CLIQUE TALK: Madeon, a world on turntables
“Madeon has a crazy way of seeing his work with incredible perspective.” At Sony, the compliments are piling up for this young prodigy, 20, who will release his album at the end of the March. The artist already has a few years of a career behind him, and an unnerving maturity.
Despite 30 hours without sleep, Hugo Leclercq, AKA Madeon, still has a sharp eye and a loose tongue. “I worked all night. I forgot the time, so I haven’t slept since yesterday morning. And when I wanted to go to bed, I remembered I had a train to catch”, he said, opening a bottle of water. He’s been stacking up interview hours since, without letting his tiredness show.
Nothing to fear, whatever happens: he has been able to work his fatigue to his favour.
“It’s kind of like a trance. I generally try to be intentional, meticulous and analytical in my music, and a lack of sleep disconnects me from this attitude to make me more spontaneous.”
This was his state of mind when he created Home, the final track on his album, Home. After 17 sleepless hours spent chasing inspiration, the young artist decided to describe his exhaustion, and finally found his missing notes.
In exceptional, delicious detail he uses a vocabulary as precise as it is complex to describe his music. He’s obviously at ease when asked about his stage name: “There’s no real meaning behind it. That’s kind of the point. I created it for people to interpret differently as time goes on. As it’s a word that doesn’t mean anything, it’s up to me to give it meaning, and so I didn’t want to trap myself in an overly-defined name. Personally, when I hear an artist’s name, I dive into a world of sensations, so that’s how I created my own name. That’s the true goal of words, to capture the inexpressible.”
As well as his music, Madeon gets involved with everything. He wrote the screenplay for his videos. He designed the cover for his first album, which comes out on 30 March. “I want to share the atmosphere I have in my head. That’s why I wanted to choose the images.”
His videos are mysterious and ethereal, halfway between a city and a desert. Just like a love of huge spaces, of two extremes. “I was fascinated by New York when I went there as a child”, he said. “I’m interested in the epic side of cities created by Man. I really like Tokyo, as well as loving the very particular Japanese culture.” Switching from crowds of people to the emptiness of the dunes is an obsession in his latest videos. “I love alternating between contemplation and the solitude of Nature, and the extensive social life possible in the city.”
He is familiar with this journey on a more personal level. He tours in the biggest cities, playing alongside the greats, before returning home to his family and friends in Nantes.
And the guy stays pragmatic. Instead of burning out like dozens of stars before him, he knew how to wait until the time was right. He didn’t say a thing to the media after the buzz of his Pop Culture mix, which saw him reach the summit of the internet and millions of views on YouTube at 17. He wanted to “wait until he had something to say”. While failing at school, he took the only open door: music.
“Music is the only balance I’ve had in my life. Even though I’m astonished every day, I don’t know what else I could have done. I even sabotaged my education so I wouldn’t have a choice. I have no qualifications, so there’s no risk of ending up in a bureaucratic job I’d hate.”
His sabotage is well-thought-out: bottle-fed of the Beatles, he quickly understood the importance of speaking English, and taught himself the language. His style has no borders, just like his generation.
“I don’t really feel like I belong to the French scene, even though I’ve been hugely influenced by French artists like Daft Punk and Justice. Today it’s more a question of style than geography. I’m in touch with American bands online, for example. My journey, my profile, my career wouldn’t have been possible without the internet and social networks. I’m both the fruit and the beneficiary of this era.”
Oh, and I almost forgot. The young man has also worked with Lady Gaga. He’s one of the few who can say so casually “we really got on well”. While on tour two years ago in the USA, member of the Pop Queen’s team offered him the chance to be Gaga’s supporting band on her American tour. He accepted without a second thought, and decided, “seeing as the opportunity was there”, to send her a few of his tracks. She contacted him a few days later. By the end of the year, three tracks on her album were co-produced by Madeon.
Gipsy was produced by Madeon.
His collaboration with Lady Gaga shows a wider taste for “artists who have an immense ambition to become stars.”
“There’s something impressive about creating a legend, about becoming a pillar of culture. It doesn’t interest me personally, I think you have to be a bit crazy to want that, but it fascinates me. There’s something magical about one billion people loving the same track. Individuals like Michael Jackson are the epitome of these shared tastes between people, uniting them together.”
He also smashes borders between styles. He’s already dreaming of working with Paul McCartney and Kanye West. “There are incredible bridges between electro and hip hop, both styles are really close. I love electronic textures in music, it’s been the most exciting area to explore over the last few years. There’s a crazy genius to it. I love matching imaginary sounds you can’t necessarily associate with anything tangible. But pop music is what speaks to me the most. The influence of the Beatles appears in a few of my tracks, actually.”
Madeon is a hard worker. He spends a crazy amount of time working both his music and his production. “I now see producing as an environment for music, whereas before, my tracks were almost an excuse for me to work on the production. Whatever happens, I’m trying to get involved with as many elements as possible in the Madeon project, from experimenting with the piano to designing the album cover.”
Madeon also has a playful side. He loves cryptography, the art of adding a secret dimension to his work. “Since 2012, I’ve been telling a story through messages hidden in my album sleeves, my disks and more recently in my videos. You can understand the nuances of the videos’ storylines if you read these coded messages,” he said. “I want to reward my audience for looking deeper. I like interacting with them. I try and reply to all of their letters, and to talk to them on social networks.”
The artist’s eyes widen when someone comes to tell him how many interviews he has left. And that’s just the start. He’s got a six-week tour of North America in the spring/summer, and the Coachella Music Festival in California is waiting for him in April. This will be his first chance to perform a solo show with his own music. He hopes to present his album in his own way. “I want it to be more electro, more upbeat.” But try and get some sleep, Madeon. From time to time. Just a bit.
The album “L’aventure” will be released on 30 March.