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Jean-Sebastien Cote

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Jean-Sebastian Cote from 2019
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a "highlight reel?"

I’m the son of a music teacher, so I always had a piano to tinker on at home, but it’s only when I discovered electronic music that I really found a voice and could make what was in my head. I started out composing music for dance and theatre in my twenties and ended up doing the live sound and music editing on Robert Lepage’s play Far Side of The Moon, which featured Laurie Anderson’s music. Robert is one of the most acclaimed directors/playwright in the world, and fortunately for me I was brought in his company to handle pretty much everything related to sound and music for more than twenty years now, be it music composing, arranging, sound design or technical design. I traveled the world to work on his productions and got the chance to meet many musical heroes of mine through his network, like Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and the aforementioned Laurie Anderson. In parallel, I kept working on other projects, mainly for the stage, the screen or art installations, and also worked on personal musical projects, like Crashride or this record.

Having a family now and wanting to stay put more often, I’ve shifted a bit to work I can do from home, but I’m still travelling from time to time.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Good question; I have many interests so it could have gone in many directions, but I’d say probably an engineer of some sorts… or a translator.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?

Definitely Tangerine Dream in the early years; Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Rush, Björk, Nine Inch Nails, Pat Metheny… not sure you can hear those in the music I do, though. Cliff Martinez is someone I admire a lot too.

MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
Someone just told me today WILDERNESS gave him a feeling of hope. I think that’s pretty amazing.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
More work for different medias, which I love, as you need to adapt everyday, and hopefully more time spent on my personal musical endeavours with interesting musical partners.
MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
I always feel more comfortable when there’s electronicsomewhere in the definition, as I use the computer so much in my production process, even when the source material is acoustic… but in the case of WILDERNESS it could mislead people if they’re hoping for EDM!
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
Oh my God, how much time do you have? So many… King Crimson’s drummer Pat Mastelotto; he’s so good and such a cool person. I admire Will Gregory from Goldfrapp; great composer/arranger, synth geek… Davide Rossi, who used to be in Goldfrapp, is a genius string player whom I’ve met by chance in an airport, and he was so nice. I’d love to work with him. I did work with British guitarist Dave Randall, who played in Faithless for a long time, amongst other things, and he’s a very talented guitarist/composer/producer. And if I’m allowed to dream ridiculously big, I’d say Dido. I’ve been in love with her voice since 2001, so although it may seem surprising, working with her would be a dream come true.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
As I’m not a performing artist per se, I see the decline of the album as a sad thing. It’s not possible to only create albums and hope to have some kind of revenue from them, like I dreamt of doing when I was young. On the other hand, streaming allows different voices to be heard, because you don’t need the support of the music industry, which can only be good, so… I guess it is both a help and hindrance, depending on the kind of career you’re aiming for.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
It depends; the true tapers who catalog, archive and exchange recordings of their favourite band are intense fans. It’s more an act of devotion and love towards that said band than piracy, as they normally own every official release, anyway! I’m not a great fan of posting everything on YouTube, though. I think it’s not fair to the performers, as the most popular clip of an artist is normally the one where they trip over a wire and look stupid for five seconds instead of the gazillion of hours they did performed flawlessly.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
I have no idea! But I know that if Jacob Collier was my opponent, he would wipe me out in two seconds as he can think, play, compose, sing and do pretty much everything better than any human being does, so… I’d have no chance. But, I’m guessing he’s not a fighter.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Antonio Sanchez on drums, Tony Levin on bass, Daniel Lanois handling vocals and some guitars, Wendy and Lisa (from Prince fame) on guitar and keyboards and Björk on lead vocals. I can’t imagine what would happen from such a clash of styles, though.
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?
If we’re allowed to bring people back to life: Earth, Wind and Fire with Maurice White, Faithless, Lado (Croatian folk ensemble), Prince, John Scofield, Ella Fitzgerald, Rush and The Cure - bizarre lineup!
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I loved the Fearless Flyers’ EP and Sampha’s Process, too.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
With the kids keeping me busy I mostly read in bed these days and only a few pages a night, so as such I have a hard time reading fiction. Future Noir by Paul M. Sammon, on the making of Blade Runner is pretty amazing in its research.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
I just saw a show for kids called Mile(s)tones based on the music of Miles Davis, and the musicians were very good!
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
I come from a small city, so I saw loads of concerts there but my first big city-arena experience was for Rush’s Hold Your Fire tour in March 11, 1988 in Quebec City. It sounded horrible, as most arena shows did back then, but I was too excited to really bother.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
I collect way too many synthesizers; I always try to find used one to add to my collection but my mainone for a while has been the Prophet Rev2 from Dave Smith/Sequential - nice machine.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of Shania Twain from time to time!
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
I was the one man band on a theatre show called Dragons’ Trilogy, and my computer crashed in one of the highlights of the performance, where the music completely takes over. I tried to keep playing my part over a bunch of hung MIDI notes for what seemed like an eternity. It was horrible.
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?
David Lynch, Wendy Carlos and Johann Sebastian Bach with an interpreter, as my 18th century German sucks.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Whatever those three decide, I’m not fussy if there’s no liver involved.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Without trying to suck up, the work of various music reviewers and bloggers on the Internet is really what keeps music alive these days. The era of the record shop is unfortunately gone, so we as listeners are always looking for recommendations and opinions we respect to guide us through the myriad of releases, and that’s where people like you come in. So, I’d like to raise a virtual glass to all music writers out there. Thanks!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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