Known for her captivatingly swirling atmospheric tones, French ambient artist, Xelomen, speaks about her experiences and inspirations for composing music.
You describe your music as downtempo ambient. But you tend to mix downtempo with uptempo – that in my opinion is very interesting. How do you create music?
To be honest, I don’t really think about the style of music I compose. To me, downtempo music is not a specific style but a “grouping” or genre, like trip-hop, chillout or electronica. However, it’s true, I use tend to use slower tempos in much of my music. Maybe it comes from the fact that I’ve listened to breakbeat or drum and bass in the past. How do I create music? First of all, my guideline is to try to mix my melancholic ambient side with the energy of my beats… My point of departure is always my background atmospheric musical lines. However, as I never formally learned music theory, I’m working on instinct and by ear. For instance for melody lines I have to embroider them note-by-note. I also often make different versions of the same track and choose the closest to my personality.
You recorded a cover version of Mylène Farmer “Light It Up”. But it sounds like your own song. And I really like that tune. It’s very uptempo. Why did you decide to do this remix?
Of course this remix sounds like my own, I made it how I heard the song in my genre, btw I kept the melody of the original track. In my opinion this is the most interesting part of making a remix, and one of the reasons why I decided to make this remix? However, I originally got the idea because there are a group of fans called “ReMyxes” that wanted to release a compilation by choosing the best remixes of titles from the new album of Mylene Farmer. So I thought why not. I took “Light me Up” because I felt closer to this song than the others. What was interesting for me was working with no stems and having to transcribe all the melodies line from the original by ear. Unfortunately I never sent the remix to this group because by the time I finished they had already chosen one. But you can download it for free at http://soundcloud.com/soniamusic/myl_ne-farmer-light-me-up
Is ambient music popular in France?
I don’t think so, people are more interested in dance, techno and pop rock. In the early XXth century, we had the grand French composer Erik Satie who created an early form of ambient music that could be played in the background during dinner as he described it. He may be unknown nowadays. By the way, we can find the influence of ambient music in many tracks of French artists like Cascadeur or Saycet. And who does not know Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros or the great Telefon Tel Aviv… Since I’m on Facebook, I’ve had the chance to meet some amazing ambient musicians and I really encourage them, especially my compatriot Romain from Adeona, but also The Liquid Sky and State Azure.
British music and US music is so much more directed towards a pop and rock sound and the mainstream market. They don’t seem to accept electronic ambient stuff in the mainstream market. What do you think your music can offer them?
Hard question. I think that all over the world there are people searching for this kind of music, so why not in UK or US. I don’t pretend that my music is for everyone, but if someone is interested in it, it means that my music touched them, which makes me very happy. My point of view is that electronic ambient music is still part of an underground music movement. As you can hear on commercial radio most of the tracks played are, like you said pop, rock, dance or rap music. The music industry is very compartmentalized and if you don’t fit the mold then you have much less of a chance of having a career. However, although I’ve never contacted any labels or radio stations, I’ve recently had people asking to use my tracks for radio and to be released on compilations. I’m still working on offers I’ve had and I also will have some new tunes out soon, among them, a remix for the great Californian indie electronic band The Swerve.
I hear in your music the same atmosphere as in Roman Polansky’s movies. Especially in “Beyond My Control”. Have you ever thought about your songs as a soundtrack to a movie? What do you think about this idea?
Your words are kind, same atmosphere as in Roman Polansky’s movie, what an honor for me to hear that! But sure, I thought about it many times. People around me are always telling me that my music has some cinematic atmospheres that would fit perfectly with some movies. I should maybe consider this point of view and create a side project.
How has the place you live (Bordeaux, France) influenced you and your music?
Well, the place in itself did not influence me. What influences me are more things in life, behaviors, passions, emotions, love, and how I interpret them with my own vision. I’m also drawing my inspiration in music. I have three main sources: Brian Eno, which is for me the best ambient artist, Arovane, an incredible composer of electronic ambient music, and of course the famous electronic and film composer, Craig Armstrong.
Is it easy to be musician/artists in France?
If you want to be well known, indeed it is difficult, as it is, I guess, in other countries. My goal is not to be known, but to share my music with those that can appreciate it. I think the most important thing is to stay true to yourself and the feelings you paint in your music. That’s the only way to catch the attention of people who are interested in this kind of music.
“Where words fail, music speaks” (it’s Hans Christian Andersen motto from your Facebook page). Is music the language you use to communicate with the world?
Of course, for me when the words fail, the only way to express what you have to say is music. It perfectly fits with the person I am. It’s hard for me sometimes to express myself with words so it was a need for me to find a way out. I’m communicating feelings through my music.
I’d like to ask you about German dj Andre Tannenberg aka ATB and French dj David Guetta. What do you think about them? Is their music an inspiration or challenge for you?
Well, they both have great careers, which shows that if we work hard we can succeed. But their style of music is so commercial, that it bores me to listen to it. I’m not inspired by their music at all, in fact it’s rather a challenge for me. I mean, composing music for singers or bands is a challenge for any composer. I would like to have this challenge and I’m still looking to meet the right people to help me realize this dream.