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Don Nino

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Nicolas Laureau, am: 09.04.2005 ]

Ein weiteres Singer/Songwriter-Album macht sich auf, eine Welt zu erobern, die zunehmend schneller, hektischer, komplexer und unvorhersehbarer wird. „On The Bright Scale“ von Don Nino macht es einem nicht schwer, dieses als Antithese zu genannter Entwicklung zu begreifen. Mit seinem sehr reduzierten und introspektiven Charme, bei dem lautere Töne fast völlig ausgeschlossen scheinen, entwirft es einen ansprechenden Gegenentwurf, der sich weit weniger antagonistisch präsentiert, als diese Worte es vielleicht glauben lassen. Anlässlich des sehr gelungenen aktuellen Albums sprachen wir mit Nicolas Laureau über Vaterfreuden, die Stilistik der Beschränkung, sinnlose Radioquoten und die Verantwortung der Kunst.


Musicscan: Are there certain themes that you can identify on the album that are particularly dear to you? Are there certain issues or themes that reoccur on the album and form something like a red thread that ties the songs together in a way?

Don Nino: The album deals with a main thematic that is the relationship and duality between the child and adult ages in one same person; and also the idea of expressing feelings in melodies, on notes scales. I tried to work on the relationship between melody lines and the idea of flowing time, of life on a musical scale.

Musicscan: The artwork of “On The Bright Scale” has a very visual feel to it. The same can be said about the music. Is that something you are aiming for, sort of a cinematic quality to the music?

Don Nino: Yes, I sometimes conceive of my music as short movies, where the words give a few elements to the listeners and to let them imagine the very first sequences and give them the possibility to imagine whatever they want around a theme or a simple idea. I have worked out a few instrumental parts in order to allow this dimension to bloom.

Musicscan: Do you think music and art have to serve certain purposes? Does art have responsibilities?

Don Nino: From my point of view, the kind of music I compose and play has the purpose to take the listener in a personal reflection and a bit of abstraction. It’s mainly designated to a pleasure of listening and of being taken somewhere unknown, in a very soft way. Other music has the purpose of providing entertainment, to dance, to denounce. Art implies ways of life that are not the most common and easy to live. It can be a real duty. I think art needs to have responsibilities: to open some minds and propose alternatives to very commercial values and societies.

Musicscan: Would you consider it a compliment or rather a form of critique if people called your music escapism?

Don Nino: I would find it wonderful.

Musicscan: How has the experience of producing and recording your record all on your own been compared to your previous effort “Real Seasons Make Reasons”? Where do you see the advantages of working on your own?

Don Nino: I made this choice of producing the record on my own because I wanted to reach an absolute intimacy and had this desire to experiment with particular constraints, which I think are creative. The first album “Real Seasons…” was the fruit of a long work process. At first, I recorded some demos of the songs in versions that are close to the way I produced my new records, pretty minimalist. That was a lot of vocals and guitar or piano, with a very few arrangements, mainly small electronics. And then I adapted the songs to turn them more solid and arranged, with different musicians, and I orchestrated the whole thing, writing many arrangements and recording with two different drummers, two reeds/trumpet-players. The result is very close to what I had in mind at that time and then, when I started thinking about a new record, I really wanted to get back to the minimalism of demo tapes, but avoiding the step of recording the songs first as demos. One of the constraints was the idea that the first recording of a song had to be the one for the record. I have experienced the fact many times that a demo can be much better than the final version because of the first intention, because of the first emotions and fragility. The other constraint was a space constraint. I had decided to record everything at my home that has quite a big living room where I could play the songs in a very cosy atmosphere, which I think brought about the softness of the whole album. For me the two experiences are very different, and it was a pleasure to live both. But, in the end, the choices of production for ”On The Bright Scale” are certainly more adapted to my way of conceiving my music as Don Nino.

Musicscan: How has your life and your approach towards music changed since you are a father?

Don Nino: Music has a central position in our house. There are many instruments in every corner. It is now more difficult to make a lot of noise without implying my son! It is true that I have less time to discover new bands. I still go to many shows but a bit less than I used to. Besides, being a father has changed my relationship to the music business but not to the music.

Musicscan: Does your music also reflect a bit of a childlike quality or innocence in a way?

Don Nino: Yes, totally, I am seeking the child that is inside of me and this is probably new, linked to my paternity. The name of my project ‘Don Nino’ itself evokes the duality between the child/adult aspects. The necessary conflict and discord between them have always been really interesting to me.

Musicscan: What inspires you, not necessarily limited to music or art, but maybe daily, every day kind of things?

Don Nino: Mainly emotions of events, dreams and nightmares, the result of the surrounding world on my consciousness, my paternity, my family, my friends’ lives. What I read in the newspapers. What I hear and see in the metro. My travels. Inexpressible things.

Musicscan: What makes for a good song in your opinion? When are you satisfied with a song and know it is finished, particularly when working on your own? Are there certain people whose opinions you rely on and trust?

Don Nino: I like songs that have an abstract form, that do not necessarily end and thus leave you a second taste that comes back like an echo when you don’t expect it. For my own songs I have tried to keep the fragility of the first voice/guitar or voice/piano takes and then tried to offer some relief with minimalist arrangements. I really wanted to keep many parts instrumental. So I had to cut out some lyrics, which also brought about a childlike telegraphic aspect to some songs. When the song was creating this feeling of balance, like listening to a miniature orchestra, and if I could hear the song I wrote in the first place, I kept it. My brother Fabrice, who is a sound engineer (he has produced records for Tiersen, Dirty Three and many others) listened to the mix and helped me to complete the songs.

Musicscan: Do you still remember when you wrote your first song and how it felt? In how far has your relationship to music changed over the years?

Don Nino: It has always provided me with a sort of dizziness.

Musicscan: Having been raised in France and the States, I was wondering if you feel part of a certain nationality. Do you think that the process of globalization with its multiple facets will eventually erase national boundaries and national consciousness?

Don Nino: I don’t know, for me it is very important that each person manages to keep his or her particularities and I love the idea of melting cultures. What is currently happening is more a form of standardization than a sharing of each specificity and points of view and of knowledge. And it is sad.

Musicscan: How do you feel about the French radio quota and what is your opinion on Germany attempting to establish a very similar system?

Don Nino: It is a very weird and scary thing to me. And it’s no good for artists who speak in foreign languages. It doesn’t go together with a sense of melting, with a sense of a blooming mentality.

Musicscan: You have played various different countries. Is there a significant difference as far as audience response is concerned?

Don Nino: There is a small audience for this kind of music, but everywhere in the world. I consider myself very lucky in a way. I am really happy with the UK tour and the reactions we got there. Playing in Japan was an amazing experience as well, maybe one of my best memories. I am looking forward to playing Spain and have no plans for Germany right now. France is definitely not my favourite place to play. I think the audience doesn’t consider me a curiosity. I am probably not exotic enough.

Musicscan: What are the plans for the near future? What can we expect from Don Nino?

Don Nino: I am trying to complete my cover album “Mentors Menteurs” but I am very slow. I hope it will be done before the start of 2006.

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