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Mondkopf Interview: “I would take a Robbie Basho album to a desert island”

The Paris-based composer talks to us about his sensational new LP, ‘Spring Stories’.

Paul Régimbeau has been producing music under the Mondkopf moniker for over two decades now.

From Toulouse and now based in Paris, Régimbeau arrived in 2009 with his debut, Galaxy of Nowhere. Incorporating maximalist sci-fi electro with Moderat-like euphoria, this followed on Mondkopf’s sophomore LP, 2011’s Rising Doom.

Hadès followed in 2014, which was a shift in tone and aesthetic. From this moment Régimbeau has pushed the envelope with each of his releases, inching closer to the immediate core of drone, spearheaded 2019’s How Deep Is Out Love and The Day He Lost It which followed a year later.

An undoubted student of metal (a quick Google search will have you find Régimbeau sporting an Eyehategod T-shit), in many ways his creations of the past lead to Spring Stories. The latest Mondkopf triumph.  

An album inspired by drone overlords Sunn O))) and Earth, Spring Stories is arguably Régimbeau finest moment yet. So far removed from his previous body of work, to the point where no artist so far this year has made a greater creative leap.

Featuring appearances from Frederic D. Oberland and The Necks percussionist, Tony Buck, Spring Stories tells a story of the last two years. Chaos in solitude with a vast range of emotions laid bare during these five compositions.

The amplifier worship starts with Elevation. Wasteland drone that leads into the sublime walls of sound of Phased Harmony I and later with Phased Harmony II.

While the beautifully titled Through the Storm, In Your Arms is like drone tailor-made for cinema, it all leads to the blistering heaviness of closing composition, Continuation. Searing tonality and ungodly vibrations that feel like you’re in the epicentre of an earthquake.

There have been a plethora of good drones records in 2022, but none have captured the raw intensity of Spring Stories. A record that feels like it takes drone to its logical conclusion, and a beautiful addition to the Mondkopf canon.

Ahead its release via the Berlin-based label, Miasmah Recordings, we asked Régimbeau some questions about Spring Stories, his process, and his journey as an experimental artist.

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Sun 13: Can you tell us the writing and recording process of Spring Stories?

Paul Régimbeau: “Like everyone else, I was stuck at home during the pandemic and its repeated confinements. I’ve always been used to create my albums at home in my home studio, so nothing fundamentally changed in my process and that was my little misfortune because I had reached the end of this way of doing things, I was tired of creating at home, I was thinking bigger for my next album. But the desire to make music was strong and I couldn’t wait for the moment when I could finally leave my house to start creating.

“So I had the opportunity to buy an electric guitar, some effects pedals and I started to learn by myself how to play it. At the same time I built a small modular system. A few months passed before I recorded anything. Then one day I plugged everything into my sound card and spent a few days recording my improvisations. I set up a drone generated by my modular and just played over it. Nothing was edited. Then, because I felt that something was missing in some places, I invited Stéphane Pigneul and Frédéric D. Oberland from Oiseaux-Tempête and Tony Buck from The Necks to play on some tracks. For the last song, I played the guitar on an improvisation by Tony.”

S13: Who and what were the influences behind the record?

PR: “I may do electronic music, but I’m a big fan of guitar based music like folk and metal. I would take a Robbie Basho album to a desert island. I also discovered a few years ago master Wilburn Burchette, I love his style, very esoteric while he was I think very Christian. Earth and Sunn O))) are obviously important influences in the drone and big guitar aspect of my music. I also listen a lot to the albums of Norman Westberg, the guitarist of the Swans, he makes solo music much more calm and soothing than when he is in a band. Daniel Bachman is also one of my favourite guitarist right now.

“On the drone side, Sarah Davachi make beautiful music that really inspire me I think. I obviously listened a lot to The Necks and I thought it was finally the right time to contact Tony Buck the drummer of the trio to ask him to do a collaboration. The pandemic influenced me in the sense that I didn’t have access to the outside world to get inspiration, to go out and record sounds or to go to other people’s houses. I had to do everything at home as usual but I had to renew myself even more. So I decided to make an album very simply in a more intimate way and I wanted especially that we could feel this intimacy in the recording. It’s nothing else than me playing guitar on a drone.”

Mondkopf (photo credit: Frédérd D. Oberland)

S13: I’ve always found your compositions lean towards visceral side of electronica, and drones have always featured in your work; however, here they are the central idea. Did it feel like this when you were making Spring Stories?

PR: “Indeed. My main idea was: I launch a drone that I modulate and I play the guitar at the same time. It’s a bit like a lot of contemporary minimalist music where you improvise around a scale. The mind wanders but stays in a kind of constant trance. It’s also a way for me to tame the guitar which is a new instrument for me to play and yet probably one of my favourites.”

S13: Certain instrumental compositions evoke a real drama, which is what strikes me about Spring Stories. Particular with something like Through the Storm, In Your Arms. Was this something you were thinking about?

PR: “This track is the only one where I looped live and the chord progression I found to play on this loop is indeed very dramatic as well as the accumulation of distortion as the track progresses. I really felt swept away by every detail I added live and it felt like I was in an uncontrollable storm and had to tame or at least hold the cape in there. I never plan in advance the dramaturgy that a piece will have, I prefer to let myself be carried away by what comes to me in real time. I let myself be surprised in order to have a kind of virgin listener relationship with my own music.”

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S13: I think there’s a real spatial element to these compositions, which isn’t really something widespread when talking about drone as a whole. Was it a case of employing some of the sounds of your previous records and melding them together with the core idea of drone?

PR: “I think this record is really unique in my discography, there is a track on my album Hadès named Absences that it could be a premise of this album. I’m not really think about my previous album when I do a new one. But if you mean spatial like space then I think I have always been obsessed by the vast and the epicness the space can offer and a drone could be a metaphor of the dilatation of space and time you could feel up there…”

Mondkopf - Spring Stories

S13: Continuation is such an emphatic ending to the record. It also has some eastern influences as well. What do you remember about writing and recording this song?

PR: “I’m a fan of The Necks, and I love Tony Buck’s work in his various projects. Having a few friends in common, I took the liberty of contacting him and proposing a sort of long distance collaboration. So I was guided by an improvisation he sent me. And then I found that the piece was not swarming enough so I asked Frederic to join the piece with saxophone, which he did in an epic way I think! And it wasn’t easy because I make scale changes that can take you by surprise. That is because I’m only playing by ear, I don’t know the neck of a guitar very well yet. Maybe that’s also what gives the oriental influence feeling? The song plays between a heavy and opaque atmosphere and something more luminous. That’s the kind of contrast I’m trying to make in my music.”

S13: With your body of work, I’ve always felt that you’ve had the unique ability to create new worlds. Do you see yourself as a world builder?

PR: “’World builder’ sounds epic (laughs). But my first albums are indeed probably like worlds where a story is being woven. My last three albums I would say are more like landscapes where the listener can get lost. No path is really drawn by a musical composition thought as such and ordered. I like to be immersed in music, for me each sound texture is a material out of a mental world, and I hope that the listener can share mine and contemplate his own imagination as well.”

Mondkopf (photo credit: Frédérd D. Oberland)

S13: How did the collaboration with Miasmah come about?

PR: “First of all, I am a big fan of the label, I listen to every release with great interest. Then I had the opportunity to meet Erik K. Skodvin when Frédéric and I invited him to play for a party of our label Nahal Recordings at Instants Chavirés. We got along well and then a pandemic later, I wanted to make Erik listen to a first cut of the album to have his opinion on it because I saw some links with the music he could release on Miasmah. His feedback helped me to finalise the album and to send it back to him. His words about my music and his enthusiasm to release the album on his label touched me a lot.

S13: You’ve been creating for a long time now. What are the key ideas behind your approach to making music?

PR: “Having some ideas in mind but letting myself be surprised, and first and foremost keep listening to what I feel and want. Collaborating with other artists has also been very important to broaden my vision of things.”

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S13: And what about your sense of identity. How much does it influence your creativity?

PR: “I have only one identity in life, but I believe that music allows me to create other identities and maybe more pronounced ones. Music is a vast language to express emotions, I can’t contain myself in a particular style because it would limit me in this expression.”

S13: Are there any plans to play these songs live?

PR: “No plans for the moment, I’m a bit afraid to be alone with a guitar on stage, but the desire is there! And these next months will be busy with a tour that is being prepared with Oiseaux-Tempête, a band that I joined about six years ago. I also made the soundtrack of a contemporary dance show for which I play live too.”

Spring Stories is out via Miasmah Recordings. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

3 replies on “Mondkopf Interview: “I would take a Robbie Basho album to a desert island””

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