Klone guitarist Guillaume Bernard on Devin Townsend, Gojira, Biréli Lagrène and the 10 albums that changed his life

(Image credit: Leo Margarit)

Klone could be the biggest French crossover guitar act to hit the UK act since Gojira but their visits have been few and far between despite a run of excellent records. Now the release of new album Meanwhile finally sees the Poitiers progressively-tinged alt-rock outfit playing the here again, and supporting Devin Townsend.

"Devin Townsend influenced me a lot," guitarist and songwriter Guillaume Bernard says of his tourmate. "I discovered him during the release of his first album Ocean Machine and I was also already a big fan of Strapping Young Lad when I was younger."

There's parallels to be drawn between the two; both are rooted in heavier music and have gone on to explorer mellower territories that only enhance the otherworldly feel of their songs. "I immediately liked the atmosphere in his music, his work as a composer, his musical universe," reflects Guillaume. "I have a lot of respect for all his work and it's totally crazy to be able to do a complete tour with him in legendary places."

In Yann Ligner Klone has a gritty, emotive vocalist that has confidently helped to evolve their sound from its early groove-metal Tool heaviness to the majestic heights of Meanwhile. But Guillaume and Aldrick Guadagnino's guitar journey has been equally fascinating. Meanwhile feels like more of a bridge between their old sound and the cleaner guitar work of 2016's excellent Here Comes The Sun.

"Depending on the composition, we adapt our sound," offers Guillaume. "On this new album, there was much less arpeggio and atmospheric elements. There is a return to big guitar riffs and we had to use more distortion in order to reach a kind of wall of sound."

Within that towering instrumental approach is always space for Lingner's melodic messages. And it's very much by design. "I spend a lot of time talking with Yann about the structures in order to give him enough space for the vocals," Guillaume tells us. "And I also work with everybody to refine the detail of the arrangements; the bass, the saxophones etc. The goal is to make the best music possible and that we are all satisfied with our work."

Guillaume used his Vola signature HSS S-type signature for the album, alongside a baritone with the PRS MT-15 Tremonti head. "I was looking for a guitar able to handle all the facets of my playing; from velvety arpeggios played with the fingerboard to big distorted sounds with palm muting," he says of the French guitar brand. "The Vola OZ V3 MC fulfills all the conditions I expect from a guitar!

Reverb is a huge part of the Klone experience too, and though Guillaume's a fan of Electro-Harmonix's Holy Stain, a certain boutique blue wonder has recently caught his ear…  "I just bought a reverb pedal that I fell in love with," says Guillaume. "It's the BlueSky from Strymon. It's really perfect."  

Although Meanwhile feels like the ideal summary of the Klone story so far in terms of tones for newcomers, it also reflects the evolution of Guillaume as a musician.  "Today I feel much more serene and I have much more confidence in myself," he admits to us. "I let myself be guided by my instinct, my feelings. I let the ideas come to me."

But the five-piece want to go to more of their fans now, as well as winning over new ones. They've played with countrymen Gojira (Guadagnino even temporarily stepped in for guitarist Christian Andreu when Gojira supported Deftones last year), as well as Kings-X, Leprous, Orphaned Land and Pain Of Salvation. "We hope to continue to promote the band beyond our borders, possibly playing soon in South America, China, and Japan," says Guillaume. "Wherever possible."

But before writing the next chapters of the Klone story, Guillaume took a moment to reflect with us on some of the music that has inspired his life so far. 

Guillaume Bernard: 10 albums that changed my life


Klone with Guillaume Bernard pictured second right (Image credit: Leo Margarit)

1. Type O Negative – October Rust (1996)

"One day, as a teenager, I came across a Shockwave sampler at a Roadrunner party and I discovered two tracks from this album. I was very quickly taken aback by their music. The atmosphere of this record is crazy and the compositions are super interesting. The production, the reverb, everything is phenomenal. 

"I still listen to this album today, and I think it ages well. They really have a whole universe and an identity that you won't find in any other band. It's also a band that doesn't really take itself too seriously."

2. Coroner – Grin (1993)

"This album is quite crazy in terms of sound and vibe. It was released in 1993 and was very avant-garde for the time. It seems to me that the old-school fans of the band do not like this album too much and that it was not a success in sales at the time. 

"It is an album on which the group are more restrained with their guitar playing. The music became simpler and you could say that it is a little like their own Black Album. I took a little time to get into this album because on first listen it can seem a little cold, but it is full of mystery and packed with incredible music riches."

3. Porcupine Tree  - Coma Divine (1997)

"I discovered this band in the 2000s thanks to a colleague of work, completely by chance. He was a fan of prog-rock and I must admit that I didn't know much about what was going on in the scene at the time. 

"I was immediately seduced by the Pink Floyd-like atmosphere, the drummer's very subtle playing on this live performance. The sound of this concert is really top-notch, there is something particular that occurs when the listener enters another space and time; one is quickly carried away."

4. Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)

"What an album... I still love this record today, full of brutality and subtlety. At first listening, it was not easy to digest so much. Phil Anselmo seemed enraged, but as you listen to it, you feel a lot of different emotions.

Even if it doesn't have any big hits compared to the rest of their discography, I think it's their most touching album

"It is a very sincere and uncompromising album. Even if it doesn't have any big hits compared to the rest of their discography, I think it's their most touching album. The solos of Dimebag are magnificent and there are some bluesy touches on the guitar which are pleasant. Pantera will remain forever my favorite metal band and a huge f*****g riff machine!

5. Dick Annegarn - Soleil du soir (2008)

"Well, we are clearly not in metal, but rather in French song and folk. I listen to this artist since I am very small with his [1974] album Sacré Géranium that my parents had on vinyl. He has always been with me and I love his guitar playing, his richness, his picking, his musicality, his way of writing, of composing, of making words sound like no one else. He is impressive with his mastery and knowledge.

"I have enormous respect for him and I find that Soleil du soir is his best album. It is a real pleasure in every listening and in concert we really spend a great moment; the guy is really full of humor and self-mockery."

6. Deep Purple – Made In Japan (1972)

"I was lucky enough to discover this rock monument while picking through my parents' vinyl bin at the age of nine.

"I was very receptive to Blackmore's guitar playing but also to the freedom the band took to improvise on their own songs. This results in extended versions, with nuances in the solos, questions and answers between guitar and vocals, and spontaneous setups that definitely marked me. One of my first big musical obsessions!"

7. Dream Theater – Metropolis Pt. 2 : Scenes From A Memory (1999)

"I was 15 years old when this record came out, I remember discovering a track on a mag sampler [CD], it was Fatal Tragedy. I was dazzled by this track and I got the record shortly after.

"I loved immersing myself in this concept album that lasts more than an hour. To me, everything about it was perfect; the whole songwriting, the band playing, the sound, and I even found myself tolerating [James] LaBrie's voice. Petrucci's touch is to die for, his intention, his technique, his melodies ...

"I admit that I've not been a fan of the band for a long time but this will remain, for me, their most accomplished album and a timeless journey."

8. Gojira – Terra incognita (2001)

"Here is a record that I must have listened to at least a thousand times!

Their performance gave me a gigantic slap in the face

"The first opus of our favourite Frenchmen. I was made to listen to this record one week before going to see them in concert. It was in 2001 and their performance gave me a gigantic slap in the face. I really loved their rhythmic precision, their sharp riffs of extraordinary heaviness. There was an originality in their music that did not hesitate to combine blast-beats with a mystical lull which gave a special aura to these guys!

"Their passion and talent are still expressed today since they are among the biggest metal bands in the world, no less!"

9. Decapitated - Nihility (2002)

"Beware if you have sensitive ears please, because we are in the den of Polish death metal this time. When this album was released, the average age of the band was not more than 19 years old. I was immediately taken by their surgical sound. Vogg's right wrist, the fulgurating compositions! 

"This album has clearly influenced my way of playing, of looking for rhythmic perfection with a clean and intelligible articulation in spite of the technique and the fast flow of notes!"

10. Biréli Lagrène and Sylvain Luc - Duet (2000)

I could have told you about Destroy Erase Improve from Sweden's Meshuggah which turned my brain upside down, but I decide to calm my ardor by telling you about one of the most beautiful guitar albums I've listened to!

Here reigns the softness, the sensitivity and the lightness conferred by our two heroes of the French jazz guitar. 

This musical goldmine opened my ears to this style which was obscure to me before. The version of Made In France is a cry of beauty; I'll never tire of the chorus of Mr Luc on this piece.

"It's one of those albums you can listen to again and again, and one will often find there's a passage or notes which one did not hear before. The sound is very beautiful, you can hear perfectly the explosive dynamics or the finesse of playing of its giants.

"It is an album filled with sunshine, which will breathe sweet nostalgia to your small sensitive heart.

"Good listening to you all."

  • Meanwhile is out now on Kscope. Klone tour with Devin Townsend in the UK in March and April before shows in France. More info at kscopemusic.com/artists/klone/
Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.