Name: Bada Bada
Nationality: French
Current Release: II on Jazz O Tech
Musical Recommendations: We’d say Son Lux’s EP “Yesterday’s Wake”. The band is one of the most innovative, creative and talented we know, and they manage to mix modern, produced music with very organic and original sounds. The whole EP is surprising and conceptual, like most of their work, and there’s so much to be inspired by, it’s really impressive. If you’ve never heard about this peculiar record, you should definitely check it, because there’s nothing like it.

If you enjoyed this interview with Bada Bada, visit their facebook page, soundcloud profile or instagram for more background information, music and current updates.

When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions or influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

We all started playing music when we were kids, and then years later all met at the CMDL (Centre des Musiques Didier Lockwood), where we studied jazz music.

One thing we all have in common is the sensitivity, the creativity and the expression we all developed as improvisers. Maybe the first influences that strengthen the core of the band are electronic/rock/jazz bands, such as Kneebody, Nils Peter Molvaer, Guillaume Perret, etc …

For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

We definitely started to write music as a modern jazz quartet, meaning writing tunes and then improvising. But we quickly decided to compose and record all together, and more importantly, to produce the tracks and to get rid of “jazz solos”. We were then all listening to techno, electronica, classical, soul, rock music, and we wanted to find a balance between all our personal wishes and the visions of a neutral, non-codified music. Our music is kind of all our personal influences mixed together, destroyed and then reconstructed.

What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?

When we started the band, we were four musicians. Taking artistic decisions on which we all agreed was sometimes tricky. We all have different backgrounds, and finding our common sensitivity took some time.

Three years ago, we decided to continue as a trio; it definitely changed a lot of things. We quickly took some new artistic decisions, and after a few months we found the basics of what constitutes the band today. Redefining the role of each one, starting with less (because we had less possibilities) really helped us to find our own sound.    

Tell me about your instrument, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results – and possibly even your own performance?

The two instruments that define our sound are the trumpet and the saxophone. A lot of our samples are made out of sounds we recorded from those instruments, and we try to use them to play melody, chords, bass, but also to build textures and soundscapes. The organicity, nuances, timbre and emotions of the horns are a huge part of the stimulation of our creativity.

Also, when we play live, they have the power, the emotion and the sound to really blend the electronic and the acoustic, the samples and the improvisation, the energy and the warmth. We also blend electronic sequences with acoustic drums. It allows us to give a lot of sensibility, groove and emotions.   

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?

We jam a lot, and then we work on a precise idea that we try to develop and bring further. Usually, improvisation gives birth to the very first sound or idea of a track, and then we spend hours recording, producing, transforming the material. Once the track is totally finished, we start to work on the live performance. This is usually the moment when improvisation takes more space, meaning we try to give more freedom to the structure, the “solos”, depending on the mood and the concentration of the audience.

Everything is a pretext to be interpreted, improvised and modified once we know the track by heart and are able to reproduce it live, making it as full of life as possible.

How is playing live in front of an audience and in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?

The one thing that is common between the studio and the live show is the composition itself. The core of the track, the essence, the emotion is the same, but when we play live we rearrange and improvise around it. We work hard on our live performances, so we can transcend the technical issues or difficulties, and aim at a higher relation with the audience.

For us, recording in the studio is usually a more hesitant path, because we try a lot of different ideas, and then we treat them, destroy them, record them one more time, etc … The studio is the place to develop, to create, to try things, when playing live is a really focused and intense moment.

As said before, the stage is the place to destroy the composition, but only once we know it so well that every mistake becomes precious and musical.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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?

A typical day would be working on administration the very early morning, then on personal work (instrumental, composition, technique, etc.). After the midday break, we often start to work on our tracks and our music, listening to music from time to time. Keeping a productive and creative flow is also important, so we talk a lot, play some video games, listen to new music, etc.
We all make some breaks from time to time, but usually music is a constant preoccupation and a huge part of our lives. What we do on evenings, how we plan our free time is always mixed with music and art in general.

Could you take me through the process of improvisation on the basis of one of your performances that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?

A perfect example would be the track "Bada-Bada".

The “leitmotiv” is played by the trumpet and the saxophone in the background. This idea was born during one of the first sessions we did all together. The track has taken many different forms, including very electronic parts, a lot of improvisation, a lot of electronic sounds, depending on where we had to perform, and what artistic direction we were choosing at the time.

On the EP version, we chose to keep it very minimalist, to use as much horns as possible, and to write and produce the improvised parts. To enhance the contrast between the beginning and the end, we also used very intimate sounds in the first part of the track (the hi hat is whispered by the drummer, the trumpet and the saxophone have their own space, etc.), and then everything melts in this huge, powerful, electronic sound.

To achieve this result, we had to make a lot of choices and decisions, and the reason we made them is definitely because we tried so many things live, testing all the different possibilities and ambiances we could make.

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?

It really depends. One of the most effective solution is working together, because there is always someone to take the lead when we are getting tired. Also, trying the ideas on several instruments is a great solution. We usually record an idea, and then play it over and over using all the samples, synth, instruments we have. When we find it surprising and inspiring we know it’s going to be productive.

Another solution is working on the tracks many days in a row, without mixing it with other jobs. This allows us to be very focused on our music, without external pressure, and really stimulates the concentration and the creativity.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

We use technology for different purposes. One of them is simply for creating new instruments. A lot of the synth, pads we use are made from samples we recorded and then worked on. Proceeding like this brings a very strong character to the song, and sometimes the sound itself becomes more interesting than the technique and the virtuosity. It really helps us to break the “performing” side of the music, and to bring the audience in a trance, without focusing on one musician but listening to the whole.

The technology brings a very immersive, repetitive feel that we love. Building a beautiful, strong soundscape and then playing over it is a beautiful sensation. In a way, we create a cinematic ambience and then strengthen the live, organic music part by playing over it using acoustic instruments. This allows the audience to really get lost in the music, to be part of it, but still connect with the musicians.

Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

As we said before, we use a lot of samples to create different atmospheres or simply new synth/pads. We usually record a lot of different sounds, then work on them using the computer, and then jam using all this new material. Once we have an interesting mood, or groove, we record it and start producing. Working on spatiality, modifying the timbre of the instruments, the pitch, stretching the time are awesome tools to enhance the emotion of a sound. As a conclusion, we’d say that we never play or compose without using software tools.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?

Because we work with sequences, samples, synth and acoustic instruments, the space, the sounds and the performance are very important. For a listener, it should be very clear, all the sounds have to be distinct, nothing too loud, the nuances have to be effective. This is why we work on location with a sound and a light engineer, they both have a huge impact on the final show. Knowing the exact role of each sound, enhancing the live performance by the lights, giving the perfect impact is as important as playing the tracks.

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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?

We work a lot with a light engineer who triggers our personal sounds with different lights. This gives to the music and to the show a strong visual effect that we really want to push forward. We have a lot of very encouraging feedbacks, which describe our show like a transcendent experiment.

We also like to push the sound to its outermost borders, either extremely low or high. Sometimes the sound is so sub that you barely feel it, without being able to tell what note is played. Sometimes it is pitched so high that it creates a very bright texture, tickling your ear but again, without hearing what exact note is played. Sometimes, the synths are so wide that you see and feel a very warm and comforting world.

We’d say that sound can bring a lot of different sensations with it, sometimes linked to physical response, sometimes to brain stimulation, and it is a fascinating thing to discuss with people about they personal feelings and emotions while listening to music.

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?

From the beginning of the band we always wanted to stay independent, to produce and to play the music we wanted and to feel happy about it. Today, we are lucky to be surrounded by a lot of different people who support us, or work with us and with whom with have a very nice and friendly relationship.

Staying honest, sincere, creative, satisfied, productive and independent are values we really believe in. For us, being an artist nowadays means being artistically independent, genuinely sincere and creative. We are incredibly lucky to be on this path, and we truly hope we’ll still have the opportunity to say and to share plenty of emotions.  

It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?

It’s now been a few years we’ve all been very interested and curious about electronic music, its contemporary tools and all the artists who produce amazing stuff. One of the most futuristic technologies we’ve heard about may be performing with a 3D Sound System. Bringing the diffusion of the sound a step further would be amazing, regarding the creation and the performance.

Also, mixing this whole new immersive show with modern light engineering would be a totally different experiment. We know some artists are starting to experiment with this technology, and we are eager to discover all this.

Maybe right now isn't the best time to go to this kind of performance. But sooner or later we’ll have all this new music back on stage - and it’s going to be really crazy.