Thursday, 11 June 2009
Sylvain Chauveau Interview
Sylvain Chauveau is a critically acclaimed instrumental music and electronic music artist and composer from Bayonne, France.
Sylvain has done several albums on labels like Type records, Les Disques du Soleil et de l'Acier, Creative Sources and FatCat and his music is minimal, melodic compositions for piano, strings, winds and discreet electronic sounds, with silence as a musical element in itself.
He has played live worldwide and opened for Sigur Ros and played with Christian Fennesz , composes soundtracks for Sébastien Betbeder's movies, especially for the full-length film "Nuage" and also did scores for choreographers (Pierre Rigal / Aurélien Bory, Serge Ricci) and for performances with writers (Mark Z. Danielewski, Félicia Atkinson, Joris Lacoste) in France and abroad.
Sylvain Chauveau plays with the band Arca (with Joan Cambon), 0 (say "zero", with Stéphane Garin, Joël Merah and Maitane Sebastian) and On (with Steven Hess).
"Touching Down Lightly" is your new album with only one track of 47 minutes. I consider that musicians that create long music's are the ones who really know how to make music. Do you share my thought?
That's an interesting point of view, I clearly get what you mean. I used to consider that when a musician composed a very long work, he couldn't do it without a lot of heart and conviction. I thought, for example, Morton Feldman couldn't create a 3 or 4 hour piece without having a lot to put in it. Same for LaMonte Young's incredibly long drones, or an opera by Olivier Messiaen lasting 4 hours and a half. And I had this fantasy of composing a long piece myself. I never really did it, but this time I felt I needed something long, in just one part. "Touching Down Lightly" is improvised music. Anyway, the difference with composition is very slight. This kind of improv, very quiet and extremely slow, is like a composition in real time.
It's not a matter of knowing how to make music. It's more about the need: the need to make a piece that can last and to feel powerful enough to do that while you're performing. And this recording was made with heart and conviction.
How is all the creative process of making a original soundtrack for a movie?
I did that several times, mainly for the movies by french director Sébastien Betbeder. It's a difficult process. But when you like the film, like it happened every time with Sébastien's movies, it's also very inspiring. Usually I read the scenario before it's shot, and we talk about what the music could be. Then they shoot the film, and then they give me the first version, a work version. During this time, they start the editing. That's when I start properly composing, while watching the pictures. I record demos and Sébastien listens to them and tells me what he likes or dislikes, where he could use which music. And when he has all the themes he needs, I go to a recording studio and we play all this with the musicians, with the exact durations needed in the movie scenes.
Your music reminds me Yann Tiersen. What’s your biggest influence, such as musical and cultural level?
I can see the link with Yann Tiersen. Especially for one or two short pieces I've done on my early albums. I have liked very much his music, the first 3 or 4 albums he did. My music is different, more experimental, much slower and quieter. My biggest musical heroes in the past years were probably Morton Feldman and Bernhard Günter. But I don't think you can really hear it in my compositions, can you? I believe that lately I was more influenced by painters I like.
How can art, like abstract and minimalist painting influence your music?
Well, I don't really know. But for example, if I am a musician influenced by another musician, let's say Fennesz, then I will tend to make music that sounds like Fennesz. On the other hand, if I am a musician influenced by Mark Rothko and Philip Guston, my music won't sound like them because they didn't do music. The influence will create something else, a way to think about my work, to deal with forms.
You play several instruments. Do you define yourself as a one-man band?
I would not define myself as an instrument player. I am a kind of "music maker". I use instruments when I need them, usually the piano, the guitar (in the past), and now more and more the voice. But I'm not a performer. I don't really practice and try to learn any instrument. I just play with them, make very simple things. And when the composition is too complex to play, I make someone else perform it. And I never play strings or wind instruments: that's why I tend to have my own team of musicians (Ensemble Nocturne).
Do you believe in luck for success or hard work to achieve want you really want?
It depends on what you call success. Usually, we speak about the public recognition, how many records you sell, how many people come to your shows, how many articles you have in the musical newspapers. I don't know how this stuff comes. Maybe luck can be part of it: the luck to make the good thing at the good place, at the right moment.
As for achieving what you really want, that's what I'm interested in. But I'm not sure hard work is the really the key. It's certainly necessary at some point, but I still have the feeling that the key is the will, the violent envy to create your stuff. When the envy is too strong, it makes you do things, it guides you, it makes you work very hard sometimes, and it can open any door.
Is it Sylvain Chauveau a citizen of the world? Do you feel that way when you are on tour?
I like the idea of world citizenship. I'm not sure the borders on this planet are a good thing. But I can't forget my cultural background. Every time I'm travelling I realize how french I am. It's not that I'm proud or ashamed of it. It's just that I've spend 36 years of my life in France and that is my background, my language - though I can speak fluently English and I can understand a bit Spanish. Now I am happy to live outside of France, in Belgium. It's good to try to see things from outside after a while. It makes one understand the world from a slightly different angle. In the past two years I've been touring in different countries, different continents, and I could realize how the french point of view is reducing. And there is maybe one thing I'm ashamed of: our president is really awful. I really hope the left wing will find a decent leader in the future to beat him. France will lose a lot with Sarkozy as president.
You play with Arca, 0 and On. How do you get time to dedicate to all of these projects?
Most of my time is used for my personal, solo work. I play with Arca, On and 0 when we have the occasion to meet and play altogether. We usually plan working sessions. And I always love playing in those bands, with my good friends. It's all different styles. Arca is closer to rock, or post-rock, but now it's song-based. 0 is a quartet, very free, from experimental ideas to melodic pieces. And On is a duo of abstract improv (prepared guitar and percussion).
What are your future projects? Do you intend to go on a World Tour?
I have been working for two years on a new solo album. The title will be "Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated)". It will be out in February 2010 on Type, on vinyl, Cd and download. My vocal will play an important part on it. It's gonna be a turning point in my music, a very important step for me. Very quiet and quite abstract, textures and atmospheres without proper melodies, but in a song format.
No world tour planned. I don't have any agent. I just wait and when promoters contact me to perform somewhere, I go. It all goes through my website: sylvain chauveau
Which is your foresight for the development of Ambient / Electronic / Experimental music in Europe?
It's very hard to tell. Today I can't see any movement lasting. Maybe the diffusion of music goes to fast, with the internet. The day a musician develops a new idea, it's immediately hearable all around the world and many other musicians use that new idea. Everything is immediately absorbed. There is no more identity from Europe or any country or continent. You can enjoy a new recording by a Lebanese improviser via internet, or the day after a Chinese percussion quartet. Where you are from doesn't count anymore, which is probably a good thing. What will make you different in the future is the ideas, because with computers we all have access to the same tools.
Watch | Sylvain Chauveau - Never Let Me Down Again by [ Depeche Mode cover ]
Watch | Sylvain Chauveau - Nuage
Watch | Sylvain Chauveau - An Old Friend