On the occasion of the release of his first proper solo album “Chapel Perilous”, I had a chat with Joachim Montessuis, an amazingly eclectic Paris-based audio/visual artist, who already collaborated with an impressive number of very different artists such as Charlemagne Palestine (I warmly recommend listening to his collaborative release “Voxorgachitectronumputer” on Hinant’s imprint Sub Rosa), Phill Niblock, Julien Blaine, Maja Ratkje, Faustin Linyekula, Serge Pey, Henri Chopin, Jörg Piringer, Eléonore Hellio, Franck Ancel, Keja Kramer, Julien Ottavi, Evil Moisture, Bryan Lewis Saunders, Kasper T.Toeplitz, Collectif MU and many others. His efforts in searching for any possible point of intersection between poetry and music brought about the decision of founding a small, but very interesting label, Erratum, and besides the above-mentioned collaborations and live performances, his artistic blend and research come through clearly on “Chapel Perilous“, where he mainly uses his own voice to forge “a frantic opus of cut-up noise poetry”, as it was rightfully described. “Chapel Perilous” comes out on Fragment Factory. Check it out.
Joachim Montessuis: Hey there, I feel fine, thank you.
Chain D.L.K.: My questions follow the listening of your last release “Chapel Perilous”, which could be considered your first proper solo album after a plenty of collaboration. Could you introduce it in your own words?
Joachim Montessuis: It’s a condensation of extreme vocal works I recorded last years, studio recordings as well as live actions, as I mostly record everything I do onstage. It was especially put together, sliced and finely cooked for this release. I refused to publish my work for almost 15 years because I strongly believe music should be ritualized and played live above all. Also because I try in general to not be linked to the industry as much as possible.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re a master in the treatment of your voice. What’s the difference between working on your voice and working on other people’s voice from a poetical viewpoint?
Joachim Montessuis: Well, working on “another” voice brings you more into a concrete music/electroacoustic approach. The poetical point of view would be, at least for me, to invent our own voice and trance, digging the self, using voice as a personal discovery and connection to your own body, then you can see and feel and understand the regenerative process of using your own voice as a tool towards yourself and the world. But basically there are no real distinctions between the self and the world, in those terms using your voice is a revitalization of your reality.
Chain D.L.K.: After the listening of the first track, I have to admit I started looking for liner notes in order to check if you sampled Clarence Charles Nash (Donald Duck’s voice!)…
Joachim Montessuis: You’re not the first to say that! but it’s all my voice, it can get weirdly ducky fucked up sometimes…
Chain D.L.K.: What are the performative limits that even Montessuis’ voice cannot cross?
Joachim Montessuis: Well I can scream like a guinea pig or like an unknown monster but I can’t sing as low as the guy from Yat-Kha!! But I’m working on it every day, lowering down the throat is a daily training if you want to achieve some particularly low frequencies.
Chain D.L.K.:”Chapel perilous” include 23 tracks. Do you remember if there were any particular or bizarre situations when you recorded them?
Joachim Montessuis: Yes, there is one recording I remember well, I was really high on wild psylocibe mushrooms on stage and I jumped on people, it was crowded and that was bloody and it was particularly intense because I was extracting negative immaterial energies from their bodies with my hands (I was able to visualize them) while screaming rhythmically… also there was one gig in Geneva at Cave12 (with Julien Ottavi) where I unexpectedly started to channel a wild animal, it was maybe a panther and it was perturbing and really intense, because it happened to me only twice. Then Sixto, who invited us, said it was “the gig of the century”. No Joke!
Chain D.L.K.: When you collaborate with other sound artists and musicians, would you say your contribution is sort of a borrowing or you’d rather say there’s a sort of artistic mutual exchange or interaction? Any example?
Joachim Montessuis: In a collaborative process, I simply try to avoid any control from one side or the other, and let the “third mind” operate. Otherwise, as soon as it gets pyramidal, it often brings boring results.
Chain D.L.K.: What are the main technical problems related to your art in studio and on live stage?
Joachim Montessuis: I like to be light when I move, so I use a computer to condense all technical stuff. That’s a choice I stuck with since 1993, to work mainly with computers. But then, if your computer crashes for some reason, and that happens, you must have a plan B. It was problematic in the past, now I know I can do something with my voice without anything. Actually that sounds way better and more intense. For the studio, I definitely need more space. Paris is packed!
Chain D.L.K.: Some moments of your record remind of Shamanic attempts of self-induced trance states. Did you study their vocal techniques by any chance?
Joachim Montessuis: I believe that all knowledge is in yourself. I think that the only thing to study is your mind, then you discover that reality is a projection of it. In that sense, if you dig more, all the needed information starts to flow and this is an exponential process. The only “shaman” that had a deep influence on me was a Maalem, a very strong Moroccan Gnawa Master that lived in our house in Marrakech when I was 10. The Maalem is the driver of the all Lila ritual, when they call the spirits to heal people. He was famous there at that time, he played the Guembri and sang with a raw smooth vibe I never experienced again. I guess I was impressed in some way, that helped me to “let go” and connect almost instantly.
Chain D.L.K.: How would you explain to a newcomer what you do?
Joachim Montessuis: It’s all about channeling and connecting to other realities. I think music and voice are perfect mediums for that.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the best criticism and the worst compliment you received?
Joachim Montessuis: The best criticism and the worst compliment came both together probably from Henri Chopin, when he wrote to me when I was 23 that if he had been still publishing the historical sound poetry OU review (he did it in the 60/70’s), he would have put me into it. He was a strong critic of vocal things, that was astonishing as a compliment and also a bit depressing, because I felt also like I wasn’t connected to my time and it was weird. Then I started to dig into more poetry and noise!
Chain D.L.K.: Did any label proposed to you to add lyrics for those happy families who want to sing your “songs” by the fireplace on Christmas eve?
Joachim Montessuis: Actually, young kids are really fond of my vocal improvisations !
Chain D.L.K.: 2011 and 2012 were very prolific years. Any work in progress?
Joachim Montessuis: Lots of projects yes. The collaborative LP with Maja Ratkje will be released soon on erratum.org, then another one with Julien Ottavi (Snow Crash) and another one with Junko is scheduled too. And solo works will come also. Then I have this “Egregore” project with the sound artist Gael Segalen: we go to some particular places/contexts, record as many voices as possible from the people that are there, then we create a live rolling swirling vortex compost diffusion on 8 channels in the local context. And many many more projects!!!
visit Joachim Montessuis on the web at: autopoiese.org