'Igorrrr and the Mysteries of Experimental Music' - Interview with Gautier Serre

Most band interviews like to start by saying that this is a band that needs no introduction, well instead Igorrr really are a band that needs one. It is hard to truly explain the uniqueness of Igorrr. They seem to include influences throughout all music and it shows in their music. I say they but it is mainly the passion project of Gautier Serre. Making Igorrr, Serre drafts many musicians into his music and could only in recent years be able to fully tour off the back of 2017's Savage Sinusoid. Their music together being truly experimental in sound scope and by very design. Igorrr really needs to be heard to be believed. We are now on their fourth album, Spirituality and Distortion since their starting out with 2010's Nostril.

Noizze: Hi, how are you?

Gautier Serre: I’m still alive.

Noizze: Spirituality and Distortion is a fantastic album, was there anything that you decided to do differently for this release?

Gautier Serre: Thank you!

Yes, I do things differently for each album, finding new processes and new ways of mixing different colours of musics together; in this continuity, Spirituality and Distortion is definitely a different album than the previous ones. However, Spirituality and Distortion exists also because of the experience I had from the previous ones, including Savage Sinusoid. Every instrument that you hear inside has been recorded in the studio. There were no samples. The middle east sounding instruments, for example, like the Oud, the Kanoun and the percussion has been played and recorded in the studio. Whatever the difficulties of inviting traditional musicians from all over the world, I picked up the best of each musician, symbolizing the very best of each genre. Baroque and classical music, death metal, middle east music, balkan music, electronic jungle and breakcore, traditional French musette etc… That was a thing I wanted to keep from Savage Sinusoid, plus working in the same studio with many of the same people.

Spirituality and Distortion had a big improvement after Savage Sinusoid as I was discovering my ideal way of creating and recording the base of the music, that I would treat after; and with Spirituality and Distortion, I was really ready to do it and to push things much further than I could do before. I could focus completely on the artistic side and put the technical part a bit on the side as it was already fixed.

Without the experience of Savage Sinusoid, I would never be able to create such a challenging mountain, which is Spirituality and Distortion.

Noizze: What is the significance of the name?

Gautier Serre: The significance of this title is an infinite battle between two opposite concepts that articulate each other and which are both a part of our life, « Spirituality and Distortion ».

It’s a bit like the Yin and the Yang, but extreme music version. In this album, the « Distortion » is the part which symbolise what’s wrong, what part of our life we should get rid of; and the « Spirituality » is what we need to face it, full of nonsense and injustices. This title represents the hard balance to find between both of them and it represents a really important concept in Igorrr: the contrast.

In Spirituality and Distortion, you have a beautiful contrast with two opposite things, two opposite feelings that articulate each other very well, look at 'Downgrade Desert', 'Overweight Poesy' or 'Himalaya Massive Ritual'. You can experience a profound and spiritual music there with the middle east and Tibetan traditional instruments and voices. In those same tracks, together with these traditional instruments, you also have very brutal drum and guitar riffing. This is the contrast I mean.

Same with 'Nervous Waltz', there is this very light and jumping baroque melody at the beginning, which is completely killed by the death metal coming right after.

What I mean, is that the noise will never feel so noisy, only if you contrast it with its opposite: the silence, and the same on the other way around. The silence will never feel so silent, only if you contrast it with noise.

The title Spirituality and Distortion expresses this idea, that is really strong on this album, but also on the whole Igorrr discography.

Noizze: And what significance does spirituality have for you?

Gautier Serre: Spirituality is for me like a remedy for the distortion of the world we are living in. It has and never had anything religious connections with it. I’m keeping myself as far as possible off of that! The spirituality, for me, has a more human meaning, more connected with unpretentiousness and soulful thoughts.

Noizze: What are your influences in music? As well as outside of music?

Gautier Serre: My influences in music are quite wide, as I’m very interested in many different expressions in music, many different approaches. I’m listening to a lot of baroque and classical music, a lot of south American traditional music, black and death metal, electronic music, balkan music. In every genre, there are actually incredible artists that pushed their music so far that it is definitely worth opening yourself to. Going away from your comfort zone to discover new ways of thinking in music; new logics and new cultures. I guess every music which touched me in a way, can be perceived in my music today, in Igorrr.

Outside of music, I’m a nature man. I’m living in the Mediterranean area and I’m pretty much into nature and cooking food.

Noizze: How was it writing the album?

Gautier Serre: It has been a complete hell, but in the end, a very rich and intensive experience. Working with so many different musicians, so many different cultures, juggling between all of those and working days and nights. over a very long period of time, with all the difficulties that such « out of the box » music may encounter. It was exhausting and, right now, for me, it’s a « no way I’m gonna do that ever again ».

Noizze: Do you have any songs that you're excited to play live and why? Also, how did you come up with them?

Gautier Serre: Yes, I have many songs that I’m really excited to play live, like 'Himalaya Massive Ritual', 'Camel Dancefloor', 'Downgrade Desert', 'Hollow Tree' or 'Nervous Waltz', we have never played them live yet, I can’t wait! We can’t wait!

It’s hard to describe how I came up with those tracks. It has been a couple of years of composition, selection work and improvements, fails and discovering, in order to reach my definition of ideal music.

However, I can tell you how was created 'Hollow Tree', which is I think is the most intuitive and fast-made track I did during the past ten years with Igorrr. Even this track was made in a period of like 6 months. It happened during the harpsichord recordings, all the music was already written, the harpsichord player was here to play 'Paranoid Bulldozer Italiano', 'Nervous Waltz' and 'Barocco Satani'. During launch break, when the guys went to grab some food out, I decided to stay at the studio to have a little Spirituality and Distortion break and to just play anything but this album. So I went in the storage room, thinking about nothing at all, and just played instinctively. My attention was taken by what I was playing, I found a little loop of notes which I enjoyed very much. I was in such emotional burnt-out mood due to the recordings, that this little loop flew away from my fingers. When the guys came back, I asked Benjamin, the harpsichord player, if he could play that thing. We were actually in the recordings of the harpsichord of the album, he said yes. He exercised it a bit and we recorded right away, and here it is, we recorded the base of 'Hollow Tree'. Then I asked Laure to sing the part that I wrote for her, and Timba Harris to play the strings.

Noizze: You've incorporated a wide range of musicians, what was it like working with them?

Gautier Serre: Working with such a variety of musician is very challenging. Actually, the method is pretty much the same for every musician.

Once you have composed the tracks, you have to find the right person, the right instrument with the right sound, the right microphones and technical gear. If the person does not escape and agrees to play their parts, he or she has to exercise the track that I send them. They have to practice and to be ready for the day of the recording, which was mostly never the case by the way; and on the top of that, we had to fix the planning matter with the musician, the studio, the photographer (Svarta Photography, who was shooting and documenting all the recording process of the album) and myself, all for the same day and for each musician.

It might seem quite Ok at first, but we are speaking here about music which is qualified as « extreme » by most people and when you have to record a lot of different traditional instruments, coming from a very different culture, it’s difficult to communicate and to make them understand what I need. Some of them might get afraid or think they can do it and at the day of the recording, they notice that it’s harder than they thought, as they have to open and get a bit away from their comfort zone.

Each of the instrumentalists has a very different vibe, a very different culture, a very different sound, and a very different language. To record them is difficult, but on the top of that, more than having a precise and detailed vision of what I needed to for every instrumentalist, I have to keep the global point of view of the complete work, complete track and complete album, which makes the communication sometimes messy.

Fortunately, there has also been very open minded and curious, traditional players. It’s very entertaining and that’s a real pleasure to work with them.

Noizze: How do you go about collaborating with other artists?

Gautier Serre: Actually, as a person with synesthesia, I see my tracks a bit like paintings of feelings, and I choose the musicians according to the colour they have when they play. I pick them up like a painter would chose his colour of paint and I write the musical sheets of what they have to play.

Noizze: Is there anyone dead or alive that you'd like to make music with if you could?

Gautier Serre: Yes, my dream was to welcome George Fisher on to one of my tracks, and this dream came true with Spirituality and Distortion. I invited George Fisher to sing on the track 'Parpaing'.

'Parpaing' is a very traditional death metal track that is mixed with 8 bits chiptune music, which works incredibly well with the George’s voice. He has the heaviest voice in the metal world, and listening to him singing on 8 bits chiptune music is the perfect balance. As 8bits music is the lightest music possible, so it gives plenty of space to welcome the incredibly rich sound of a voice of a death metal singer like George Fisher.

Noizze: There's also a wide arrange of instruments that you've incorporated into the Igorrr sound, including scaffolding and a gas cylinder for Spirituality and Distortion. How do you come up with exploring such interesting sounds and instruments?

Gautier Serre: Finding new sounds is always somewhere in my mind. Any sound can be music, like a guitar is made of wood and steel arranged in a very particular way to sound like a guitar. Any other material is making sound, a sound which can be used to create music if we arrange them in a particular way as well. For the example of the scaffolding, this thing hasn’t been created to sound good at all, or at least, to sound like a musical instrument, but it actually sounds amazing. I was blown away when I hit it for the first time with a drumstick. You may ask me why I hit a scaffolding with a drumstick? I tried its sound because it’s not made for this, and this is the last thing we think of when we speak about drumming, it’s curiosity.

Noizze: How is it recording sounds from these alternative instruments?

Gautier Serre: It’s awesome, it’s actually a very rewarding and meaningful experience, as basically, it’s so wide, that whatever you try, nobody did exactly the same before; or a least, sometimes just a few people. So, you are basically discovering new sounds and new ways of making sounds. It’s very exciting and it brings a very strong creative energy.

Noizze: Do you know of any other artists who do any other experimental music and exploring sounds?

Gautier Serre: Right now, I have in mind an EP from Aphex Twin, where he recorded a piano and drums in a very interesting way. In a way that you are not suppose to do with an instrument. The name of this EP is « Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments » but I’m sure many other artists are doing the same thing, as it’s awesome to do it. It’s a lot of fun and it teaches you a lot.

Noizze: For anyone looking to make music and/or record sounds what advice would you give them?

Gautier Serre: Don’t do that. Play the Playstation instead. It’s much easier and less expensive.

Noizze: The album has three music videos, one feels personal, one feels abstract and the other feels otherworldly, is there any that you feel closely matches your musical style or can this be done?

Gautier Serre: Actually, it really depends of the mood. That’s why those videos are very different from each other. Sometimes the mood is like, I don’t care for refined music, I want to make a giant what the fuck, like 'Very Noise'. Sometimes instead, I’m searching for doing something very beautiful and deep like 'Downgrade Desert', which is more human and can be understood in the first degree of perception; and sometimes I feel that this kind of over-produced video is placing a distance between the musician and the public. That’s why I like to create home made videos like with 'Cheval' or 'Parpaing'. Life is a variety of things, variety of feelings, wishes and necessity. I like to be able to express the same variety of moods, by proposing different varieties of musics and videos.

Noizze: Are there any favourite tracks that you have for the album and if so why?

Gautier Serre: Here also it very much depends of the mood, but usually, the tracks that I’m listening to the most, since the album's release are 'Camel Dancefloor', 'Himalaya Massive Ritual', 'Hollow Tree', 'Nervous Waltz', 'Downgrade Desert' and 'Lost in Introspection'. I’m not sure why, but I feel that those tracks has caught something very personal of me, which is still very much alive and which makes sense, and is very accurate.

Noizze: What are you up to at the moment?

Gautier Serre: Musically, I’m at Augustin Barrios, and humanly, it’s a rainy Sunday in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis; and instead of touring in Europe, like I am supposed to be doing now, I’m at home answering interviews and eating « ciambella al limone e vaniglia ».

Noizze: What do you have in mind for the future with Igorrr?

Gautier Serre: Right now, we are all focused on when the gigs will start again. We still haven’t play Spirituality and Distortion live and we are just waiting for the sanitary situation to calm down to be able to, finally, play again.

Noizze: When you're not developing music and performing live, what do you like to do?

Gautier Serre: I like to cook great food, to improve my chef’s skills and to enjoy nature in Provence.

Noizze: Are there any questions you feel we've missed out or anything you'd like to talk about or add?

Gautier Serre: It’s all good on my side, thanks for all your questions man !

Noizze: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, all the best for the future.

Gautier Serre: You’re welcome !

Spirituality and Distortion is out now via Metal Blade Records. Purchase the album here.

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