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Yang

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Frederic L'Epée of Yang from 2017
MSJ:
Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?
As far as I remember I've been connected to music. My mother liked to tell me how, to stop me from crying as a baby, they used to sit me on my baby highchair in front of the turntable where I could stay still until the music was over.

As soon as I've been able to walk I've been attracted by any sounding object: tubes, piano frames, metal balustrades... and of course "real" music instruments. But I only started playing at 13, when my sister bought a guitar to have lessons and stopped after a few weeks. I took it in my bedroom and began explorations. In the same time, some of my classmates were learning others instruments and I enjoyed everything, not especially guitar. When I've been able, I bought a little organ, someone lent me a flute, a saxophone, and when it was possible I loved to play drums.


I made my first band to play songs by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. I was then guitar and keyboard player and singer. We used to play in pubs, parties and in ski stations restaurants.


When I started composing, I got bored with playing other's music and stopped my band.

MSJ:
If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I always had a passion for sciences. I'd probably be involved in astronomy or medical research.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
When we put together the first three pieces, and recorded them ("The Two Worlds," "Souterrain" and "Pride"), none of our girlfriends liked them. Therefore I decided to name the band from the masculine principle of the Tao.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
My father was a good amateur violin player, listening mainly to romantic composers like Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Brahms...So did I on my highchair...

As a teenager came to discover the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Stravinsky, Bach, Deep Purple, Rameau, Ravel and I remember spending all my free time listening to them. Later, King Crimson, Britten, Genesis, Yes, Van der Graaf, Wagner, Steve Reich, Henry Cow. Then came Boulez, Chinese and Turkish music.

MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
My music is a totally spontaneous outcome, taking its source in so many different styles that it is, of course to me impossible to describe it with a short name. The term "instrumental rock" seems appropriate, but not enough. Progressive rock is okay, but too wide. I would say maybe fusion rock with some eastern modes and rhythms.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Surely a lot that I don't know yet!

I usually play with people I want to play with. There is an exception with singers. I've not been able to find singers to play with on my "fusion rock" music. But I am very demanding. And the my models are the great prog rock singers and among them, Jon Anderson and Peter Hammill. Both are musicians I’d dream to work with.

MSJ:
Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
It depends on musician’s level of notoriety. When you are a famous artist, your incomes depend directly from people who buy your music, and as you are famous, when these numerous people use illegal download, it is highly damaging.

In the case you are an unknown artist, streaming is a good thing, a good way for your music to be heard. And even illegal download is not so a problem for the same reason.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
Not a problem for me. The results are usually of poor quality and must be taken as testimonies, not real releases. Some musicians can be disturbed by this in their performance. I am not.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
The Mighty Silencer in his Quest of Turning Off the Sounds of the Universe.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
The ideal festival for me would be one in which any act is a discovery. There are a lot of festivals with big stars in the world. I’ve noticed that even if people come to a festival for stars, what they enjoy the most is to discover new music.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
The last record I bought, actually a vinyl, was Boy by Carla Bozulich. It was after one of her concerts in Berlin. I also listen to a lot of electronic music. Vladislav Delay, Brian Eno, Plaid, Autechre, and some recent discoveries like Bozulich, Colin Stetson, Dawn of Midi and the French band BDC La Belle.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Contact by Matthew B. Crawford about how electronic devices consume our time, our concentration and our sociability.

I am reading now the third volume of the sci-fi book The Expanse by James S.A. Corey, which I find not as good as the previous ones.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
The scene is so rich in Berlin where I live! The two last very good concerts I attended were the one by Carla Bozulich I mentioned above, which I could label as "avant-garde/experimental blues" and a concert by the composer/improviser Annette Krebs whose music I’ve been a fan of since 2002 - an inspiring decomposition of sound in its tiny particles, and its dialogue with silence.
MSJ: Do you remember your first concert?
As a member of the audience, I don’t remember. But there are many chances that the first concert I performed was also the first time I went in a place for music. I was 14 or 15 and I played acoustic covers of Led Zeppelin, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and the Beatles in a restaurant.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
I love natural sounds. It doesn’t mean that I am not interested in evolution of effect pedals or processors, but it does not really appeal to me. Recently Markus Reuter came to me with an Electro-Harmonix Superego pedal, and I must say that I enjoy it a lot!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
There are no pleasures I feel guilty with… but… well… should I say it here? I sometimes love listening to techno music… sorry…
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
It was with Shylock. We were performing in Nice our last gig before traveling to Switzerland to record our second album, Ile de Fièvre. The show was nice, very crowded and people were excited. A guy at the first row was beating the floor of the stage with an empty bottle, and suddenly the bottle exploded. A shard of glass has been thrown to my forehead and cut a vein. The blood started to gush, but I was so absorbed by the music that I did not immediately realize what was happening. Then the lights were switched on, and I saw our manager, Christian, running to me…and I saw the blood. They took me backstage and called an ambulance, trying to stop the bleeding and after a moment, we all noticed that there was still music on stage: Didier, the keyboard player, didn’t see anything and was alone on stage, all lights on, still playing.
When we entered the studio in Geneva two days after, and I opened my case, the guitar was covered with dried blood.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
The world and lasagnes
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
I just answered  a long interview. I enjoyed it, but I do not trust words, anymore. The world is going mad. Don’t listen to people. Don’t talk. words failed - better act, be an example.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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