard to make a choice. I'd like to play with Deafheaven.
OBNUBIL: How do you feel about the French metal scene and how has it grown over the years? Do you have a newcomers band in France that you’d like to introduce to us?
SHAWTER: I think it's cool if it's growing for real. I don't really follow the french metal scene in actuality (i am not a network addict) but if you say so, I am very happy! I like those two bands, Aqme, but they're not newcomers, and Deluge.
OBNUBIL: What do you consider the typical mistakes people make when trying to build a serious band? Any professional advice?
SHAWTER: The biggest mistake is trying to get big on Facebook before being good at playing music. My advice: be sincere, trust yourselves and fuck the naysayers.
OBNUBIL: So far, what has been your biggest obstacle? The time, money, contacts… Ever the band was about to separate completely? If yes, why?
SHAWTER: I think money and contacts were an obstacle. When bands had money to pay for being part of a big tour, we didn't always had it, so it took some more time for us to get known outside France, but I won't complain: I live from my passion, Im happy, I travel a lot thanks to my band and I got fun with my bandmates. And contacts too, we come from Marseille and it didn't help us at the beginning of our career, as most of the media were in Paris. We don't have any parents on the business either.
OBNUBIL: We think your band’s name, Dagoba, comes from Star Wars, as Dagobah was a planet in the Dagobah system, and one of the purest places in the galaxy within the Force. A remote world of swamps and forests, it served as a refuge for Jedi Grand Master Yoda during his exile after the destruction of the Jedi Order. We assume that, like us, you are great fans of Star Wars, unless the name of the band comes from something else and we are wrong. Star Wars is among the most popular franchises in the world and has cultivated a devoted fan base who are not afraid to let their opinions be heard. Most true fans consider the first films as the best, what do you think about it? And, of the newest Star Wars films, which do you think was better?
SHAWTER: First films are very good, but I also really enjoyed Rogue One and the Last Jedi. I am pretty sure Disney will take care of the franchise. They never made big mistakes.
OBNUBIL: And what do you think about all the new Disney+ series? The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor…
SHAWTER: I simply love everything Disney released concerning Star Wars. Did anyone see Disney failing by releasing something, really?
OBNUBIL: Thank you so much for taking your time answering our questions and for giving us more information about you! Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers and to your fans?
SHAWTER: Thank you for your support, keep on rockin' amigos!
Interview done March 2023. Photo taken by Morgane Khouni.