Name: Aurélien Bernard
Current Release: 3 South & Banana on Some Other Planet Records
Recommendations: Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk / A Tabua De Esmeralda by Jorge Ben Jor / The Power Of Now by Ekhart Tolle / Freedom from the known by J Krishnamurti
Website: You can find 3 South and Banana online at 3southandbanana.com
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing and producing music around 7 years ago although I have been a musician for much longer. On rare occasions in my childhood I saw musicians playing live. I think those moments were so special that they drove my early passion for music and drums in particular. I think music and art in general connected me to a deeper place in myself and gave me an understanding of the significance of the world.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Playing musical instruments requires a lot of discipline and patience and it took me years of study and trying to emulate experienced musicians in order to be able to express myself freely as a drummer. I also studied piano, guitar, composition and production. This was just the process of sharpening my artistic tools, I had the irresistible desire to create a body of work, to break out of the egg and fully realise myself. Three years ago I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Fear”. The gentle and kind words of the book created a revolution inside of me and I was able to look at the truth, to look at myself and break some of my conditioning, especially regarding self-judgment. I think without this realisation I could have spent my life in fear of being myself and stuck in the process of searching and never finding my own voice.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main compositional challenge was to balance my intuitive knowing and my intellect. After pursuing my career as a professional drummer and performer I felt the need to grow so I studied composition and piano. I analysed classical music pieces, pop and rock music, I listened to Bach, Bethoven, Mozart, Arvo Pärt, and many more and tried to write like them. It was an interesting learning phase, but it was all too intellectual and dry, and of course I was comparing myself to all these great masters. When I was a kid who just listened and played. There was no theory, no analysis. It was fun and the music empowered me. I was in touch with my soul. I reconnected with this state thanks to the guitar. I got a lesson from Giorgio from Cairobi and I practiced and learned some songs. It forced me to get out of my mind and reconnect with music on an intuitive level.
On the production level my main challenge was to be on my own. It was uncomfortable in the studio at first and a good way to learn about myself. I have to be the recording engineer and the performer and it’s a long process and energetically demanding to get a good feel for the music but I love to play my instruments so it’s also really pleasurable.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I started music production in my bedroom in the late 90’s. At that time it was only the beginning of the home recording revolution. I built a PC, and bought an audio interface and I had a mic and a midi keyboard. I have to say I spent more time troubleshooting than producing music! I then left my native France to go to the United States and pursue my career as a professional musician. In 2013 I got to be the drummer of this fantastic band “CAIROBI”. We met in Berlin and we got a rehearsal studio. They had already been playing together for years and had a lot more experience with recording. When the band broke up, I took over the studio. Throughout the years I got some instruments and microphones and because I love to play, my setup evolved naturally toward recording acoustic instruments. The most important gears are my music instruments. I love old instruments. I feel they have a soul and of course they are difficult to replace.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
When it comes to recording and producing music my use of technology is very straight forward. I use the computer as my tape machine and mixer/audio fx. I also challenge myself to not use audio editing tools because what is essential for me is the spontaneity, But I would like to talk about the live show where I use technology in an unconventional manner. The live show came out of the necessity for me to play my songs without a band. I met this incredible artist Tartaruga Feliz and she gave me the idea to film and record myself on drums and other instruments in the studio and then project myself visually while playing guitar and singing over the projection live.
I loved the idea and of course I had to find creative ways to realise it. It’s a lot of fun and I love mixing different mediums to create another kind of live performance
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I don’t think my production tools contribute to my compositional process. I write my songs on the guitar and before I go to the studio they are already there. They have to work by themselves, simply with guitar and voice. The arrangements and aesthetic choices then come naturally in the studio. In the past I got into modular synthesis and I learned a lot about the nature of sound and the meaning of sound on a physical level. This helped me a lot when the time came to record and produce music. The journey into electronic music was also very interesting and creative but ultimately, I felt frustrated. There was too much distance between me and the music and sound that came out.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I collaborated with Tartaruga Feliz. With her background in Art and technology we worked together in conceptualizing and producing all the visuals for my live show. I love collaborations between artists from different mediums. Now there is an opening with games and virtual reality to create brand new forms of Arts and the way we experience Art.
Also, I love improvisation and spontaneity in music, there is an amazing album “Spirit of Eden” from TalkTalk which is based on recording hours of improvisations edited down to the best moments. There are real magic moments coming out of people creating and playing spontaneously together.