Name: Antoine Boyer
Occupation: Guitarist, improviser
Current Release: Tangram, a collaboration between Antoine Boyer and harmonica virtuoso Yeore Kim, is out July 30th via Viavox.
Recommendations: Gabriel Fauré – Requiem; Igor Stravinsky - Symphonie de Psaumes
If you enjoyed this interview with Antoine Boyer, the ideal point of departure into his world is his official website.
When did you start writing/producing 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 writing music at a very young age (around 10 years old), in Gypsy Jazz style, which is the first music I learned. I was completely into this style, until I was 15 when I started classical guitar and started to ‘open’ my music world.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I had two big phases of learning: first Gypsy Jazz when I was 6 and second, classical guitar when I was 15. Of course I am still learning, always learning, but those moments were very important in defining my current style which is very influenced by those two directions.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I don’t identify too much with one particular genre or another. Just doing what sounds good to me. (laughs)
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning my creative challenges where mainly making music in a specific style, following very precise structural rules.
Nowadays my most important creative challenge is to make something that, as much as possible, stands out from what I’ve heard before, a way of taking the most original from myself.
I don’t try to fit in a certain style or structure anymore, even if my basics are very clear.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made over the years?
Playing mainly acoustic music, my needs for new tools haven't change that much. The last years I started electric guitar and bought some pedals but my set-up is still very simple. But as my creativity grows I feel a need for new sounds and new instruments, that’s why we started playing with a section of 3 horns (and clarinet) on Tangram, my recent album with Yeore Kim, to go towards more ‘orchestral’ textures.
Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you? Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Not really! What always inspired me the most is the sound of guitar, and it stills does.
Of course other inspirations like music softwares have come after that. But these are still not the most important source to me. Sitting, taking my guitar, and playing a few notes, consciously, is still my biggest source of inspiration.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
It really depends on the project and the person I am working with. Every way is good to me … Jamming, sharing ideas, sending files and scores …
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don’t have a fixed schedule, but there are some important moments in my day. For example in the morning I always prepare my body to be in a creative mindset. I like working early in the morning. And then depending on what I have to do I just cut the day into very precise moments (practicing, composing, eating, editing videos, writing emails, answering interviews … (laughs)
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
The Tangram album! My last album has been my biggest project so far. I prepared it during 2 years, composed, arranged, wrote for the first for a horn section, led the crowdfunding campaign, edited all the videos, organised the promotion … All together it was a great adventure!
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
A cold shower is a good way to enter a creative state of mind! It puts you into an alert state of body and mind.
I guess there are many ways to enter a creative mind state. For me this state is when you align everything: your body, your energy, your mind, and make them work together to express something that is truly you. Having a strong routine definitely support this state.
Distractions could be comparing yourself with others, or mental self-limitations for example …
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I see music as a way of expressing life. Wherever life is lacking, music can heal.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I think as long as you stay true to yourself, it will end in great music. Some people copy very closely other artists' style and still sound completely true because in this they found a way of truly expressing themselves.
And anyway, we all are all more or less inspired by other people. Music is not something private, it travels everywhere.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
We put names on sounds to define what is noise and what is music. But it is completely subjective. To some people a ‘noise’ could be sweet music because they relate it to good memories or nice sensations collected from other senses.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
For me, being an artist is finding ways to express life. It can take many forms, but it’s always expressing life. It can be joyful, sad, dark, bright, intimate, etc … The more the artists works on his art, the more his meaning is deep. And sometimes the nature of the meaning is such that can make the artist and his art take roles inside a society and have an impact on a system.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I guess music expresses something deeper than just words which may often have a limited meaning - and not even the same meaning to different people. Death and life are difficult to explain with words, they are outside of the limits of words, which are just a kind of game played between humans … in that sense music can surely express deeper things about this.
But when we start to talk about the ‘music of the words’, then there is another dimension given to the words and a deeper meaning is possible.