A rising figure on the French electronic scene with the Ed Banger Records label in the late 2000s, Sebastian has evolved into a man in the shadows over the years. But instead of continuing the momentum of his fabulous record Total published in 2011, the French artist discovered a passion for collaborations. Whether with Philippe Katerine or his great friend Kavinsky, Sebastian broadens his technical palette and engages in more eclectic and enriching projects than each other.
The culmination of this approach is the album Rest by Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose career he practically relaunched, with a lot of productions that are both melodious and modern. A real musical fusion, as the two acolytes seem to be in osmosis on this remarkable disc of mastery and accuracy.
All this has allowed Sebastian to gain experience and multiply projects around the world. Coveted internationally by the greatest, the musician had the honor of actively participating in the last two albums of a certain Frank Ocean, both considered masterpieces. We were able to hear it on “Facebook Story” by Blonde hairand he is also credited on the tracks “Slide on Me”, “Rushes” and “Higgs” fromEndless.
From now on, Sebastian is back on the front of the stage and wishes to pass on the fruit of these auspicious and instructive years. A return that the virtuoso has just begun with the release of his first two singles: the dark “Thirst” and the luminous “Run For Me” (in the company of the young American singer Gallant). The artist wanted to make two diametrically opposed titles: Sebastian takes malicious pleasure in blurring the tracks and has decided to have fun with his listeners until the release of his next album, scheduled for the next school year.
Interview with a passionate, bulimic music, culture and humanity.
Konbini | Hello Sebastian! your last album, Total, dates from 2011. What have you been doing all this time?
Sebastian | I produced a lot of people right after Total. There are a few projects that have followed one another, in particular with Kavinsky for his album OutRun, in 2013. I really was a producer, like you do with a singer. I realized that I really liked working for other people.
You also collaborated with Frank Ocean.
One day someone calls me on Skype. And that person in question was Frank Ocean. He tells me that I have to be there the next day. However, he still lives in Los Angeles. I told him that it was not really served by line 12. To which he replies that there is no problem, his record company pays for the trip. And so I literally find myself the next day in Los Angeles in the studio with him.
At the beginning, we were a somewhat restricted team. But he has a rather abstract way of working. Then I met people from that sphere thanks to this meeting, like the members of The Internet.
But also Charlotte Gainsbourg for her album Rest and his EP Take 2.
Simultaneously, there is Charlotte Gainsbourg who calls me for her album Rest. It’s pretty crazy, because our first meeting didn’t go very well, if not downright bad. I was very outspoken: I saw her as the French Kate Middleton, and I wanted to do something in French. So I tell him that either we do it in French or we don’t. I reversed the positions a little, normally it is she who decides. She reacted badly at the time, and makes me understand that it will be nothing, and it ends in slamming the door.
Now, it makes her laugh, this story. A year after this first meeting, she calls me back. She had just lost her sister, and she said to me: “Maybe you were right, I need to express certain things and I can only say them in French.” I have a feeling she really needed it.
How did you manage to work on these two projects at the same time?
Frank and Charlotte are kind of musical opposites, while I worked for both at the same time. Everyone wanted a project with a lot of following, and on my side I wanted to work with someone for a while and settle down a bit. Both projects were quite slow: it was painful for Charlotte and Frank had way too many ideas. Clearly, Frank Ocean has the freest creative design I’ve seen in my career. There were guys from everywhere, with no mental or technical restrictions. Then Frank called me back to Endless.
What’s funny with Charlotte is that just when I wanted to settle down and settle in France, she moved to New York! When I went to see her, I had to stay a month or two with her to work. We recorded everything in New York. But I made the compositions quickly. Mostly anything “musical” was fast. We were either in his apartment or in an Airbnb. Then came the stage of the studio. Because 80% of the album was done on the computer, but for the violins and all the old school stuff, it’s better to be in the studio.
Did this meeting open other doors for you?
Thanks to Charlotte, I was offered an Yves Saint Laurent fashion show, when I really (but then really) know nothing about fashion. We didn’t just want to play a few songs like that, so I made music specifically for the clothes and the atmosphere.
The first one worked well, so I made a second one. Then a third and a fourth, and I realized I had been doing this for several years now. It made me travel quite a bit, whereas these were completely abstract projects for me, since I don’t capture anything in that world. I was able to go to Japan for example, where I met a lot of artists.
You also participated in the soundtrack of the film The world is yours by Romain Gavras.
I already knew him because we had worked together for his first film, Our day Will Come. He had started with Jamie XX, but he wanted more diversity. So we shared the thing a bit between two – knowing that you have a great musical variety in The world is yoursas with “Hallyday (the phoenix)” by Michel Sardou in the intro or “Le monde ou rien” by PNL at the end.
Earlier, you produced the record Magnum by Katerina. How was this experience?
There was also Katerine in the meantime, it’s true! But him, it was the opposite pattern. It was extremely fast, we already knew each other a little before. He came to me directly and said: “When do we start?” With him, there is no story of renting a studio or anything. He came to my house, to my 25 square meter apartment, and he sang the entire album on the couch, microphone in hand. We wanted to add a “French touch” side to the project, with a lot of samples. The idea was to take it up again later. But in no case did we make the thing cerebral. In three or four months, it was over. We got on really well together.
Is that what made you want to come back to the French language?
It’s a connection that I hadn’t necessarily thought of, but it’s true that there was Katerine and then Charlotte. This is where I fed the idea of returning to pieces in French. You see, I find it crazy that we have Daft Punk and company, but that the French touch is always reduced to cainris stuff. It’s called the “French touch” and there are no productions in French! In no way it’s a reproach to other artists, but there is a crazy potential. And this return is starting to emerge – I think we’re already in the middle of it, by the way.
You confirmed your comeback a few days ago with the title “Thirst”, illustrated by a powerful clip by Gaspar Noé.
I already knew Gaspar Noé thanks to a common friend, Jean-Louis Costes. Even if he speaks little about it, he is fascinated by certain transgressive figures from before. We met about ten years ago. And, when I did “Thirst”, I called him back because visually he had the paw to translate this track into images. I found it funny in addition to returning to the club, when I left this environment years ago.
Gaspar went very quickly: as soon as he listens to the piece, he does it within a week and almost immediately finds all the necessary means. The universe is dark and violent, but don’t think too much, it’s almost caricature. It’s something you feel. He throws some sort of cobblestone into the pond, and you watch what happens. He was in any case the best possible option for this clip.
A week later, you released your second single, “Run For Me”.
My two clips followed one another fairly quickly. I find that there is a coherence in this abrupt thing, very violent of a blow. It’s also to signify that it’s a bit more than just a “Hello”. Behind “Run For Me”, you have a song on “love and violence”, as our friend Sébastien Tellier would say. That’s why I released them as singles. We have the two angles of the spine of the project: the first very aggressive, and the other very emotional and first degree.
So we have two relatively similar clips in their structures, but two titles quite different from each other. What should we expect for this new project that is coming?
Now I’m going to shell out as I go and it’ll be up to people to guess what to expect. In any case, it is the meeting of all my experiences of these last years. There is a form of consistency, but you have to ask yourself what it will look like. It is my goal, that people ask themselves the question.
This new album is the fruit of all the encounters that I have been able to make everywhere over the years. I think you have to throw the brain aside, because it is the enemy of music. You have to use it once you have laid music, there is no need to use it in advance. I collected stuff everywhere that I decided to bring back with me. Besides, it’s not like I make a record every year, so I’m really happy to be able to show it soon. To see what has changed or not, what it brings or not.
You have several dates in France this summer. How are you approaching this big comeback?
In France, there are quite a few dates everywhere, including one at We Love Green. I approach this return calmly, even if a live, it’s always something that goes into the bacon. In addition, it’s not as if I was used to extremely soft music, so it makes me laugh to come back and give a few hits. It’s always cool to shake people up a bit.
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We chatted with Sebastian about his return to Frank Ocean
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