obadia interview
(june 2005)

Stéphane at Autres Directions in Music sent some music by Obadia, aka Stéphane. I made the obvious assumption. I was wrong. Different Stephane. This one lives in Sweden, not France. Don't look for the obvious with Obadia. The music you can download for free from www.autresdirections.net/inmusic and if you take my advice you'll do it straight away, obviously. It's called Where Does Dust Come From? and we liked it:

Easy. It's bits of shed skin. Where does this music come from? is the harder one. It's like Stéphane started out to make something on a glitch tip, but being a perfectionist, he couldn't get the glitches he wanted. So he put proper beats back in. Then that wasn't right either, so he cut all the beats in half. And that sounded good. So he précised all his samples and made a super-abbreviated breakbeat jam all of his own. Whips of scratch, snatches of vocal, grabs of guitar all mix in and out before you notice they were there and the spasmo beat punctuates itself with bass burps and bulbs. Somehow, listening to this gem of a record, you feel like you should be body-popping. Then you realise that you are and you look like a fool.

A couple of other discs followed, one by Nudist With Laptop that sounds like the Toys R Us orchestra attempting folk music from around Europe and tone experiments, and one by Rob Steady that sounds like Obadia with all the obvious bits removed. We like them as well. When I tried to contact Stéphane about an interview he didn't get back to me for ages. Then he said he'd been at the North Pole. Obviously.

What were you doing at the North Pole?

Visiting. My girlfriend and I wanted to feel isolated, we were hoping to see the Northern Lights too. Two nights before going home there was one. Impressive! I was out by 35 minus, looking at the agitated sky, with a childlike smile on my face.

Where did you stay?

In a small village called Abisko, far above the polar circle. I don't know if we can call that the North Pole, icebergs don't live there, just elks, reindeers, a huge frozen lake and white wide empty landscapes.

Are you Swedish? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Lyon. I still go there once in a while to visit my parents and a few inspiring persons I know who try hard to keep this city awake. A pretty live-oriented nerd-rock scene filled with gentle punks.

And your other selves, you've got three aliases I know about..

There are more. It's fun to invent identities and more interesting to me than refining some trademark. By now I enjoy exploring different directions, toying possibilities under different aliases.

Do you start with a name first or the music?

Both. I have a collection of names ready to be picked. I also collect titles. A few thousands titles of tracks that don't exist are sleeping on a hard-drive. I may not necessarily use them but it gives me a library to choose from while working on a track. Sometimes there's one matching or one contrasting with the sounds. I find it interesting how titles can actually change the context of a song significantly. For example the title of my new record was stored about 6 years ago. One connect things, like patching. But maybe unconsciously I'm inspired by some: the unused titles can become musical germs themselves.

I liked how you described your tracks on the Obadia release. You said that you chose some music that you wanted to make more like songs. What did you mean by that?

They are not songs but they are the most songlike tracks I made during this period. Stéphane from Autres Directions In Music helped me select these tracks which are hesitating between pleasant and experiment. Other pieces I've made during this period sort of tease that song format.

So how do you make your tracks?

In general I try to change the way of making not to fall into routine. It's always a bit empirical and unpredictable. I suppose there's a clearer logic behind but I'm looking somewhere else. I have the feeling that if I learn and repeat any trick or technique I'll be faking an effect and somehow the wonder, the excitement will be gone.

I also need to be isolated, I'm not comfortable with the idea of someone hearing that process, it's very intimate for me. I'm trying to stay available for accidents. They're like stuff you didn't know you could come-up with, they can teach you new things. I notice that I'm more willing to play with sounds that come from outside to start with, so I use fresh microscopic samples, sliced, hacked & modified until they become mine and well.. different. But then I can add real takes later on to bring my own mood, and I can sample myself jamming as well. It depends on the project. Some projects are 100% sample-free. There are no rules but in general I try to avoid too much automatization between me and the listener, I prefer saving the clumsyness from the programation.

But most of all I like to feel limited. I can easily feel overloaded by gears and technical possibilities. Making a track I find is somehow about shrinking possibilities, putting aside, combining and condensing a sort of chaos you like.The track is what's left in a way.

What kind of limitations do you set yourself?

That'd be cruel to consciously set limitations to myself. But I like to use only a few utensils and feel that I'm having very few elements to push towards their limits, like combining simple basic patterns. I like when one can hear that something is close to the limit... it's like a tension, a stiffness.

The process of creation is mechanical, do you feel like you're creating art?

Recently I decided to change that process again. I wanted to reduce the amount of preparation, what you call mechanical I guess, to do something more impulsive, more direct, even if less detailed/arranged.

I've been questioning a lot this need one has to put etiquettes on top of things. Isn't a certain context deciding what's art and what isn't? I was doing an art school some years ago and spent most of my time there trying to confuse people about that question. What is art? What's a 'real artist'? I was trying my ideas in everyday life, without mentioning it was any kind of noble Art, without even documenting my discreet events (which would have only proved to my surrounding I was still 'producing' some thing). An attempt to release poetry from the museums of art of boredom. An effort to turn poetry into action for more people than the average art people, students, artists, curators. Although I was criticizing I was still feeding the gearing so I stepped-out and today I find that questioning what's art and what isn't may be sterile. Even saying everything can be art is not as groovy as just dropping that whole hierarchy of importance.

I feel that when I'm making music on the computer I'm acting like a filter. Is it the same for you?

I like that idea of someone filtering choices, passively or actively between what's conscious and what's not. I also find it difficult sometimes since there are so many possibilities.

The inspiration for last track was from a message on my answering machine telling me I'd won a prize.

In general it's very abstract for me, it's what I project in what I hear. Last Wednesday I was out with a friend. Around 4am there were no more subways home so we started to walk towards the center hoping to catch some night-bus. Then we heard some music, followed the sound and found a guy walking funny, playing the same song over and over and over from a ghettoblaster. He had a red scary devil mask on his face but we started to follow him across Stockholm's old town. He knew he was followed. A truly beautiful moment: Sun was rising, deep blue sky, empty streets, and us following a guy with a devil mask playing a sad Springsteen song talking about devils & dust. a truly inspiring moment.

Do you think that comes through in the tracks?

I don't think that comes through but these kind of moments feed me weird things and can really trigger inspiration. I really have no idea what message there is in my music. I'm not trying to stuff something more. Some people really seem to connect with my music and it simply makes me happy. It's like the fun I have making a track, the melancholy that can come through, etc, it's like all this turns out to be contagious. Something I love about music is that it can spread by itself without me. It's activated each time someone press the play button - marking out space in time. It can affect the surrounding, attract a special mood, interact with your feelings. It will always change the air pressure and how you perceive it. I wish my music could be some sort of virus that could make someone feel the need to create himself, fight fears, notions of good, give-up impressing show-cases and obsessions for performance or competition. Comparison leading often to frustration. Create, not a masterpiece of art to be loved or admired, but breed poetry, outside judgement values, open to mistakes & accidents.

Vive les accidents! Obadia, Rob Steady and Nudist with Laptop are all at www.clumsybeats.org

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