June 27th, 2011
Despite his 6 years working with Ed Banger records, producing tracks, creating remixes for the likes of Kelis, Klaxons, and Uffie and working alongside French electro alums like Mr. Oizo and Sebastian Tellier, 30-year-old SebastiAn has been a bit of an enigma, granting few interviews or media appearances. But with the release of his excellent debut album Total, SebastiAn decided he was ready to talk, and The Block was lucky enough to score some time with the talented, engagingly personable artist (whose English is charmingly faltering).
The Block: Hi Sebastian. How are you?
SebastiAn: I’m good. Good. You?
TB: I’m great. Thanks for chatting. Congratulations on your debut record, Total, which was released this June. How do you feel?
S: I took my time to produce it, so now I’m starting to see what it’s going to be. I’m not exploding [with excitement], though. I just want to see what’s going to happen.
TB: I was doing some research on you, and it seems like you keep a pretty low profile. There aren’t many interviews with you out there. Why?
S: It’s not voluntary. I never wanted to say anything when I have nothing to say. For example, now I have an album out so I can talk about it. But before, if it’s just saying something to answer to some soft work [remixes], I was never into it. I can talk about the album right now, but talking about what I am thinking during producing was not very [right] to me before having something to really show. That’s all. I don’t talk when I have nothing to say.
TB: Did you have a lot people wanting to talk to you about your remixes, or any previous work?
S: Yeah. They wanted to, but most of the time I try not.
TB: Tell me a bit about the album. Has it been a long time in the making?
S: I took my time. The songs everywhere [sounded] the same to me, so I took my time to find a different direction. It also took me a while to finish the album because [French director] Romain Gavras, the guy who did [the music video for] M.I.A’s “Born Free,” he asked me to make the soundtrack to his movie Our Day Will Come. I was finishing my album at the same time. I thought the soundtrack would take one or two months, maximum. In fact, it took way more time, because it’s different to work with a lot of people on a movie. That’s why it took so long, because I was working on two or three things at the same time.
TB: In all, how long did it take to make the record then?
S: The album was almost finished in less than a year, but it took way more time because of all the other projects. I’m not a big calculator, so I can work sometimes without [worrying]. I didn’t have any plans. I was just working and working. And so some people may judge [me for taking so long].
TB: Tell me about the creative process for the album.
S: For me, it was spending the most part of my time in a very small room in front of a computer. [Laughs]. Creating is really different than working with real instruments. With real instruments, you have a physical [bond]. With a computer, it’s not the same. It’s the same as knitting. You knit and you knit and at the end you have your shirt. This was almost like accounting software, the music software was. It’s very slow, not physical, and not direct. It’s special. [Laughs]. I make two or three bases of songs everyday, so in the end I had maybe 60 tracks. But [they] were not very excited to put out an album of 60 tracks. So I just chose like 22.
TB: Did you have any plans for the album when you first started to put the album together?
S: I have just one direction: Not to repeat myself, and not going in the way all the people are going, which is the way of being “hard.” For the most part of music is starting to get harder and harder, and I just wanted to make something more, not sweet, but more like the club but in the house scene.
TB: What influenced you while you were making the record?
S: There is a lot of influence. In fact, it can come from the classic to the contemporary to the experimental to the pop music from the odd to the sweet stuff. Like the Kennedys to gangsta [rap], Missy Elliot, Prince, Wild Cherry, Lightning Bolt … I don’t know. It’s a big mash up of all these things in my mind. I don’t have one thing or one style to represent. I just wanted to make something not as hard as before. Everybody is doing hard music right now. Even me, I just wanted music to listen to at home or in the club.
TB: Did you receive any inspiration from the other artists on your label?
S: Not really. I am working very alone. Maybe just Gaspard [Augé] from Justice, who is a good friend of mine, is sometimes coming to see [how I’m doing], and sometimes I go and see [what he’s doing].
TB: What was it like working with M.I.A. on your track “C.T.F.O.”?
S: I met MIA a few years ago. I think it was in Chicago when I was on tour with Kavinsky. We stayed in touch a little, but when I was working on the soundtrack of Romain Gavras, he also was making a [music video] for M.I.A.’s “Born Free,” so we were not far from each other again. So I just asked her if she wanted to sing on a track. She said yes. I came to London, and it was very fast. I love to work very fast, and she does too. We recorded it in maybe three hours. I like when it’s so easy and it comes directly.
TB: How does it feel being part of Ed Banger Records? Will you always remain on their label?
S: Being in Ed Banger is like being in school. It’s not like having a teacher, but a guy who takes care of you when you’re at school. It’s simple to work with the others because we are friends and it’s not like working in an office. Nobody’s lying to the other. When it’s bad it’s bad, when it’s good everybody [comes together] and talks about the tracks on the way. It’s nice. I’ve always really wanted to have this kind of family feeling.
TB: Now that Total is finished, do you have plans to release another record?
S: I prefer not to talk about it yet, because if it’s not done I never say anything. But yes.
Interviewer Amanda AshTweet