Interviews  |   Elegy, November 2008

How did you happen to work on 3:19 soundtrack?

Like most things I do the opportunity came to me to work on the soundtrack by way of an email, a simple little message saying “would you be interested...?” More and more I'm happy to work this way as it means that I get many more opportunities to do things, or go places, I'd never even thought of. In the area of scoring films, I do try to keep my ears open as it is something which has been giving me much satisfaction as an artist, as even after making music for so long, there are new things to learn and many different aspects to take into consideration.

How did you meet the director? Could you present him to us?

I met the director Dany Saadia, in Paris after being contacted by the producer of the film. Dany is, in fact, French but grew up in Mexico City. He's someone who struck me as being very focused, very intelligent and I instinctively knew that this would be a movie of depth, something to be proud of from an artistic viewpoint. They outlined the project and gave me a script and, as the project was at an early stage I had many opportunities to try different things, which was a luxury for me, given that with my previous movie I was given only about a week at the very end of the production.

What is the movie about?

Well, it is a tragedy that makes you laugh, a comedy which makes you cry, it's a lightweight film that makes you think and a film with great depth which can make you feel carefree. It's a story of, coincidence, love and friendship, which takes the questions raised in 'the unbearable lightness of being', and throws out answers, raises more questions and does all this while spanning 3 centuries. Oh, and very nice music too.

When is it shown in France?

I'm not sure exactly when, but as it was partly funded by the French, I'm sure it will appear here sooner or later.

How different was it to work on, comparatively to your other works such as for Mysterious Skin? How free were you to create this soundtrack?

Well as I said before, I was given a great deal more time and freedom to place the parts, develop the themes and generally assist in the project as opposed to the music just being laid on at the end, almost as an afterthought. I feel the music is integral and embedded in the story than my previous work. Part of the problem, for me, with movies nowadays are that there are less and less 'scores' of original music and more and more 'soundtracks' of pop songs just added at the last minute, with very little thought to anything else but selling soundtrack albums.

Did you try new approaches, new ways of working and composing?

When I make records I let the music flow, enjoy where it's going, and I don't have to prove to myself that it must sound a certain way. I stopped worrying about what people think a long time ago. I think I get better and better over time; there's more discipline as I get older. However when I approach a movie, I'm no longer on my own. I have to become part of a storytelling team; I have to place music with a sense of empathy to what is happening on screen and never forget that this is narrative and the function of my music is not to overwhelm but to underscore the scenes and hopefully help to tell the story.

You're also doing animated films. What about it?

Five years ago I started to experiment, really just as a test to myself, with 2D animation and video editing. I guessed that, as I'm a creative person who has channeled everything towards music, I maybe could create something in another discipline of the arts. I created a 55 minute long piece which I called 'Lumière' named partly for Auguste and Louis and partly for the idea of using it as the sole light source when I am on stage. I have no pretensions, I'm not a film maker, nor do I believe I ever could be, in a traditional way at least, but I am someone who has stuff bouncing around inside which needs to come out in order for me not to completely self destruct, as I've come close to in the past. So working with my animation has acted like a sort of safety valve. This year I started on a follow up called 'Galerie' and have recently finished it. It's is a step further, less experimental in a way, more dense but above all an attempt to echo my music production ethos with images, very many layers and subliminal events and gorgeously rich and colourful atmosphere. I have recently performed it in Moscow, New York and Mexico City. I don't want to make a DVD with my work I want to keep it as a special sort of thing where the only time people get to see it is at a concert.

What are your next projects or collaborations?

Well, I haven't anything planned. I just finished producing the new Album for Heligoland, the Australian band who have relocated to Paris. It's gorgeous, by the way. It's about time for me to do some new music, something more free and not tied so much to images. Doing the movie work is a whole lot different to working on albums and more free spirited music. Making music has been like a personal documentary during my life, reflecting the happenings, people, places and influences which my life has been made of. But it is not designed to be complex; it's designed to be... Nothing! It's designed to be the exact opposite of complex. If there's something really complex in there I take it out. That's because, the way my ears work, it's as if I'm always simplifying. My role as a producer is my focus and if there are little things that sound complex for the sake of being complex I'll get rid of them. But ultimately it's time to get some new music out there, that's the mother of everything I do. The rest are all tangents really.

Violet Indiana is over?

I hope not. For me it seems like only yesterday since we last did something but the reality is that it has been four years. I've been rather tied up with making instrumental music and movies and stuff. Life is full. It is curious that many more people seem interested in Violet Indiana now that when we were really active as a band. Logistically it's rather difficult as Siobhan lives in London and Mitsuo in Tokyo. I guess if some record company or something were to fund it it'd be easier but I don't really live in a world where there are benevolent record companies or indeed any benevolent music business entities. I'm as about independent as it's possible to be.

Any chance to see a reformation of Cocteau Twins?

Cocteau Twins is something that I'm proud of but I seem to spend my whole time trying to convince people that that wasn't really the best part of my life! I don't look back very fondly to a lot of that period. I was much younger, less at ease with myself and the world. I was a drug addict, I had a failed relationship and I got screwed over by the music industry. Now, tell me, why would I want to go back there?