Electronic music producer and film director Jean-Baptiste de Laubier, known professionally as Para One, has been for long dwelling with the inner workings of two artistic industries that for him have just recently started to go well with each other. Also known for featuring in soundtracks of many coming-of-age movies, all for Céline Sciamma, including the recent Petite Maman, Para One’s two loves have always in a way or another walked together in his creative process. His 2021 project Spectre is a three-part project composed by an original album, feature film and live show — and the ultimate combination of Para One’s works and aspirations thus far.
Today Para One and Low Jack release a remix off the 21-track remix album for his LP Machines of Loving Grace featuring Jacques Greene, Sofie Birch, Low Jack alongside existing remixes by Actress, Hot Chip, Alva Noto, Call Super, Ricardo Villalobos and more. The remix package will release in 3 digital parts as well as a full-length album on vinyl and digital via French label Believe / Animal63. Part 1 was out December 17th, Part 2 is publishing on January 28th and Part 3 marks the full release on February 25th. The 3 parts were handpicked by Para One, to propose both echoes and contrasts for each phase.
As both a musician and filmmaker, how do you feel these two creative fields relate to each other?
It’s a complex question because for the longest time these two fields didn’t relate at all for me! They implied entering such different mind states that I tended to separate my work as a director and as a composer, even for film scores. While composing music there is some kind of visualisation happening but it’s more like a mental sculpture, abstract figures related to the spectrum of the sound, the frequencies, the pulse of the rhythm. It’s not figurative at all, so translating this into the world of moving images is actually quite difficult. It’s only recently, with my Spectre trilogy, that I’ve decided to connect my approaches as a filmmaker and a composer. To do that, I had to make the music a part of the storyline.
You’ve taken part on soundtracks of several movies before, such as of Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Tomboy. How does the creative process behind that type of music differ from other works?
It’s a completely different approach. Since I rarely compose based on a script – I usually wait until there is a first cut, there is already some material. Images, sounds, faces, dialogue… I have to react to that, to infiltrate what’s already there. Also the work is very much linked to the director’s vision and this is quite liberating, to be freed from these first intentions. I never have “writer’s block” when it comes to composing for a film.
Your album Machines of Loving Grace was the first installment of your Spectre trilogy, to be followed by an upcoming film and live show. How was the idea behind Spectre born?
It all started when I wrote the film Sanity, Madness & The Family which was screened in October 2021. I started gathering ideas and material for it more than a decade ago. But at some point I decided to compose the music as I was shooting and writing it. It is a fiction with documentary elements, so the shooting took place over several years. The music and the editing ended up being organically interleaved. But I didn’t want Machines Of Loving Grace to be the OST [original soundtrack] of the film, or the live show to be a promotional tool. So I split those 3 bodies of work and decided that they would be a full album, a feature film and a scenography, so that each could be relevant in its own field, relating to the others but still independent.
Do you feel the moment of isolation brought by the pandemic had any significant impact on your creative process?
The work on Spectre was pretty much over when the shutdown happened so I used this time to slow down my activities, especially travelling obviously. Being a touring musician for the past 15 years had exhausted me and I realised it when it all stopped. It actually inspired me to change my lifestyle and to decide that things should not be the same after that.
I’ve seen you mention Machines of Loving Grace is somewhat a reflection on your childhood influences and figures that impacted your creative formation. How did your upbringing influence the creation of your artistic persona?
That’s the story of Family, Madness & The Family: I grew up in a big family and spent a lot of time in religious communities. So the influence of sacred or spiritual music was very important when I was a child, although I personally rejected religion. This contrast can be heard in this album, I think. It’s an atheist take on gospel, like sacred chants for an imaginary civilisation.
What do you feel has changed most in your work and the way you approach your creativity since the beginning of your career?
The general idea is always the same: trying to find an honest way to express what goes through me at a specific point in time. All of my albums are attempts at that. What has changed mostly is that I might slowly get rid of my anxieties when composing and focus on the path rather than the result!
The tracks on Machines of Loving Grace all have very unique names, mostly being composed by only one word. How was the process behind choosing these titles?
They’re very linked to the plot of the film so in that sense, they’re a bit like code. I like cryptic titles that can orient the listener’s imagination without trapping it.
If you could choose any emotion for your listeners and overall fans to feel while listening to your latest album, what would it be?
There’s supposed to be many emotions but the main direction is that you can see it as a form of therapy through music.
What would you say was the main source of inspiration behind your most recent work, if any?
There’s many, too many to quote them all! It’s quite obvious that Japanese anime soundtracks infused this album, especially since I’ve recorded Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, a band who inspired Kenji Kawai to compose Ghost In The Shell, or Suar Agung which is an Indonesian Jegog band just like on the Akira soundtrack. At the same time there is an American inspiration through the work of minimalists like Steve Reich or Terry Riley, but in the context of loop-based beatless Detroit techno.
As someone who’s been in the industry for quite some time now, if you could give any advice to someone who’s just starting out, what would it be?
You can imitate and copy as much as you want in order to learn. But as soon as it feels uneasy, weird, like the reflection of yourself in the mirror, that’s when it becomes your music. So don’t trash that, keep working in that specific direction. It’s not the most comfortable path but it’s the only meaningful one.