We're offering an exclusive stream
of M83's new album,
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming,
out October 18th on
Mute Records. Hazel Cills talked
to M83's Anthony Gonzalez about
and amazing five-year-olds.
So what inspired you to do a double album?
There are plenty of reasons, the first one is that I always have been fascinated with double albums since I was a teenager and I loved big, ambitious records. A good example is The Smashing Pumpkins' double album. I just felt ready to make one myself. I moved one year and a half ago to Los Angeles and I was just ready to make a big double album. It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid. We toured a lot for the previous album, Saturdays=Youth, and being on stage and traveling that much really gave me the confidence I needed to make a double album.
I know Saturdays=Youth was very much about the 80's and being a teenager. Does Hurry Up We're Dreaming also have a theme?
Yes, you will always find teenage themes in my albums. I'm really obsessed with my teenage years and all the albums I used to have and playing them over and over. This one is sort of a tribute to my childhood, to my memories of being a kid. I remember when I first moved to L.A., I was feeling very lonely and a bit lost and I started to remember when I was a kid and it kept me active. It was sort of this mix of nostalgia and melancholy but it was a happy feeling that kept me going.
The album artwork for your "Midnight City" single is pretty freaky! Can you tell me what inspired the album artwork for the "Midnight City" and Hurry Up We're Dreaming?
So the cover of "Midnight City" is kind of a crazy looking alien, a sort of mix of owls and E.T. and science fiction and fantasy movies like The Neverending Story. You know when you're a kid it's just so fascinating to be traveling through this imaginary world in a movie. I always liked that and I wanted to have that feeling with this album. So, we just asked a prop stylist to make it "crazy alien looking" and I think it works really well. I'm really happy with the cover.
I am constantly hearing critics describe "Midnight City" as one of the most "epic" tracks you've ever created. Do you think Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is the most epic album you've created so far?
I feel like my third album was very epic. For me, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is this soundtrack to an imaginary world in this imaginary movie. This is exactly what we tried to do, to make something very eclectic with a lot of different kinds and styles of music. The reason why we did that is because I didn't want like, a boring double album. We improvised and experimented a lot in the studio. It was just fun to work on this album, you know? When you work on a double album, there are no rules! You can do whatever you want and can create whatever you have in mind. What I like about being a musician is that I can take my creativity very, very far and that's what I think I did on this album.
Describe your song-writing and composing process for this album.
It's actually really basic because I always start my songs the same way. It's always like, I sit in front of my keyboards and my synthesizers and I start very simple melodies. Then I just add layers, layers and layers of tracks and other instruments. I'm not a classically trained musician and I learn music by myself pretty much. I would never consider myself a great musician. I feel like I can play a lot of instruments, but not very good. But I feel like my strength is that I have a very good vision of what I want. I know what I want and I know how to create it. This is the reason why I like to be in my studio because it's the perfect environment for me. I feel at home and I feel like I'm surrounded by my babies, all my synthesizers, and it just feels natural.
So how much of your musical equipment, or how many of your babies, did you use for Hurry Up, We're Dreaming? How does that compare to what you play on stage live?
We used a lot of instruments on this album. We used instruments we've never used before, like saxophone and acoustic guitar and flutes, brass and strings. It was a really cool and creative process. It was a way for us to try something different. I have never had an album where I used that many instruments but for this album I said to myself, just enjoy yourself making this album. This album is kind of a gift to myself. I just wanted to enjoy myself and I feel like you can hear that when you listen to this album. My instruments on stage are much more basic. You know, bass, guitar, electric instruments, and synthesizers with some other electronica elements.
I heard that you worked with Brad Laner from Medicine on this album?
Yeah, I was a huge fan of Medicine and my producer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, used to play in Medicine. He contacted Brad to sing on one of the songs of the album and it was a dream come true. All of a sudden I was playing and singing with my idols from when I was a teenager, Justin and Brad. It was just this unbelievable feeling playing with Justin and when you think about it, I was watching TV when I was 14 and watching Justin play with Beck. It was just so weird, in a good way.
Zola Jesus also makes an appearance on the song "Intro." Are you planning on working with her again in the future?
Totally, I really fell in love with her. She's just such a great artist and I've always been a fan of her work. She has something very unique in her voice. She doesn't sound like anyone else, that's exactly what I like about her. We met in L.A. and, I don't know, I was expecting someone very dark, but she's actually a very bright and funny person. I feel like we share the same vision for music together.
Are there any musical artists that you would love to collaborate with for a song?
There are tons of artists I would love to collaborate with. I'm really shy, so, it would totally never happen but I'd love to work with Brian Eno. He's one of the biggest artists alive. I love Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins, I'd love to work with Mogwai. If I made a complete list it would be way too long!
And as for the real star of this album, who is the lovely little kid featured on "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire?"
Her name is Zelly and she's Justin's daughter. She's amazing. She was five when she recorded this piece. I will always remember the first time I met Zelly. Justin was coming to work and he had to bring Zelly because he had to watch her. I didn't know this kid, I never met her, and she just came in screaming, "Hey Anthony!!! I'm so glad to meet you finally!!! Justin told me about you!!!" I mean, she was five and so tiny but she started talking to me for like 30 minutes about crazy stuff happening in her life. She was just so bright and I said "Oh my gosh, Justin, we have to use her."
If you could describe M83's sound in one sentence, what would you say?
Oh my god... that's... impossible. It's so hard! Some people like to call it dream-pop, but I don't really like that. I think my music is just the best way to express myself. I feel like if you listen to my music you almost don't need to talk to me to understand me. This is my way of communicating. The best way to describe my music is just saying, "It's me."