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Tepid Hell [2003-02-24]

Programme is a duo from France that produced one of the most interesting albums of 2002. L’Enfer Tiède (translated as Tepid Hell) is the name of this masterpiece and Arnaud Michniak and Damien Bétous are the names behind it. But not only the music is fascinating, the concept behind it and the accompanying lyrics fill in a picture that is more complete than most bands aim for. Not the most unexciting description, is it? I contacted the band and this is what Arnaud had to say:

“We met each other in 1998. Damien was doing the light show of the band where I played at that moment, Diabologum. We got the idea of doing something together, and the idea was raised to create a personal vision between rock, modern art and poetry, something out of aesthetic controls; on stage, in the music and in the lyrics. A critic voice who is able to speak about the confusion where the third millennium is going to leave.” That inspired Programme to release Mon Cerveau Dans Ma Bouche (My Brain In My Mouth) through Lithium Records early in 2000. According to Arnaud, this album was like a private document, an autobiographical reference and thus very angry. The second full-length album was L’Enfer Tiède and not less angry I believe. However, the latter album is seen as a public document, a chronicle and that is the main difference in the concept of the two releases. Nevertheless, the band is still very satisfied with them both.

The already infamous FatCat Records released a 7” single with two songs from L’Enfer Tiède and described Programme as “violently deranged rock” and with The Young Gods as closest reference. Although both statements are very true, they don’t complete Programme’s portrayal; it’s very much more. It remains difficult to picture their music without hearing it; rock, hip-hop, jazz, punk, electronic are all elements but Programme is by far not just a combination of that. What exist between and even outside those terms isn’t sufficient; all Arnaud can say is that they are influenced by musicians who create their own language... The important thing is that the latest album got a very good response in the specialized French press. The duo also got a deal to be distributed in Japan, a sign that the people outside France are picking up their work as well, despite the lyrics being entirely spoken in French language. In the U.K. Robbie Furze (Alec Empire’s guitarist) is working on a remix of Une Vie on his label in London, and DJ Rupture is anxious to do the same on his U.S. label. I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys Programme, but I feel that the band deserves more recognition outside France. To achieve that, they will need help from specialized media, such as this magazine, Arnaud says. “With good critics we can find more opportunities for concerts and distribution. And we can create something like “new musical poetry” with translations on screens when we play live. With that people from different countries could be interested in Programme’s music.” Fact is that Programme’s music is very special and unique, and that only should already attract listeners.

As I stated in my review, the lyrics deal with "Social criticism, the place of man in the world and their relationship with their time and their generation", but from a very personal view. They have a very important role in Programme, and Arnaud admits that they reflect a personal view, but from different viewpoints. “Sometimes I’m this person and sometimes I’m somebody else. What I’m looking for is the individual and personal feeling.” One topic that isn’t treated in the lyrics is love & relationships. “We are alone in these too. I don’t want to talk about this part in my lyrics. I don’t want to say “the world is like that or life is this way”. I just want to share my own feelings upon this world and life itself.” It comes as no surprise that the 7” single released by FatCat is called Une Vie (translated “A Life”). The full-length album is released by Lithium Records tough. Aurnaud tells how he came in contact with Lithium. “I was in contact with them with my former band. They just heard Programme and they liked our music. We will continue working with them as long as we can.”

It is always interesting to hear what music the bandmembers listen to, since it can be of great importance regarding the influences in their own music. But I don’t really hear Nick CaveThe Carny & The Merry Seat or NasThe Message in Programme’s music. Besides that, Arnaud is very fond of the first track of the first Godspeed You Black Emperor! album, the two LPs of the Three Mile pilot and Lisabö, a Basque band that is unknown to me. But I should listen to it first before I judge them, Arnaud warns me. “I don’t like that we always talk about image in our societies, we judge music too early without even listening to it”. The abstract image on Programme’s L’Enfer Tiède cover however, is very impressive and that makes it already more interesting to check the band out. To them, the artwork represents “a sort of terrifying waiting and also the way of underground research”. Yet, not only the album artwork creates the band’s image, the live show is also a vital part of it. The release of their latest album was followed by a small tour where they attended some of the European summer festivals, including Pukkelpop where I was one of those who actually enjoyed the show. Arnaud is looking for things more different and with more danger tough. “We’ve tried to work with the lights and the stenography to create our own universe. Playing live is more wild than in the studio. We’re two guys and we make some noise! Every show is like a special experience for me. A lot of bands just seem to be ok with everything, which I really don’t understand. They don’t talk to me either...”

Since I really can’t wait for more material from this band, I have to ask what is planned in the future: “There are already new songs written and there’s an EP planned which should be coming out this summer. I hope the remixes by DJ Rupture and Robbie Furze will go through before that.” After that, we’ll see what happens with Programme. At least it was a pleasure to get this band interviewed, and we conclude with Arnaud’s last message: “Don’t let other people choose for you”.

Justin Faase
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