I saw that you posted the Marina Abramovic Rhythm 0 piece on your Facebook, where she says she learned that, “If you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” How do you find the courage to expose yourself and how do you decide how much to expose? Do you think of the criticism, and are you intimidated by what people will think of your music, especially since it’s so personal?
I used my past, because I’m obsessed with the notion of truth, in terms of what is individual truth. In my case, it’s things that are linked to my childhood, where I was innocent and not socially formatted, in a way. I’m trying to rely on my taste as a child, but that being said, I try not to expose myself too much, for many reasons. First, I am very sensitive to critics. I want my work to be seen and heard, and I want it to be a tool for me to communicate with people, but I don’t want my self to be exposed or my own person. I think my work is more interesting than me. My work is inspired by what I’ve lived, but I romanticize that I make it better, more beautiful, and more interesting to read or live. I don’t show myself in the videos, I try to be in the shadows during the live show, and I do very few photos or I wear a mask to fuck up my face.
I had to say no to a lot of amazing artists from Madonna to Black Sabbath...I had to say no to the Rolling Stones.
As a director, you need to be anonymous. It’s one of the greatest qualities you can have. Nobody knows you; you can sit down anywhere, in any situation—in a party, in a bar, in a café, or in a restaurant, and look at people. You can learn from reality to feed yourself and to direct. But if you get famous, the energy around you changes; the polarity of people gravitates towards you, almost. You don’t realize it, but the world around you is changing slowly, and then you live in a reality that’s not real, actually. I’m trying to step away a little from fame and being exposed.
Sometimes, people stop me in the street or ask me to take pictures, and it’s always a little weird for me. It’s not the reason why I do this. That being said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be successful. I’m starting to be ok with it, because it’s part of the game. I could do a Daft Punk thing, but I’m not into that either; I don’t want it to be a gimmick. I just want to be discrete. My work is annoying enough for some people. I understand that it generates jealousy or anger, where people don’t understand what I’m doing or they hate it. That’s what you deserve when you create; it’s part of the game, but I don’t want it to turn into personal attacks on who I am or whatever I do. So I try to be a little distanced from that. I try to stay in my little apartment here. I write and do music everyday.
Are you working on a feature film, and what themes would you explore in a longer film?
It’s very premature for me to talk about, because I know it’s going to be the next project, but first I have to tour and promote the album. I’m back in New York, because I’m back in university learning screenwriting techniques and cinema history. I’m trying to feed myself with books and learn again from scratch to be a director. I just found that with time, when you’re a music video director, you’re more of an image-maker and artistic director than an actual director. I’m working on how to write and find themes that really move me, ones that I could defend for 3-5 years of my life. It’s another exercise and another challenge, but I don’t think I’m completely ready. I will be soon, but the themes won’t be surprising.
Maybe something will happen and it won’t work out, but my schedule technically for the next ten years is doing this album, promoting it, touring for 1-2 years, then working on a feature, and then having a baby. It’s a long time planned ahead. It’s like making three babies in ten years.
Will you continue to make music and videos exclusively for yourself? If something really exciting or promising came up, would you do it as Yoann, not Woodkid?
Well, I refused a lot of projects this year, which was really frustrating for me. I had to say no to a lot of amazing artists from Madonna to Black Sabbath. I thought it would be really interesting to collaborate with the pioneers of metal. I had to say no to the Rolling Stones. It’s very sad, but at the same time, it’s for a very good reason. Right now, I’m not directing for other artists, but I will when I’m done with the tour again, because I love it. I love to collaborate with musicians.
Why do you live in New York?
For university, basically. I’ve lived here for two years, in Brooklyn. I have a song called “Brooklyn.”
Yeah, I was going to ask you if the song is about Brooklyn itself or if it’s about someone in Brooklyn.
You’re really the first one to actually listen to what the song is about. The song actually says that I don’t give a shit about Brooklyn. The song says that I pretend to love Brooklyn, but I finally realize that if the person I love wasn’t in Brooklyn, I wouldn’t give a shit about it. It’s just a way of saying that we always love a city, because there’s somebody there that we love. It’s like what I had in mind when I wrote that song, “Would Brooklyn be worth crossing the Atlantic/If you were not part of it?”
It’s a very important place for me, because it’s much more neutral than Paris or than Los Angeles. It’s a very neutral city. It’s a city of equality. It’s also a very fucked up city. There are many things that go wrong here in America, but I also know a lot about what’s fucked up in France. There’s no ideal place in the world, but I think New York really calms me down. I like to be away from what’s happening in Europe right now, because the project is getting really big there, and I need to let it happen without me. My job is done; I did the album and the book, and now it can live on its own. Once again, it’s not about me, it’s about my work.
Lana inspires me a lot, because she’s extremely complex. She’s confusing. You never know what’s real and what’s not about her. She plays with that character so well; she’s a master of illusion.
You tweeted that you’ve considered directing porn. What would set your porn apart from what’s out there?
I’ve always been very interested in sexuality. I was just wondering if there’s a way to create a form of art with it. Some people have worked on it, from Lars Von Trier to Bruce LaBruce. There are a lot of forms that are interesting, but I’ve wondered what would be the most beautiful pornographic object to make. Does it have to be that vulgar and disrespectful of humans? Does exposing sexuality have to become an object made to be used for masturbation? Can it be made in an artful and masterful way? What would be the best porn movie ever? Why not? How do you make penetration beautiful? I’m interested, but I don’t know if I’m ever going to do it.
Do you have any muses?
Millions of them. I would say Lana Del Rey, of course. Lana inspires me a lot, because she’s extremely complex. She’s confusing. You never know what’s real and what’s not about her. She plays with that character so well; she’s a master of illusion. She’s beautiful, and she’s one of the best singers I’ve known so far. She really inspired me when we did those videos together and when we sang together onstage.
Will you be touring throughout the rest of the year?
I’m starting the tour in April. We’re starting in Europe, then the U.S. in May maybe, and then we’ll do bigger shows at the end of the year in France. It’s exciting. I love what I’ve developed so far onstage; this will be an extension of what I’ve done but in a more abstract and emotional way. It’s a real object of entertainment, where I’m trying to push the boundaries of emotion. It’s what I’ve tried to do in my work, and I’ve found that the live sound helps to expand the cinematography and the emotion, because you hold the people there, they don’t go anywhere else and aren’t distracted by anything else. You never know how they listen to your music outside of the venue, but when they’re there, they’re yours. You can control their emotions as much as possible.