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Diary for the recording of Skyscraper's 3rd record
Nothing but time
Oh My God /
Le Capitaine Capillaire
this record, I want to do something more open, positive, extrovert than my
previous record "Wasted Waves of Love".
I like the idea of modernity in art and music, and I'd like to think it applies to my music. I feel that most of the music made today (even in the "indie" realm) refers too much to the past. So yeah, I think my music is modern (even if that sounds pretentious) It's about going forward, try to make things the way no-one has made them before.
Compared to the previous record, it will have, maybe, a more rhythmic feel, with a lot of hand-made percussions..., more french lyrics, more guitars, more vocal harmonies, a little bit more subversion, and, er ... more maturity?
28 may 2009
The recording started late 2008. I was thinking about my ideas for songs ; and realised I had a lot of material. Some of it were just rough ideas ; others were quite advanced, like the song Au Petit Matin (meaning "break of dawn") that I already played live in may 2008.
So now I have been working on those songs for about 6 months, and had the idea of a blog, because I wanted to share my ideas & feelings about the songs, with everyone who might be interested.
The ideal thing would be to put day-by-day versions of the songs as they progress, but i'm reluctant to put online things that are not finished... it might give a bad image (what would you think if the guitars were out of rythm & if the voice lacks conviction?)
But it's unconceivable to talk about music without giving you something to listen to...
So the best is
probably to put online excerpts. So, I start with a mix of 5 bits of
songs : skyscraper-workinprogress-31mai.mp3
[the intro to Oh My God / a bit of Jacqueline / a bit of Messager du Pays sans Rêves / a rough draft of Assemblée (the lyrics aren't really written yet, that's why the voice is mixed really below here) / an a capella bit of Nothing but time. ]
6 june 2009
Early this week, I re-recorded bits of voices on Messager du Pays sans Rêves (+ electric guitar) & Nothing but time. Mixing on Oh My God. Then I started to record Everyone. It's an atmospheric track, based on guitar feedback loops, the bass being the only indication of chord changes... this kind of track is nice to work on... puts you in a daydreaming cloud.
So i've been quite busy working on songs lately and I wanted to write more this week, but time goes too fast ... to keep you satisfied, here is a video from my last show at a small festival in Normandy (16 may 2009) :
12 june 2009
I've been living in Paris from 2003 to 2008, and recently moved to Troyes (in the east of France) and I like it. After years in Paris, I needed the calm, the green, the sunshine (which you can never see in Paris since it's always hiding behind buildings). But I spend some days in Paris this week... among other things, to vote, since I'm still registered in Paris. And I really wanted to do it, cause France is in political shit right now. Talking about politics, I suggest you watch those videos : (if you understand french !)
1) http://www.megavideo.com/?v=1Q1M01NV : this is a long but very interesting documentary about the situation in Martinique, an Carribean Island which is officially part of France... and still lives under a kind of colonialist era. There had been huge riots there early 2009, so the video helps to understand why. I found it really interesting, and scary at some points.
2) http://programmes.france3.fr/pieces-a-conviction/51415247-fr.php : a documentary about the uranium mines in France, which are not exploited anymore but still cause a great amount of radioactivity. Once again, the cynicism & lack of empathy of the people who govern us, is just scary...
You might want to sign this petition to stop nuclear projects in France : http://www.stop-epr.org/spip.php?rubrique83
When I started this blog I wanted to talk only about music ; and I didn't intend to write about everything & nothing ; but I realise my music has its roots in my personal experiences, so maybe i'll have to be instrospective from time to time....
Last week, I wrote for this blog, a long text about my song Messager du Pays sans Rêves ("Messenger from the land without dreams"). But re-reading it, I had the feeling it was too personal. I've always thought it was weird to tell one's life on internet, so I won't start now. I think most people start blogs for wrong reasons... They can't communicate in "real life", so they do it on internet. But I don't mean to give lessons to anyone, I don't say i'm that good at communicating. That's why I write songs : they help me express things i don't express "in real life".
As a conclusion : since I didn't work on the songs that week, i had to find something to say, right? ;-)
Tuesday night, I was lucky to be in Paris cause I had the chance to attend a semi-private gig from Dominique A (an independant french singer, not that famous but with a huge cult following). He played his song Dobranoc, in a version very close to a remix I made for a contest some years ago... so I wondered if he'd heard my remix and was inspired by it??? that might sounds pretentious, but it could be true after all, isn't it ???
here is my remix : www.commentcertainsvivent.com/dobranoc/dobranoc-skyscraper-version.html
17 june 2009 : Happen Again
It's hard to find time for this blog... My life always seems a race against time... recording music, rehearsing, looking for gigs, etc... more time-consuming than one might think.
Last week i
put myself back on Happen
wrote it late 2008. It talks about my desire to be more positive
about the future. More precisely, it says you have to keep in mind
good moments from the past, cause they give you the strength to look
forward. When I wrote it, I was thinking in particular about the time
when I started to play gigs in Paris, early 2004. An exciting time,
the feeling everything was possible. I had a similar feeling when I
arrived in the town Bourges as a student in 2000 (but Bourges turned
out to be a deception, which I discussed notably in my songs Haunted
But in Happen
I say in substance : you can live happy times again, if you
I started recording that song in october 2008, in a rush of creativity, just after finishing writing the lyrics. I made a first "audio draft" very quickly, which i found very convincing. But it wasn't very clean. So, between late 2008 and now, i've been trying to re-record it. The first draft had a very upbeat, spontaneous feeling that is hard to re-capture. So I spent hours & hours on it, and finally wonder if the first draft is the best thing I have so far. Makes you crazy. It's not a complicated song, but simple songs are sometimes the hardest to finish...
Here is a snippet from the first draft (october 2008) : Happen again - démo (extrait)
july 2009 : stand-by
Those days I've been busy about other things than my album, that's why I didn't write anything for this blog lately. I have to find a job to earn a living, since unfortunately, i'm not earning money with music.
So I had to buy a car (my first in ten years), apply
for jobs, send resumes... which is quite stressful and exhausting
actually. And time-consuming.
But August will be devoted to my record, I promise !
6 august 2009 : Back on tracks
Alright, I'm moving on again !
Last weekend I was in Paris, and had the occasion to listen to my tracks with a friend, to get his opinion. We talked about the lyrics of Oh My God / Le Capitaine Capilaire (i'll come back to that another time). We talked about Jacqueline, too. I've been feeling, for quite a long time, that I'm close to finishing it, but it seems there's always something wrong in the mix. Just after coming back in Troyes, from Paris where I spend a few days, I worked on a new intro, it seems better.
Yesterday I worked on another one, Nothing but time, that is almost finished. I hadn't listened to it for a while and I was nicely surprised. I think it's a very strong track. That's why I plan to put it first on the record. Some more work on the mix yesterday and it sounds better and better. It deserves a few more work, but it's very-very close to finish.
Tonight I put myself back on Messager du Pays sans Rêves. I worked (in may / june), on an elaborate version with lots of guitars, sounds effects... but listening to it yesterday, it didn't feel right. First, the lyrics.
Here I have to explain my general views about lyrics. A lot of people tell me my lyrics are better in english than in french. But I feel like there's more things to try with french. Also, I generally play, in front of french speakers, so if I sing lyrics in english, most people won't understand it. So, it's more difficult to touch people with songs in english. Sometimes, when I sing english lyrics, I feel that I could sing recipes, nobody would notice. I generally put meaning in my lyrics, so I want people to notice.
But obviously, people will be more critical if they understand. That's probably why (french) people prefer my english lyrics. I've never had the point of view of an english speaker about that (feel free to email me about that if you have one).
Coming back to my subject (Messager du Pays sans Rêves) the former lyrics were meant to be direct, simple : no metaphors or literary words. It was a mistake. That's when I am more “poetic” that people like my lyrics. So I rewrote everything tonight, and I think it's a lot better. The new lyrics are clearer, nicer, more concise and coherent.
There was also a problem with the tempo, which was too lose in the former version. This song is conceived with the chorus slower than the verse, which is a great source of difficulty in the recording process ! Because generally when you do multitrack recording, you have a click (=a rhythmic track, a bit like a metronome). But here I decided to try without the click because of the verse/chorus thing. This decision made everything even more awkward.
I tried a new version with the "Guitalele" [a ukulele-sized guitar – I bought it in july. I had the idea of buying that sort of instrument when I went to Rouen in may, to play for a festival : I went there by train, and had a hard time carrying around my big acoustic guitar] So, I tried the Guitalele and I am very pleased with the sound, tinkering a bit like the african instrument kora. To finish the day, I recorded a whispered draft-voice (it was already late in the night and i'm living in a flat...) Tired now, let's listen to it tomorrow !
11 august 2009 : Nelson
Yesterday was my first real session on a song called (probably) Nelson Mandela. (by the way, there's already a song called that way by the Specials - here – but mine has nothing to do with it. There's also a song "Jacqueline" by Franz Ferdinand – but mine has nothing to do either...)
About a year ago, I was improvising on a bass when I found a melody which made me think of african music. I have to say I had been listening a lot, previous months, to Toumani Diabaté (wonderful record released in 2008 that I came across by chance) and I guess it influenced me. Anyway I wanted to use this melody as a basis for a song.
So I went looking for a draft of lyrics which would go well with it. I thought about a text I wrote, about the release of Nelson Mandela. (quite oddly, I remember very clearly having seen it on TV when I was 9 ; and had the feeling to witness something important) At first I didn't like the idea : it seemed to bold to associate a text about Nelson Mandela with african-flavored music... but actually it fitted perfectly, musically speaking.
Video of Toumani Diabaté :
So, after having worked on the lyrics last months, I started the recording yesterday. I'm very pleased with the first draft, I want to keep the afro-influence, have it obvious but not ending with something completely different from my "usual style", and most of all, avoid sounding something cliché or parodic. Listening to what I've done yesterday, I feel the mix of “skyscraper” with something more exotic is quite convincing.
This morning I put on youtube another video from my last performance (16th may). With snippets of 4 songs : Happen Again / Oh my God / Jacqueline / Au Petit Matin. Quite a good show, the public was very reactive, as you will notice :
19 august 2009 : Everyone
Tuesday I spent almost all day working on the song Everyone. It's build on guitar feedback, with a bass marking the chord changes.
Everyone (demo - excerpt)
In a single day it went from “just beginned” to “almost finished” - good job, then !
Listening back to it today, it's thrilling, towards the end I have a great rhythm track... the more it goes, the more I think this next record will be huge ;-)
Today, some work on Jacqueline. I have a version which is "ok", but I feel I could do better. I have ideas i'd like to try … I think i'm going to do several versions, let my “fans” hear them and collect their opinions.
Bad luck :
my mixing device just broke down. I need it to record acoustic
instruments such as the guitalele, so that's especially annoying,
because I use the guitalele more and more these days (on Messager
du Pays sans Rêves and
I've got to find another one...
28 august 2009 : Skyscraper is (a)live
Lately, I have been very busy rehearsing for next concerts. In 2006 I played the same songs a lot ; and became bored of playing live. But it won't happen next months : I realised I got at least 22 songs to choose from, for my live sets.
Furthermore, I have several versions of the same song : I can play my song “Magical Powers” acoustically and in english, and the next day, sing it in french with electronic arrangement, so I have great possibilities to vary the setlist and give very different shows.
I recently bought a macbook which I'm planning to use as a portable studio (as I'm trying to work as an independent sound technician) and it might be useful for my live shows (I have been doing electronic live music for 5 years without a laptop... making my arrangements on a PC and using a mp3 player live)
So, using the macbook to make new arrangements gives me the occasion to dust the songs off... "Students", "James", "Lazy Eyes". On the later, I found a way to play the chords on the guitalele, which sounds great. On "Students", I used a synths sound, provided by the macbook, called ... "Ominous Dancefloor" : I like that name, exactly the feeling I want for that song ! lol
Those days, I've also been busy with rewriting my bio (you must have a typed “biography” to approach venues, to register for music contests and so on...) which is more work than one would imagine.
I also made a flyer for my next concert in Dampierre... (a small village, where people organize a rock evening) :
had the idea of putting a map in the flyer since nobody knows where
it's at ! Lol
...and yeah I know : the pink arrows are a bit dirty, but I like it. "Do It Yourself"-style
03 september 2009
“Live shows” is still the topic these days. Rehearsing. Tomorrow I'm off to Paris, where I play. Here is a snippet from last concert in Dampierre :
05 october 2009 : the return of evil Jacqueline
Last week-end I put myself back on recordings. First mission : finish the song "Jacqueline". I started recording centuries ago, and I have a version, more or less completed, that has been around since early 2009... I have been re-doing some details over and over again, and can't decide if it's really finished.
say the truth, I haven't done anything real on it since may (only a
quick lifting in august...) and lately, thinking of it made me
depressed, cause I don't know how to improve it, or even if it really
needs improving. But last weekend, I decided to really tackle it.
Let's start by giving the answer you're all waiting for :
" Who the hell is Jacqueline???..."
It's an actress we'll call Jacqueline B in order to protect her privacy (I think she's got both french and english nationalities, and played in french as well as hollywoodian movies). At first, the idea for the song had absolutely nothing to do with her. It was a kind of angry song with lyrics about not giving up your dreams, keeping the will to move forward even when life is beating you down, etc. I was thinking about the song at a period when I saw the french film “la cérémonie” on DVD
plot, that takes place nowadays, is about a servant maid and a friend
of hers, who have more and more conflictual relationship with the
bourgeois family who employs the girl. Our actress Jacqueline stars
as the mother of the family]
I like to watch bonuses on DVDs. And was really shocked by what Jacqueline said in an interview, commenting about the movie's story (I translated it):
"A lot of people have the same kind of life as the 2 women in the film...
(a shitty life...)
... but they would'nt react the same way...
(“let people treat you like a slave, but with a smile on your face !” )
... there's this arrogant behavior that I see everywhere now...
(oh yes, you know a lot about arrogant behavior, dear Jacqueline)
... to think you deserve ... to think life OWES you something
(like I said : suffer and shut your mouth !)
... instead of thinking you're someone... standing here ...like ...
(I thought she was going to say “a stone" lol)
... someone... who must work to get things.
(well? Did you work that much in your life Jacqueline? ... It's a classic saying of reactionary talkers “those who have nothing didn't work enough”...)
... that attitude...
(imagine the disgusted face)
...i see it everywhere nowadays !"
(Jacqueline is so far above our decadent era)
was so shocked about those words, in which Jacqueline proved to be an
intransigeant, deprived of empathy.
She said "Life owes you nothing", and I wanted to answer : "I have a right to happiness".
I have more to say about this song but i'll say it another time (this is already long)
06 december 2009 : Jacqueline part. 2
Well ! 2 months without post... things move slowly these days. My life is always too busy, and unfortunately not only with music, but well, as I said earlier, I started this blog to talk about my songs and not about my professional or personal life. Let's just say I try to pursue several carriers at the same time : guitar-hero, teacher, sound technician, journalist, geek, anti-globalization philosopher, body-builder ...)
Last week-end, I listened to the 50 different mixes I made of the song Jacqueline. (a task that would seem almost impossible to any normal human being) So I can't say it's really a move forward, but at least it gave me the opportunity to remember why I did what I did, and to think about what to do next. There were things I tried and left unfinished, and maybe I should give them another go.
I started to tell the story of that song in the previous post. As I said, at first (2007) it had rather general lyrics (in english) "they tell me i should give up, they tell me my dreams are out of reach" I imagined the music as a kind of angry, noisy rock thing.
Early 2008, the Jacqueline interview gave me an idea of chorus, so at that point the song was called "A right to happiness". Then I had the opportunity to play with classical musicians (live at “l'oeil du huit”, Paris, may 2008). I wanted to play that song, but the “rock” option was not possible, so I began to write sophisticated arrangements for violin & wind instruments. Then I translated the lyrics from english to french. I have to say a few words about this :
(start of the digression) In 2001-2004, As i already said above, I preferred to write in french because I felt there were more things to try there ; whereas (in pop music in general) a lot of things have already been done and said with the same (english) words. But a lot of people told me my lyrics were better in english.
So I ended up writing mostly english lyrics between 2005 and 2007. But I felt that in concert, singing in english cut me from the audience. [Even if songs in english were most appreciated on record] Less communication with the audience means less fun, that's why playing shows became at some point boring, around late 2006.
Add to that, the fact that most songs I wrote at that time were quite dark... That was more or less deliberate : in 2005-2007, I wanted to move away from the mood of my first record (2004) which comprised a lot of tongue-in-cheek sounds and lyrics ; and afterwards, it seemed to me that some people didn't like the record because of that : as if being alternatively fun and serious caused a lack of credibility.
So, at the time of "wasted waves of love" (2005-2007), I chose Shakespeare's language and the dark side, but the concerts I gave late 2006 and in 2007 gave me the feeling to sink in a desolate, desperate state. So in 2008, I decided to come back to french lyrics and a lighter feeling. (end of the digression)
For the song "A right to Happiness" I had chosen a mixed solution : verse in french / chorus in english (cause I felt "a right to happiness" sounded better than its french equivalent "un droit au bonheur") Finally, this song was kind of schizophrenic : there was the mix of languages, but also the dark feeling at the heart of the song which I tried to compensate with an upbeat music. As I said above, I wanted to play it at the "oeil du huit" gig (may 2008), but we didn't had time to rehearse it ; and actually the whole song wasn't really ready in my mind.
At the fall of 2008, I didn't know what to do with this song ; I felt it needed a change. I had a flash of inspiration reading an interview of the great Jamie Lidell who said that, at first, his song "Another day" was sad and depressing (hard to believe when you know the final version ! ), and then he rewrote it to make it more positive. I thought “that's what I have to do.” I changed the chords from minor to major. And I had the idea of singing “Jacqueline you tell me...” instead of "They tell me I should give up..." which makes the song more lively and unusual.
Finally, I thought of a funky part in the middle of the song. This idea came because, around that time, I had vaguely been thinking of participating to a contest of recording a Keziah Jones cover (which finally I didn't). But during a rehearsal, I sang this cover, then the song “Jacqueline” ; and suddeny in the middle of the song I felt like starting to sing a funky line "Jacqueline why...?" in a high-pitched voice, in the style of what Keziah often do, it was completely fun and improvised, I liked it, and thought it completed the song nicely.
Shortly afterwards (november 2008), I began recording, and came up with a demo :
Jacqueline - démo
like the little touch of madness of it... but maybe the final version
will be quite different. To be continued...
14 december 2009 :
Things are moving again. Since a few months my main activity is to teach guitar, and prepare lessons demands more time than one would think. But as the holidays are coming, I'm starting to think less about teaching and more about recording. Last weekend I worked again on Jacqueline et Nothing but time. On that last track, I corrected some details of voice and mix. Very often, the more you come close to finish, the more you find there's things left to do. You think "well, let's just correct this small detail and everything will be perfect... yes, but I will spend 2 hours on this small thing nobody will notice... is it worth the pain? Well, let's do it and stop thinking about it !"
Anyway, for this track it's really really close to perfection. There are several keyboards on the end, and it's a bit tricky to balance all the volumes so that everything will mix together smoothly.
The lyrics deal with how it's important to take time to do things right. Well, it's hard to explain what the text really is about, in a way, it's about finally (!) feeling i've become an adult... realize things don't happen overnight. But this song is really about an atmosphere : nightly, solemn, intimate, kind of mysterious.
On Jacqueline, I worked in 2 directions. As I said earlier, I want to have several versions to choose from.
1) first task : recreate the very very first recorded draft which had a funny, cheap 80's sound. After that, I made the sounds evolve towards something more policed / neutral. (even though “policed” or “neutral” are, anyway, rather inappropriate words to describe that song)
2) the second direction consisted in taking beats I made a long time ago, and re-record voice and guitar over it. I 've done quite a good job on that today, recorded several voices, I have to listen back to them.
The real Jacqueline speaks (picture found by a friend who added the line): "Benoit, stop daydreaming, work on your music... I'm observing you"
I also worked again on Messager du Pays sans Rêves. In may /june 2009 (see above), I had been working on an elaborate version (with several layers of voice, synths, percussion, electric guitar...), then in august i made a version with only voice and guitalele, recorded separately, and with a metronome. But it seemed this process altered the spontaneity of the song. So I started it all again recently, without metronome, with voice and guitalele recorded simultaneously.
Thinking about it all, I realize how much the sessions for this record are complicated. I start something, then decide to undo it 3 weeks later, then a month later, have another try with the initial path... Yet, i'm not trying deliberately to do things complicated... i'm not thinking “i'm going to do my Sgt Pepper”. On the contrary, i'd be happy to finish this record soon, because i'm starting to think i had been on it for too long. But I know it won't be finished soon.
For my first record "Bontempi Sessions", it all went quickly, I knew what I wanted and how to get it. For "Wasted Waves" I applied roughly the same methods (which might seem odd as the result is very different...) only with more perfectionism (not sure this word exists in english?). For this 3rd record, it's taking some time because, first, I don't like to repeat things, but mostly : I want a record which I would be really proud of, a record that is a real image of what I like, of who I am. Whereas for the 2 previous ones, there were things I wasn't satisfied of, but I thought “i have to finish this before summer because... blablabla...”. This time, no matter how long it takes, i want to be fully satisfied with the result. Even if it takes years. (that brings me back to the subject of Nothing but Time...)
After all, Portishead took 10 years to finish their last record... (and the Guns' n'Roses too, lol)
21 december 2009 :
The shortest day of the year. That means, starting from tomorrow days get longer : good news.
I'm working on tracks these days. Finished mixing Nothing but time. Arranged recent takes on Messager du Pays sans Rêves and it seems to be going in a very good direction. Put out of the shelf Oh My God / Le Capitaine Capillaire (on that, i didn't do anything last months), listened to the different versions. When you get deep into the details of the mix, things can become very technical... As an example, for this track I wasn't satisfied with the sound of the drums, so one of the things I tried was to split the drum track in 2 tracks, one for lower sounds and another for higher sounds, in order to work more precisely on each type of sounds. And that's only one of the many things i tried... in the end, it can get realy complex. That's why mixing takes time, i'm sure many people don't know how much. They think once the instruments are recorded, it's over. Anyway, for Le Capitaine Capillaire, I have a version which sound quite well, so maybe i should stop looking for absolute perfection...
But i think people are generally very receptive towards the mix ; i mean, more than they think : they believe they like a song because of the lyrics or melody, but in fact they like it, just because of the way it sounds. So for me, mixing is such an important part of the process... i don't want a bad mix to turn people away from my wonderful compositions...(lol)
27 december 2009 :
For the last months, I've been listening a lot to Aphex Twin (his whole discography). Actually, there was a lot of his records that I didn't know, but I had a great time listening again to "Drukqs".
When it was released in 2001, I liked it, but it seems to me I understand it better now. Is it because I listen to more and more electronic music since then ? Anyway, I remember being impressed with the meticulous work on rhythms and sounds, but I didn't catch the whole picture. Today, this music seems more evident to me, and I discern the hidden melodies, the constructions, evolutions of the pieces. And then I realise this record is really huge, (32 tracks, with a lot of diversity, from the cheap to the hi-tech ; from dry piano to the most extreme experimentalism) and at the same time very coherent.
It was said, back in 2001, that this record was made in a rush, to compensate for the loss of a hard-disk, full of unreleased material... hard to believe, when you realize how much this wide puzzle is rich, dense (or, if it's true, then Aphex Twin must be really good when under pressure...) This theory about the lost disk can be found on wikipedia (i'm translating the french version of the page): "...Drukqs reveals [Aphex Twin] in an inspiration crisis, going round in circles." Obviously, everything about music is very subjective... but it seems very unfair to me... I guess some fans -in this case, the one(s) who wrote that wikipedia page- will always put down the best-selling work from their favorite artists, out of mere snobbery.
In the same wikipedia page, you can read about Analord, an EP series released in 2005 : "[listening to Analord,] you remember what you used to appreciate in Aphex Twin, when he was at his best : his ability to organize a vast rhythmic chaos as a playground ; disconcerting , sometimes frightening, totaly unpredictable" it seems to me this description would better suit Drukqs than Analord, which is to me, for the most, not really interesting.
Apart from listening to Aphex Twin, I work on my tracks these days ! I've nearly finished mixing Oh My God. A lot of work on Happen Again too. And I've decided to start from scratch on Au Petit Matin. I recently listened to it for the first time in a long while, and didn't like the way it sounds...
I shooted on video a rehearsal some days ago (I sometimes do that, it's interesting to look back and see what was good or not) and I thought it'd be nice to put some bits on youtube, like an acoustic session. I didn't plan to do that, at first, that's why I was quite laid-back. Let's start with an old song, Haunted, (written in 2004, originally in english but here I sing it in french and I rearranged it on guitalele) :
28 january 2010 :
A brief sum-up of recent events : on new year's eve I was asked to do a private acoustic gig at a party. It gave me the occasion to try the idea of totally improvising the setlist... In december I rehearsed songs but without knowing which ones I would play. I had been thinking about that for a while. I'm always trying to find ideas to make live more fun & unpredictable. Otherwise, if you've been rehearsing songs intensively for a month before the show, when the day comes, you might get bored of those songs.
These days I'm rehearsing for my next gig on february 14th and following the same principle : at every rehearsal I play different songs and have no setlist.
I'm planning to move to another home (AGAIN, as i've already moved twice in 2009... long, complicated story...) i've discovered that in the town where I live (Troyes), I could rent a small house for the same price as a flat, (which was not AT ALL the case in Paris) so i'd like to live in a house where I could play music day & night. So I'm visiting lots of places these days, which is very time-consuming, like everything else. Gives you some kind of worried thoughts, too. Like everytime you have to make an important choice.
And still working on tracks. Last week I was in Paris, recording my sister Nathalie on flute and friend Nina on violin (she played with me at the “Oeil du huit” show in 2008), for a totally new version of the song Au Petit Matin. I already recorded a version in 2008-2009, very pop / electronic, I considered it finished and put it on myspace, but I no longer really like it. The new version is more acoustic. A lot has been made last weekend, but there's still a lot to do...
15 february 2010 :
Yesterday was my gig at the public library in Troyes. I played 4 songs that will (very likely) appear on the next album : Oh My God / Jacqueline / Nothing but time / Happen Again (folk version). I edited 2 videos of the best moments (it was shot by my friend Gilles) :
You will notice a small portion of a cover song appears at the end of “Happen Again”... (can you identify it...?)
28 march 2010 : "Au Petit Matin" ("Daybreak" - the story, part 1)
Last week I worked on "Au Petit Matin" (that means “break of dawn”). I had already spend a lot of time on this song, between late 2008 and early 2009, considered it finished in april 2009. But recently listening to it, I wasn't satisfied, so I decided to start it all again. But let's tell the story from the beginning :
This song comes from a 2004 draft. At that time I had the idea of a group of songs that would describe life in a big city, and in particular Paris. Even though I became tired of this city (as I said at the beginning of this diary), I still like it in a way, because I lived a lot of experiences there (between 2003 and 2008... and even before I lived in the city : as I grew up in the suburbs, Paris seemed an ideal place compared to where I lived, both close and more or less out of reach...)
One thing I like about Paris : it's fascinating to explore : even if you've been living there a few years, you can still find, by chance, new streets, new areas where there are beautiful or interesting things to observe.
And I think the best time to observe is the break of dawn (hence the title of the song) when the city awakes, streets are slowly becoming alive... I wanted to describe this mood when you can feel the changes, both in the world and in yourself. When an unfamiliar event make you change your habits, wake up early and go in a place you don't know... like when you start a new job, or you have a train to take, or because you didn't spend the night home : all that makes you more attentive, more receptive, sensitive. I like those moments when you start something new... new paths appear... doors open...
This mood is also ideal for reflecting on your path. Because you feel like someone new, it gives you distance towards yourself. I wanted to evoke the fact that perception of time and memories is very subjective. As you discover new territories, you feel different, and you might feel that memories from "not-so-long-ago" seem very distant. Because you have already "filed" them. Sometimes, on the contrary, you come back in a place you haven't seen in a long while, and are submerged with sensations & feelings you forgot. And suddenly those feelings seem very vivid, because, maybe, you feel like they are linked with something, somewhere, you've left unfinished. So you feel like you haven't changed.
What i wrote above ("As you discover new territories, you feel different...) is also true when you discover a familiar place under a new light. Like when you move into a city in winter, 6 months later everything will look different, so you'll fell different. And as winter comes back, you'll remember feelings from your first time in the city.
I like that : remembering, thinking about the complex links between times & places & moods & thoughts. And I wanted to evoke all that, in that song.
So the draft was written in 2004. I rediscovered it in 2008 and liked the fact that it's describing feelings anyone could have : an apparently rather simple text that everyone could appreciate, no tortured thoughts, like I had sometimes done in the past. Musically I was aiming, at first, for the same simplicity : a simple melody, a few chords. I finished writing the music at the spring 2008, a time when I was slowly going out of a depressive state, so on a personal level this song is really meaningful : a step forward. One of the line goes “things won't be the same, I promise” and I really meant that : something really happened to me in the spring of 2008. Since then, I try to not take everything to heart like I did before.
In april 2008, I started to think about how to arrange the song for recording. At first, I imagined a simple acoustic guitar with a whispered voice. Then, in a sort of delirium, I thought of symphonic strings which would enter progressively, and take over little by little, until they fill the entire soundscape at the end. I kept that idea in mind shortly after, when I arranged this song for a special gig in may 2008. A friend was doing an exhibition of his paintings and asked me to do a show, and I wanted to do something special, so I hired classical musicians for the show, and wrote scores for everyone involved, which I found kind of fun (I've always liked the mix of classical instruments and pop, explored by musicians like The Divine Comedy, The Notwist...)
As I wrote on the “story” page of this site, I still have a very good memory of that show, which is, on a personal level, the start of a new musical period. So I wrote scores for the song "Au Petit Matin". And as I wanted a rather upbeat performance, I integrated bass and drum machine in the arrangement, and little by little, this once simple song became more and more complex... the video below is a snippet from the song, played at l'Oeil du Huit (may 2008 ) :
(I'll tell the rest of the story another time : it's already long !!!)
31 may 2010 :
So many things to say, so little time... recording's still in progress, but slower than i'd like... Those last months, I wanted to write for this blog, about my preoccupations of the time, among them :
- music I'm listening to (more and more jazz recently, with 2 big smashes : Jaco Pastorius's first album, and Max Roach 's “Freedom Now Suite”)
- books I have been reading (I spent a really good time reading Brian Eno's diary, A year with swollen appendices... I've been a big fan of the character for many years... I also wanted to talk about Lisptick Traces by Greil Marcus, a very dense book about recent history, music, art & pop culture, which really gave me a lot of “food for thoughts”. I've been reading it for a few months and just finished it. I'm sure it will give me a lot of inspiration for future songs.
...alas, time goes too fast and didn't let me wrote about all that.
Anyway the BIG NEWS these days is that I recently gathered a live band for next shows. As a teaser, you can listen a snippet from a rehearsal : (the sound quality is not great – just recorded quickly with a small microphone – but it already sounds exciting ! )
Haunted (I first recorded that song for The Bontempi Sessions - 2004)
14 july 2010 :
As usual, let's start by saying time has gone too fast recently, I didn't had time to write, blablabla... a lot of work in june, to prepare shows on 19th & 21th. Actually it has been a lot of stress because of unexpected events (a change of drummer 10 days before the shows, the sudden defection of a guitarist... but finally it seems we found a good formula and I hope we'll play other shows soon.
I also had to prepare a show at the music school where I teach guitar (my main activity for about a year now)
Then, from 26 june to 6 july, I recorded an album with the band Pique la Lune ! I had the occasion to do their live sound at a gig, when I was working as a live sound technician in 2009, and they'd been impressed by my skills ;-) so they asked me to help them for their album. We recorded instruments late june / early july, and we'll record voices during a 2nd session in august. Here is a video made by the band, during the recording session : (there are other videos on the band's site, showing what it was like to work on that album...)
So, this too was quite intense : 10 days when I had too stay focused all day long, from 9:00 to 20:00. real hard work ! But as long as music is the subject, nothing scares me ;-)
Since I've been back in Troyes, I worked again on mixing the recordings for Pique la Lune. Of course I also plan to work on my own songs this summer...
31 july 2010 :
These days I have time, at last, to move forward on my songs ! Last week I finished the “electro-punk” version of Happen Again. At first this song was meant as a folk track. But, in may 2009, I was working on the first version and it didn't work, I felt stuck, so I started a second, very different version, just for fun, to let go off steam. It has a very raw energy, something very exciting and direct. It has been made, for the most, in less than an hour, but mixing took a lot of time (it always does).
Yesterday I worked again on Messager du Pays sans rêves. (Messenger from the land without dreams) It had been 6 months since I last worked on it... which is hard to realize... So I listened to it for the first time in months, and didn't like it. So I started all again.
I'd like to say more about that track, but the lyrics deal with very personal things, so it's hard to write about it. It's about my vision of life in a way. More precisely it's about how I sometimes fall in love (or at least, feel something) for people who are unhappy with their lives, because I feel like I could save them. Which is kind of hopeless, because of course nobody can save anybody but themselves. I think. But I already feel like i've said too much. Anyway on the final version of the lyrics, I think i've found a good balance between introspection and poetic abstraction.
Musically it relies on quite fragile elements : a whispered voice, simple arpeggios. I have to render it in a very subtle way : I feel that a single word badly sung could ruin it all. That's why I'm really cautious about it, and why I 'm reluctant to put here a snippet from an unfinished version.
For the feeling of the recorded version, I thought about Lou Reed's song "The Bed" (but actually, it's only vaguely related, i never try to copy already existing stuff) :
Speaking about Lou Reed, I recently fell by chance on an interview for a french magazine. The journalist asks for his definition of rock'n'roll. translated from french :
"Intellectual Purity. With rhythm."
I couldn't say better. I love you, Lou.
5 august 2010 : news from the gym
Moving forward these days ! some work on Everyone, Nelson Mandela, Jacqueline... Maybe i might post soon a new version Jacqueline to listen to.
Let's talk about my everyday life. I'm going to a gym center (well, i want to stay fit :-) ) and there I have to endure screens that broadcast the worst of 2010 mainstream music. Which is usually very painful.
But this morning, for a change, I saw a very uncommon video : "All the Lovers" by Kylie Minogue. This is rather sexy, but without vulgarity, which is cool. We live in a society where the idea of sex is used to make money (just look at all those RNB videos...) but althought the idea of sex seems to be everywhere, it's rarely showed : -1) as explicitly as in this video and -2) at the same time : with such simplicity, and, let me say, some kind of angelic, poetic, dreamlike feeling. Which is why I like this video. It puts me in a positive mood.
Whereas a lot of other stuff (let's say... Lady Gaga) seem to be made to shock prude minds, I think the aim of Kylie's video is not to shock ... but to seduce. She invites the viewer into her erotic fantasy. You might say, in the end it's still sex exhibited to make money. ...well, but the melody is good, isn't it? ;-)
(without joking, i really like the synths on the chorus ) :-)
I saw another video that gave me food for thougths. "Nicoteen" by french "teenage-rockers" band BB Brunes. This band seems like a fraud to me because they so obviously come from rich neighborhoods, but still want to play the tough guys. I have to admit the track is not bad though... although the lyrics are just shitty nonsense. I think the whole thing is made to remind of early Gainsbourg stuff (in particular, the band cites french poet Ronsard, which Gainsbourg did too) Anyway, I liked the video because it is simple. Reminded me of Michel Gondry - Shame on you if you don't know him, he definitely changed the way of making music videos in the 90s ; relying on smart, "do-it-yourself" techniques instead of phony, pseudo-chic imagery which you still see too much in music videos (espacially the french ones) .
Speaking of that, I noticed this very strange fact : every french videos (apart from the forementioned) are shoot on exotic beaches. Everybody's talking about the crisis of music industry, but it seems it's not the crisis for everyone...
13 august 2010 : remembering my student years, thanks to 2 weird records, driving back from Paris to Troyes
Thursday 6 august, some work on Jacqueline. Some people told me the 2009 version was too crazy, too complicated. So last months i've been working on a new, more reasonable, version, based on acoustic guitar and nice 70's electric piano. It's almost finished.
Friday 7 august, Happen Again, folk version. It seems no matter how I try, I can't feel satisfied with this. The "myspace" recording (done in october 2008) is not so bad. A year and a half later : I spent hours and hours re-recording guitar then voice, and still got the feeling there's lots of problems. Discouraging. I think maybe I'll keep the first version, it has a good feeling, and maybe there's a curse (?) on any attempt to do something else on that song. Sometimes you have to learn to say "stop".
From 8 to 12 august, I was again with the band Pique la Lune ! near Paris to record their album. I'm quite pleased with the result, and the band too. We listened to my own tracks with Fred, member of Pique la Lune ! and he thinks the first version of Jacqueline (the "crazy" one) is the best. Said the new version is too "mainstream"... That's REALLY NOT what i want people to say about my music. So, I think he's right about this... The first version is better. I didn't realize it, while working on the new Jacqueline... but when you want to make "reasonable" things, you end up mainstream.
For a few months, i've been listening back to my old CDs, now that I have a CD player in my car. I have lots of CDs that I never listen to. So I discover again things I had completely forgotten. Pieces of music that were stuck deeply somewhere in my subconscious. ... as an example, listening recently to Sigur Ros' "Ny Battery" for the first time in 10 years, I realized that maybe, the chorus arrangement of the 2005 version of my song "Lazy Eyes" is inspired by it... of course I never thought of that before...
Yesterday, coming back to Troyes from Paris, I listened to France Cartigny and Telepopmusic. I had totaly forgotten both, and was really amazed how good they were...
<- France Cartigny 's album is very weird (the song here is by far the most accessible) but interesting.<- (i know : strange video...)
->Télépopmusic 's record seems maybe less surprising at first listen. But the sound textures are very rich and it's soooo soothing... a real "ear massage" ->
19 august 2010 : back to the future
A few weeks ago, when I was thinking about my album, I thought it would be finished in 2022 (lol). But finally, things move faster these days. I've recently decided to keep the first versions of Jacqueline and Happen Again (folk), so that's 2 more songs finished. I also listened to the "july version" of Messager du Pays sans Rêves and liked it : done.
So, things are taking shape. I'm starting to think everything could be finished in a few months. Let's put it this way :
still working on that...
Nothing but time
Oh My God/ Le Capitaine Capillaire
Happen Again (version folk)
Happen Again (electro)
Messager du Pays sans Rêves
Au Petit Matin (new version)
Obviously, when all tracks will appear in the "done" column, I will have to mix a little more, to make the whole thing coherent... But we'll see then.
On Everyone, I still have some bits of voices to record ; and on Au Petit Matin, I have to finish arranging the track. This week I have some time in a room at the Troyes music school, so I focus on the least advanced tracks. It's going well.
Assemblée is a multi-layered, quite conceptual track ; similar to my song Kafka Téléphone Maison ("Kafka Phone Home" - that appeared on my previous record Wasted Waves of Love). Lyrics deal with some political issues, but I try to avoid sounding moralizing or too explicit. I guess it might be a paradox (wanting to be political without being explicit) but I want to keep a poetic side to it, and I don't want to fall in clichés of "bad protest song"... The subject of the song (the same as KafkaTM) is to criticize a kind of "soft fascism" which I think is pregnant in today's mainstream society. And also, to talk about barriers that prevent us from interact with each other.
Well, I know it sounds very vague, put that way ; but once again, I don't want to go too far in explaining my lyrics, I don't want to "demystify" things too much. Musically, there are lots of stuff, it's kind of noisy. I spent one hour at the music school recording guitar feedbacks, which was lots of fun (there I can make noise without alarming neighbours)
Compared to KafkaTM, I think the result will be more balanced. I went far on KafkaTM, both in musical complexity and in the cathartic/agressive side of the lyrics (and the performance)... that's why it's difficult for me to listen to it now (even if I'm still very satisfied with it), ... I'm afraid people will think i'm crazy when they listen to it. [But Fred from the band Pique la Lune said he really like it ... maybe only people who REALLY like strong sensations in music will appreciate it - LOL ... and maybe that's not a lot of people]
Speaking of that , I already mentionned that I listened with Fred to the "reasonable" version of Jacqueline. Then, he asked me if that was really what I wanted to do : be accessible, soften things. I was embarassed... in the end, no, I'm not interested in "reasonable" things. But I have to admit that's what I tried to do, at a certain point, with Jacqueline. It's true I became tired after WastedWavesofLove, of people telling me they didn't understand what I was doing, telling me my songs were too depressing, or telling me I couldn't mix rock and electronic sounds, and so on... So yeah, at some point you start thinking "I want people to understand me, to like my music and think it's nice and cool and uplifting and sympathetic".
Last but not least, it seems nowadays the only chance for unknown artists to obtain recognition, is to take part in Internet "contests" where you have to tell as much people as possible to "vote" for you... So, if you want to go somewhere, is the only solution : try to please everyone?
I'll leave you thinking about that.
28 august 2010 : "Au Petit Matin" ("Daybreak" - the story part 2)
Last weekend my sister came to visit me in Troyes. It gave us the occasion to record a flute part on the song "Au Petit Matin". Thereafter, I tried to finish the new version.
I started above (here) to tell the story of this track, until the first rendition at the "Oeil du huit" gig (may 2008). When I arranged the song then, I had the idea of a bridge part when the music would take power little by little ... It was quite clear in my head, and at first i didn't think it was a very original idea, but when i tried to explain to other musicians, what i wanted for this part, i realized i could'nt give them an example of a song I would know where that kind of sound effect was used. ...and 2 years later, i still can't find it. Which is pretty frustrating. Maybe it's similar to some passages of Godspeed you black emperor :
Autumn 2008, I wanted to record it in the same version as the live, but it was complicated to gather back the musicians. I still wanted a certain "grandeur", an aerial feeling, something almost immoderate, which was brought by classical instruments. At this time I had access to a recording studio where there was a grand piano, and it seemed a good option for the song. I liked the idea of having a piano-based song on the record, it's an instrument I like a lot, that I can play a little.. but i never used it that much because I never got the possibility to record a real one, and I find the software-emulated pianos* horrible.
* [On my song "La Pluie" (2004), I used a software-piano. I had to bury it deep in reverb to make it sound more natural, and I have to say it worked quite well ! ... because the piano part was simple and was not essential to the song]
So I made a first demo of "Au Petit Matin" in october, with nothing but voice and piano on the first half of the song. But it was kind of awkward and naked. So i made another version in december with more rythmic elements. I still wasn't still satisfied. I couldn't play the piano part well enough. But here it is, especially for you :
Au Petit Matin (demo december 2008)
I started a new version in january 2009. The beginning is more rythmic / energetic. I kept the already recorded piano, only for the last part. Most of this version was done in january, then I spent some months arranging the mix ; in april 2009, I put it on Myspace :
Au Petit Matin (demo april 2009)
At first I was very confident, I thought it had a "hit" potential. But then I realized some people really liked it, while others really hated it (some thought it was meant to be a mainstream thing- what we call in France "variété", because of the synths + french lyrics) I realized that, with this arrangement, the song could be mistaken for something it is not : Because of the passionate voice, because of something (maybe) too slick in the sounds... it was too far from the "independant" aesthetic criterias.
I still like it though... but I finally decided to start a new version in december 2009. This time, I wanted to keep it closer to the very first idea I had : voice + guitar basis, and only a few instruments... No overbid. The basis (voice + guitar) was made very quickly... Since December, I have been adding stuff, little by little. A first attempt at violin + flute in april 2010. and a 2nd flute session last weekend.
This afternoon, I tried a glockenspiel on it (it's a small metal xylophone)... it was fun to do, but hard... since I rarely play it... :-/
Tonight, it's starting to sound great...
5 september 2010 : news from the gym (continued)
Those days, more work on Au Petit Matin (2nd glockenspiel take, mixing, psychedelic ending) and Nelson Mandela (guitalele & voice).
I listened back to Happen Again (folk version), and finally, I think the 2010 version is better than the one recorded late 2008 (I wrote the contrary recently). In a way, it's a good thing : it means I didn't spend months on that song for nothing. But the 2010 version is not completely finished yet. I have to put myself on it.
I recently listened to the "already finished tracks", in the planned order for the record : Nothing but time / Oh My God / Happen Again / Jacqueline / Messager. I know that the first 2 have almost nothing in common, so it seems a bit weird to have one following the other. But that was my idea : first, seduce listeners with Nothing but time, then, make them realize they're about to listen to a very unconventional record. That said, I have to admit after a “listening test”, the track order doesn't convince me. I have to rethink about that. Anyway, I think the definitive order could only be decided when all tracks will be ready.
This morning I was at the gym again where I had the chance to see the video for the song "Je suis moi" (“I am me”) by Shy'M (french mainstream RNB female singer). To begin with, am I the only one to think this title is ridiculous?
So, the lyrics goes : "I don't want to say what I don't think..." Well. The contrary wouldn't seem very logical isn't it ? (but at least it would be an interesting, intriguing starter : "I want to say what I don't think..." or "I don't want to say what I think..." but that's not the point) It REALLY made me laugh out loud (which is quite an uncommon experience at the gym) This sentence is what we call in french a “lapalissade” : a sentence that says things so obvious, that in the end it says nothing at all (like, "before dying, he was still alive"). But It seems Shy'M's sense of humor is not intentional : she repeats again and again "I am me, I am me..." with apparent conviction and serious face. A hymn for our empty times.
It reminded me of a popular french TV show I recently saw (I swear I didn't intend to watch this, it kinda happened by accident - I don't have a TV at home – by choice- but I sometimes happen to watch it when visiting friends) a “reality-TV” show (you know, people locked in a flat, voting each other out of the flat...) So, i saw a bit of it and something stroke me : every candidate, when asked about how they feel about the game, answered things like “err... anyway I am what I am... if people have problems with that, it's not my problem...” (imagine the blank looks) Well. I am me. ok. But who's that "me"? What has “me” to say, to bring to the world? ...is Paris Hilton the only role model nowadays? ... It seems to me society (medias, commercials...) encourage everyone to think they are so unique, special, interesting, even if they don't do anything with their lives.
It also brought to my mind something I read in L'insurrection qui vient ("The insurrection that comes"). I fell on that book by accident (again an accident, but a kind of happy accident this time) early 2009, and started to read it, intrigued by its title ; the name of the author(s) was not printed in the book, and I learned only after finishing it, that it was supposed to be written by Julien Coupat, a man who became overnight the center of a mediatic frenzy in France, late 2008, arrested because he was suspected to be part of a sabotage plan against the french railroad. After he was arrested, the police said there was suspicion that he wrote the book (the publisher refused to reveal the author) and the police said the book was an evidence that Coupat was implied in the sabotage, because there was a reference to sabotage in the book. Quite a complicated story, isn't it ?
But actually, the book is more a poetic manifest than a practical handbook for revolution or terrorism. A few days after Coupat was arrested, a German group claimed responsibility for the sabotage, thus disculping Coupat, but the french media, strangely, did'nt relay that last bit of information. As you see, that whole story is not very clear – (by the way, now I've written about that on internet I will probably be classified in some secret, governmental files as a potential terrorist)
Shy'M made me think of a page of that book, where the author laughs at
the Reebok campaign "I am what i am" ... Reebok, Shy'M : Everything
is related, you see?
(let me translate...)
«I AM WHAT I AM.» The last offering from the marketing to the world, the ultimate step in the evolution of advertising. So much forward exhortations to be different, to be yourself and drink Pepsi. Years and years of concepts to end with this : pure tautology. ME = ME. [...] My body belongs to me. I am me, you are you *, and things go wrong. Mass Personalization. Individualization of everything : living conditions, working conditions, unhappiness conditions. [...] Atomization in small paranoïd particles. Hysterization of contact. The more I want to be me, the more empty I feel. The more I express myself, the more I dry up. [...] I hold, you hold, we hold* our "ME" as a tedious booking-office. We have all became representatives for ourselves - a strange business, standing security for a personalization that, in the end, looks like an amputation. [...] The injunction, everywhere, « be someone » maintains the pathologic state that makes this society necessary. The injunction to be strong produces weakness, thus producing its own legitimacy ; so everything becomes a therapy, even work, even love. Every « how do you do ? »** people say in a single day, makes you think that everyone's a patient, taking each other's temperature. Sociability is now made of a thousand small (niches/doghouses)*** , small shelters where we keep warm. Where we're still better than in the great cold outside."
* "you are you" (toi t'es toi) is said in french the same way as "shut your mouth" (toi, tais-toi), and is a common insult / joke among small children. There is another tongue-in-cheek reference to children talk in the text : "i hold, you hold..." ( "je te tiens, tu me tiens...") is the beginning of a well-known french nursery rhyme
** In France, lately, people tend to say more and more "ça va" (how do you do?) instead of the usual "bonjour" or "salut" (hello). which is considered more easy-going. When reading that part of the book, it also reminded me that people tend to say more and more, when leaving each other, "bon courage" which means they are wishing each other to be courageous. I never really liked that (even if I occasionaly happen to say it...) because it always makes me feel like I am supposed to go through a very painful task/ probation in the near future. ...As if everyday's life was more and more a source of suffering. Which relates to the text in a way.
*** the word in the original text is "niche" which, in french, basicaly, means kennel or doghouse, but nowadays it's used more and more with the meaning of "niche market" and i think the author plays on that double meaning.
You can read the whole thing (in french) here.
11 october 2010
Let's go back to the subject of the previous post. There are ads everywhere for a famous soda brand, these days : "vraiment
moi-même" (really myself).
Also, in a newspaper, an ad for the army recruitment : "devenez
vous-même" (become yourself).
What's all this fuss with "yourself"...??
Did Shy-M launch a trend ? I won't insist, you know what I think.
Since early september, I didn't have had lots of time to work on my own tracks. But I finished mixing Pique la Lune ! tracks (the band for who I worked this summer, see above) They will surely put stuff online, I'll keep you updated. (update : you can listen to tracks here : http://piquelalune.bandcamp.com/ )
I recently remembered that track : Astounded by canadians Bran Van 3000 : THE underground hit from spring 2001 (I say "underground" cause I just heard it a couple of times on the radio... but it had, to me, a smash hit potential.... :
... perfect mixture of pop & soul (2 genres I love !) - Astounded is based on the track "Move on Up" by soul icon Curtis Mayfield, who had recently left this world, back in 2001. The original track was transfigured, Astounded is really more than a remix, and to me it's almost better than the original.
And by the way, I was kind of proud that I knew the track before its release ; because at the time I was on the Beastie-Boys'-label-mailing-list (those were my first steps in geek culture) and so I was fond of the track MONTHS BEFORE it appeared on a CD-compliation by french magazine "Les Inrocks", which is one of the main magazines-who-makes-the-opinion-in-the-parisian-intellectual-scene. Anyway, I recently realized that I never listened to a Bran Van 3000 record, so I did last week.
So, their records are very strange because they totaly lack cohesion... Bran Van 3000 is generally presented as a "collective", so maybe that's why... People sometimes say Skyscraper lacks cohesion, too... [and I admit that I have very diverse tracks : there's not a lot in common between "The Ministry of Winter" and "Machine Electronique" ...but those are the extremes of my musical spectrum... if you see the larger picture, there is unity, I think]. Anyway, BV3000 is the proof that extreme diversity is not an obstacle to commercial / critical success.
I'm convinced this band was succesfull because someone, somewhere in a record company office, decided that their track Drinking in LA had a worldwide hit potential By the way, I always doubted that : yes, it was quite a good track, but I don't think it would have been such a success if it hadn't been airplayed so much (I think it was around spring 1997..?). I don't think the track made a great impression on listeners - who remembers it now?
I'm convinced choices of record company executives MAKE the taste of "mainstream" public, and not the other way round. (e.g. Drinking in LA was airplayed BECAUSE someone decided so, not because the public asked for it). When a single is heavily played on mainstream radio stations, sooner or later, people will have it in their brain and want to buy it. Here I'm talking about mainstream public, but for the "indie" public it's not better. This public is as much subject to manipulation, less by radios but by other medias (internet, magazines...). "Word of mouth" is also important for indie artists, but I'm convinced a handful of people pull the strings of the "hype" [if you're new to "indie" language, the hype is a trend as intense as short-lived - 3 weeks in average...] but maybe I write that because I'm fond of "conspiracy theories" lol
But there are still some bands, who came out of nowhere and made themselves a name in popular culture, just because they were good, and because their music resonated with the spirit of the times - I'm thinking for instance, about Louise Attaque (a french band who became widely popular in France around 1996-1999)
This has absolutely nothing to do with the above : I discovered recently that, on deezer, you can listen to lots of [more or less official?] Queen concerts ... yes, I now that in 2010, Queen is not trendy, but i don't care. I started to listen to this :
Strangely, on the cover, the band is unrecognizable ... looks like one of those tribute-bands made of "lookalikes". But on the record, it's unmistakably Queen ; and it's sooooooo good. You just have to listen to the version of We will rock you that opens the show : makes you want to scream and jump against the walls. You have to listen to the great version of Somebody to Love. I like the way Mercury constantly improvises around the melody, instead of singing it exactly like the studio version. What a great singer.
29 october 2010
A few days ago I saw François, the bass player who played with me at the shows last summer. It had been a while since we last had a chance to play together. We played my songs Labyrinthe, Jacqueline, that we already rehearsed in may / june.
I made him listen to the tracks he didn't know : Work, Happen Again, Nothing but time, Everyone. Around april 2010, I was thinking about splitting Skyscraper in 2 projects : songs in french / songs in english. That's why in may / june we only played songs in french : i was keeping intentionaly the "english" ones on the side. But I don't know anymore about this "split" idea. I want my next album to be released as I originaly imagined it, with a mix of french & english songs.
Anyway, François assured me Nothing but time & Happen Again are hits. We played a long jam on that first song and afterwards he told me he was really into it. "as we played, i saw myself as a child, in the schoolyard a rainy day..." he told me, with emotion in his eyes. I was very pleased, especialy because it echoes my favorite subject : time (which is by the way, the subject of this song). I want listeners to experiment time travels : either to make them imagine possible futures ; or to bring back half-forgotten emotions & situations. For my next record, my first idea for a title was "random travel through time and space" or the translation in french : "voyage au hasard dans l'espace et le temps" I like this title for its meaning but I think it's too long / complicated / not catchy enough. But it would have perfectly fit with the record, made of very diverse songs, as if they were coming each from a small time-capsule... and all of this was matured over a long period...
I have several other ideas for the title, but not one that I really like. As I'm writting this, I'm thinking about the translation of "light years" in french : "années-lumières"... not bad... isn't it ? [I'd like a title in french this time, because the titles of my 2 first records were in english... and I like changes]
17 november 2010
A few days ago, I learned that I was on a shortlist to be featured on the site album-rock.net. It's always nice to see your work rewarded & appreciated. I registered on this site a long time ago and did not expect anything anymore... so... it seems things happen sooner or later ! you got to keep the faith !
I'm still sorting out my CD-collection and falling back into the band Add N to (X). I discovered it in 1999 and really liked the idea behind the band : electronica made with old synthesizers (old-school synths were not as trendy then, as they are today), played live with a real drummer, with a wicked, psychedelic, post-punk feeling. In the end, it sounds like electronica, but with real rock energy, as everything is played and not programmed. A few years ago I was citing the band in my influences ... As an example, my song Machine Electronique* is quite close to that ... at least that's how I saw things.
*(that song was one of the catchiest on my 1st record "Bontempi Sessions", and I played it live a lot in 2004-2005)
4 december 2010 : "Le Capitaine Capillaire"
I was recently asked to think about participating to a project with the public music school of Troyes. Several singers will perform covers of well-known french songs, backed by the symphonic orchestra of the school. I made several propositions [Etienne Daho, Alain Bashung...] and the more likely to be chosen is Le Sud by Nino Ferrer. [it's a very beautiful song... with extremely subtle, touching lyrics... but I don't think it is well-known by english speakers... Nino Ferrer was kind of a freak in the french pop of the 70's, but everybody in France knows that tune, even though radios don't play it very often.]
I was also suggested to propose one of my songs for the project. As you know, I've always been fascinated by orchestras and sophisticated arrangements, so the idea seduced me. At first, I proposed "Le Capitaine Capillaire". That gives me the occasion to talk about that song, on which I haven't said much until now :
Le Capitaine Capillaire (yes, it's a free, downladable mp3 for you, dear reader)
chapter 1 : the origin
Everything started late 2007. I had just been through my "Wasted Waves of Love" era, and had only a general idea for what was coming next : after an "ethereal" album, i wanted to do something punchier, more electric. So I started to work on a bunch of samples, without any precise preconception, it just started from the will to do something new, in a spontaneous way.
Most of it has been made in an hour, and very soon, i was very excited about the result. In general, my songs have precise, carefully crafted structures ; but here the form is open ; there is simply a first part made of electro-noisy-rock, and a second part, more funky (which I intended as an hommage to the 70's "blaxploitation") When recording "Wasted Waves of Love", I sometimes said, as a joke, that my next record would be a funk record, and it's true I've always liked funk ; and in the end, this coming record will not be pure funk, but there will be bits of it, like on "Jacqueline")
So I like the fact that this track doesn't have a "classical" structure "verse chorus verse"... it's more like a kind of two-head monster.
The first version was only instrumental, but i knew sooner or later I'd put vocals on it. So in spring 2008, i wrote a very rough, spontaneous text, just putting down on a piece of paper whatever passed through my mind that day. Usually I spend a lot of time on lyrics, but I wanted to try to do something completely different. : Writing lyrics as fast as the music had been made. [somebody told me the track gave them a feeling of urgency, maybe that's why]
Reading this, you might think "ok, this track is really bullshit". But I really think it's a good track, and that it's still coherent with the rest of my work, althought I followed other rules. Anyway I really had fun writing it. Cause it's really nonsense, based on the sound of words and weird association of ideas. Then I recorded the voice the same day. I sang everything that was on my lyrics sheet, without correcting anything, in just 2 takes ; and I was fully satisfied with that (it's by far, my absolute record of "the-less-takes-on-a song").
chapter 2 : lyrics interpretation
Listening back a few days later, I noticed the text had, all in all, some meaning ... yes, it's even political. [i was about to explain it in the details, but actually, as i said earlier, i don't like to explain my own lyrics, it's too de-mystifying] Anyway, every word has a hidden meaning. A few examples :
"j'en ai marre de ces candélabres conditionnés pour être candides et compatissants" = "i am fed up with those candelabras conditioned to be ingenious and compassionate" i like the word "candelabra" , even if it is associated with things i dislike (luxury, rigidity, verticality, passeism, stiffness). It's extremely ironic that it sounds, in french, like "délabré" (broken, dilapidated) althought it's associated with luxury. To me, in the context of the song, it's a metaphor for someone who are "psychorigid" (don't think this word exist in english, but it does in french), but who is inclined to think they are open-minded and compassionate.
"le captaine capillaire est capable de cannibaliser le capharnaum caoutchouteux" = "the capillary captain is able to canibalise the rubbery confusion" (as you've probably understood, every word starts the same in french, which is not exactly the case when translated into english) I like to see the "capillary captain" as a kind of monstrous figure. you can interpret it that way : "when times get rough, the evil ones take over."
chapter 3 : and now ?
So, most of the track has been made very quickly, but I spend all 2009 and 2010, changing small details in the mix, little by little. And now, it's still not really finished...
Anyway, this song was not judged suitable for the "symphonic orchestra / french songs" project. It's a shame cause, speaking of "french songs" , you have to admit the lyrics contain some of the most beautiful words of french language : "candélabre, marqueterie, marijuana, capharnaüm, vaciller, valdinguer..." Plus, I had imagined some "Bernard Herrman / John Barry"-inspired orchestral arrangements (check out the videos below...).
(ps I have on a disc another version of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", (orchestrated by Barry), with dirty synths and killer drums, too bad i can't find it on youtube, cause it's even cooler than the version here...)
24 december 2010
This morning I awoke to the sound of (the excellent) Grace Jones album "Hurricane" (2008). I was not really fond of her previous work, until a friend advised me to listen to this album when it was released. So today I realized that all the songs, on that record, deal with a subject which fascinates me (as you know) : time. How it changes the way you think, your connections to the world, to your roots... memory. You can find on that record, a mix of apprehension and excitment for what's to come. Late 2008 or early 2009 I realized a lot of my songs deal with that ... time is really the matter that forms our lives. And also, from all arts, music is obviously the one that has the more to do with time...
Since I noticed my interest for that subject, I also noticed that often, works of art (films, records, books...) that touch me, deal with that, on a level or another. As an example, the recent Christopher Nolan movie Inception. Time is obviously an issue in the script, on a very apparent level, but it's more than this : it explores many ideas : the time to accept the death of a relation ; the time for an idea to grow ; our relation to memories ; the connection with childhood (through the character of Maurice Fisher played by Cyllian Murphy, who is apparently haunted by the image of his childhood symbolized in the film by a photograph). And also : how to lose count of time can be a way to escape something painful. The film has been criticized for seeing dreams as something technical and lacking fantasy ; but I believe dreams are not the real subject here, it's time.
[If you want to see a very good movie about dreams, I recommand La Science des Rêves by Michel Gondry, another of my favorites film & director. By the way, the french title means "Science of Dreams", which is, to me, more true to the film than the english title Science of sleep (but there's a nice alliteration) And, speaking of titles : doesn't the word "Inception" bear in itself the idea of time, which is the core of the film? I heard that the canadian name of the french version was "the origin" ]
[As I'm writting this, I realize time is also a recurring theme in sci-fi movie, which happens to be my favorite genre...]
Both for Grace Jones & Christopher Nolan, I realized all the connection with the theme of time afterwards. At first, without intellectualizing too much, I got caught by music (for Grace Jones) and formal beauty (for Nolan ; it stroke me when I first saw the film that every detail seems at the perfect time and place... everything is flawless : frames, cast, music, light, visual effects, editing, and so on). Maybe, when a work of art deals with time, it has a particular depth. Or maybe, because Nolan and Jones seem to have the same obsessions as me, i'm inclined to like their work.
To end with Inception, Hans Zimmer's music is also a very strong element. I have to underline that one of the strongest musical themes (which notably appears during the whole end sequence) is titled ... "Time" (on the soundtrack record). It's also brilliant to use Piaf song "Non je ne regrette rien" ("No, I don't regret anything") as the movie deals with time and memory. I've read Nolan has been working on the script for 10 years, and he always wanted to use this song as the musical countdown. When Marion Cotillard was casted, Nolan considered NOT using the song (because Cotillard got famous in the US for playing the role of singer Edith Piaf) but Zimmer convinced Nolan to keep the song, because he heard in it a "sense of danger". By the way (it's incredible how everything is imbricated) Zimmer experimented with "Non je ne regrette rien" (notably, playing with the time factor..) to find musical ideas for the score :
12 january 2011 : Inception again / Pop Science / Best-of-2010
I just read again, what I wrote above about Inception. There seem to be a lot of backlash on that film (which is, to me, totally unjustified), and one of the main critics is : (spoiler alert) "at the end, you don't know if it the spinning top falls or not". Actually, it doesn't matter that much. Of course, it is made on purpose, so that you ask yourself about it, but the question is more interesting than the answer (whatever it is). Does the spinning top fall or not? Probably Nolan himself doesn't know. Here, the idea is to remind the audience that movies are about illusion (which is the theme of one of Nolan's previous film, the excellent "The Prestige"). Is what you see a dream, or reality? It's up to you to decide. You make your own movie, you see what you want to see. That's how the end of Inception is beautiful and interesting. In this sense, it is a very clever ending shot. What matters is that both could be true, not to know which one is the real ending (because there is no "real", if you followed me).
Also, obviously Nolan knew this ending would make people talk ; and add a touch of mystery to the film.
If you're still not satisfied, let's imagine the film would clearly tell us "he's still in a dream" or "he's in reality with his kids at last" : both endings would be disapointing. The first would let us unsatisfied (mission has failed), the second would be a very common happy-end (and, it would have been the case without the 10 last seconds of film).
[Actually I have to say, I like the idea that Dom Cobb ends in reality, because all in all, I like happy-ends ;-) and it seems to me the spinning top is really about to fall on the last second of shot, but i know it's kind of subjective]
Oh, and by the way, the choice of the spinning top is also a very clever way to symbolize time. Everlasting time in dreams ; time that has to stop in reality. We can also see it as an echo of the duality : time inside the film (which can be manipulated ; true of every film, but in particular Inception) and time in reality. There's also a parallel, developped in the film, between dreams and movies, in particular in the way both are fabricated, whether by a team of professionnals or by the subconscious : "your mind is the scene of the crime". Let's go back to the spinning top : Imagine Dom's totem was another object, let's say a chess bishop (=Ariadne's totem in the film), it would not have worked as well. By the way, a chess bishop is a very good idea to symbolize Ariadne's role in the film (The bishop has no restrictions in distance for each move, moving in diagonals) Ariadne can change the set for the dreams, and create shortcuts (move in diagonals) through the dream's set. (Also, Ariadne can be seen as Dom's confessor = bishop...).
Let's go back to the final scene. The whole movie invites us to wander through differents layers of dreams and / or reality, so this ending is very coherent with the rest of the film. (end of spoiler alert) And it can be said that Nolan follows a tradition, of a kind of cinema in the margins of hollywood, where endings let the spectators puzzled. I'm thinking in particular about Terry Gilliam' Brazil or Alfonzo Cuaron' Son of Men (2 of my favorite films) Well actually, in Son of Men, the end is not that much open, but I remember when it came out, I spoke to someone who said he was disappointed because the ending left him uncertain. Some people want the director to explain them everything, to show them eveything. But mystery can be beautiful & interesting.
Let's talk about music now. A lot of work late december. I wanted to post here about it, but I prefered to save my time and energy for the songs rather than writing. Nelson is almost finished. I still have to record bits of guitalele, voice, bass. I didn't show that track to anyone until now. I believe it's a very good song, but maybe it's a bit "touchy", because some of the lyrics can seem naive, and musicaly there's this "world music" thing ( I already spoke about that) which may confuse listeners ; that's why I want it to be perfect, before anyone hears it. When I was younger I sometimes showed unfinished tracks to people, and they didn't like it, because they couldn't see the potential. So now I'm more careful about that.
I also worked on a new mix of Jacqueline, with new vocals . (i didn't touch that song since august). It gets better and better. Last summer i tried a more "reasonable" version. Finally, i came back to the more psychedelic one : weird synths and unexpected rythm breaks.
On Happen Again i'm still not very satisfied with the folk version. As I wrote above, it's cursed. The "Myspace" demo is ok. I'm trying to do something better, but everythings' gone wrong. So I started, once again, a very different version. Handclaps, guitalele choruses : it sounds like "a hobbit's village dancing evening party" : i like it ^^
But... I'm kind of lost concerning Assemblée. I really like the instrumental track, but i listened to what I made last summer and realized i don't like the lyrics. I made a mistake : I considered this song written and ready to be recorded, but actually the lyrics were only half-written. To be honest, I have to admit I thought the music was so good, it would go with any lyrics. But I don't want to expose to the world something I rate "weak". So I wrote new lyrics and spent half a day recording a new demo. I made it in the form of a dialog between a choir and a solo voice ; I made that because it's the subject of the lyrics (individuality vs. conformity) but I realize it's quite unusual (the only examples i can think of are "With a little help from my friends" by the Beatles ..and "Robots après tout", work of french crazy-singer Katerine... maybe it's an influence, in a way, on that particular song, but with a radically different feeling)
By the way, Katerine used to be one of my heroes, I had been a fan since "L'homme à 3 mains et les créatures" (1999), he put out in 2005 "Robots après tout" which is, to me, one of the best records of the 2000's, across all genres and countries. Until 2007 he only had a cult following, but early 2008 he became VERY big in France because he had toured a lot, and suddenly people seemed to realize how much an incredible performer / entertainer he is. So the songs that got out in 2005 became hits 3 years later... but after that, he became involved in lots of shitty side-projetcs (writing songs for bad mainstream singers) and he put out late 2010 a rather dull new album. (But I'll have to write about him longer another time)
Listening back to my song (Assemblée) the same evening, I noticed it was more and more bizarre... too weird, maybe, to be featured on a pop record. It actually made me think it's not pop music that i'm making... maybe more something like "researches in pop science ".
I don't know anymore if that track will be on the record. It's a loss, cause it would have provided a nice touch of madness & darkness. Without it, I realize it will be quite a "well-behaved" record. Whereas 3 years ago, I said this record would be "trash & striking"... it seems that nothing ever turns out like you want to.
To finish this post, let me display my version of the "2010 musical best-of" :
Massive Attack - Heligoland : After the rather boring 1000 windows, Massive Attack comes back to what made their first albums great : a 5-star vocal cast, sophisticated arrangements, a fine mix of pop, soul & hip-hop.
Vampire Weekend - Contra : 2010 was a backlash year for them. That's so stupid - their album is just perfect. Fun, fresh, unpretentious, full of ideas and great melodies. I know it'll be seen as a classic in 20 years, when all other "hype bands of 2010" will be forgotten.
Broadcast 2000 - (eponym) : my personal crush of the year ! great folky english band, mixing lofi attitude with orchestral grandeur, and uncredibly beautiful melodies (whether uplifting or heart-breaking). They deserved to be more famous.
Melissa auf der Maur - Out of our Minds : a rather "classic rock" record, (which makes it unlikely for me to list as one of my favorites) yet its overall atmosphere is very dense and at times captivating.
Owen Pallett - Heartland : I just had a couple of listening earlier that year, and didn't get into it. Then, about 10 days ago, I had a crush on the song Lewis takes off his short. So I listened back to the album. I don't think it's very effective as a whole, but it stays one of the most audacious efforts of 2010.
Hans Zimmer - Inception (Music from the motion picture) : well, if you read the above, you know i'm a fan. Pure magic.
"Best Songs" (without particular order)
Massive Attack - "Paradise Circus"
Broadcast 2000 - (my fav songs ex-aequo : ) "Rouse your bones" & "I hold my breath"
Memory Tapes - "Bicycle"
Owen Pallett - "Lewis takes off his shirt"
Vampire Weekend - "Giving up the Gun" (actually I could have named almost each song of the record !)
VV brown - "Shark in the Water" (discovered at the gym - reminds me of last spring - the perfect soundtrack for that season : pop, fresh, positive ! )
Kylie Minogue - All the Lovers (also "best music video of 2010")
If you didn't hear Bicycle by Memory Tapes, there it is : (I had a BIG crush on that song a few weeks ago, playing it over and over in my mind for days)
28 january 2011 :
Big news : i finally have a facebook for skyscraper : http://www.facebook.com/skysc
Don't hesitate to say you "like" it !!!
I feel I'm coming close to finish my record. I've been working on it for 2 years, which is quite long already. But 2009 was a very chaotic year (moving in another city, changing my professional life...) and 2010 was also chaotic in a way. So actually during those 2 years my work on the record was rather... sparse.
Anyway, finished tracks are : Nothing but time, Happen Again (electro), Le Capitaine Capilaire/Oh My God (finally finished mixing it early this month), Everyone (the same), La ville se réveille (Au Petit Matin), Messager du Pays sans Rêves. I still have to work on :
- Happen Again (folk) : as I already said, I'd like to have the 2 versions of that song on the record (electro and folk). I still have to finish the mix and maybe put some bits of guitalele.
- Jacqueline : Once again, I made a lot of changes around christmas ; adding more and more psychedelia on the first part. At last, I feel like it's beginning to sound BIG, as I always wanted. Still have to re-record the voice on the first part.
- Nelson : this morning I finished arranging voices on the end. I hesitate between : consider it finished / go on with the details (add some xylophone, drum samples...) anyway, I still have to re-record the bass line.
- Les couloirs : yesterday I completely re-wrote the lyrics (yeah, I know, I'm supposed to have nearly finished, so it may not be the right moment to re-write lyrics... but why not, after all?) I have a better feeling since then. Lyrics deal with how absurd and de-humanized the corporate world is. The instrumental track is finished (apart from the bass).
Assemblée will not be on the record (unless a miracle happens???). Music is ready (and great), but i need some more years to mature the lyrics (lol).
19 february 2011 :
I can't resist commenting the release of Radiohead's "The King of Limbs" ... I said a few days ago i didn't expect anything, but I have to admit the band's strategy (not to reveal anything until the last moment, not even the tracklist) aroused my curiosity. So I downloaded the record as soon as I could. When I opened the file, my first reaction was to be slightly disapointed : only 8 tracks, not a single piece of artwork... but just after that I thought : "if the 8 tracks are good, it's better than 15 mediocre songs". First listen : ...my god, it's soooo good !! ... I really didn't think this album would suprise me as it did. To me, "In Rainbows" was globally flawless but gave me the feeling ... that the band had nothing more to say, that they started to be "doing some Radiohead" without looking for something new. But listening to "The King of Limbs", a lot of thoughts pass through my head, which is good sign.
First : it seems like they decided to give a little brother to « Kid A » : same tendency for open structures, flowing and uneven moods, whereas "In Rainbows" seemed more measured. But it's not a step backwards. On the contrary, like every other Radiohead records, it's an extension of the previous ones. Maybe it can even be said that "In Rainbows" was just a stage in the process of the band's evolution : Radiohead pulling themselves together, making an inventory, before stepping into the unknown for the second time of their carrier. What is also striking is, obviously, the rhythmic fell of the record, notably the influence of afrobeat, in particular on the first track « Bloom ». Already in 2009, a fellow musician told me he noticed that on « 15 step » (a track from "In Rainbows"); maybe he was right, but here you can't miss that.
The record goes on with « MorningMrMagpie ». The fans already know it, as it was part of a webcast a few years ago. It was then a simple acoustic take, which has turned into a long, hypnotic trip. (By the way, it's fun to recognize the melody despite the totally different arrangement) An incredible tension drives the song, creating a euphoric feel that never goes down through the 4'41 of the song. A quality that reminds me of the best tracks by LCD soundsystem (« All my friends »).
Never since Massive attack's' « Mezzanine » has a record blown at the same time the hot and the cold. The band associates dense, groovy, torrid rhythms with icy sounds, which will make this album ideal both for the beach and the woodfire. One will also think of « Remain in Light », the more daring Talking Heads album, which is a reference for Radiohead members (often quoted as influential, in various interviews) ; that album, at the beginning of the 80"s, already explored a mix of african-inspired percussions and new-wave sounds.
All that are just first impressions ; but I have the feeling this album is going to stay as one of my favorite Radiohead's albums... close to Kid A, in my heart of fan :-) Judging from what I read over Internet, like every Radiohead album, there is no consensus, but it seems most fans are responding very well to it... everyone is surprised at least.
So, it lets us hoping that Radiohead may continue to be a fascinating band to follow for another 20 years (and why not 40 years?) ; making wrong the statement that bands age badly.
Apart from that, still working on my songs these days. As always, I want to write about it in this blog, put things to listen to, etc. but time goes to fast, as always.
I'm stuck on 2 songs. "Les couloirs" (corridors) : as I said earlier, I found in january that the lyrics needed to be improved. Since then, I spend hours and hours to rewrite it again and again. Doubts and questions. In particular, the subject of the lyrics implies that i think about my past, my choices in life and uneasy moments. So it's a difficult task. Concerning Nelson, the melody is difficult to sing and i'm still not satisfied with the takes i have. I still don't know if those 2 tracks will be on the record. It depends if I manage to finish them in less than 2 or 3 months.
If I don't, I'll probably release the album with the 8 finished tracks, in a few months. I need to move on, let those songs wander freely through the world. So, it will be quite a short record, but after all, most records by Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin have roughly the same number of songs, or even less. (and "The King of Limbs" has exactly 8 tracks, as does "Remain in Light" !!!)
28 march 2011 : My influences, chronologically (part 1)
The first records that I remember are my parents' ones, of course : a Beatles compilation ;
Among other classical stuff (Mozart, Dvorak ...) I remember particularly a Debussy tape that my mother used to listen to, during rainy days and winter sunday afternoons. That's why Debussy always made me slightly melancholic.
Then, I remember the soundtrack of animated series I watched as a child. Notably, "Les mystérieuses cités d'or" (a very good french production, it became mythical for everyone of my generation ... I don't know if there's an english version of it). I watched it again when I was 22 and realised the incredible mood relied heavily on music... with synths sounds very "state-of-the-art" on the time it was made (early 80's). I remember especially a theme, called "Saint-Elm's fire" which gave me a very strange feeling, something like being on the edge of a cliff, or being about to discover something incredible. It appeared in the more magical / mysterious / decisive moments of the show. (Pink Floyd fans will notice there's the same effect as in "One of these Days"...)
As a kid growing up listening to radio, I was also influenced by 80's synth-pop. Even now, I still feel moved by tracks like "Sweet Dreams" by Eurythmics, and of course a lot of french stuff (even though the artists i'm about to name, are often assimilated with "variété" which is a rather pejorative term to describe very "middle-of-the-road", mainstream french song) : "Week-end à Rome" by Etienne Daho, "La Ballade de Jim" by Alain Souchon, "On the road again" by Bernard Lavilliers...
A bit later, I lived the times when techno music began to be known by a large public and meet other genres (soul music, hip hop..) I remember that track called "technotronic" which had a lot of radio airplay, i think it was 1989 or 1990. If you listen to it now, it sounds like a ridiculous dance cliché, but at the time, it was the sound of the future. There was nothing else which sounded like that on the radio, at the time. As a young teen, I was really excited by dance music, I had adrenaline bumps listening to compilations of that stuff ;-)
(... i'm to ashamed to put a video of that ...)
Circa 1991-1992, I fell into Jean-Michel Jarre (a friend lend me a tape). His music allowed me to reconciliate my taste for synthesizers (dance music...) and my pop feeling (The Beatles...). JMJ is often despised in France, but you can't deny he was, at the time of his grandeur (first half of the 80's) both "avant-guarde" and accessible ; with a keen sense of both melody and soundscapes. He popularized synthesizers on a wide level, and is globally recognized as one of the pioneers of electronic music. So, he deserves respect.
When I was in secondary school, I followed a special musical cursus (with training in orchestra, choir...), so obviously it had a huge influence on me. I was educated in classical music before pop music, so I guess that's why I'll always prefer Queen rather than The Sex Pistols.
Speaking of Queen, I discovered them around 12 and instantly liked their crazy side. Then I re-discovered The Beatles when the remastered CDs where released. Even after all those years, they never cease to amaze me. You just have to listen to "Strawberry Fields Forever" and realize how much it is still futuristic, 45 ans after its release (when someone asks me about my "favorite-song-of-all-times", i name it). Everything in it is incredible, inequalled : the melody, the textures, the arrangement, the production. It still sounds as the prototype of a whole musical genre which never really blossomed.
(The real video only starts at 0'13...)
Then I fell into Téléphone (very famous french band of the 80's) I think they are the only french band which really deserves a place of choice in rock history (apart from Polnareff maybe, but he's more "pop" than "rock"). I recently (2011) listened again to their records and realized how excellent they are. What is incredible is that they became so popular in France in the mid-80's, without losing their edge, their raw, underground feel.
At 13-14, I became obsessed by Pink Floyd, which gathered in one musical style (with an extra touch of class) , what i liked in both Jean-Michel Jarre (trippy synths) and in more straight rock. At the time -do I have to mention it?- internet didn't exist (it must seem hard to imagine to the ones born after 1986) and it was very hard to find reliable, interesting information about rock bands. But I found a little book about Pink Floyd at the library, and started to know pretty well the story of the band even thought I had only heard "Dark Side of the Moon". The book was not exhaustive so, it gave me a glimpse of the band, and at the same time, in a way, contributed to the mystery of it. I had daydreams about the record's sleeves and the names of the tracks I didn't know yet. I've always liked the way Pink Floyd did cultivate, precisely, a halo of mystery around them and their music. In this sense, they are like a gang, a secret society. To me, a rock band is basically a bunch of guys who play the tough boys, who are showing off, messing with things the common people don't understand. And Pink Floyd epitomizes this, to the perfection.
Some months ago, I was watching early Pink Floyd videos on Youtube -by the way, it's incredible how those videos spent decades in obscure archive rooms, and are now coming back to life, thanks to youtube (in the 90's, I didn't dare to dream one day I'd have acces to all this). I like the one below : considering their steady and shiny eyes, they must be under the influence of some drug (or it was the 3rd wine bottle), yet they manage to articulate very clearly their ideas, with this inimitable and natural english class. It sums up what I like in the band.
Then I listened only Led Zeppelin for a while (around 14-15). After that, The Who, Cream, that kind of stuff. Then I had, what i like to call my "hippie" period, with things like Crosby Stills Nash Young, Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens... A lot of teenagers feel the need to listen to violent stuff to project a feeling of rebellion and / or feeling singled out. I felt the rebellion later (when I discovered the "slave to the wage" status), but as a teenager I never felt that need to listen to violent stuff : music, to me, was a shelter to cut myself from the world, not something that could show my opposition to it. Maybe I was in opposition with something at that time, and it was other teenagers. I hated that whole "teen" thing, you know, when you're supposed to look dumb and act stupid, just to pretend you're cool. (And a lot of adults still behave like that, by the way). So yeah, in one word I was a freak in high school (and I still am... but whatever)
So i was totally into 70's stuff, and although it was sincere, it was at the same time a posture : I deliberately despised music from the 90's, and shared my musical views with some friends I had in high school. But I have to admit in the end, it felt unconfortable : I've always known that you got to live with your times, you can't cut yourself from what's happening. So I progressively opened to 90's music. My opinion on Nirvana reflects that evolution. At first, like everyone of my generation, I was electrified by "Smells like teen spirit". But I felt like it was not made for me. And then, with the "Unplugged in New-York", Nirvana's music became, to me, more friendly, welcoming. I listened to it again and again. It was a good transition to more contemporary rock : back to the future. At the same time (I was 16), a friend bought me Ben Harper's "The Will to Live" which had the same kind of effect (sliding from hippie to more modern stuff). So I started to find interest in what was going on, at the time : Noir Désir (french band, huge in the 90's), The Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against Machine...
Nevertheless, I went on exploring the history of pop music, with a big U2 period, then The Doors. I became, little by little, addicted to The Velvet Underground. Then, when i was 17, I witnessed in "real time" Radiohead's rise to superstardom. That band is still my "number one reference". I immediately felt at ease with their music, as if those guys really spoke a language I understood. What is amazing with them (especially on first records) is how they mix a complex, elaborate side* with that untamed, destroy, post-punk feeling. People sometime say that I sing like Thom Yorke. Actually I already sang that way before I discovered Radiohead : rather high-pitched, in a passionate, expressive manner. It's just my voice, it's made that way. What I mean to say is I always felt a close affinity with their music, it's not like i'm trying to copy them. Anyway, I will not dwell on that subject because, of course I could spend hours on this, and, of course everyone's already convinced that Radiohead kicks ass, isn't it ?
* (Thom Yorke said he listened compulsively to Queen's "Greatest Hits" when he was 11... that's at least one thing we share - and maybe that explains the "elaborate" side)
So, that's around 1997, that serious things started : I began to listen to really everything. Before, I could listen to the same record again & again for months. But suddenly, I wanted to discover as much music as possible. It wasn't easy at the time : no internet, no youtube, no online radios. You had 2 solutions : either buying CDs (but they were very expensive for a teenager) or rely on your hometown's library. Unfortunately, mine was rather poorly equipped.
That's when I discovered the french magazine "les Inrocks", who proposed something which, at the time, felt like a miracle : each season, a CD compilation of the musical actuality, for the subscribers : good music made by unknown, promising bands. Well, nowadays, I'm rather caustic, critical towards "les Inrocks" because I realized, around 2002-2003, that they are like an institution for the Parisian, upper-class bourgeoisie, dictating people what they are supposed to do, think, like. And journalists who write for them often have very questionable opinions (like, a tendency to criticize what is accessible and praise arrogant elitist shit, for the pure sake of controversy) ; but at least, I owe them for making me discover a lot of music when I was a subscriber (1998-2001).
(...to be continued...)
6 april 2011 : My influences (part 2)
So, I left you talking about "Les Inrocks" magazine at the time when I was a regular reader. On a musical point of view, i often consider this period with nostalgy (althought i don't like passeism) because i think it was just an incredible time for pop music. You might say : "that's logical, he thinks the period was good because he was interested in what was happening". But I think OBJECTIVELY, it was a great time for music. (and yes, i know everything in music is always a bit subjective).
Before that great wave of good music which i'm about to discuss, in the middle of the 90's, the spotlight was on "britpop", whose main bands were supposed to be Oasis and Blur (according to the music press who defined the genre...but actually those 2 bands had almost nothing in common, apart from their popularity at that time) So, Britpop is hard to define, but one can say it was a "back-to-the-roots" way of making music (Oasis were stealing all their gimmicks from the Beatles).
But the next period in the history of pop music, turned out to be much more interesting. In 1997-2001, things were moving in all directions. There was a very positive emulation between a lot of bands, who explored new territories. Probably it all started with Björk. Before her, electronic music and rock didn't encounter : they had radically different audiences. Then, Björk started to mix things, make the lines move. Things began to look less uptight. (One could say Massive Attack and DJ Shadow were also part of this avant-guarde, but don't think they had such a wide influence on their contemporaries... althought I like their records! )
A wind of madness started to blow on electronica. "Dig your own hole" (1997) by The Chemical Brothers, announced the come-back of psychedelism (whirling synths, weird sound effects...). It all went even further with such discs as "Polydistortion" by Gus Gus, "Dead Elvis" by Death in Vegas, "Avant-Hard" by Add n to (x) - I already talked about that record before - or Cornelius's remixes ...
In 1998, this "psyche" wave touched indie-pop, with several stunning records : "Bring it on" by Gomez (uneven, underrated, but still a very nice album), "I paint Pictures on a wedding dress" by belgian excentric band Zita Swoon, "3 EPs" by The Beta Band. Those 3 albums are very different, but to me, they speak the same language : made of bits & pieces of everything, mixing the "mood of the time" with old-school references, mixing dirty guitars with disco rhythms, sonic experiments with jazzy trumpets and weird keybords, with influences of blues and world-music...
That same year (1998) I saw in a festival an english "dance-punk" band, The Lo-fidelity Allstars, which made a strong impression on me ... anyway I never heard of them after that ... (I just learned thanks to google that they disbanded soon after, even though part of the band continued with the same name).
So in those times, weirdness, unexpectedness was in the air. Several records seemed to respond to each other : "Fin de siècle" (1997) the most baroque album by Divine Comedy ; "Mutations" by Beck (1998) ; "Deserter's Songs" by Mercury Rev (a bit over-rated when it came out, but yet a nice record) ; "13" by Blur (1999) ; "Mezzanine" by Massive Attack ; even the very "roots-girl" PJ Harvey came out with a record full of strangeness : "Is this desire?" (1998), characterized by unstables rhythms, evasive moods, restrained hysteria. All those records depart from a "pop ground" to explore unconventional directions (while at the same time keeping a melodic, catchy dimension). Pop and electronica were more and more imbricated. Also, what wharacterizes all those albums is their darkness, under apparent psychedelia. One foot in a bubblegum dream, one foot in a horror movie. A bit later (2000), "XTRMNTR" (pronounce "exterminator") by Primal Scream, perfectly illustrated that.
"Kid A" by Radiohead (2000) is maybe, both the peak and the "beginning of the end" of this era.
Around 2001-2002, it all started to become a little more boring. Musical press declared that the time was again to "straight guitars" (with notably the band The Strokes : not bad, but terribly over-rated ). No more fantasy. We could say "Neon Golden" (2002) by german band The Notwist is the requiem, the swan song of this psyche-pop movement. Marvelous album, full of lush, subtly changing moods and half-shadows, with amazing songwriting and somptuous sound treatments. A few bands, like Simian ("We are your friends", 2002) tried to keep the "psyche flame" alive ; but it was over : the band never gained full recognition, despite obvious qualities.
Since then, it became a bit like it was in the mid-90's. There are still good guitar bands, good electro bands (yet... "indie electro" is dying lately, isn't it? ...) but the styles don't encounter* : everyone stands on his own ground, without looking for adventures. To me, only Radiohead followed their adventurous path ... even though they came back to (slightly) more pragmatic stuff with "Hail to the Thief" (2003).
* : there are still exceptions... like, in the 2003-2007 period, Patrick Wolf seemed like a champion for a renewal of flamboyant psyche-pop ... (but he's turned boring since then) ... also, the track "Bicycle" by Memory Tapes, that I mentioned a few weeks ago, also perfectly fits in that pscyhe-pop style.
I expect that some of you will tell me about MGMT and Animal Collective, who tried to initiate a timid "psyche revival" in 2008-2009. I always thought those bands were extremely weak : by the way, we don't hear about them anymore. Among the bands I defend, no one has sacrified the musical core (melody and/or arrangements) for the sake of experimentalism. Whereas Animal Collective tracks are like empty boxes wrapped in shiny paper.
To finish with my "psyche pop" scene... most of those bands didn't have the career one could have predicted... The Beta Band disbanded in 2004, due to lack of recognition. Gus Gus and Gomez simply disappeared. Cornelius became very discreet after 1998. The Notwist disappeared for 6 years (before coming back in 2009 with an out-of-time, beautiful album...). Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy) and PJ Harvey remained popular but they came back to more "normal" productions... to me, less interesting. Primal Scream gave a follow-up to "XTRMNTR" in 2002 : "Evil Heat", nice but less fascinating than its predecessor. What came after that, is, to me, a disaster : "Riot City Blues" (2006) is a come-back to an inept, basic, uninspired rock, uncomparable to what they did on "XTRMNTR". About Zita Swoon, I saw them live in 2003 and it was just a catastrophy ... as if all the magic was gone.
In my song "Happen Again" I allude to this musical era : "...and all those great bands I used to listen to, what happened to them?"
"Björk was singing her crazy rhymes / Now she's just bringing snow / How did it all become so ?" [...Every Björk albums after Selmasongs, to me, induces yawning more than excitation...]
It's true, I think the 2000's were rather dull compared to the late 90's... with a few exceptions (let's say : Jens Lekman, Syd Matters, The Shins, LCD Soundsystem, Jamie Lidell, Bloc Party, Merz, Roysin Murphy, Patrick Wolf, Katerine (french singer), Camille (french singer), Iron & Wine... actually that's already a lot of exceptions !).
In a way, with my work as Skyscraper, I try to give a continuity to this psyche-pop movement. Those bands inspired me, gave me the desire to develop my own music. But, most of those bands are forgotten nowadays (who remembers Gomez? The Beta Band? Gus Gus? Cornelius? Add n to (x) ? ) So, it's no wonder that a lot of people seem to have difficulties understanding what I do, where I stand artistically...
Not directly related, but I'll let you with some videos of my last gig (march 2011) :
21 may 2011 : Influences (part 3) + finishing the record
Since my previous post, I wanted to mix some tracks which are important to me (and, maybe, for the history of music as well), from the 1997-2002 period. I finally did it ;
In general, I tried to put the focus on rather unknown tracks (apart from Chemical Brothers' well-known track Block Rockin Beats, but I put it because I think it was very representative of the spirit of the times, in its more catchy & accessible side...) I didn't put complete tracks, the idea was more to give a taste of each band.
I could have made a youtube playlist, but in the end, I prefered to make a downloadable mp3, cause I had fun mixing it ... even though it took me some time and a lot of thinking ! ... so the result is about 38 minutes, maybe that's long but I swear it's worth listening to :-)
I made it with love so :
1) I hope it will make you will discover things if you missed that period (either you're too young or you weren't into pop at that time)
2) or if you already know those tracks, i hope it will remind you of the good ol'times !
Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin' Beats
Gomez - Make no sound
Primal Scream - Pills
PJ Harvey - The Garden
Blur - Mellow Song
Coldcut - Atomic Moog 2000 (Cornelius Remix)
Beck - Diamond Bollocks
Mercury Rev - The Funny Bird
Gus Gus - Rememberance
Lofidelity Allstars - Lazer Sheep Dip Funk
The Beta Band - Dr Baker
The Divine Comedy - Eric The Gardner
The Notwist - Off the Rails
Let's talk about my record now :
Those last months, I didn't write here, but I've done some work on the record : every 4 or 5 days, I listen to the whole thing and everytime I find details to arrange. I'm becoming more & more perfectionnist : I don't remember finding it so hard to mix my previous albums. But people were sometimes critical about the sound quality, so, this time everything will be perfect !
I also try different tracklists....
So every 4 or 5 days I make a new bunch of mixes. I stopped long ago counting the number of versions. maybe that's something like 150 for Jacqueline, (I've been working on it for 3 years now...)... I guess it must sound crazy, but I know you have to go there if you want the result to sound great ; anyone who's ever tried to create something seriously has experienced it...
A few days ago, I read an interview of Colin Firth (actor who recently got an academy award) : (translated from french although it was very probably in english at first) : "The creative process is not something that has an end. A writer said :"You never finish writting a novel, there's a time when someone interrupts you and take it from you."... It's the same for acting : I could never be satisfied, I always feel it's a work in progress that you must put an end to."
About the same idea, I recently saw that Radiohead interview :
What stroke me is the moment when the interviewer (1'25) asks if the band could work without Nigel Godrich (who realised all Radiohead records). answer :
"[Nigel is essential because...] given the choice, I would never finish anything"
"so you can't work alone?"
"well, it depends if you want me to finish something or not !"
I understand so well : you never accept that something is finished, you always think "i could do better". Anyway, in the case of my own record, I'm really starting to feel like i need to get rid of the songs, and share them. Already 3 years... I would get mad if I had to spend 3 more years on it.
20 july 2011 :
Phewww... once again, 2 months since the last message. Just a quick one tonight, to let you know what i'm doing, in case you wondered. The record is "very very close" to be finished.
The month of june has been busy, because I had some rehearsals & shows (not music shows, drama shows!) with a drama workshop I took part in ; and then I had to prepare a (music) show for the school where I teach guitar. Plus, I have been ill and needed a lot of sleep for 2 weeks. I managed to spare some time for my album, but I don't have much to say about it : mixing & mixing again....
Since the beginning of july I have been more or less on holydays, but I still have 50000 things to do (teaching some lessons to people who are not on holiday, working on my guitar technique, and obviously, a lot of time is spend on finishing the mix of the record) and time goes so fast... I don't even have the feeling to be on holidays. I also visit houses cause I'm planning to move again. Anyway, this afternoon I made a mix of Happen Again (electro version), it was the last track I wasn't satisfied with, but now I think it's ok, so everything is finished.
After writing this I will listen one more time to all the tracks...
And then I could go on with the mastering, the artwork... I hope everything will be finished before september.
22 september 2011 :
I wanted to completely finish my 3rd album during the summer holidays, but as usual, everything took a little longer than I thought. And with the beginning of term, things slow down a little more : like, I shot a video 10 days ago as a "teaser" for the album, but I didn't have time to edit it yet. Blame it on my many activities (apart from teaching guitar, which is my main job, I'm learning clarinet, I started to sing in a new choir, add to it : sport, drama, etc, etc) ... my time schedule gets filled at the speed of light. But I keep telling myself I shouldn't postpone my projects & desires to learn new things...
Notably, you probably already know that I've always been interested in classical instrumentations. So I've started, in August, a composition for orchestra, for a contest. My priority those last 20 days, was to finish the score (deadline for the contest is before the end of september) which took me quite a lot of time. I also started, this september, to follow composition classes, in order to learn how to write proper "academic" instrumentations, althought I already have a certain "non-academic" knowledge about that...
Anyway I'm quite happy with the score I've produced for the contest. Let's hope I will win it ;-)
25 november 2011 :
Next album's cover will surely look something like this. Picture taken by my friend Gilles and edited by me.
The last 2 months passed so quickly again :
- the album is being mastered (= audio finalization) at studiocsd.fr by Jean-Christophe Banaszak. It means a last mix of the tracks, on very hi-fi audio gear, in order to make sure the record sounds good on any listening system. We met several times to make sure evrything is alright, when we both had the time..
- I did a "photo-shoot" with Gilles, one month ago, in Paris, for the cover art. I wanted an urban, light-hearted mood, echoing the last track of the record "La Ville se réveille" (which means "the city awakes" which is the new version of the song formerly known as "Au Petit Matin" ("at the break of day")). I like the picture above because it's got sunshine, life. As you see, I'm not posing, which I like. I started working on the artwork in september. I try to make a nice booklet that people will want to read. I had some ideas which I thought were simple, and as usual : it's when I try to put them in practice that i realize they're complicated !
- I finaly found a reliable line-up for future gigs with François (bass) and Aline (drums). We've been rehearsing in may-june 2011, then regularly since september ; in particular for a gig in St-Dizier, the last 11 november, and we will play again in Troyes, friday 13 january 2012.
10 december 2011 :
Here is a video of the last gig : (shot by Damien the boyfriend of Aline the drummer, thanks !)
Maybe there will be some more soon.
I had all the pain in the world to deal with it : of the 3 (!) software I usually use to edit videos, none managed to read properly the files. I guess the files format was to blame, so I tried to convert it (eg : put it from "mov" to "avi", etc...), but nothing worked... So, I had to spend hours on it again... why are there 500 different files formats ???
In the end, i put the video online as it was. (I wanted to put some credits, modify the frame.... anyway... whatever.)
That's the kind of headache you have to deal with, when you run an artistic project... no-one knows how much time all this takes. Very often people assume that I'm lazy because I'm into music. If they knew how much time I spend on this... working on details... but it's the details which make things worthy, isn't it?
Lately I were also looking for new gigs, and once, again : you wouldn't believe how time-consuming it is.
By the way, the final tracklist will be :
"La Ville se réveille" (="the city awakes") is the new title for the song "Au petit matin" (="break of day"). The new title in french sounds better than the prvious one.
It's funny, I tried several tracklists and in the end, the one that worked best was the one I imagined when I first conceived the record (see top of this page...)
As you've noticed (if you followed the previous episodes), the songs "Assemblée", "Nelson" & "Les Couloirs" will NOT be on the record. I didn't manage to finish them. They may be in the next (4th) album, though...
More talk about that another time....
24 january 2012 :
Aaargghh ! The album is still not ready yet... I'm finishing work on the artwork and mastering (actually I have to decide which one is the best from the 3 versions we made...).
I said so many times it would all be finished "soon", so I don't know if I can say it should be ready in february 2012...
Anyway, I wanted to detail what was done when :
01 Nothing but time : Recorded for the most part, in my parisian flat, december 2008 ; mixed in Troyes, early 2009.
02 Le Capitaine Capillaire : Music recorded in Paris, 2007. voice recorded late 2008 (september?). A lot of mixes and remixes between mid-2009 and mid-2011.
03 Happen Again : First demo recorded in Paris, october 2008. Re-recorded entirely and by small bits between mid-2009 and mid-2011.
04 Jacqueline : First demo recorded in Paris, late 2008. Re-mixed, re-arranged, re-recorded by small bits between mid-2009 and mid-2011. The final major changes (mostly, new voice and synths to the first part of the song) were carried out in january 2011 in Troyes.
05 Messager du Pays sans Rêves : The first spark for this song originated a long long time ago. Work on the lyrics and structure : late 2008/early 2009 ; first attempt of recording an "electric" version in march 2009. Complete re-writting of the lyrics in august 2009. 2nd "acoustic" version recorded in december 2009 ; 3rd "definitive" version in july 2010, mixed in 2010-2011.
[I also made an electro arrangement to play this song live, feb-march 2011.]
06 Everyone : First draft written a long time ago ; the recording started in may 2009 ; but the final lyrics were written only during spring 2010. Recording the voice was quite tedious, the final takes were recorded during the fall 2010.
07 Happen Again & Again & Again & Again : (by the way, the name of the track is meant as kind of reference to that) : recorded for the most in may 2009, in half an hour. Re-recorded partialy and re-mixed in july 2010, then july 2011.
08 La Ville se réveille : This was originaly named "Au Petit Matin" ("Daybreak"). First version, piano-based, recorded in september 2008. The 2nd version was actually a radical & experimental remix of the 1st, made between january and march 2009, it was online (myspace) in april 2009, then offline a few months later. New acoustic direction, in january 2010, with the recording of 2 new tracks (guitar / voice, in one take). I wrote a score for an all-acoustic arrangement (2 violin parts, 2 flute parts). Finally it evolved into "only partially acoustic", some of the parts being played on synths. Violin was recorded in february 2010, then flute in august 2010 ; glockenspiel, synths, arrangement and mixing finalised during the fall 2010.
Last week I started to write some comments about the tracks I didn't finish ("Assemblée", "Nelson", "Les Couloirs") but actually I think it's better to talk about the things that work.
So let's talk about last gig (13 january). It's been great. It was part of a series of auditions, planned by the municipal music school, in order to showcase bands from the local rock scene. The audience was very quiet (because of the rather "academic" place, with chairs and all) but very attentive. We started with "Nothing but time" as a mellow way to invite the audience into the music. Then, titles from my 3 albums (including "Jacqueline", played for the first time with the current team) and a Thom Yorke cover, the song "Atoms for Peace".
01 Nothing but time ***
* from "The Bontempi Sessions" (2004)
10 february 2012 :
The album is being manufactured... actually I sent the files (audio & artwork) a week ago, but received a un mail yesterday because there was a problem with some of the pictures files. So I'm back again, working on details... hours go by ... I have enough !
I have spent quite a lot of time on the artwork but I think it was worth. As I wrote earlier, it will include a 12-pages booklet with complete lyrics and a lot of nice pictures. Here is a preview : (you can download -right clic- if you want to see it bigger)
I used pictures that I took between 2009 and 2011, in various places, with my mobile phone... pictures of cities, trains, trees, UFOs, sunrises...
17 february 2012 :
I just spent 2 days fighting a "virus" which threatened to put down my computer. Now, it seems everything is normal again (...relieved...) I was already seeing myself, having to reboot my PC and reinstall everything... (which I did in 2010, last time I had a virus and couldn't get rid of it)... so, that was a loss of time, and I still have to finish rearranging the artwork. Please, be patient.
22 march 2012 :
Once again, last month seemed to pass incredibly quickly. I moved to another house. If you read this diary, you probably noticed I'm always talking about moving from a home to another. It seems I always fall on noisy and psycho neighbours, that's why I'm forced to move every 6 months. But lately I've been very stable, having spent 2 years at the same place !
I had been wanting to move for a year... my search has been difficult... cause I'm self-employed, so the people who own the houses were reluctant to rent it to me... As I couldn't find anything near Troyes, I finally accepted the idea of having to move further. I now rent a peaceful, nice, quite big house (anyway, I've never had such a big one), in a village 30 minutes from Troyes. One of the rooms is dedicated to music (I never had enough space to do that, before) : I feel like going out of a long tunnel of troubles and uncertainty.
In the meantime, I finally received the CDs of my album "D'autres chemins".
It seems like a page is turning, with the completion of the record and this new house. But actually I still have to promote the record, which is a rather daunting task... (and to tidy my house, lol)
We made a break last weeks with the live band, but will soon rehearse again for future shows...
25 mai 2012 :
We played recently in a music store, (Cultura in Troyes), and soon in the city center for the "Fete de la Musique".
With my many activities, I still didn't have time to really promote the record in medias. Planning to do it in July-August.
As I said above, I feel like something is ending these days... I thought about putting an end to this diary, since its goal was to talk about the genesis of songs, and i've said almost everything on the subject... but after all, I could stay on the principle of an entry every two months, just to trace back the evolution of the band / project...