TRIPLE ANNIVERSARY 30/20/15: PLAYING GUITAR/MAKING MY OWN MUSIC, TEACHING/STARTING THE COLLEEN PROJECT, SWITCHING TO MUSIC FULL-TIME.

September 13, 2021 § Leave a comment

This unpublished 2003 press photo for my first album Everyone Alive Wants Answers was too blurry to use, and that’s a shame: looking at it 18 years later, I think it totally encapsulates the person I was back then, in a very subtle way. 7 albums later, I find myself wondering why lately everything in my life seems to come together in a bizarre, destiny-like way, such as this triple anniversary.

Colleen by Sophie Mandon, 2003

In early September 1991, just as I started “lycée” (French high school), following the “Beatles in Copenhagen” episode (see previous post), my parents bought me a classical guitar, from one of the two shops that sold instruments in my hometown. I still have this guitar, and the moment I laid hands on it, I started to make music of my own, and 30 years on my modus operandi remains the same.

Fast forward to September 2001: I am freshly out of my agrégation d’anglais and starting to work as an English teacher in a high school in the suburbs of Paris. I did not really want to be a teacher, it was just something I felt “ok with” to make a living, and which would allow me to pursue music on the side. 2001 was the year I really went for it in my tiny studio flat, borrowing and sampling hundreds of CDs from the Paris music libraries, paving the ground for what would become the first Colleen album. For the next 5 years, my day job allowed me to buy instruments and put money on the side in preparation for the leap I could see looming ahead.

September 2006: I am granted a 1-year sabbatical. In 2004 I had to switch to part-time teaching to play live and promote my albums, but juggling the two activities became insane. The sabbatical was at first refused, then granted at the last minute. In June 2007 a second sabbatical was denied, so I resigned, without hesitation. The biggest decision I made in my entire life – also one of the best. I will never know if I would have had the guts to resign had I been denied the first sabbatical, but I would like to think that the answer is yes.

Thanks for listening. Quit the day job if you can.

“Revelation” Grandmother tutorial

August 18, 2021 § Leave a comment

No pun intended on the title of the second song on my album The Tunnel and the Clearing (“Revelation”), but the first time I heard the effect of the Moog Grandmother’s mod wheel while processing an external sound source, I did have a revelation, and I truly believe this sort of powerful and poetic processing can take a song to a whole other level. I use the adjective “poetic” because I feel a lot of “gear talk” is focused on more objective and descriptive factors, but to me the whole beauty of electronic instruments is that they are evocative in ways that are totally different to acoustic or electric instruments, and I do find those evocative qualities to be of a poetic nature: in this case, there’s a sparkling fluidity to the sound that helps me to translate sonically what I mean to say with the lyrics (the search for an elusive truth), and the climactic ending (not included in this video) serves the same purpose of transmitting a heightened sense of hope.

I hope that those of you who care about how music is actually made will enjoy this video and find it of some use or inspiration. 

GEAR: Yamaha Reface YC – aux sent to Grandmother – bussed to MF-104M delay.

Last week’s post on my Grandmother patch sheet details the exact routing. The settings for this song are very similar to the ones used for “Hidden in the Current”.

The first video is purely the instrumental, the second video features my voiceover with explanations.

LAST MIX OF THE YEAR FOR BBC RADIO 3 LATE JUNCTION

August 13, 2021 § Leave a comment

I hope you will let me soundtrack your summer with non-Colleen music for another half-hour with the fourth and last mix I made to accompany the release of my 7th album The Tunnel and the Clearing, this time at the kind invitation of Late Junction for BBC Radio 3! I guess it doesn’t get more eclectic than this set (yes, even by my standards…), and I talk briefly about the mix before the broadcast. The programme starts at midnight CET / 6 pm EST, my mix is midway through (slightly before 1 am CET / 7pm EST) and unlike my other mixes, this one will only be archived for a short time, so don’t sleep on it for too long ;-)

LATE JUNCTION MIX 

Susumu Yokota – Kodomotachi

Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest – Slit-Gong Signalling

Shun – Tablebeat (Response version) 

Backxwash – You Like My Body the Way It Is (Joni Void remix)

Maman Sanni – Arman Doley 

Abelardo Carbonó – Palenque

Igede of Nigeria – Ota-ubah instrumental

Stina Nordenstam – Purple Rain

The Innocence Mission – At Lake Maureen

Still from documentary by Luis Torroja

The photo is one of my favorite stills from Luis Torroja’s documentary on The Tunnel and the Clearing, which you can see on Moog’s Youtube channel. To say that the RE-201 Space Echo changed my sonic world is an understatement and I still believe that the tape literally echoing and repeating the past in a loop was the perfect sound metaphor for a lot of what I was trying to achieve with this album, so this partial portrait-with-tape-loop  just made so much sense. 

“HIDDEN IN THE CURRENT” MOOG PATCH SHEET AND VIDEO

August 7, 2021 § Leave a comment

MOOG EXTRAS ❤️
To accompany Luis Torroja‘s documentary on The Tunnel and the Clearing, Moog also interviewed me on technical and creative aspects of the album, and asked me to showcase more directly my use of the Grandmother with explanations.
Filmed with my phone miraculously perched on top of an antipop filter at the end of my best mike stand… Pretty proud of how it turned out! 🤣🤣🤣

MINIMAL, YES; SIMPLISTIC, NO: “HIDDEN IN THE CURRENT” MOOG PATCH SHEET AND THE INS AND OUTS OF THIS PARTICULAR SETUP.
Here is the beautiful patch sheet that Moog generated out of my settings for “Hidden in the Current”, but I thought I’d clarify the way I connect the 3 pieces of gear that make the song: the Yamaha Reface YC, the Grandmother and the Moogerfooger MF-104M.

I am of the school that THE MORE SIMPLE THE SET UP, THE MORE YOU SHOULD THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT THE WAY THE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS ARE CONNECTED, TO GIVE YOU MAXIMUM ROOM FOR CREATIVE MANEUVER.
– the Reface YC is sent to the Grandmother via an Aux Send on my Soundcraft Signature 12MTK mixing desk. You could of course just plug the mono output of the Reface directly into the Grandmother’s input, but I like doing it via a mixing desk for 2 reasons: 1) I can retain a separate stereo track of the Reface YC (even if I’m not going to incorporate it in the final song, I always feel this is a good thing to have, if only to reference how the untreated original sounded in the first place) 2) for a long-term project like an album that involves a main sound source (in my case, the Reface YC) to be treated and altered via different units (in my case: Grandmother, Moogerfoogers, Space Echo), it really makes sense to have the Reface “parked” on one strip of the mixing desk, ready to be conveniently sent via the Aux pots to wherever it needs to go.
– the Grandmother’s output is permanently connected to its own input on my Scarlett Focusrite 18i20, ready to be recorded on a separate track in my DAW, good ol’ Acid.
– From the Acid strip, the Grandmother track is then bussed to the Moogerfooger MF-104M delay, to give it extra body and – very crucially – stereo width.
Again, I could have just plugged the Grandma’s output into the MF-104M’s input, daisy-chain style, but with this method I have a separate Grandmother track.
-The MF-104M’s 2 outputs are permanently connected to the Scarlett to be recorded as 2 mono tracks – again allowing complete freedom of panning.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERE + INTERVIEW, PATCH SHEET AND EXTRA VIDEO ON MOOG WEBSITE

August 5, 2021 § Leave a comment


I’ll keep this short for once: please head to the BIO for a double treat 😃 First of all I hope you will enjoy the labour of love that was this mini-documentary by @luistorroja on the making of my last album. I call it “documentary”, but it really is a hybrid visual object due to the poetic nature of Luis Torroja’s outlook on my creative process and his own artistic sensibilities (that ending… A love letter to machines ❤️❤️❤️)
Heartfelt thanks to Luis for pouring so much energy, time and care into this project, in circumstances that were less than ideal: we had extremely restricted practical resources (the crew was him and me, basically!) and the tiny nature of my studio (7 sq m2 – 75 sq ft) coupled with Covid did not make our task easier, but I really hope you will get a sense of where and how this album was made, and feel the magic of the machines which I felt became my bandmates for this project.
You can watch the documentary directly on Moog’s Youtube or on the Moog page. where you will also find more material: an interview, a patch sheet and extra video filmed by yours truly showing the setup for album closer “Hidden in the Current”.


A huge thank you to @moogsynthesizers 🙏🙏🙏 for making this documentary available to a wider audience, for their 2017 invitation to play at the Moog Soundlab – which remains a highlight of my career and became the A Flame Variations EP – and for their generous gear donation which has contributed to a considerable broadening of my sonic horizons on this last album.
Beautiful Elka Drummer One light @soundgasltd ❤️
AS ALWAYS THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!

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