2014 Artist Survey: Starwalker

Jean-Benoît Dunckel (of Air) and Barði Jóhannsson (of Bang Gang) on Fans Who Want Their Hair, U2, "Weird Al," and Their Former Teachers

Feb 17, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent
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For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Barði Jóhannsson of Starwalker. Jean-Benoît Dunckel is also a member of the French band Air and Barði Jóhannsson is in the Icelandic group Bang Gang.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.]

Top 10 Albums of 2014


1. Eels: The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
2. Beck: Morning Phase
3. Todd Terje: It's Album Time

4. Vök: Tension EP

5. Behemoth: The Satanist

6. The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream

7. Lykke Li: I Never Learn

8. Lana Del Rey: Ultraviolence

9. Interpol: El Pintor

10. Azealia Banks: Broke with Expensive Taste

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band? 

Jean-Benoît Dunckel: My holidays in Iceland to shoot the "Blue Hawaii" video. It was fun and very relaxing.

Barði Jóhannsson: I guess my band highlight will be to manage to finalize an amazing Starwalker album.

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

Jean-Benoît: Oh. Oh, it was this morning when I saw my face in the mirror after a night in a club where I drank three cocktails and I did a party until six a.m.

Barði: There are a few, but nothing I want to share with the world.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

Jean-Benoît:  My plan is to cook better, to take a better care of myself, and to record the best song of my life.

Barði: I hope everyone will be happy, nice, fun, and funny. Also hope that my wishes will come true.

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

Jean-Benoît: I think that Pink Floyd could have their album downloaded more; they are a legend too. According to me, it's the MP3 format that devalues music because it sounds so bad. It's not the number of them, but the quality of it.

Barði: I really don't care what U2 does. It should be the freedom of every artist to choose whether or not he wants to give his music. It is not the fact today. If you want to sell it, people take it anyway.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

Jean-Benoît: Haha. That's so funny. It wakes you up and makes ideas circulate faster in your mind. It makes you breathe faster, too, and shout a lot. No, we didn't do it. I think you can do worse than a bucket. A bath in the sea of Iceland in the Reykjavik harbor.

Barði: I did the cake-fart challenge.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

Jean-Benoît: Such a sad event. No, I don't think something is going to change. I think that weapons should be not allowed on anybody on Earth. There's not a good reason to kill anybody.

Barði: In Iceland we love everyone and hardly ever shoot anyone.

What's your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

Jean-Benoît: I believe in reality and I'm afraid the plane crashed or has been disintegrated in the air, so it was hard to see it on radars and satellites. I'd like to make jokes, but so many people died, so it's no fun.

Barði: My imagination doesn't go far when it comes to plane crashes. Personally, I am afraid of nights and flying.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

Jean-Benoît: I think musicians have the right to express their opinions onstage or wherever. We're lucky to live in a free zone, so a musician can express himself especially if he can't hear himself performing on stage.

Barði: I prefer that my audience can hear when I play for them.

"Weird Al" Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the "Weird Al" version's lyrics be about? 

Jean-Benoît: I think it could be "Blue Hawaii," with him wearing a bathing suit and swimming in the blue lagoon of Iceland. The lyrics would describe how to take a shower, with an entire chorus about how to use shampoo, what brand...

Barði: Maybe "Losers Can Win" and it would be his first honest self-reflection song.

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

Jean-Benoît: It doesn't have a groove. Not enough funk. Working on it.

Barði: Having a "European tone."

What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?

Jean-Benoît: When some girls wanted to snatch my hair in Boston. Very strange situation. They were full of love. I was full of fear.

Barði: My favorite fan has three song titles and my signature tattooed on her.

What's the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

Jean-Benoît: Nobody's asking about taboos like sex or money or corruption in the musical world. I haven't gotten really far yet in the Starwalker interview process, so the questions sound quite new for me, but I don't like "Why the name of the band?"

Barði: I would like to hear some questions regarding the sounds that we use. I don't like when I get questions that I've no option for a yes or no, like "How does Icelandic nature inspire you?" And being from Dijon in France doesn't necessarily mean that you eat Dijon mustard.

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you're now a successful musician?

Jean-Benoît: Mathematics teachers that I had during my time at university. The ones who gave me bad marks. But they were right; I deserved it.

Barði: Maybe the principal of my college. He gave me a speech after putting up posters with Donald Duck having unprotected sex with another cartoon character. It was an ad for my punk band "Up Yours" that I was in around 13 years ago.

www.starwalkermusic.com

 

 



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