Name: Abraham Fogg
Members: Grégoire Vaillant (G.), Charles-Edouard Dangelser (C.)
Occupation: Producers, multi-media artists
Nationality: French
Current release: Abraham Fogg's Blåkulla is out via ZNPRK.   

If you enjoyed this interview with Abraham Fogg, visit their official homepage for more information. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?

C. Personally the impulse to create comes primarily from interactions with others.

There is nothing better than being around a table, discussing and bouncing ideas around. Only then does the integration of inspiration from photos, movies, paintings come to shape and bring an idea, a script or any concept to life.

G. When creating stuff is your everyday life, everything can become an input. Your sensitivity is more easily triggered when working on a project.

Usually I immerge myself in a theme, I like to close doors early on in the creative process. For Blåkulla I read and watched anything I could find about witchcraft. I met a historian called Maxime Perbellini, a druid, a contemporary performer called Olivier de Sagazan, young and older feminists. I take notes, develop a concept and I usually write a screenplay or story fragments. It’s a really fun process.

During this time I had a nightmare that literally became the screenplay of our short film “Hypnosis”.

For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?

G. There are different phases. I usually have to put myself in action to provoke « visualisations ». In music for exemple, I need to go play some piano for a bit or do random stuff on synths and drum machines usually to trigger an idea.

For screenplays, it’s kind of the same. I have to start writing to provoke these kinds of visualisations. I see it like opening doors, or muscling up the creative brain.

C. I think it is very important to know were you want to go, what you want to achieve in order to not get lost in the process. But there is a fine balance to find between planning and improvisation. If you don’t leave the door open to unplanned elements you will loose some kind of magic that only happens when you don’t have control over everything.

Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?

C. Everything is usually set up and ready to go. I like to just jump into it without a warmup. I find it more organic.

G. I like to plan a particular setup for a particular project. I need to « refresh » the context regularly to clear my mind. It can go from changing locations to write, re-organising my studio, taking a shower and changing my clothes in the middle of the day, going for a walk to catch random situations on the street, getting a new haircut or using a new tool.

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?

G. I personally need to be kind of « bored » and free from day-to-day life. So I usually authorise myself to procrastinate a bit, calm down, read stuff, exercise or trick my brain to make it think that I’m on holiday. I need a calm environment and silence to be most efficient.

I’m very sensitive to lighting, so I’m usually more inspired in the “golden hour”. I’m also better when I’ve slept well and eaten healthy food, like everyone else I guess.

C. Set and settings are extremely important when it comes to creating. Meditation and breathing exercices help me fully disconnect to start froming an empty slate when I want to focus on creating.

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

G. I’m really not afraid of the white page. I love it actually. I even tried recently to be a little more patient with my ideas before writing them down, taking the time to put everything in order in my mind before going for it.

C. Usually I feel that the first complete draft is done pretty quickly. What takes more time is the reworks to perfect and adjust the first draft.

Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?

C. It usually comes very naturally and without forcing the process. The best is when we work side by side in complete synesthesia. In those setups we can be extremely productive.

G. Everything resides for me in finding or provoking the « Aha! » moment. When it comes, I usually get a very long drive. If there is no interruption, we can work non-stop for 10 hours without feeling any need to drink or eat. It’s not very healthy.

When I was younger I thought these moments would rarely come so I was very protective about them. I would totally isolate myself and go for it in extreme ways. Now that I am bit more mature and confident, I know that these moments always come, and that I can have a healthier life with friends, sleep and proper eating.

Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?

G. It’s quite a disturbing feeling, actually. I’m a very rational guy, but as I get older, I’m more and more fascinated by it.

When you write a story, or a string orchestration, it’s kind of the same thing: there is an enormous amount of knowledge, rules, tricks, constraints that you chose to obey or not. It’s like designing your own labyrinth. And there is always a moment where you find a clear and logical path that feels totally right. Everything needs to be in this order, with this logic for all things to be finished. It’s usually very exciting when it happens.

And yes, as strange as it sounds, you have this sense of being guided, as though there were no other possible choices.

Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?

G. I think it’s often due to working over a long period of time. When you have very short deadlines, your brain finds more direct ways, and you can’t look back. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes not.

When you work on an album or soundtracks, you have all the time in the world to doubt, even sometimes change your personal tastes a bit. Doubting is very dangerous in our area of work. If you have new tools, new obsessions, it becomes very difficult not to go back and « rework » things. Everything we do is very subjective. The most difficult thing is being able to keep your original intuition and to stick to it for coherence, while still having refreshing ideas and not being too stubborn or lazy about what you’ve produced before.

For screenplays, you have to always come back to it and not be too attached to your visions, because everything is going to shift. You have to make it work within a budget. You’ll meet actors and actresses that will change the incarnation of your ideal persona. You’ll have to chose many things in the real world that will progressively twist your original vision .

Writing screenplays helped me a lot in the way I produce music now. You have to be like water, always on the same path but able to change direction when it’s needed. I love this state of permanent improvisation while following a general plan, it’s very stimulating.

There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?

C. When I enter the creative state, I feel extremely happy and often experience strong adrenaline rushes. It can be overwhelming for short periods of time but I learned to manage it and it’s overall a very positive feeling.

G. I would describe it as a sort of state of trance.

I love the Fantastic genre because it’s the way I view the world. I’m always stuck between two interpretations, a very rational one, and a more unexplained one, that some may call spirituality. I’m very prudent about « the mysteries of the universe » as people call it. I don’t like it when I’m told what to think and what to do, and at the same time I’m very curious and respectful of things I don’t understand.

Science is something very human, beautiful and imperfect. I think artists are in the middle of all this and have a very important role in society. We use very complex knowledge and tools to create emotions. We use our instinct to tell stories. We can pass messages to different strates of society and make people feel in a different way.

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?

G. For the music part, I used to finish a track when my computer froze. It was the signal of « ok I over did this, I need to go backwards ». But it’s almost impossible nowadays with the powerful new tools we have.

I like to give myself time constraints now. Like « make a track in one day », or « you have till Sunday to finish this ». It helps a lot not to have tracks ghosting you for years.

Sometimes, you go back to an unfinished one and you have a new Eureka moment that helps you finish it rapidly. It’s important to close doors.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?

G. Again, time limitation is key. Without deadlines I would go crazy. There is no end to a creation, you can always do something better or differently. It’s very dangerous.

For me there are usually four steps. First, I’m ok enough with what I’ve made to have close friends and partners listen to it and give me feedback. Second, if I’m tired of reworking it and I need someone with a fresh view, it usually means it’s time for mixing or mastering. Third, I can’t stand listening to it anymore but I have to give feedback people, and do all the work to promote it and play it. Fourth, I don’t really give a fuck anymore, so it’s nice when people like it, and not that impactful if they don’t.

What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?

G. For me the production is part of the creative process. I’m usually processing stuff as I creating music. I’m also try to work with people that have a strong personality, on the technical side. The difficult part is to find these people and build a shared vision that embraces both our worlds.

When I find them, I’m usually very loyal as I know how precious it is. I like knowledge, vision, brutal honesty and polite manners, it’s so rare. I’ve worked with my good friend Antoine Thibaudeau for almost ten years now. And for this album, Naweed Ahmed from Whitfield London did the mastering. These guys are so good in their field that I usually work for them, trying to make their life easier, doing as much recall as they need.

I did the same recently on a classical album with Bo Kondred at Calyx Berlin. There is a category of technicians that are true artists in their field.

After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?

G. I manage this feeling way better now that I’m working both on films and music. There is always a new project coming in and the change of medium is very refreshing. It’s way more natural for me to jump from my recording studio to a calm environment to write, then rehearse for live performances or shoot a new film. Everything helps me recover from the previous excitement.

I guess creativity is like an addiction, if you stop it you feel bad.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

G. Great creators always give the impression of simplicity. When you are highly trained it can seem like everything comes naturally. But the amount of work and time dedication to get there is enormous.

I still think it’s amazingly difficult to write an interesting piece of music. With the new tools available and the music industry crisis, there is really not enough recognition for this. Yes, you can do great things with low knowledge, recent softwares and AI at almost no cost. But do we really want our children to listen to robots?

Creating emotions is something very powerful and very specific. Every piece of art that I’ve ever loved had a purpose, imperfections and a sincere story behind it. I truly hope creation never becomes automatic, privileged or mundane.