From conducting for the London Contemporary Orchestra to collaborating with Sony CSL on her latest EP, Uele Lamore has done it all - we chat about AI plugins, setting up the very first French contemporary music orchestra and working on imaginary video game soundtracks.
At the young age of 27, French conductor, composer, guitarist and arranger Uele Lamore has an impressive number of tricks up her sleeve. Not only is she making history as one of the youngest female music conductors in France, her repertoire is immense, interdisciplinary and crosses vast stylistic and musical landscapes. Her most recent projects include putting together a special tribute performance to Portishead’s Dummy at Le Printemps De Bourges festival and scoring a documentary Marcher sur l'eau by Aïssa Maiga about the climate crisis in Niger that just showed at Cannes film festival - seeing Uele take to the red carpet.
Hi Uele, it is lovely to get a chance to sit down and chat to you. First of all, could you tell me where you’re answering these questions from and what you’re doing there?
Thanks! It is a shared pleasure. I'm in my apartment in Paris where I'm finally catching some rest after preparing for and playing at the Printemps De Bourges festival in France.
Your background is phenomenal. You’re only 27 and already one of the very few French female music conductors. I know you were trained in the US but could you tell us more about your experience as a composer and what eventually led you down this path?
I guess I always wrote and composed music. I'm a guitarist before everything else, and it is quite natural with that instrument to write your own songs as a way of learning chords. I taught myself music production mainly through YouTube videos and asking my friends, who were more advanced in that field, lots of questions. Then I was lucky enough to get to study in the US in both LA and Boston. When I got to Boston I figured it was time to learn something different but that I could sense would immensely benefit my musical skills and language. That was classical composition. It taught me so many writing techniques and concepts that I was able to directly translate into my own work as a producer.
When you returned to France, you founded and still conduct the ‘Orchestre Orage’ (literally translated as Storm Orchestra), the very first French contemporary music orchestra - it blends classical and contemporary and covers genres from jazz and rock to new wave and you’ve collaborated with the likes of Agar Agar. Why do you reckon it took so long for an ensemble like this to appear on the French scene?
I'm not quite sure, and there is still lots of room for other ensembles like this! I really hope we will see others appear in the next few years. It really is very odd, because just across the channel in the UK these types of orchestra are such a staple in the musical landscape. I think France still has an issue with blending cultures together, but things are slowly changing and lines of styles, genre and background are becoming more porous.
Is there a musical genre you wouldn’t consider experimenting with?
I don’t think so. I think every style has gems.
A few years ago, the London Contemporary Orchestra invited you to collaborate with them as their third conductor. What kind of experience has this been and how has it shaped your artistry?
It has been absolutely fantastic. They really are the best at what they do. Every project is different, pushes you to give your best, the artists we collaborate with are so different but all have in common that they are really pushing music forward in their own genres. We usually record at the AIR Studios, an amazing location, especially for strings. Lastly, the British have very high work standards that we should hold as an example in France. So I try to bring some of that back with me every time I come back to Paris after a LCO session in London.
You’ve been working on a special performance to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Portishead’s cult record Glory Dummy, which premiered at the Printemps de Bourges Festival last Friday, June 25th. How did this project come to be and what can we expect from the performance?
It was a killer show. The festival approached me and Yan Wagner to put together this show and be the musical and artistic directors. We immediately said yes and stepped up to the challenge. It was in 2019 and originally going to play in 2020, but things happened as we all know. We were so happy to see the festival go through with the project for the 2021 edition! Both of us are big fans of Portishead so we were dead set on giving our best and revisiting Dummy while staying faithful to the spirit of the classic sound of the band.
Yan Wagner, a famous French musician and producer joined you on stage for the organic and electronic arrangements. The performance will also feature the voices of Lou Doillon and Malik Djoudi. How did you get them involved in the project?
We very naturally selected the singers we thought would have the best match with the songs of the setlist. It was important for us to have different styles and voices on stage, Malik Djoudi and Lou Doillon are a good example of this idea of contrast we were trying to achieve. Another big topic is that we wanted a group of singers with a good osmosis, on this kind of super collaborative project we can’t really take on a big diva that is going to crush the others with ego. Victor Solf, Sandra Nkake, Lou Doillon, Malik Djoudi and Silly Boy Blue were a perfect blend. We all got along so well and everybody was super invested in the project, and that is what made the show so fantastic.
Another impressive accomplishment of yours is your collaboration with Sony CSL (Computer Science Library), which uses AI as a new production tool to create music. The result of this is your EP Heqet's Shadow: Return of Glycon, which is both a tribute to Sony’s legacy in the video game industry and a soundtrack to an imaginary video game of the same name. What does this album mean to you?
It was such a treat and honour to work with Sony CSL. We are less than 10 musicians worldwide, from what I have been told, who work on developing AI based plugins so it’s really special. The experience of working hand in hand with the engineers and developers was so enriching. I learnt a lot of very interesting concepts. Being a witness to the birth of new technology is quite special, even more when you are part of the process of making it grow. Heqet’s Shadow was the final result of this year-long collaboration. I had so much fun doing it. It was so cool to work with the CSL tools and experiment with them, while creating this imaginary universe of frog knights, snake magicians and legend. I was also so happy that Phil Moss, a Games Workshop artist, created a gorgeous cover to illustrate the record.
Can you guide me through the production methods you used for EP Heqet's Shadow: Return of Glycon?
Basically I used on each track a different specific tool (or plugin) that would be the backbone of the music. On Sacred Sword I used a tool called BassNet that was originally intended to generate basslines. In this case, I used it to generate a melody and replace the default bass sound with a classic cheap tune synth to get that retro feel. On another track, Corruption Of the Toad Forest I used Notono, a sound spectre modificator to create a very eerie sound that would represent the corruption of the enchanted forest. There was also a lot of sound design and mixing work to really create an immersive sound world and get as close as possible to the idea of an imaginary video game soundtrack.
The video you released for Surprise Encounter : Thunder Eel King! from the EP, also pays tribute to retro gaming. How did you come up with the idea for both the video and the game?
I think I was rediscovering my PS1 games during that time. And when I say the feelings that gave me just the sound of the console turning on, I was like "Wow, this stuff was really great". I wanted to recapture the emotions that these games and their music gave me, all the memories. It was also so fun to really create an imaginary world and story only through music, I really had a blast doing it. I wrote down the storyline of the game, key scenes, and sketched out the characters. It really was super tangible and real in my head.
Amidst the chaos of 2020, you somehow managed to sign to prestigious label !K7 for their Plunderphonia series, set for release later this year. What’s in store there?
Well, I think it is going to be a surprising, ambitious record that people don’t expect. I can’t say much about it yet, apart that I reworked Puccini’s repertoire and it was really fun to do. The LCO recorded all the orchestral parts, it was a treat to have them on this record. I'm excited for it to come out, but I don't know when that will be yet. I'm going to have to be patient with this one.
As if this weren’t impressive enough, you recently scored the soundtrack for French actor and activist Aïssa Maiga’s first long feature documentary, which was shot in Northern Niger. The film tells the story of a small village on the forefront of climate change and their fight to get access to clean water. Why is this project meaningful to you and how did composing the score differ from anything you’d done before?
Being half Central-African, I instantly felt connected and concerned by the story. I also instantly clicked with Aïssa, we get along very well, artistically and as friends. I composed a very delicate score, with lots of nuances. I was able to work with a group of seven flutists, something that is pretty rare. There is also a massive amount of thinking that went into the idea of “hearing” water without seeing it. Kind of the ghost of water that haunts the scores. I think the score really has its own personality and I'm very happy Aïssa trusted me with it.
To conclude, do you think things are starting to shift in France and that there will soon be room for more than just a few conductors and composers like you?
I think so! I think a new generation is arriving en force and things are going to move forward in the right direction. France has such an incredible pool of talent that things have to evolve!
Any exciting upcoming projects you can let us in on?
The next big thing is my record release in January, with the first singles at the end of summer and early September. It is my first solo record and I'm super lucky to be signed with Sony, who are really being a great team around me. I'm nervous for this next step in my career and to go on tour with it and my band, but incredibly excited to show my music to the world.
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