INTERVIEW: Five Minutes With Leon Inc.

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We sat down with French electronic artist LEON INC. who has just shared “Microfibre”, the first track from his debut LP “Insert Disc” slated for release early next year. The man behind the project, Jeremy, also Mr. Oizo‘s community manager, has developed an ambitious microsite called Leon Resort where he merges audio-visual components taking the listener into a “weird and wonderful journey”.

Hi Jeremy, how are you and what are you up to today?

Yo! I’m peachy. It’s almost 3am, I’m listening to Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission on repeat – while dreaming of a slice of pizza – and I’m answering your questions. After that? I’ll ask Google Now to wake me up in 6 or 7 hours (with the same track), essential in order to divide my time between music and my other businesses every day.

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?

I’m terrible at this, but trust me, it’s a problem with a lot of artists! I mean, look at most of the answers when Nardwuar is asking “Why should people care about ” in the end of his interviews, the answers are even hilarious sometimes. He knows this, that’s also why he’s as pro as smart.

What are the 5 albums that have influenced you the most?

In no particular order: Homework/Discovery by Daft Punk (can’t choose, sorry), Computer World by Kraftwerk, In C by Terry Riley, Love on the Beat by Serge Gainsbourg and Beethoven’s piano sonatas from No. 12 to No. 27. Since you’re a UK publication, I can’t leave this question without breaking the rule of 5 albums by adding Rectangle by Jacno after such an article by The Guardian earlier in the year!

Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?

There’re so many… especially this year. 2016 is definitely the most exciting year for music since 2011 IMO. First, it is impossible to miss the eventful year that 2016 is for Kanye West, it’s very inspiring to me and not only for the music. Then, on a totally different level, I also really like what Travis Scott and Jeffery/Young Thug are building for years, and Top Dawg Entertainment has also released so many essential albums this year with Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad!

I love love to see Gucci Mane more healthy, sober, in shape and happy than ever before since he’s out. I got mad respect for his incredible work ethic, his album is on repeat and his next is already on the way. The Kaytranada debut album is brilliant, I also liked the latest albums of James Blake, Lone, Boys Noize, Mark Pritchard, Snoop Dogg, Michael Arthur Holloway, Mac Miller, Baauer, Mr. Oizo, the Mike & Rich reissue, and I can’t wait for the upcoming LPs from Danny Brown, Sampha, and Cashmere Cat to name a few.

There are also really good EPs (or just even some good tracks) in the latest of Vince Staples, KiNK, Disclosure, Deapmash & Raito, Kaptain Cadillac, KWC 92, COEO, Neana, BWANA, Chambray, RL Grime, Submerse, Axel Boman, Charli XCX, Vitalic, Aphex Twin, Letherette, Mak & Pasteman, Sky H1, Com Truise, Tensake, Spokes, Man Power, Bear Bones & Lay Low, and many others that I forgot.

I also dig every news about Benoit Sokal’s works since he is returning to helm the third Syberia game after so many years of uncertainty. I owe him so much since I played the first game 14 years ago…

Are there any key pieces of equipment that you are using to define your sound?

Not really. First I’m not that hardware-nerd; I constantly testing new software, it’s more exciting to me and I truly think it’s also the result of a “generational effect” (like when Timbaland thinks there are no producers anymore), we can’t deny the rise of FL Studio – mostly because of its accessibility – among young producers and all the DIY videos/forums that teach them how to use software, they don’t know anything else and it’s fine because you don’t need anything else today. Everything else is creativity and talent.

Plus, I can get bored easily especially as technology evolves but my ears are always my most important tool. However, while I’m not afraid of change, there are numerous essential tools from companies such as Native Instruments and Xfer to name a few but I always try to keep this feeling of the “sandbox”.

What would you say some of the challenges artists face today in the music industry?

To me, the biggest challenge today is to promote and reinstate the value of music. And it has a perverse side because if you think about it only in a business perspective, the music has never generated as much money as it does today (mostly for big companies), but what creators earn in the end is worth a condom and this needs to be adjusted!

It’s not new that technology always dictates styles but what became almost new these past years is how a handful of people, mostly living in California, decide how hundreds of millions of people in the world must listen to music in order to push them to act in the economic interests of a service. This ratio has never existed before and it’s a universal issue not only for the music but for any service or technology that needs our attention (yes, social networks are one of them).

Marshall McLuhan was more than a step in the right direction when he said “the medium is the message”, he pointed out that if you want to understand a medium, you shouldn’t look at the messages but rather at how the medium organizes perception and choices. It might sound harsh to say this, but hey, it’s like waking up people who are in a sect, who believe in a system that is really powerful and that has really done things for them. And it’s very uncomfortable to see the truth in the face that this system is not fully good, especially today when we are no longer in a reflection mode but in a reaction mode.

But I want to be optimistic for music in 2016. While it got worse for the audio quality, tangible ownership and artistic value of music in recent decades, it’s interesting and encouraging to see more and more people in the need of high-resolution audio and even better, a total abstraction of the virtual world especially when they “touch” the music again like e.g. with the vinyl revival; I also like to consider that physical is now a part of the merchandising of an artist.

Therefore, I have to work in the system I live in, not the system I want to live in and I can only admire a lot of things that Apple Music did this year (sometimes historic), especially their willingness to invest in content and creative partnerships with artists! They work closer to the artists than labels do, including to add more value to the artist and consumer. I feel we might do something one day, I love their culture.

This is just the beginning but I hope everyone understands a part of what I am currently building with Leon Inc.

Where do you gather songwriting inspiration?

If I’m outside, it can be from people who are talking, words have a rhythm, as well as just a micro sample of the music that I’m listening to my headphones. I also record a lot of ideas in my phone (not only music) for a long time, i.e. most of the tracks of my album started with a memo of a few seconds in my phone.

If I’m inside, it can be again from a micro sample of the music that I’m listening, mostly the drums. But most of the time, it’s particularly from the harmony of my experimentations in my DAW (with a lot of happy little accidents). From there, I can build everything.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

Strengthen the harmony again and again, whether your project has 2 or 142 audio tracks. I also make sure to always create the best groove in the entire track, I can spend weeks on it. This is very important and can literally change your vision of music track by track (this is also why each of my albums won’t ever sound the same). Just like a regular or increasing level of energy throughout the track (there are numerous tools to check this).

If you weren’t a musician what would you be?

It would be what I’m building in my other life, no doubt! I also wrote my debut surreal film but I think I’ll write something shorter to shoot with a lower budget soon.

But to give you a precise answer, when I was a kid, my dream job was “Ace Ventura” to the point that I even had my own pet detective card replica with me every day! I was deeply moved by his love for animals and his distaste for people who abuse them since this is something engraved in me too.

Do you have any particular gigs or festivals that you dream about playing?

I will certainly forget a lot of names but in no particular order: Coachella, Burning Man, Day for Night, Electric Zoo, Electric Forest, HARD, Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, Melt, Pukkelpop, Mysteryland, Low End Theory, Sonar, Bestival, Dour, South West Four, a Japan and Korea Tour and many more…

If you could perform alongside any other band or artist, who would it be?

If I had it my way, I would bring Jackson Pollock back then ask him to be on stage with me to do whatever he wants. I have a similar relationship with unconscious, change, destruction, harmony. His art is certainly what is closer to electronic music: we can identify several different dimensions (as in a Philip Glass track).

Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

First single “Microfibre” out on 30th September, second single soon, debut album “Insert Disc” due out in early 2017, microsite already available, sophomore album out on 20XX. Stay tuned!