The Paris-based electronic musician Alex Augier focuses on hybrid digital aesthetics, combining visuals with sound and spatial design. His work is another example of how the future of music and performance will look like, and that’s one of the reasons why he’s presented his projects in prestigious festivals such as Mutek, Ars Electronica and Around Sound – the sonic side of film-focused Spanish festival Curtocircuito. How does his creative process work, and how does he prepare himself before a performance? We talk to him about this and more.
We would like to know more about you. You are artist and performer, but who is Alex Augier from your own point of view?
I’m a musician first. As I’m interested in various subjects, I try to extend my music through different media to make a coherent transversal artistic proposition.
You are from Paris, but you present your works internationally. How does your city influence you? What impact do the different countries you visit have on your projects? Do you take inspiration from the places where you perform?
Not really. I don’t have the impression of being influenced by cities. However, I’m influenced by their buildings. I like architecture and design and I try to add this aspect to my work. The shape, size and any characteristic of buildings inspire both me and my work, from the minimal – seen on my project oqpo_oooo –, to the organic forms on my project _nybble_.
Can you tell us about your background? When did your interest for music and technology begin? And when did you start mixing the two?
My initial musical background – during my childhood – included drums education, piano self-education and how to make music. Then there was a period in which I played in a jazz band, a big band and a rock band as a drummer. After that, I started working with a computer to make music, using the software Cubase on Atari 520ST with external expander. It was only with MIDI. Then I focused on electronic music, always using my computer, loudspeakers and screen at the same time, so it was obvious to work on multimedia propositions, and on audio-visual in particular.
Are there any other genres besides electronic music that inspire you? What are your references?
Yes, I’m influenced by various forms of music. I don’t play drums anymore because it’s complicated in a city like Paris but I’m still a drummer in my mind and I like rhythm patterns. I try to add the free style of jazz and the energy of rock to my own music. I like contemporary music and all works about sound, in an acoustic and electronic way.
What is the role of new technologies in your works?
Technology is a tool to make the projects, and it’s important that they don’t become technological demonstrations. I focus first on what I want to show to the audience: the visuals, the music, the shapes, etc. and then I select the tools that I need. The aesthetic proposition is my main intention.
Your works also interact with the space including sound, visual and formal elements. What does audio-visual art mean to you?
It’s a global process where you stimulate both ears and eyes by adding shapes and space.
Can you tell us what are the steps you take during your creative process? How do you develop your ideas? Do you start from the technical perspective or from the artistic one?
I start from the artistic intention, from what I want to show on stage: what kind of music, of visual, how to achieve it, etc. and I connect all of these in a coherent way. For example, in my most recent project, _nybble_, I wanted to work on an organic aesthetic, so that’s why I use a modular synthesiser, a physically and generative visual, an open-shaped structure, colours, spatialisation, etc. and not the opposite. I work on music and visuals at the same time because the work is an audio-visual piece, it’s not made by two differentiated parts. Each medium is dependent of each other.
When you create a piece and you’ve decided about what gadgets and techniques you’ll use and the idea is ready, what are usually the biggest challenges you have to face to make it become real?
The biggest challenge, the biggest work is actually the global form of the project: how to start, how to finish, etc. It's the moment when I have to make big decisions and it's not easy. This is the last part of the project. I don't want to make an improvisation work, but a piece where I have to know its direction and my intentions perfectly.
Do you have any ritual or routine that you always repeat before going on stage?
How often do you improvise when you perform?
The projects are always too complex for just one person. There are visuals (shape, colour, forces, speed, etc.), music (sound texture work, rhythm, musical progression, etc.), spatialisation, etc., and I can’t control everything because I want a music style with acute and quick changes, so there are some aspects that are fixed and some others in which I can perform. In _nybble_, my main performance relates to the rhythmic characteristic of the project; I can filter the sound. With these main parameters, I can really change the intensity of the music.
How do you engage with the audience? And how do the audience’s reactions change depending on where you play/perform? Are there significant differences?
The audience doesn’t have influence on the form of the piece. And the majority of times I don’t even see them!
You’ve participated at Curtocircuito festival in Spain, how did you find it and how would you describe the experience?
It was a great experience because the venue, Sala Capitol, was really perfect for the project _nybble_. Size, sound quality and the people! I really loved it.
You’ve collaborated with several people throughout your career. What is usually your role when you collaborate and which professional or artistic features should your partner have? Any dream collaboration?
When I collaborate I focus on the music part, and sometimes I can work on the technical part as Max programmer, so I can work with visual artists as well. A dream collaboration is going to be the next because I’m going to work with a visual artist that I love. I feel very close to what s/he does. I keep the secret for the moment.
Technologies are continuously evolving, as we all know. New apps, gadgets, tools and devices are developed every day. Have you identified any new technology that you’d like to use in your future pieces or performances? Is there anything new in the market that caught your attention whose possibilities you’d like to explore?
Not really. As I said before, I don’t focus my work on and it’s not about technology, it’s more about new artistic proportions.