On the phone from his studio in LA, which he describes as a “very Steve Jobs garage,” Mr Oizo spends a while trying to explain to me the state of mind in which he makes music. when it’s going well, he says, it’s heavily image-based, but trying to extract those images afterwards and explain them to someone else is as “lame” as talking about your dreams. Fundamentally, he knows a piece of music is good if it’s creating a movie in his mind; “if it works in your head with a good car chase.”
Mr Oizo, aka Quentin Dupieux, shot to fame as a producer and a visual artist with more or less the same speed and fever with the release of “Flat Beat” and the creation of Flat Eric in 1999. Since then, he’s released four albums via F Communications and Ed Banger, and directed a handful of his characteristically off-the-wall shorts, music videos, commercials and feature films (including 2010’s cult and critical hit Rubber, about a tire with homicidal tendencies). Four years ago he moved to LA, where he linked up with Flying Lotus, who’s a longtime fan, and reissued Oizo’s second album Moustache on vinyl via Brainfeeder in 2011.
This year, realising that after tinkering with ideas between filmmaking sessions he had a healthy amount of material, Dupieux decided to put out another album, and stuck with Lotus’s imprint. The result is The Church, some of his most exciting and carefree work in years: the album lurches and buzzes with all the energy of a sugar-dosed child, at one end of the spectrum all mechanical crunches, at the other end full of surrealist vocal snippets and wide-eyed blasts of synth. There’s more classic Oizo visuals to come, too, as Eric Wareheim has directed an upcoming music video that will feature for both John C. Reilly and Flat Eric.
Stream the album in all its colourful glory below, and read on for our chat with Oizo about finding the magic and humour in his craft, and how he even finds the time to have a craft between all those other projects.
What inspired the move to LA from Paris?
It was just the magic of the place. Because you know, I’m also making movies. Basically I didn’t find that excitement in Paris. My first feature was shot in Montreal in 2007, and then I did Rubber in the desert here in California. I can’t really dream about movies when I’m in France, so that’s why I moved here - let’s say I’m in the right state of mind when I’m here. The industry doesn’t really care about me because I’m just making my smaller, low-budget indie movies, so I’m not here to chase the American Dream, I’m not even looking at Hollywood.
The title track on this album has a kind of spoken word story to it; do you tend to think in narratives or visuals when you’re making music?
When I was writing this story, I was not even thinking about it, I was just trying to find good words. You know like when you write a song, sometimes it’s about the meaning, and sometimes it’s more about the sound of the words. I just found it funny. When I’m doing something good, I think it’s good because I see some images. It’s hard to describe, but I’m usually excited by a piece of music when it has some tension. It comes with strong images; sometimes it’s really abstract, sometimes it’s like a movie.
What was going on in your life while you were making this album, what was your mindset like?
I’m always doing everything at the same time. If I’m not editing a movie I may be editing a trailer, if I’m not writing a movie I may be re-writing the second draft of a movie we’re trying to produce, I may be doing some remixes - and when I’m doing a remix I can suddenly start a song for me.
How do you manage to multi-task so effectively? Any tips?
Everything works together. I always see what I’m doing like a playground. It’s like, today I feel like playing with the hammer, but two hours later I’m bored with the hammer, so I want to play with the sander. When I don’t find inspiration, if I need to write, I have a scene to finish, and I don’t really feel it, then I know I can open my music computer and start something really wild just to wash my brain and think about something else. So then, three hours later, I can start again to work on the script. It’s always been like that, it’s been like that for 15 years.
What things influenced this album; what were you listening to and watching?
When I was 20, I was always buying records, always checking new music. But now I’m not that excited about checking it - my influences are just everything around me. Basically these days, I’m a normal guy, so if I drive my car I listen to the new pop songs, that I don’t even know who’s singing or who’s producing; sometimes I like it, sometimes I hate it. I guess this influenced me a little bit...Even a shit movie, when you watch it there’s still something to learn from it.
The only movie I remember watching last year is The Master. That’s the one that stays in my mind, all the others were flushed. I love the spirit behind it, I think Anderson is a genius filmmaker, and even if the subject is boring, he has this special magic that almost nobody has. When he’s filming someone, suddenly there’s some magic about it. And you know, magic used to be in a lot of movies, but these days magic is gone. So when a movie like this has a lot of magic in it, it’s like re-discovering movie-making. It feels like watching a movie for the first time.
Are you after that magical quality in your music too?
Yeah, of course. Because now, with the software we have, it’s pretty easy to reproduce something you hear on the radio. If you want to work a week to reproduce what you heard on the radio, you can do it. Because you can find every sound you can imagine; everything is available for free. With a small computer now, you can have a big sound just like the big producers. But this is not interesting - what I’m trying to capture is something that you can’t really control. And yes, we can call it magic, because that’s what I’m looking for. And basically that’s what I’m doing, because if you ask me “how did you record this song,” I don’t even know. There’s no plan. I’m not thinking, “okay, now I’m going to make a disco tune.” Actually when I think like that, I’m not able to do anything. It’s like digging for gold, you know. I’m trying to find gold.
I think that gold or magic comes in part through the sense of humour your music has.
Artists should have a sense of humour, and usually when they don’t, I really don’t enjoy what they’re doing. And I’m talking for everything, music, movies, art, everything. I really hate serious artists - you know I was talking about The Master? Yes, this is a very serious subject, but you can still feel a sense of humour. It looks serious, but it’s not that serious. Usually, that’s what I’m looking for.