Three years after Mirapolis, French producer Erwan Castex aka Rone just released a new album. Room With A View is out now via Infiné. The album was produced alongside a live show commissioned by the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and developed together with choreography collective (LA) HORDE and 20 dancers of the Ballet National de Marseille. It was inspired by discussions of collapsology and climate change.
Check the full streaming below and read our talk with him about the inspiration of the new album, the theme of the climate change and much more.
The new album “Room With A View” was produced alongside a live performance with choreography collective (LA) HORDE and dancers from the Ballet National de Marseille. What drove your inspiration?
I was at the end of the Mirapolis tour when I was contacted by Ruth Mackenzie, freshly appointed Artistic Director of the Théâtre du Châtelet. She offered me a carte blanche for 10 days in the renovated theatre. I knew I wanted to try something different. I had already played with singers, musicians, an orchestra and even a choir, the invitation of the Châtelet was the perfect opportunity to fulfill my old dream of working with dancers. So I got in touch with (La)Horde. I didn’t know them personally but had been following their work for quite a while. A few weeks later they became artistic directors of the Ballet National de Marseille, we had 18 talented dancers for the project!
At that point I only had demos for the new album. When I went to the first rehearsals with the dancers, I played them some demos to see how they reacted, and to my surprise it was often the more minimalistic tracks that generated some dance magic, so I knew I had to keep the tracks pure and not over-complicated. My music influenced their moves and watching them also inspired me.
The discussions of collapsology and climate change are the main themes and inspirations of this album, right? In your opinion, how the music industry could be useful and an example for a more sustainable way of life?
In the process of composing the album I was thinking a lot about the state of our world. My album is mostly instrumental, so it’s easier to make it one’s own, there’s no lyrics, no message, so people can make up their own interpretation. However there’s one track, “Nouveau Monde”, where I included talks by the sci-fi writer Alain Damasio, and the astro-physician and philosopher Aurélien Barrau. They bring interesting food for thought: the artist has the possibility, and even the duty to create new mythologies, redefine new imaginaries. Through the affect, artists have a powerful way to touch people, it could be stronger than political talk.
To answer your question about the music industry, I’m only an actor in the whole thing, I can’t change everything, but I try to improve things at my level. My music for example is either pressed on a physical CD or vinyl, or is in a digital format. Both have a cost on the environment, and I’m aware of that. So I try to take little initiatives, like having sleeves made of recycled paper, or taking part in fund-raising initiatives such as Spotify’s Artist Fundraising Pick programme.
Live shows also have an impact on the environment. We try as much possible to travel by train and do our best to make itineraries that “make sense”. For my next tour we’re also working on a much lighter and portable set-up so we don’t need a big lorry to transport the gear.
Of course, I’m a human being, with imperfections, so my intention is not to teach people lessons, or to tell them right from wrong. I feel more in an observer’s position, actually it can be one of the interpretations of the title of the album. I’m watching the world from my Room With A View.
You wrote and produced the album mostly at the house of French writer George Sand in rural Nohant. What are the memories of those days?
Getting away from my home and the studio to compose new music has become my modus operandi, it’s an important moment for me, and I love it. This sensation of breaking the routine, discovering new places really boosts my creativity. I think I said it so often in interviews that nowadays I’m being offered amazing places to spend some creative time. Right before thinking about a new album I was invited to stay at George Sand’s house. It’s an amazing place filled with stories, for instance, it’s in this house that Frederic Chopin composed two thirds of his work. The house is in Nohant, a village the middle of France. The internet connection wasn’t great so I was “forced” to disconnect from emails or social media activities. I spent my time between my machines and the beautiful garden. A truly inspiring moment in the conception of the album!
The Artwork is stunning. How did you choose it?
The album was conceived alongside the series of shows at Théâtre du Châtelet, with 18 dancers on stage. The album is mostly instrumental, however I incorporated some field recordings of the dancers: you can hear them breathing, walking, swearing or even singing in an improvised choir. I wanted to picture that collective effort in the album cover. I imagined an artwork full of little stories, a picture that’s rich like classical paintings like Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, or Bosch’s Garden of Delights. I think photographer Boris Camaca managed perfectly to translate my idea.
You worked with Sarah Al Atassi for the video of “Ginkgo Biloba”. It is very powerful. Tell us more about the idea behind the clip.
To me videos are someone else’s reading of my music. I like the idea of letting another artist come up with their own vision. Of course we discuss the pitch together with the director, but most of the time it’s really their story. I met Sarah a couple of years ago when she used the song ‘Brest’ for one of her short movies. She’s young yet so talented, I think she has a bright future in film. I called her up for the Ginkgo Biloba video and she came up with this idea of a surreal banquet in the middle of the woods. It’s an interesting take on our society’s bad habit of over-consuming.
You also shared the live video for the track “Human”. It was live recorded at Château de Châteaudun (France). How was that experience? Is it the situation which you like the most for live shows?
Shooting a video in a medieval castle in the middle of the winter was another great experience. There was this interesting contrast between electronic music and 800 years old stones and tapestries. Technically it was challenging: doing it all in one sequence shot means that the slightest mistake equals starting all over again. The other challenge was the choir. Originally it was sung by the dancers of the Ballet National de Marseille, but for timing reasons they couldn’t make it. So we decided to call my fans through social media. The choir is made up of fans who travelled for all over France, as well as local people who heard of the call, but didn’t know me. None of the people in the choir had heard the track before the day we shot, so they had to learn it. It’s pretty basic when you hear it, but it took us about 10 takes to get them all in tune. In the end I liked the result so much that I even added them to the record!
Let’s talk about the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as musician? And what do you think that we’ll learn from this?
At the moment I am locked down at home with my wife and two kids. It’s a strange time but I feel lucky that I get to spend it with my loved ones. Releasing and promoting an album in such a period feels weird, but we always find solutions. We considered postponing the release, but I got many messages from fans asking me to put out the album. It was ready so I had no reason to keep it to myself. I do realise the necessity for all to make an effort to fight the virus. One thing is certain: I look forward to being able to play my new live show!
About your second question, I think there’s many things we can learn from the experience: it doesn’t feel like France was well prepared for such a situation, there was a lack of anticipation, even though the alarm had been pulled many weeks before the pandemic hit us. Then the crisis shows us of the importance of the health service and education, which are the pillars of our society. Hospitals and schools shouldn’t be neglected. The situation in France is complicated, but we’re probably not the worst off, when I see how the USA is coping with the situation it feels like even the biggest technocacies could collapse like a house of cards. I hope american citizens will realise that their President isn’t the most competent person for the job…
You are from Paris. I’m very interested to the connection between the places we live over the years, the territorial geography of our roots and the art. How do you feel these theme connected to your music, your way to think music? What are your favorite places which inspired the most?
It’s interesting you say that because every music I compose is linked to a place. My studio is where I work on the production and mixing, but when it comes to composing, I like to move around. Every album I made is linked to a place, my debut Spanish Breakfast was made in my tiny flat in Paris, then I moved to Berlin to make Tohu Bohu, then I started going to places in the country side like villages in Normandy, French Britanny or, for my last album, the village of Nohant. I think every place I stayed to compose has influenced the colour of my music.
Ritual question. What are the best releases you recently appreciated?
When I work on a record I’m in a bubble, I don’t listen to a lot of new music. So the post-album periodi s always a good time to catch up. Recently I’ve really enjoyed “Cenizas” by Nicolas Jaar and “Mixing Colours” by Brian Eno is the perfect music for a lockdown. Then I also think of my friends Efterklang with their album “Altid Sammen” and “Lyset” EP