Name: Nicolas Dupuis aka Anomalie
Occupation: Pianist, keyboarder, composer, producer
Recent release: The Anomalie debut album Galerie is out via Nettwork.
Recommendations: The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky - that piece is phenomenal. It’s an incredible demonstration of how timbres convey a certain tone or emotion with the same melody (or crazy tense harmony clusters, which happen a lot here). It’s also still extremely relevant with many movie scores borrowing from this aesthetic!
The Main Title from the movie «The Firm» by Dave Grusin. The whole soundtrack is strictly made on a piano, specifically two layered pianos most of the time. It’s phenomenal.
If you enjoyed this interview with Anomalie and would like to find out more, visit his official website. He is also Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started playing the piano at 4 years old - my mom is a piano teacher, my dad a radio host. Classical lessons for several years, then jazz around 16-17!
As for production, I started exploring synths and DAWs during high school and it progressively became a bigger part of my life / approach to music.
I was always drawn to rich sonic textures, different timbres and harmony - and so my biggest influences have pretty much always been great arrangers. My all time hero is Quincy Jones!
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
Since arranging is my favorite part about making music, it’s also usually what I pay attention to the most when I listen to music. I have a deep appreciation for layers, timbres, counter-melodies and solid themes.
I’m constantly inspired and influenced by what I listen to and it’s especially important to me to try to vary / broaden my listening habits since it’s directly linked to the amount of options or creative paths I’m able to think of within the context of an idea I’m working on!
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
As with any creative person, lots of ups and dows, but also a lot of appreciation for the fact that I’m able to do this for a living. I’m still as passionate about music as I was when I started.
Some goals or main motivations might have changed or pivoted from a year to another but I’d say the main thing now that I didn’t really think of before is that I’m especially excited about writing for the piano and staying a bit more out of the DAW for a while. I’ll come back to it after, as it’s still a huge part of what I do, but it’s something I’m especially excited about that I couldn’t have predicted when I made Métropole!
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I’m really open to pretty much any genre of music. Since I appreciate timbres, layers and great arrangements, it’s something I’m able to find in every style. However since blending genres is also apart of my identity, it’s also something I really appreciate in music that I regularly listen to (and is more and more common since we have access to everything)!
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I am first and foremost a pianist, then an arranger, then a producer. Most of what I do happens through the piano / keyboard so I’d say that the main things I focus on are musicality through phrasing, melodies that are repeated but with variations through reharmonization, and timbre!
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I think both are valid and that they are definitely not mutually exclusive. We are all shaped and influenced by what has already been done, so in that sense everyone is just constantly borrowing from each other. But then that 5% of innovation that happens here and there pushes everyone forward, too.
I personally try not to think about that stuff when I write, but I think that in the end it’s about a healthy balance of both!
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The piano as an instrument and as a foundation for everything else I do, plus the vocab and repertoire I have learned and will keep on expanding all my life. Basically every concept I use is assimilated through targeting a specific repertoire, isolating stuff I want to improve on, and then practicing it.
Transcribing is the best way to progress in my opinion!
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
My focus shifts depending on what’s going on.
For example these days since I’m working on the show, I pretty much wake up, then just work on that until I go to bed (so programming the sounds / patches, practicing and talking / coordinating with the band).
Outside of that context, usually I’ll play piano and transcribe stuff in the morning, work in the DAW in the afternoon, then more DAW after dinner or work on something else on my to-do list!
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
"Mollo", which is a track on my new album Galerie, is one of the tracks I’ve had the most fun making.
The main riff started as something I made rather quickly to use on a waiting screen on my twitch production livestreams. I considered developping it into a track because my community convinced me to do it, and I’m really grateful for that!
I rearranged the drums by sampling a bunch of fills on my kit alongside a few percussion, split it into two main sections, then practiced the hell out of that piano part and recorded it! I then redid the bass and added a few support synths bit the core was already there.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
For the most part, when it comes to creating, I like to be in my own bubble.
This album process was great though because every collaborator brought their own creative universe with them - it was super inspiring. I was still able to have that solitary moment in the creation of those tracks too, though, which is really important for me.
When it comes to playing live, however, I wouldn’t trade playing with my bandmates for anything else - it’s liberating!
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
A world without music would not only be incredibly boring, I think it would lose most of its sense. I truly believe that it is crucial to our lives!
As for my personal work / creativity, it’s hard to tell sometimes, partly because of the solitary nature of my process, but also because I don’t have an explicit message to share through lyrics.
I’d say the music I make is a reflection of my environment and my emotions, and, especially on the first two EPs, to my city!
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I don’t know if music helped me understand these questions, but it definitely helped me go through some hardships and challenges, that’s for sure.
Some of my tracks were the result of difficult moments, and a lot of my favorite tracks in life carried me through certain periods of my life!
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music theory is definitely akin to mathematics or physics in the sense that is bound by logic, has.a clear system with rules, units of measure, several concepts to explore and so on. Sound is measurable through a wave’s length and frequency. So yes, there is a rational side to music that is incredibly useful to know about. But I think that what makes music great has much more to do with feeling and how it resonates with people
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing 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?
I think that at a certain level, every discipline becomes very comparable. Pouring your heart into your craft, spending hours learning an instrument and then expressing yourself through something you create using all the tools and skills you acquired obviously isn’t even remotely comparable to brewing your cup of coffee in the morning.
But if that cup of coffee is the creation of a seasoned barista who’s passionate, hard working and devoted to his craft, I think it’s a very similar thing!
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Harmony, timbre and feeling. We all use the same 12 notes, yet have an infinite amount of possibilities. Even harmony has its limits in that sense, as we can hear the same progression in several songs and receive it differently, whereas timbre and feeling are pretty much limitless and much more personal / specific to the creator!