On a Tuesday night in Tokyo, American synth-pop rockers COLD CAVE are playing a set at Shibuya O-Nest, supported by local favourites ZZZ’S and GROUP A. This show marks the beginning of their massive “Meaningful Life” tour, set to carry on through to South Korea, China, Nepal, India, USA, Canada and Europe. Continue reading COLD CAVE hits Shibuya with ZZZ’S and GROUP A
Liverpool Cathedral is an outstanding feat of architecture. Designed by the then 21-year old Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the early 1900s, the structure took 74 years to build, and is the largest cathedral in the UK and the fifth largest in the world. This ought to give you an idea of the spectacle we were greeted with as we entered the enormous building.
The music venue hosting London’s DAUGHTER tonight is the nave of the cathedral. Continue reading DAUGHTER meets Liverpool Cathedral
In the Quays Theatre, nestled in the rear of Salford’s architecturally striking Lowry Centre, a seated audience prepares for Dundee’s RICKY ROSS. There’s a palpable sense of intrigue among the patrons as they wait for the DEACON BLUE frontman’s “Untold Stories” show, a gig which promises to shed light on Ross’ songwriting inspirations and processes for both his solo and band work. Continue reading Crowds come looking for RICKY ROSS at The Lowry
The Bull and Gate in Kentish Town is the TARDIS of music venues: small North London boozer on the outside, large back room venue with top notch sound and lighting on the inside. All is quiet outside, but on walking through the door, the room is filled with a close-knit collective surrounding tonight’s bands. We’re here to witness the double-whammy of SKINNY GIRL DIET and ART TRIP AND THE STATIC SOUND, who are sharing tonight’s lineup with THE LAMPOST GULLIVERS. Continue reading SKINNY GIRL DIET & ART TRIP AND THE STATIC SOUND – a London family affair
From Thursday 2 to Saturday 4 April, LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY takes to the stages again. LSC is the largest city centre music and arts festival in the UK, playing host to 360 artists in over 25 venues in Liverpool’s city centre, with over 9000 music fans and over 3000 industry professionals.
From year to year, the lineup gets ever more diverse and exciting. Continue reading LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY 2013 Preview
Friday 3 May sees the start of the annual LIVE AT LEEDS music festival, held across a variety of venues across the UK city from 3-6 May.
The main day is Saturday 4 May, with the event showcasing over 100 live bands, including RUDIMENTAL, ALUNAGEORGE, EVERYTHING EVERYTHING, SAVAGES, LONDON GRAMMAR, PINS, LAURA MVULA, YADI, THE STAVES, SWISS LIPS, WOLF ALICE, THE 1975, and all the way from New York MS MR. Continue reading LIVE AT LEEDS 2013 Preview
So impressed are we by KATE NASH’s performance at Manchester’s Gorilla the night before that we hop in the car and mosey on over to Liverpool’s newly refurbished East Village Arts Club (formerly The Masque) which is being christened tonight by Nash. It’s not the most alluring venue, with its garish dark pink walls ‘staring down’ at you, and its split-level ground floor which may or may not work for live shows, depending on the size and temperament of the crowd. Continue reading Introducing KATE NASH’s all-grrrl band – in Liverpool
KATE NASH remains an enigma to many. Once embraced as the darling of the UK’s indie singer-songwriter scene, only to be dropped by her label last year in the lead up to her now self-released third album “Girl Talk,” Kate has borne the brunt of many a cynical observer. However, rather than crumbling under the weight of media pressure and industry expectations, Kate chose to capitalize on the situation she found herself in. Continue reading KATE NASH: Manchester falls hard for the London Riot Grrrl
[tabs tab1=”Intro” tab2=”Japan” tab3=”Career” tab4=”Manchester” tab5=”Industry & Message” count=”5″]
SHATTERJAPAN met up with Darren Williams, aka British producer and DJ STAR SLINGER, in the offices of major entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo in Shinjuku. After waiting in the massive cement hall with the rest of the press for 20 minutes, I was lead into a tiny conference room where a very tired-looking Darren was waiting, and after a quick chat about the best places to go shopping in Tokyo we discussed touring, Japan and the state of the music industry.
First of all, welcome to Japan! Is it your first time here?
Yeah, it’s my first time in Japan, second time in Asia – the first time was Singapore, I went there just before I went to Australia. I prefer Japan a lot more – it’s got more of an identity. I just think it’s more vibrant, but at the same time it’s quite welcoming, the food’s amazing, the architecture’s nuts, it’s just like a massive metropolis, so it’s good!
You arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday – have you had a chance to see the city?
So far, I’ve been doing a lot of press. Yesterday, I did like 8 interviews, coz I’ve got this album coming out soon, and then today the same thing. Also last night, I did a live stream in a department store, Parco, at 2.5D studios – it’s hidden away. I wish it’d been recorded, but it was just a live stream. I think only 1000 people tuned in, but that’s quite a lot.
I wish I’d known about it! So you’re supporting Gold Panda on this current tour – how did you guys meet?
I’ve known GOLD PANDA for a while – we have the same manager and I remixed his track “Marriage” a couple of years back, so we’ve seen each other a lot since then. He needed a support act to take with him and I just said, “Yeah, I’m keen!” I’m just here for the Japan leg of the tour because I’ve never been before – seemed like a good opportunity. It’s good to be here, for sure.
When is the new album coming out?
The new album should be out in the UK this summer, and in the US… maybe Japan, depending on what the label want to do here – I have to ask them…
How did you get into music in the first place?
By being around it. I guess it depends what sort of music, but I think I got most of it from the radio, even the dancier stuff. I would hear it on late night radio, like Pete Tong’s Essential Selection. There were a lot of dance DJs on UK radio, so thank you to the BBC for exposing me at a young age!
What were you doing before your music took off?
I was working in an art house cinema when I got spotted by my manager, and I had to give that up because I was playing so many shows and eventually made a living out of this. I’d just finished my degree in music technology. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing this. I’d probably still be at the art house watching films every day, getting paid really badly for it.
As a producer and DJ, what does your work involve?
It’s hard to explain what a producer does. “Producer” can be quite a broad term, but I think it’s someone who can make a track from scratch. A lot of people claim to be producers. And some producers don’t play instruments, but most of us – the hip hop guys – play instruments. So we are musicians in our own right, but we also record and know how to structure a song. Rick Rubin would have session musicians, the same with Mark Ronson, but I’m sure he can play one or two instruments…
What’s the process of remixing for bands?
If you do it without permission, it’s a bit of a rogue thing – I still do that if I like a song – but for the most part now, I do official remixes where they contact me. Now I’m actively getting requests each week and it’s quite cool. I don’t say yes to everything and obviously we work out fees, but sometimes I do favours so it’s quite an open thing. I just do what I want and sometimes remix for money.
So, how did the Childish Gambino remix come about?
CHILDISH GAMBINO followed me on Twitter and posted something on his blog about one of my tunes – he said something like “It’s so dope, I wanna kiss it.” I thought it was cool because this dude was a big hipster at the time and wrote for “30 Rock” so it was a big deal for me. I even met the guy recently in Chicago and warmed up for him – I got to meet him and say thank you… he’s so cool.
What stands out as your favourite show to have played?
In terms of crazy and silly good, it was Music Hall of Williamsburg in New York. I think 800 people turned up which isn’t that many, but it looked really big and a hundred people got up from the crowd and got on the stage – it was insane. There’s a video on YouTube of everyone on stage dancing, some of them pretty badly. They were dancing around me, and this is when I used to use an MPD for live performances so I’m just there hoping nobody knocks my equipment over. It went really well, I’ll always remember that show.
Last year you toured the US with Shlohmo – how do you know him?
I know SHLOHMO just because I was a fan and I asked him to come on tour with me, and he said yes! We met him at the airport… we hadn’t even met before that point. This is the great thing about music – when you’re a fan of someone, you can curate your own tour. If you’re headlining, it’s like a dream because you can take who you want on tour with you. You spend a lot of time in the van together and get to know each other.
How do you feel about the Manchester music scene?
The Manchester scene is not so much a scene as a few cliques – a few club nights that are doing their own thing. Like HOYA:HOYA has two great DJs working for them: Krystal Klear and Illum Sphere. Also, we have a lot of people rolling through from everywhere, because from September until New Year we have the huge warehouse event THE WAREHOUSE PROJECT. The lineup seems to change every year so it’s a different vibe each time, and the artists are always A-listers so you do see quite a lot of big names rolling through.
Who played the last Warehouse Project you went to?
The last one I went to had a lot of older people like Basement Jaxx and Todd Edwards in the smaller rooms, then Madeon in the big room, and lots of big EDM stuff. That’s a good thing I think. There are three different rooms so you can see whoever you want, but I spent my time in the small room.
So, tell me about Jet Jam, the club night that you organise…
JET JAM is something I kind of started by accident. I met some people in Slovenia, at my second ever show in Europe – they were both visual artists and booked me to play a party they were throwing and playing visuals at. I made friends with them and came back to meet them just for a mini-holiday. We all love travelling so we wanted a party we could throw anywhere we go. So far we’ve done five Jet Jams so far in Lubiana, Seattle, New York, LA and London, but we plan on doing more this summer. And I’ve released two mix tapes to promote Jet Jam parties.
What is the best thing about what you do?
It’s quite simple and obvious, but the best thing is you make a living doing what you enjoy. But because I can be grumpy just like anybody else, I have to stop a minute and think about how good my life is, how amazing it is that I can travel and it doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore – coming to Japan for work didn’t seem like a big deal and I’m just really thankful.
How do you think the music industry is doing, with the collapse of major labels and saturation of Internet artists?
I think it’s definitely suffering a little bit, but it’s just changing. There’s so much new stuff that people are obsessed with, like iTunes and Spotify, and I’m no different – I’m obsessed with technology so I listen to it – but it’s pretty sad for physical sales. But the truth of the matter is people still want to see live music.
For a few years, your music was available online for free – is that still the case?
There was a link to it on my website but not anymore, because people have been buying it and I’ve been making a decent income just from being on iTunes. But, you can still get it for free and I’m not taking that down. I put some of the later stuff on labels, but you don’t get as much money from that because they have to cover costs. So before you get signed to a label, I think it’s good as a producer to put out your own music, put it on iTunes via a distribution service like Tunecore. You don’t need a label to be on iTunes now, so you should do that. I think you get the majority of the royalties – you get like 70% of each track. I think I sold 200,000 on iTunes, which is good.
So what other advice do you have for budding DJs and producers?
Just put out as much music as you can to gain attention, because essentially you’d be lying if you said you didn’t want attention – you want to seek it. I watched a documentary on a guy, a photographer, who’s only just becoming popular and he’s now 80 or so. He doesn’t regret it, but I would totally regret it. He let his flat become cluttered with paintings and someone discovered it. I think he was also the first colour photographer, so he had photos and negatives up to the ceiling. I would totally go mental with that lifestyle. Don’t become old and jaded and forget what you wanted – I think you should definitely go for everything while you can.
[tabs tab1=”Intro” tab2=”Japan” tab3=”Industry” tab4=”Tour & Music” tab5=”Message” count=”5″]
SHATTERJAPAN catches up with Derwin of GOLD PANDA in Shinjuku at the Tokyo offices of major entertainment company YOSHIMOTO KOGYO. Our interview is held in a small conference room, and upon entering I’m met by a table littered with empty packets of (fittingly) Panda Pocky and Calbee snacks. Derwin is seated behind, unassuming and smiling, and apologizing for having his laptop on the table to keep in touch with his girlfriend. After a quick chat about shopping in Harajuku, we get down to the business of life in Japan, anime and electronic music.
Welcome back to Tokyo! How does it feel to be here again?
It’s always good to be back! I just feel like I don’t see enough of Japan when I’m here though. I always just see Shibuya – it’s good, but I end up just drinking.
You used to live here – when was that?
I don’t even remember the exact date now, but it was maybe 2004. I came here on a working holiday, but couldn’t really find anything that I wanted to do so ended up teaching English – I did “eikaiwa” companies and stuff… I don’t know anything about English, I was just teaching to fund my travels, but then I didn’t travel so it just went towards funding “izakayas” (traditional Japanese pubs) and that was it really. When I went back to the UK, I went to university in London and studied Japanese – I did it completely the wrong way around.
I live in Berlin now, so I’ve been trying to learn German. I made an effort for a while taking classes, because I thought it’d be really easy after Japanese, that I’d just pick it up, but I think as you get older you have to really sit down and study. Because I had such an interest in Japan, I had a desire to learn the language, but with German I don’t have any, other than to help me with my daily life.
What spurred your love of Japan in the first place?
Ah, that was manga, well anime – “AKIRA” mainly. That was the main thing for a lot of people I think, especially in the UK, because we only had about four films for ages, like “AKIRA” and “FIST OF THE NORTH STAR.” I can’t remember what the other ones were. That was all there was, and I wanted to find out more. I must’ve been 12 when I saw “Akira” – I was like, “Why aren’t all cartoons like this?!” I was watching “Dogtanion.”
Has your time in Japan influenced you?
Yeah, it’s definitely influenced me musically – the atmosphere and certain sounds have definitely come out in my music as a result of being in Japan.
I don’t know about personality-wise. It’s probably harder to see that now. I think when I was here for a year, I got annoyed that people sometimes weren’t straight with me, that they didn’t say what they were really thinking – whether they actually wanted to have a beer with me or if they were just being polite. But, I eventually found out who my friends were. It was difficult. Especially let’s say 10 years ago, it was – and it still is maybe – a novelty to be a foreigner or to have a gaijin friend. It can be quite weird for some people.
Would you ever consider coming back to Japan to live and operate from here?
Yeah! I wouldn’t mind. I’ve never been to Kyushu – I should really go. I’d like to do maybe 6 months or something – that would be cool – and not do shows, just come here to do something else, travel around and see places that I’ve wanted to see but have never seen.
But for touring, it would be so difficult… I don’t think I could live here for a long period of time, because there are so many shows and opportunities to do shows in Europe. Here, no-one’s going to pay for a flight for me from Tokyo or Osaka. Whereas if I’m based in Berlin, it’s easier for me to just go and do Italy or Switzerland on a Friday or Saturday night and be home by Sunday morning.
Touring is a priority because it’s the only way for me to make money. I’m not forced to do it, I could get a job I guess, but you do expose new people to your music all the time by doing it, and yeah that’s my main source of income. I do make money from selling music and it being played on radio stations around the world or whatever, but it’s not enough to live on. Maybe like 20 years ago, I would’ve made a lot more, but not now.
How did you get into music in the first place?
My uncle was making music – he was a producer – and when I was 15, he gave me an Atari and a sampler that had 10 seconds of sample time. I was really into hip hop, so I started sampling my dad’s records with no idea what I was doing. Then I got more and more into it. I had friends who were really into hip hop, and they’d buy all the rare funk records that were basically responsible for a lot of hip hop in the 90s. I couldn’t afford any of those records, so I just went to thrift stores and charity shops and bought used records, really bad stuff. But in turn, I found my own way of making music, using samples that were less obvious and more treated, I guess, with equipment.
Yeah it just went on from there, really. I never had the confidence to send music to anyone or send demos out, and then I was saved by Myspace. You could just upload your music to the Internet, and you could kind of create your own page for people to see. I don’t know what would’ve happened otherwise. I can definitely thank my Myspace page for my current state, because that’s how I was contacted by management and labels.
There was definitely a Myspace golden age where labels were like, “We don’t have to go through demos anymore, we’ll just go online! If they’ve got loads of views, it’s like guaranteed success.” I think Myspace had its time but now it’s gone. I mean there’s SoundCloud and Bandcamp, but I think labels are less interested because people can generate money now themselves. Labels want to generate money for you and take a percentage.
How do you feel about the state of the music industry now, particularly with the dominance of the Internet?
The Internet is like its own worst enemy in a way. Everyone loves it until they want to make some money from it and find out they can’t. It doesn’t devalue music, but there’s so much out there, it’s hard to know where you should be listening or putting your money if you need to. I don’t know, I don’t buy digital music, and I don’t download it for free either, so I guess I’m not really in the argument.
I buy vinyl, like old records, to sample and make music, but I also enjoy records – I’ve always loved buying vinyl, so now I’ve got an excuse to buy more vinyl, to make more music, and at the same time I can buy new records by people I like. I’m just terrible with digital music because I was into physical copies so much. Maybe if I was 10 years younger, I’d just have everything on a hard drive but I like to have something physical – I still buy VHS.
How has the UK industry changed since you were getting established?
There are definitely more people in hoodies pressing buttons on stage and not doing much, which I’m partly responsible for. I think I got lucky because it was at a point where electronic music became popular again, because rock music and bands got boring in the UK, so I was definitely lucky there. I think UK dance music is super interesting and has really good stuff, but unfortunately with the Internet, there’s another 200 versions of Burial every week which you have to sift through, so that’s not so good. But there’s always someone doing something interesting that attempts to push dance music as a whole in a certain direction – I think we can be proud of that.
You’ve been touring pretty extensively recently, how’s that been going?
Good, I’ve just done New Zealand and Australia, Singapore on the way here. I guess you can’t really call it one big tour, because I’ve not been going from one place to another – I get to go home in the middle for a week or so. But it does end up pretty much feeling like you’re doing it all the time because there are so many weekend shows. So if you fly out on a Thursday morning, then you play Friday, Saturday and you’re back on Sunday, every week. If you tour a country like America you have to stay there a whole month… it gets pretty knackering.
Any specific challenges or highlights?
Melbourne was good. There are highlights and low points all the time, and they happen so often that you tend to forget or it just gets mashed into one memory. Mexico was pretty bad, the show was great but it was my first show with a new setup, and everyone’s like, “Oh, we’ve got this show for you in Mexico, so just go there and practise.” I get there, and it’s like 4000 people in a field, and it was just a mess because I hadn’t practiced properly. But also at the same time, I was able to find out what the problems were and go on with it. My live set’s forever changing, so I’m never set with just one setup – there are always new machines.
A particular high point? Playing on a beach to 50 people in the Philippines in an electrical storm with water coming down… and then playing in Detroit on a massive stage in front of like 7000 people at a festival called Movement, and you can see Canada across the water from the stage.
I prefer smaller gigs, like 200-500 capacity. Anything more, especially anything over 1000 gets lost, I think, because I’m not an artist that has a huge visual element, so I can’t rely on that to entertain people, and if the venue’s too big, people can’t see what you’re doing and in turn they think that the music should be almost like a DJ set, like really solid and danceable – it’s hard to show people that you’re playing live and not DJing. There are all these factors that affect it, so I prefer smaller gigs where it’s a bit more intimate, where people can see me and I’m at a similar level. I don’t like being on a big stage above people.
“Quitters Raga” is one of your most popular tracks. Did you have any idea that it was going to be so big? And did you produce it any differently from the others?
I solely used a laptop to make that track, which I never did before and haven’t done since, and so it’s made in a certain way that it’s just impossible to play live. The only way I do that track is just playing off the laptop. I’ve kind of given up on trying to make it live. But yeah, I had no idea it was going to be on every blog ever. Actually, in terms of success, “You” from the album afterwards was a hundred times bigger for me than “Quitter’s Raga,” which is lucky because I don’t own the sample in “Quitter’s Raga.” That’s why it’s kind of an underground thing. I never want to do the same track twice – I’ve never made a similar track and I don’t think I ever will. There are elements of it I actually do want to repeat, but I don’t want to do the same track again.
You’ve got new album “Half of Where you Live” coming out, when can we expect that?
I think it’s 5 June in Japan and 10 June in England. It’s being announced on 15 April with a lead track called Brazil. There’s another album I’m releasing here which is a collection of tracks “In Sequence” which basically all came out in America and the UK, but it’s hard to get in Japan because it’s vinyl, so we compiled it and released it here on CD, because they’re keen on CDs here.
Do you have any message of advice for upcoming producers and DJs?
Yes. Spend time perfecting what you’re doing before you go out and start doing it. Definitely! And think about what you’re doing, think about the music you’re making in terms of whether that’s the music you really want to do or if it’s just the music that’s popular at the moment. I think a lot of people make the mistake of putting their foot in something that they’re not really that much into, or they won’t be into in a few years. Especially with the whole post-dubstep future garage thing, I think people are so excited that they can make music at home on a computer, they’re not sure if they’re really into it or they really want to do it.
Oh and pick a good name – not a shit one like Gold Panda! I just put an animal and a colour together, and Gold Panda was the one that stuck. It worked out though, people like it more than I do, and I can’t change it now.
The cheery box office lady is shivering away as the night chills settle in on Liverpool’s legendary venue The Kazimier. We’re taken aback as we struggle through the dense crowds who are soaking up support band THE LEISURE SOCIETY. Eager gig-goers line the staircases and fill the balconies from end to end. As they filter to the bars during the break, we take time to admire the glorious design of the venue which has something of a theatrical atmosphere, the intimate layout giving the feel of crowds leaning into or even onto the stage. Continue reading BETH ORTON: Back on the road and back in Liverpool’s heart
[tabs tab1=”Intro” tab2=”Career” tab3=”Manchester & Tokyo” tab4=”Industry” tab5=”MSG” count=”5″]
MÉLANIE PAIN, known for her many vocal ventures with trendy new wave collective NOUVELLE VAGUE, is a French singer-songwriter in her own right, who now follows up her debut album “My Name” with her new “Just A Girl” EP, in anticipation of her upcoming second album “Bye Bye Manchester” due to arrive in September. The EP includes the brilliantly synthy chanson “7 ou 8 fois” which we discover is about overcoming fear of failure and not giving up, and of course the poppy “Just a Girl.”
Mélanie chose Manchester as her muse for her second album, spending 2 months in the city to gather inspiration for her writing. She has a deep affection for the city and its musical history, and has earned the respect and loyalty of many a Mancunian gig-goer.
Her live performances on this tour are backed by a drummer Julien Boyé and guitarist Guillaume Zeller. Singing in French and English works to her benefit as her husky-yet-silky vocals complement the two languages, and she demonstrates superlative showmanship skills as she gets the UK crowds engaged and wanting more at the end of her set. She has a natural allure and confidence on the stage, but there’s nothing remotely diva about her slick persona, and she’s great with the fans who she loves connecting with.
Today, we meet backstage at Leeds Brudenell Social Club. Clambering past the pool tables which have been tidied away in the Games Room to make way for her makeshift stage (she’s been bizarrely moved from the larger room, due to a certain Ms. Orton’s booking issue and sudden emergence on the night), I arrive to the sight of a mini table-tennis setup (they tour with it to relieve backstage boredom) and a footy match projected onto the wall. The atmosphere is very laid back, the band are more than accommodating, and Mélanie is utterly charming and ready to get down to brass tacks, including talk about her music, the industry and her love of Japanese food. Take it away, Mlle Pain…
Where in France did you grow up?
I was born in the North of France and lived in Normandy for 10 years. And then I moved to the South where I spent another 10 years, then moved to Paris.
So, where is “home” for you?
Nowhere, really… but I feel France is my country. I never go back to Normandy where I was born – I have no more family there, so it doesn’t even mean anything to me. I did all my studies in Aix-en-Provence, so that’s the more active period of my life…
And you studied Political Science back then. Although you’re doing very different things now, I assume that there are some overlaps and you’re still pretty passionate about social issues?
Yeah! I’m really interested in all the communication aspects of it. Music is communication. I was really into all the semantics and all the fields of study, power of words and everything in politics. I find it really interesting in the live shows how I communicate to people. I need to be very natural, but it has to pull the audience in. It’s a bit of diplomacy – you don’t want to be too much in their face, you don’t want to be too distant, so it’s interesting.
So, your studies were useful to your career?
Yeah, for sure!
I have to ask this, as Margaret Thatcher has just passed: Nobody talks much in the UK these days about France or what France thinks of Britain, but just from your perspective and studies, what did you learn about that side of British politics and that era?
Yeah, there was a lot of stuff about what she did in the Falklands, the economic stuff. But for us, she was a bit like Reagan – they were the two characters. For us at the time, we were on the ‘right’ side of politics, but we were moving to the ‘left’ and you could really feel the change. It felt like England was stuck on the ‘right’ economic side of things.
You’ve mentioned that you’re an ‘accidental’ musician, but what’s your creative process?
It’s finding something like this (plays a drumbeat on her portable Casio synth) then adding the bass (bass line enters) – I need a beat and a bass line, and often start with a vocal melody, then try and move together the rest. I usually start with melody and lyrics, then work on the chords and the instruments, but it’s not easy for me. Musicians know which chords are going to sound good, but I’m there trying everything and “I guess this one!”
And your English is so good – where did you learn it?
I was learning English the whole time, from the time I was 12 until I finished Political Sciences, and I had lots of stuff to do in English. Also, touring with Nouvelle Vague really improved my English – I was touring a lot with them and English was the common language.
When you’re composing, do you write in both languages, or are there things you can express in one language better than in the other?
Yeah. I used to know when I’d start a song if it was going to be in English or in French. And it’s a bit weird now because it’s all kind of confused – I thought I understood why this song is in English and this song is in French but now it’s all messed up. I always thought that, for me, French is very intense, with deep meanings, very personal, and English for me is like I can groove more, I can really work on different aspects, do pop songs just about the sound of the words, backed in the rhythm.
English is like another instrument for you, I guess…
Yeah, exactly! But it’s not like this in French because it doesn’t really sound very good, so you have to really work on your lyrics, make them work with the music, and the meaning is really important for me, because it’s mine. My English is good, but I can’t say things in hundreds of ways – I have an idea, I write it down and it’s like, “Sounds good…” In French, it’s like, “Okay, I have an idea and there’s 10 ways I can express this!” I still need both languages, because even in the live shows, it’s good to go through a sad song in French and then go to a very fresh, pop English one.
Now, the inevitable question of what it’s like being a solo artist compared to being in a band – have you noticed different pressures involved?
I think Nouvelle Vague is a bit special because it’s not a band – it’s really a concept and collective, so you come and you go. There are two producers and you bring everything with you, your ideas and stuff, but it’s not really your band. They ask you how you want to do this and you say “yes” or “no” – there’s no pressure. So for me, Nouvelle Vague is really cool because I’ve got all the pleasure to go on tour and sing amazing songs and all the new wave classics, and you don’t have the pressure to think, “Why am I here?” When I do my solo stuff, it’s more like I have an ambition, I have an idea of where I want to be on stage and what I want my album to sound like. Nouvelle Vague is a really pure holiday – I go, I sing and it’s good!
And the solo stuff is more personal, right? It’s stuff you’ve worked on yourself for a long time…
Yeah, it’s my story, and I feel more in control of what I’m doing – I know exactly every choice and I know why, so it’s really more rewarding.
You have an EP coming out now and a second album later in the year – do you find that the more you write, the more your style transitions?
Well, for me, it’s really the beginning of me as a writer, as a composer – I’m really excited because I really like what I’m doing now, but I have no idea how I’m going to evolve. I am very happy with this album, it’s really a new step for me compared to the first album, and the sound is really what I want. A lot of stuff is taken directly from my demos that I did with this little keyboard, and we just added real drums and everything on top of it. But it was really about the sound – I think you can hear it tonight as well – it’s really coherent and personal. I’m a big, big fan of all these kind of ‘toy’ sounds.
You did Manchester last night – how was that?
It was really good! It was really emotional, because it means a lot to me to begin the tour in Manchester and remember all this time I spent there, writing the songs, and now coming back, delivering the songs. I was amazed, people were very quiet – I know English crowds and I usually get myself ready to have a very noisy, drinking crowd! But the show last night was really quiet and really good fun.
So, it was quite intimate – tonight’s venue might be a bit rowdier…
Yeah, might get the drunk people tonight!
You wrote your second album in Manchester – how long were you there for?
It was like 2 months, but I went back to Paris a few times, because I have a baby boy and I was trying to get my baby and boyfriend over.
So, you spent most of your time on your own?
Yeah, I really had to have some time by myself, because I really didn’t know if I was able to write anything good. I became a singer a little bit by accident and I kind of decided that I really wanted to write my own stuff. I’m not a musician – it’s really hard for me – and when I’m in Paris, it’s impossible to have this space to just focus and work on a song for 5 days.
People often underestimate the musical impact of the late 70s and 80s in Manchester – electronics and a lot of experimentation. Now it’s kind of coming back and you’re inputting those sounds. A lot of people appreciate that because that era kind of ended too quickly. Are you feeling connected to that era, especially having spent time in Manchester?
I can really imagine the first synthesizer, or like when Depeche Mode got their first one, when Martin Gore was just discovering a new synth with all these sounds and all the possibility. It’s amazing, and it’s really about sound – it’s not about the way you play it. It’s not like a guitar, it’s really about the deepness of the sound or the delay, the echo, the reverb and the texture. And yeah, I feel connected because I think, on my little small level, I was really interested to just discover that and create from this and not just from the amazing playing of a guitar.
Talking about overseas travel, you toured in Asia with Nouvelle Vague – and you went to Japan?
I went to Tokyo, yeah!
What do you remember about it?
I remember I just wanted to go back! The food was so good! I remember the kind of craziness in the streets. I felt like everyone was going somewhere with a very specific purpose. It was so weird with all of those personalities – you’d cross a gothic person then someone completely different – it’s so crazy! We were really jetlagged, but I remember we were thinking, “Oh! What’s that?!” It was very different – high speed, high personality people – at least in Tokyo.
Do you remember the gig and the atmosphere at all?
Well the gig was a bit special because it was a showcase – it was not really in a proper venue.
It’s funny, because the producer (for Nouvelle Vague) called me one day and said, “Okay, I heard that you sang for your friend, and I really want you to sing on my new project.” I came to the studio for the first time, and he said, “Okay, this is the mic, here are the headphones – it’s a small project called Nouvelle Vague and it’s gonna sell a few records in Japan, because they follow this.” And it was actually the only country where Nouvelle Vague didn’t get anything! It’s weird, because he was saying, “Yeah, nobody will be interested in Europe, but maybe Japan will like it…” and he was a bit wrong about that!
Maybe it was the era? These days, there’s a bit of a trend for 80s synth music over there. And you know what it’s like in Japan, when they get into something, they go completely crazy for it, so things could be different now…
I hope so, I hope so!
Do you think that now is a good time for female solo artists? It seems to be in the UK at the moment, but maybe only for certain styles of music…
It’s not a good time in France – in France, it’s a good time for male artists at the moment! Because for maybe 10 years in France, there have been so many female singers getting really big. But, it’s good in England?
Yeah, there are lots of female solo artists coming up, doing mostly singer-songwriter pop or folk – it’s a lot blander than say in the 80s, but at least they’re visible to an extent. We’re in a period where female artists are embraced but only in certain ‘safe’ areas. Being a female artist, did you notice any difference in how you were treated over the years?
I didn’t really see a difference, but I was always very lucky, because Nouvelle Vague was kind of a collective of lots of female singers, and people were coming to the shows who could really identify with this – you know, lots of female singers onstage with a very feminine way of doing covers – so it was always easy for me, because people associate Nouvelle Vague with women. And I have the same kind of vibe for my solo project – it’s very feminine, and I try to be very natural and spontaneous and not really try and invent anything.
So what’s going on in France that women are not coming up as solo artists?
I think it’s just a media issue. There were so many new female singers over the last 10 years – like a lot – and they only had one name, like ‘Camille.’ And you’ve got the media thinking, “That was the new generation of girls, and it’s over now – now it’s the new generation of male singers.” It’s really interesting – I had a talk with a radio plugger and he was like, “It’s a bad time for you…”
I suppose in a way your connection to the UK is a good thing – you’ve benefited from moving around…
Well, the great thing with Nouvelle Vague is that I have access to a lot of markets – my album is already out in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany… Not so many French artists who are indie, like me, and small, get access to all of those countries.
Do you feel that you’ve learned a lot through your experience with Nouvelle Vague about how the industry works and the networks?
Yes, it’s about the networks. It’s a lot of touring, so I meet all these people with Nouvelle Vague, and they remember me – I’ll see them a few times and they say, “Okay, I want to sign your solo stuff because I like it!”
And they trust you because they already know you…
And I trust them, so it’s really easy. But really today, the industry is… (laughs) it’s really ‘despair’ – the big labels, everyone doesn’t know what to do…
This is globally speaking?
Yeah, I’m talking about the music industry. I think a lot of big labels with big money have completely lost it – they don’t have a clue what’s going to happen and how they’re going to work it out. I see stories of them spending so much on studios and stuff, and old fashioned kind of media – they don’t do anything on the web and I find it completely crazy.
There’s a big resistance by the established labels…
They don’t know what to do! I feel like I see them, and I talk to them and they’re just completely stuck – they’re paralysed, they’re scared of losing the power, the money and everything.
And yet, from what I hear, the big labels are losing their money, their control over the artists…
Of course! And I think they’re so scared of losing money that they just don’t do anything, They’re like, “Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck…” And you’ve got all these small labels that are fighting and they don’t have any money, but they have ideas – I’ll have a meeting with them and they say, “Yeah, I’ve really listened to that and it makes me feel like this.”
So, at least the independents are paying attention to what artists can do. Do you feel like independent labels are the way to go?
Well, for me it’s the way to go, anyway – I’m not a commercial project, I feel like I’m really more indie, so an indie label is perfect. I’m so glad I’ve signed with Fierce Panda in England – really glad. And I signed with the same kind of label in Germany and in France as well, and it’s really good – it’s people I like to talk to, and step by step it’s hard, but I’m here, in Leeds, and I have a new album coming out, so it’s good!
A lot of artists I’ve talked to recently say the same thing – they feel more comfortable with a small team, because you can talk to them about any issues, and you don’t feel isolated. But, as a solo singer, is there ever a moment where you feel on your own, like you wish you had that collective to turn to? How do you handle that?
I really have these feelings a lot… but at the same time, it’s really good to be by yourself and just find the resources. Like, okay it’s hard, but you’re just going to do it because you have to do it – no-one can do it better than you, anyway! This feeling is good and makes you really go forward.
And you chose to have a long period away from your family at one point. Not a lot of artists spend time alone these days – it requires a real commitment and understanding of what you want to achieve, a certain bravery…
Well, I made some hard choices, like I really had a really good job, having a lot more money than I do now. Before I became a singer, I had a job in Paris – I’d probably be richer now. I did the first show with Nouvelle Vague and felt so much on stage like, “Oh my god, I’m here! It’s here, it’s now! It’s like nothing else matters now…” so I made the choice to just quit my job and go for the risk and an adventure. And I do it now as well – I’m investing a lot on all those tours and my family and everything.
But I’m very lucky because my partner is also a musician, so he understands and really helps me. I go, and when I come back he’s going on tour for 3 weeks, so it’s really balanced. But I think it’s really hard when you don’t have a partner who can really help you do that. He really pushes me like, “Yes, go to Manchester!” and he doesn’t make me feel guilty – he’ll say, “Yes, this is great!”
I’m impressed with your positive approach – it would be so easy in between your work with Nouvelle Vague to take breaks, but you’re actually making concrete time to do your solo work. What keeps you going? And do you ever have moments of doubt?
Well, I don’t really have those moments. I really know that I’m here because that’s what I love to do – write songs and then go on tour with those songs. It’s really what I want to do – play all those songs live and share them with people. And every gig is different, every city is different… I’ve got this really big chance with Nouvelle Vague – one minute I’m in Bali to play an amazing show in an amazing resort, where we go for one week to have a holiday and do a show, but then we go on tour in Eastern Europe in a really crappy tour bus. It really makes me feel like it’s always surprising and always challenging for me: “Okay, yes this is very easy, great!” then “Okay, this is very hard, good.” Life is a challenge and it’s interesting.
What advice would you give to people who are in the same position as you were when you made that leap to leave your job and go on tour?
I think you really have to try. And my new album “Bye Bye Manchester” is all about this – all the songs on there are about this feeling that you’re going to try something six, seven or eight times, you’re about to change, about to leave, about to do it, but one day you do it and that’s the important moment. Even if you never change anything in your life, you have to keep trying. And what I learned is to be very patient, and wait for the right moment and the decision will be made for you. You just have to feel it, and it’s going to come when it’s time.
Having unfortunately missed MÉLANIE PAIN at Manchester’s Deaf Institute the day before, I head to Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club to savour the French solo artist more broadly known as one of the singers of trendy music collective NOUVELLE VAGUE. Feedback from the Manchester show suggests that this is a talent to watch and that her movement towards more synth-oriented tracks is definitely a sign of exciting developments in the singer-songwriter’s career. Continue reading MÉLANIE PAIN proves that she’s no accident
On Tuesday night, SHATTERJAPAN was lucky enough to catch elusive post-rock group GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR (GY!BE) at Ebisu Liquidroom, Tokyo. This genre-defining group from Canada formed in 1994, and has since released a mere four albums and one EP due to a seven-year hiatus from 2003 to 2010. The band’s latest effort, a four-track album entitled “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” emerged last year into the welcome arms of fans and to rave reviews from critics everywhere. Continue reading GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR bring instrumental genius to Tokyo
On Friday night, SHATTERJAPAN joined hundreds to witness post-punk veterans PUBLIC IMAGE LTD. (PiL) at Shibuya AX in Tokyo. To open the show, lead singer John Lydon (of SEX PISTOLS fame) walked out onto the stage, arms open in triumph to the fervent applause of the crowd. The band played a hearty two-hour set – a feat easily attained by a band boasting 9 albums – and the crowd didn’t hesitate to show their appreciation during their most popular tracks, wholeheartedly joining in for the likes of “This is not a love song,” “Public Image” and “Disappointed.” Continue reading PiL get passions raging in Tokyo