Astrobal


photo by Louis Décamps
 

It's so nice to see people feeling happy through music, it's kinda of magic to see musicians being happy with their work before they even share it with their audience. This is the exact kind of magic that the man behind Astrobal, Emmanuel Mario, generously brings us. As he said to us in the following interview, Astrobal is actually an one man project, Emmanuel himself is responsible for all the writing of the music and also plays all the instruments. Of course, some close friends and collaborators help him with some additional instruments and vocals. His album "Australasie" was one of the best pop experimental released of 2016 and that's why we picked it as one of the best releases of that year (#05 - check here). This year and as we came even closer with Mario's work and brilliant music, we thought that it would be a good idea to have a cool chat with him, in which we had the chance to ask him details about his debut - oh yes! Australasie was Emmanuel Mario's debut, although he's been into music for almost two decades now.   
 
His collaborations with big French Pop names, such as Bertrand Burgalat, Laetitia Sadier, Nina Savary, Julien Gasc, Julien Barbagallo, Xavi Muñoz and Arnaud Fleurent Didier, along with his consistent and influential presence in concerts and tours of those artists, denote that he's a very important and well-rounded musician. Emmanuele is an artist in no hurry to externalise his innovative ideas and work. He is a loyal servant of his inspiration, which may come out of everything. Whatever he does initially originates from his deep love of music. He lives in the South of France and shares his life among reading books, walks on the mountain (and sometimes in the city of Paris) and writing music all day and all of the night.   

As you can read in the following interview, Emmanuele mentioned a lot of bands and artists that he considers as his main influences, but it's Brian Eno that somehow allow us to understand and deeply comprehend his music. Astrobal's music indeed emits a sci-fi essence and space trip feeling, just as Brian Eno's work does. Listening to "Australasie" over and over again, I wondered if the robotic melodies, often heavily atmospheric, are actually a form of futuristic poetry. If New Wave commenced today, there's no doubt that this record would be one of the most pioneer and iconic releases of the movement. "Australasie" is a visionary album of its time, it encapsulates so many genres and eras of music, reminding me the feeling of a vivid and polymorphous dream. 

Astrobal gets excited with loads of fellow musicians and when we brought up to our chat recent albums that stuck his attention, he suggested to us a list of very interesting albums, indeed. Truth is that it's not very common to find a musician who listens to such a big number of new releases. Usually, and this is not necessarily bad, artists are somehow isolated into their own world and work, not having the time to check on things and progress that take place around them. 

One of the most important things that Emmanuele revealed to us is that he's about to release a brand new EP, that is "Memories Of Stars", in which we will be able to find previously unreleased tracks from "Australasie" sessions. Additionally, the French musician has already started recording his new album, which will come in 2018. “French psychedelic/new age pop music for the world..”, this is how Mario himself characterised his upcoming work. Looking forward!

Here's the cool and intimate chat we had with Astrobal... 
 


photo by Louis Décamps


The Basement: Hello Emmanuel, so happy to have you here for an interview. Stunning first LP from Astrobal. If we just met, how would you introduce yourself to us?
Thank you! And first of all, sorry for my poor English... I wish we could talk in Greek or French! But English is the only "Esperanto" we both know. Well, I'm a European, from France, musician, composer and producer.


The Basement: How did you start playing music at first place? And when did you start your band?
I started learning drums when I was a teenager, then I played in a progressive rock band called Priam for 4-5 years, and some other bands in Toulouse. But first and above all, I was a real big big fan of music... and playing drums is not enough when you love music, it is not enough when you need to be filled with music. So, I began working on my PC, creating sounds, composing, and began producing friends. My solo project appeared later, on the gasps I found... Since I was 15, I mainly produce (Marker Starling, Laetitia Sadier, Institut, Little Tornados...), play drums, bass, synths for bands I love (Arnaud Fleurent Didier, Holden, Iko Chérie, Donna Regina,...) and compose music for films and documentaries.
 

The Basement: How did you pick up the name of your band? Have you ever been to the stars (musically maybe)? ["Astro" is a word with Greek roots and means "star"].
Actually, I discovered the name Astrobal in a dream. In the morning, I knew I had to keep it and do something with it. At last I had a name. I lived many wild lives in my dreams and travelled a lot... Space has been everywhere in my life since I was a kid. I always have been fascinated by the infinity of space and intimity of real life. Phillip K. Dick was a major discovery when I was 14, and today's life is like a K. Dick story to me. I'm really fascinated with media, politics and religions... arts of manipulation.
 

The Basement: You've been involved in music for more than 20 years now, but "Australasie" is your first LP. Let us know about the process of making this album.
I released some music with Astrobal before Australasie, but only digital EPs: "Viens quand tu peux, mais peux bientôt" (cdr 2004), "Poetry & Science-Fiction" (Plug Research 2011) and "Record me, machine" ((Plug Research 2014), but yes, Australasie is my first real album, in vinyl (thanks to the help of German label Karaoke Kalk!). Before Australasie, working for other people as a musician, composer, arranger or producer took all my time, and I was happy with that. But now I really need to go further with my music. Like for the previews EPs, the process is a global story first, a kind of territory in which I can compose. For Australasie, I was searching for a far, unknown and isolated world, and I found it in the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (T.A.A.F), a French bunch of desolated Islands near the Antarctique, which have been found by Yves Joseph de Kerguelen de Trémarec in 1772. One of the only places in the world, where a lot of mountains, lakes, and places have no name yet... Nobody lives there, except scientists. But Australasie could have been also an exoplanet, like Kepler-78b, Gliese 436 b, etc.
 

The Basement: Was there a central idea behind the record before making it or you just had some songs written that you wanted to release?
For a song as for an album, I always need a story, a background that I find in life, books, films... 
 

The Basement: What is your relationship with Bertrand Burgalat? "Ma Rencontre" is in his 2001 album and you did an extraordinary remake of it!
Thanks... that was an evidence for me to cover this song. It's like a part of me. His first album "The Sssound Of Music" was a huge discovery. The way he mixes 70's french library music, electronics, and pop songs is brilliant. His music and his Tricatel productions inspired me a lot. And in 2009, French cinema directors, the Larrieu brothers, asked Bertrand to play live "Aux Cyclades électroniques" during a long scene for their new movie called "Les Derniers Jours Du Monde", and Bertrand asked the band Aquaserge (long time loved friends) to play the song live with him in the movie. Julien Barbagallo, the drummer, couldn't do it, so I replaced him. That was magical... Playing this song 30 times inside a big Castel in the south of France, with people all around, drinking, taking drugs and making love, waiting for the end of the world. That's how I met Bertrand.


 

"Australasie" by Astrobal (2016)


 

The Basement: Tell us more about Laetitia Sadier and Nina Savary that put their voices on your songs. How you met them?
I've met Laetitia 13 years ago. I had a band called 'Momotte With Julien Gasc' and we sent our first (and unique) album to 2 people we loved: Laetitia Sadier and Philippe Katerine. She called us some weeks later to ask if we could produce some songs for her Monade project. Amazing... It was 13 years ago, and since then, I produced all Laetitia LPs (except "Silencio") and play drums with her on tour. I admire her a lot, for her singing, her songs, her career. She's the queen of indie music. Nina Savary sings all the female voices on Australasie, and that's also Nina who sings the splendid soprano lead on my Ravel's cover "Trois Beaux Oiseaux Du Paradis". She has a beautiful and pure voice, and actually... we live together. We collaborate on many different projects, she also plays with Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, and she is also an actress. We are now finishing her new album, which I produce, here in our house in the south of France.
 

The Basement: Fantasy is just a word for some. What does it mean for you?
It's definitely more than a word for me. A kind of parallel life... Or a word which helps to define real life more precisely.
 

The Basement: Is Astrobal an one man show project? Do you work with other musicians too? Who are they? What about the production and all the arrangements, who was responsible for them? 
Well, it's my solo project yes. I compose most of the songs, play, arrange, record and mix everything. I wanted it to be as adventurous as possible, full of sounds and dynamics, pop and experimental. With Nina, we have an isolated house in the south of France, in the mountains, so I took all my gear there to write and produce Australasie. But I have some genius friends who play on it too, as Xavi Muñoz, Julien Gasc and Arnaud Fleurent Didier for bass guitars, and Nina Savary who sings all the female voices. 
 

The Basement: What were your influences all those years before you finally composed your first album?
The different kinds of music I love are in constant evolution during my life, but I think the more I get old and the better I know what kind of sounds, melodies, chords makes me vibrate the most. The only thing I'm searching when creating music is the thrill... The one I can feel listening to Isao Tomita, YMO, Brian Eno, Morriconne, Stereolab, Alessandro Alessandroni, Yes, Léo Ferré, Klaus Schulze, Kraftwerk, Amon Duul, Can, Debussy, Ravel, David Sylvian, Bernard Ilous, Terre Thaemlitz, Electric Light Orchestra, Steve Reich, Marcos Valle, ... I stop here because the list would be too long!
 

The Basement: Mission accomplished in some way for you with this LP? Do you enjoy the final outcome?
Well, I'm happy with the songs, yes, but I'm never happy with the sound, I always think it could have been better.
 

The Basement: How’s your life in France? Do you make a living out of your music? How do you spend your free time?
My life in France is shared between Paris and the south, making music all day and night, or walking in the mountain, reading books and visiting friends. Yes, I'm lucky enough to live with music since some years.
 

The Basement: Who do you consider as an influential artist nowadays? Do you have any favourite? 
Well, my friends inspired me more than anyone else, people like Pieuvre, Julien Gasc, Ricky Hollywood, Marker Starling, Arnaud Fleurent Didier. But I also always felt close to the work of Brian Eno, during all his career.
 

The Basement: What is really the mainstream in France nowadays? Tell us more about people's cultural aesthetics. Of course, you can focus on electronic music... 
I really don't know what is mainstream music in France nowadays. Maybe a mix of poor hip hop/r&b with stressing voices, or classic pop songs in French. But since some years, the national radio called Radio France becomes more adventurous finding and playing really inventive new French pop music as Julien Gasc, Aquaserge, Eddy Crampes, Julien Barbagallo... because there is a fantastic new indie scene in France, who create splendid pop music for the world, in French. And that's so exciting.
 

The Basement: Propose us any new releases you think we must have a listen to.
Oh yes! Plenty of splendid music from friends all over the world, amazing albums which wait to spread the universe: Ojard "Euphonie", Heather Trost "Agistri", Aquaserge "Laisse ça être", Ricky Hollywood "le modeste album", Tom Terrien "Be glad", Marker Starling "I'm willing, Art Feymann "Blast Off Through The Wicked", Superbravo "L'angle vivant".
 

The Basement: Are you going to play any gigs in your country or abroad soon? 
This year, I'm touring a lot with Laetitia Sadier, to promote her new album "Finding me, Finding you". We already played one month in the U.K in the springtime, then Europe, and this summer we did a 5 weeks amazing tour all around the U.S, newt week we go in Spain, then Australia in November! And on this long tour, I open with Astrobal on some shows, with Nina Savary (keys, guitar and voice), Xavi Muñoz (bass guitar and keys) and me at the drums/lead voice. That was the first time I played Astrobal live! And I really hope to go on playing and developing my set for the next year.
 

The Basement: What about long term plans? What are your ambitions for Astrobal?
I 'm working now on my new album, which will be released next year in 2018 on Karaoke Kalk (Berlin), and I'm so happy with these new songs. There will be a lot of songs in French -because that's the most exciting for me- and instrumental tracks. That will be my personal French psychedelic/new age pop music for the world... But before this new LP, I will release next month an EP, with unreleased songs from Australasie sessions and is called "Memories of Stars".
 

The Basement: Thank you so much, Emmanuel! It was a pleasure talking with you. We wish you good luck with the challenges coming to your life... !
Merci Michael!


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