There seems to have been no mountain too high or landmark too bold for Madeon. From the early remnants of his remix for “Raise Your Weapon” and the infamous 39-song “Pop Culture” mix back in 2011, it became very apparent that the young French artist – a composer from the age of 11 who found epiphany in Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 tour – was not playing around. Just two-years down the line, you would be hard pressed to find a young talent with a steadier finger on the pulse of modern electronic music. Now hailed for cutting edge programming from across the musical spectrum and a healthy affliction with the Novation Launchpad, his name rings with far more resonance than that of an accidental breakout propelled forward by youth and good luck.
A live dance evangelist whose technical capabilities have taken the internet and global festival circuit alike by storm, his ability to match cutting edge experiences with a sparing yet eclectic discography of releases has not done the composer lesser known as Hugo Pierre Leclercq any discredit along the way. Since exploding upon the global industry, he’s produced and written for the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, Muse, Ellie Goulding and Lady Gaga, adding a recent return to the solo-trail through “Technicolor” to assert that amid the peaks of his genre-defying activity, Madeon is one of the most essential new forces to both make and break the rules of dance music’s 360-degree industry scope. With “Technicolor” finally upon us, Dancing Astronaut caught up with the composer-turned-button pusher to unravel the anatomy of a European breakout blazing the global trail on his own unique terms.
In the early days it felt like the media only really cared to talk about your age rather than your talent. Has that ideal been relatively easy for you to overcome?
The entertainment industry as a whole has a well-documented obsession with youth. I’m grateful for that and I was lucky enough to benefit from it by getting started very early. I feel like as I get older, the focus has shifted away from it slightly. I’m trying to make sure my work has value beyond my youth. It’s a great progress that young people like me now have access to the tools to produce and distribute music themselves.
It seems fair to say that your influences go beyond the infamous peak of Parisian culture, but was France a positive proving ground for you to cut your teeth on musically?
There is a strong and proud Parisian culture even today. I think it’s a unique force; it’s a focused and coherent scene. The American attitude on the other hand is very inclusive and perhaps more open-minded. I’ve always been a real fan of this sound, from Ed Banger to Bromance/Marble but despite being french I never felt really connected to that scene with my own career. Some of my influences and early supports were closer to the UK and America and i started touring internationally early on. I don’t play in France very often at the moment. It’s still a special place for me, but the market is completely different from the US. I want to focus on it more.
Live dance music has been an increasingly strong hand for you over the past two-years. How do you perceive the strength of this side of the industry given the various festivals and outlets now available to artists?
The question of live electronic music has always fascinated me. Unlike most other genres, electronic music is inherently a studio product, whereas rock music for instance is initially live music that is then recorded. As such, there are many different opinions on how to best translate it to the live stage. Dance music is also a genre that is audience-centric – it’s arguable that the show is more about the crowd dancing and enjoying themselves than observing a performer. It seems like after that show, there’s been an on-going trend that had a recent peak with Swedish House Mafia of delivering spectacular electronic shows that are giant sensorial experiences, without really focusing on the artist’s action.
So to that extent, do you see your mix-and-match Launchpad approach as a way of bringing affirmative action to the live dance spectrum past the flashing lights and pyrotechnics?
I think there’s so much that can be done in the performance field itself, especially with the element of improvisation. The ability to redirect a show and react to the audience is a unique component of DJing. I try to incorporate a couple of ideas in that sense. For instance, when I play my “Raise Your Weapon” remix live, I can play any chord progression I want on my Launchpad while the accapella is playing. I can make it sound sad or very uplifting depending on how I feel, doing a little bit of composition live onstage. There’s so much more to explore – I’m just excited to see what everyone comes up with, not just myself.
Does the market need to label and box music so specifically worry you, given your own eclectic approach to both live and recorded music?
It’s a dangerous phenomenon. The most important thing for me is to try to make people a fan of my music and myself specifically, not as part of a narrow scene I would be a part of, because your fate is then intrinsically linked to that of the trend you’re associating yourself with. I want to maintain the musical freedom afforded by this independence.
In that context, the leap from “Icarus” to “Finale” must have been a pretty daunting one for you given the momentum that was surrounding your name at the time?
“Finale” was not a safe release. It’s a 92 BPM song that isn’t really playable by a DJ, there’s no real genre or definition for it, it’s just a song. I want to be able to keep on doing that. Once you become strategic with the creative process and make a song solely as a tactical move, it loses its appeal.
You kept us waiting nine-months for your latest single “Technicolor” – a track that seems to go full-circle on your musical journey to date. Was this an intentional maneuver on your part?
All my releases until now have been shorter songs with a pop structure. I wanted to experiment with a longer format that enabled me to say more than usual. I think it’s coherent with some of my past output musically and sonically, I see it as sort of a sequel to “Icarus,” but it helped me realize the benefit of having more time, encouraging me to explore that through EPs and Albums. It’s probably been the most difficult song I’ve produced. It took a lot of studio time, over several months. I’m thrilled that people seem to be enjoying it!
Fans will have surely noticed the scavenger hunt you left on the official Technicolor website. How important do you find building narratives around your tracks to be?
I’ve been hiding codes in my releases for a long time, it’s one of my personal interests and an attempt to had an additional depth to my discography. I was baffled that people got so into it, not to mention solved it so quickly, but I have many more ideas. As a fan, I love artists with some kind of mythology beyond their music. I want my fans to be in there for more than a party.
Past reminding people your music is far more interesting than your age, what do you consider to have been the most challenging aspect of your career to date?
Letting go. I tend to sit on songs for a long time and be very insecure about my work. It’s still excruciating for me to stop working on something and be confident enough to release it. I want to become more relaxed about it, it’s a learning process.
Given the big names and high-brow festivals you are already frequenting, what more do you aspire to as an artist and where do you see the next chapter of your career taking you?
I want to release more music and grow my show. I’d like to bring my live production to the US, progressively stepping further away from a DJ set into a real live performance. It seems to be a common ambition now, but I’m also really interested in narrative composition, such as film scoring. I also really enjoy working with other artists on their music, but the most important thing to me is to learn as much as I can about music, and grow a personal discography that I’ll be proud of for a long time.
Lead Photo by Nacho Ricci