It was a great pleasure to chat with Mathias Delplanque (some of you might know him under some of his other aliases, such Bidlo, Lena or Stensil) and it was an even greater pleasure to suss out that his curiosity and passion for sonic research seems to be evergreen even after 14 years of activity and 9 years since our last chat. His panache is clear even from the passion for self-construction of sonic equipment, which differs from the classic studio dynamics. His forthcoming album, “Chutes“, has been entirely designed by means of his personal work station, which allows him to transform, edit and mix different sound sources all at once in a live setting by using real objects, instrumental samples and computer. All the tracks on “Chutes” have been edited from live solo performances that took place between 2010 and 2012 and have no overdubs. I cannot but wish him to keep on stoking up the flames of his creativity for many years to come so that we can chat about new releases again in ten years from now… or hopefully sooner! “Chutes” is being released by the French independent label Baskaru.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Mathias. How are you?
Mathias Delplanque: I’m fine! Good to speak with you again…
Chain D.L.K.: You might remember we had a chat about 9 years ago at the time of “Floating Roots” which you released under your moniker Lena… you were in cold Montreal then… well, could you summarize what happened in the last years?
Mathias Delplanque: Well, today I live in Nantes, in the west of France. Many things happened since the time we spoke of course: several albums under my name or under Lena, many stage or studio collaborations with other musicians, ensemble works, the creation (and destruction) of the Floating Roots Orchestra, the creation of my label Bruit Clair Records, sound installations, musical interventions in schools, prison, music for films, theater and dance shows, a lot of solo gigs etc. I took some time off of Lena 2 years ago to concentrate on more improvised and beat-less productions. I should be back pretty soon with this project though, but in quite a different way, less dub-club orientated with much more improvisation and live playing.
Chain D.L.K.: Ten years have gone by, but I still remember Bidlo and I still like to talk about it here and now!
Mathias Delplanque: Thank you, I appreciate ! It was my first musical step actually. I still have a second unreleased album ready in my boxes. Though it’s not connected to my work today, I regularly listen to it, asking myself whether I should release it. It’s actually the most pop project I ever had! Maybe I’ll release a sequel someday…
Chain D.L.K.: So you finally designed your own work station… can you tell us something about it?
Mathias Delplanque: It’s the core of my work today. It’s a combination of controllers, synths, effects, contact microphones and other microphones, connected to a computer. It basically allows me to improvise, solo or accompanied with other musicians, with pre-recorded sounds in the computer or with external sounds played, treated and sampled in real-time: instruments (guitar, kalimba, melodica, bells) or objects (glasses, metals, masking tape). I see it as a whole, as an instrument in itself. With its own logic, its specific rules in terms of playing. It took me a couple of years to set it up, and it’s still (and will always be) in progress. Every gig is an occasion to develop a new feature, bring a new function etc. The main idea was to be able to play with the computer, like any other musician with his instrument. And to break the distinction between studio and stage set up. Today my studio is my instrument.
Chain D.L.K.: Your new album “Chutes” sounds very intriguing… can you introduce it?
Mathias Delplanque: This album is precisely the result of 2 years of work on this station. The tracks on “Chutes” are all edited from live recordings made between 2010 and 2012. Everything comes from solo live improvisations. So it’s very representative of my live performances today. I’m interested in complex and dynamic organization of contrasted sounds: drones and rhythms, pulses and random beats, noises and melodic patterns. I like to work with a lot of sounds and patterns, that I try to arrange live. I try to give birth to a living structure that evolves organically, between chaos and order.
Chain D.L.K.: The titles are similar to those shortenings of places on number plates… what are their meanings?
Mathias Delplanque: Well most of the time it is connected to the place where the track was recorded… It’s not impossible that they might have a meaning when you arrange them all together, but I’m not totally responsible of this…
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any electro-acoustic more or less unknown past release close to your sonic stuff?
Mathias Delplanque: “Parcelles 1-10”, released on Bruit Clair in 2010, can be considered as the beginning of this new approach in terms of production and live playing, except that this one was recorded in the studio, and “Chutes” on stage. By the way I still have difficulties to call this “electro-acoustic music”. I don’t know how to call it actually, except maybe “improvised electronic music”…
Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to bring “Chutes” on a live stage?
Mathias Delplanque: Well, as I explained before, this album comes from the stage. And when I play live today, I always play “Chutes”, in the sense that, even if I don’t play exactly the same tracks, I’m using the same principles, tools, instruments, gestures etc. Live playing has become the center of my work, the way my music develops itself. Every concert is a new experience, as my music is very sensitive to the context in which it is played: audience, sound system, room etc. In a way, I can say that today my music is “written” on stage.
Chain D.L.K.: I remember you grew up in Burkina Faso. Have you ever gone back there? What was your reaction to the recent developments in Mali?
Mathias Delplanque: Yes I’ve been there a couple of times since I grew up there. And I still have many friends there. People are worrying about the radical Islamists arriving at the doors of the country in the north. Everybody is very preoccupied of course and we are looking at the developments of this situation very carefully. Burkina Faso has always been a very peaceful and tolerant country. I hope it will remain the same in the future.
Chain D.L.K.: You manage your own label Bruit Clair… what’s its general feel and concept?
Mathias Delplanque: Bruit Clair started as a tool to help me to release personal stuff that I didn’t want or couldn’t release elsewhere. I didn’t feel like a “label manager” (I still don’t!). But then friends or artists I really appreciate started to play me some very interesting things, and I got trapped and started to release other people’s music! Today, the label has a very small activity, basically for budget reasons. Time reasons too, as I’m running it alone. A lot of exciting music in the cupboard, waiting to be released I can’t say there is a specific direction, except that I’m interested in challenging electronic music, and into artists developing an original approach in terms of sound production. I also created a sub label called Para_Site, dedicated to works in relation to physical places: sound installations, sound postcards, soundscapes etc.
Chain D.L.K.: What about forthcoming projects? Any collaborative projects on the horizon?
Mathias Delplanque: After 2 years without a physical release (I was working on developing my live set up), I have several albums ready to come in 2013. I’m working on a new Lena album and I have a very exciting duo with South Korean musician E’Joung-Ju (https://soundcloud.com/delplanque-ejoung-ju). I’m also thinking about re-creating a new ensemble.
Chain D.L.K.: I remember you told me your compositions are sometimes like enigmas for you… what’s the most enigmatic track on “Chutes”?
Mathias Delplanque: My favorite tracks are always the ones I don’t understand. The ones that surprise me and make me feel a stranger to myself. I usually get bored when I have a clear understanding of a work – being one of mine or someone else’s. The first title I had in mind was “Rebus”, which is the French word for a sort of puzzle.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re 39 now, but your childlike enthusiastic approach to music research and curiosity is still very much alive… so what are you going to do when you’ll be an adult? 🙂
Mathias Delplanque: Thank you ! No comment… See you in 10 years! 🙂
visit Mathias Delplanque on the web at: mathiasdelplanque.com