20 Questions With M83: ‘Emails, Socials, My Phone, They Are My Worst Enemies — My Imagination Saves Me From Turning Insane’

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It’s been a busy year for M83, and it’s not done yet. After releasing his ninth studio album, Fantasy, this past March, the French musician has been on the road with his band for a 30-date spring and summer run in the U.S., Europe and Mexico, immersing audiences in the lush, cerebral, often thrilling dream pop that’s made the artist, born Anthony Gonzalez, a revered figure since his 2000s breakthrough (and particularly the release of the 2011 classic Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming).

The fall leg of the Fantasy tour launched last night (Oct. 3) in Tacoma, Wash. and extends through mid-month with dates throughout the Pacific Northwest, California, Nevada and a final show at Austin City Limits on Oct. 15.

Amidst praise for the new album — 13 tracks of transportive, deep, pretty and emotionally evocative music — Gonzalez has also gotten attention for the monster mask he’s wearing on the cover art and in all the promotional materials, a slightly scary but now seasonally appropriate guise he says is “a way of hiding myself from the world.”

He did, however, hit a wave of unwanted attention after a March interview in which he said that “EDM is probably one of the styles of music that I hate the most,” expressing disdain that his era-defining hit “Midnight City” is so often played by “these bro EDM DJs.” Gonzalez later clarified, releasing a statement that “I do not hate the EDM community. No! I am forever grateful for the love and support,” but adding that he does hate “DJs using my music without any permission.”

Here, Gonzalez shares if any DJs have asked for this permission, why he’s more comfortable in the monster mask and why he doesn’t believe in guilty pleasure music.

1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?

Just arrived in Seattle to start the last leg of the Fantasy tour. I always loved this city. It feels like Seattle has a soul and spirit that is highly inspiring.

2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?

A cassette of the album Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden, which was sold to me by my brother’s friend Fred. I was immediately attracted by the fantastical cover art and the sound that felt like discovering a new planet. I was 10 years old and suddenly hooked to rock music.

3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do or did they think of what you do for a living now?

My mum was the owner of a very cute little fabric store in the heart of Antibes old town, while my dad was a police inspector. Neither of them had anything to do with music, though my mother always pushed my brother and I to play a musical instrument. I feel extremely lucky that my parents always supported us in our choice of being a musician and a movie director. We always had the freedom to do what we liked. 

4. What’s the first non-gear thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?

I actually don’t remember buying anything but musical instruments when I started to earn money with my music. It has always been my sole obsession.

5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into electronic music, what would you give them?

I think it would be a Tangerine Dream album called Phaedra. It’s a dark but rewarding album that takes you on a journey to very strange places. One of my very first shocks as a teenager listening to electronic music.

6. What’s the last song you listened to?

Pygmy Love Song” by Francis Bebey. 

7. You’ve been on the road behind Fantasy since April. Has there been anything surprising or particularly interesting to you about the way the album has come to life in the live setting?

To me, it’s the team I’ve put together for the tour that keeps me wanting to play more. I love my band and crew. They always have my back and they keep inspiring me every night on stage. I don’t think I could have done it without them.

8. I understand you’re about to release “Mirror,” the unreleased Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming-era track. Why, and why is this the right time?

Simply because it’s a track that never came out digitally and we close our shows with that song. The response of the audience has been great so far, and it’s an unknown song that deserves to be properly released in my opinion.

9. The creature that’s on the cover of Fantasy and in a lot of your promotional materials for it — what is that creature? What motivates it? Why does it represent this album?

It’s a way of hiding myself from the world. I absolutely hate seeing me. It’s starting to scare me to know that so many photos and videos of me are online. Ideally I would like to be able to have control over such images, but it’s just practically impossible. So I choose to protect myself and just fight to make sure that my music stays the main protagonist in what I do. 

10. You wrote on social media that “I want to keep having fantasies about worlds that I don’t know and creatures I don’t understand, and that’s the story behind this record.” Unpack that a bit more for us — have you kept having those fantasies? Why is this important to you?

I’m just a dreamer, and anything related to being an adult in a modern world is boring and terrifying to me. The ultra-connected aspect of our society is making life more stressful. Emails, socials, my phone, they are all my worst enemies. My imagination saves me from turning insane with it all. Music helps a lot.

11. Based on things you’ve said in previous interviews, it sounds like you’re ready to move away from Los Angeles. What did the city give you while you were there? Why is it time to leave?

I’m not gone yet, but I’m seriously considering it. L.A. will always be the city of dreams for me. When I moved here almost 15years ago I felt like anything was possible. It really helped me to be a better artist by allowing me to be close to more talented and successful people than me. In that way it pushed me to be a stronger person and to work more.

But I miss France a lot, my family and friends, my culture and my roots. I’m lucky that I can share my time between California and France, even though traveling has become more and more difficult. A lot has changed in 15 years, and not in a good way. Just going to an airport now is such an exhausting and draining experience.

12. What are you seeking elsewhere?

Peace of mind. A quiet life making music close to my loved ones, far from the noise and superficiality of a big megalopolis like Los Angeles. 

13. You made headlines around the release of Fantasy with some comments about EDM and about how you wish DJs would ask permission before playing your music. Have any since asked for that permission? If so, did you grant it?

A few have asked yes, and I thank them for it. Of course I grant it. I know that DJs helped my music to be more popular, and I’m thankful for it. It’s just a different world with different rules. I have to learn to let go sometimes. 

14. But, surely there are DJs who play other peoples’ music that you enjoy. Maybe? Was there a particularly great set you’ve been to recently?

I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a DJ, no. It’s not my culture and [I’ve] never been attracted to the club scene.

15. What’s one song you wish you had written?

None. I’ve never been envious of anyone. I have respect yes, and there are so many artists that I love to death, but that’s all. I believe we need to accept that some artists are more talented and successful than yourself. So many songs and albums move me in a very deep way, but even so I never wished to be someone else. I’m already trying to accept myself as an artist, which is an extremely difficult process to me.

16. Do you have guilty pleasure music?

No, I don’t like this expression of guilty pleasure. If you get pleasure listening to something then it’s just good!

17. The proudest moment of your career thus far?

Being myself and making the records I want. 

18. What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?

I hate the word “business.” I don’t like talking about success, money etc. Being able to make music is a gift, and that’s all I care about.

19. Who was your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?

Justin Meldal-Johnsen. Moving to L.A. and meeting him was a blessing. He helped me find myself in so many ways. I always go to him when I need guidance. He’s like a brother to me, and I love the fact that he always says what he thinks, even when it hurts. 

20. One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Be happy, music is cool.

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