Stéphane Paut, better known as Neige, has enjoyed a dramatic musical evolution, starting out in black metal before finding his voice in Alcest's more restorative and reflective sound.
To coincide with the release of Alcest's sixth studio album, Spiritual Instinct, Neige sat down to talk gear, and some of the choices that might seem unorthodox for someone playing what is ostensibly metal, or post-metal if you like.
He talks about the Fender Jazzmaster as his go-to electric guitar, and how this choice affects his signal path. Maybe this is something we will see more of in metal, which, now in its sixth decade, is surely a broad enough church to encourage new approaches to guitar tone.
As Neige walks through his rig, and his thoughts on tone and pedal choices, it's worth keeping in mind that experimentation is always a good thing, that sometimes that unexpected combination can inspire new pathways to take your sound.
It might be unthinkable that the hegemony of the humbucking pickup is at an end – the high-output, fatter tone, not to mention noise-killing properties will always be first choice for metal – but if you play metal you would be remiss not to think about what a singlecoil could do for you.
As Baroness' John Dyer Baizley and Gina Gleason explained when they sat down with our friends at Guitar World, Fender Jazzmasters, Strats and Teles helped them take their sound where they wanted it to be.
Fender amplification has always had a bit part to play in black metal. Early on, with Darkthrone and Satyricon, Nocturno Culto used a Fender Performer 1000 combo, and when you think about Fender amps, their transparency and high-end definition is idle for black metal, a genre that relies on ice-pick treble in oh so many different ways from Albert Collins.
Spiritual Instinct saw Alcest record with producer Benoît Roux, with Neige and drummer Jean "Winterhalter" Deflandre returning to Drudenhaus Studio in France, where their 2016 album Kodama was recorded.
The album sees Neige reference some of his black metal roots with more riff-heavy arrangements taking shape among the post-metal and more experimental shoegaze elements.
“I come from the metal scene originally and it never really left me," he said in a statement. "I used black metal as a teen as a way to escape from reality and that’s what I love the most about it. It’s the best type of music to express overwhelmingly darker feelings. I usually don’t speak about my darkness in Alcest's music but this time it felt like something I had to do.”
- Spiritual Instinct is out now on Nuclear Blast. You can order it direct here.