This Sunday at Le Bain, Nouveau York celebrates Halloween with the return of the Monster Tiger Joakim. One of the leading figure of the Parisian electronic scene, Joakim has just released his new album ‘Nothing Gold’ (Tigersushi). As Joakim explains: “Each song is about someone I don’t want to be or become or about extreme behaviours and deviant habits, like an exploration of the human dark sides, a way to exorcise the demons by becoming one of them inside a song”. What better soundtrack for our Nouveau York X Halloween party?
Instead of doing a regular interview, Joakim has gathered some friends and heroes to ask him some questions. The result is a conversation between Busy P, Tim Sweeney, Erol Alkan, Philippe Zdar and Joakim… Enjoy the (nothing but) Standard Q & A!
Erol Alkan: Name one influence, which you wanted to have an outcome on this record, which never took charge during its writing or production.. It need not be musical…
First one is a novel I was reading while working on some early tracks. It’s called Outsiders, it’s a 60’s teenage novel, with young rock’n’roll kids fighting each other, wandering, discovering love. A very simple, short novel, but well written, that apparently inspired Francis Ford Coppola a lot. I thought while reading it that it would be a nice source of inspiration for the music and the lyrics, especially as I was reading it in English. But in the end I didn’t keep anything from this book, except for the title of one song, which became the title of the album. In one chapter, a kid is remembering a poem and saying it loud. It’s called “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. The second one is more musical. I started working on the album when you made me discover Kindness, who later became a friend. As I was starting to think about this new album, I was blown away by the minimalism and emotional strength of his “Swinging Party” cover. I had this thought, that I had for most of my albums before starting them: this time I want to make something simpler, stripped down songs, sheer emotion. And I always fail. I mean I always end up with more complex songs than I thought and spend a lot of time deleting and simplifying them.
Tim Sweeney: Where did you record this album?
Joakim: I wrote part of the album when i was on holidays in the South of France, recorded the music in Paris in my new Tigersushi Studio. Mixed it there too and mastered with Joe Lambert in New York. This time I worked a lot alone. On Milky Ways (my previous album) I worked directly with the band, recording mostly live takes that I edited a bit afterwards. On Nothing Gold I worked a lot on the songs before I eventually asked my drummer Mark Kerr or Juan De Guillebon (bass) to come at the studio and record some parts. I wanted to get back to that feeling when I was doing electronic music alone in my bedroom home studio, deep into sounds and melodies.
Is that you singing? Why in English and not French? Don’t you know French is the best language ever and everyone gives me shit for not knowing how to speak it?
Yes, I’m singing. I can’t sing in French, the words are too strong for me in French, they are too real. In English I can say dramatic things without sounding dramatic.
I know some friends of mine have some crazy routines when they make albums (like making everyone in the studio wear the same color clothes or recording at a certain time or eating/drinking certain foods), did you have anything like that?
Yes, I burned some cod liver in the studio at the beginning and at the end of the album recording.
Joakim’s ‘Nothing Gold’ trailer
Philippe Zdar: Do you realize that after many repeated ecstatic listens of ‘Nothing Gold’ you’re gonna force a lot of producers who just wanted to take a year off to go back to work, work and work again; or to quote Beckett “to fail, fail again, fail better”?
Sorry Philippe, my intent was not to ruin your holidays. But knowing how a workaholic you are, I know you’re not gonna take any soon. That Beckett quote is so true. Not much you add. The more you work, the more you fail because that masterpiece you want to achieve is harder and harder to reach. But that’s beautiful failure, isn’t it?
Zombie Zombie: The production and arrangements on your record reach a certain level of sophistication and shows a deep knowledge of music, something rare in « Pop Music » in France, which sometimes makes me think of Steely Dan… Do you think your music is aimed at some kind of music elite?
No, I don’t believe making sophisticated music means it’s aimed at sophisticated people. My goal has always been to reach people, as much people as possible, to make music that has something universal. You mention Steely Dan, which is a good example of that, their music, or at least their production is highly sophisticated, but it never sound complicated and it was a huge mainstream success. Same with some of David Bowie’s records, Talking Heads, or even Radiohead these days although I’m not a huge fan. I’m not in love, by 10CC is a crazy avant-garde experiment, on a studio production point of view. Superman by Laurie Anderson hit the billboard charts in the US. That’s the kind of music I want to do.
Philippe Zdar: How does it feel to be so tall?
The air is thinner up there, but less polluted too.
Busy P: I often think of you as a French version of James Murphy. While you’re in NYC, why don’t you guys share coffee at DFA office and make us a nice piece of music? Can I release it?
Yes, be our producer : hook us up, lock us up in a studio and release the record! I’m a great admirer of James Murphy – and I’m obviously not the only one – and believe he’s one of the very few really important producers in the world today. He’s got a vision, which is rare. I love the fact that he’s taking such radical musical decisions on his albums, which are basically pop albums, especially on the last one, This Is Happening. But maybe we’d have too similar references and influences to make an interesting piece of music?