MaJiKer's new album "Body Piano Machine" is quite simply a piece of art. Full of depth, hidden treasure, gorgeous traditional and electronc instrumentation and loads of mystery coated with international pazazz, this is one album that you simply can't live without – by one of electronica's budding new geniuses. MaJiKer is prepping for his first big show in Paris quite soon and EQ got some time with him to talk about some of the songs from "Body Piano Machine" and the concept behind it.
To discover exactly why I am going nutzoid for MaJiKer, check out his MySpace.
Hello MaJiKer – how are you today?
Ça va très bien, merci!
Where are you answering my questions from today?
I’m at home in Paris – in my flat in the 18th arrondisement (northern part of Paris).
So I have been listening to your album "Body Piano Machine" and I would describe the album as being very rich, deep and enveloping. How would you describe the album?
It’s better if the listener describes it, as I don’t want to limit people’s imaginations when they hear it. This album is quite open to interpretation I think – it’s a chameleon! If I had to have a go with some adjectives, how about: colourful, ecletic, cheeky, provocative, surprising, rhythmical, quirky… and hopefully a lot of fun!
There is prevalent use of the the piano in the album as well as it being a major theme. Can you elaborate on why the piano is such a huge part of this body of work.
It’s very funny that you picked up on the piano. All the sounds you hear come from the human body (human beatbox, body percussion, singing), the piano (an acoustic upright piano) and the machine is my childhood Yamaha keyboard, (the PSS 270). All songs explore a different aspect of the relationships between two or all three of these elements. I think all three are fairly equally represented on this album, so the fact that you picked up on the piano means that this element stood out for you more than the body and the machine. I think I know why! We are so used to songs about bodies ("Touch My Body", "Rock Your Body") and machines ("Love Machine", "Strict Machine") but songs about piano’s are more rare! There are some, but they are often a bit cheesey or silly. Sometimes I feel the piano is left out of the love triangle…the machine has all the quirky sounds and the human body has endless fascinating rhythmical possibilities. I’m pleased that the piano is finding his own space! Go for it Piano!
The album is to an extent somewhat experimental. Was this part of the plan or did it just end up sounding that way with all it's sound samples and quirky melodies?
For some people this album is very poppy, for others it’s deeply experimental and ground-breaking. I’d like to suggest that it is both, equally! In fact, I genuinely believe that it is possible to be both completely poppy and widely experimental at the same time, and most of my work as a producer is based on this belief. All classic pop music was ground-breaking at the time it was released that’s why it made an impact. Pop music is not about recycling what already exists… well, at least it SHOULDN’T BE! I am constantly working to combine proper melodies, real catchy tunes that stay in your head, with interesting and original arrangements. This is my on-going challenge.
You've brought in quite the troop of female vocalists on this album. Was it fun working with so many different female voices?
I have always worked with female vocalists; more than 30 so far. I am fascinated by the female voice, and after years of collaboration, I understand how to work very well with female singers. All the girls on "BPM" are friends and former collaborators. I have produced whole albums with Indi Kaur, Rosa-Rebecka, Camille and Heather O Malley, songs with Maya Barsony and Bénédicte Le Lay (who is also my on-stage collaborator) and I have worked on live shows with China Moses. What is great fun is that I am currently recording some brand new bonus tracks with the same BPM concept, and for these I have the chance to work with new female vocalists; ladies that I would possibly like to produce in the future, so the guest featurings are hopefully opening up new collaborations too.
Tell me about the song "Strings & Wires". It's probably my favourite song on the album. I love all the unusual instrumentation and popping sounds on the track – it's very Imogen Heap-ish.
Thank you! The song tells the tale of my little keyboard who dreams of transforming into a real grand piano. It’s like a modern day fairytale, although the story also serves as a metaphor for my own desire to grow as a performer and to express myself on prestigious stages – the journey to find my own voice as a singer songwriter after years of being a producer for other singers. At one point, early on, I wasn’t sure this song was right for the album, as it is so playful and poppy, but I accepted that this is an important part of me and I realised that it’s actually a very deep song, even if it does sound a little "manga"!
"Guillotine" is quite creepy. Is the song supposed to be as creepy as it sounds?
OH YES! In exploring the relationships between bodies, piano’s and machines I could not overlook the machines that cause harm to human bodies. The guillotine is gruesome invention, (oh la laa, those Frenchies!) that effectively allows humans to murder, whilst shifting some of the blame onto an inanimate object, as if the guilltone itself is a danger… it’s only the humans operating it that are dangerous!
There is a huge french sensibility on the album – What's it like recording an album with features both french and english lyrics and sounds. You don't really see that too often.
I’m not sure I can spot the Frenchness, apart from the use of a few French lyrics obviously. I guess any French sensibility must come very naturally to me as I speak fluent French and I live in Paris, so I’m not really aware of how it sounds to outside ears. I’m just expressing myself how it feels natural. As for the mix of languages, there are many different ones that I have a go at: Russian, Farsi, Finnish, Japanese… So many people are billingual in the world, it seems a shame that artists don’t mix up their languages more. – it’s such fun! For example, you very rarely see Swedish acts singing in Swedish and English in the same song, whereas they often speak both languages in every day life. I tried to do this on the album – we even managed to find a way to make Swedish rhyme with English in the song "The Chase".
So you're signed to one of my favorite labels – Gaymonkey. How did you get discovered by the fine folks at Gaymonkey?
I had known about Gaymonkey for many years, and really enjoyed their output. I contacted them directly after I heard that they were looking for new music to release in 2009. I’d had many, many fruitless meetings with all kinds of labels in France and in the UK, and I had still not found the right home for my album. I wanted to work with a flexible and loyal team who genuinely loved my music. I was looking for them to have realistic and yet ambitious aims for the release and promotion of this album and Gaymonkey is the perfect fit! It’s working out so well – I feel very grateful that we made contact when we did.
Tell me about "Wall Of Sound". It's got quite a huge electro atmosphere. I kinda always get lost in it when I'm listening to it on the train….
Thanks! I absolutely thrilled with this comment, as this is EXACTLY what I was trying to achieve! I wanted to create a clausophobic atmosphere, as if you were a tiny person trapped inside a grand piano, being defeaned by the chords and running into sound everywhere you ran, like a musical labyrinth. It’s about being addicted to sound, and wanting to dive inside it, and to turn the music up louder and louder until you can’t hear anything anymore – is too much of a good thing dangerous?
You're song "Flesh And Bone" is so beautiful and the promo video is like a mini David Lynch movie. What is the track and video all about in your words?
I am extremely happy with the video, but I cannot really explain the creative thought behind it, as it was very much the vision of the director, Raphaël Neal who is a trusted friend and visual collaborator (he also created the album artwork and design). I have never really been someone who watches a lot of movies and my awareness of film work was fairly limited when we shot this first video, so I just completely trusted Raphaël and his team, and I’m thrilled with the results. The song itself is about reincarnation (the metaphor I use is that of a piano being reborn into a human baby) but Raphaël’s imagery takes the song somewhere else, and gives an open and poetic interpretion to the lyrics. We are currently working on a new video, and this time I have been much more directly involved, helping a lot with the editing – which has been great fun!
You have a big show coming up in Paris soon. Are you nervous?
I never get stage fright, luckily. But it’s always exhausting and daunting to organise everything logistically. As the show is very theatrical, we have to be so careful with our props and stage layout, and this takes an enormous amount of preparation: we have to do it ourselves, as nobody else would know what was needed. Only Bénédicte and myself have created the show. If there is one torch or tube of paint missing, we are screwed! The show itself is great fun, but we need to be very well organised to make it happen.
You're coming to London soon aren't you…
YES! I’m so excited to bring this show to the UK. I am starting to miss Britain more and more. I find myself buying Rich Tea biscuits here in Paris, just to remind me of home. I mean, nobody really loves Rich Tea biscuits do they? But it’s what they represent… makes them taste better. Anyway, yes, we will definitely be playing a big launch show before the summer, so watch this space! Sign up to the Gaymonkey newsletter if you’d like be be kept informed and hear about our plans.
Well that's all my questions – thanks so much for taking the time. Any parting words for our EQ readers?
Thanks to everyone who has been supporting new and upcoming artists like myself. The music indusry is changing fast, and the most reassuring thing is to see how enthusiastic people are still about new music and artists that are trying to offer something a little bit different. It’s not easy these days, but sites like EQ are providing some much-needed guidance to help hunt out the gems. Keep up the great work!