A MEETING WITH KOUDLAM
By Roisin Breen
Crash first interviewed Koudlam back in April of 2015. Back then he had just released his critically acclaimed studio album Benidorm Dream, with the young label Pan European Recording. Still ahead of the game, with his genre defying and trend-shunning sound, Koudlam burst back onto the scene today with his new album Precipice Fantasy, of which the title track was already picked up by Nicolas Ghesquière for the Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 22 runway show. The artist caught up with Crash to talk travel, Gaspard Noé, and bird watching in Grenoble…
SO, CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE ALBUM…
This album has been a real kind of liberation. By the time you start putting it all together, the album has been in the making for such a long time, so it’s a real release to finally put it out there. I’m very happy that it’s coming out to prepare for the next steps and the live shows, it’s exciting. My last full album was Benidorm Dream which was released nine years ago so I’ve been off the radar for a while.
I put the track list in an order where there is balance and the songs flow well. It’s funny because originally, I wanted to do an ambient, relaxation album, like the music I would like to listen to in order to travel – without traveling – so to speak. I listened to a lot of Indian classical music and was inspired by that. I felt like there was something to do in electronic music in that direction. The album is split into two parts… and the second part is very much the instrumental part that echoes the notion of travel.
HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THE ALBUM FOR ALL THAT TIME?
Yes, not continuously, fortunately! (Laughs) There are songs that were started nine years ago, others that were added at the last moment, and in the meantime I made a lot of other tracks that didn’t make the cut. I did the soundtracks for two movies, one called De l’or pour des chiens, and another with Laetitia Casta, but it was a difficult time for cinema as it was in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Every time I make an album, I try to do something new, especially with the form and that’s how long it took me, but it really didn’t feel like nine years!
WHERE DO YOUR REFERENCES COME FROM WHEN IT COMES TO CREATING SOUND?
I’m attracted to industrial places. Even when I listen to music myself, it’s the modern world and it makes sense. We’re all more or less in this industrial world or on the periphery of it at least. I make music for the world we live in. My aesthetic is definitely very urban and industrial, it’s definitely not country music (laughs), it’s more like suburban music. I like gray places.
When I was making the album, I discovered a lot of literary accounts of people who talked about climbing Everest, before anyone had been there. There was an account by an Englishman around the beginning of the eighteenth century, which spoke to me a lot. He went on such a journey before he even arrived at the bottom of the mountain, you had to pass through China at the time and it was forbidden, so the guys had to disguise themselves. Passing through hostile regions, all this, just to arrive there, alone. Anyone today would have died before reaching the bottom of the mountain. The fact that he was prepared to die on the slopes for this impossible dream, it’s romance at its finest. I found it really fascinating. I’m inspired by a lot of things to be honest, interviews, ideas, the place where I was at the time, whether that be a hotel in India, or Nepal, or sometimes it can be just the sounds of the street.
IN YOUR PREVIOUS INTERVIEW FOR CRASH YOU SAID… »MY MUSIC IS BORN FROM A PRIMAL DESIRE TO GO TO WAR”…IS THAT STILL TRUE?
That must have been a thing of youth! Do I still feel like that? Frankly no, I don’t want to go to war. But I guess I said it in a metaphorical sense, obviously, meaning that when I go on stage, it’s like going into combat, if I can manage to justify myself like that. But the comparison stops there. (Laughs)
WHAT IS YOUR STYLE OF WORK? DO YOU WORK ALONE OR DO YOU COLLABORATE? DO YOU STICK TO A STRICT ROUTINE IN THE STUDIO, OR DO YOU BINGE WORK?
When I compose I do it all by myself. But from time to time I have a close friend who helps me and comes with me on tour. In the album, I have a friend who plays keyboard and a friend who’s a drummer, and they both feature on two of the tracks. But otherwise, I’m not very collaborative, I can’t let go of the reins so I’m generally alone most of the time. (Rires)
It’s almost like a permanent lockdown, like for many artists (Laughs). It depends, but I spend a lot of time at my computer. I go every day in the morning, I work pretty much a nine to five kind of schedule, like anyone who works in an office job, except I can leave whenever I want. That’s pretty cool. (Laughs)
DID YOU WORK WITH GASPARD NOÉ WHEN YOUR SONG FEATURED IN HIS FILM, LOVE? ARE YOU DRIVEN BY THE SAME DESIRE TO SHOCK AS HE IS?
He took a piece that he liked and that was already there and put it in his film. I didn’t compose it specifically for that purpose. I think that he has the desire to shock and traumatize people. I don’t try to do that, no. Even if I love to surprise the ear, I don’t want to traumatize people. (Rires) I enjoy making improbable associations between different universes, taking materials that are malleable and connecting them to do something weird in the brain. But at his level, no, it’s not the same thing. You can’t compare our work. Although, the song did work very well in his film…
YOU WORKED WITH CYPRIEN GAILLARD TOO, ARE YOU STILL IN TOUCH?
Yes, in all honesty he’s the one artist that I feel truly connected to. The art he makes is what I would want to make if I were an artist, and working with him it’s like I don’t need to do it. It goes perfectly with my music, his work is very poetic. We still talk from time to time, but right now we don’t have any projects together. I’m going to see his exhibition this week, at Lafayette Anticipations and Palais de Tokyo. We rarely see each other, but we are still friends.
ARE YOU EXCITED TO GET BACK ON STAGE?
It’s ambivalent as it depends on the stage! (Laughs) On stage, if everything goes well it’s fine, but there are always a lot of solutions to find, and there might be technical problems, so sometimes it’s good, but sometimes it’s stressful. (Laughs)
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?
I grew up in the Ivory Coast and Senegal, and both are very dear to me. I would love to move to Dakar, Senegal soon. And I love Bangkok, I would love to live there! Mexico City too! Brittany is beautiful. People are very nice there and it’s less tense than Paris.
DO YOU MISS THE IVORY COAST?
Yes, I do. I don’t have family there anymore, but it’s like my second home. It’s like when people say « le bled », Côte d’Ivoire is “le bled” for me. I always want to go back there and I want to bring my family there too, but it’s more complicated now, it’s become a little tense. I’m definitely going to retire there, cut off from the world! (Laughs)
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO PLAY?
Before I released my first record, Cyprien and I toured all over the world and we loved playing in museums. I like to find places that aren’t normally meant for gigs. I like unlikely places, even if it can be hard to get a great sound. I don’t particularly like concert halls. I love to play in big cities. I used to do a lot of music for raves. That’s all gone now, but when everyone was in the clubs we were always at the outdoor free parties. I have a ton of stories from back then but I wouldn’t know where to start!
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCE?
The first one was probably Jim Morrison from The Doors, and Bowie, of course. Even today, I think the album I’ve listened to the most in my life has to be The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Now my favorite is Low, but it’s a little sad. They were my two real heroes as a teenager. When I discovered them, I was still living in Africa in the Ivory Coast. We were in Bouaké, which is really in the middle of the bush, there is nothing. It’s like a village, even if at the time they did have the biggest market in West Africa. We didn’t have a record store, all we had was what people were able to bring from elsewhere. I had five or six records that I listened to over and over again and that was it! I had The Doors movie soundtrack, I had Revolver by the Beatles. I also listened to Noir Désir all the time. And Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit! When Nirvana came out, and when we finally got it, it was a real boom! I was in seventh grade, fourteen years old, and I remember when I heard that song, we just wanted to break everything! It was so good! (Laughs)
I TOOK THE LIBERTY OF SELECTING ANOTHER QUOTE FROM YOUR INTERVIEW…“I HAVEN’T LOOKED AT ANY POLITICAL EVENTS SINCE THE END OF THE SOVIET UNION; HOWEVER I DO KNOW THAT THINGS ARE SLOWLY DETERIORATING. THE FUTURE IS DONE FROM A POLITICAL STANDPOINT. THERE IS NO FUTURE FOR MAN. EXCEPT PERHAPS IN RELIGION.”… IT’S A PRETTY POIGNANT STATEMENT CONSIDERING THE MESS WE ARE IN GLOBALLY AT THE MOMENT. DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY? IS THE TRACK “MY CHURCH” ON PRECIPICE FANTASY IN ANY REFERENCE TO THIS IDEA?
Damn, I had some good answers back then! (Laughs)
Personally I’m interested in politics, but I know it’s always a sorry sight and I don’t want to get into ranting about it. That’s not my role, I am an antenna that picks up signals, but I just observe. But things are getting worse, so we’ll see.
I am spiritual, certainly, but not very religious. Let’s say that I certainly believe in something beyond us, but I’m not attached to a religion. Culturally, my religion is Christian, which I respect like I respect all religions. But I am not Amish yet, even if I think that they’re the ones who really have it down. I think we should all model ourselves after the Amish. (Laughs)
WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?
Walking, and I like to go bird watching.
I WASN’T EXPECTING THAT. (LAUGHS) WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BIRD?
Sparrows, pigeons and crows! City birds! (Laughs) No, for real, it’s raptors or vultures maybe!
GREAT, WELL THANKS KOUDLAM, GOOD LUCK WITH THE TOUR!
Discover Precipice Fantasy at idol-io.link