Diane Theunissen

10 Jul
Music

Gaspard Augé: “This Record Is Not At All Abstract Nor Demonstrative”

When he’s not touring the world with his acolyte from Justice, Gaspard Augé works on his own music and shapes the foundation of his promising solo career. On June 25th, the Parisian artist dropped the well-anticipated ‘Escapades’, a debut album that shows a perfect blend of emotional honesty and clear creative vision. We caught up with Gaspard Augé to chat about film scores, the importance of artwork, and the various aspects of his splendid record.

Your album Escapades will be released on June 25. How do you feel about this first release?

I can’t wait for it to come out. I finished it a while ago, so I have to admit that I’m a little bit nervous. It’s the home stretch, and I still have a few things to do with it, but I also want to start making new music. But I’m happy; it’s a good synchronicity with life starting again too.

Could you tell me more about this project?

It’s an escapade on several levels: it’s an escapade outside of a duo, outside of what’s going on musically in our time, and it’s also a kind of experimentation just to get out of the classic pop format and to offer people music that is less restrictive in terms of imagination and message. I have the impression that today there is a lot of music where the message is important. For me, the message is open and a bit less didactic: there is no language barrier; it’s more of an emotional message.

This project seems utterly introspective. What are the themes you explore with this new music?

I believe that the interesting thing here is to let people express what they want in these tracks, according to their personal history and their musical culture. Then again, it’s a record that is not at all abstract nor demonstrative: it’s not free jazz, it’s not concrete music. I believe it’s quite accessible. I have the impression that whatever the time or the place, you can always be touched by a melody or an atmosphere. For me that’s the main goal: I want to transmit clear emotions in their intention. And so that’s why the record goes from epic moods to melancholic moods, to almost naive moods at some points. Because the music I like to listen to is often like that and because I like outrageous feelings and not lukewarm things.

You are also part of the duo Justice. How did this experience influence the project?

Well, it didn’t really influence it because one of my goals was to do something outside of this duo. Then again, there are similarities, and I can’t completely detach myself from my musical culture. Of course, people who have listened to Justice will find similar elements in my solo record, which makes sense since I am part of this duo. That being said, it’s a record that is less electronic, even though there are obviously a lot of machines and synthesizers. (laughs) It has a few dynamic tracks, but I believe it slightly leaves the club scene for something else.

It’s simply a reflection of the music I’ve been listening to for several years, whether it’s film music or sound illustration records. That’s what’s interesting about what we call “library music”: it’s a commissioned piece of music that is made to fulfill a function. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s it was kind of a creative playground for musicians because there was this will to be illustrative in the way of proposing emotions that were very easy to identify while supporting the images. Then again, I think my record is quite visual; it helps let your mind wander a little. It’s a good record to stimulate the imagination. There is no textual narration, but there is a space of emotional and sensorial path that makes the record quite varied and through which you can tell your own story.

If we’re not mistaken, you did a film score about ten years ago. How was it?

Yes, I did a film score with Quentin Dupieux. But we did it in a bit of a hurry because Dupieux likes it this way, he likes to do things quickly. It’s not that it was sloppy, but it was quite simplistic.

Speaking of visuals, we’d love to know more about your album cover. What is the symbolism behind this artwork?

I wanted to have a modern element, which is this big chrome tuning fork, to symbolize the space of maximalism of the record and integrate it within a dreamlike landscape. I thought it would be interesting to contrast this somewhat barren nature with something very modern. It’s my representation of the record.

This record seems rooted in your desire to do more cinematographic works and to create visuals to support the imagination of the listeners. What’s your take on this?

It’s a little bit different in the sense that my favorite movies have very little music. Even if I like a lot of movie soundtracks, I find that music in movies—when it’s badly used—is often a kind of mental rape. The director forces you to be sad when he wants you to be sad, or to be happy when he wants you to be happy. I personally prefer films where there is no music, but I like the aesthetics of soundtracks and original soundtracks from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s because there is a style exercise of having a recurring theme that is arranged in many different ways. That’s what I find interesting musically: having a melodic theme that you twist in a lot of different styles. That’s something we did on this record as well.

A few weeks ago, you dropped an introduction video for your track “Hey”. What did you want to convey with it?

The message is clear: there is no other message than a horseman playing the violin. (laughs) It was the first image I had in mind for this song when we were doing it in the studio. So I had this image of a Mongolian rider playing the violin on a horse, and so we just followed that first visual idea and did that. What I find interesting about the format of these videos, which are quite short, is that people can imagine what happened before or what will happen after, without being too explanatory and without having to tell a story. It’s like surreal vignettes that suit the music well, I think.

Again, it’s all about allowing your audience to let their imagination speak and create their own narrative, right?

Exactly, it’s a bit like the cover. It’s giving support that’s a little less mundane and a little more fantastical than just my head on the cover. (laughs)

Visuals and aesthetics seem to be paramount elements of this project. Does it serve as an extra way to express yourself?

Yeah, very much so. Then again, I’ve always loved artwork and design. I studied graphic design, and I’ve always been a bit obsessed with record covers, band logos … that kind of thing. Actually, I bought a lot of records just for the cover, without even knowing the music. It’s a bit like movies, there are a lot of movies where I prefer the poster to the movie itself because you can put a lot more fantasy in it than just seeing a movie or listening to a record.

I believe watching a movie is quite passive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously very pleasant and I love watching movies, but it’s less participative than reading a book, for instance. When you read a book, you imagine. Even if the scene is very well described, it’s not a picture nor a movie. You can allow yourself to imagine the characters’ heads, their relationship with your own affect it and you often end up being disappointed when you see a movie based on a book because it doesn’t look like what you had in mind. It’s similar with album covers: for me, it’s important to have this kind of introduction to a universe but without being too didactic or too explanatory. It has to remain open to interpretation, like the music.

In which conditions did you write, compose, and record this album?

Actually, I had a lot of snippets of songs and melodies. I had like hundreds of them, but they weren’t finished at all. It was a little bit like little embryos of songs that I recorded anywhere as soon as I had an idea. Sometimes, the melodies came to me as I was in a state of semi-sleep. Then the three of us took these pieces and we developed them and enriched them. We did everything in Paris, mainly at Motorbass studio, which was the studio of our friend Philippe Zdar.

On this record, you also worked with the composer Victor le Masne. How did this collaboration come to life?

Victor and I have been friends for a long time. When I started to want to make this record he was very encouraging and supported me a lot. I believe it’s also because we have the same musical sensibility—even though he’s much more trained than I am. He went to the conservatory whereas I can’t read a score. (laughs) But yes, he is a very good arranger and also it is really pleasant to work with your friends.

I also worked with a sound engineer called Michael Declerck. We spent all our time in the studio; we were as excited as kids in a toy store. We could try all the synths we wanted, all the instruments. It was a joyful atmosphere because we didn’t really have time to get bored of the tracks as they were recorded in a very short period of time. It was really fun to record; it was just proof that you don’t have to make music under pain or stress.

 

You have been active in the Parisian electro scene for several years. How did this scene evolve?

I must confess that I have no idea what the Parisian scene is becoming because all the clubs are closed and all the new artists who were ready to go on tour couldn’t. It must have been very hard for them. In music, there is a question of momentum and timing that is extremely important. So actually, I don’t really know what’s going on, but I’m not really interested in what is meant by electro today, and it’s not really a source of inspiration either, at least for this record.

Then there are a lot of things that are called “electronic music”, and it’s a very broad term that includes Aphex Twin as much as David Guetta, so it’s a bit of an overused term that doesn’t mean much anymore. Then again, there are a lot of electronic artists that I like and that do interesting things. But it’s not what feeds me musically speaking.

What is your favorite track on this album?

It’s probably “Europa”. I think it perfectly reflects the mood of the album while showing the will to be rather turned towards Europe than towards the USA, for example. Most of the records I listen to are made by Italian, English, French, Eastern European composers. Then again, there are obviously a lot of composers of film music and American library music who are exceptional too, but I must admit that I was more in this kind of fantasy of old Europe, which I think also comes a little bit more from classical music and this kind of things.

Gaspard Augé’s new album ‘Escapades‘ is out now.

Pictures by Jasper J Spanning and So Me

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