Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview: M83 - Eighties Fan

Thursday, March 20, 2008 

"I really love all the 80s teen movies, especially John Hughes ones," enthuses Anthony Gonzales (aka M83) through his rich French brogue over a slice of cheesecake. "I was a bit to young to watch these movies because I was born in the 1980s, I just rediscovered them when I was 14 or 15. What I really like about John Hughes is the way he talks about teenagers, and talks about their feelings, their fears and their angst. I really like that. Sometimes it can be like very comic but sometimes it’s really dramatic, it’s a big influence on me. I like Say Anything a lot too, a great love story, very beautiful."

Though disappointed by their support slots for Midnight Juggernauts due to lost gear and an under-rehearsed band, but optimistic about a concert here in their own right later this year, Gonzales is relishing being in Australia, "It’s such a beautiful place here, I really like the atmosphere of the cities. I love to travel and share my music, it’s exhausting but I like this." Gonzales also clearly revels in discussing the overt allure of the 1980s on his band’s new album Saturdays=Youth, something that sets it apart from his earlier releases. Those familiar with his catalogue may well be surprised that the epic synth-shoegazing-soundscapes of his earlier work, though still present, have been largely replaced by...songs. "What I find interesting in music is to evolve, to make things different each time. The idea was to keep the image and the sounds people like and to bring something new on top of it. I always wanted to be more ’pop’ in my album and to have more songs and song-structured tracks. I’m happy because a lot of people say it’s very different to my earlier music, actually, this is the aim of the album."

Effectively preempting the continuation of the late-70s/early-80s and now nearly mid-80s revival, Gonzales is so confident in his embracing of a concept many musicians find anathema it’s almost life-affirming; the N-word. "There is a lot of nostalgia in my music because of my experiences of course. On this album, the feeling was to recreate the feelings of my teenage years. I don’t know why but I’m still very fascinated by my teenage years and by teenagers, and secondly because it was such an important period of my life because I discovered so many new things. I think when you are 13/14 years old life is really starting to be interesting, it’s like a new open window. I just wanted to make a tribute to this period of my life which was really interesting and full of great memories; meeting new people, listening to new music, new bands, going to your first live shows..." His first live show? "Iron Maiden. I was 10. I was an ’eavy metal fan," he goofily justifies with a mile wide smile, a smile that turns into a surprised laugh when affirming my suggestion that Maiden's ’bigger than life’ sound might have influenced him musically.

Like the family home you can return to at the end of an emotional day as a teenager, Gonzales couldn’t contemplate living anywhere but his small Mediterranean port city of Antibes, (a place I’m certain he pronounces differently each time he corrects my mispronunciation of it). "For musicians the places you compose the music in are such a reflection of the music and it’s a really important thing. If you’re not in a good mood or in a good place, your music could not reflect where you are actually, I think you have to feel safe in a place. Antibes it’s a really beautiful city with a lot of beautiful landscape. I feel really quiet when I’m’s really cool. I was living in Paris for three years but it was so difficult to make music there so I decided to move back. It’s where I feel confident enough to face the facts to make music."

Gonzales occupies a niche that at first seems unique, but, in France at least, he is not alone in using his own life experiences and setting them in an 80s context, "There is a band in France called The Teenagers, who are quite famous and totally new, they are in the same kind of mood. I think a lot of people are still very interested in this period...nostalgia over and over...a lot of people are nostalgic which is a good thing for my album."
Saturdays=Youth while perhaps not uniting a generation raised on the sounds of The Eurythmics and Thompson Twins, will undoubtedly turn some ears with it’s canny blend of textured synth and piano-based warmth and affecting (not affected) vocal turns. Tracks such as You, Appearing, first single Couleurs and the Kate Bush-esque Up! especially, layer sounds in a way that seems more orchestral than someone attempting to recreate the best of 80s radio. This, however, is precisely what Kim & Jessie and Graveyard Girl succeed in doing, albeit French 80s radio, which it seems through Gonzales’ ears at least, was no bad thing. "What I like with the 80s is that when you listened to the radio at the time you could hear Tears For Fears or the singles of Talk Talk; very new music and so experimental. Nowadays when you listen to radio it’s always the same kind of song, same kind of production, but at the time radio took a lot of risk."

By adopting the instigations for making these songs - attempting to capture the emerging free will of youth and sociological-discovery - Gonzales freely admits to plundering his own youth to connect with the overwhelming feeling that drives these songs and films he cherishes so much. "Love is like a very important thing when you are a teenager, it’s such a good feeling, a lot of movies are talking about this. What is interesting is the contrast between the movies and the different ways they talk about love, I like different views. For me being a teenager it was no problem at all. I had a good relationship with my parents and I was feeling free to do whatever I wanted to experiment with. No bad memories about this at all. And it’s so great to fall in love when you are 13 or 14 it’s so new - overwhelming - it’s like first sexual moments as well." But surely there were hard times too? "Yeah, heartbreak happened sometimes, like every teenager. It wasn’t sad moments you know, you’re just learning to know how to live your life and that’s what I like about being a teenager."

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