YHBHS Interview Benoît Pioulard

"blurred sonic photographs"

I never stop documenting - I always try to keep a dictaphone and camera nearby for anything that may appear to me, and have used a great number of those kinds of recordings in the background of my songs, and often in the foreground of the instrumental pieces.

"Since a young age, Thomas Meluch has been fascinated by natural sounds and the textures of decay. He began playing piano before his feet could reach the pedals, and for more than a decade has sought to create a unique sonic environment by combining remnants of pop song structures with the lushness and unpredictability of field recordings."

via kranky...

Have you always known you wanted to pursue music as a career? At what point were you confident in your decision?

It's still not a career, really, and I don't envision any circumstances under which it will become one - but I retain my hopes.. Some of the most enjoyable work I've done has been for film scores, and that seems like a reasonable avenue to pursue more fervently; as with most things that'd be a matter of good luck & timing, though.

For the time being I still consider myself a rather fortunate dilettante, and am quite happy with that. As for confidence, I still don't know what compelled me to send around a demo when I did, but I'm glad it didn't happen any sooner or later and certainly things have gone all right since then. I feel the most marked change in confidence in the realm of live performance, in that I swore off singing or playing actual 'songs' for the longest time, but now am able to do both without hesitation and with more enjoyment than I ever envisioned.

précis (2006)

I think the first time I was introduced to your music, I was instantly attracted to the cover of "Precis". Is cover art an important consideration for your albums?

It's inextricable. The cover and sleeve for Précis were created by my very talented friend Will Calcutt, but otherwise I have done all of my own artwork, and tend to pore over that as much as many of the recordings once I've begun to assemble everything for a release.. The images used throughout the sleeves of Temper and Lasted are all Polaroids that I've taken in various places of personal significance.

Your polaroids remind me of the feeling I get listening to your music: a half dream state, a faded memory. How would you describe what you do, and what you would like to accomplish with sound and visuals? Do you still record field recordings, and how do these tie into the songs?

I never stop documenting - I always try to keep a dictaphone and camera nearby for anything that may appear to me, and have used a great number of those kinds of recordings in the background of my songs, and often in the foreground of the instrumental pieces.

The track I called "Ardoise" is, in my mind, a quilt of sound collected while I drove across the country when I moved to Portland in 2007, and feels like a blurred sonic photograph of the whole experience. If someone asks, I never really know how to describe what I do beyond 'keeping track'.. I make things because I'm unable not to. And I feel immensely privileged to know that it seems to resonate with a few other people so well.. That to me is a pure connection, and a rare thing.

Any artists that inspire you and your music?

Many, many of them.. I would say overall my favorite creator of things is Harmony Korine. I don't think there's a misstep in his entire, rather bizarre career, be it in film, on paper, or on recording. He's a huge inspiration, even though I've been told that that's kind of hard to ascertain in my work. I also adore Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog, and musically cannot imagine a life without having heard Boards of Canada or William Basinski.

In a past life, you might have been?

My mom swears I must have been an Eskimo. I sometimes feel like I may have been a woodworker of some kind in a now-defunct Soviet state.. Don't ask me why.

I see you will be passing through Marfa on this tour, have you played there before? Have you ever seen the Marfa lights?

I have never been there, actually, though my wife's family is from San Antonio & they told me about the lights - I'm definitely intrigued & will see what happens when I'm there..

Kranky states about Precis, "Precis arose as a documentation of a coming to terms with impermanence, marked by analog residue and the imperfections of human influence." Do you find decay / impermanence still to be important themes in your work?

Oh my, yes, constantly. Probably half - or more - of the elements of any given piece that I record are run through tape machines at least once to get a sense of softness, of distance and hiss.. I don't know what attracts me to these things, apart perhaps from the fact that I grew up listening to cassettes & always enjoyed listening to the radio just a little bit detuned. I also recognize that making things is a natural, human, and vain thing to do, because whether consciously or not it's an attempt at immortality. I'm going to get old & weak, & then die.. So why not make something nice while I can?

an older song/video, using found video....

Your favorite time of the day to write songs, and record?

It's all over the place, really. I recorded most of Précis super late at night because I was doing 18 credits and working 35 hours a week when I was making that album, but most of Lasted was made during the daylight hours.. In general I do the recording throughout the morning & early afternoon (I'm an early riser) and save the more detailed work & assembly for later at night, when I can have a drink & float from idea to idea a bit more easily. Guitar & voice are always the most important and difficult things to get down - and usually require the greatest number of takes - but the rest is always very easy & natural-feeling.

Anything you fear?

Ah, that's kind of a waste of energy, isn't it? I recognize that I'm rather skeptical about a lot of things, but I'm also very trusting & have great faith in people generally.. I think a (hopefully) healthy level of naïveté that I possess precludes me from fearing a whole lot. I also think I have some kind of mental barrier that makes me unable to imagine worst-case scenarios, and consequently taking risks & just saying 'yes' is much easier.

The perfect / dream venue to play music is..........

I feel equally comfortable in living rooms and in concert halls - and I've played both extremes & everything between - so I don't particularly care. My favorite venues, however, were probably the huge old synagogue I played in Lower East Manhattan and Le Comptoir Général in Paris.

The last three songs you listened to in random order........

"Toil Theme Parts I-III" by Brian McBride
"Passage" by Rafael Anton Irisarri
"Tried" by Grouper

(read more favorite records here..)

Thank you Thomas!
& see you in Los Angeles..
go to his tour dates here..

YHBHS Interview
Benoît Pioulard
"blurred sonic photographs"