Any Place We Try, Any Place We Go [part 2]
Yuksek, aka Pierre-Alexandre Busson, is not the latest artist continuing France’s strong reputation for electronic music right now. He’s just one of the best. Below is the second half of our conversation. You can check out part one here.
It does sound like you’re in a much better place with touring now than you were when writing Living On The Edge Of Time.
I’ve always been comfortable touring, but at the end of the tour of the first record, I was a bit tired of moving alone. I was not really alone, there’s always been my tour manager and sound engineer, but it was a bit boring to be alone on stage, to miss some friends and stuff. I really love what we do now. For the live sessions, we are three onstage. The girl drummer is incredible, and my friend on keyboards, too. It’s like old time friends, very talented people and funny guys. All the team is new and really fun, so we just enjoy our time on tour, and I enjoy my time on stage with them. So yeah, in that sense, it’s much more comfortable. I was bored of playing alone.
Since you have so many projects with different people, when you get an idea for a song, do you immediately know where it’s going to go?
I am always doing music and starting new stuff. Before, when I was starting a track, I was trying to push it into what I think is Yuksek. I was just focused on Yuksek, the project, so I’d try to change the track I was doing to fit with the Yuksek [concept]. Now I’m really thinking of trying to finish every track the way it starts and put it in a pile on my computer, and it can be used for a collaboration with someone I don’t even know yet, or to one of my different projects. I’m more clear with this now. Even I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be used for, but I know it’s going to be used one day.
For example, with this guy in LA, we were listening to some tracks for some things I just did. We finished things, I start in the computer and don’t even think about what it’s going to be. That’s what I like and what I’ve discovered now from working with people.
As Colin Munroe’s a hip-hop producer, have you thought about going more toward beatmaking?
What I want is just to be surprised by things and doing new things, because I always want to get excited by what I’m doing. Something new, something I didn’t do for a long time. I [haven’t] produced much hip-hop, so why not?
You’ve said that you write lyrics in English because you have too much respect for the French language.
That means it’s really difficult to write in French, and it’s much more easy for me. When I listen in English, I don’t feel that it’s exactly myself, it’s something I created. I couldn’t write in French. I think French is not a good language for music to move to, like for dance or indie dance or even hip-hop. It works a little bit for hip-hop, but for dance and indie dance, or electronica stuff, I’ve never heard a really interesting project with French lyrics. It’s too difficult. It’s not really a question of respect, I would feel ridiculous writing words in French. For me, I know some people maybe think what I write is ridiculous in English, too. I’m not a better writer, but I don’t feel the same.
Is it a matter of worrying how the meaning is going to translate?
Yeah. For example, I can write in English, “I would rather live on a train,” for example. It sounds good to me in English, very cool. But if I write, “Je préférais être dans un train,” I would not make a song from that, definitely not. I don’t know why. I think English is much more interesting for songwriting.
I think I will never write in French. I’m not focused on France, so I prefer doing music that more people can understand.
The music scenes in France are very separated, aren’t they?
It’s totally different from the UK. There are similarities between the UK and American and Australian Billboard, it’s close–of course, like Rihanna and Guetta and shit–it’s big everywhere. But in like the indie genre, it’s totally different in France. Like, there’s people who are big in France and nowhere else. People like Phoenix in France, but [in the US], they have a Grammy award. In France, they do not get anything. Their tracks are not played on the radio. They are many times bigger in the US than in France, even if people like them and know them. They are not top artists in our country. Same for M83. It’s huge in America, in Japan. I was in a taxi in Seattle and there was a track at 7 in the morning on a major radio station. Their tracks never come to radio in France, even though they are French. Which is a shame, I think, because I love M83, and no one cares in France.
Isn’t there a French content ratio requirement on the radio?
Yes, but we’re all doing English lyrics. It’s not a question of nationality, it’s a question of language. You have to have a certain amount of French spoken on the radio. It’s then difficult because on the radio, out of 100%, you have to have 50% French spoken, and then on the [other] 50%, they have this part for electro, this part for pop, and then for foreign artists speaking in English. If you are French and you make English music, it’s so hard to get on the radio in France. Which is totally stupid, but it’s a quota.
If [Phoenix] were American, I think they’d have more airplay in France, in a strange way. I think the only indie kind of band with success and good airplay on the radio recently is Foster the People. Like, “Pumped Up Kicks” is on every radio [station] in France.
I like Foster the People, but for me, that track is not especially a hit. Even dance radio [stations] push this track, so I’m just like, “This is very strange.” It’s cool, because I prefer it 2000 times to hear Foster the People than the latest Guetta again.
Do you see a lot of other French artists also wanting to break out of France like that?
I’m not really a part of the bigger French artist family. I’m a bit out of it because I don’t live in Paris, first, and second I like to go by my own. I don’t know, exactly. My friend Brodinski now is living in LA. But it’s different because he’s not doing records, he does some tracks and stuff, but he’s a DJ. He builds his own DJ career. So it’s totally different from my conception of my career, it’s something else. I want to do records and play shows, but in exceptional condition. He just wants to DJ, DJ, DJ. But for bands from France, there’s one called Housse de Racket, they’re quite good, actually. But the problem is that their name is very French for French. It means…uh…
Tennis racket cover, right?
Yeah, which is quite weird. But their music is cool. The guys are very super nice, I like them, and their music is very good. Especially, the new record is interesting.
They seem very intent on breaking America.
We’d all like to. Well, maybe some French [people] don’t like America, I don’t know. But it’s cool if something happens here, it’s a big country, there are a lot of things to do, people to meet. When I was a kid, I was a fan of America, I was a fan of baseball, and then I loved Nirvana and the Doors. For a French [person], America is like something crazy. I don’t know if it’s still the same, but 20 years ago, when I was 14, America was the big thing. It was the country you loved and the country you wanted to go to, and you had the flag in your room and everything.
Didn’t that change during the Bush administration?
Maybe it changed a little, but there’s still many French people who like to skateboard and all that. It’s still part of the American dream life, California and everything.
What’s your favorite thing about America?
It’s more a continent than a country, that’s the interesting thing. New York and Los Angeles are nearly two different countries, it’s so different. The people think a bit different, the streets are nothing compared, but I like both. Same with Miami. If you take the three, New York, LA, and Miami, that’s just three different countries. And you take Houston and that’s completely different, and Seattle. So that’s what I like. I would love to spend a year [in the U.S.] when I have time, because it’s so cool, there are so many things to see.
I thought it was interesting, what you were saying on Tumblr about MGMT’s live show and not selling a concept.
For me, music is the first thing, and when I like a band, most of the time I don’t know their faces, their album covers, their video clips or what the next magazine says about them. I think sometimes, you hear about a band because of their crazy video clip or what they do or the things they have or the magazines they cover, some bullshit. And you listen to their music and you say, “Okay, that’s why? So many people talk to me about this just for this fucking music?” For me, it’s just music first, and that’s why I loved their show and the guys. That was the first time I met them, they were super nice. Their live [show] for me is just incredible, and for people who only love the first record, I think people get disappointed because they play many [songs from] the second one, not even all the second one, they played new tracks and extended versions, trippy kind of. But I love that, they are not a special concept, they are just on stage playing with a few pictures at the back and nothing crazy.
I’m not coming to a concert to see a show, if I want to have that I would go to Rihanna or Jay-Z, but if you want to listen to good music, music is enough. That’s just it, that was my concept. Sometimes I just get bored of hearing this and this about a band and the music is just shit.
There’s something very pure about how focused you are, not branding yourself.
Yeah, but I have something else to think about. I spend my time with music, not really thinking about “What can I do to make people remember what I’m doing? What is going to be my next move?” I fucking don’t care about that. I just want to make music. Maybe it disserves me sometimes.
Are you already thinking about your next record?
I think it’s going to be a collaborative album, with featurings again. I will do duets with some people, with some girls and other guys.
Do you have any people in mind?
Yes, but I cannot say yet, it’s not done yet. Hopefully it’s going to come at the end of this year, I’m working on it. I don’t know about the release or anything, because I didn’t even talk about this for the album in America, but I hope they’re going to release it.
Living On The Edge Of Time is out now digitally on Ultra Records. Find it on iTunes.
All photos by Katie Chow