Music

The Monster Inside

An Interview with Woodkid
by Lauren Gee

We spoke to Woodkid ahead of his album release S16. Speaking openly on the nuances and challenges that come with contemporary masculinity, vulnerability collides with cinematic brilliance in an album that is a bold announcement of Woodkid’s multiple creative talents. Conjuring up the sublime through his strong and unwavering voice, S16 is an insomniac tale of distress and redemption, the tangible catharsis of this body of work, undeniably magnetic.

Lauren Gee: What was the inspiration behind this album?

Woodkid: First of all I wanted to make an album that was somehow industrial, I’m not really sure what that meant at the time but I knew that it was triggering some visual and sonic ideas for me, and at the same time I needed to make an album that was a reflection of my mood at the time. That was centred around the idea of deconstruction, learning new things and doubt. Something that is a thread throughout the entire record, is this idea of doubting and asking for help at the same time. It is an album that talks a lot about the beauty that there is in resilience and in the act of asking for help. I actually started the record right after the Paris attacks in 2015. So very early 2016 I started working on the record and wrote the first songs.

LG:There is something very cinematic about this album, each song feels very climatic and emotional, I can imagine it as a soundtrack to a very intense film, is this a reference you were aware of?

WK: First of all I worked with an orchestra, I think it definitely gives no matter what you do a cinematic quality. And it's also in my DNA, it’s my job, I am a film director, I always have images in my head and I want music to serve these images somehow. So I think it is out of my control really, whatever I do I get moved by music that triggers images.

LG: You have such a strong connection with the moving image through the visuals you create, what role does cinema and the moving image have in the music you create?

WK: Alot! I always have big images in my head from the films I love, I always have feelings, textures and emotional textures from films in the back of my head. Actually I have more film references than I do music references, for example Jonathan Blazer, Akira Kurosawa, there’s always some images that are just floating around, even some 2001 A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of The Third Kind somewhere. There are always these big visions of other cinematographers in my head.

LG: This album for me really conjures up a sense of the sublime, the scale of the world against the individual human, how did you manage to construct this sense of vastness in your music? 

WK: I think by temporal contrast, which means the construction of moments of silence and massiveness, progression and breaks and always trying to write things as a very deconstructed and fragmented piece, which I think is very evocative of the collisions and the fragmentations of the world and the pressure of these massive forces that are around us. I think also singing love songs, because they are very intimate love songs, but always adding a layer visually but also sonically, almost like the world and the force of the world speak to the individual trajectories of humans. There is always a thread and a connection between the very intimate and the massive, that there is probably connections between doubt and fear of the future, and the blues of the world that we all have inside. There's also probably a connection between the environmental challenge and the massive crisis that we are facing, because I think there is a fractal resonance between us and the world and I think that's what I have really tried to do, you will see it in the next video too: I always talk about the intimate but put a narrative layer of infinity on top of it. 

LG: Your voice really feels like its guiding the listener in this album, were you conscious of taking on this role when you began writing 

WK: I definitely think I find more legitimacy in my voice being a leader vocally in my songs. With time I found more colors too and my palette has been widened since I toured and practiced more. Now I feel I have more tools to really tell a story, to use the right colors in my voice at the right time and try to be less systematic in the way I think. That allowed me to shut down the orchestra sometimes and turn the music down and just have the piano and vocals where my voice takes the lead and I just tell the story. 

Music

NAO At Paradiso

The effect of NAO’s sound, songwriting and stage presence can be firstly be described as physically impactful. Soul-splitting, heart-wrenching lyrics paired with a vocal ability on par with the R&B greats leave an unexpected bodily impression that hits you direct in the gut. Bold and boundless, NAO taps into all shades of the human experience in a honest, exposing way that escapes any risks of pretension or disingenuinity.

NAO very much takes the reigns of the show at Paradiso, Amsterdam, ensuring that the experience is truly a shared one, not merely a screen projected for the audience to neutrally detach from. Riffing with the crowd, she guides them through a full orbit of emotions, through every peak and trough, celebrating all the experiences symptomatic of the human condition. ‘A Life Like This’ and ‘Another Lifetime’ are particularly striking, stop you in your tracks and capture your heart.

This intensity would most certainly be too overwhelming if it were not for the dam-like burst of unrelenting joy in ‘Get To Know Ya’, ‘If You Ever’ and ‘Inhale/Exhale’ as NAO joyously bounces around the stage, actively engaging the audience to the point where you catch your unwitting grin begin to ache. ‘Drive and Disconnect’ is just effortlessly cool. This ability as a performer is only supported by an exemplary sense of musicality, phrasing and rhythm. Her vocal acrobatics are nothing short of impressive, particularly in the melismatic stretching from the piercingly high then dipping into a resounding, hearty register.

There is no sense of censorship or false cultivation. NAO genuinely feels like a passion artist, writing and singing for the sheer love of and need for it, relishing in the live experience and exhibiting a colorful, refreshing force of unshackled expression as she does so.

NAO is a English musician from East-London currently touring her second studio album around Europe, ‘Saturn’, the follow up to her debut ‘For All We Know’. Her style is self-described as ‘wonky funk’ fusing the electronic with the soulful. Having performed with the likes of Bon Iver, Lauryn Hill and Nile Rodgers to date, she has very early on established herself as a promising musician to look out for.


www.thisnao.com

Music

WOODKID - S16

LG: How do you approach song writing? 

WK: In January 2016, we went to the studio for 2 months, I started thinking about reverse engineering the record, to start with production, sound and mix, even before we had songs we started to look at the spectrum of sounds, we made digital instruments, we made a lot of different sounds and collected keyboard sounds that I liked and percussion we went to different studios to try and find rare instruments and transformed the sound we really explored the sonic spectrum of the record even before I had the songs so that I could really get inspired by the beats almost like I was a rapper and i would ask for instrumentals and beats that I could rap over.

LG: How did it feel writing this album, it sounds as though it would have been very cathartic? 


WK: I like to say the album is like a night of insomnia, where you go through all the spaces of doubt and delirium that comes with my state of slumber and you end with the day rising and suddenly everything becomes clear but you have to go through that cathartic, therapeutic moment where you make a big discovery and conscious analysis of the things that are good and bad about you. I think it's a very contemporary concept especially the concept of masculinity, what it is to be a man today, when you realize a lot of things you have been taught are probably wrong or not aligned with the world anymore, and there's actually a beautiful strength in admitting your fragility and your vulnerability and that there's a beautiful strength in asking for help and not doing everything by yourself and the idea of responsibility is not exactly what you think it is. I think it's very contemporary and it goes with the gender revolution and i really like that this album talks about that 

LG: How has coronavirus and the lockdown impacted your creative process, has it made you more or less productive? 

WK: The album was already finished by the time the coronavirus had started so it didn't really impact it, but it does impact the way i talk about it. I had a bit of a fear before I started the record, I didn't want to reduce it to an album that was talking about environmental questions or political questions but it is an album about the intimate and the personal, more talking about the monster inside than the monster outside. But the coronavirus and the lockdown kind of things back into perspective, I could talk about both at the same time, I think there's something very peculiar about confinement, it's a moment where the hyper intimate but also the outside world, the collective and the individual were being brought together. I then realized maybe it was time for me to be a bit more verbal in the emergence of my social and political thoughts and that maybe it was coincidental that my album was colliding with this moment in time. Maybe the album talked way more about the world than i thought it did and less about me than i thought it did.

LG: During this period, I feel like we've been given the luxury of time to reflect on ourselves and our work, has it made you want to change anything about your sound or your process? 

WK: Not really about the sounds, but really more about my vision and how I treat my music and how I position the music in that world. It's a very ambiguous point of view because it is at the same time being more realistic about the non-importance of what I do. Because when I have been in the environment of talking about the promotion of your record, there is something much more big going on in the world, it puts everything into perspective but at the same time if as an artist i make the conscious choice to make a record today, it can't ignore the world, it has to have a wider concept. 

LG: What does this album represent for you in terms of where you are personally in life and in your career? 

WK: It talks about me a couple years ago, It doesn’t talk about me now, I don't think I would be able to handle that record today if I was in the same state. I needed to heal, I’m thinking about mental health here. If I was too fragile about this I wouldn't be strong enough to speak about it and to go on tour and share it. Really it is a record that talks about the beauty of support and the beauty there is in being helped. In the song Horizons Into battlegrounds i say: “why do I love you more when i’m wasted I only welcome care when I’m wounded”, there's always this idea of needing someone and i think thats something thats pretty new in my life, relying on other people. 

LG: What does this album represent for you in terms of where you are personally in life and in your career? 

WK: Yes! I think what has really inspired me more than making that record is the pain that I went through, I know I don't want to go through that again. It even comforts me that if I make more music and I want to make more music, that it will be even more on my own terms. I won’t take so much time anymore, I think that time was needed because I was going through a severe depression and I had to take care and deal with it. Politically this idea of taking time is also important. I’ve realised I want to work around this idea of temporality, make more ep’s and singles.

Woodkid's new album S16 will come out October 16, 2020.

www.woodkid.com

Images by Collier Schorr 
All Rights Reserved

Music

Groove producer FKJ

A new generation of pioneering musicians is taking over! Contemporary artists like Tash Sultana, Jordan Rakei and FKJ (French Kiwi Juice) conquer the world as solo multi-talents with niche productions that often enclose multiple genres. They are a DJ, a producer and an artist all at once and continually explore their horizons by entering into surprising collaborations mostly based on improvisation.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, 27 year-old Vincent Venton (FKJ) from Tours, France gave two sold-out amazing one-man performances in Paradiso, Amsterdam. He can play almost every instrument both electric and acoustic with a focus on bass guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, saxophone, and he also has a modest jazzy voice. His oeuvre is influenced by electronic, rhythm and blues, soul, neo-soul, R&B, hip-hop, and even house. He already gave concerts at music festivals including EUPHORIA, CRSSD and Coachella.

FKJ seems to be in a very relaxed vibe during his performance. He does not talk or sing much; he just plays in a very sincere way. But when he sang live, it was more like he was talking, telling short stories. His keyboard and saxophone solos sounded like naturally improvised sessions that just aroused on the spot. FKJ recently jammed with fellow musician and producer Tom Misch at the Red Bull Studios in Berlin where “Losing My Way” got born. Last summer FKJ collaborated with Jamaican “traphousejazz producer” Micah Davis, better known as Masego (which means blessing in Tswana). “Tadow”was created, a piece of music that emerged from an undeniable shared chemistry.

Despite FKJ being alone, he looped his riffs and solos to give the illusion of a fully performing band of at least five members. While doing this, he mixed-in these earlier collaborations, giving the impression of Misch and Masego really being there. You also clearly hear that FKJ is touched and inspired by previous soul and jazz icons for example American R&B and disco singer Thelma Houston.

Making music is acting from the soul for FKJ. Rhythms are relatively simple and there is a lot of repetition, but the way in which all the layers flow into one another is the music of FKJ. Sit down, do not think about it, and do what feels right.

www.frenchkiwijuice.com

Music

TOOL: 'Fear Inoculum'

After fourteen long years, after legal battles and motorcycle crashes and cracked ribs, TOOL is back to remind us no one can do what they do. The LA rock group that formed in 1990, mythicized in Rock & Roll history with band members that happened to live above one another before being introduced by legendary guitarist Tom Morello, and over time even making a fan out of King Crimson’s guitarist, Robert Fripp, today delivers their fifth studio album under the title “Fear Inoculum”.

Fourteen years ago when they received awards and accolades for “10,000 Days” they were keen to write more music, even announcing that they’d begin writing for their fifth album “right away” on MTV. “10,000 Days” went platinum with songs like “The Pot” and “Vicarious”. They recorded instrumentation without Keenan, who planned to lay the vocals over their recordings once they were finished, as was their working method. In 2012 their website read that they were half way done with recording the album before vocals.

Then the worst happened, their drummer Danny Carey had broken multiple ribs in a motorcycle accident. Being that rhythm and varying time signatures were at the core of TOOL’s style, they had no choice but to give Carey as much time as he needed to recover fully. Adding to this unexpected hiatus in writing and recording they were mired in court battles since 2007 after an old acquaintance of the band that claimed he’d created the artwork for “10,000 Days”.

The distinctive rolling thunder of Justin Chancellor’s bass and twisted, theatrical machismo of Maynard Keenan’s vocals are not easily forgotten. Their fans never ever left. Not to mention their three-time Grammy winning guitarist Adam Jones. Their sound is rooted in technical perfectionism, being totally in sync within a totally insane song; some might refer to this as organized chaos. The writing process was everything to TOOL, after more than five thousand days they have delivered “Fear Inoculum”. After what feels like one of the longest waits in music history, TOOL reconnects with their fan base through this riveting seven-track project, hoping that their following will hear it with perked ears and little hairs standing upright on the back of their necks.

www.toolband.com

Music

News from another planet: King Krule performs live on the moon

Just stop for 30 minutes, wear your astronaut gear and let him overwhelm you with his warm voice and brazen sight.

As a matter of facts, Archy Marshall aka King Krule has relocated to the moon to record his latest music video, performing 8 tracks from the most recent album “The Ooz”. In a very short sequence, the video opens with the singer laying down on the bad looking at the moon, which is then mirrored in his blue eyes.

Afterwards, we find him wearing a space suit and the performance begins. Is it a dream or is it reality?

Over the years, the Londoner has been able to show the world an innate talent in experimenting with different music genres, which continuously float between punk, jazz, hip hop and loading them with an intensely dark sound.

Besides that, his fascination and approach to visual cultures expands the comprehension of his music, making its concept even more psychedelic and somehow referential. If Lizard’s state (2014) black and white video is an open tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, on the other way around, in “Dum Surfer”(2017) we are absorbed by a creepy scenario where both the band members and red curtains are reminiscent of David Lynch Twin Peaks’ character the Giant.

“Live on the moon” would perhaps recall another British dude who bring his music on another planet in 1969. Space oddity, anyone? There is a lot of material, though.

Yet originality lies in trasforming exhisting things in totally new ones, and Marshall is undoubetely trascending the more diverse languages to create his own style.

The turbulent soul will tour around USA starting from April, while for those like us who would love to see him live in Europe will have to wait because after all, he just started walking 6 feet beneath the moon.

The video can be watched on the webpage: oozdelalune.com

Music

'This World is Drunk': Raphael Saadiq

In this world of political unrest and earth’s seemingly hopeless decay, a voice cries out through the dark. The Oakland raised recording artist and multi instrumentalist, Raphael Saadiq has written songs for the brightest stars of R&B including Solange, D’Angelo, Whitney Houston and TLC. Even under the crushing weight of his three brothers and one sister passing, Saadiq embraced his passions, growing in maturity significantly since his introduction as part of the three-piece group ‘Tony! Toni! Toné!’. Saadiq grasped life in his hands and began shaping it with vigour and care until it mirrored his dream, we are now seeing the fruit Saadiq’s life force has bore, his first studio album release in eight years, 'Jimmy Lee'.

‘Jimmy Lee’ is a melancholic soundscape to the world’s incredibly dizzying turn, felt greatest by the world’s most vulnerable. In the same way as David Bowie used his music to observe and shape the world for better, Raphael Saadiq offers a spoonful of sugar to help digest the bitter medicine you might see on a newspaper headline or bearded face with creases running deep in sunburned skin of a homeless man holding a cardboard sign in downtown California that reads “dollar for a song”. There’s no greater tragedy than bad things happening to good people. If this is true then Saadiq is the best of us and his voice is a vital one to pay attention to in the 21st century.

On the song “This World is Drunk” Saadiq finds himself contemplating how lost, stretched out and estranged the life of an addict can be. The swimming chords drone in and out while high octave piano keys play out like the very heart strings they echo from. Music like this can get lost in the ocean of choices that streaming services offer up, there is a multitude of reasons not to miss this rare chance to better understand life and our world through music. “Jimmy Lee” throws the blame back on the endless rat race that corners good people to find their darkness and use it. Whether that darkness is a drug, a violence, lust, Raphael Saadiq reminds the listener bluntly “this world is drunk and the people are mad”.

www.raphaelsaadiqmusic.com

Music

The Smashing Pumpkins announce their "Shiny And Oh So Bright" Tour

Formed in Chicago 1988, The Smashing Pumpkins have marked a chapter for the history of alternative rock.

They released their debut album Gish in 1991, reaching mainstream success later on in 1993 and 1995 with respectively 4x multi-platinum Siamese Dream and 10x multi-platinum Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Overtime, they gained worldwide attention as well as influenced several groups for a very distinctive sound, exploring the more diverse genres and music styles, such as heavy metal, progressive rock, psychedelic rock and more recently electronica.

After several changes in their line up and 30 years later, the band has announced their “Shiny And Oh So Bright Tour”, which will be the first in nearly 20 years to feature founding members Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha, including also guitarist Jeff Schroeder.

Produced by Live Nation, the tour will feature material from their debut trough 2000 and kick off in Glendale, AZ on July 12, 2018 and North American arenas throughout the season.

At ZOO we wished it was already “Tonight, Tonight “, yet we’ll make a count down because we can’t wait for seeing them live this summer!