Interview: Mondkopf

I do see this album as a new beginning; an approach to writing more based on improvisation, with an occasional use of overdubs. I had no plans of making a new Mondkopf record and I like the idea that it came by on its own without me realising it.

While some fans may be able to pick up on traces of his signature sounds, Mondkopf’s They Fall but You Don’t makes for a particularly abrupt change of pace and a solemn return for Paul Régimbeau’s project, one that bears the weight of the tragedy from which it has surfaced from. Born on the night of the Paris attacks in November of 2015, this new incarnation of Mondkopf marks a bold, abrupt shift from heavy beats to ethereal ambiences and introspective soundscapes, fueled by the artist’s newfound taste for live improvisation and analog gear. Accompanying this new record, Mondkopf has granted us the honour of featuring his latest video for the album, a phantasmagorical visual journey into the surreal, unsettling tone of the record.

The video was shot by UNICORN (www.unicorn-paris.com), a stage design and art direction company focused on new technology. Working alongside DVmobile, the team used a technique called photogrammetry and made 3D scans of Brera’s Academy of Fine Art’s corridors, interiors and statues, rendering them with dots. The team behind the video shared a few words with us about the process:

“The material is quite fascinating, we find ourselves in spaces that are at the threshold between picture and video. Every perspective is different. What really struck us with these scans was the sense of nostalgia emanating from them. Everything becomes ghostly and the shapes and environments keep evolving despite being motionless.

Our concept was to have the audience evolve in this universe outside of space and time where Italian architectural spaces, contemporary elements and sculptures representative of Art History coexist. These elements are shown in a dreamy, timeless form and allow for a deeper immersion into Mondkopf’s music and into this maze of multifarious symbols.

We made an initiatory journey into this world, from childhood to transcendence. The story begins with a point of view close to the ground and we slowly rise up little by little.

We sometimes catch glimpses of human presence, like the two children sitting on a bench the end of a pathway. It’s a very strange feeling, this blend of data and nostalgia. They don’t have faces, no identities and they exist in a very poetic way despite being mere data on a screen. They were captured in this instant and they gained the same eternal, timeless quality as the buildings and sculptures surrounding them. We really wanted to reach a form of abstraction in the last act where we’d end up with a splintering of the space and shapes. That’s what we felt when we heard the track, a soaring voyage that’s like a scream, a will to put things into perspective in order to move forward. The colours add a new dimension to the images, to the location and to the temporality. We go from a Chiaroscuro to an intense color saturation to symbolise that nothing is ever frozen still. Explorations are limitless.

Paul was also kind enough to spare some time from his hectic schedule to share a few words with us about the video, the record and his upcoming live performances.

So first off, I understand that you’re currently in an artist-in-residency program. Can you tell us a few words about it?
I’m currently in an artist-in-residency program with Oiseaux-Tempête. The band has a flexible lineup and is led by Frederic D. Oberland and Stéphane Pigneul. They travelled all the way to Beirut in Lebanon to record with local musicians for their third record. Last September, they called me over to their studio in Brittany to finish the album with them. We’re currently in Nancy with the Lebanese musicians and we’re preparing the upcoming live performances.

This year you’ve released They Fall but You Don’t, somewhat of a comeback album and a change of pace of the Mondkopf project. Do you see this new record as the start of a new “phase” for Monkopf or rather a logical evolution from where Hadès left off?
I do see this album as a new beginning; an approach to writing more based on improvisation, with an occasional use of overdubs. It’s more about capturing the emotions in the moment. It’s about making my music more human, closer to me as opposed to my previous albums where I’d spend more time editing and producing, sometimes to the point where I’d lose my my initial focus… I had no plans of making a new Mondkopf record and I like the idea that it came by on its own without me realising it.

Can you tell us a few words about the album title and the album art?
M: The album title came by after I had finished re-reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s about this father protecting his son’s life and innocence in a world where humanity is dying. The album cover is a photo I took. I often go around taking pictures on the fly with a disposable camera. Given that this is quite an introspective record it only made sense that I use something from my personal photo archives. I like the image of of dusk and the city in the distance lying in the distance. It feels like a sort of farewell.

The first track of the record was born on the night of the Paris attacks on November of 2015. How did the rest of the writing process come along after these initial sound sketchings? Was there a focus on exploring or keeping the same tone of that particular evening?
I wasn’t thinking about any specific register at all. I wanted to go with the motions of the moment, whether they were optimistic or pessimistic. I wanted to keep a degree of spontaneity. It’s important to keep things that way after such an event in order to avoid pathos.

From what I understand you only used analog gear for this record. Was there a particular incentive that pushed you in that direction for this album?
I started to feel limited when I started playing alongside other musicians. I’m not a huge geek and I don’t feel like spending hours programming my music. You also want to have some leeway when you’re playing alongside other musicians. So I bought a few pedals, some analog synths and a looper in order to have more freedom in my improvisations.

The last track of the record has this interesting movie sample in Italian. Where is it from?
I found this documentary by Silvano Agosti called D’Amore Si Vive on Youtube. I recorded recorded this part where they talk to this amazing kid who understands the importance of going to school but who can’t wait to discover life on his own by playing and falling in love. There’s this sense of innocence and lightheartedness in his words that I believe we should keep in touch with during the hard times we go through.

Two works came to mind when I listened to the record: Elephant by Gus Van Sant and Disintegration Loops by William Basinski. Both of these works are linked to tragic events and are characterized by their minimalistic sonic approach. Do these references speak to you in this context?
Absolutely. It’s great that you name these works because I hadn’t thought about it when I was making the record, especially Disintegration Loops, whose ambience even relates back to that of the album cover. They are works that left a big mark on me. The emotions take some time to reveal themselves in these works. I like the ethereal atmosphere set against this heavy, grave backdrop. It calls upon the audience’s patience but it also allows the piece to heavily charge up on emotions and leave a stronger mark.

Frédéric D. Oberland from Oiseaux-Tempête provided some additional arrangements on this record. How did the collaborative process come along?
Basically, we first started playing together with FOUDRE! and I really liked the way our sounds complemented each other. Once the album’s tracks were done I was planning on having him play on a couple of songs but he ended up playing on practically the whole thing! He recorded all of his parts in his own living room and I really like the intimate touch that it added to the record.

How do you see your upcoming live sets with Mondkopf? Do you intend to stay explore the more ambient vibes of They Fall but You Don’t or will you stick with the more “rhythmic” approach of your previous records?
I hadn’t thought of a live incarnation of this record. I figured it should stay within an intimate listening context and that I’d go for something completely different in a live setting. I would have loved to play some ambient sets but it’s very hard to book these kind of shows. I’d live to play some intense live shows without having to use rhythmic elements or specific song structures. With that being said, we do improvise a lot on this kind of music with Frédéric D. Oberland with FOUDRE! and Saåad.

To finish things off: could you name one of your favorite albums, movies and books?
I’d actually pick Gerry by Gus Van Sant, which I’ve watched a few times. The plot fits into a sentence and the pacing is very slow but the film really takes you some place else.
Book-wise I’ll also go with The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a very minimalist but extremely potent and gripping piece of work. I’ll also name Ask the Dust by John Fante. I really like the false sense of lightheartedness that suffocates you as the story progresses.
The album pick is a tough one…. I don’t read many books and I’ve unfortunately been watching fewer and fewer movies but I do listen to a lot of music! As tribute to Mika Vianio (Note: Mika Vianio passed away April 12 of this year). I’ll go for his album Life (…It Eats You Up). A grand, deranged and somber record whose sonic textures and rough, powerful yet organic beats have marked me for life.

A huge thank you goes out to Mondkopf and the team at UNICORN for taking the time to respond to our questions.

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