Hi Jean. Please do tell us a bit about your personal journey into the land of music and arts. Where did it all start, and when did this personal, 'tonal love affair' begin?
Hello! Well... At the age of 13 I had the chance to travel to India and stay in Darjeeling, a Himalayan town nearby the Nepalese border, for a few days. There I remember one misty morning, while we were waiting for the sunrise, two Yellow Hat Buddhist monks playing imposing low notes on their huge horns towards the Mount Everest. This overall higher sound experience in this setting made a deep impression on me. Also my journeys to the Sahara of Tunesia, where sometimes you hear 'no sound at all', were important for my actual composing work, too. As a young boy, my older sister introduced me to film culture. Late at night, we would watch together all the movies of Truffaut, Bergman, Fellini, Visconti, Hitchcock, Scorsese. Then, as a teenager, I discovered heavy metal, acid rock, psychedelic music, black & trash metal. Attending a concert of Black Sabbath for example felt like a sort of ritual to me. Those urban concerts in big venues where everybody was in a sort of trance was something I liked so much that I decided to learn to play the electric guitar and to be part of metal bands. I wrote my own songs from the very start, and composing felt so natural to me.
You also decided to study at the Royal Music Conservatory in Gent. How did this change your sight on composing and music in general?
The main reason to study at the Music Conservatory was my interest to understand the composing systems of the classical masters and some 20th-century composers. Also, the study of modal contrapoint for example was important to develop my inner hearing, and the analysis of musical form important to get insight on construction of a composition. But, I had difficulties to operate in that school system with my rebel nature :-) Beside this classical study, I had a three-year training course in jazz-composing and arranging and worked after that for a while as an arranger for the Belgian Radio Television Big Band.
Sounds like a very promising career...
But all this was not enough for me! At that very moment, I could not yet translate the inner voice deep inside of me into music. It took me years to find a way to get this to the surface, and with my latest double album I have the feeling I finally achieved my goal.
You seem to be rather fearless and open-minded when creating sounds and visions. We already pointed out some styles in our review - Dark Ambient, Romantic Piano like Chopin, Psychedelic Kraut-Rock, some Jazz and Dodecaphonism-Elements for example; but the list certainly could go on and on. You don’t like to limit yourself to one genre only, right?
Yes indeed , I have a large spectrum in style and genre! From my listeners, I hear often that my music sounds very "visual", so this could maybe be a binding parameter.
Your music could easily attract both sides: More (or less) conventional listeners from the sophisticated bourgeoisie and subcultural audiences from the Industrial or Dark Ambient scenes. Did you get some reactions from those different camps so far?
Thank you for the compliment! It is indeed my aim not to belong solely to one camp. It feels like freedom! For example, mentally I do not feel like a Belgian but more as a human being walking on this beautiful versatile planet without any boundaries. Too much control is the same as fear. So, I enjoy the good reactions from all those camps with their specific codes and variations and also different venues. It is never boring!
As you are from Belgium, electronic influences must be almost obligatory, as there are countless electronic groups and artists in your country. When did you come across electronic music for the very first time – and which album or song was the key moment?
Good question... My interest in electronics came when I was recording in a studio with a band. Seeing there all that equipment (synths, samplers, computer e.g.) and realizing the possibilities of all that made me decide to buy a 4-track cassette recording system, an Atari computer and some synths. I cannot recall being influenced directly by Belgian electronic bands, but this must have been unconsciously for sure because it was everywhere around! Aphex Twin's first label (R&S records) was based in Ghent for example, so we were in touch with his music (which I really like, actually!) from the beginning. We always had such a good and vibrant alternative music scene here in Belgium, that we actually thought it must be like that everywhere else.
Are there some bands or composers you would regard as your personal heroes? If so, how did they inspire your (daily) life and artistic work?
The composers György Ligeti, Giacinto Scelsi, Florian Fricke (Popol Vuh) to name a few were a big influence. They turn the concept of "time" into something relative, or maybe even endless. I discovered them mostly through movie soundtracks like Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu" or Stanley Kubrick's "2001 A Space Odyssey". In my youth, I couldn’t get enough of Pink Floyd’s "Dark side of the Moon". Furthermore and depending on my mood, I enjoy listening to some Wagner ouvertures, the French impressionists Debussy and Ravel, Indian music, the minimalists Reich & Riley, a wide range of Metal, psychedelic stuff, industrial, drone, kraut rock and other good rock music, some noise, wide range of electronic music, soundtracks, e.g.
Some compositions of yours like "Teufelsberg" or "Der Regenbaum" were originally part of a Gesamtkunstwerk and premiered as an audiovisual performance. How did you experience these collaborations with other artists, and was there a special moment that immediately comes to your mind when thinking about the opening night?
The opening night of “Der Regenbaum” at Club 11 Amsterdam was great: good sound system, visual projection on 12 big screens, lots of nice and cool people, great venue and nothing artifical. So, the way I like it. Working together with visual artists is very exiting and enriching! It also gives you access to other performing possibilities and audiences (movie theater, TV, exhibition space, other venues). Sound and visuals together can be very strong, but for a work of a long duration, you need a good dramaturgy to function and blend properly.
You play many instruments. When starting a composition, do you already know which specific instruments will take part in it or is it more like an open work in progress?
Besides playing guitar and piano, I regard the computer as my main instrument. Most of the time, I don't know which instruments I will use, because I only think about root notes, harmonics, structure, form and dynamics when starting to compose. The electronic orchestration, so to speak, comes later on. An exception are the commissioned works, where instruments can be fixed from the start.
Might not happen very often, but if you’re not busy working in the studio, what do you enjoy doing most of all?
Long walks in the nature or in the city and travelling!
As a composer, how would you assess the current music scene in general, also keeping in mind the heavy amount of listeners who buy music from the internet only?
The internet gave music a free distribution. I have listeners from all over the world, who discovered my music through sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, which has a sales option, as well. In the past, this was not possible at all. So, this is a good thing! It gave freedom to music. But as you know, the revenues of selling music nowadays (digital downloads, CD and vinyl) are not what they used to be. The golden times of the record stores are over, but still, some of them can resist the trend and I respect that.
How do you like your music 'served' when you listen to a specific work? Are you more into the digital or physical; records, CDs or even cassettes?
Mostly I listen to my music in the studio through the computer on my monitor speakers or Beyerdynamic headphones. I have a good hifi set up in my living room to listen to my CD collection and some vinyl's and rare cassettes. Of course a good sound system in some venues can be super, too!
As a composer, what are your thoughts on mp3s?
The mp3 format is ok to get an idea of the music on the web, but unfortunately cuts away some frequencies that could be important. Computer speakers, for my kind of music, are really crap because the bass frequencies are inaudible. In such a case it's better to listen with good headphones. The minor side of the internet delivery music nowadays is the over-compressed and flat production. There is almost no dynamic range anymore. So, the web was great for distribution e.g., but unfortunately lowered the music quality at the same time. I'm really concerned that the listeners are getting used to that poor quality with almost no dynamic range at all!
What sound (found in the studio, nature or any secret location you can imagine) is an all time favourite of yours?
In a sound (nature, studio,...) I always hear other sounds inside of it and like to bring these more in the foreground and so on. You might compare it to watching fractals.
"Jean Delouvroy" seems to be a first retrospective; an inventory or look back on what you achieved to far. Are there some new projects planned for the near future?
In the near future, I would like to concentrate on composing soundtracks for movies and also performing more on live concerts. A new album will come for sure, but it can take a while because I'm reallyvery happy with this actual double album!
Last, but not least a simple question, but not quite that easy to answer: What does music mean to you? Or what is the most striking quality you see in music?
Music and sound has a spiritual meaning to me that goes beyond words.
|| INTERVIEW: ANTJE BISSINGER / DANIEL DRESSLER | DATE: 09/06/14 | CONTACT || [READ IN GERMAN] || ["JEAN DELOUVROY" REVIEW] >
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ARTWORK & PHOTOGRAPHY © JEAN DELOUVROY.
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