Name: Emmanuel de la Paix
Occupation: Producer, singer, guitarist
Nationality: Swiss
Current release: Emmanuel de la Paix's Rescue Pack is out via Broque.
Recommendations: Books: Ragnar Axelsson: Faces of the North: Iceland – Faroe Island – Greenland. He works only with black and white pictures mostly in the old traditional way. He documented the lives of people in Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greeland whose worlds and ways of life have now all but disappeared. For 30 years, he documented farmers, hunters and fishermen in the Artic region. A testament to the next generations. First published: 2004.
Painting: "Soundsuits" by Nick Cave are constructed by thousands of pieces of found objects. A combination of fashion and sculpturing with a heart in the between. A way of finding an expanded soul or conscience.

If you enjoyed this interview with Emmanuel de la Paix and would like to know more about his work, we recommend his official homepage as a point of departure. You can also visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

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 producing my own music in 2020.

I was always passionate about music and visual arts. The most impressive concerts to me have a combination of both: Music performances by artists and bands like Massive Attack, Bjork, Múm or Sigur Rós gave me the same feeling of being completely embraced by aesthetic emotions wrapped in different layers.

[Read our Gyda Valtysdottir of Múm interview]

It is an extended perception of a musical performance. It doesn't just focus on your sense of hearing. The combination with the visual arts takes things to another level for me. It is a soul thing.

When I write my music, I imagine noises and sounds enveloping in rhythms, accents and melodies that compose the soundtrack of my daily life.

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 did the shift from “emulation” to my “own voice” when I decided to play and record new instruments. I am a singer and a guitarist. So when I started programming machines, drums, bass and piano, I had to develop my personal identity in order to focus on the emotions I wanted to express with the tools I had. Then I figured out my way to play.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

During my life, I always ended up being the “outsider” of the group (family, school, sports, work). It is not something I like or appreciate: it is just the way it is.

I think this kind of experience of being alone, creates a different way of perceiving and elaborating your sense of identity. This influences your creativity – especially if compared to a group of peers.

This is probably one of the reasons why I have a different way of being creative.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

My main challenges revolved around lyrics and the meanings of words. Which style, which wording, which language to use on a particular song?

I think I started to elaborate better and better my lyrics options. One key choice was to use lyrics only in my music when appropriate. That’s why, when the music itself already hets the message across, I do not have to add lyrics.

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 studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

I started singing and playing guitar and joining different bands and projects. At a certain point, I decided that music is a business I had to run alone in this moment of my life.

So, initially, I chose technologies like drum machines and synthetisers for practical reasons. Simply because I didn't have a band around anymore. At the same time, this gives me a unique opportunity as artist.

I wanted to explore the relationship between music, nature and technology. Technology is changing our relationship with nature and also with ourselves (since we are part of nature, too). Music is an intimate place of human nature. So, in my music creations I explore the different options that technology gives us, to find new ways to express feelings. So today I chose a new music tool mainly to explore new sounds and new ways to have fun. At the moment, I focus on tools with a focus on “having fun” during live shows.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

The E-Bow is the electronic device that I use for playing guitars strings. It is a small magnet capable of sustaining the strings forever. This changed my way of thinking about sound.

For me, music has an acoustic and an electric soul inside a heart which is caught in between. Finding the right equilibrium between these poles on an album or a song is one of my main goals.

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?

I usually collaborate and have interactions with other artists – especially with exposure in other fields like visual arts, movie makers, photography, poetry, writers, and designers because this expands my way of seeing the world and to explore my sensitivity. As a musician, I think that music should be always ON AIR and it is the soundtrack of our lives. For this reason, I compose my music thinking about a potential movie, a picture or a piece of poetry.

When there is chemistry with another artist, I embrace the other person’s vision and I explore where this chemistry takes us to. A talk with a good glass of red wine is always a great start. What happens then depends on the project and the people – but a personal touchpoint is the relevant part.

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?

The first exercise of the day consists of setting up my operational agenda. What are the things I want to achieve and progress and what I will do in the time alloted to music. I reserve a slot of at least 2-4 hours per day everyday including weekends. In the morning, I go through social media, email and whatsapp to progress the communication with the relevant people like my music label and collaborators. If I go to work by car or train then I'll have some music on my headphones (sometimes exploring new music, sometimes evergreens, sometimes my own new compositions). Lunch time is always good to have some calls about music projects and events while I reserve late afternoon and evening for composition and performance.
I am quite flexible at work and I just make work, music and private life match. There is a routine in terms of how many hours I dedicate to work, to my music, to my private life: but the Tetris Game is up to me.

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 album Rescue Pack is my turning point. I wanted to elaborate my compositions into a music vision. I wanted to take the courage to explore new music dimensions and I was lucky enough to have Birgir Jón Birgirsson as sound engineer on this journey.

[Read our Birgir Jón Birgirsson interview]

Realising the mixing and mastering at the Sundlaugin Studios for me was a dream in my twenties. I am a fun of all the music he has worked on, so for me, it meant working with an idol.  

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?

For me, it works like a pandora's box. Whatever life brings me, there is a place where everything goes. It is a place where feelings get secretly translated in poetry, images, sounds and spiritual messages. I think everyone has this. Now, it is all about what we do with that. For me music is a washing machine for cleaning your depressions.

Writing sad, melancholic, depressing songs is my way to elaborate my life experiences, be fresh again and go out in a more peaceful way with myself and others. It is nothing related to being depressed. It is all about my personal re-elaboration of the spiritual dimension.

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?

Rescue Pack was written as part of a healing process, especially in times like these where things are not going as we want them to. Rescue Pack has been my musical toolkit. Because of the pandora's box I mentioned, it is exactly about “what would we do with all the stuff that life brings us?” This was the time for creating new poetry. For healing.

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 that music (and art in general) have different layers and keys of interpretation. The key of the music producer. The key of the audience. The message in the between.

I like to try to understand or speculate on the context of a song or a symbol. It could be an inappropriate use of property rights. Or maybe there is something in the background triggering the style and the artistic choice. Was it by choice or by chance? Was it by purpose or random? I think you need to see artists as part of a specific context and, inevitably, the message will be more effective the more questions a listener has around the artistical choices and music references. This can lead to different layers of reading a piece of art.

But I also think most people just stick to the first impression and most of the beautiful artistical concepts in music are probably lost when they are out. It is inevitable.

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?

From my experience, eyes and ears cover the largest spectrum for recalling and elaborating feelings. Just a picture of a piece of chili pepper recalls the burning taste, its smell and even texture. That’s why I try to combine all my songs with a video as those two bring enough colours into the message.

But of course, with music, you have the option to be your own filmmaker: you can just put on your headphones and live your life with the right music in your ears.

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?

Rescue Pack is a soundtrack to escape. It is the description of a journey and a fight between the dark depression and light joy. I admire artists that are socially and politically oriented. I am not in such thing at the moment. At the moment, I want to dress silence with a great suit of sound. That for me is music.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Music is composed of melody, accent, and rhythm. Not necessarily of words. Sometimes, we do not want to listen to words or lyrics. Like during quarantine, there were already so many communications and news and talks. At a certain point, I just wanted just to go out and go for a walk in nature. To listen to noises, sounds and … from there comes music. Not every poem necessarily has words.