For over a decade, Paris-based producer Mondkopf – real name Paul Régimbeau – has been shedding the garb of the more floor-ready accents of his early material – abrasive and doleful already yet more pulsating and nervy – essentialising it down to supple modulations of machinic melancholia and widescreen instrumental poetry.
Interestingly enough, for anyone following him since his beginnings, it didn’t feel like a sudden adulteration or brutal shift in style, and his new album ‘They Fall But You Don’t‘ for In Paradisum comes to crown a carefully thought out body of work, showing a musician going for new peaks, through both forlorn and luminous pieces of drone and dark ambient.
We caught up with Paul to discuss the making of his quietly stunning new album as he gives further insight on his craft and vision, opens up about his influences and how analogue accelerates his creative process. Stream ‘Vivere, Part V‘ below.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"I wanted to rely less on the computer and be able to adapt with different bands. For my new record, I only used the computer for mixdown."
You put the Mondkopf project on hold over the last two years before returning to In Paradisum early 2016. What have you been up to in the meanwhile?
A few things! I played live as Mondkopf. I released a record under Extreme Precautions and played some nice gigs too, opening for Electric Wizard was a special moment. With this project, I teamed up with the japanese band Vampilia and Pete Swanson to create VMO. We released a record and did a small tour in Japan.
I also recorded with Oiseaux-Tempête for their next album, and I will join them on stage from April on. With one of the member of this band, Frederic D. Oberland, and the duo Saaad, we formed Foudre! and released two records, including ‘Earth‘ which will be out on Gizeh records just before my own album.
In the meantime I recorded new songs with my new instruments and effects, which became ‘They Fall But You Don’t‘. And I did a soundtrack for the movie Bridgend, by Jeppe Rønde.
What changed in your approach to production?
I use a lot more hardware. I don’t have anything against software but I wanted to rely less on the computer and be able to adapt with different bands. For my new record, I only used the computer for mixdown.
"It’s a way of saying let’s not fall into hatred and fear."
Does this record mark a new orientation in what you want to accomplish?
I think so yes, something more free, with less thinking ahead, while still trying to get in touch with feelings. Emotions, I won’t let that go.
What were your inspirations for this record?
Artists like Mind Over Mirrors, Tim Hecker, Lawrence English, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Morton Feldman, Lychens, Pauline Oliveros, Ellen Fullman… But mostly people I played with, who taught me how to play, precisely… The album is said to represent a nightly mindset.
In which state of mind were you during its recording?
That’s partly true, I indeed started recording most tracks in the night, but I kept on in daytime too. I’m not up to do music all night anymore, I’d rather listen to some.
Why this title, ‘They Fall But You Don’t‘?
It’s a way of saying let’s not fall into hatred and fear.
"I have always been fascinated by minimalist music in means or form, but maximalists in the feelings they bring."
It’s more pared-down and raw than what your material used to be a few years ago. Was this economy of means a way to reach, say, a sense of deeper sincerity?
Yes, I allowed myself to keep the recordings as they were and not edit anything. Most of the songs don’t comprise more than 4 tracks. And eventually I was more satisfied than with songs of 16 tracks, when I was giving myself a headache and losing the feeling of the moment.
I have always been fascinated by minimalist music in means or form, but maximalists in the feelings they bring. It’s a paradox but this kind of music asks for some patience to be fully appreciated. I like this aspect of initiation and ritual.
You’ve grown progressively closer to drone music over the years. What drone records had the biggest impact on you?
I won’t lie, I got into drone through Sunn O))) and the ‘ØØ Void‘ album was a big breakthrough for me. It was 7-8 years ago. I was getting deep into metal and with this record it went even further as I discovered this genre could go that far and opened to this other genre which was drone music.
"Analog helps reach the right sound faster contrary to VST which can go further technically, but require a lot more time to make something interesting out of them."
The tracks convey a strong visual feel, almost a synesthesic one. Do you usually compose with images in mind?
Not really, I try and let the feelings speak, and I choose the textures that move me right when I’m playing.
How important is the analogue sound to you? What’s your studio comprised of at the moment?
For me analog helps reach the right sound faster contrary to VST which can go further technically, but require a lot more time to make something interesting out of them. Software also requires computer power and that’s a problem.
I won’t go into the details of my whole setup but I just can say that I love everything Moog. That’s not fetichism, it’s just that the sound and the display suit me. I have quite a few effect pedals as well.
Any piece of equipment you wouldn’t part with, ever?
My Sub Phatty and Analog Rhythm, that’s the basis for all my music currently.
‘Vivere, Finale’ made me think of some tracks from Brian Eno, like an abrasive version of ‘An Ending (Ascent)’ – mostly because of its modulated build-up and levitating melancholia. Is he an influence of yours?
For sure, Brian Eno has been a big inspiration and opened me to a lot of things. His music was with me in a lot of moments in my life. ‘Ascent‘ is one of the most beautiful songs I heard in my life.
What’s your schedule like this year? Any other projects, releases, live dates you’d like to tell us about?
I will be playing a first new live set as Mondkopf on February in Paris, mixing the drone/noise aspect of this album with more rhythmic parts. I’m expecting more from the audience with this one.
I will also tour with Oiseaux-Tempête, we have a two week rehearsal with the libanese musicians who appear on the album. I’m also looking forward to play with Foudre! and my project Autrenoir, which works as an A/V live set with the dancer Helene Rocheteau on stage.
They Fall But You Don’t is released via In Paradisum on 27th February, pre-order a vinyl copy from Juno.
A1. Vivere, Parte I
A2. Vivere, Parte II
A3. Vivere, Parte III
B1. Vivere, Parte IV
B2. Vivere, Parte V
B3. Vivere, Finale