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Jean Grünewald: debut release & influences

Interview by @amoexuba
Jul 20, 2020
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Hi, Jean! It’s a pleasure to chat with you. How are you?

Pretty good, thank you. Lots of things are happening in the world right now. Of course it’s still a mess, but it gives hope on so many levels. Maybe we are doomed, but maybe we are not, and maybe at some point the world will start to be more egalitarian.

What are you doing during quarantine?

First I tried to keep a good mental health! Doing physical exercise, eating comfort food and having a bulimic consumption of culture.

Then I made lots of music. At the beginning it was very tough to focus with everything going crazy. But once that I was able to feel less stressed about the whole situation and about this “need of productivity”, that is probably inherent to our society, creating started becoming therapeutic again.

Can you describe the Montreal electronic scene?

Like the city, the scene is quite politicized and we often find the same faces at shows, so usually people know and respect each other.

For the clubbing/raving part, there are still some legal constraints: most clubs close at 3AM and it’s not rare to have a rave shut down by police. But Montreal electronic scene is solid, and there are a good amount of collectives and promoters that know what they are doing and where they are going (to name a few: Aussenwelt, Exposé Noir, Inner Circle, Octov, Snakes, Tech Me Out, La North...).

How did ottoman.grüw appear?

Thomas (the other member of ottoman.grüw) and I met at school and very quickly we became friends, especially because we were sharing the same love for Ed Banger Records (Justice, Mr Oizo, Boston Bun...). Then we discovered Techno, and we felt really inspired by what was surrounding this genre - a kind of mystical energy.

So we quickly bought some second-hand synthesizers and jammed together once or twice a week in a very cheap music studio built in my bedroom. We also started recording stuff without any idea about sound engineering, and honestly: I never enjoyed myself so much. After a while we created ottoman.grüw as we wanted to be a bit more “serious”, but hopefully it’s still very fun.

How did you come up with an idea to create an album under your real name?

I wanted to deliver something more personal, like “this is my statement and I want my name on it”. ottoman.grüw is very personal as well, but it’s the kind of music that you might want to listen while dancing, maybe on a weird and unknown liquid planet.

The album “Fin Du Monde Et Autres Réalités is maybe more to be listened eyes closed while reflecting about how everything seems to be falling apart.

How did the idea behind your album appear?

The idea came after the recording. To be honest, when I started it I had no idea where I was going. I was also less interested in experimental/electro-acoustic music than I am today.

So I was trying stuff in a very random way, without lots of historical knowledge about what has been done in this field.

But when I started working again on this album, enriched by 2 years of music listening (in 2 years you can listen to A LOT of different music) I was feeling something really contemporary going on, like a dystopian color, a disillusionment, but at the same time some hope hidden behind the ruins.

What is the story behind the production of an album?

The structure of every track has been live recorded in one shot.

I added to that several field-recordings of urban areas, that I slowed down or accelerated in order to create unusual sounds.

I also worked with sound deterioration processes like digital buffering (glitch) and also re-amplification, in order to give an impression of space, that will be distorted once again with surrounding effects.

I have also used several layers of the same sound with some synthesizers, but on lower or higher pitches, and have processed them differently. You basically have a very similar sound that your ears can recognize, but in fact its timbre and location within the spectrum is different. So it’s kind of a bizarre experience, because often your brain tries to recreate some frequencies that have been lost in between, and I somehow see some beauty in this.

The mastering was also part of the creative process. I have been doing lots of music in Montréal recently with my friend ROOM, and at some point when I asked him to do the mastering of “Fin Du Monde Et Autres Réalités” he was already having a good idea of what I wanted him to do. We also thought that some pioneers like Luciano Berrio or Luc Ferrari might be an interesting inspiration for how to enhance some textures, mixed with some Throbbing Gristle to give something gritty and industrial.

The artwork is made by my friend Jade Halloin, that I met this year during a class of research and creation in technological arts at Université de Montréal. She is a great artist because she really knows how to mix a disillusioned and almost boring reality with very profound and colorful dreams.

What gear are you using?

For this album is used an Analog Rytm, a MicroGranny, an audio recorder, a microphone, a couple of effects pedals and Ableton Live.

Your favorite movies and why?

Very tough question as well. Probably those that put me in the weirdest moods :

- “8 ½” from Fellini. Beautiful movie mixing the dreams of a depressed movie director and his chaotic reality.

- “Red Desert” from Antonioni. Very disturbing movie creating a bridge between industrialisation and mental insanity.

- It’s more of a 3 seasons-TV show with also 2 movies, but I will never get tired of “Twin Peaks” from David Lynch.

Your favorite books and why?

“Flowers for Algernon” of Daniel Keyes. First book that shook me straight in the guts. That’s the diary of someone mentally disabled that get cured and then get back to disability.

“Journey to the end of the night” of Céline. I know that Céline is a controversial author but this book is written in a very unusual way that is poetic and also full of humanity.

“Discipline and Punish” of Michel Foucault. This is the book that defined my conception of oppression, authority and hierarchy and that made me really wonder why is the “state” allowed to have a behaviour that most of the people are punished when having it.

What was your weirdest performance?

My weirdest performance was for a project where people were sitting in a big and dark room for 4 minutes and 33 seconds while listening to me breathing faster and faster in order to create a weird discomfort and an anxiety inducing sensation.

If you weren’t a musician who would you like to be?

I am really interested in space and astronomy so first I wanted to do something related to that, but I have always been really bad in mathematics...

So as I like spending time working alone probably research. Maybe in human sciences, like in cognitive or political/media-related sociology, or discourse analysis, semiotics… Or maybe even investigative reporter, in order to bring into light inappropriate behaviour from compagnies or politicians.

Thanks ♥️




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