Poetry in Music – A Q&A with Franck Vigroux

Franck Vigroux toes an invisible line in his work, one that touches on a wide range of possibilities, congregating around the raw essence of an artist in the capacity of speaking many musical languages. The French composer and visual artist has many nodes to his work, touching on electro-acoustic, improvised and beat-arrangements that blur the boundaries between these factions and presents them in their simplest forms as something avant garde, experimental and cognitive.

In the last two years he has released both Rapport sur le Désorde and Ciment and in those two albums alone we find two very contrasting works that go from improvised guitar noise to composed electronic album pieces. Going even further back through Vigroux’s extensive discography, reveals a cornucopia of sound in kaleidoscopic vision anchored by its nucleus, the artist, whose complex layers of work intersect and dissect each other at various points.

He’s worked with the likes of Mika Vainio and Elliott Sharp in the past, artists that occupy a similar sphere, and his recent collaboration with Kurt D’Haeseleer has even seen him even approach different forms of media as in the audio/visual performance of Centaure. It’s that work specifically which takes us back to Rapport sur le Désorde, the raison d’etre for this Q&A. It’s an album that saw Vigroux take Centaure and recompose it in the context of an album and create a bold, captivating and conclusive collection of songs. Much like the composer’s earlier works, Rapport sur le Désorde is an audacious large-scale work, that’s difficult to ignore in the face of its presence. Drones, electro-acoustics, noise and beats conspire as they have always done in Franck Vigroux’s repertoire and are manipulated into focussed, concise forms.

How he achieved this within the framework of a performance and how it came together in the album context are questions that have been bringing since we reviewed Rapport sur le Désorde and when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance to put some of these questions to Franck Vigroux.

 

The thing that drew me to your work was the way in which you managed to create concrete forms from, what superficially, first appears as quite obstinate elements. Can you talk us a little through your creative processes and how you might achieve this?  

I have many ways I like to work, I make sounds acoustic or electronic, I record them then I process them or not. Once I have the sounds, like every musician for thousands of years: I juxtapose and superimpose sound, that’s composition, the rest is subjectivity and experience, then comes the story I want to write and listen to.

I discern that the guitar is a central element in your music. What sort of limitations/freedoms does it and your creative processes allow that might play a central role in your music?

 There’s no guitar in my albums, listener are often confused thinking it’s guitar-based, when actually all the distorted chords I make are done with synths. However I recorded an album with only one instrument, an old cheap guitar, it was two years ago, it was called Ciment. The label unfortunately did no promo at all, but I really liked it as a “blues industrial album”. About your question you say “limitation” there’s no limitation except in terms of production sometimes when I don’t have the right equipment or an orchestra so I have too find solution to accomplish something I have in my head. On the other hand there’s always freedom in music.

 

Your music is quite dominant, at times almost intrusive (I mean that in a positive sense), even at its subtler moments. Is there a musical ideology that would particularly inform this in your work?

I don’t know if ideology is appropriate when we talk about music. Even if there’s this cinematic side in albums like Rapport sur le Désorde I think what I try to make is more emotional than ideological. I try to make poetry, I’m not interested in anything political in art, I think the way art makes new forms and poetry is most important.

I hear Nine Inch Nails at times cropping through in some of your songs, specifically on your latest album. Is Trent Reznor a musical influence and can you think of any other musicians/bands that might have had an early musical influence on you?

Honestly I don’t know anything about Nine Inch Nails except that they wrote that great song covered by Johnny Cash “Hurt”. There are so many musicians I listened to or whose music I played… from Delta Blues to Jimi Hendrix, or Morton Feldman, Iannis Xenakis, Pan Sonic, Suicide, Bernard Parmegiani etc.

Rapport sur le Désordre is your latest record and I believe several of tracks were taken from an audio-visual performance, called Centaure created with video producer Kurt D’Haeseleer. Can you tell us a little bit more about the original performance?

Well yes there are some tracks I play in Centaure. Centaure was created a year ago, as something we called an audio-visual “Safari”. I wrote the music first, then Kurt mainly followed the music, but I also wrote some elements while watching the video. I think it works pretty well. I like to work with images, especially with Kurt d’Haeseleer and Antoine Schmitt, they are aesthetically pretty distant, but my music works with both. During the past year I was also doing experimental films and it’s probably why I’m attracted to audio-visual forms and the challenges of making music and video work together live.

How did you aim to contextualise it in the album format?

For the album I used the material I considered more coherent, maybe 3 tracks are from the AV performance and the others tracks came after. There’s no plan really, I just try to make the things coherent.

Since I reviewed the album I have also been listening more to Hums 2 Terre, the album you recorded with Elliot Sharp. As one of your earlier works, do you see an evolution up to Rapport sur le Désordre, or do you find your works are individual braches springing from an unmoving trunk?

I think it’s really far. During the 2000’s I was mainly improvising, using guitar, turntables, Revox tape recorder, etc. So it was a very different process of making music, most of the time bands were very ephemeral. Then I started to add a drum machine in my set, but I saw that people from this scene were not ready to accept the mixing of genres, not the musicians, but the promoters. I remember the first time I introduced beats with a 909 in jazz/improv festival, it was seen as provocative. So I finally moved out to another direction, improvisation was not interesting to me anymore and I wanted to explore composition and production more. But recently I came back to improve with the album Ciment and maybe I’ll do more again in the future.

Hums 2 Terre for me was confined to electro-acoustic music, whereas Rapport sur le Désordre appeared broader. Do you try to work within the confines of a genre for particular works?

No, that collaboration with Elliott Sharp was totally improvised, nothing was written, even if there’s a relationship, electroacoustic music is purely studio composition, but in a way we were trying to do a real time electroacoustic composition and it’s something I did during those years.

What are the continuities between the records that make them Franck Vigroux pieces?

I don’t know I follow my intuition. If you don’t make an effort you might not understand the link between Ciment (one guitar played with a bottleneck), Tobel 2 (inside piano and drones) and Rapport sur le Désordre (big beats, vocoder and electroacoustic kind of music) but for me it’s the same, I can compare it to languages – some people are polyglots and I think it’s the same in music. The continuity is that I try to not be talkative with plenty of notes or chords changes, I prefer to compose with the sound than with the harmony.

Rapport sur le Désordre is your first piece since working with Mika Vainio and as I mentioned earlier you’ve collaborated with Elliott Sharp too. Do you take anything away from these collaborations into your solo work?

Sure when an artist works with another artist, if the collaboration make sense, they learn from each other and it improves their language. These last years I also worked with Reinhold Friedl, we just release a new album Tobel 2, I like it a lot because I feel it makes me take new paths.

 

Rapport sur le Désordre has been out for a few weeks today. What’s the reception been like and is there anything you took away from it that might inform the next work?

The reception was really good. I already have a lot of materials for the next album or EP. I want to do more “atmospheric/orchestral” tracks like the one called Elastique in Rapport sur le désordre.

And what else is next for Franck Vigroux?

A new performance called Flesh with dancers, actors and video artists, it will be created in 2018. I also worked on a couple of EPs for 2017 and many other projects.