Header Ads

Q&A with Wax Tailor at North Coast

Wax Tailor taking the Main Stage on the final day of North Coast Music Festival in Chicago. Photo by Kelly Pyzik.
More than trip hop, Wax Tailor's spooky, symphonic music is a new way of infusing narrative and vibrant imagery into the classic hip hop sound. Although he typically performs with a full band, the crew couldn't make the trip with him all the way from France, and he linked up with Chicago female emcees Rita Jay and Raashan Ahned to kick off the last day of North Coast Music Festival on Sunday, Sept. 6. Up to Tempo's Kelly Pyzik had a chance to sit down with him backstage to talk about the origins of his unique style and his experience as an internationally performing musician.

Kelly: So, first of all, I thought your set was great. There was amazing turnout considering it's Sunday afternoon.

Wax Tailor: You know, I had a doubt, because we've been offered once to come for this festival with the full band, but it wasn't possible at that period. So, they came back and asked again this year, and I knew it wasn't possible with the band, but I had been frustrated not to do it so I said, “Okay, let's do it this way” [a DJ set with two live emcees]. Sometimes it's cool because it's no pressure for me, but the sun... Wow. I could see nothing. But it's okay, I mean, the crowd was good.

You work within an interesting genre, typically labeled trip hop or electro swing. Do you identify with these labels?

I often talk about cinematic or orchestra hip hop, simply because I'm coming from the hip hop culture, I feel like that's really the backbone of my music, that's how I build things in production. But after that I am comfortable with the stamps trip hop or whatever. The problem is that nowadays, when you talk about this kind of music you include some very classic bands ... Great bands, great artists, and a long, long list of artists that I would probably put more in the lounge classification or something like that. And my work isn't concerned with that kind of music, so, again, I think hip hop orchestra or symphonic hip hop might be more clear as to what I'm doing, but, again, I'm okay with any of the stamps.

What drew you to the style you've developed during your musical career?

Like I said earlier, I'm coming from the hip hop culture, but it's not completely true. … I wasn't born with hip hop, I turned to the hip hop culture when I was fifteen. When I was a child, my parents would always listen to pop music from the 60s, my grandpa was listening to jazz music and all that. I think when you're a teenager, you want your own things, so I was a hip hop head. … You grow up and there's a moment where you feel like, “Why should I be like a soldier or whatever? I just gotta be myself.” … At the end, I feel music is the same. I love to listen to original soundtrack music, I love to listen to pop music, I love to listen to jazz, to a lot of stuff. But, I just needed to do something that looked like myself. It was not wondering what the right step was at the beginning, just something I liked to listen to.

Where do all of your dialogue samples come from?

Well, most of them I would say are from old movies, because I realized that I'm very – it's a long story, twenty years now – but I think my life changed a little bit when the DVD arrived in everybody's home. … For my generation, we grew up with videotapes. In France, it was a French version of the American movie [with French voices dubbed over] and it's awful, you know? Absolutely awful. Having the DVD with the option to hear the real voices, I rediscovered all the old movies from this period and I was very excited about that. I've always thought there is a kind of melody in the voice and the way you use it, so I love to use it this way.

Your songs have a lot of strong narrative elements, but I think there's still room for the listener to put their own story to it. What are you thinking about when you produce the songs?

You know what, I think the interesting thing is that one of my last albums, “Dusty Rainbow From The Dark,” that was a story, but that was the first time I had a story. I've been hearing for about ten years, like with my first album, “Tales of the Forgotten Melodies,” people saying to me, “Oh, it is great, I love the story,” and I'm like, “There is no story.” At the end I realized that's very logical, because that's how I make my music. When I'm in the studio putting things together I'm like, it's good, it's good, but nothing more. When I've got images in my mind, when the music produces some images, I feel like, yeah, this is it. I hope I'm right on this point, but I feel like if I get images when I produce some music, other people will, too. Their own ones, personal ones.

(continued below)

Wax Tailor and Raashan Ahned performing "This Train." Photo by Kelly Pyzik.
Do you do any visual work alongside your music?

Of course I do. I do work with a lot of directors, sometimes I co-direct some videos. It's interesting, but with cinematography I've got a lot of respect for directors, and there are some people who come to me asking, “When are you going to do a movie?” And I tell them I don't know, I won't say never but I feel still very impressed by this because you've got so many great directors and it's big, big work and something else. So, for now it's more the link with the music, co-directing or whatever.

Do you do you any other storytelling? Do you write fiction?

No, not at the moment. The problem is that there are a lot of things I'd love to do, but with regard to the way I'm working, I'm my own producer, own everything, so it's a lot of work all around the project.  Each time I feel like after this album I'm going to do something else. I had to refuse some offers because I was like, “I'm sorry, but I've got to go back to a new album and edit a new album and everything” – a new live show, new creation, everything. So, it's a big, big work. Unfortunately, for now, no.

You've performed in so many different countries. In what ways would you say the experience of performing in the United States is unique?

I've got to say, it's very special for me. This is no disrespect for any countries I've been to because I've had some crazy experiences, but France and the U.S, for very different reasons, are my favorites. France because I have a long relationship and it's my home country, and the U.S. because... Well, you know, it's funny because when I began this project ten years ago, I had no expectations about the U.S. I don't know why, just because I was not expecting people to be interested about my music. So, when I came here for the first time, it was very special because all the artists, everything I am listening to in France is coming from the U.S. It was a special feeling coming to this country. Especially because all my songs are in English, the story is in English and everything, and I think it's getting better and better because they understood the English better than in France. …

What hip hop artists have been most influential for you?

Oh, complicated. Lots. Mainly from what we call the Golden Years, like the Bomb Squad – the producers from Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Native Tongues … I'm about to give you a long list …

What's on the horizon, and what's the dream?

I'm touring the U.S. at the end of the month for five weeks, which will be great. After that I'll be back in the studio because I'll be working on the next album. And the dream? Hmm... There's a lot of dreams. Maybe, you know what? Because we are in Chicago, let me tell you about one. I came to Chicago last year just as a tourist, because I came a few times [to perform] but I never got free time and I was frustrated. So I came back to Chicago for holiday, and I went to Millennium Park to Pritzker Pavilion to see a show, and I was just out of my symphony project and I was just dreaming ... So, let's say, 2017, I would like to come back and play there with a symphonic orchestra. That's the dream, that's my dream.

Left to right: Rita Jay, Wax Tailor and Raashan Ahned. Photo by Kelly Pyzik.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.