Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cyril M. Interview

Interviewer:Fumimasa Hori

In mid-July,I interviewed with French multi-instrumentalist Cyril M.via e-mail.When I contacted Cyril M. through Facebook,he gave me a free download code of his new solo albumVertiges.I listened to it just after that. Then, I replied my impressions. The interview begins when he exchanges chat with me.


 ― It is great that the contrast between stasis and dynamics is clear on your new album. I also feel Japanese sense from your music. I think you have listened to a lot of Japanese music, especially Keiji Haino.

Cyril: I'm very glad you like this album, thanks. It's true that I listened to a lot of Keiji Haino, but my great fear is to sound like a copy from him. With this album I tried to get a little away from his influence. I also listened a lot to Otomo Yoshihide, Kawabata Makoto, and more recently Taku Sugimoto. Recently, I tried new directions on electro-acoustic guitar, and maybe you have seen the video on my YouTube channel.But whoever my music sounds like, I really care to be honest in what I'm doing towards my audience. That's the most important to me.

―When did you begin to listen to Japanese music? Also, how did you know about it?

Cyril: I started to listen to Japanese music when I was approximately 15. In fact, all started when I discovered a live video of Sunn O))) that led me to another of Fushitsusha, on the same day. I remember my first reaction was to laugh because I didn't understand the point of that kind of music, but then I gradually began to feel the need of listening to it again. I was like mesmerized by them, so after that I also discovered Merzbow and Masonna, whose sound was even harsher, and thought there was something in Japanese music I couldn't find elsewhere. Some years later I also discovered Jacks, Les Rallizes Dénudés, and more recently I've been listening to traditional music (like gagaku) and a lot of onkyo, with musicians like Tetuzi Akiyama, Toshimaru Nakamura and Sachiko M. I feel very lucky to be from the generation that has grown up with internet, because otherwise I surely would never have heard of Japanese music.

―I watched your favorite music through Facebook. You've listened to much
various genre, like psychedelic rock, black metal, doom metal, free jazz, classic, blues, techno, onkyo and so on. I feel sympathy for you, because your taste is very similar to me.By the way, why have you get into especially Japanese music?Have you felt something special from Japanese music that you could not get from other genre of music?

Cyril: I'm glad you feel somewhat close to me musically speaking. You must know a lot about music to find genres with only bands names too!I think Japanese musicians have a great sense of pure aesthetics and a great attention to the way they play. For example, American or European noise music is deeply connected with politics and I'm not comfortable with this. I may be wrong, but I don't feel like it's the same in Japan. Even if political events can be the starting point to new music, it's a dimension that's not present on records or on stage most of the time. In my opinion it's very impolite towards the listeners to use your music to tell them a message, but that doesn't mean you don't have to offer something. The best music regardless of the genre is the music which provides a way to self-abandon, where the ego melts in a greater sonic mass embracing all the audience and the musicians, and I think that's something easier to find in Japanese music.

―Certainly, most Japanese noise musician has tend to pursue purely noise or the resonance of sound, and they would not reflect their political message on their music.I feel you have been especially inspired by Keiji Haino. Have you watched some of his live performances? If so, how did you feel about it? He will play tonight at Freedommune festival in Japan, and you can watch his performance by live broadcasting from this site.

Cyril: I will try to watch it but I may not be able to, because the internet connection is very slow in the flat I'm living in. Thanks anyway!Better than videos, I've managed to see a live performance of him with dancer / choreographer Anan Atoyama near Lyon approximately one year ago. It was kind of an unexpected opportunity for me because he doesn't play that much in France, despite he's got some serious fans here. It was really a blast for me because it was the first time I was experiencing this kind of music live. Also, I really sensed a connection between him and Anan, even without looking at each other.

I think Haino has got one of the aspects I like the most in Japanese music, which is the absolute attention given in gesture. The point is not about moving erratically on stage just because it looks cool, but feeling the right moment to explode if there is enough tension, and choosing the right movement for the right sound. He entirely dedicated to what he's doing, like if his body were pushed by a greater sonic force and not his simple mind. I think musicians like Tatsuya Yoshida or Makoto Kawabata are of a similar nature, and that's one of the reasons why I respect them a lot.

― Then, how have you been influenced by Mr.Haino's performance & works when you play live show or create your works?

Cyril: I must admit I've been influenced by his approach of live performance, because all his shows are always different and that's something I really like. Well, he's not the only person in the world to do it (Otomo Yoshihide or Fred Frith can too) but I feel a great sense freedom from these people. That's why I try not to use always the same instruments or the same way to play, depending on where and who I'm playing with. I want to discover new things by surprising myself and the audience too. I also have realized the importance of the body and gesture by watching him. That said, I tried to get a little away from his influence with my last album Vertiges, because nobody wants to hear and see a copy, including myself. Thus, I've put a greater attention on harmony and chords than my previous albums.

― I also feel Mr.Haino's influence is weaker than previous albums on Vertiges.Well,I'm really surprised you can already play several instruments although you are only 19 years old.When and how have you learned to play them?

Cyril: I got my first drum kit when I was 11. I was too impatient to play to get a teacher so I tried to reproduce the sounds I heard on records by myself, but I didn't have any natural talent with it. It took me nearly a month to notice it was much easier to play a rhythm with the bass drum and not the floor tom! Anyway I spent hours practicing, and gradually I've become able to play much more complex music. Drums were the only instrument I could play until I got an electric guitar at the age of 15, after hearing Sunn O))), Neil Young's Dead Man OST and Fushitsusha. I worked the same way as drums, yet occasionally getting advice from friends. I've also spent a lot of time creating my own sounds with various effects, which I could not do as easily on drums. At the same period, a friend of mine also offered an old mixing-board to me. He probably thought I would use it to record something, but in fact the first thing I did was to plug the outputs into the inputs to play with feedback!

That said, I'm not totally self-taught. The first time I took a lesson with a music teacher was for singing when I was 17. It completely changed my ideas on what music teachers was, because I had the chance to find a really original and talented one. He didn't try to make me follow another path and gave me really good advices on the way to stand up and to breathe. I'm still grateful for him today. Now, I'm studying guitar in a public music school in Villeurbanne, which must be one of the weirdest in the world. For example, practice rooms are named after famous musicians like Aphex Twin, or Fred Frith, who has already given workshops here. We can also work free improvisation in groups and it really helped me to be more attentive to other musicians when improvising. Moreover, that school is where I met the experimental violinist Agathe Max whom I play with now, so I'm really glad to be here!

― I would like to know more about your home environment, because you seem to be familiar with music since your early years. Does your family have a lot of records?Also, your school looks so impressive. There are no such public schools in Japan. I guess France has given high priority to culture.
Agathe Max is a great musician. She reminds me Tony Conrad, but her playing style is also more intensive and passionate. Can you tell me about your collaboration with her? You play drums, don't you?

Cyril: It may seem strange, but there wasn’t a lot of records at my home and it's quite the same now. We only had some cassettes of French singer Edith Piaf, some pop discs and two classical albums, so not really much. My parents aren't interested in music, though they have been quite understanding about it for me. It's not an important matter in their lives. In fact, it's maybe for that reason I began to search for more music by myself, so it can be considered as a good thing. I remember the first tune I liked at home was "Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy" by Tchaikovsky, because the celesta sounded like a very strange, yet beautiful instrument.

I feel very lucky to be in such a wonderful school. I already met Japanese accordionist A Qui Avec Gabriel, and she was impressed about it too. Also, you're right about culture in France. There are a lot of museums, commissioned works for artists (for example Rhys Chatam once performed with 300 guitarists in Paris) and financial help for live venues. That said, there are negative sides too, but you know, French people are known to be grumpy and unsatisfied with what they already have !

I'm glad you appreciate Agathe's works too. You're a good listener because she has already played with Tony Conrad, and you're also right, I generally play the drums with her. We started to collaborate after she has released her album "Dangerous Days", because she told me she was looking for a drummer for her live shows so I jumped at the chance! It went very well since she has a great sense of improvisation. By the way, she has uploaded a live recording of one of our gigs in Geneva, available here

This one is very focused on atmosphere so I'm quite restrained, but my drumming style is more like zeuhl and noise rock the rest of the time, so I feel completely free with her.Now, our plans are mainly about trying to set up a small tour in France, maybe North America next year. It would be great to play in Japan too, of course! We also hope to release a duet album soon, and perhaps include my guitar playing in our live shows too, but now we're concentrated about our next gigs in UK. We will probably record the Café OTO one to release it in free download, but nothing certain for now.

―Yes, I’d like to watch your show in Japan.I guess France is an attractive country for foreign musicians too. For example, Stephen O'Malley lives in Paris. I'm curious about French avant-garde/experimental music scene since I'd listened to your music. I know veteran musicians like Jean-Francois Pauvros and Richard Pinhas, but can you tell me about impressive young musicians or bands in French avant-garde/experimental music scene?

Cyril: It's true France is an attractive country for musicians. O'Malley and also people like Ryoji Ikeda or Tujiko Noriko live in Paris since a couple of years.I know it may sound strange but I admit I don't know much about musicians of my own country, especially young ones. Currently I already try to discover the works of older people like Christine Sehnaoui, Michel Doneda or Jérôme Noetinger, but the only younger ones I know are Erikm and Bérangère Maximin. I think a great compilation to discover more of them is "Veterans Of The French Underground Meets La Jeune Garde”.

―I guess French experimental music scene is getting younger because young generation appears like you. Some days ago, a short video of Keiji Haino at Freedommune was uploaded.He sings in Japanese only. How do you feel about that? Are you interested in his lyrics?

Cyril: Thanks for your link! If I remember well, Haino once said he was only singing in Japanese because it allowed him to find new ways of doing it, instead of copying English singers' elocution. I guess it's some sort of a challenge, but it seems natural for him so there's no problem because he's giving himself completely to his art.

Some weeks ago I read a book by Schopenhauer, a German philosopher who lived in the 19th century, and there was a part about the role of lyrics in music. He stated that if we consider instrumental music to be like very general concepts and ideas, lyrics were the examples that makes easier to understand this concept. In a nutshell, he thinks the best music is instrumental but lyrics and voice can be the starting point to fully appreciate it. I find this theory very interesting. In fact, I think music is able to transcend languages because the same sound can resonate in a hundred different manners, depending on who's listening to it.

For instance, I remember one afternoon some years ago when I was listening to the song "Motion Pictures" by Neil Young in my bedroom. My father entered in and asked me half-jokingly if I was depressed. I was very surprised because for me, the song was only calm, not that sad. So, I think we disagreed because we were not able to fully understand the lyrics. On the contrary, I was more often close to cry when listening to songs in other languages than French. French is fitting to very personal or poetic songs (like Noir Désir, Léo Ferré or Encre) but it doesn't work well with rock or pop, because pop music is hardly separable of English. That said, I think the most important thing is that singers must feel honest about their choice. The audience will always notice if it's just a pose.

― Yes,it's a challenge. Fushitsusha has challenged the whole rock scene created in English-speaking world. Keiji Haino has had a strong will to become an original musician since he started his music career. For example, he does not only sing in Japanese but also introduce Japanese 'ma' into rhythm. I guess his originality is one of the main reason Mr. Haino has been admired by foreign listeners. By the way, you uploaded a video of AĞDAM TOYU-SƏXAVƏT MƏMMƏDOV(notes:musicians of Azerbajian) yesterday. That is so amazing and rare. How do you find such impressive music?

Cyril: You're absolutely right about that. I've once had the chance to talk with Anan Atoyama, and she explained the concept of "ma" to me, despite it's very hard for me to properly understand it because there's no equivalent word in French or in English. In found the video you're talking about in a relatively strange manner. I was searching for information about Soviet guitars because they all got a really weird shape, so they tweaked my interest. Apparently, they all look like this because the USSR wouldn't allow their guitars to be the same as US models. Their pickups were good but their necks were so terrible the notes were always a small bit out of tune, like a quarter of tone. After that I founded a video about an Azerbaijani guitarist named Rəmiş who was playing with this type of guitars and I was like blown away. Then I continued to search about him but there's very little information. He's apparently a famous musician in his country, but not the only one to play this kind of music with Soviet or Czech guitars. That said, I don't even know if they have recorded albums, but there are loads of videos of him on YouTube.

―I see. By the way, do you listen to music on vinyl? I've searched about the worldwide vinyl resurgence. A lot of teenagers tend to buy vinyl in many countries. Then, I heard French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti is going to introduce a new 1% tax on smart phones for record stores in difficulty. What do you think about this policy?

Cyril: Yeah, sure ! I only bought a vinyl player this year so I don't have a large collection, but I'll get more in the future. Nearly all my friends interested in music buy vinyls too, and that's interesting because besides they generally buy very few CDs. So, that means vinyls have something CDs doesn't have, whether it's about audio quality or old-fashioned charm. I would have loved to release my new album on vinyl too, but it was way too expensive for me. Maybe in a few years...

About that 1% tax, I don't have a clear opinion about it. As far as I know, this decision seems to be motivated because a lot of Virgin stores are closing down in France, so the government is trying to help them. On the contrary, I've also heard that French independent record stores are doing not so bad these days. For the first time since ten or twenty years, some new record stores are opening up because people buy more and more vinyls, but I want to say something else. I know it's easy to criticize big firms, but sometimes they're showing utter disregard about music enthusiasts. Some days ago, Universal even started a crowd-funding campaign to re-release old albums on vinyls! I couldn't believe this when I heard it, but they were deadly serious, asking people to pay two times for an album. So, I think that 1% tax is a good idea in theory for supporting independent record stores but it would be a shame if all the collected money was going directly into majors companies' pockets...

―I'm looking forward to listening to your music by vinyl. Thank you for your cooperation!I would like to ask one last question. If you were able to listen to music only one more time, what tune would you choose?

Cyril: The last music I would like to hear is one of those I don't listen to very often because I don't want to ruin the magic in it. It's the second movement of Schubert's string quintet, one of the most beautiful and breathtaking tunes I've ever heard. The "Ensemble Villa Musica" is one of the best interpretations in my opinion because it's soft and slow enough to properly feel the composition. Here's a link to it.

Cyril M. Info:

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