French electronic musician Agoria (real name Sébastien Devaud) first got hooked to the energetic pulsations of electronic music at the age of 12, when he was living in in the rural realms of France’s countryside.
Since this early fascination, the Frenchman has not only released a range of sophisticated throbbing tracks, with LPs including The Green Armchair and Impermanence, but has also helped the French scene flourish through founding the acclaimed Nuits Sonores festival.
With previous releases on labels such as Dixon’s Innervisions and Scuba’s Hotflush, the forward thinking artist has persisted to maintain a highly impressively back catalogue and has recently conjured up his newest imprint Sapiens.
The most recent release on the label comes from the man himself and is a deep adventure in to the world of sound design (one Devaud is very familiar with). The track ‘Boomerang’ is a manifesting percussive builder, which delves deep into the fascinating Shepard tone technique and collides minimalistic process with a delicate touch.
With his heavily impressive back catalogue and the outstanding latest release, we kindly asked Sébastien to discuss the ideas behind Sapiens, contemporary art and of course, music.
What made you decide to start your label Sapiens and how do you see the role of a record label evolving in today’s fast-paced music industry?
I guess the reason that I started Sapiens is quite common and simple: my love for meeting and developing artists. I don’t really think about today’s fast-paced climate to be honest, and place even less importance on my current role within it. If one delivers the best music they can, the zeitgeist isn’t so important because the music itself will ride any waves, periods of flux or trending hype. I’m much more focused on the making of the music and pushing the ideas of my artists. The things that actually matter.
The Sapiens Talk you released, a full lecture by Emmanuelle Duez which centers around art, politics and humanity was a very interesting listen for your French fans. Do you see more of these types of projects coming to life on Sapiens and what is your motivation behind releasing more than just music?
I believe all art is political. Artists might be the strongest leaders nowadays, as they are so much more relevant in pop culture than many of today’s politicians. I thought that I could give a little contribution recording all amazing people i meet here and there, i’m surrounded by so many different types of personalities in various domain from cinema to contemporary art, from shaman to writers, from fashion to winemaker, philosophers. I thought that I should share some of their deepest ideas and brilliant outlooks on life. There are many more Sapiens Talks to come, the next one is a speech from French artist Jacques, he speaks about his life-philosophy, still living in squats while enjoying pop-icon status in France. Then, I’ll release 2 talks in English: first, it will be a discussion with the mentor of the French President, Christian Montjou about leadership… the second will be a vinyl with two shamans singing during their Ayahuasca trip on one side and on the flip, they are explaining their trip and inner-journey.
Back in 2015 on your Slices DVD feature, you mentioned that you were starting to feel a stronger connection between the type of music you were producing and where it was produced. What is your current stance on this topic and what about Paris gives you the inspiration to create differently as opposed to being based in Milan?
Paris is giving me a lot. The two main ingredients that fuel my creativity – danger and confidence. Most of all, it gives me joy, purpose and freedom. Living in Milan, contributed to the birth of some club tunes but I started to feel like I was repeating myself creatively, so something needed to change. I think it is rather easy, when you find a recipe, to keep doing it, but I find the process so boring and frankly – exhausting. I could have pumped out a never-ending series of tracks sounding like « Scala » or « Les Violons Ivres » or « La Onzième Marche »but what I love is that they’re actually all different of each other. The same can be said about my most recent piece, a proper dj tool named « Boomerang.» It is very far from the mood of « Up All Night » , the other last release of mine on Sapiens. Shapeshifting is quite exciting.
You have pointed out the importance of “creating accidents” while working on original music. How much of what you do is the result of a pre-planed idea and how much is the result of improvisation while in the studio? What do you consider to be the most important non-musical object in your studio?
The only method that I know is being myself. I mean truly knowing yourself, enough to know when you really need to go into the studio. When you feel free in your mind to create without compromise There are no rules, just listening to oneself. I guess that’s the same way you know when you’re falling in love or when you need a break to take some air or visit friends or to search for inspiration. The main difficulty when you tour a lot and get so much to do on a day to day basis, is trying to keep a part of your untainted soul, to focus on creativity and remain open to unique ideas. That’s the main game: creating the conditions of the process. Finding magic and inspiration is so important. The muse arrives in the most unpredictable of ways. She can visit me after cleaning my apartment or when I listen to the words of an inspired mind or even at moments of peak exhaustion. There are may ways to visit altered states of consciousness, some use drugs, others prefers herbs or meditation but making music is a way to fly.
How do you feel about today’s model of music consumption that relies mostly around singles, rather than albums or even EPs? What was the last full album that you listened to and enjoyed from front to back, as one complete body of work?
I am not entirely sure that this is the case. I feel that people who were used to listen to albums are still listening albums. I believe that when you discover an artist who’s work you connect with, you then go check what he did before and eventually end-up listening to all of their discography. In electronic music especially, there is nothing really new with releasing an EP every two months, followed by an album at some point. What is true is that on the marketing side, releasing a steady flow of singles, one after another, is the most productive way to stay relevant today. However, we in the dance scene have known this since the 90’s – 12 inch after 12 inch.
With respect to these current industry trends, would you yourself consider producing another artist album?
Yes absolutely, in fact, now more than ever. However, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t also release 5 singles from this album before presenting the work as a whole. Personally, I don’t see the big difference between focusing on singles rather than albums. Both approaches serve the other and help fans to know you more and better.
Tell us a little about what you have coming out next, either on Sapiens or elsewhere.
On a personal note, my album will finally hit the stores! On Sapiens, I will release two albums from newcomers that were in the making during these last months. The first one will come courtesy of Stefan Smith, a cinema composer that delivers a beautiful electronica long-player that I can’t stop listening to. Following that will be tZER0, a very open-minded album that merges all musical cultures, from hip-hop to soul, through to contemporary electronic – an impressive first album if I may say so myself.
Boomerang is out now on Agoria’s Sapiens. More info here.