“Bach Was the Greatest Popstar that Ever Lived”: An Interview With Christaux

Written by Leo Baldi

If you know anything about the underground indie scene in Italy you probably know who Iori’s Eyes are. The minimal electro duo from Milan has been serving us beautiful and willingly understated dream-pop that sounded like nothing out there for years.

Christaux is born as the pop solo project of one half of the duo, Clod, while Sofia debuted earlier this year with her solo project L I M and her EP, Comet. Christaux’s debut album, Ecstasy, came out to rave reviews in April through La Tempesta, one of the prominent indie labels in the Italian scene, so you can imagine how thrilled we were to interview Clod about it. We Skyped for about 45 minutes and talked about Bjork, Anohni, Kate Bush, catharsis and the details of the musical production on Ecstasy.

Who is Christaux, how did the project come to be?

Christaux: Christaux was born in 2014 although its studio debut was only two months ago when the album came out [28/04]. The project is sort of like my darker alter-ego, and it’s a channel that I’ve used to deal with the last three years of my life, which were kind of complicated and constantly fluctuating between light and darkness…actually I’ll take that back, it’s not an alter-ego at all. It’s an extension of myself from my everyday life, but it’s not split from my personality. I am very lucky to do what I do and there’s no distinction between my work-persona Christaux and me. I can’t divide what I am from what I do.

Was there an organic transition between Iori’s Eyes and Christaux or is your new project a different thing?

C: “The project has nothing to do with Iori’s eyes, starting from my stylistic and artistic choices. Iori’s Eyes was this very minimal electro-soul, while what I do now has a rock and magniloquent matrix to it that is completely separate from what I was doing before with Sofia. I went for a very detailed yet maximalist sound that is very resonant and strong… it’s basically a rock-hard wall, very solid. It couldn’t contrast more with the fragility of Iori’s Eyes. Christaux isn’t a continuation of our previous work, we simply decided to split and go our separate musical directions.”

L: I was asking because for some reason you reminded me of ANOHNI and the transition from Anthony & The Johnsons.

C: “That’s strange because sonically speaking I don’t think there’s a strong similarity, Anohni is very electronic. From a different perspective I understand why some people could make this unconscious connection and I really appreciate the comparison. She’s an artist I admire for her work as well as her political choices and her battle with gender, which is something I am and have been standing for.”

L: What kind of music did you grow up with?

C: “My musical past is very rock. I started when I was 12 as a punk rock bassist in Milan, the city I grew up in. I went through a lot of experimentations in various bands as a teenager and tried different formations. After bass, I started playing the guitar and stayed with it up until me and Sofia founded Iori’s eyes. During that time we both played lots of instruments, I played piano, guitar, she did programming, keyboards… Still, I can definitely say that my roots are very rock, even after my encounter with electronic music, which happened in 2008, I think.”

L: So you are a multi-instrumentalist?

C:  “At the end of the day yeah, I guess. I still think my true instrument is piano, though, I have studied it thoroughly for a few years. I also think I am quite proficient playing guitar, not to brag but after 10 years I think I can pretty much play it well *laughs*.”

L: Let’s move on to the album, did you produce it yourself?

C: “The first demos for the record I did were all written in my room, only piano and vocals with a very intimate approach. Then I met Mario Conte who is the co-producer of the album with me, we both co-produced and arranged the album. I had a very specific idea in mind for what I wanted and I even tried many producers until I found Mario. Working with him was very freeing. He allowed me to develop something that I first liked myself without having to worry whether I was doing something commercial or not.”

L: Who came up with the sound of Ecstasy?

C: Me and Mario both brought 50% to the table when it came to making the record. We came up with the sound together. Initially I only brought him references, which I like having because the music I make is the product of what inspires me, in a way.”

L: That brings me to my next question, who are your biggest musical inspirations and these references you speak of?

C: “I don’t like giving away my references. They might not be my idols and I don’t like revealing too much about my work and process. So I’ll just tell you who my biggest inspirations are: Kurt Cobain, Kate Bush, Prince, Arvo Pärt and Madonna.”

L: It’s interesting that you said Kate Bush, I don’t know why, but your record reminds me of the second half of Hounds of Love.

C: “That’s totally fair, that is one of my favourite albums ever. Kate Bush is, from my point of view, a complete artist, from both a performative point of view and musically too. She has a great vocal range, she’s always done what she wanted, she produced The Dreaming, which is one of my absolute favourite records. Bush is a role model for life and artistic integrity. I can’t find words to describe her and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Christaux_Promo 1.jpg

L: Let’s talk about the concepts behind the album, what is Ecstasy about?

C: “Ecstasy is about the liberation from emotive blocks, skeletons in the closet and negative presences in my life. I used it as a cathartic system. I had to exasperate all this negativity in order to free myself from it. I felt pleasure from this intensity and from that spark I created art. Ecstasy is essentially freeing myself from my demons and suffering to get rid of suffering.”

L: I know it’s a cliche but it sounds like it’s a way of exorcising the evil in your life.

C: “That’s right, that’s a way of saying it. Sometimes I think cliches exist to simplify things and what you said is exactly what I meant.”

L: What is your favourite song on the record?

C: Spazio HD.”

L: Can you walk us through the song?

C: I sing in English because I like the way it sounds, it’s a very malleable language and I think it comes out really nicely in music. Also I was never really into the Italian scene, because it’s not part of my DNA. Still, on the other hand, I think there are things in Italian that come across as more international than others. We have a tradition of opera, of classical singing, which I think are universal. I think you have to be careful in using Italian, that language is a bomb that could explode in banality, but I think it has a huge potential. The fact that many years of writing in English now made me want to write in Italian resulted in Spazio HD, which I think has a really international sound to it. It could cause some curiosity abroad. From a musical point of view, I like the fact that the song is a spoken-word, very sensual but still very tormented. I think it’s maybe the song that represents the album more fully than any other for that reason.”

L: I think it’s emblematic that the only song in Italian you made not for an Italian audience but for everybody.

C: “If you think of Arca, an artist I admire, he just did an album in Spanish. Apart from being a stunning record, it turned out to be extremely marketable. It’s about bringing your tradition in the world, we can keep our language or sing in English and all, but in the end it’s a matter of sound and the idea that we are all connected.”

L: What do you think of the Italian music scene?

C: “I think there hasn’t been anything exportable in Italy lately because the sound today is not universal. Our traditional singer/songwriter,  acoustic guitar-driven style is very basic and popular, but at the same time I believe it doesn’t really have anything to do with the true Italian tradition. I don’t think making music is for everyone. At the end of the day it’s a matter of taste and if someone likes you and I don’t you are still legitimate, but there is a problem in the Italian music scene with the formula: once you find one everybody follows. I don’t accept artists who take over themes and lyrics just because they seem stick to an audience. We can talk about a diamond in ten thousand different ways because everyone is bound to see a different face, but if you start using the same words as somebody else just to be on the charts, that loses my interest.”

L: Cheeky question: what is your least favourite song on the record if any?

C: “There is not a single one. I wouldn’t have put it in the tracklist if I hadn’t liked it. What I wanted to do this time was to have a perfect tracklist that first and foremost I liked. Although there are many songs that didn’t make the cut. I think I have 3 more records in my hard disk.”

L: Describe the album with one colour.

C: “Old rose.”

L: If you could be a cocktail what would you be?

C: “It mustn’t be what I like because I don’t think it represents me….a Bloody Mary.”

Ecstasy is out now and available to stream and download everywhere, watch Light Year below.

Credit: La Tempesta

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