Dark Interview - Zalys
By Casey Douglass
Zalys is a French one-woman ambient project that was created in 2013 with a focus on deep space ambient and ethereal atmospheres. Her music transports the listener into the deeper realms of space, her albums following the concept of a lone space wanderer as he travels through the void. I first heard Zalys’ work in the form of her Reminiscences album and was very impressed, particularly liking the sounds that seemed to echo from video games like Half Life. Zalys kindly granted me an interview which you can read below.
Hello Zalys, thank you very much for this interview, it’s great to have the chance to quiz you on your creative endeavours. When did you first become interested in making music? Did you land straight on the experimental ambient genre or did you get there from more typical avenues?
I became interested in making music when I was young, I think I was 6 or 7. I studied the music theory for 3 years. I wanted to play the piano but we could not afford the music lessons so I kept moving on my own. I was then offered a little keyboard and I had some fun creating melodies on my own and reproducing some music I liked. That's how I learnt. Also, my parents listened to a lot of music and I grew up in this atmosphere : it was mainly electronics and rock, hard rock/metal music, so nothing to do with ambient music. I am more into metal music to be honest and when I started Zalys, I did not know much about dark ambient and ambient music in general.
You have said on your website that the main goal of your music is to "take the listeners into the cosmos where the brightness meets the darkness, where the warmth of the stars mixes with the coldness of the void, where serenity and threat are like one." That sounds like a statement from a personality who is pretty in touch with the Yin and the Yang of life, someone that sees the beauty in balance and acknowledging the dark as well as the light. Would you say this is accurate and if so, how do you think that translates to your music making process?
This is totally accurate. There is always a balance between good and evil, coldness and warmth, darkness and brightness...I mean one can't be without the other. That's how life is all about. That's why I try to get my music to sound as bright as dark. Nothing is totally dark, cold or dead. There is always a sound or a melody which reminds us this statement.
What would you say are the main influences on your music, be it from another musician/band or something from another area of life?
First, I think I am very influenced by metal music in general, especially the darkest styles such as symphonic or atmospheric black metal for example. I love the atmospheres. My most influential bands would be Arcturus and Darkspace. I also like electronic music a lot. I remember being totally astonished by the Jean-Michel Jarre albums when I was younger. I often listen to some OST too, I like those mixing electronics and symphonic.
Your music has a strong sci-fi concept running through from album to album, a space wanderer leaving his planet before its destruction and now adrift in the cosmos. This story has played out in four chapters so far on your albums Wandering Through Space, Summoning the Phoenix, Towards the Sun and The Icarus System. What was the attraction to you of doing this kind of running narrative concept and why did you choose sci-fi?
Actually there are 5 chapters. "Reminiscences" is the sequel of "The Icarus System". It's not the same kind of sound but it is linked. Narrative concepts are important to me. When I listen to an album - for example a metal album - I always look for a story through the lyrics, the atmospheres, the sounds...linking the first track to the last track. I am very enthusiastic when the band manages to tell a story through music and when I manage to represent myself the story. Music creates images in my mind. I wanted the same with Zalys. I don't know if I did the job. But I always told myself : "if you create a music project, it must be a conceptual project!
What are some of your favourite sci-fi films/TV shows/books?
My favourite sci-fi films are Star Wars, Stargate, Terminator, Aliens, and as far as TV shows I enjoy the X-Files and Stargate SG-1. Books I like are Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick's books in general (especially "Ubik"), "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradburry and "The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forster. Finally, my favourite sci-fi video game is Fallout.
Do you have a set composing process or does it tend to vary depending on how inspiration strikes? Can you reveal a little about it?
I don't really have a composing process. It depends on the inspiration but even when I am inspired, I'm stuck! So it depends on the sound I use, the pads I play with, the modulation of the drones...I try some improvisations and sometimes it works ! "Lux in Tenebris" or "Icarus" were made in one shot.
Do you have some favourite composing tools and instruments that always seem to make their way into your work?
Yes I have. At the beginning, I always used the HG Fortune VST such as Avatar, STS...the first two albums were made with those sounds. Now I play more with the libraries of the Refx Nexus synths and some Native Instruments programs. They always make their way into my work.
Do you have any news of your next project that you can share, maybe its theme or title and when it might be out?
Yes, I have some news. I have recently finished two albums (yeah, you read well, two albums). The first one will be spacey and brighter, the second one will be darker, with more drones and dark pads. I don't have the titles for the moment. But the themes are always about space exploration, isolation, planets/nebulas/...discoveries....For the moment I don't know when exactly they might be out but it would be before the end of the year, maybe this summer or the beginning of the fall.
Thank you very much Zalys for the great interview and good luck with your new audio releases.
You can check out Zalys’ website at this link. You might also like to check out my review of her album Reminiscences at this link too.