Sorry for the delay! Here’s my conversation with Woodkid to wrap up our Tumblr/CMJ project.
How long have you been living in New York?
For a year now, I’ve been living in Williamsburg, I like this hood. It’s very gentrified now, but it’s still a very nice place to live.
What’s it like compared to where you were living in Paris?
It’s a little more quiet, it’s bigger and there’s more space, more air. Paris is very small and narrow, so everybody knows each other, it’s very concentrated. It’s a very small city, here it’s big and wide and there’s a lot of air.
Do you think that’s why so many French artists end up coming to the UK or the US?
I think you always try to be in a place that’s different from where you live. You’re always trying to be somewhere exotic. The grass is greener on the other side, right? So I guess that’s why we always move from where we are. I guess there’s a lot of American artists living in Paris, too.
What’s the biggest change that moving has made on how you work?
I’ve been on tour, so I haven’t really been working on something precise yet, maybe doing some new tracks. But the place I live has a nice view and it’s very inspiring. I wanted to live in a place that was inspiring to me, so I’ve got the view and I can sit down on my little metal chair and just compose and write down stuff. But my place in Paris isn’t that moving, I would say.
Have you seen a difference in how you were received at home versus here?
I think it’s very new here, I’m just playing here tonight, so we’ll see how it goes. I guess the reception of what I do is pretty unanimous, it’s really amazing. I’m very lucky, because wherever I am, people seem to react to it in a very positive way. Hopefully it’s going to be as successful here as it is in France.
Have you done any collaborations recently that you can talk about?
I’ve tried to work with Kanye and Beyoncé, but it didn’t work because of my schedule. Unfortunately, I’m very busy, but I won’t complain because it’s a good busy. I have been creative directing Pharrell Williams and John Legend, which was very interesting to do, with Kanye producing. I’m starting to be more in the shadow. Actually, I like that, just to help these types of artists, having a precise image of what they want to do and help them in the direction. It’s something that I really like.
Does taking this more supporting role add something to how you do your own work?
It just allows me to be creative, but without entering the phase of being a director, which takes so much time. I can just direct and have people connect to each other. I have my favorite directors work with my favorite artists and I try to make this work in the right direction. I like it, but it doesn’t really change the way I work. Doing my thing on my side, it’s just like a little pile of activity, somehow.
Do you have any dream collaborators?
I would really love that Kanye thing to happen, I would really love to manage to do something with him. No matter what people think or say or what he says, I still think he’s very relevant today and I really appreciate his work. I love his album, the production is great.
Is this the longest tour you’ve been on in the US?
Yeah, I haven’t really been touring here. This is like the first tour that allows us to present the projects, because the album’s just getting out physically here. It’s been out digitally for a while, but people are really going to start discovering it, and we’re doing promo and getting things seriously done. So this is the first real tour. It’s actually the first time we’ve been here since the release of the album. We’ve just been in LA like 7 months ago.
Do you like the West Coast?
I love the West Coast a lot, the show there was bonkers. It was really cool. But we’ll see tonight how it goes [here], it’s a little early to say. All I know is my heart is here in New York. I live here, and I love the culture here. I don’t think I could live in LA, but I love going there.
What else do you like about the culture here in New York?
I like that it’s very European, the taste level is high and there’s something familiar about New York when you’re French, European. It’s not completely exotic. It’s half America, it’s half Europe, that’s what I always say.
What aspects of American culture do you particularly see here?
It’s very open-minded, and creatively, it’s very supportive. People want to get into win-win situations, where French people are more into that philosophy that if you win something, that means I lose. There’s a competition thing, it’s very cynical sometimes. But I love France, I couldn’t not live in France, I still go there a lot. Right now, I need to be in a place that is very free and open and pushing me up. It’s also about the fact that there’s space here. In Paris it’s very small, so everyone’s walking on each other’s feet–for real, and as a symbol it’s very true, too.
And as someone who makes grandiose art, maybe that parallels that need for space?
Yeah, I guess so. I love traveling, I love big spaces, I love air.
You’re pretty influenced by nature, too.
Yeah, I’m inspired the collision of nature, of emotion, with what humans build–cities, architecture, digital [technology]. I like the collision between wood and marble, that’s what my Tumblr is called, Wood & Marble. I am very interested by technology, it scares me, it fascinates me. I love the love/hate relationship I have with it.
What scares you the most about technology?
When technology is used in a commercial purpose, I think it’s against emotion, it kills emotion. Like these big Hollywood blockbusters are a problem to me, because they use technology for a commercial purpose to sell special effects and explosions. The high level of stylization makes the emotions fade a little bit. There’s a way of using technology that can enhance emotion, but it’s not the most commercial way of doing that.
Do you think of that as well in terms of what you’ll license your own music to be used in?
I think music’s the same. But that’s fine, I have no problem with it, it doesn’t change my music. It might change it in people’s minds, but that’s fine, I’m not responsible for that. It’s not because I give away my music for commercials to make some money to make more art that it changes my music. It doesn’t go into the music itself and change it, the music stays the same. I can’t fight that when music gets popular and mainstream that the artistic society changes about what you do. The perception of your art changes when you get famous. I can’t do anything against this, it’s fine.
You’re wearing a custom New Era snapback. Would you like to do more in the fashion world?
Yeah, I don’t know how to do it, but I’m open to collaborate with brands. I might do some stuff with this brand called Still Good. I just did some Nikes, Air Force Ones. It’s a brand that means a lot for our childhood. It’s like a dream to do it.
Is there a certain 90s/streetwear thing going on in France?
Yeah, there’s a big street scene, but it’s like on the East Coast, in New York, or in LA, too. We listen to a lot of hip-hop too, of course we’re very into that kind of shit.
And Angel Haze did that remix of “I Love You.” Are there any other rappers besides Kanye you’d like to work with?
I mean there’s a lot, I love Q-Tip, I love 2 Chainz. I used to love Lil Wayne, I still like him, I think. It was great to work with Drake, too.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
I just love Tumblr. It’s very new for me.
But you’re so good at it. How long did it take for you to come up with this style that represents your work?
I don’t know. I went naturally to the things I like, references I like, to this whole pattern of images. I think it defined what I wanted to do. It’s very wide, but I found the connection to all of these images that’s who I am, my identity.
How have you seen your visual style evolve?
I have periods, like painters or artists. You go from a period where you want to be more static, more graphic, and sometimes you want the camera and the music to be a little more free. It’s very open.
Where do you think you are now?
I like to unlock the camera now, going to chase the emotion more than generating it inside of a fixed frame and trying to be little more organic, closer to the skin. It goes with the music, too. I’m trying to make the music a little more simple and more about the flesh, more about the guts.