<p>We met the French director-turned-musician who discussed his performance, his artistic approach, and his collaboration with Elle Fanning.</p>
Since his grand performance on the Eiffel Tower in January, Woodkid—born Yoann Lemoine—has been thinking bigger than ever. About two years ago, the French artist set the web on fire with his first single, “Iron,” inspired by sword-and-sandal movies and religious codes. Earlier this year, he released a short film-worthy music video for “Run Boy Run.” And on September 26th, confirming once again his deep affinity for black and white epic odysseys, Woodkid gave a performance at the Grand Rex in Paris, France that was accompanied by an 30 person orchestra and majestic monochrome visuals. It was the perfect kick-off for his international tour. Check the video above to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.
We met the artist to discuss this performance, his upcoming album The Golden Age, and his multidisciplinary approach to making music and film.
Woodkid performing at the Grand Rex.
The Creators Project: How do you think your performance at the Grand Rex went?
Woodkid: It was amazing. It was a great moment for us because it was the culmination of three months of work. This was the first time I was performing with such a large orchestra. On tour, I always have three horns and two drummers with me, but we wanted to bring strings to this performance because they’re present in many of my songs, and it made sense to have a band with us to truly represent the album’s sound. We worked with the same musicians that recorded with us—the Opéra national de Paris.
It’s pretty impressive that you’ve managed to fill such big venues before the release of your first album.
In fact, it’s been two years since I released “Iron,” and we also released an EP with four tracks and the music video for “Run Boy Run.” We took time to do things well with a lot of energy and passion—in the end, people see our efforts and join us in our project. I also want to give my music to the audience before sending it to the press. It’s a philosophy I have always defended because the public is the most important thing for me. It’s a nice way to offer my work to everyone so that no one feels aggrieved. That’s one of the benefits of the internet, because my music is available everywhere in the world.
Are you planning to release more EPs?
No, we’re currently working on the music video for my next single, which will be released with my album. I directed it, so it will be quite similar to the two clips I made earlier, but with a small twist. I’m changing over the years, my tastes are evolving and so is my way of telling a story as a director. But it will be very recognizable compared to everything I’ve done before.
Did you approach it like an ever-changing project or did you establish a narrative pattern?
We already had established themes and a global idea of the story we wanted to tell. Gradually, we were absorbed by the project. In an almost psychoanalytic way, I discovered the puzzle pieces I wanted to put in place to make my story consistent. In the end, this project has an autobiographical dimension. In my mind, the album The Golden Age represents the state of childhood and recounts the loss of this golden age. Everything I do makes me grow artistically as I explore new things and define my universe.
Is it important for you as a musician to get a grip on your visual universe? Can you tell me a little bit about the universe that you’ve built over the years?
It’s important for me because I am also a director and it’s part of my DNA, just like music. Woodkid is not just a musical project, I combine my two passions into a contemporary art form. What interested me was to represent the entrance into the coldness of adulthood and the loss of emotions, I wanted to develop my story around materials such as stone. The choice of black and white visuals was necessary to represent this darkeness and rigidity. It gives a nobility to the image. I developed three main axes in the album and my video clips, which are three themes of adulthood: religion, war, and sexuality.These are the themes that inspire me, and I get inspired by religious and military music, as well as religious codes. My next music video will have a sort of Mormon aesthetic.
You have a very recognizable signature, even when you work for other musicians like Lana Del Rey. How do you work that out?
People come to see me for what I do, and I always work with artists who let me express myself. My creative process is quite similar when I work for others, I start with a treatment, an accurate description of what I want to do, because I don’t want to leave too much room for improvisation. We already have enough surprises with budgetary constraints and the realities of production.
The same statement could be made with your commissioned works, which are always very artistic.
I don’t do a lot of commissioned works because I need to have carte blanche before accepting a project. This was precisely the case for Lolita Lempicka, for which my client allowed me to cast Elle Fanning. I think she’s extremely talented, she is very dark for a 14-year-old girl. Working with her is the most amazing thing—you forget her age, but as soon as you turn off the camera, she acts like a normal teenager. The shift is almost shocking.
You were also thinking about directing a full-length movie. When can we expect to see it?
This will be my top priority as soon as I release my first album. It will likely be related to my next album because I want to compose its soundtrack. But I want to finish The Golden Age first, it should be released in January. I’m fully aware that I released my first single two years ago, but I think it’s pretty important to take my time. It’s also interesting to me to play with the rules of music industry.