Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
When I started recording the first drafts of the songs for my last album, I would never have imagined for a moment that these songs would have taken on the scale and that the final versions did. A few weeks before launching into this new album, I had several projects in mind at the same time which went in far too many directions: I'd started a record of instrumental pieces on piano, organ and keyboard and experimental songs which prefigure the unexpected.
I composed the sketches and the foundations of the melodies that were going to comprise the album in question in a rather hazardous way; it was three weeks of intense jubilation and unbridled creation. It was both exciting and gruelling, I remember this period as being beautiful and painful at the same time.
It had been several months, even more than a year, when I started to fantasise about other music. There were also dissatisfactions at home in relation to previous records. Following Eudaimon, I didn't want to make a new record too similar and focused only on piano and voice.
At that time, I had a desire for change and a new ambition in terms of sound. I wanted to go beyond the risky and spontaneous aspects of the music I was used to making, towards something more complex, richer, and also dense in terms of harmony and arrangements. I dreamed of composed pieces where all sorts of things happen: melodies, breaks, dissonances, polyphony, minimalism, silences, breaks, indistinguishable sounds, whispers, shouts, contrasts, but I also dreamed of introducing all sorts of new instrumentation (strings, wind instruments...) and music of "spectral" obedience; half day, half night, of chiaroscuro, crossed by mysterious sounds.
That said, my initial ambition was rather vague and imprecise; I had these lyrics that I wanted to set to music. Themes emerged in the course of writing and rewriting, made up of collage, montage and telescoping of disparate fragments: fleeting impressions that are difficult to grasp, incommunicability, spectrums, inner states, near/far, the question of non-being and absence. I tried to pay attention to all these states of turmoil and strangeness.
My writing is nourished by all that transcends rationality and logic, inner states, of the unknown, fleeting sensations, but also by my interest in everything that touches mysticism, the transcendent and the feeling of the infinite. What interested me was to create a certain confusion and a certain gap in relation to different perceptive states that can be intertwined.
Above all, I wanted to clear an intermediate space between my desire for song writing on the one hand, with an emancipation towards familiar territories on the other hand.
I composed this whole record with my Nord electronic keyboard and at that time, I wouldn't have imagined for a second that this record was going to take a collective turn afterwards. Thanks to this new instrument, I could work on the melodic part (the skeleton, the backbone of the piece) but also imagine all sorts of possibilities in terms of arrangements and hear it immediately. At that moment, I felt a new space was opening up for my music. I was quite surprised by the new material (sound and sung French) I was producing, a youthful excitement tinged with innocence. Composing the music on the keyboard allowed me to hear live all sorts of arrangements I'd fantasised about.
I had the idea of making two versions of the record, a solo version and a collective version where I'd invite musicians to rearrange the songs. I didn’t give precise instructions to the musicians, they were free to do what they wanted.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Place and space play a role when I’m trying to reach a state of mind that would be a creative state. I've been living in a rural area of France for about ten years now, far from an urban centre. And I must say that this apparent isolation has had a beneficial effect on the deployment of my creativity in recent years.
If I had stayed in the city, stress and other parameters (such as promiscuity or lack of time due to frenetic living conditions and too many opportunities) would have undoubtedly limited this deployment. The isolation had a positive effect on me because it freed me from a lot of questions and impediments that I would have had if I had tried to be part of an artistic community. Being a bit of an outsider (doing things in my own way, with my own criteria) was also a liberation: not necessarily wanting to fit into pre-established frameworks but to do things in my own way, and to move forward at my own pace. The fact of living in isolation and in this way, was a liberation for me and encouraged the creativity.
I’m lucky to have the luxury of a dedicated room in my home where I can have the freedom to wander and explore aspects of my mind and soul, without being disturbed by anyone.
Having time is also a necessity for me to create. Time that I choose and not time that I endure. I made the choice in the last few years to give up a good job to be able to devote myself totally to music and creation. It's obviously complicated and difficult, but it's an undeniable luxury to have all this time dedicated to this and living in the countryside allows me to be in a time bubble that's a bit out of step.
The act of discovering, reading, writing, drawing, listening to different kinds of music, meditation, walking, wandering, travel are also essential things for me to connect more easily myself with my creative state of mind.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
For a while, playing live and writing music in the studio were both spontaneous gestures, like improvisations. Now, I tend to separate them. Writing music in the studio is a mixture between improvisation and composition. I record small improvisations and day to day situations from my environment, like a sound diary….and from all of this material, I create new work.
When I play live, I love to improvise a lot, with musicians or solo. For a long time, when I played live, it was almost all improvised. I didn’t know at all what I was playing. It was more like a ritual to capture energies of the room, from the audience and the present and to make something new from it.
For the future, I’d like to create a live setting to recreate the complexity of my record alone. It’s my aim of the future, to find music tools that bring some novelty into my playing, to bring freshness and accidents, and to work with sound space, through multi-channel diffusion.
The ideal would be to depart from the record, using it instead like a music frame and bring the music somewhere else, making improvisations from compositions. And when I record at home, it’s the contrary, making compositions from improvisation.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
My relationship with sound has evolved through the years. I used to think sound and composition were separate but over the years, my practice evolved and now sound as an aspect became a more important element of my composition. Now, I feel they are part of the same fabric.
I work with sound and timbre by experimenting, juxtaposing sounds together and analysing the results. I use layers to create surreal effects, and I enjoy contrasts; when antagonists collide, and induce a surprise in the act of listening or when melody and abstraction collide. I like mystery in sound and composition, something otherworldly.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Some people have said my music is visual and has a cinematic quality. That’s mostly true, as I’m often crossed by certain inner sensations, some visions or impressions linked to some experience I try to translate into sounds and music.
For my last album, I may have been crossed, by certain "cosmic" images during the writing, notably the horizon, the skies, the veiled summits and the light. Elements linked to the immensity and infinity, hence the idea of making nature palpable through field recordings (fire, water, church steeples, birds...), as an appearance and a setting, to make the elements of the sensitive world felt in a physical way.
I also wanted this record to be more colourful than its predecessors; I was thinking more in terms of textures and the play of light: that this disc be populated and crossed by gleams, reflections of intensity and spectra rather than by restoring precise images or colours; it was more a wish to capture fleeting impressions that can be felt very strongly during certain modified states of consciousness. I’m more interested in a slightly blurred universe, almost psychedelic at times, where the light doesn't reveal the object, but that it penetrates in a darkness of disquieting strangeness, so as to suggest several levels of reality, where reality and phantasmagoria are mixed.
Paradoxically, if there is one precise image that I had to keep, however, it is the image of a blinding light that assails us (hence the cycle of "blind lights"), the idea of mirage that openly refers to Plato's "myth of the cave". Behind a feeling of hyper-aesthetic order of intimacy, there was undoubtedly a more openly politically biased reflection, something worrying about the state of the world and our future, very liquid and fragile.
I know exactly what you mean when you talk about synaesthesia and the correspondence between the writing, the sounds, and the associated mental images. It's a dimension that interests me.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Art and being an artist is central to my life, it's my reason for being here and the two are totally linked. My music reflects my sensitivity and my personal way of responding to outside or inner influences the way I arrange reality remains a mystery to me, and I have long considered art and my way of creating as a kind of diary, a way of mapping my fleeting and fugitive emotions through recording.
I have an irrepressible need to create an order through multiplicity, and to have an intimate space to express a personal vision, things of the order of the invisible, the ineffable, to express a kind of transcendence of existence. This is a space indeed of incredible freedom and yet at the same time, art is for me an incredible social space where people can meet through it and exchange around sensibility.
I do not use art as a vector to express social or political ideas although I would probably like in the future that these dimensions appear more as a watermark in my art, and not to underestimate them.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
What is crazy is all the music and sound material that is available. It’s a richness to have all this patrimony, given easily through the Internet. My best teachers were records.
For the creators of the 21st century, indeed, one of the great novelties compared to past centuries, is the immensity of a recorded heritage. I am not saying that everything is made accessible but never in history have we had the access to such a large number of recordings. But this can also sometimes be a hindrance to creativity. Sometimes I think that everything has already been done and explored musically speaking, and that sometimes what we think we are creating as something new is not new in itself, but relative in sum.
All this audio culture that we have at our disposal allows us to free ourselves from the notion of genres and to create music that would no longer necessarily refer to a specific musical genre but to the crossroads of different genres. The challenge for the music of the 21st century might be to take into account all this heritage in order to free oneself from it. I dream of a hybrid music that would be at the same time incredibly idiosyncratic but open to the outside. Something that gives the paradoxical feeling that it reminds us of something already known while exploring new, unknown possibilities.