Gilles Deles-Velins had a mystical relationship with sound and music since he was a child and his crafting of music can be compared to a construction kit game, where music as a whole is more than the sum of sounds. For him, sound has some sort of kinship with the concept of pneuma in Stoician philosophy. Sound expects to be found to become music, lying there in an intuitive background. Let’s see what Gilles has to say about all of these topics!
Hi, Gilles! Noise/Drone music is engaged in a constant tug-of-war between dark and dreamy. Can you pinpoint a particular moment that made you dive into producing these sounds?
I remember learning guitar thanks to RATM and Nirvana as a starter (I am 44) but immediately I couldn’t help myself but try multiple feedbacks through my small zoom multi effect and the distortion pedals. So, Drone was a natural part of my learning process in guitar as I was completely stunned when I discovered Sonic Youth.
My personal history and psychological interaction with the world is a journey through experimentation and I didn’t actually “choose” it. Learning tabs becomes boring quickly even if you need to compose music as a matter of fact. The most difficult 20 years ago was to allow me this kind of music (I mean to allow myself to broadcast it) but everything was already there and I just needed to push on the record button.
Can you please introduce your creative process to our readers?
There are not only specific criteria to speak about it. I can improvise with guitar and it will become a ground for a new piece. I can have the raw material from an instrument or a field recording. I have an idea in my mind, some cloudy concept surrounding an object=x of the thing I want to achieve and then I deal with the reality of sounds as I manage to create them. Then all of these elements converge and point in the same direction and form a whole. At this moment emerge the question: what do I want?
The first step on the path to knowledge is accepting the unknown.
How should we relate to your music? What are your influences, and who keeps on inspiring you frequently?
Puzzling thing with my music I guess, which prevents some listeners from “understanding” my process, is that I don’t stick to only one style of music. I think styles of music became too specialized, and now it’s even worse with the algorithms provided by streaming platforms which have only sameness as a goal. I compare myself to Jim O’rourke (I don’t have his talent) because I can write folk music or compose pieces with massive drones but there is not a difference in nature between these fields. I try to tell a story, to perceive one piece of music as a whole like symphonic composers do. Sonic Youth is part of my DNA, I love Kevin Drumm’s mix between smartness and sharpness, I enjoy improvisers in Jazz but these last years I listen mainly to Gustav Mahler or Shostakovich. There’s an inexhaustible source of inspiration in their music and in their lives too.
“Between crystal and smoke” is such a complex journey. Is there a hidden message?
Now that you are asking me this, I would say “don’t surrender in trying to see the complexity of any phenomenon”. I have sometimes despised the fashion of meditation when we should have the humbleness to simply contemplate. Auto-generated complexity by noise (which refers to Henri Atlan’s early works) stresses how much the world overwhelms our ability of understanding. It doesn’t mean that we should surrender to rationality but sometimes personal theories are a very lazy way to fill in the blanks. The first step on the path to knowledge is accepting the unknown.
My relationship with music is something mystical. I am a servant of music like a monk is a servant of God.
I believe that all authentic music is based on the musician’s personal experience. Is this the case for you?
Yes, my relationship with music is something mystical. I am a servant of music like a monk is a servant of God. I hate conflicts with other musicians even if it’s inevitable because music is forgotten in the meantime.
Do you have any habits when writing a song?
When these are songs I know I won’t be able to play them live because most of the time guitar playing is too complex. I don’t understand how people manage to focus on guitar and voice at the same time.
While listening to your music, I feel strange energy growing inside my body, yet my heart feels a dark melancholy. What message do you want to convey?
The energy that is coming is the consequence of all that is orbiting the dark hole of melancholia. (smiles) It is true that dark melancholy is part of my personality but it’s easy to confuse it with depression. A part of the message would be that when you think you have a grasp on the world, on the becoming of things, then you immediately realize it’s already gone. Every climax announces in itself its own disappearance. This disappearance belongs to its very essence. So “Between Crystal and Smoke,” there’s a place for life. What will make people depressive is the futility and the repetition of moronic TikTok loops and Reels because as Freud once explained repetition and death instinct are one and the same.
When was the last time you felt the need to escape from… everything? If there was such a thing!
Every day if I am honest with myself but fortunately I have the most fantastic wife in the world so it happens less and less often.
Is there an ultimate goal for a musician?
Not to fall into complacency just because some people love what you do but also trust your own unconscious which provides creativity. So sometimes the value of what you have done does not belong to you. The true self does not pertain to what we “want”. There’s a current tendency to let the listeners make trials and select but this abondance is misleading. The ultimate goal of a musician is to respect his audience.
Does literature or any other art passionate to you at all? Can you recommend something on which we could be more focused?
Yes, I find inspiration in cinema, and literature indeed. It would take a whole interview to speak about it. I could recommend “The Man Without Quality” by Robert Musil for a book and “The Mirror” by Tarkovsky for a movie.
What albums have influenced your career so far?
If you allow me I would speak more in terms of artists’ discography. Sonic Youth, Rafael Toral, Gastr Del Sol, Ewan Parker, Coltrane, Bill Calahan, Faraquet, Tool, Eliane Radigue, and Chavez (never understood why they weren’t more notorious).
Despite the events throughout history, humanity hasn’t learned much about behaving for its good. To what extent can art improve the world as long as it seems it’s losing its authenticity?
You are right to point out this. Recently we saw how Andy Warhol became mainstream if you judge the price of this Marilyn Monroe work of art. What was originally an avant-garde thing (pop art) has been taken over by the system.
Contemporary art has doomed itself because the main thing you need to do is to be the first to do it. Don’t get me wrong, contemporary art has produced incredible things but art needs to evolve.
Now, art being a part of everyday life (or things like the situationist claim “beauty is the street “) is the new alienation, the new way to screw people. Maybe making a story on Instagram is “art”. I don’t think so, I think being an artist requires more than a childish whim. It’s a form of life, an experience that can not be transmitted or teached, and mainly something you didn’t choose to be.
First thing: it’s not reactionary to claim that we have the right to a sense of taste and poetry. As they are no filters in art broadcasting, there is going to be a return of aesthetics. We have the right to it not as a “science” but as a form of ethics.
Second thing: art used to be linked to sacred and religion. We will come back to this through ecological topics. Preservation of the environment will be the new sacred, and I hope it won’t be the new totalitarianism or religion (which has already started at some point). This is where the world can become a little better. But does the world need new technology and restrictions or art to save us from climate change?
This is where we have to keep in mind art is only art. Art was useless in a concentration camp.
I refuse to put a blue and yellow flag on my FB page because I felt I would insult Ukrainians. They simply need money and weapons to defend themselves. They don’t need us to ease our bad consciousness with futile symbols and automatized pictures.
Besides “Between crystal and smoke,” any forthcoming releases you can tell us about?
Yes, there will be an album called “Remember we were waiting for the snow” composed 4 years ago when I discovered Latvia. It is a metaphor for what is coming, a north without snow, and the sadness of what we have lost.
I also have composed an album called “Dirt Unleashed Desire” which is based on feedbacks/larsens only, an inheritance of what Lou Reed started with Metal Machine Music: obnoxious and unapologetic but with lyricism. I need to find a label for these releases.
People tend to listen to music when they do this or the other. What activity fits with your music?
Playing chess with your children on a Sunday afternoon.
Trying to cook French recipes.
Having sex after a moment of despair.
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