Tragedy, melancholy, mystery: An interview with December
Adopting the December alias for his debut 12” on Blackest Ever Black, the Parisian wizard Tomas More found a perfect fit for his slow and moody techno cuts. Fast forward a few years and More has released recordings across a variety of labels, each record seeming to naturally follow upon the last. Much of December’s music manages to make the most out of minimal drum patterns – partly a nod to primitive early 80s industrial and a testament to his ability to craft dance music that is interesting, yet often intrinsically simplistic. December has recently been focusing on utilising his own voice and adding another layer to his sound in the process, a new direction which he has recently debuted on a 12” for Helena Hauff’s Return to Disorder imprint. December will be playing at Rokolectiv Festival in Bucharest on Saturday, 21 April.
Can you talk about the genesis of your project December – what preceded it and how it amalgamated?
I had a kind of a creative block for a while five or six years ago. It actually lasted for quite a long time and I decided to stop trying to make tracks for a year or so. I was just making music without editing anything, looking for a sound that would excite me again, something that would be a coherent and personal evolution to what I was doing before. I wanted to dive deeper into my obsessions and to try things I hadn’t dared to before. And the first day of December arrived, and I felt ready, something made sense again.
You said in one interview: “I’m often trying to re-create personal moments to feed my music with.” Can you elaborate? Also, are there any concrete re-creations that you could mention on specific tracks?
Emotions don’t always wait for you to be in the studio to guide your inspiration. I’m sometimes trying to fight against the famous “blank page” feeling by thinking about an event, a word, an image that struck me recently, a strong feeling that moved me, a scene that pulled an intimate string inside of me, focusing on what I could do with it musically. It doesn’t mean I’ll use music as an illustration, but more as a note, a raw imprint of something I wasn’t able to express with words. Like a drawing.
Compared to your Blackest Ever Black record, the latest one on Helena Hauff’s Return to Disorder label steers towards the dance floor. While on BEB you were introspective and mellow, 64 Ways To Rob A Friend is brazen and direct. Is this a natural evolution of your sound?
No, it’s not. And I’m actually currently recording “weirder” things, even though I don’t like to categorise music like this – music not meant to be played by DJ’s, if it was the point of the question. But in the beginning, I had to dive into unknown territories and more introspective sounds first, to look for what could be the core of my sound, the general atmosphere, before making more “functional” tracks.
It also took time to use my voice in a more direct way and sing. And paradoxically, being more comfortable with my voice helped me to move towards more club-oriented tracks. To finally accomplish that old dream of making making primal techno songs, a bit like on my last EP (64 Ways To Rob A Friend). Now I’m trying to make slower, calmer, more melodic tracks, and to build them like “songs” (even if it’s still pretty far from being actual songs…)
Can you talk about some of the inspirations behind the project?
My main inspirations have always pretty much stayed the same. A minimalistic, melancholic, repetitive, naïve and dark approach to club music.
Films have also always been very decisive. I studied cinema and I work on a film festival for a part of the year. Images have been as present as sounds in my aesthetical approach to music. Visceral and radical ways of making films have always fascinated me. Bresson, Costa, Akerman or Weerasethakul have always influenced me, in different ways. Their stripped-down approach and obsession for what we cannot see had a huge impact on me.
The emo/cold/dark imagery is a key element of what I do, too. I like these simple and naïve feelings they celebrate: tragedy, melancholy, mystery. I don’t know why I’ve always reacted way stronger to dark and cold atmospheres than shiny and positive ones.
How do you make your music? Can you talk a little bit about your production methods? And what importance does the voice have in your productions?
I produce mainly on software. I’ve learned to make music this way and I like it. I don’t really like technical theories and topics, I like sounds, wherever they come from.
The industrial, EBM-tinged music has been experiencing a revival. Do you think it also reflects something in society at large (originally, this music was made during the last decade of Cold War with all its dualistic polarisations and tensions)?
Music and genres have always been cyclical I think and once we had too much of a movement that we ate it to the bone, we look for new influences. The 80’s/90’s industrial and dark electronics revival that is happening now must be the answer to the previous one and I feel that it has always been a kind of a back-and-forth game in musical movements and scenes. Fashion is a key factor in these episodes too and we can witness it especially these days. But it is also a reaction to society, obviously. We live in an extremely violent system that tries to keep a smiley and liberal face. Dark and brutal Art is the most logical reaction to it.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my next EP, which will probably be in a pretty similar spirit as the one for Helena Hauff’s label I just released a few weeks ago. Focused on the use of my voice and pretty physical, direct beats. I’m also starting to record more abstract tracks again as I said in the beginning of this interview – less beats, more silence and melodies, more mystery. We’ll see where it goes.