Artist of the week

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Life in a Box is the musical project of Fabien Dortel, a french electronica producer.

Who are you?

Hi i'm a french electronica producer and my musical project is called « Life in a box ». I'm not used to answering interviews, but there's a first time for everything !
- Why did you choose this pseudonym?
Hum, it's quite hard to explain, let's try. I found the name « Life in a box » during a night of the year 2008 : it emerged from nothing and i realize now it perfectly fit with my way of conceiving music creation. « Life » is what i aspire to infuse in my music, through simple melodies, evolving like living things through geological eras or like a particular organism that is born, lives and dies. The creative process is always characterized by trial and error, adaptations, until you reach the point where the song is an entire thing, coherent and full of sense. Consisting of simple sounds, drums, timbres, like the elementary building blocks of life, the DNA, the song becomes, through a process of emergence, a being by itself... « the whole is more than the sum of its parts ». The « box » is either the human brain (mine or the one of the listener) or the machine i principally use to produce music, or every boxes that contain atoms, cells, living things, planets, concepts or anything else . Well, i didn't think i could explain it in a few lines !
When did you start to play this music?
Well, i started playing the piano at the age of 7 and during 10 years after that. But the studies kept me away from music and i realized i missed it a lot. I decided to create my own songs on the piano (i was hiding from my parents and played my creations alone, maybe due to bashfulness). And i discovered home studio in 2006 with Fruity loops and never stopped creating music since then. It became an important element of my personal balance.
-Talking about the compositions of your songs: how and where they born?
Like a living thing, a composition begins in a very simple way : some little melodic or rhythmic loops, or even a background soundscape that gives me the mood, the skeleton, the elementary parts of the finalized track. The difference with a living thing is that there is no predefined intention or comprehensive plan, but a simple frame where my mind rambles. i'm very influenced, mostly unconsciously, by all the music i've listened to, a few days/weeks or years before i create a new track. i usually listen to the different « work in progress » versions many many times, to soak my brain with the track, and i take several pauses of a few days, to make it « decant ». it helps me to sort between the essential (the evidence) and the accessory (my first versions are often « overloaded » because i explore many possible paths from the elementary parts)... little by little, a « destiny » emerges and the story is told.
- How would you define your sound?
Melodic, Chill-out, epic, peaceful, melancholic... are some of the adjectives i find in the soundcloud comments (someone even told me my music was « mind-expanding » : great compliment!)... I'm used to say i try to compose experimental pop.
-What genres and artists influenced your music the most?
When i started producing music, my musical culture was very poor, but i think i've always been attracted by making my own melodies. The first feedback on my tracks was : « cool, it's like early autechre » or « not so bad, aphex style » or « reminds me plaid or boards of canada »... to be honest, I discovered these great artists thanks to those first comments and, when i first listened to these compositions i told to myself : "the best sounds i've ever heard, it's 100 times better than my tracks, i'll need 250 years to reach it "^^ . But i recognized some similarities that helped me understand why my first listeners have established a link between my music and the musical approach of these artists. Since 2008, i've discovered a huge amount of IDM and electronica artists and among them, i find it very hard to write a restrictive list of my influences... let's try anyway : Kelpe, Kettel, Boards of Canada, Plaid, Ochre, Lusine, Apparat, Alva Noto, Steve Reich.... Recently I think my sounds are taking new directions, with more real sounds from my friends who are « real musicians », great collaborations with Lisa McKeon, the singer you hear in "Etendue des Possibles", and some groovy stuff.
-You come from Nantes, France. What do you think about the music coming from your country and how how do you see yourself in relation to them?
It's quite an hard question..i've never understood what was the « french touch ». To me, music is universal and I always find something interesting, whatever the style or the origin. I'm particularly sensitive to counterpoint, arpeggios, melodies and complex rhythms, exotic sonorities and soundscapes, pads, glitches and sound design, merging of real and virtual sounds, all that makes music come to life and arouses emotion.. There are always at least one of these elements in all musical styles... i only try to propose my own retranscription of these elements, putting them together. Electronica is, to me, a style that deserves to be more popular, a style which gathers such a big amount of musical influences... after reasoning, Electronica is not a style, it's a state of mind, open to the world, without frontiers or priorities : The codes exist but they're designed to be broken.
-What's your favourite artist and song?
If you allow me to mention 2 songs, i'd say :
Kaini industries by Boards of canada : one of their most minimal tracks, only consisting of a little arpeggio loop, but so complex at the same time and opened to multiple possiblities. Bibio has explored some of these possiblities in a beautiful reworked track for Warp records 20 years box (recreated).
Herzog by Clark : very powerful yet incredibly melodic track, both dark and surprisingly shiny, so cleverly « sound-shaped », a total journey.
-Who do you think are the most relevant musicians nowadays and who are you listening to the most?
I assume they are the same artists ^^ + i've recently discovered an artist called flaKo, very original (usually i don't like house style but he's quite unique in that genre, so many influences). The tracks i've listened to most during the few past weeks are by Ventolyn & Becotyde, a young producer to whom i wish a great future ! Very interesting sounds. The last Jon Hopkins, Lusine and Bonobo are really excellent, too ! Floex is also a very, very interesting artist. And obviously, i'm very looking forward to listen the forthcoming album by Boards of canada « Tomorrows harvest ».
-If you could pick an artist or a band to play with on a stage, who would you choose?
It will never happen but...maybe singers like Björk or Thom York (or both together^^)!
-What do you think about the music industry nowadays?
It's in deep mutation (i don't teach you anything). Music is no longer mainly a product or an industry but becomes what it should always have been : a legal, free and safe drug, contributing to humanity's evolution, a vital need like water and air, what the world needs. Money is only a way to thank the artist when he/she succeeds to arouse a positive emotion, to awaken an old happy memory. A simple friendly word can be even more rewarding !
Creative commons are the musical revolution. Bad Panda, that releases a huge number of artists for free, are definitely one of the first promotors of this (not so) new way to connect artists and listeners
-What is the message that you'd like to express to the people who listen to your music?
Music is life ! Spread it !!
-How and where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
Let's wait and see... there are so many paths to follow and so little time to explore them all... just follow the stream and your mood : make your choices when they become obvious and hope you'll reach a sunny bay, with all the people that matter to you and who have accompanied you on the way. To me, creating music follows exactly the same process.
-Pc or Mac?
Metaphysical question ! both
-What about your future plans? Album, EP, Live ecc
I plan the release of a full album in a few month ! You'll find new collaboration tracks and quite a big amount of songs that are close to my heart. The album will be called « Holon ». i prepare a Live too but never played in front of a "real" public yet. Live production is a different approach and i have to work hard, but it's worth doing so 
-Beatles or Rolling Stones? 
Beach boys (melodic kings)