“Every day they order Alix to wake up, and he wakes up. They order him to eat, and he eats. They order him to get up, and he gets up. They order him to enter the white room, and he enters. They order him to lie down, and he lies down. And then, as they tie his hands and feet with some of the many ironworks, ribbons and straps that are in the room, Alix, who is not aware that he was released, falls asleep. It is the moment in which his brain registers each and every one of the words that were said to him, and he does it so avidly, unconsciously, but avidly. However, the darkness rapidly falls, stifling any hint of brain activity in a few seconds. Again the impenetrable blackness, again the night. Wake up.”
With the collaboration of the renowned techno producer Oscar Mulero and some habitual collaborators of the project – David Sergeant (guitar), Greg Gobel (clarinet) and David Herrington (tuba) – Alix is the new album (released by HUMO in April 2018) by Territoire, the brainchild of the French producer and composer Olivier Arson, focusing on a sort of plot, starring the same-named slave from his birth as a submissive being until the meeting of the ones who sold him… Is Alix a fictitious character, or something closer to an ordinary being of our times? Let’s try to answer this question with its author…
Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Olivier! How are you?
Olivier Arson: I’m fine, thank you! Just got back from a rehearsal with the band. Thanks for the interest in our music.
Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on the last output as Territoire, some introductory questions to let our readers shake your hand… I saw you worked on some soundtracks and you also gained a nomination for one of them (“Que Dios nos perdone”)! How did you start winking at the seventh art?
Olivier Arson: I had tracks from previous projects picked for soundtracks, but composing original music for films actually came after the first record of TERRITOIRE, Mandorle. I received the offer to score May God Save Us [title in english], and since then I have not stopped and really developed a great passion for it.
Chain D.L.K.: How important for you is the mutual understanding and communication with other members working on a movie (the director, in particular)?
Olivier Arson: Understanding with the director is absolutely key, and sometimes I even consider it to be somehow the co-author of the score. I also like to work closely with the editor; I try to give them demos before they start editing so pictures and music can go hand in hand right from the beginning. And, obviously, I try to talk as much a possible with the sound designer as my music relies very much on sound.
Chain D.L.K.: You were born in Paris, but you currently live in Madrid, don’t you? What’s the reason behind this choice?
Olivier Arson: I always had a complicated relationship with Paris and left a very long time ago. I have found in Madrid a more laid-back attitude. I feel people are more open and, generally, there is just more joy here. It’s also smaller, and at first, it almost felt like a village. Paris is more modern, but it was always violent and aggressive to me.
Chain D.L.K.: Many soundtrack composers sometimes dreams of rescoring the OST of some famous game or movie… If you had similar reverie, which movie/game/theater piece would you like to re-sound?
Olivier Arson: I have never thought about this, I have to say! I dream more about the next movie, really.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s focus on your project Territoire… Why did you call it so?
Olivier Arson: I really like the concept of territory. It’s a moving thing, and I feel it allows me to explore in many ways while keeping an identity.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say that Territoire’s sound influences your way of composing music for OSTs, or vice versa?
Olivier Arson: I always try to accept OST projects that share some connection with my personal work with TERRITOIRE, so I would say now both influence each other. TERRITOIRE taught me to instill some rawness into my scores, and with the work on films, I have learned a lot about translating emotions into music. I think it will come out somehow in the future.
Chain D.L.K.: You made a proper plot for your new album “Alix”…who is Alix?
Olivier Arson: Yes. I really wanted not to talk about me or personal experiences, so it was important I had an external concept for the record. When I started experimenting with the voice, I felt a character had been born. I chose Alix because it’s both a male and female name, as I wanted the character also to be as open as possible. More than a slave, I see him as a submissive being who has suffered a lot, physically and mentally, and tries to escape his condition.
Chain D.L.K.: Any references to contemporary forms of slavery?
Olivier Arson: Absolutely; it is a subject that resonates deeply with me, and even in our modern society, I think alienation through perception management strategies is also a form of slavery in disguise. And plain old slavery is present everywhere and still going strong (figures vary a lot, but it is estimated that at least 25 million people are in forced labor), but also human trafficking and prostitution, of course.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say that Territoire’s territory is the one of Sonar as an active goer of Spanish festivals?
Olivier Arson: I would say so. I really like Sonar, and we had a great experience there a few years ago.
Chain D.L.K.: One of the collaborators in Alix is the renowned techno-maker Oscar Mulero… how did he help to forge the plot and the sound of Alix?
Olivier Arson: Yes, I’m very glad I could count on him. Oscar mainly did the beats and mixed the tracks. I think he was pivotal to the sound because he really instilled some strength in it. I think he wasn’t too much involved in the plot, but he totally understood the intentions and also did some great rearrangements on a few tracks.
Chain D.L.K.: Some tracks (such as the gorgeous “Esclvvv” or “Chant”) astonishingly manage to render a mixture of a longing for freedom and the attrition by some chain…is such a duality intentional or spontaneous?
Olivier Arson: I think most of it is spontaneous, but also there are moments where I didn’t want Alix to be only this doomed character. In the process of his story, I think it was important that he had moments of strength and even pride so he could try to get out.
Chain D.L.K.: “Quatre siecles de privileges” (French for “Four centuries of privileges”)…what’s the reference of this title? How did this reference get translated into sound?
Olivier Arson: It refers to Alix’s masters. This track is about the reencounter he has with the people who sold him. I thought it would be a slight moment of light; maybe he reunites with his family.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you performed Alix on live stage yet? If not, are you going to perform it?
Olivier Arson: Yes, we did the first show a month ago to warm up a bit, and we are now preparing a string of really special dates for after the summer.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Olivier Arson: I am starting a couple of soundtracks now and will work on new material for TERRITOIRE very soon!!
visit Olivier Arson on the web at www.olivierarson.com