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Yann Tiersen

Moving Forward, With A Vengeance

Apr 14, 2011 Photography by David Studarus Web Exclusive
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Yann Tiersen couldn’t be happier with his latest album, Dust Lane. His sixth studio album and first for the Anti- label, the eight tracks offer a full-band sound that’s largely performed by Tiersen, and he provides plenty of room for his themes to evolve. It’s a record of remarkable breadth, at times resembling an upbeat Bad Seeds with cinematic scope or Tindersticks with a brighter pop aesthetic, though ultimately it stands simply as one of the more unique releases of the past twelve months.

Regarding the cinema, it was through Tiersen’s 2001 soundtrack to the film Amelie that he first came to the attention of many in the U.S. While much of that release contained some of Tiersen’s earlier recordings, he provided original scores for 2003’s Good Bye Lenin! and the 2008 documentary Tabarly. Following his 2005 album Les Retrouvailles, which featured vocal contributions from Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples and Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Frazer, Tiersen began looking toward new creative possibilities that led to the lengthy writing period for Dust Lane.

Hays Davis: When you first began to compose, did you see more influence from earlier composers or from modern work?

Yann Tiersen: First of all, I don’t ‘compose.’ I just try to find some ideas on guitar and then record it, and (then) I have the base, the skeleton of a new song. I’m listening to a lot of bands all the time, from 60’s bands like Silver Apples, Electric Prunes to Fuck Buttons (and) These New Puritans, for instance, and maybe there is some influence from what I’m listening to, but in a subconscious way. When I’m working I try to be true and away of any influences, especially musical ones

For your work that might be considered minimalist composition, has this always been a natural inclination to write in that form, or did this come from an appreciation of similar styles from others?

I don’t like labels. I don’t make fucking minimalist music. I just play music and have fun.

I understand you were born in France. Did you grow up there?

I’m born in Brest, Brittany, northwest of France, but this land is closer culturally and musically from Wales, Ireland and Scotland than it is from France.

As you grew older and considered a personal musical direction, was there much of a struggle with that? Was there ever a possibility that you might instead decide to be a part of a rock or pop band?

I like to explore lots of different ways while recording and not really knowing where I’m going so it’s easier to work alone, but on stage we really act as a band and change the songs completely as if they were new ones. So I have best of both sides.

How did you first come to write scores for plays or films?

I never really did. It was use of previous material. As my first albums were mainly instrumental, it was maybe attractive for directors or whatever. I wrote just two proper soundtracks in fifteen years: Good Bye Lenin! and Tabarly, a French documentary on a Breton sailor.

Do you find it easier scoring films or plays than writing original music for yourself?

I hate scoring any kind of stuff. For me, music is not language, just sounds put together, and sounds mean nothing, thank God. It’s just a way to express feelings physically through sounds. If my music worked fine with some movies it’s just by chance and not because of me. I’m completely unable to make music on images or whatever.

You worked with Stuart Staples and Elizabeth Frazer on Les Retrouvailles. They seem like natural choices as vocalists who could work well with someone with your background. Had you been interested in working with them up until then?

I’d like to write an album with Elizabeth Frazer. I think her voice is one of the most amazing voices ever, and she’s so creative with it

How long did you work on the writing for Dust Lane?

It took two years. I needed time to take some distance from the songs, come back again with a fresh mind, and work on the different textures of the album.

There’s so much going on in those tracks, so many layers, that it sounds like a great deal of work went into the recordings. Did the finished album resemble what you had imagined when you began work on it?

It’s my favorite album. I always dreamed to reach a kind of freedom with sounds where you kind use them as a scream or a whisper in a physically way, almost without consciousness. For me, it’s like a beginning now. I can really make music!

How have you been presenting this music live? Are you touring with a band?

We’re six onstage: Neil Turpin on drums, Robin Allender on guitar and vocals, Olavur Jakupsson on vocals, oscillators and effects, Stephane Bouvier on bass and vocals, Lionel Laquerriere on ukulele, synth and vocals, and myself on vocals, guitars, violin and synths.

Which instruments are you primarily playing these days?

I’m really into synths for the moment but love my guitars.

Have you considered other soundtrack work for the near future?

Fuck no!



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July 30th 2011

I loved this interview. He really does have the best of both sides.