Interview: High Wolf - French electronic producer of droney, mystical music
The secretive artist on his motivations, influences and background
Like a droney, mystical, hypnotic electronica shaman, Max (surname unknown) discusses Om, yoga, Hindu prayers and making the crowd ‘feel love’
Can you describe your music in five words?
Human. Danceable. Spiritual. Colourful. Emotional.
What will your live set-up be for the Scottish shows?
Mainly a sampler that I use as drum machine, generating beats with effects, a few layers at once, then play guitar on top of it. Maybe some minimal vocals, not sure yet.
What effect would you like to have on your live audiences?
I want them to feel love, which I would describe as the pure joy to be alive. I want them to feel what I feel while playing, and it works when people are focussed and connected to the music, it makes me dig deeper in my emotions, it's like a feedback loop actually. And I love when people demonstrate how they feel: dancing, vocalising, whistling, clapping. That's the dream. I don't like people sitting on chairs. I've been playing on the floor for a while now but will change that. It's a huge change for me but I realized that it would give some more energy.
What’s the best live show you’ve seen?
Well, it's hard to tell. Definitely Flower / Corsano duo, Group Bombino, Shackleton in the recent years and some free jazz legends when I was younger – Fred Anderson, David S Ware, Anthony Braxton, Charles Gayle.
After this tour, what are your plans? More recording, different projects etc?
Well I have to record a Kunlun LP, which is another project of mine, purely electronic, for my friends at Shelter Press, the great record label. Also I'm in the middle of recording a High Wolf record that is taking me forever. I want it to be good, and different; I have some stuff recorded already but I’m purposely taking my time to finish it. I’ve got a fair amount of touring until this summer, and then I leave for five weeks for a trip in Indonesia. Really looking forward to that. After that, more touring! Probably the USA in September, then we'll see.
What do you do to relax?
I read, I write, do yoga, spend time with people I love. I wouldn't say making music relaxes me because there is too much emotions running through my mind and body then. But listening to music can, of course, be really relaxing.
Your music could be described as ‘new age’ sounding. Are there any other areas of your life that are ‘new agey’? Do you meditate for example?
I don't really meditate, although I live with someone who is into it. I have a different way of meditating, which is more oriented, more like the ancient Greeks (epicurists or stoicists for instance), it's like working on your self, trying to understand who you are, what you want to do, how you wanna act and behave etc. I don't really agree with the new age description but I totally see the relevance though. I mean it's not the idea I have of my music or of my personality, and it's not what I want to do. But well, if reading books, smoking pot, being a vegetarian, listening to weird music and reaching for serenity is new agey then I'm definitely new agey!
Did you like the last Om album, which drew heavily from spiritual sources, and included Arabic prayers, which was quite a shift from their normal stoner rock?
Actually the album starts with a Hindu prayer, I know it from my girlfriend who studied yoga in India (she's a yoga instructor). If I remember correctly it's a mantra dedicated to Siva, a mantra who protects from death and accidents. I was excited to listen to this Om album, I'm a huge fan, but this one I listened to once and didn't really get into it – too much production work to my mind, so I never listened to it again. I should probably try again. But I have huge respect for Om, both for the music and the themes, call it spiritual philosophy or whatever, they work with.
Where is home for you right now?
In the present. Or at least I try to make it my home.
Why the secrecy about your real name?
Because it's nothing interesting I think, no one cares what I'm called. And it has proven to be quite useful because when you tour the US and don't buy an expensive work visa, immigration services can google my name, and thanks to that anonymity they won't find anything.
Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?
I frequently think about giving up on touring and releasing records (but not making music) but can't do it (yet).
High Wolf plays Summerhall, Edinburgh, Tue 29 Jan, and The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow, Wed 30 Jan