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Èlg interview with Laurent Gérard

Do you ask a banana tree why bananas taste like they do?

In this interview, 36 years old Frenchman Laurent Gérard calls the music on his new album 'Mauve Zone' pocket symphonies, a ghost train journey, a mistery, an illusion, a puzzle and a cartoon. All correct.

Stanley Kubrick once said that you don't make a movie with a camera, but in the editing room. Could I say the same thing about your music: that recording is one thing, but that the real work is the editing, making layers, constructing the recordings?

Yes! You're right. All my albums are conceived like movies. Editing is very important. When recording an album I create sonic objects with the same artificial approach used in studio films. They are illusions. Albums recorded live are fantastic also, of course, but it's a completely different approach and up until now in my solo work the sequences are created separately and I piece them together like a puzzle to form an ensemble, looking for ways to find links. Everything is always linked on a subconscious level. It is a well thought out yet empirical process which would be very costly for classical film production. Kubrick was smart enough to get the Warner studios to back him up financially for three years while he developed '2001: Space Odyssey'. He had time to feel his way through it, which is rare in Hollywood cinema.           

In one way, the audio horror you create is kind of cartoonish and playful, but on the other hand, I also have the impression: "here's a perfectionist at work."

I've always found humour and derision in horror and anxiety in humour. They are interrelated, inseparable. Our anxiety and fears are ridiculous, in a way, on a universal scale. We often laugh about things that surpass us, that make us uncomfortable or give us vertigo. And cartoonish perfectionism exists! Mel Blanc is a perfect example. His voice work on the Tex Avery characters is very precise, almost maniacal! "That's all folks!", Mel Blanc's cath phrase, is actually on his tombstone in Los Angeles.

When I played this album for the first time, I thought it sounded recognisable. What would you define as 'your style'?

I don't know where it comes from or what it is. I just really love working. All the doubting and discouragement and all the transformations and illuminations that occur make what we call style. But than again: we don't ask banana trees why bananas taste like they do, do we? They're just bananas. They happen with time, molecule mingling and sunshine, bad luck sometimes or maybe a very fruity need to stand out and feel different.    

Do you see Ghédalia Tazartès as an influence or more as a colleague?

Ghédalia is and always will be an influence.We are excellent bar colleagues too.

I had to smile when I heard the guitar solo on the end of the A-side. A crappy tribute to Eddie Hazel's solo in 'Maggot Brain'?

I know the 'Maggot Brain' solo well, it's an excellent track! My crappy guitar solo salutes him! But I cry tears of sadness as it was not meant to be crappy but epic and beautiful. I will forever be misunderstood. 

You said you always find doing interviews difficult, but especially for a record like this one. Why so?

Because this record is a kind of mystery, even for me.

Your album has a dream kind of feeling (or a nightmare, a well air conditioned nightmare): you hear an Englishman talking, than a woman, than some field recordings, all connected by dark electronics on the background, and you think: "What's going on here?" What's the story? How are all these things connected? 

I love that idea of an air conditioned nightmare. Norman Mailer used to describe the US in those terms. What I can say now looking back on the elaboration of this ghost train journey is that the general feeling for me was slimy and opaque and I was looking for light. That's what ties everything together.

Who are the different voices on the record? 

There are three guests on this record: Catherine Hershey as the "Top-down" priestess, than Dylan Nyoukis as the narrator of the Lady Diana nightmare. And Alan "uncle Jim" Bishop as the mad man who brings the storm before the calm on B-side.

The French voice is yours, I suppose?

The French voice is mine but at the beginning of the B-side I speak in Mauvian, not French!

I remember once being in a Turkish bar with you in Brussels. You got irritated by the music that was playing. You hated the compressed sound, you said, and the dominant bass. It showed you are very much aware of the sound and the music that surrounds you. Do you think that you are more aware of this than other people? And do you see this as a plus or as a negative thing?

I was probably a grumpy potato that day. But yes I am very conscious of the sounds that surround me. Music that shuts up silence gives me a headache. I counter it by singing songs in my head and composing brain pocket symphonies. Sometimes in the metro I start tripping on the mechanical rhythms it creates, and on the sounds of metal screeching. When a metro musician with an accordion starts belting out "Besa me mucho" it can mess up my inner groove but I'll still give it a listen and help those guys out with money when I can. It takes a lot of nerve to be faced with indifference and play anyway. I don't know if I have the same courage that they do. I sometimes dream about playing and shouting in the street like a corner preacher. I try to be as present as possible when I listen to a record in my home. Otherwise I take John Cage's advice: if I want to listen to music, I open the window.

© Jonas Chéreau

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Interview by Joeri Bruyninckx/2016
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