Vitalic (Interview)

I’m more than proud to announce an exclusive interview with one of my all-time favorites, an innovative and artistic pioneer in electronic music: Pascal Arbez, better known as Vitalic. His second studio album Flashmobproves beyond doubt that he’s still one of the big names guiding and influencing the whole scene by further developing his unique trademark sound. Enough talk, here’s what the maestro himself has to say about human emotions in dance music, vocoders instead of real singers and Major Lazer:

Disco Demons: I think what makes your music stand out against the endless flood of new electronic music releases is the unique emotional touch (I’m especially thinking of tracks like Second Lives or The Pasthere) that most other electronic dance music tracks are lacking. How is it possible to use machines (=synthesizers) to communicate emotions?

Vitalic: Machines are designed to make whatever you want them to make. I suppose that, if electronic music may lack some emotion, it’s because the musicians behind just don’t want to make this kind of music. As far as I’m concerned, I like both cold and robotic music, as well as deeper tracks, and I make the music I need to make at the precise moment I’m working on the track.

DD: Speaking of emotions: Compared to OK Cowboy, it seems as if you’ve been in a completely different mood during the process of making Flashmob. Obviously, you were experimenting with new sounds and techniques. What was it like creating something entirely different, while keeping your own style?

V: It is maybe riskier and time-consuming to make the choice of not producing follow-ups and focus on redesigning your sound banks and production tools. But I really wanted to change a few things, to feel like I’m evolving. I didn’t try to keep my style really, I just tried to make songs that would please me when I was doing them. It was the same after Poney EP when I worked on OK Cowboy. I really don’t see the point of making several times the same track.

DD: Â As everything in your music, even the vocals are mostly synthetic. You have a very unique way of working with vocoders, resulting in interesting and weird sounds. On the one hand, you’ve been using Mac’s default voice, Brigitte, on the other hand, you even included your own voice. What makes you pick a vocoder instead of a real singer?

V: Â I like the result. Making the choice of using technology instead of a real voice, I achieve something strange, between reality and synthetic. It’s kind of fragile voice and also I can make things that a real voice couldn’t do anyway.

DD: Â Then again, there’s Linda Lamb singing on One Above One – why did you choose her for his certain track, and not a vocoder?

V: Â Because for that peculiar track, I wanted a real voice. It really depends on what I want to achieve instead of getting stuck in a concept, just for the concept.

DD: Â Apart from your favorite singer Brigitte, what other equipment do you bring to live shows?

V: Â I bring a Virus, a Roland XT1, a mixing desk, an Aka vocoder, and Ableton Live with a big sound card to have many outputs.

DD: Â What I like about DJing is the ability to pick an artist’s best track and condense it into a single, intensive performance along with other artists’ best tracks. Is there a certain reason why you don’t like playing other people’s music?

V: Â Now, I do DJ sometimes. I started for fun and little by little got into it. I think it’s fun. I use Ableton again, cut the tracks, change them, just use the parts I like. Also, I like farting around on sites and buy new stuff before I go to take the flights. It changes a bit from the live set…

DD: Â I know lots of DJs and producers who would never listen to their own records (or something similar) at home. What music do you enjoy at home, in the evening?

V:  It depends on the mood and the time. I listen to things like MGMT, Midnight Juggernauts, Empire of the Sun, old dub disco from the 70s and 80s, trashy Italian disco stuff, Crookers, Major Lazer, La Roux… anything I like. And no I don’t like it when someone puts my tracks when I’m at a party…

DD: Â What was the last song you listened to before we talked?

V: Â It was a track on the new album of Crookers, featuring Yelle.

DD: Â You once mentioned Jean-Michel Jarre as a major influence. I would even go so far as to say that electronic dance music in its current form would not exist without this pioneer of electronic music. Do you agree?

V: Â Of course. Newcomers use sounds and effects they think are new, but were created 30 years ago. So yes, the modern electronic scene is based on the work of the pioneers.

DD: Â Projects such as Major Lazer or Buraka Som Sistema are bringing a completely new style into the electronic scene. Do you think this is just a short-life phenomenon, or maybe the future of electronic dance music?

V: Â I love them. I do think that they bring some new flavor but you can’t say it’s totally new. Its based on styles that existed before sounds that existed before also. All the current chicken music with the pipipiiiiip comes from the 90s. The way it’s all mashed up is fresh though.

DD: Â I once asked Dada Life what songs they would pick if they could only save five records from their burning house, and they told me: “Records? I’ll go to the computer to save the whole collection! We aim for the future.” What do you think about the quarrel between vinyl lovers and laptop DJs?

V: Â I have seen all this blabla in the 90s about CDs and vinyl. Who talks about that old querelle now? I think people go for what’s convenient for them. I love CDs, but I’d go for the computer too. I’m too used to it now.

Fan question (by vmorbit): How can you hold that passion in your music for such a long period without getting dull?

V: Â It’s 13 years I’m making music. I don’t think it’s such a long period, and I don’t see the time passing by either because I changed my style, because I work with new people on new concepts. I have to keep it exciting…

DD: Â Last one: See The Sea – blue or red?

V: Â Blue.

DD: Thanks so much for the interview!