French producer Wax Tailor (AKA Jean-Christophe Le Saoût) usually gets pigeonholed into the the trip-hop and downtempo music categories. But the epic proportions of his work more often than not put him in a category all his own. This is a guy who writes lofty concept albums and music for symphonic orchestras.
Le Saoût's latest and most ambitious work is 2012's Dusty Rainbow From the Dark, an album centered around a narrative that's been brought to visual life with the help of children's book illustrator Rebecca Dautremer along with a whopping ensemble of 20 film directors.
Crossfade: What is Dusty Rainbow From the Dark all about?
Wax Tailor: First of all, I've wanted to make an album with a storyteller for a very long time as it's an effective way to create a mood. I set out to create a story about the power of evocation of music, how it's a very strong medium to create mental images. I wanted to demonstrate that power, and so decided to compose the music first and to pen a story around it in a second phase. When the music was done, I was attracted to creating a small tale that would serve as an allegory around this power of evocation, based around a child. But the most important for me was clearly to create a strong mood and leave a door open for everybody's imagination.
The album has also been described as a statement on the "escapist power of music." What do you think the power of music is and how does it help you personally to escape?
I think the power of music is unparalleled. Only literature can come close. You don't need anything except music, for your mind can travel and it's a really personal experience every time. I think we feel the need to escape from our everyday problems and music is a really powerful medium for that.
So how did you approach the creative process on this album in the studio? Did that process differ from past projects and albums?
I really needed to go back to the process of my first album, meaning using only samples, as opposed to the studio work I had done with musicians ever since. In late 2010, I even did a few shows with a symphonic orchestra, so I went down that path pretty far and wanted to change things up a bit. However, it's been 10 years since my first productions and I wanted to do it a different way, with all the knowledge and all the experiences I've accumulated in music production since that time.
I use sampling as a sort of pre-production way of creating my own instruments. Also I knew that I wanted to dig in the psychedelic pop from the late '70s, which was a great period for concept albums. So in the end, I think it was a kind of mixture of all those elements that determined the creative process on Dusty Rainbow From the Dark.
You collaborated with numerous artists and vocalists on the album. What can you tell us about these collaborations? How did you first engage with these artists and what was the chemistry like in the studio?
I really consider myself a music director -- I just develop a scenario and then I look for actors to play in my audio "movie". So it's all about that, the music comes first, and when I have it, I just think about different artists, and when I'm lucky, they accept and we can collaborate. It's a pretty lengthy and often stressful process, but I get to know the artists before we work together so we are on the same page when we hit the studio.
How did your collaboration with children's book illustrator Rebecca Dautremer come about, and how did you develop the visual components of the album?
I'm a bit obsessive about visuals because it's like the front door to my universe -- it's possibly what gives you the desire to come in or not. Rebecca was the perfect person for that one because she's got a strong visual universe and a long experience with children's books, so she could understand my direction. And she liked my previous albums, so she was able to take time off her schedule.
We had originally explored a different direction for the album art, with the main visual component being the child's bedroom. And then Rebecca came on board and fundamentally shifted the focus away from the decor to something more personal, with this child character, which she totally nailed. There are subtle things in the art, like the aviator glasses, that define the child's personality. The color palette, the work she did on the light... I think she created a visual that reinforced elements of the story, and I couldn't be happier about it.
What can you tell us about the newly revamped live show? How did you develop the visuals and how do the studio recordings translate to live performance onstage?
I play live with four musicians: cello, violin, flute, guitar and bass. I got a singer and one MC. Since my music is heavily influenced by visuals, be it old movies, television footage, etc. I've always tried to incorporate a video element to my shows, and over the years they have become more and more elaborate. What changed this time is that from the inception of Dusty Rainbow From the Dark, I had in mind not only the record but also how it would translate to create an interesting live experience.
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So as soon as we had the story, I put to work a team of 20 directors, each working on their own but with regular meetings to ensure that the whole would be cohesive. We filmed the recording process as well, and the past few months we've assembled everything to create an original video element that complements what the band does on stage. This tour will really be an audio and visual experience for the audience.
Wax Tailor. Saturday, October 13. Avenue D Jazz & Blues Lounge, 8 S. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets cost $20 plus fees via fla.vor.us. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-860-6960 or visit avenuedmiami.com.