Interview: Woodkid Talks Creating His Debut Album, Why Lana Del Rey is His Muse, and Artistically Relating to the Past

Interview: Woodkid Talks Creating His Debut Album, Why Lana Del Rey is His Muse, and Artistically Relating to the PastBy Cedar Pasori (@cedar); Photography by Mathieu Cesar

At what point did it make sense for you to depart from directing videos for others and define your musical career as Woodkid?
When “Iron” got successful. Initially I did “Iron” because I wanted to experiment a little bit further in directing and make a short film—something that would go further than the videos I’ve done before and be more intense and also more personal. I had this music on the side, and I thought that the best way to make it happen was to combine both, because then I would make the music and the visuals talk together. 

 

If the project is a failure or a success, it's only because of me and the people I regularly work with. I didn’t want to promote myself with others’ work.

 

Right now, I’m actually starting again, and I’m reading a lot about the connection between the sound and the image. In Alexander Nevsky’s Eisenstein, he talks a lot about the complexity of the chords and music you use, how they’re connected with the visuals, how you treat climaxes and gaps, and how you extend or compress time with music. I'm super interested in that, so I did “Iron” and the first EP, but it was more of an experimental thing, like an experimental object, and then suddenly it got massive in a couple of weeks. I didn’t really expect that at all. Then we sat down and said, “What are we going to do? Are we really going to make this album?” And it was like, yeah, I think people are waiting for me.

Were you signed at that point?
I was signed, but it’s not like I wanted to make my job out of it. It’s pretty funny; now that I think about it, when we worked on that EP, it was almost like it was for fun. It was almost a joke.

A lot of the best art is.
Yeah, it’s strange what has happened in two years. We’d been working on the EP for almost four years and on this album for even more, because some of the tracks on the album I wrote a long time ago, but I never thought that these fragments would stick together and create an album.

When you say “we,” do you mean your production team?
Yeah, I mean my manager, Pierre, the guy who handles me on my label in France, and Guillame of The Shoes, who’s my co-producer on the album.

Speaking of “Iron,” did Kendrick Lamar ask you for permission to rap over it on “The Spiteful Chant” from Section.80?
He didn’t ask, but it’s fine, because I’m super proud of the track. I think he’s one of the best guys out there, and hopefully that exercise will happen again.

But you don’t have any features on The Golden Age.
I don’t have features, because I didn’t want to rely on anyone else to make the project successful. I didn’t want to attach myself to other people's success. If the project is a failure or a success, it's only because of me and the people I regularly work with. I didn’t want to promote myself with others’ work.

Maybe I’ll do a B-side project with other artists. I’m very interested in collaboration. I’ve been doing features all my life by doing videos for other artists, so I kind of needed, for once, to make something completely on my own.

Before I even heard the album, I saw that you tweeted about being in the studio with Brodinksi, Skrillex, and others, which made me think that the album wouldn’t be what I expected originally.
It’s funny because I mainly worked with electronic producers on the album, and it sounds very organic, but it’s actually super digital. A lot of the production on the album is very cheated. It’s a fake album. We recorded the Paris National Orchestra, and we sampled percussions one by one, we sampled notes, we cut everything, we pitched, we screwed, we chopped, we patterned, and then we kitted everything. Then we doubled the real orchestra with a fake orchestra. We also doubled the real percussion with techno subs and techno kicks to make that hybrid sound.

 

I’m a perfectionist, and I think it’s interesting to try to create emotions with perfection. It’s very paradoxical.

 

When you hear it, it sounds real, because I didn’t want to use any electronic gimmicks, but it almost sounds too perfect to be real. I’m really obsessed with perfection. I’m a perfectionist, and I think it’s interesting to try to create emotions with perfection. It’s very paradoxical. Sometimes when I look at Classical paintings, they seem to be perfect to me; they create strong emotion in me, because they have that divine dimension somehow. That’s what I’m trying to do.

In a previous interview, you said that you want people to “feel like heroes” when they listen to your music. Could you expand on that, and has creating your musical persona made you feel more heroic or powerful as an artist?
I wanted to make music that generates images cinematically, so that when people listen to it, they feel like heroes. Of course, I’m giving some keys about the world around it, but I’m not doing videos for all the tracks. People are going to be able to connect to this and do whatever they want with it.

When I was a kid, I would buy a lot of soundtracks from movies, even movies I hadn’t even seen. I would go in my bed, put my headphones on, and listen to the soundtrack super loud, and I would generate my own images. It made me stronger and forced me to be more creative and imagine myself or heroes in very epic situations. Somehow, I hope that kids will do the same with my music, because music is meant to be played live, just as it’s made to be social, but it can also transcend itself in a very private and intimate sphere, which is the sphere of the head and the headphones. When people just listen to music as a guilty pleasure or in a lonely way, it can connect to deep things inside of them. It connects to things that they wouldn’t even share with people. I’m trying to feed young people, or whoever is into my music, with little hints of what my world could be, and then they can just create their own world after that.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself as a child one thing, what would it be?
I don’t think I would change anything, because if I had a clue as a kid about what would happen now, it would have never been a dream. What I’m living now is a result of dreaming as a child, and that’s why it’s actually happening, because I’ve been trying to make this happen. I don’t think I would change anything, but maybe I would tell my younger self to be a little more patient, because I’ve always been in a hurry. 

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