Soundscape Rocker

3 April 2012 | 5:53 am | Staff Writer

More Yann Tiersen More Yann Tiersen

“I grew up in the late eighties,” Yann Tiersen, calling from Minehead in the UK, having just come in from Ireland on part of a tour that has now stretched to almost three years, explains. “So it was post-punk and this is kind of my base and my culture. But then I discover repetitive American music and so I was excited by all that as well the German bands – it's just part of my musical culture and so in a subconscious way it's present in my albums of course.”

A classically trained violinist, Tiersen “rebelled” when he was 13, smashing his violin, picking up a guitar and forming a band, which, it seems, was successful enough to at least allow him, when it broke up a few years later, to buy a cheap mixing desk. He set himself up a small recording studio where, surrounded by synths, samplers and drum machines, he started chasing the sounds he was hearing in his head. He came out with three albums' worth of stuff and it was from one of those that, six years after its release in 1995, that film director Jean-Pierre Jeunet drew for the soundtrack of the 2001 film Amélie.

Tiersen meanwhile had already begun to gain attention, at least in France, for his diverse, cinematic albums informed as they were by so many genres, beginning with 1998's Le Phare, but the success of Amélie saw his skills as a screen composer called upon by were Wolfgang Becker for his 2003 tragicomedy, Good Bye Lenin! and 2008's Tabarly. Tiersen's duel career quickly became international and he's been touring his own albums for more than a decade, as he is with his latest and seventh album, Skyline.

In each album I like to try different things, just to keep everything alive. You know, you need to try new textures or new… not directions because I think you always do the same music – that's not really true but what's behind music, you're personality… I think music is another language, which no question's to be true to yourself so you're the same, in a way, even if you're changing.

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“The music is yours as long as it's honest and true to what you are. But you have to find different ways to make it as exciting as it was the first time, so you discover new textures and new opportunities to have a bigger field in a way. To be true to what you are you need to change it a bit and find new honest direction and sounds; not to repeat yourself or to be like a fake, a piece of what you were, not what you are now.”

So did Tiersen have an overall idea of what he wanted to achieve with this album?

“Not really,” he admits. “In fact I had some tiny ideas already recorded – you know, like some guitars and stuff, repeating patterns of guitar – but actually we were on tour in the US and after we came back to Europe. Because we were touring for a really long time, in a way it was so exciting to be back in the studio and to be also in the tour mood in a way, it was just really easy to work on this album and make it really joyful.

“Composing is really easy – I'm just in the studio and messing around with synths, guitars and sounds and see what happens [laughs]. I never have a proper idea of an album before the recording. I like to be surprised and to be lost sometimes and suddenly you can find your way and, okay, it's a good direction – let's go.”