I’ve been lucky to just have passion, and that is where your energy is turned in to a good thing, artistic movement...
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I've known Yult (or Tomatom to his friends) for a few years now, but have really only become aware of his music quite recently. He is one of London's most sought after art directors so I assumed he had little time to make a full project, until Tanya Auclair began playing me their The Animal Inside EP which we premiered in 2010. Since then I've been pestering him for more and he sent over this remix of Portico Quartet's "Clipper". Luckily for us timing meant it didn't fit on PQ's release schedule so Yult is releasing it as an unofficial remix for free through PMOI. He is currently working on more music with Tanya and other artists, and plans to release something new in spring 2012. I decided to try to keep much of his original grammar and language in tact for the interview - he is absolutely hilarious and very charming, and I think it would be a shame to lose any of his "Frenchness". - AI
I was born in Besançon where I stayed for one year (I said that's crap, let's move on). Then I moved to Toulouse, where we stayed 4 years, then we moved to Paris, which is Paris, and we stayed 4 years. We moved to the Alps where I stayed for 5 years, and finally we moved to Montpellier in the south where I did most of my teenage years. I arrived there at 12 and left to come to London almost 5 years ago, so I done almost 12 years there. It’s really nice, really chilled out, but I moved because I needed new things.
- It's good when you're on holiday in Montpellier but hard to get things done in a way, there is no dynamic. The funny thing is I was feeling stressed there which is really chilled out, and when I moved to London I was feeling finally relaxed. People don't understand why, it was like "my god you move to London, you might be stressed everyday in this crazy city!” but actually I feel better because there is this flow.
- This city is really open… all these people come in from everywhere and this creates something where it's very intense, these people they don't waste time. They're really here to push themselves, in the prime of their life - I can't see myself doing that when I'm gonna be 60 years old you know, but at this time it's just perfect. I think that all these people have the same kind of need to achieve, or whatever how you call it, I think it just creates this massive energy thing that makes you feel better. I have this metaphor, when you're in the south of France you just walk the stairs normal, here you walk the stairs but you are on an escalator so you get there quicker and easier, and you go higher.
- I was very problematic as a child. My mum told me I was very difficult, very hard to manage, a troublemaker. I was 6 or 7 and I came home from school and I just said, "well that's it, I've stopped doing my homework, I've decided that's it, I know I don't want to do it anymore". My mum laughed and said "yeah fine you're going to do it", and we had a massive fight for a week where I wasn't doing it, and she had to be really hardcore with me, like proper hardcore shit to force me. My Aunty said "I've been on the pavement of money". It's a French thing; it means I was born quite rough or raw. Before my parents split up I had good social conditions but I was still quite rough, people don't understand - you have everything why are you still putting trouble? To be honest I still question myself. Sometimes it's not a science, you just can't really control it. It's been a challenge to correct this over the years, to get more civilized.
- I've been lucky to just have passion, and that is where your energy is turned in to a good thing, artistic movement or whatever. Definitely hip hop helped, it turned our anger and energy in to a good thing. I've been lucky to discover I like graphic design and visuals and sound, I was just very curious about this kind of stuff. Around 15 I started graffiti, and I started to really see that I loved it and I wanted to do this with my life - maybe not graffiti but visually to make things. I knew that I could make money and have a job with that, and I knew that I would be the king if I could actually get some money doing it. So that helped me to be more peaceful inside. You know when you're in trouble inside and it's quite hard to handle yourself? It takes time and maturity. I started to know myself [laughs].
- I started making music through some friends. I was a big listener, it started with French hip hop, I was maybe 12 and really deep in to it, in the time of the tapes. I would play it in the car, my Mum even knew the lyrics and was singing on the shit! I listened to the golden age of French rap (1992-1997), Oxmo Puccino, D Abuz system, Ideal J, the very first album of Lunatic with Booba was very good, he is doing shit stuff now. After this album the rap became more bling bling, but before that in France it was very hardcore against bling bling, showing off and being superficial. Philosophically the lyrics were really down to earth - like stay real, stay true. If you came and tried to extravert and showing off too much you were going to be hated in the rap world, so I really listen back to this time in French rap and I really connected with the lyrics, it was strong. I knew that it was more than just listening, it was really affecting me deeply. You know like when you see a good film and maybe it can change your mind?
- I had this confrontation of two worlds I grew up with, which is the city (where I lived), but going back to where my mum is from, lost in the vineyards, and I developed two types of friends. I had my 'urban' friends, but also my mates who are from the countryside who have a different way of seeing things. I think it is important to know both. So, in the city it was rap, and in the countryside it was lots of reggae (and I can understand why). The only thing is that when I was coming back to the city and playing reggae to my mates they couldn't understand at first because French is very how you say – if people are in to rap they are in to rap, reggae could be almost perceive as a weakness. They don't mix. I started to really be in to producing music through watching my friends playing reggae, and also loads of people from Leeds coming on holidays there, amazing musicians who really inspired me. That’s when I decided – OK I'm going to buy a computer and start on Fruity Loops and Soundforge and start to put my hands on.
- I came to London a few times to check out the vibe, I was alone on a bridge at Embankment checking out the Thames and the intensity, I just felt so good. In the south of France at this time I was stressed, I almost had a panic attack there but I don't know why. On the bridge I felt serene, and that's when I said - I feel good here, that's how I should feel every day. That's when I really decided to move to London.
- I booked my room through a friend without seeing it, and then I arrived, and then I depressed for a week. For the same price I was living in a flat in the south of France with two or three bedrooms, and I arrived and was living in one room. Here the question hits yourself bad, I had the happy time on the bridge but to move meant loads of stuff. You have to forget about your comfort zone. I left my flat, my car, my job, my friends - everything was fine - but inside I wasn't fine, and then I moved here and I took a slap. Like fuck! What am I doing?! I quit my job, I sold the car and now I'm in this tiny room, I have no job, and it's raining. But I knew what I was looking for, it was about blooming, and this started really quickly. I learned so much from this moving, I just packed my life in to a suitcase - keep just what you need. And now I feel stronger, I feel I can face all kinds of situations.
- I feel at home here, but my roots and where I will end up is in the vineyards in the south of France. I can see myself quite nicely there chilling out. Even now I wish I had money to invest to create a studio there, it's perfect, you're fully disconnected and have no distractions, so creatively it's really good. The contrast is inspiring between London and this place, finally in the middle I've found my balance and I feel lucky to have this. To be a Londoner 100% with no exit or place to go and take a distance from it, I think it would be quite challenging.
- I self taught all my work - I was learning a lot of Photoshop and all the softwares, so I was approaching music through the digital door, I never really knew the analogue era. Now I'm definitely starting to see what's going on in the analogue old school world, there is definitely some interesting process and I feel I need to know this side as well. I am interested in quite complex music, and I think I have a weird perception of rhythm. I work totally with my ears, I don't know chords. When I said I'm not a musician I can't play instruments properly, it's very hard for me to learn a structure, and so I come with a very abstract way to music, which makes it 'soundscapey' i guess. It's more about the texture and materials before the arrangement.
- What I've learned moving to London is that pop culture influences every kind of music in a way. People here have this thing where they really think their music needs to be accessible even if it's very niche, they still keep this restriction where they want people to connect with their music. That's what I'm learning at the moment, trying to get stricter with this, because I'm a very chaotic guy in my ideas, and I think if when there is too much chaos you can't see the chaos, you need a contrast. If you want to do something completely crazy you need to structure it so people can understand what happened at least, and I find it very challenging for me.
- Working with Tanya Auclair has forced me to have a structure to the instrumentals because she's a songwriter with lyrics and I've learned a lot. I struggle to have this ear that people here almost have like common sense… I don't know if that is the wrong perception of pop music but to me you have to provide something to the listener to keep him hooked. Before that I just didn't care, I was just making sounds that I like, but actually there is this very well known technique of songwriting that works, that I'm just discovering now, so I feel young in this way.
- I want to go long term, I don't want to close myself in to a new trend or style of production because then after it's hard to reinvent yourself, and I hope to keep enough distance. Maybe be influenced by trends because I live in the middle of it and I think it's good, but I don't want it to be this kind of throwaway creation like ‘ok, that was the boom of the Dubstep but now actually it's gone, what are you doing now, what's the next thing?' I think it's very important to create your own identity through the long journey. I don't have any style, I hope I can produce some folk music or whatever - something completely different - but still having my own vision.