2014 Through My Eyes: Maxime Vavasseur [Witxes]


photo by David-Olivier Descombes


“Witxes is a sonic entity crashing popular music into singular music since 2010. Based around Lyon (Fr), this schizophrenic project finds its way in the balance between improvisation and passionate sound research. Focus is laid on creating abstract yet often tonal pieces, blurring lines between acoustic and electronic sources, playing with various definitions of sound and inviting many musicians to join the recording process.”[via official website]

How would you summarize this past year on an artistic and personal level?

It’s been a quite busy year. I’ve been commissioned a site-specific sound installation by the river Saône in the town where I currently live (Lyon); wrote, recorded and mixed a new 20-min piece based on Dale Cooper Quartet track in only 3 weeks, toured Europe twice, met a lot of supporting people on the road, etc. On the other side, in 2014, I didn’t have a lot of time to actually write and work on music, so this has been a bit frustrating; frustration that will hopefully prove to be useful next year. I’ve also spent quite a lot of time thinking and trying to define what is the purpose of live performing music that is originally thought as recorded music, and how should that be done. I don’t think there is a definitive answer, but I feel like this is a healthy way to try to deliver your best, though it can also drive you nuts from time to time.

Which album have you listened to most often this year (not necessarily released in 2014)?

That would be Wilderness of Mirrors by Lawrence English, released on his own Room40 label. Back in 2011, when finalizing Sorcery/Geography, I was looking for someone to do the mastering of this first long length of mine, and my idea was to have someone who would have an artistic input through mastering. And I remembered how Lawrence’s “Kiri No Oto” made a really strong impression on me, and even though our work is different, I liked his philosophy about sound, liked his thoughts and tastes in I read about in various interviews, and thought he would be great for this. And he was. Anyway, his latest album is really physical, it really has this “chaos & beauty” feel that I’m looking for when crafting music. Behind the apparent rawness and crudeness, there is a subtle, detailed work, and it reveals new elements each time you’re listening to it. When bought from Room40, the album came with a download of a live Ep that is the perfect companion to the album. (There is another Room40 album in my top ten this year, Chris Herbert’s Constants).

What was the best gig you’ve attended?

I must admit I didn’t attend many gigs this year, I am getting really cranky as the number of disrespectful and noisy people is dreadfully increasing and it is usually ruining my experience. One of the best musical thing I attended this year was actually a performative theatrical musical installation with no musicians or actors. It is called “Stifters Dinge” and it is by german artist Heiner Goebbels : mesmerizing mechanics, artificial sunrises, A/C drones, robotic pianos and water mirrors. Bj Nilsen has washed my ears, Marissa Nadler has touched me, Haxan Cloak has damaged my brain, Textures made me headbang and scream like I was 14, and I feel grateful for getting to listen to Dale Cooper Quartet perform 11 nights in a row. I should also mention to your readers the RIEN’s farewell show was a great and touching one. They were my favorite french band and disbanded on December 1st, as planned 15 years ago.

What was the best non-music related cultural experience you’ve had?

I visited the Kolumba Museum after a show in Köln. It was designed by the great swiss architect Peter Zumthor (who also designed the Witches Memorial in Norway). The place itself is a piece of art, the marble, the leather, the way the light gets in, how the place affects the visitor senses. It is simple and effective. Everything is in its right place there. It is now my favorite museum space.

Was there an event within this past year that has significantly influenced your philosophy and outlook on life, or your perception of the world around you? For instance some specific place you visited, people you met and so on?

I guess my life philosophy is just an ongoing process, and there was no special event that influenced it in particular. That being said, 2014 was the year that for me confirmed that our civilization is over and done. It’s just a matter of time until nature swallows us back. People cry saying “look at what we’ve done to the earth” when they should say “look at what we’ve done to ourselves”. Nature’s is stronger, we are nothing, we are damaging ourselves, nature will heal, we won’t. We, people, are misled all the time. Companies, politicians and lobbies want the standardisation of human beings, globalization of the world. “Everybody’s gotta love everybody”-bullshit and “hyper-tolerance”-philosophy are just infused in our societies so that eventually the world becomes one big market with a unique model of human being, deprived of roots, culture, free will, past and future. But this is a fraud. We don’t need to love each other, actually there is no way you can actually love everyone. But there is one thing we can need to bring back now : respect. We need to pay attention, to help and take care of each other. That is so much more effective than pseudo-hippie philosophy that’s actually being staged by lobbies and companies. We need to be curious, we need to be passionate, we need to question things instead of fighting for phony manipulated causes. I know it is a pretty dark picture, but, for myself, I found out that once you are acknowledging and accepting this, it is actually a bit easier to understand what matters, where to go and how. This year, I also met a lot of great people who shared a lot, people trying, people fighting, passionate people. If I don’t believe in humanity as a whole anymore, I still believe in individuals, in these good people, in solidarity. I also strongly believe we have to focus on our local environment, not on a gigantic nonsense continental scale.

What was your greatest disappointment in 2014?

On a self-centered level, I would say not touring my own country is a bit of a disappointment. Last year I had an interview in a feature entitled “La France a peur” (France is scared) in New Noise Magazine. I believe that is true. France just fear music that is done seriously. Not that I take myself too seriously, but I try to be serious about how I craft my work. France likes to celebrate music that doesn’t give a shit about itself. I just don’t fit the contemporary criteria around here. That being said, I am grateful to have joined one of the best booking roster in France (Kongfuzi – thanks to Adrien & Christophe – rip). On a musical point view, it has to be Blonde Redhead’s album, I don’t even know where to begin with, it’s just breaking my heart in a bad way. Everything that I love about them has been sucked out of their music : well-crafted arrangements, beautiful dissonances, great production, smart drumming, detailed melodies, all this is gone. On a wider-scale, I guess my answer to the previous question speaks for itself.

Your plans, hopes and expectations for 2015?

2015 will be focused on writing and recording and planning action for 2016. Projects are in the pipes. I also will try to focus on working with non-musical artists. I hope to tour France a bit more, and I hope to connect with more french artists as most people I have artistic relations with are based abroad. If there is one thing I am always excited about, that’s the musical future: not only my future music making but also all the great music that will come out. There has never been as much shitty useless music as today, but there also has never been as much great music to listen to and look for. I know it’s hard to find really fresh things, but there is so much great music out there, it is inspiring and hope-giving. I also hope I’ll be able to leave the city and go back to a more natural environment.

Official website

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