I have always enjoyed music and, from my teen years onward, I’ve regularly written lyrics and vocally recorded snippets for musical ideas. But 1989 was the year when I finally decided to take up a musical instrument.
Electronic keyboards are the first instruments I remember taking a strong interest in. Be they arranger keyboards or synthesizers, I was drawn to the wide variety of sounds they could produce, from the (more or less realistic) recreations of acoustic instruments, to the more unreal textures of full-on “electronic” tones. And let’s not forget that I grew up during the eighties. Not only was I accustomed to hearing all kinds of leads and pads, I also really liked hearing them.
Howard Jones, Wang Chung and Saga were among my favorite artists at the time, and due to my strong interest in film, I also discovered the soundtracks of Tangerine Dream and John Carpenter.
I actually contemplated getting a keyboard back then. A small one to begin with. One of those Yamaha “Portasounds”, I believe. They were on display at some of the hi-fi/record stores I used to go to in Paris. I would sometimes fiddle around with one of them, finding a sound I liked and playing a moody minimalistic riff.
However, I never saved up enough pocket money to get one, and as the eighties slowly came to a close, I became more receptive to the power of percussion. Indeed, in 1988, I became fascinated with Brad Fiedel’s score for “The Serpent and the Rainbow”. Also, the arrival of house music had driven me away from mainstream radio, and I was now listening to more independent radio stations. This allowed me to discover all kinds of artists affiliated with genres like “world music” or “industrial”, as well as more atmospheric outfits, notably Dead Can Dance.
Taking the step
It was during the summer of 1989 that I finally decided to get into percussion more seriously. I was on vacation in Sweden, and through a friend of my mother’s I got in touch with Nicklas Hedin who gave me my first lesson on congas. It was also in Sweden that I got my very first issue of Modern Drummer. I spent the following weeks leafing through it endlessly, checking out the different drumsets and comparing their configurations… This was it. I was finally going to play a musical instrument !
Now… this didn’t mean that I had given up on the keyboard. But I have to admit, not only did I like the idea of exploring the meanders of rhythm, I also figured it would allow me to start playing much sooner with other musicians. I was already seventeen and I didn’t want to let more time pass me by.
Once the summer holidays were over, I found a drum teacher in Paris (Alain Dautricourt, who still teaches and performs to this day). And in December 1989… I finally got my drumset !
From theory to practice
I began playing quite quickly with friends. It wasn’t anything weekly or even monthly, but I knew a piano player (Dimitri Landrain, now a seasoned performer and composer), a singer (Isabelle Poinloup, also currently very active), and a sax player with whom I jammed once in a while.
I put an end to my drum lessons around April 1991 because I had exams to prepare, but I was now feeling sufficiently confident to start looking for a band.
During the following months, I met various musicians with whom I rehearsed for varying periods of time. My very first concert was with the aforementioned Isabelle Poinloup, but that was just a one-time collaboration. My following live experience was with Meursault, an “indie” rock band with atmospheric tendencies. I played four concerts with them in 1993 (two of which took place at the famous Gibus club in Paris), but I wound up leaving for various reasons, one of them related to my studies.
Indeed, I mentioned my interest in film, and my initial intention was to become a director. I started off with a few years in university, then moved on to a private school. During this period, I worked on different film projects, and I even shot a few on video. For some of these films, I needed music. And finding the right people to make it proved very hard. This is what led me to ask myself “what if I were to do it ?”. Could this be the impulse I needed to delve deeper into composing ?
It turns out it was.
Moving on to synth
In the year 2000, I began hanging out in music stores again, checking out arranger keyboards. I liked the “all in one” approach (sequencers are very practical to structure ideas), and I also wanted “natural” tones such as strings and guitars. But the best sounding ones were very expensive, and the least expensive ones really didn’t sound very good.
At some point however, a vendor suggested I try out synthesizers. I told him about the different types of sounds I wanted to work with, and he assured me that I would find the same variety, if not more. He led me to a Korg X5D, I put on the headphones, played a few notes, and… was blown away. The sonic depth surpassed anything else I’d heard before.
Still, I didn’t buy the X5D on the spot. It didn’t have the types of controls I needed to help me shape the sounds more easily. I went to every store I could find to see what else was available, and one day I found a Korg N5EX. It had the same sound engine as the X5D, but had many more controls on the front panel. Also, it was filled with hundreds of presets. A very useful feature for someone like me who – at the time – didn’t yet know how synthesis worked.
Having so many different sounds to choose from really helped me find the types of tones I best liked to work with. In other words, it allowed me to shape the character of my music, and figure out which types of projects I wanted to pursue. That is how Iridaes came to be.
Throughout the following years I purchased other synths, but also various devices to record them, as well as different effects to process and deepen their sound. Indeed, my ears were developing their ability to compare my recordings with more professional-sounding ones, and I gradually figured out what needed to be done in order to achieve the same results.
The rest – as they say – is history. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it someday.
Best regards to all.