French hip-hop/trip-hop/downtempo producer Wax Tailor has been on a steady ascent since his days releasing work as a part of the group La Formule. He started using the Wax Tailor moniker in 2001 and last month he released his third full length album, In The Mood For Life. This week RapReviews caught up with Wax Tailor to find out more about the project, how his everyday life at the time of its writing and recording played a major role in it, why he uses guest appearances sparingly, and what excites him musically in 2009.
Adam Bernard: Let’s start by talking about your latest album, In The Mood For Life. When you sat down to make it where were you mentally and emotionally? What were you looking to put into these tracks?
Wax Tailor: It was the moment when I had just handed in the second album, Hope & Sorrow. In my mind I was already thinking about this new album. What I had in mind was about the code arrangements because I think it was the point I was really upset about. I think I wasn’t ready, or really professional, about the recording for these kinds of things and I really wanted to mix some sampling elements and some code arrangements. I’d been working a lot on this; searching, hearing, listening to a lot of albums, trying to understand how I could make it. I’d been searching for the right tools, for the right sound engineers, the right studio, the right musicians, and finally the writing. It was a bit different for me because when you go this way it’s very different and I think in the end this album is a bit different because it’s more harmonic and at the same time it’s orchestral.
AB: When you listen to the record what do you, personally, get out of it?
WT: What is funny is that a lot of people who have talked with me about this album have said it’s more positive. That’s not exactly how I feel. I feel more like there is a kind of energy and the synergy for me is more about the feeling I had while I was doing it and it was more about, I wouldn’t say hunger, but a kind of struggle I felt every day. I really had this in mind and when I listen to this album I think, maybe because I know it from behind, about the energy I had and the feeling I had, because the cycle of In The Mood For Life is not a very happy thing, it’s more being able to struggle every morning about life.
AB: It’s interesting the way you just described it because the cover image has a man underneath an umbrella in perfect weather with the exception of right around the umbrella, where it’s pouring.
WT: I was searching for a kind of symbol of this. You have a character, he’s walking, it’s very shiny and sunny everywhere, but it’s raining under his umbrella. It’s like a very bad, unlucky, guy, and at the same time he’s just watching it fall, he’s not like “I’m unlucky, I’m unlucky,” it’s more like “OK, that won’t stop me.” That’s exactly what I had in mind.
AB: For this album you once again work with Charlotte Savary, whom I absolutely love. She actually reminds me a little bit of Emilie Simon. How did you originally link up with her and why do you feel you two work so well together?
WT: She was preparing an album six or seven years ago with a band and a friend of mine was producing it, so I just met her like that. I came a few times to the studio and she was really cool, I had a good feeling with her. That was the same moment I was preparing my first EP, so I had the idea of trying a different version of a track with her. It was really cool and after that I just proposed to invite her on the first album. I realized that we were very linked about special moods, like melancholy songs, and each time I get a kind of melancholy track I don’t even think about who I could work with, I just think of her.
AB: Do you gel with artists easily, or do you find it hard to find people to work with?
WT: It’s not too difficult, but I try to be careful about the featuring. You know, as a lot of people, about name dropping and things like that and because of what happened on the second album it was quite easy to have some supposed big name. The people I work with in the record industry, they tried to do it this way, like “maybe you could connect with this guy or these guys,” just because it’s going to help in selling an album. From my point of view, though, it’s not true, because I think the people feel when it’s true or not. Sometimes, for sure, you can have some fake featuring and that works, but most of the time the people don’t share anything, they don’t have any conviction about what they do, so I try to be really careful about that. That’s the only thing, except that’s not so complicated because I try to work with people with a specific idea. I never send five or six tracks to an artist saying just choose one track, I just send a track saying I got a specific idea that fits this song and I want you to sing, here’s the mood, etc., and in the end it’s just a yes or no, that’s all.
AB: I can’t stand when you look at the back of an album and can tell there are a slew of guest appearances that were done solely to sell the album in certain markets. I was actually just having a discussion with some friends of mine about this. I was telling them about some emcees that are really dope but they didn’t want to hear it, they wanted someone “major.”
WT: Yeah, the problem is a lot of people in the industry think like that. They don’t realize the people that buy a Kanye West album don’t care about a Kanye West feature on just one track. There is nothing to share on this kind of thing. I think it’s really important to think sensibly.
AB: A lot of “producers” have popped up over the past few years thanks to computer programs that make it easy to be mediocre. What are your thoughts on the scene becoming so crowded? Does it make it more difficult for the great artists to be heard, or do they stand so far head and shoulders above the pack they become even more obvious than before?
WT: I think it depends. We have more and more tools and at the same time there are more and more people and I think we both know a lot of people say they are producers and in the end it doesn’t mean a lot. It’s not so easy for the reasons you talk about, but at the same time I think, I don’t know how to translate it exactly, but it’s also a way to be sure about the people who really want to go on. I know a lot of people who say “it’s too complicated” and I just think it’s impossible for me to do something else.
AB: What’s getting you excited musically at the end of 2009?
WT: I like the idea of past and future at the same time. In ’94 I bought some equipment, like an Ensoniq Sampler. Fifteen years after I’m still using this stuff, but I definitely don’t work the way I was doing it fifteen years ago because I also have some tools from 2009 and I like the idea of mixing those elements. I think it’s the same for a lot of things. Sometimes I think we’re in a very bad period about the music industry, but at the same time we have crazy tunes we’ve never had, so you have two ways to think of it; being very negative and thinking about the bad aspects, or just trying to convene and thinking let’s use the best of both worlds and do the best we can. The latter is the way I try to work right now.
AB: Do you feel you’re living the dream, or do you have another goal, perhaps not even music related, that you have left to accomplish?
WT: Well, there are a lot of things left to accomplish, one I’ve had in mind for a long time is making an original soundtrack. I made an original soundtrack for a documentary movie four years ago and I got a lot of proposals from that, but the problem is more about the schedule because half the time I’m in the studio for my album and the rest I’m on the road. I’m also a manager and producer, so I’ve got a lot of work, but I think after this tour, maybe if I have a good offer on a project I’m excited about, that will be my next goal.