Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Jean-Baptiste Sinniger
Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Jean-Baptiste Sinniger
After 10 years of musical exploration, from advertising music to live touring with his friend and studiomate Yuksek, French songwriter Clément Daquin is back on a major label to spread his fine-cut pop songs to the world.
So, you’re releasing your second album on April 7th. Before asking you about what you put inside of it, I’d like to know first what you are expecting from it.
What an introspective question … To tell you the truth, at the moment I am not expecting anything from it especially. It was completed a year ago and just after the mix was finished, I had the impression that I didn’t own it anymore. To me, an album is like a child : you spend a lot of work and energy to conceive it but it always comes a time when you have to let it fend for itself. I just hope people will adopt it.
Your first album « Mange-Disque » was released in 2007. How do you explain the lapse of time that separates your two albums?
I have gone through a whole bunch of questioning about my music and quarreling with my first record label. I think that we can speak of starting it all from scratch. Many important decisions were made about my position in the project to end in the current layout. For instance, it took me a lot of time to be conscious of my ability to sing as a lead singer. I also experienced several activities related to music as different as composing for ads, animating workshops in rehabilitation programs for young people or world touring with Yuksek. I admit that it’s hard to find any coherence in this, but looking back, there were five years of really busy life.
You multiplied musical experiences during the last five years, but I think you actually found a certain coherence in your music. Is it something that we will hear in your next album ?
It’s clear that in « Mange-Disque », every song was different from the other, and I still can’t help going in various directions when I’m composing songs for an album. I get bored quickly and this why I don’t think I’ll manage someday to write an album that is similar from the first to the last song.
It’s funny because I have a theory about this: if you have musical curiosity, technical skills and equipment that are above average, it quickly becomes a handicap when it comes to composing songs.
You’re actually right! It was truly difficult to overcome the comfort in which I am in Reims where Pierre (Yuksek) and I installed a great studio full of instruments that permit infinite possibilities. I could have worked on this album for another five years if I didn’t get a deal with Arista (Sony Music France) and consequently a promo plan and a release date.
When I think about this studio you have with Yuksek, and the large collection of synthetisers you piled up years after years, I wonder how you do not to go crazy facing the amount of sounds that is proposed.
In fact, more we practice on them, and more we know these machines. Now, I know that the Juno is a powerful tool for arpeggios, or that the Mini-Moog is the best for producing funky bass sounds. As we go along, we refine our knowledge of the synths, even if many of them are only there to enrich the collection: because it has a certain look or because it produces weird sounds for example. In fact, I think that I could limitate myself to 4 or 5 machines.
More than merely sharing a studio, you’re connected with Yuksek by a strong friendship …
Yes, I first saw him playing in a small venue in Reims and made him listen to my first demos, that later became the songs of « Mange-Disque ». We were tied by a common interest for synthetisers that lead us to start a band, called Klanguage (that doesn’t exist anymore). We quickly realized that we were complementary: he already had a very strong producing background while I was more into songwriting and arranging.
What kind of relationship do you have with each other’s music?
We used to share another studio before the current one. It had the advantage of having two rooms, while the one we have now is more of a large open space. In the previous studio, we had the opportunity to work at the same time, giving us the possibility to go from a room to another to see what the other was doing and at the same time, exchanging advice. It’s too bad we don’t have this anymore; it could be very useful in some situations. For example, when you spend a large amount of time on a track and you begin to lack lucidity, it’s really helpful to have someone around with a good listening that helps you see it with a fresh look. Without taking into account all the times we played or sung on the other’s track. We complement each other … Even if I am maniacally tidy and he’s a really messy guy – when he works, he forms a nest made of ashtrays, synthetisers and cables around him.
I assume that this is a question you’re asked frequently, but why are you still living in Reims?
Because Reims is a very comfortable place to live in. I can’t imagine living in another French city than Reims. Paris is way too expensive, especially for a musician if you include the prices for rehearsal studios and stuff. And more than anything, Paris makes me nervous. If I stay too long in this city, I can surprise myself being mean towards people.
You have become one of the names that are frequently quoted when it comes to talking about music and advertising, as two of your songs have illustrated TV commercials for French carmaker Peugeot and after you won two Cannes Lions for your Golden Chains video. How do you explain the interest shown by the world of advertising for your music?
I seriously have no explanation for this. I think that it’s mostly thanks to my publishers, who are very influential in the field of advertising that I had these opportunities. They always managed to put my music on very qualitative commercials and I’m very grateful for this.
And conversely, do you have an affinity for advertising?
Of course, I have been writing music for advertising for a long time. It’s a good way to make good money when you’re a musician. Plus, it can stimulate your creativity. The advertisers call and ask you to propose two musical options for an ad in a small amount of time. They often want you to inspire your work by a handful of references, so it helps you to explore many music styles.
Innovation is very present in the ALB project with original videos or physical album formats for example. To what extent can we find this angle in your music?
I think that nowadays, everything has been done with conventional music instruments so I won’t have the pretention to say I invent stuff in my music. On the contrary, I really like to insert musical references or tributes to past music I love. It’s really hard to innovate in song writing, so I really try to make my songs timeless. For the innovative side, I’d rather focus on my live performances and my physical albums. This is something I’m really interested in, as I studied design when I was younger. For example, for this second album, I thought of a monochromic cover that will be different whether you are inside or outside. I personally looked for the monochromic paint supplier in England and linked him with the Sony CD factory. It wasn’t easy but I think the result will be great.
When I interviewed your friend Kim Giani two years ago, he told me you were amongst the best harmonists in the world. Are you up to an “Ultrascore” contest with another master of harmony, Christophe Chassol?
It’s funny you tell me about him. I am very impressed by what Christophe does and I think he is the best by far. His live performances are really moving. And he’s a great guy too.
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