Sunday, 6 September 2009

Vitalic Talks Gaga

He's a veteran in his field, he's played a big hand in inspiring many dance-floor contemporaries and his finely-tuned, synthesised beats have been highly-lauded by everyone from BBC, Vice to NME. Today I was off to West London to quiz the electronic visionary. So for once, rising before 9am to make the journey to West Kensington, did not inspire notions of hurling myself infront of the on-coming train. Quite the opposite.

[As an East Londoner, I have often threatened to disown any friend who has toyed with the idea of moving to the other side of town. I'm no good at long distance relationships.]

Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Leanne Mizo, founder and director of Bang On PR, who promptly led me to my destination. The K West Hotel and Spa, a favourite haunt of artists and musicians alike, was to be our meeting place. Pascal Arbez aka Vitalic was timid, self-effacing and cordial. Quite the opposite of what you'd expect from an internationally acclaimed electronic aficionado. He was tall and slim and his inconspicuous attire aptly complimented his humble nature. First off, we assessed the language barrier. As a Dijon-based producer of Italian decent, the artist's English was laced with eastern-French inflexions. Naturally, I leaned in closer, decreased the tempo of my voice and we began chatting.

Vitalic is in London promoting his second album "Flashmob", the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2005 debut "Ok Cowboy". His dance-floor staples have included "Poney", "La Rock 01", "No Fun" , and "My Friend Dario", understandably expectations are very high. And fans are in for a pleasant surprise; although the first album was more aggressive and rock-based the new album diverts from aggressive tendencies to a more softer disco sound. His decision behind this drastic change in direction, was attributed to his desire to move on; simply 'to evolve'. "Terminateur Benelux" throws you head first into a pool of progressive sounds while "Your Disco Song" is a finely-tuned 'pop' song that fizzes up inside of you. And these delightful tunes will be the first to assault your aural space, so brace yourself. The new album "Flashmob" may lack the brutal rock energy Vitalic fans are used to, but it most certainly makes up for it with its sweatier, ruthless dynamics.

Oh and he is not ashamed to admit his appreciation for Lady Gaga - more so the music than the woman/lesbian/hermaphrodite that suffocates our visual space.

Scroll down for the Q&A I did for Don't Panic!

DP: Are you a morning person?
V: Not at all.
DP: Great, well let’s pretend it’s afternoon then! I see you’ve already begun touring, are you playing material from your forthcoming album?
V: I’ve already started playing material from the new album, but the tour is not only about promoting the album, it’s about Vitalic live - a mix between the old tracks and the new ones.
DP: There is quite a distinct difference in sound between the old and the new tracks.

V: Yes, my older stuff is more aggressive whereas the new stuff is a lot softer; the first album is more rock and the second one is more disco, but it is all still synth based.
DP: What was the motive behind the shift in sound?
V: For the past four years it (the music) was quite hard and I just became a bit tired with it all.
DP: So tell us about the new album Flash Mob have you kept any of the same ideas? I read that you were against sampling music.
V: For the second album I kept the same ideas, but there are some small short samples you can’t notice. Whether it’s Michael Jackson or Justice, I take inspiration from everywhere; composing is about taking small parts from everywhere and making it your own.
DP: Is this growth also reflected in the set-up of your live shows?
V: Well, we’ve got a new set up with mirrors and LED screens because I think it’s a bit boring with just one guy on stage. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while and it doesn’t feel as lonely when I’m on stage.
DP: You started up in 1996, so you’ve been doing this for a really long time, some would even say you’re a veteran.
V: Ah.
DP: I’m not saying you’re old.
V: Ahah
DP: Is it still exciting?
V: As long as you evolve and as long as you take risks; invest your money in good shows and studios and try to find new tracks and new techniques. Then you don’t feel like you’re working in a factory. But when I first started it was way more difficult to create music.
DP: How so?
V: Ten years ago, you had to buy all the studio equipment and then you had to learn how to use it. Now you can easily make a track sound really good, in less time and with less money and because music is pre-chewed (pre-made) creating it, is a lot like making a puzzle. And you can use free software you hacked from the internet!
DP: Oh, really?
V: I mean I don’t do that of course.. I’m too lazy to do that..
DP: Do you think it’s cheating or do you feel that’s how technology has allowed music to evolve?
V: In the end, the ease of technology makes no real difference. The talented ones will always stand out, even with all the new technology.
DP: Have you embraced social media as a way to connect with fans?
V: While I’m tour I think it’s fun to tweet with the fans.
DP: When did your passion for music start?
V: When I was 8, I learned how to play the trombone.
DP: Oh wow, do you think that’s something you would integrate into your music?
V: Ahah, no I don’t think it would fit.
DP: A fave place to play?
V: Panorama Bar in Berlin. That place is fucked up; an absolute freedom place.
DP: What do you think about guys like Justice and Boysnoize?
V: I really like Justice and Boysnoize when they do the quieter stuff. Not a fan of their harder stuff.
DP: How about Lady Gaga?
V: When I saw her on TV she seemed like a fragile bird in a big zoo. I think she is very arrogant to compare herself to Madonna and all this shit; it sounds a bit stupid.
DP: It seems she’s a fan of shock value in order to get people’s attention, saying she’s a lesbian and a hermaphrodite.
V: Shock appeal worked in the 70s and 80s with Madonna etc but now saying you’re a lesbian doesn’t work anymore. Nobody cares anymore; it’s very difficult to shock people. But I think it works because of the music; even without Lady Gaga the music would be a success.
DP: You don’t seem to be a fan of the marketing aspect of the ‘artist’, would you ever delve into something similar to Justice who collaborated with design agency Surface2Air, creating jeans and jackets.
V: I would do it if I liked the idea and I will be doing something like that soon, but I can’t talk about it.
DP: You can tell me I won’t tell anyone. aha
V: I’m designing a Coca Cola bottle – because I like the idea.
DP: Similar to the Ed Banger crew?
V: Yes, but just one design – too be everywhere is not my style. But I prefer to talk about the music and the set-up and not my personal life.
DP: So who you dating at the moment?
V: Whispers behind his hand.
DP: Do you enjoy playing other people’s music?
V: For 10 years I said I would never DJ, but last year I wanted to do something different and I started to DJ and I loved it. It was really fun to mix new tracks, old tracks and my tracks.
DP: So why were you against it before?
V: Arrogance.
DP: At least you’re honest.
V: No, maybe not arrogance but sometimes you’re just a bit closed. Also when I say something, two years later I do the contrary, because if you keep with the same ideas you never evolve and you never change.
Flashmob is out on 28 Sept 09. Vitalic Minimix Photo Credits: LISA CARLETTA.

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I am more than prone to monologues; however, this is solely due to the manner in which they compliment a witty anecdote and their ability to resemble concrete evidence when it is so obviously lacking. I often wish I could emulate that aloof character who coolly stands in the corner smiling mysteriously as if she has a secret. However, I fear resisting the temptation to involve myself in other people’s conflicts and responding through body language rather than verbose banter may come across as contrived and arrogant. And, I am not willing to take that chance.

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