Amanaka: “Perfect Osmosis”

Christophe Erpelding made an impact on the Leeside music scene during his time here throughout the 2000s and 2010s, as part of metal juggernauts [r]evolution of a sun and Bisect. He returns next week with new band Amanaka for an Irish tour that includes two Cork dates. Mike McGrath-Bryan gets into it with a local figurehead for heavy music.

His is the gravelly, mid-ranged roar that underpinned hardcore in Cork throughout the 2000s, as one of multiple vocalists over the lifetime of Leeside monolith [r]evolution of a sun, infamous for once delivering broadsides in studio so intense that, by bandleader Noel Lynch’s description, objects in the nearby vicinity budged under the pressure. As one-half of the vocal team in crossover hardcore band Bisect, he also helped set in stone that band’s foundation as proponents of thrashy, straight-ahead agitprop. And yet, for all that his name entails, Christophe Erpelding, a teacher by trade, is a warm and chatty figure offstage. Ahead of coming back over the water to brave stages with his ex-bandmates in Bisect as part of new band Amanaka, Christophe is effusive in discussing how his new parish came together.

“Well, interestingly enough, Stéphane (guitarist), Myka (drummer) and I started a band a few months before my landing in Cork. The lads carried on, got a bass player, Goof, and a singer, Greg. The band was called Fok’npekwet. They toured Ireland in 2004 and we played with them with [r]ev in the LV and Fredz. The lads love Ireland. Stéphane used to visit me in Cork every year for a few years. They were dreaming about getting to tour Ireland again. They then became Amanaka, but performed as an instrumental band from 2009 to 2012, and they disbanded for a while. However, with Myka and me back in town, Stéphane suggested that we reform the band in June 2015. We got Goof on board, that was it: Amanaka revival. I have been with friends with Myka since I was sixteen. We had our first band together. RIFF – ‘Right In Your F**kin’ Face’ (laughs). We were actually great fun. Same when it comes to Stéphane. We have been friends for more than twenty years. We jammed a good few times together, but with my departure to Cork, we never got to finalize any musical projects. Like all the bands I have been part of, all the songs are original creations. Their influences are varied, going from Meshuggah, Black Dahlia Murder, with some hardcore bits, to atmospheric themes à la Tool or Russian Circles. This is what I like about Amanaka: that no songs sound the same. We did a good few gigs in France, and released a five-track EP “Delirium Elephantiasis Circus” last summer, and now the Irish Tour. We are so excited about it! We know it’s going to be an intense and amazing musical and human experience. I have actually ordered a new liver for when I get back (laughs).”

Erpelding would very well draw a crowd from among the city’s metal veterans for his contributions to the city’s scene over the years, eager to see what happens next. It’s not far from his mind regarding the band’s Irish excursion, either, as he reflects on what the city has meant to him. “[r]evolution of a sun was a big part of my life, and will always be. It was the first band where the music was perfectly echoing with what I have always wanted to do in music. Fast aggressive riffs with massive build ups. Perfect osmosis. And… I got to make friends. True friends. Noel, Pat, Kenny, Jer… I first met Pat in Fredz, and he said to me that [r]ev was looking for a singer. I said “Cool, I’m a singer”. I met Noel in The Wolfhound, drinking his famous Watoo. We had a chat and we found a common interest about Breach. The thing about Breach is like Marmite: you love it or you hate it. We went jamming in Nancy Spain’s. And that’s how it started. We met Kenny who was initially a drummer, and who… loved Breach as well. In fairness, these years with [r]ev, the lads, the intensity and integrity of the music, jamming in “cans”, playing Fredz and the Quad, playing all over Ireland, touring France. getting around 200 people moshing on ‘Fugitive’ during the Filth Fest is simply one of the most intoxicating experiences of my life. Those years with [r]evolution of sun were amongst the best ones in my life!”

Erpelding’s time with Bisect has also gone on to inform his contributions to his new band, and next week’s Irish excursion takes on gigs around the country with the Leeside crossover four-piece. The experience of creating the band’s first album, ‘We Are the Migrants’, has stuck with him. “We recorded ‘We Are the Migrants’ at (the late) Lawrence White’s studio in Bantry. May he rest in peace, ‘cause he was a legend. With Bisect, Fabrizio, Grzegorz and Macjec were mainly writing the riffs. When it came to writing the lyrics, it was either collective or individual. It depended. For instance, we wrote ‘TV Madness’ and ‘We Are the Migrants’ together. The recording of ‘We Are the Migrants’ was great, an amazing experience altogether! Lawrence recorded the guitar, the drum and the bass live in his living room, as we wanted a natural sound, not a processed one. We then did the vocals. We stayed at Lawrence’s for the week. Lawrence had this amazing ability to become another member of the band. We ate, drank, laughed and recorded altogether in his conservatory, with the view on the countryside.”

With all this history in mind, and with a few dates in the can, Erpelding is understandably excited for the trip, for the success his ex-bandmates have encountered since his leaving Cork a few years ago. “It’s gonna be great to see Bisect live again, and maybe do a bit of vocals with them. We are still in contact, and I know that things are going well for them. They made a very good new album, and did well to play the Siege. Regarding the overall atmosphere, Eddie from (Dublin punx) the Nilz sent me a Messenger post a few days ago with all the bands that will play with us in Dublin on the 6th in Thomas House. And judging by the vibe of this post it’s gonna be mighty, chaotic and great craic! Only in Ireland. We are very happy to be playing Ballina with Sh*thatt. I discovered them a few months ago, and I am sincerely looking forward to see them live. Headlining the Mammothfest Battle of the Bands is going to be a great experience too.”

The heavy scene in the city has been growing and getting stronger in recent years after a long lull – what does Christophe think of the growth in Cork metal and the bands that are here now? “Well, I think the Cork has always been strong. I mean, I am living in France now, and it is just not the same vibes when it comes to music. Being aware of both worlds, for me Irish people are natural musician,s I think. It is in your blood. Think about how prolific it is, gigs, the trad, the dancing. It is legitimate to make music in Ireland. Unfortunately, to be honest, I have been slightly disconnected from the Cork Irish scene for the past three years. I got to listen to Bailer a lot. I think they are incredibly impressive. I am delighted to see they are doing well. Onkalo released a very good album, too.”

The band is back in its hometown after getting back from Ireland next month, and the road doesn’t stop there. But in getting back on the horse, Erpelding has found a new lease on musical life with some lifelong friends. “We have a gig in Longwy, our hometown, on the 5th of May. Our first one there since Halloween 2016. It is going to be good to play there, because loads of people who know us have never seen us before. It will be fun to play in front of our friends, and have a ball like when we did when we were teenagers, besides the fact that we are all in our forties now (laughs). We have a few gigs lined up in different cities in France. Metz, Thionville… we want to tour as much as we can, to get exposure. That’s why, this summer we are going to have a look at festivals happening in France and in other countries. What is great is that we are at the borders of three countries: Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. Belgium has a good few venues and DIY places to perform, and so has Germany. We will be probably be recording our new material at the end of the year. But (before all that), let the music and the craic begin!”

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