How do you explain the understanding you have with your own fans?
It’s true that when I post a photo of Flat Eric on Facebook, I get more messages of love than of hate. But the internet is this kind of constant firing squad where everybody slags off everybody else. You can feel the frustration from every angle. I feel like I receive more positivity. I offer something with a bit of humour and self-derision, that makes my stuff a lot lighter and nicer. That’s doubtless what will please people.
Do you think you have a light-hearted approach to your music?
Loads of guys in this kind of music have a super serious approach. It’s not important in theory, but sometimes it’s a bit too serious. Between 20 and 25, I loved guys like Jeff Mills and there were songs that I found amazing. But naturally, the gravity becomes ridiculous. He’s just a guy who programs 909s and makes little loops with synths. There comes a point when you can’t take yourself seriously in that stuff. Especially as you get older, then seriousness gets really depressing.
‘I just try to find the artistic gesture that’s closest to what interests me, that is to say the creativity of a child.’
The advantage I have is ultimately being completely normal. I have no concept of cold or intellectual. Yeah, I’m light-hearted compared to all that. I think I’ve also gained a few loyalty points by always trying to reimagine myself. The sympathy factor I seem to have for people is simply due to my personality. If I took myself too seriously my records would do nowhere near as well.
What do you think of the devil-may-care image some people have of you?
I get the same thing with the cinema. People think I do whatever I feel like and I don’t care, that that’s my attitude. In reality, it’s not an attitude and I’m not trying to say that I don’t care. I just try to find the simplest and closest artistic expression to what interests me, that is to say the creativity of a child.
When you go professional in any artistic field, you’re fucked. You’re no longer an artist but a guy who applies a formula, who understands the market and it’s deadly dull. I don’t care what anyone says! I try to stay as close as possible to the amateurism that stimulated me in the first place. Creativity is something that belongs to children and either you keep it and you remain complicit with the child you once were, or it goes and you grow to be an unhappy adult.
When you become professional in an artistic field, you’re fucked. You’re no longer an artist but a guy who applies a formula…
Sometimes I want to do too much in this sense and it doesn’t work every time either. But it’s a gesture I look for in everything I take up. It has to be simple. That why I like to make songs quickly. Not for laziness, but because I know that when you do something quickly, your mind is fully engaged. When you’re lugging around a song that’s two and a half years old and you never stop changing things about it, the process gets overcomplicated and at the end of the day people are going to hear that.
This ability to work quickly, is that what you look for in the artists you work with?
In fact, when I’m working with someone, it’s never so organised. On this album [The Church, 2014] there was a song that I could never manage to finish. I tried with Siriusmo, but nothing came of it. The one day I exchanged a few messages with Bart B More on Twitter, though we had never met before. I play a few of his tracks, I like his sense of groove and arrangement. And very spontaneously I proposed to finish the song and it happened pretty quickly. It’s like Alex [from Boys Noize], those guys know when a track is finished. They go quickly but they know where they’re going. When they have an idea, they get there without too much trouble. I love it when it’s that simple.
It is easy to make a simple song?
The most simple songs are not the most difficult to make but you rarely have the freedom to make something simple. In fact your mind is often so cluttered with stupid little things and that blocks you. You have to be in the child’s frame of mind. There was a time when I hadn’t mastered all that stuff and I kept saying to myself ‘Come on, I’ve got to make some music.’ I shut myself in a studio and waited for it to happen. Sometimes, you find clarity of mind through working, but it’s rare.
I devote all my time to life first of all and then to cinema and music
It’s the same for writing a film. When my head’s too clouded, it’s impossible to work on a screenplay. When my ideas are clear and everything seems simple to me, that’s the perfect time to write or make music. It’s a state that you just about come to master. You can create it for yourself. We don’t have to be prisoners of our own frame of mind.
Is that why you only work on your computer now?
I work completely on the computer and I love it. For me it’s still a super exciting tool, I’m not bored of it yet, I have my ways. When it becomes boring, I’ll do it another way. Some people are returning to analogue but personally even the idea of plugging in a mixing desk with a drum machine tires me out and spoils the fun.
It’s a rare thing to lead two artistic careers. Would you ever give up Mr Oizo to concentrate on the cinema?
Imagining that I launched a real career in cinema and that it took up more of my time, I can’t see myself stopping with music. It would be really hard for me. From the moment I was born until playing in front of crowds, it has always been something I love. It’s a sort of conquest. We do our research, in the lowest sense of the word, always on the lookout for a new beat, a little gem, and I find that really interesting. The songs that end up sticking are few. But it’s nice when they do. That approach is a real side of who I am. And I love having two pursuits like that.
Most guys in film might have to wait three or four years before starting their project. I am lucky enough to have something else to do. Which means that if I don’t get positive responses for finance, for example, it’s not a big deal, I can get back on my computer and make a record. It gives me another option and so I can manage the frustration of not having a film to do. But I have done everything I could to make it all possible. So music is something I care about, it’s not just recreational. In both fields I try to push things as far as they will go. For example, I love drawing, but obviously I wouldn’t have the time to do that too. I devote all my time to life first of all, then to cinema and music.
Are you ever taken aback when you see the crowd go completely mad?
It’s not at all my world. Even when I was their age, it wasn’t something I did, going and jumping around and freaking out like that. But I love it! The best is when you know it’s all about to break loose. Like the last time at Zig Zag: that was a proper riot. The barriers were crushed, the security was in crisis. I find that great, it’s a crazy energy. People let their hair down, perhaps they had a shit week or they’re just too happy to be there partying. But I guess I’m not at ease in that kind of atmosphere. If you put me in the crowd at that point, I think I would faint. That kind of chaos isn’t my thing but I do understand it. With this music, you want to listen to it loud, you want to lose it. It’s not something you listen to at home, at the fireside!