Thursday, October 6, 2011

An EXCLUSIVE interview with M83!


By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     There used to be a time when the double album was a grand and bold musical statement from an artist and not just a regular release with a few remixes added as a bonus. From The Beatles’ White Album and The Who’s Tommy to Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, any band brave enough to release a double album caught the attention of the critics and music fans alike. Even Prince’s 1999 and XTC’s English Settlement set new heights for those artists, attracting more fans than ever. But over the years, the double album has become a real rarity. While you may find many two disc releases on the shelves, the second CD usually contains nothing more than bonus demos, acoustic versions or remixes. In essence, the legitimate double album seems to be a thing of the past… but thank goodness nobody told M83’s Anthony Gonzalez that!
     When Gonzalez moved from his homeland of France to Los Angeles nearly two years ago, his new surroundings inspired a prolific period of songwriting and experimenting with music. Early on, the transplanted Frenchman realized that his vision was much larger than a conventional 45 minute album. The songs that poured out of him began to form an album that would exceed anyone’s expectations, even his own. By the time it was complete, Gonzalez had created a double album that was mysterious, dark and utterly beautiful.
     From Ambient and Electronica to Shoegaze and Dream Pop, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is an ambitious project and is the culmination of everything released in M83’s decade-long career. While the band’s sound has progressed over the years, this is an album that takes the best elements from all of their past releases and adds more depth and power to the mix. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming takes the listener on a trip through different moods and atmospheres and leaves an indelible impression on their senses. This is an album that is raw and powerful yet unabashedly joyful. The album never outstays its welcome: every note is there for a reason and the entire project would feel incomplete were you to remove even one track. This is what double albums are all about.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee sat down to speak with Anthony about Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, his inspiration and much more…

SPAZ: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is just about ready to drop. How are you feeling about the album and things in your world right about now?
ANTHONY GONZALEZ: I feel excited. I haven’t felt this excited for a long time… maybe since Before The Dawn Heals Us (2005). I feel confident and proud of this record. I’m just so excited to go back on the road and play shows in front of my fans. Sometimes, it’s hard to be a musician. Some people think its all holidays all the time. But sometimes, it’s very stressful. Emotionally, it can be hard to cope with everything. But when you feel good about an album, you’re excited to talk about it and play live shows. You’re looking forward to it. You’re like a kid… you’re just excited about everything.

SPAZ: The album is a very ambitious two CD release. When you started recording the album, did you plan on so many songs making the album or did it evolve over time?
ANTHONY: You never know what to expect when you start composing an album, obviously. But early on, I realized I wanted a double album. We’d been touring a lot for the previous album and being on stage and on the road for such a long time made me realize that I wanted to create a big project. I couldn’t wait to go back into the studio while I was still on the road. When I first moved to L.A. one and a half years ago, I was so excited about being in the studio again. I was enjoying myself so much. I was playing with my keyboard like I’ve never played before. I was experimenting and improvising. That was the first time that happened in many years. When you’re excited about being in the studio, it flows out of you and you keep composing and composing. At the end, you have a lot of songs to pick from. (laughs)

SPAZ: The era and the art of the double album has all but disappeared over the years. Was there ever a time that you felt you should compromise and whittle the album down to an average album-length single disc?
ANTHONY: Yeah, definitely. It’s the wrong time to be releasing a double album. But I thought that if I don’t do it now, it would be even more difficult to release a double album in two, three or five years. But I’ve been working on this album for a year and that’s a long period of time. Sometimes, you start to lose confidence and you start doubting yourself. But other times, you feel proud. I like to feel as if this album is a gift to myself. There was so much pleasure in the making of this album. I was feeling all these different emotions. If I felt like this during the making of the album, hopefully people will feel like this listening to it. So, I said let’s go for it, let’s go double. I didn’t want to have any regrets. I wanted to do something for myself for once.

SPAZ: While the tracks on the album certainly flow together very well, each track has it’s own personality (and in some cases, multiple personalities). Did you initially create the songs as distinct individual tracks, or were you always looking at these tracks falling under a unifying theme?
ANTHONY: I can’t say that all the songs are part of a main theme. Some of them are… the ambient songs and small interludes are part of that theme. But I love pop songs and I wanted this album to have pop songs as well. I think this album is like a combination of all my previous albums together. I wanted to have a lot of different elements: epic songs, slow songs, quiet interludes and pop songs.

SPAZ: Some of the lovely and moving melodies are gentle and understated, while others are powerful and loud. Were the song arrangements dictated by the melodies or did the melodies come out of the song arrangements? Tracks like “Soon, My Friend” and “Reunion” are very different, yet equally effective.
ANTHONY: You know what? I have no idea! (laughs) I’m not waking up and saying to myself “OK, today I’m going to work on an epic track or I’m going to work on a slow interlude.” I write what comes naturally so I don’t have the feeling that its forced. I didn’t have to fight against the songs. It was just a natural progression. It makes sense that some of the songs needed to be very epic and very orchestrated. But you also want to keep some songs very quiet because they didn’t need anything more.

SPAZ: The album, like all of your releases, seem to draw from the last 30 years of Pop, Rock and Electronic music, from Brian Wilson to OMD, yet you manage to maintain a very distinct sound. What influences you?
ANTHONY: A lot of things. This is what I like about being a musician, being an artist: you can be inspired by so many different things. I was moving to a new city (L.A.). I was going out to see movies. I was going out to live shows. I was going to museums. I was reading a lot of books as well. I was just being inspired by anything. Its funny because sometimes I feel like I don’t want to make music because I don’t feel like something good is going to come out of my brain. But for this whole year, I felt so inspired by everything and anything. It could be something simple like meeting a new friend or talking to some people at a party. Or being inspired by a movie you just saw the day before. This album was inspired by one year in my life.
SPAZ: Are you sometimes surprised by your fan’s interpretations of your songs?
ANTHONY: It does surprise me, but in a good way. It’s exactly what I like about music. It’s very different from reading a book where everything is written on a page or watching a movie where everything is up there on the screen. There’s this feeling of freedom and I like that. I can’t wait for people to tell me stories about them listening to the album.

SPAZ: People tend to create their own visuals in their head while listening to the music… Do you think that music videos can take away from a listener’s own personal attachment to a song?
ANTHONY: Yeah, of course. Sometimes, the video can be a perfect match for the music. But sometimes it doesn’t happen that way and that’s a risk. I grew up watching videos during the MTV era. This is part of my culture. I couldn’t picture myself releasing an album with no music videos. Its part of the process of the making of an album.

SPAZ: What’s next for M83?
ANTHONY: I’m really excited to go back on tour. It’s been two years now since we’ve played any shows. I couldn’t be any happier than I am today. I am proud of this album and I’m ready to travel and play this album in front of my fans.

SPAZ: What is currently spinning on your CD and DVD players?
ANTHONY: Recently, I was listening to and love the new Mogwai EP. I’ve also had the chance to listen to the new Zola Jesus album. It’s really, really good and I can’t stop listening to it. On my DVD player, I have Halloween 2 from Rob Zombie. I just saw it two days ago. His Halloween movies are really good movies, honestly. I was a big fan of the original Halloween movies, but… I don’t know… this guy comes from a different planet!

Thanks to Anthony Gonzalez
Special thanks to Jacki Feldstein, Nicole Blonder and Anthony Balboa




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