Chapelier Fou Talks


Artistic innovation can be a wonderful thing. Whatever art form you choose to specialise in, if you're willing to take chances and devise new ideas it becomes harder for people to criticise you for resting on your laurels. The mighty Chapelier Fou is a rather forward-thinking individual who has regularly combined his music with various other art forms. The former teacher from Metz has had an exhibition at The Barbican, soundtracked a film and released an album, 'Deltas', all in the space of the last year. I spoke to him to delve a little deeper into his world;

Who is Chapelier Fou?

Well, I guess it’s me… Or is it a band?

Why did you choose the name Chapelier Fou? Are you a big Alice In Wonderland fan? Or do you just like hats?

Back in the days, I was producing music exclusively with samples, using a computer. I was burning lots of CDs, in fact a sort of evolving, mutating album that I was giving to my friends. The songs contained a lot of speech samples, including sentences from the voice of the hatter, taken on vinyl. One day, I came to a friend’s home, and noticed he wrote "Chapelier Fou" on them. It remained.

How do you go about making music? What's the key to a good piece of music in your eyes?

I think I make music just to not get bored. I love to just spend the day recording random stuff with a microphone, or sitting in front of my modular synthesizer. But sometimes, when playing with something, I think "hey, this is more than fun." And it turns into songs. 
In general, I’m interested in what’s new, what’s surprising. I am not really into efficiency. 

What is the music scene like in Metz? Are there many people there making similar sounds to you or are you a bit of a rarity?

There are a lot of lonely cases like me. 
For a while we didn’t have any place to rehearse, so people ended up doing solo projects that they could do in their rooms. 
Despite of the variety of styles, we know each other pretty well and we work together very often. For instance, I’ve played on stage with the pop singer Cascadeur, recorded violin for And We Shelter, I play for the folk band The Yokel, I remixed the Indus band Grand Blanc, the electronica of MWTE (they remixed me as well), the rapper Télémaque. I am also recoding Mr Fred A’s next album, etc, etc….

Your music combines traditional instruments with electronic sounds – why do you use this combination? Is this simply the music you enjoy listening to?

It’s more the music that I am able to do, rather the music I listen to. I don’t consider myself as a violin player, for instance, or an electronic artist (even if it fits better with my way of thinking). I love working with many sound sources, like violin, guitars, common things, synthesizers, etc. I guess I need variety to be creative.

Who was your first great creative inspiration? Whose work do you look to now to inspire you?

At the beginning i was really into Aphex Twin and more sampled music, such as Amon Tobin, DJ Shadow… I discovered Autechre quite soon as well, and it’s still a great inspiration to me. 

Nowadays I couldn’t spot any new inspirational band… Autechre, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Portishead, Owen Pallett, The Notwist, maybe?

Tell us about 'Les Metamophoses de Mr Kalia'. How did the creative process work for you and what were you aiming to achieve?

Les Métamorphoses de Mr Kalia is an art installation mixing video and music, made by the French artists from lab212. It involves video tracking and skeleton recognition to animate a stylized character, Mr Kalia. He is presented in 9 different contexts, each focused on a different theme. So I made 9 small songs, all very different from each other, according to the theme and fitting in a precise timing. They all share the same structure but sound very different. 
I found it amazing to work for this project; I love working with constraints. It makes you faster, more creative, and more adventurous. Hopefully the 9 songs will be on a record some day. 
More generally though, I am really interested in working with art installations. 

Your installation within a school was a great idea, how important do you think it is that we encourage creativity amongst young people?

I think that knowledge and artistic skills have to be shared, for the sake of art. Art is the only thing that can evolve, grow and experiment despite of what’s going on in the political world. I think it’s important to show to children that they are allowed to make art, to paint, to compose or whatever. The idea that it belongs to artists is wrong. 

What can we expect to hear on 'Deltas'?

Many notes and sounds. And few words.

What else will we be hearing from you in the near future?

For now, mainly gigs. I am now touring with 3 wonderful musicians and the new live show is amazing. 
I did the music score for a full-featured Czech puppet stop-motion movie, and I hope it will be out some day soon. 
I’ll probably work on several art installations as well. I also have some parallel musical projects, some solo, some with other people. 

'Deltas' is out now. Find out more about Chapelier Fou through his official Facebook page.