‘Matt’ is a post-industrial/no-wave/minimal electronic album made by Lionel Fernandez (Sister Iodine), using the moniker Contumace. It’s his first solo album.
“Cold, dry and static”
Can you tell me what I am listening to when I listen to ‘Matt’? What does the word ‘matt’ stand for? What does it mean? Or what does it mean to you?
Lionel Fernandez: What matters to me, always first, is how the word sounds. Then if it makes sense or evokes something, it’s good but it’s not necessary. There, I like its concision and how it sounds and I find that it matches perfectly with the atmosphere of the record, what it evokes of the material: raw, without hook.
You use the moniker Contumace for your solo project. Why?
“Refusal to appear”. That’s the meaning of the word in the judiciary. I like both the idea of denial and the idea of absence contained in the word. But above all I find that in French, the word is quite… “bizarre” and I like how it sounds.
Is this your first solo album?
Yes it’s my first solo record, but it triggered something because I have two other projects coming up that should be out soon. In fact I have for a long time been full of ideas, projects, that I can not contain all in Sister Iodine, I feel now the need with a new urgency to express it and it forces me to take action. Maybe containment, isolation, and all the bullshit we’ve been through helped and accelerated all of this…
Does this album get released as a tape?
No, the music comes out as a CD. I found that it was the appropriate form, to listen in one step, with this multitude of pieces, tracks, some very short, collage style, with the old school idea that the record could be played in a random mode and would work perfectly so.
On the Soundcloud link you sent me, you use tags ‘post-industrial/no-wave/minimal electronic’. Not ‘noise’? Do you see the term “noise” as an insult? Or is that a word that just doesn’t have much meaning to you?
The word “noise” has become a bit of a catch-all, it’s used in every way, it’s not an insult to me at all, but I find that here, if we are specific, it has nothing to do with it. It’s colder, drier, more static and in that sense, it has more to do with post-industrial music or no wave hints.
Did you make this album with effect pedals or a synth, or both? Or other tools?
In fact I recorded everything with a rare old synth (an EMS Synthi) that belongs to friends. I went to see them sometimes in their studio and I recorded their long sessions that inspired the idea of this project and decided to make a record with it. In our studio I made some guitar shots. The record contains only these 2 elements (+ some bits of voice…).
The album contains 18 tracks in 35 minutes. It almost feels like a compilation or a mix tape.
The record is 42 minutes. But listen to me, it was rather thought out as a collage, with breaks, short pieces, tracks that we wonder if they are one, but which, in whole, forms a big coherent block that would be listened to in one shot and in any order.
“A climax = a piece”
What kind of album did you want to make with ‘Matt’? Did you have a certain idea in mind before you started recording? Or did it go the other way around: you had several recordings and you thought: hey, this could be an album?
No, there was a prior intention of climax and shape. I wanted to make a kind of… slow monochrome (!?). A short and cold record, with small pieces, breaks, that could even be felt as a collage of studio scraps, in a revisited atmosphere, late 70s early 80s, let’s say. And also, the idea of going back to simple things. A climax = a piece.
Do you make a difference between “electronic music” and “real music”? Between “electronic musicians” and “real musicians”? Do you think there’s a difference in the way they approach music and make their music? I’m asking you this because we talked about Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson who calls himself “certainly not a musician”. I also remember an interview I did with Peter Rehberg, who said he never had the approach of a musician, he saw himself as someone who “builds with sound” (he was educated as an architect).
I quite understand what Peter or Sigtryggur meant, but for my part, I still feel more like a musician, in the sense that I am in formal research of composition, even if I am neither technical in terms of “real music”, as you say, neither geek, as for my electronic practice. Far from it, I have always been wary of mastery, and I have always thought that it prevents a form of spontaneity, roughness, which are sensations that I seek by making music (I speak of mastery as a technicality). I really like improvising, playing in a very free way but also I love (and sometimes maybe more) all the solo and meticulous post-production work, mixing etc. Even if, in this case, I was very fast, let’s say that I think like a producer and a composer.
I got to know you as part of Sister Iodine. Are there elements from that band that you use in your own music, you think?
The process was very different. At first, I was looking for other sounds, tricks, guitar processing for Sister Iodine and it was while doing this research that I wanted to make a separate record. What I was looking for and finding didn’t fit for Sister Iodine – those guitars that looked like cold monochromes. But I wanted to do something with it. I imposed on myself this reductionist constraint: a synthesizer/a guitar, nothing more, I wanted to go fast, and do something very crude, very minimal.
Weren’t you originally a guitar player?
I am. But I’ve always been a tinkerer too, I’ve always fiddled with synthesizers, pedals, effects, and most of all, I’ve always spent my time trying to make my guitar sound like it wasn’t one.
So how did you get from being a guitar player into electronics? Is it: first you use effects on the guitar, and then the guitar only becomes your “input” without really playing it, and then you leave away the guitar and only use the effects?
Totally in this project. Here the guitar is rather used and treated like a machine. I didn’t want it to sound like a guitar, no flying, no playing, just a cold, static machine that moves very slowly.
Contumace Official Website