Interview with

Helcanen Val

how are you? Thanks for taking your time to answer our questions.


 At first, could you introduce yourself to our readers?

To indroduce in short lines, I'm a Belgian artist & the promoter of MFVF in Belgium since it has been created. Being an artist is my main activity (painting, photography, designer).


You've created your own multi-service-company. You draw, paint, make illustrations as well as design, take photographs, write reviews for a magazine etc. You seem to be an all-round talent since you cover many different areas. How did you come to work in all these fields?

Fortunately, I don't do everything at same time, haha.
It's always good to expand our skills, especially in the artistic field as work is not constant.
I just don't write the reviews for a magazine, I do photo reports from Japan for BCM, which is an online magazine focused on the Japanese culture. Sometimes I bring live photos, sometimes it's about the culture, traditions & modern life.
I went to art school where I also had photography lessons (the time before the digital camera, haha). But this is something I had inside me anyway, the love for art & image, the motivation to learn and practice is most important. For the rest, it's only by trying on my own, improving year after year.
Too Wild agency, created with Gloria, is the result after having combined our different skills in music and art.


3.    Have you always been that creative?

I guess so, when there is nothing to do I'm bored, so I need to create something. 
It probably comes from the fact that I love learning new things, discovering new places, etc. Ideas are coming all the time, the problem is to translate them all.


As we all can see on your official homepage or on Facebook etc. you are interested in  Japanese culture. What exactly is it that fascinates you the most? And is there something that you would like to see in the western culture?

The traditions and history are really present there. I like visiting other countries, but when you go to Japan, you can quickly feel like you are living in the past.
The old streets like in the Edo era are amazing to see.
Modernity and tradition are really well mixed. If you want to escape from the big city, you can quickly find a quite garden, shrine, etc.
There are lots of temples and shrines, anyone is welcome to visit them, make a pray/wish. You can feel the peace and harmony in these places.
I could talk for hours about Japan, better that I stop here ;)
Japan and the western culture are really different, but there is nothing in particular I would like to see in our culture, some stuff wouldn't match at all.
And then there is always a reason to visit Japan.


 I already know that you adopt most of the things by yourself and that you also have an illustration degree. But is there one special thing you would love to study precisely, more in detail? For example, a specific technique?

Indeed, there are some techniques I would love to learn, and the Japanese calligraphy is on my actual top list. But for that I think it's important to learn with a Japanese who knows the traditional way. Learning a bit more Japanese would be then important, too.

Where exactly are your roots of your ideas and your paintings? Is it a mixture of Manga’s, Japanese culture and metal music?

If you add Fantasy & mythology you get the roots I guess. It's not that I search influences in specific genres, but it's mostly a mix of the styles I like. Sometimes I don't notice the influences anymore as it's a part of me. It's only when people say “Ha, it's clearly japanized” that I realize it.
When I paint or draw, I need music in the background, it inspires me also. Not always Metal though.


As most of us know by now, you are the founder of the famous Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium. Would you like to combine the western culture metal music with Japanese music at the MFVF in the future?

In every edition, I try to include some Japanese artists but this is not always easy as the distance and costs are huge.
The question is really hard to answer in fact... not sure if there would be a difference.
The Metal scene in Japan is mostly like ours. They just mix more styles in their music, this combined with the songs in Japanese makes them sound different.
If you think about a particular band, like Magistina Saga, they play Visual-Kei.  This is a kind of Metal with different sounds that remind us of the anime manga, and the stage outfits add another dimension, too. But V-Kei bands with a female singer are quite rare.


How do you feel about your first solo-project "Antares“? I saw that your goal of 1000 Euros was reached in less than 24 hours. You also did an extra perk with 10 more illustrations. Did you expect that? How would you describe your painting style?

It was amazing to see that people supported this project, art is not the easiest way to collect money.  As this project is a part of myself, I was really happy and even more motivated to create artworks.
The extra illustration perks were a bit unexpected... I had then extra unexpected work, haha.
as this is my first solo-book, I'm proud to see it released.

My paintings here are really based on emotions , they were linked to the Haïku I wrote. Most of time, these poems were written first, then I painted what they represented or made me feel at that moment. I used coloured inks for this book, they provide vivid colors and nice water effects that you can't get with acrylics for example.


Again about MFVF:  Why did you decide to create a festival like this? And what are your favourite bands?

When the 1st edition was created with my ex partner, we didn't think about an annual festival. The line-up came a bit by chance, we saw that bands we wanted to book mostly had female singers. The idea arrived like this. There were no other festival for such bands, so it was created at the right moment.
I don't really have favourite bands, I listen to the music I feel at that moment.
Besides their music, I like some bands because I have a good contact with them.


 Sadly, last year you gave MFVF a break for one year. Can you tell us why? Have you missed it? What can we expect from this year’s MFVF?

Last year's break was needed to reset things for the festival and for my personal projects.
Before an edition is over, I've already started working on the next one. There is no break between two editions, so you don't have time to see what has to be changed, find new partners, etc.
It was also foreseen to give a break for the visitors coming from far to save some money for a next edition...


What do you think about the phrase “Female fronted metal”? Did you realise that metal with female lead singers has reached more popularity in the last years? You as an artist and founder of the biggest festival so far, why do you think it is like this?

Ye Some bands indeed gained popularity  after having hit the MFVF stage.
The MFVF started when there was no scene for such bands, so they finally had the chance to perform on a big stage.
But it also has a reversed side. ..
Now it sounds like the bands with a female singer are automatically categorized in one style:  “female fronted metal”, no matter if they scream, grunt, have a lyrical voice etc, no matter if they play extreme or symphonic Metal... they are all in the same basket.
Since there are lots of events for “female fronted Metal bands”, people think that they can only play there. They don't have much place in general Metal festivals/shows.
At the end, it's even harder for bands with a female singer to grow.
When I hear “female fronted Metal band” it even sounds negative sometimes.
This is a little anecdote :)
During the Leaves' Eyes tour, I was travelling with Diabulus in Musica. At the French border, the policemen asked them why we had been travelling. They explained they had a show in France etc. One of the guys asked which style they played, so DIM answered “Rock, Metal etc”. And at the
 moment it was said that Zuberoa was the singer... the officer said in French to his colleague “Ha yes, it's a female fronted band, forget it, it's not interesting”...


Is there a question you would love to answer but nobody has ever asked you? Feel free to answer directly.

Well, no idea sorry :D


 Last but not least, is there anything you want to tell me, our readers, your friends or fans…whatever…that’s your place! Thank you for taking the time to do the interview with us. 

You only live once, so enjoy the good moments as long as you can, as long as things can happen.
I wish that you will enjoy this year's festival, because we will.
And don't hesitate to visit my merch booth, I will expose some paintings, pictures, artworks.