Sebastien Dévaud, aka Agoria, put out his first full album since 2011 on April 26. Drift follows five previous albums, the birth of his multi-disciplinary label Sapiens, DJing worldwide, composing for film… He’s been busy. Drift, seemingly a reference to his Radio 1 mix of the same name, is a big change from previous “pure techno” releases. It seamlessly shifts from ambient pop song Embrace to more experimental It Will Never Be the Same and soulful track Remedy.
Having collaborated on every track, the album is understandably diverse. Speaking to Resident Advisor, Dévaud says, "Drift is sitting on your sofa between your guilty pleasure and your tasteful opinion." Featuring a very mellow track titled Scala recorded with Jacques and collaboration with Oscar-winning sound designer Nicolas Becker, the album acts like a mixtape. Complex and cinematic accompanying music videos quench our narrative thirst, particularly the beautiful short for You’re Not Alone, shot on 35mm in the Argentinian desert.
After almost fifteen years in the music industry, what inspired you to start writing your album Drift?
The last time I released an album was eight years ago, and obviously it's a long time, but time is moving very fast – it feels like it goes faster and faster every year. I started to think about doing a new album maybe four or five years ago and that’s how long I needed to make it happen and be happy with the music I wanted to share. To be honest, I could have done maybe two or three albums as I made so many tracks during this period – I was surrounded by so many artists, musicians, vocalists, singers and newcomers… it was such a great time.
I could have created the album under a different name, but I think sticking with the Agoria moniker was a good idea even though every track has a collaborator on board. I was really ‘drifting’ through my concept in my home studio whilst working with various different people and influences. The meetings that I had during this period and the freshness of the people around me were the main inspirations for Drift.
Drift was originally named Bridges, why did you decide to change the name?
I thought Bridges was a good name relating to the diversity of the music and the fact that they all connect together. Some tracks are hip-hop, some are like pop, some are like techno and electronica. I think they’re all connected together and it’s a real journey when you listen to the album in one run – I think listening to it this way reveals the homogeneity, even though it’s very diverse. I always love to make bridges between people working on my album.
Also, I am really open to different styles of music. So what I liked with the image of bridges at that time was that they’re connections between frontiers, connections with sometimes the unknown – perhaps you don’t know what you’re gonna find at the end of a cloudy bridge. I like this idea of taking time to cross bridges, the structure, and it really represented being between two points. I love this idea for my music.
So what happened?
After a while, I was thinking Bridges as a name sounds good in English but the French translation is ‘ponts’, and if I was naming my album Ponts, I would think it would be shit (laughs). So I changed my mind and I thought Drift was a good one. It has the same kind of vibe.
When you drift, you could even be controlling something outside of your own world. You go out of your comfort zone but still, you are controlling the drift because you’re not going out of the road. I love this image and I think that’s exactly what I wanted to do with this album. We all have some guilty pleasures, like a festival track. Moving between tastes, you’re drifting.
Do you think this need to not be tied down to one style is a product of our modern culture that is starting to make space for hybrid, less binary identities?
I didn’t do it because I wanted to show something, I just did it because it’s actually who I am. Even in my first album I did tracks with Nene Cherry, Tricky and Eric Prydz – a long time ago. So I have always been attracted to making music out of the club scene even if I’m DJing all over the world. I was really thinking whether I wanted to do a club album, but I had started a new label and I really wanted to share music that appealed to me.
Nowadays, when I go to the studio, I want to go further than that. I’m not saying I want to stop; I’m just saying that when I’m in the studio myself, I feel embarrassed to repeat the same kind of chords I have played for so many years in the past. Now I really want to take some risks, maybe just to try something. Sometimes when you’re listening to an album, you don’t really see the difference between all the tracks, and it’s kind of weird sometimes. I wasn’t really thinking of the identities of today but much more about which identity of myself I wanted to present on this album.
"I have always been attracted to making music out of the club scene even if I’m DJing all over the world."
Hit music video You’re Not Alone features a band of friends in the desert. You describe them as an “urban tribe” despite it being shot far from an urban context. Do you locate urban as a state of mind rather than a location?
That’s a good question. What I love about this video is that they represent the revolution. When I describe them as an urban tribe is because it was, in a way, a revolution – like a riot. The director and I wanted to create an image of freedom in the video. It’s definitely more a state of mind for me than just a location. Urban means people taking their destiny into their hands and thinking forward.
The styling of the music video taps into a vintage aesthetic that is really popular right now. Would you describe your music as having old-school references too?
It’s very difficult for me to say. I don’t think my music has an old-school reference; if it does, I don’t realise it myself. The vintage aesthetic was something that I worked on with the director, Hernan Correa, and I love the format and colour grading of the video. I think it was sort of modern to get two bikers with a coffin in the desert looking like gauchos, I feel like it’s surreal. We wanted to create a surreal aesthetic more than an old-school aesthetic.
We put two bikes and a coffin in the desert – it’s like going from happy days to a funeral. I think these contrasting feelings are really surreal. I love this video and it was a lot of work. All of the details about costumes and haircuts have been so well documented by Hernan’s team.
A conversation with celebrated mathematician Edward Frenkel (over four years ago now) sparked your interest in artificial intelligence and reality. You both planned to write a track together. Is it the last one on the album, titled Computer Programmed Reality?
Everything has been so well documented. I don’t know how you know that I know this mathematician! He’s legendary, an amazing man – I actually met him in Ibiza. He wrote this amazing book called Love and Math, which I am very passionate about, and even more the question of infinity and past, present, future like timed questions because I don’t believe in being out of time, it is saved by humanity. I spoke a lot with Edward about infinity. We actually haven’t done this track together yet, it’s my fault, it was my timing. We need to do it soon, I miss him actually.
How did the song come up then?
The last track on the album is called Computer Programmed Reality because I sampled another writer, Philip K Dick’s 1973 conference from YouTube. During this conference, he says that we all live a very complex programmed reality, we don’t even control our lives, and every time we have this sensation of déjà vu, it’s just a glitch of the matrix. I love this.
He was saying this maybe forty or fifty years ago – at the time, it was not famous nor a very trendy kind of statement but he was saying it anyway and explained it very well. Whilst it’s very complex, I do think he might be right, so I thought it was good to finish the album with Computer Programmed Reality.
I think nowadays everyone is very scared of AI, future and algorithms, and I think they really shouldn’t be. It’s like when the first machine was created, people were afraid of losing memory. Of course memory has changed, but we still have it. We don’t use it as much, so maybe we don’t have the same capacities, but we will use it for different things. I just think people are afraid of changes. I think people are afraid of AI because a human error in making it might mean it will not be perfect. I don’t believe AI will gain emotional intelligence, so this is an irrational fear. AI is just a new tool and the fear is of humans, rather than the machines themselves. That’s heart of the matter.

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What about AI in creativity instead of more ‘practical’ applications?
Creatively, there’s a lot of discussion about how AI and algorithms will replace the artist. But I think people will miss the human errors that make us real. Demonstrations of AI doing exactly what Johann Sebastian Bach could do – you can’t tell which one is the best – are real and happening. I think we shouldn’t ask AI to copy human art; I think we should take AI to do AI art. In time, AI will do AI art and humans will do human art. It’s two different categories for me. Being replaced is another irrational fear. I think AI will create much more art than we think. All this technology will enable us to create so much more art than we can today.
You collaborated on the music for DAU event in Paris. A very exclusive event and “ongoing experiment” featuring performance, art installations and screenings of the film created at the unorthodox experimental centre The Institute. DAU replicated society during the USSR in total secrecy in Ukraine during an unclear timeline to create an environment for extreme method acting. Can you explain more about your role at DAU?
I just performed at the exhibition in Paris but I’m close to the director of DAU, who does incredible work. They actually shot over four years to recreate the society of communism in Russia. They were shooting people every day, like big brother in a way, and it has delivered some incredible and different movies – some are intellectual, some others are slow action and some are very shocking. I still haven’t watched all the movies because there are so many. The exhibition was sort of controversial at the opening in Paris because it wasn’t still ready for the first two weeks, but since then, it has been amazing.
The experience was really interesting, they had many performances and concerts. You could spend the day with a shaman, and then, during your visit, you have a concert by the likes of Brian Eno or myself. What I did during this exhibition was working with two shamans, one from Irkutsk (Russia) and the other one from Mongolia. I went with them to all the rooms in the theatre and recorded the shamans singing. From that, I found the best sequence to celebrate the piece, so in every room you could hear one of the frequencies playing the entire day. It was very deep and I was exhausted at the end because shamanic cleansing of the space was an intense experience.
You are experienced in producing music for film (Go Fast). Now, short film Embrace The World has been made for your track Embrace. I read it aims to deal with the militarization of the human mind – tell me more about your concept.
When I started, the director of Embrace – Jessy Moussallem – and I had a first meeting. She then called me back saying, ‘I want to rewind the whole concept by getting actors from a military base’. I thought it was very clever because the lyrics were of communion, of giving up the ego and accepting each other. It can sound a bit cheesy as a lyric but I think it’s meaningful and it shows exactly what I’m thinking and what I’m trying to achieve. So she said that if we filmed people training in a military base in Lebanon with these lyrics, it would convey the message well – and I couldn’t agree more. I was so happy with her idea.
You’ve been experimenting with contemporary art in your live shows. What can we expect, for example, at your Primavera Sound set in Barcelona at the end of May?
We’ll have to wait and see. I have some crazy ideas for my live shows, but sometimes, I don’t have the funding to present what I have in mind. Tomorrow morning, I have breakfast with one of the biggest names in contemporary art. Also, I did the sound at the Tate Gallery for three months in London, as well as for other very established museums and contemporary art spaces.
It’s my dream to bring this artist on board, to work on my live show, but you know, sometimes the club and the festival scenes are very afraid of investing in these things – of course, it costs a lot. I hope I can really deliver what I have in my mind one day, but that will be in the future. Regardless, the show will be good!