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FOUDRE! rehearsal at Magnum Diva, Paris, 2015

Paris, September 2015

Mickaël Robert-Gonçalves: What is the origin and the story behind your new project FOUDRE!?

Frédéric D. Oberland: Chance, desire and spontaneity at first, like so often. With one of my other groups, Oiseaux-Tempête, I have already collaborated with Romain Barbot and Grégory Buffier who are the musicians behind the ambient experimental duo Saåad from Toulouse. They made a remix of one of our tracks. Romain used to work on our artwork. We get along well with each other because of a profound mutual respect and similar visions and practices. After various meetings between Toulouse and Paris, we started to see each other more often and naturally began to improvise together with no preconceived idea in mind, just for fun. The first album of FOUDRE!, Magnum Chaos, released with the label BLWBCK on a cassette tape a few months ago, is a result of those free sessions. We had to travel light – because we were taking the train –, so we naturally decided to give priority to portative and compacts instruments. At the same time, I was willing to abandon my guitar and to focus on analogue synthesizers and other organic small bells, so it came at the right time. During the mixing of Magnum Chaos, Silke from Lowave asked me to imagine something in relation with EARTH by Ho Tzu Nyen and I immediately thought that FOUDRE! could make a nice soundtrack for this film – a sensitive post-apocalyptic trip, full of broken stories. It was a welcome challenge for FOUDRE! to create a new soundscape for this film.

MRG: How and why did you invite Christine Ott and Paul Régimbeau to participate in the project?

FDO: With the same enthusiasm as we answered a big “yes” to Silke. I already improvise sometimes with Christine. For me, she is like the Ondes Martenot’s fairy! The Ondes Martenot is a rare machine between Persephone’s thread and Zeus’s storm, one of the first electronic instruments invented in 1928 and one of the favourites of Messian, Varèse and Radiohead. Grégory from Saåad introduced me to Paul, who had played with him under the name Mondkopf and sometimes Extreme Precautions. It was really tempting to ask Paul to add his hypnotic arpeggiator sounds to our maelstrom. Christine and Paul agreed instantly to join the adventure.

MRG: What was your first reaction when seeing EARTH? And how was your first encounter with Ho Tzu Nyen?

FDO: Personally, I was a bit shocked, impressed by the beauty and the rigour of each shot – each sequence is a “tableau” which seems more than precise and prepared as a choreography, and everything vibrates in a slow pulsation, suffering yet majestic. It’s a “clair-obscur” chaos with touches of hope. The tribute to classical paintings from Caravaggio, Géricault and Rembrandt was obvious, but inscribed in a more contemporary problematic and this touched me a lot. Then, I put the sound on because I deliberately watched the film first with no sound. The soundtrack was made by Black to Comm, a German musician whose work I am found of, and the images and sounds worked perfectly together. This made me doubt a minute, I was wondering if we could do as well as him. The solution was simple: we plugged in our instruments, we put ourselves at ease and we played in front of the film. We only met Tzu Nyen the day of the performance, we just exchanged some shorts emails with him the weeks before. He was kind enough to not ask us to send the soundtrack from our rehearsals, he wanted to be surprised and feel the emotion during the performance. This was really classy!

MRG: Can you explain more in detail how you proceeded during the rehearsals?

FDO: It was at my home studio, Magnum Diva, in Montmartre. We met there regularly with Romain, Grégory and Paul. We installed a screen, projected the film and simply played in front of it. We recorded everything, systematically, and we watched the film again with the audio recording. We corrected things here and there if needed, made arrangements and introduced new instruments. From the very beginning a sound structure close to the film structure emerged and a tone became evident; we followed this original pulsation, the matrix. We had the desire to keep the general form quite open and pure so that it could engage a dialogue with the church where we were going to perform. But we also wanted to impose some strong synchronised points with the film in order to highlight the narrative of the trip and uncover some points of reference. We could repeat with Christine only the day of the performance, and this added a real excitement.

MRG: EARTH is created with a specific rhythm, turning from precise and slow close-ups to immense “tableaux”. Could this idea of “tableaux” also be used to describe your music?

FDO: In a way, yes. Our first album, Magnum Chaos, is illustrated with a painting by Lorenzo Lotto, whose general horizon is wedged between astronomy and primitive mythology. Maybe it was an evidence for us to encounter EARTH. It resonated immediately. More precisely, we worked on a general background and ambiances first and then made more detailed “touches”. But without conceptualizing too much.

MRG: Ho Tzu Nyen assumes obvious inspirations from classical paintings but he also has a real interest in the relationship between sound, music and images. He employs repetitions, ruptures, wide movements. Were you influenced by that?

FDO: Of course, the precedent musical choices made by Tzu to create live soundtracks for EARTH with Black To Comm as well as Oren Ambarchi were not innocent and we naturally took them into account. But when you are performing in front of the images – and especially when there are five musicians improvising –, it’s impossible to dissect precisely each information coming to you; you have to evacuate the image exegesis to better encounter, with the others and in the moment, the film with his general movement. With a sensitive synchronicity. This is where the listening of each one is essential, it is the starting and the final point of the process. There is an almost mystical aspect to it, some sort of a ritual to meet the collective condition of listening to the film, for it to become the main influence. Tzu, after the performance, warmly congratulated us, he said we met EARTH's pulsation, that we made him vibrate and this was the best compliment we could receive.

MRG: Another important aspect is the fact that you performed in a gothic church, Saint-Merry. How did this change your practice in comparison to, let's say, a traditional scene? And how did this affect you as a musician in terms of impressions and emotions?

FDO: I do know this church very well because I have played there many times in recent years with Oiseaux-Tempête or Farewell Poetry. Paul also already played there in a duo with Charlemagne Palestine. The programming team of Saint-Merry is great and totally adventurous and the place is impressive – a Gothic church from the 16th century with a Baphomet decorating the tympanum. The sound is wide and powerful yet thin and precise. Like in every church, it reverberates a lot, some frequencies are stronger than others and we had to think about it before the installation. We notably had to decide on how to diffuse the sound, how to keep a balance on stage, and how to record it because we wanted to keep a trace of this performance via the sound recording of Samuel Navel and the video recording of As Human Pattern. Everyone helped a lot, and we have to give a special mention to the technicians, Lowave and the Babbel Production team.

MRG: It was one of the first live performances of your new project FOUDRE! What are your plans for the future? Do you prepare any other collaborations of this kind with other video, film or sound artists?

FDO: Actually we are really happy with the recording of the performance of that night and we are planning to release it on a vinyl record. It will be our second album. We would love to do another performance with Tzu in another city. And of course, we really want to play together again, and why not collaborate for other expanded cinema performance if the opportunity arises?

FOUDRE! rehearsal at Église Saint-Merry, Paris, 2015