Guillaume Cazenave is a musician from Bordeaux, and he recently released a GREAT debut album “AM” under the name The Odd Gallant. I asked Guillaume some questions, and he was very kind to give insightful answers.
Thanks to Annie from Prog Sphere PR for this opportunity.
How did you start making music? Tell us how did your journey begin.
Actually, it all started when I was really really young. My godmother gave me a cassette recorder when I was 2. It was a toy but it lasted for years, and my parents still have it covered in dust somewhere. I had a keyboard as well so I spent hours screaming on cassettes trying to play the piano at the same time. I remember there has always been a lot of music at home. My brother, my sister and I were lucky to grow up in quite a culturally rich environment. Moreover we all started to learn how to play the music at an early age, around 3 or 4, because my parents thought it was very important. I learned how to play the violin and then the guitar. At 12 I was filling up entire notebooks of tabs, thinking it will all become albums when I’ll be older. They probably all ended in the bin or in the attic… Later, I joined a few bands but it wasn’t enough to satisfy my musical and creative hunger. I started to get some equipment: keyboards, a sequencer, a mixing table and everything I needed to compose music in a more economical way. I’ve been lucky enough that my parents supported me and let me do what I wanted. ☺ But you know I was a nice boy, I wasn’t going out or asking for money or hanging out with the bad boys. ☺ I started doing my own demos and then I had the opportunity to compose music for websites, during the early days of the internet in France, when websites had music on. Then, projects kept on turning up. When I was 19, I sent a demo to a label called Musea which decided to produce my first album. Now, with perspective, those songs weren’t really good (I was young and didn’t have enough equipment) but it motivated me to keep on going this way.
It seems that music is not the only art you are working on? Although lately you focused more on it. What made you pursue this direction?
I learned to do a few things because it was quicker to learn them and do them myself. Moreover I was scared to share my work. When I say “a few things” I am actually thinking about photography, illustrating or, later on, directing and post-production.
One way or the other, I ended up in situations where the job needed to be done. I think that it is a similar approach towards work, whatever media you use. Writing music, editing films, creating graphic designs it’s all very similar. You have goals and you need some similar skills, even if some areas need some more adapted learning times.
It’s like learning languages, the more you learn, the easier it gets. Some are more complicated than others, but your brain adapt.
Moreover I always tried to express myself in different ways, so all those different platform make sense to me.
It’s quite different when I write novels, because it’s a need I always had. Telling stories and pursuing an identity quest are daily motivations to me even if, for the last two years, I decided to focus exclusively on music. Music is the only area where I can express myself without constrains, without compromising and so be artistically free.
When I was working for Terria film, I was artistically frustrated. I co-created this company in this area I loved, but the constraints where so important that I was very frustrated and disgusted by our work. My business partner and I decided to close the company and I chose to focus on what I really loved to do and made me happy: music. I will add though that I learned a lot during the 6 years I spent developing Terria Films. I needed it I think, to get more professional in my methods.
Are you satisfied with where you landed in the music world?
To be honest I don’t know where I landed in the music world. I’m lucky enough to be able to produce albums without looking for financial compensation. I have a casual job that enables me not to agree to any compromise. And I don’t want to do my music in any other way. If my albums get me some money well that’s great, but it will be used to do more albums! So yes I am satisfied because I feel completely free. I’m not trying to be liked by anybody if it isn’t first by myself. I know perfectly well, that if I was bigger I could have different ambitions and maybe more collaborations and even tours and concerts. But I don’t really mind if it doesn’t happen, I don’t feel limited in any way. I’m happy this way : as long as I don’t feel like I’m running in circles, and as long as I improve, it’s fine ! ☺
I see huge Pink Floyd influences in your sound. Do you agree, and how much this band indeed influenced your work?
Before agreeing with you, I have to say that I’m very honored by your compliment. Pink Floyd has been in my life since I was born, in 1978, and I was raised with it. I’m completely soaked up with it. When I was a kid and people were asking me what job I wanted to do as a grown up, I’d think about David Gilmour. I wanted to do like him. Today I think it’s not overreacting to say that Pink Floyd created one of the biggest artistic piece of work in the XX century, a work that goes way further than music.
With Pink Floyd you’ll always find this aim to perfection. Perfection in the sound, in the emotion, in the concepts, graphics, etc.… It is even more remarkable because it seems that Pink Floyd kept on taking risks, even if they disturbed their fans.
Despite their massive success, they stayed disobedient. I’m influenced by their approach towards music, and perhaps more fascinated than influenced. I’m impressed by their last album : I t think that « The Endless River » ask the question: « what is a conclusion? » Their answer is fascinating and frustrating at the same time. They are very smart.
What other bands or musicians influence you?
A lot of band had an influence on me, no matter the style or the time. Gustav Mahler, Igor Stravinsky, Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Robert Wyatt, Magma, Steve Hillage, Massive Attack, Sinead O’Connor, Dalëk, Bjork, Mike Patton, Leprous, etc. The list is huge. However I think the biggest influence is Devin Townsend, whose approach towards music and his personality are exemplary to me. I like the way he identifies himself to his music and the music back to him. There is something really deep and intimate in his work.
Where do you draw inspiration when working on new music?
I usually say that my inspiration lies in my everyday life which is true when I’m not composing or recording. Any kind of event can inspire musical ideas. Anyway when I’m behind my guitar or any instruments or machines, I think the inspiration comes from the music itself because what is being composed takes references in my musical memory. Some sounds, chords or rhythm can create emotions which can themselves create new harmonies, chords or rhythms… At the end, the most important thing is the choices you make: what you keep or what you don’t. But it’s not inspiration then, it’s hard work.
What themes do you explore in your lyrics?
Because of his « alphabetical » concept, AM explores many different themes, and can be understood, I hope, in many different ways. But I still have to say that the lyrics evoke mostly the need that human beings have to seduce and being seduced and how it can make them look odd, unique and in a way, all the same… In AM, the lyrics are not always easy to understand.
What do you think of progressive rock today? Do you find it any better than it was during the ‘70s?
Recently I read in a book by Eymeric Leroy, that progressive rock is a music that should, actually, progress, so evolve and change. Then, bands who claim their belonging to progressive rock should all do a different music. Therefore, progressive rock, because it’s always changing, couldn’t really be defined. However you can identify some phases in the history of progressive rock, because of the sound or the technology used at the time. I don’t want to generalize by saying that today is better or worse than before, but I have the feeling that in the 70’s, the percentage of bands and artists who would tend to have a more serious reflection on their work was more important. To be fair, I have to agree that musical consummation nowadays is not favorable for a so called progressive music. I think that progressive rock hasn’t found its way towards dematerialization or let’s say, it is not ready to “progress” yet.
Follow The Odd Gallant on Facebook here.