aMinus - conducted by Alex Goldberg  

aMinus Interview

June 2006

These are the transcripts of an interview conducted in May 2006 with French solo producer and vocalist aMinus. This interview is followed with an article titled, aMinus: Resistance is Futile...And Naughty.

MVRemix: Let's start with introductions. Tell me your name, where you are from, what city you currently represent and any other primary info you would like to give.

aMinus: My name is Valentin Plessy. I live in Paris, France.

MVRemix: Tell me about this album. What is your music background? Why did you make this album? What is the intention behind it? Fun, pleasure, art, etc? Do you have any political or moral agendas with your music, or are you making party jams for party people?

aMinus: I've grown with a clash between my brother's hard-metal-demonstrative rock and the euro dance music I would listen 24/7 on the radio. My father was into Brazilian music, jazz, and French political singers, my mother into 80's Indie pop such as Kate Bush and different French female singers... I started learning violin at the age of 5, then I switched for drums when I was 10. I've met music on computer when I was 14. This album has not been made or thought as one album... I've been writing songs for the last year and a half following only one rule: keep it synthetic. So is art the intention? I don't know, I had fun creating and recording, I had some political issue with the song Almost & Maybe... or maybe just pure fear and anger... I guess doing music for me is necessary, so the intention is just not to go against my instinct or else I'll get constipated.

There seems to be a few familiar influences that can be discerned from the music. For instance, I find in your music a few connections with Belle and Sebastian, as well as a trip hop tempo. What are your immediate influences that helped form this album? At first the electroclash movement inspired me: raw beats, extreme synthesizers sounds... I wanted to make a poppy version of it. But then 80's new wave and pop influenced me and tempered a lot my songs. I've also been listening to a lot of The Divine Comedy and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark the past few years. Does it all have a place in my songs? I don't know, but they were part of my creative environment at that time...

MVRemix: Why in English? Do pop songs just sound better in English? Why not French? Do you plan on releasing other albums in a mix between French and English or do you prefer one over the other?

aMinus: I met this person who asked me the same question... and I couldn't really say why, I could only say that English words were more effective and that you did not have to write much to express one feeling... but then this person pointed the fact that reading my own words in French could make me feel uncomfortable, which was true... I've been trying to write songs in my own language and it just didn't feel right, I felt embarrassed... writing in English makes the lyrics feel anonymous. I'm not Valentin anymore but aMinus... Plus I do think that pop songs sound better in English. It's like an English pop song is a circle whereas a French one is a square. There's one which rolls perfectly and lasts because it's understandable by much more people.

MVRemix: What is sexy about the A Minus sound? Do you ooze sex from your pores or is sex peripheral to your sound? Let me reiterate. Marvin Gaye-total sex, oozes sex like sweat in his music. Radiohead---totally unsexy, no sex whatsoever. Radiohead are like eunuch computer salesmen. Where does A Minus stand?

aMinus: I guess right in the middle. The sounds that I use are not particularly sexy. My voice is the only organic element. I think the way I use it contrasts with the synthetic sounds. Cold and heat creates condensation, creates humidity, creates sexiness... I guess aMinus is sexy because it's not meant to be.

MVRemix: What does the name A Minus mean? How did this start? What is your music and personal background? Does A Minus have a persona of its own, or is Valentin Plessy closely related to A Minus? Is A Minus the dark side of Valentin, or is A Minus the seductive demon and Valentin is the angel?

aMinus: It means "almost perfect" "A-"... Valentin is not perfect. aMinus who, as a matter of fact, has a persona of its own considers himself as perfect. He's very cocky and self-centered... and manipulative. He's no darkside though. He just has too much self-confidence and that's his only weapon.

MVRemix: What are your demons? What are your vices and sins? Everyone can be bad, naughty, just plain rotten. How are you bad?

aMinus: I enjoy stealing from big stores. I might be a kleptomaniac.

MVRemix: What is the worst atrocity to happen in the world of music? What is the worst atrocity to happen in the history of the world? Do you see the two as connected?

aMinus: State Music (like in Romania where the State has just created a new music style combining traditional music and techno-ish sounds to prevent rock'n'punk attitude (brought for example by Emir Kusturicza) to rise in the charts). Worst atrocity in the history of the world: the very idea of power. Capitalism. It's all connected.

MVRemix: What would you do if you had 24 hours to live, and the world would blow up, everything would be destroyed and all of humanity wiped away?

aMinus: I would live these last fucking 24 hours.

MVRemix: What is incredibly irritating to you? What gets you offin the good and bad way?

aMinus: The lack of ambition. Playing the victim..

MVRemix: Who are your immediate influences? What do you listen to when you are happy? When you are sad? When you are angry? What do you listen to during sex? What do you listen to after sex? What kind of music do you like when you party and what kind of music do you like when you are relaxing?

aMinus: Bjrk (especially the remix album "Telegram"), Phillip Boa and The Voodooclub (Fine Art In Silver), Portishead (Portishead), PJ Harvey (Is this desire?), Pulp (This is Hardcore), Madonna (Erotica/Music) Missy Elliott (Under Construction), Massive Attack (Mezzanine), Air (Moon Safari) suit both happiness and sadness; Tori Amos's album "Strange Little Girls" when I'm angry; breath is what I listen to during and after sex; electroclash, new wave, 80's, punk-glam-trash attitude, such as Peaches, Fischerspooner, Electronicat, Joy Division, Lords Of The New Church, Von Bondies, Prototypes, Performance, Chicks On Speed... I relax on Air, Kate Bush, Aphex Twin (Richard D James Album), Portishead, Everything But The Girl, Old Skool Jungle, Closer Musik...

MVRemix: Do you make music that makes people want to party, relax, fuck, post coital chill, be sad, be angry, be miserable, or be happy? Is it a combination of all of them?

aMinus: Do I make music for people in the very first place would be the real question... I don't think so. I'm surely not asking myself whether I want people to be this or that while listening to my music... I make music because I'm constantly pregnant! The delivering is such a relief! "Have you met my son? He's a straight A's student!! I'm so proud of him!"

MVRemix: Who do you write your music for? Do not say your fans, it's too vague. Who are these fans that you are making music for, who would you like to make music for? Who do you not want as fans? Neo Nazi's, Marxist feminists, would you mind if they were your fans?

aMinus: I write music for me first... Then I cannot have control over the public, but I guess I'd love my music to travel time and be listened to by neo-romantics who met in London underground places in the early 80's. no seriously, I have no word whatsoever, the public I'll have will be the good one and I doubt neo Nazi's would enjoy my songs.. of course I'd mind if they were my "fans" but once again I cannot have a control over that... can I?

MVRemix: What equipment do you use? How do you record?

aMinus: Laptop, microphone, program: fruityloops/soundforge. I put it all together on fruityloops and then mix it better on soundforge.

MVRemix About how long does it take you to complete a track?

aMinus: It depends... when I'm very inspired it takes a couple of hours... and sometimes I keep remixing the song over and over. Then it takes a couple of months...

MVRemix: You seem to break the pop song 3 minute a track barrier, do you do this on purpose? Does it help you differentiate between pop and Indie? How big and important is Indie music in France? Is Indie an imaginative creation or does it hold any significance for you, your music, your integrity? Is everyone just making pop songs, that is, a rose by any other name is still a rose?

aMinus: I used to make 8 minutes pop songs! Would have I been Indie if I had kept them like that? I had to cut them down so people and even myself wouldn't get bored... the principle of pop songs is to be repetitive so it's easy to catch and it becomes popular. 8 minutes becomes redundant. Pop can be Indie though, I guess being Indie is being different in your musical approach... I don't really feel like I'm doing mainstream pop. I'm doing pop in the sense that I use its pattern (verse/chorus) and I have distinct melodies easy to remember. Indie is not different from pop, it aims to be popular... it aims to touch as much people as it can... you still have a verse and a chorus in Indie music, once again it's just the musical approach that makes you Indie. But I feel closer to Indie music than mainstream pop.

MVRemix: What is your favorite piece of candy? Bubblegum, chocolate bars, etc?

aMinus: Chinese coco balls.

MVRemix: If you could kill any pop star living or dead, who would it be? If you could fuck any pop star living or dead (that is to say, while they were living, unless you're totally kinked out and you want to sleep with them while they are dead) who would it be?

aMinus: Two French ones: Felix Gray and Didier Barbelivien. I'd love to fuck the singer from The Postal Service, who is the singer of Death Cab for a Cutie as well. I've never seen his face but his voice is a real turn on. PJ Harvey too!

MVRemix: What would you want people to know about you before they listened to your album?

aMinus: That I've been trying too hard but not anymore.

MVRemix: What are your plans for the next ten years?

aMinus: Not sure yet. I guess, as corny as it might sound: travels... meet people. never be a waiter again. make music, act on stage, build a house, and experience schizophrenia.

MVRemix: Would the revolution be televised or not? Would you watch it if it was on?

aMinus: It won't. I would not. "Revolution will be micro waved" (dixit Marianne Jacquet from les Plateau Repas) and I believe her.

MVRemix: Any last comments or questions?

aMinus: No. Enjoy! Maybe.

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"I've been trying to write songs in my own language and it just didn't feel right, I felt embarrassed... writing in English makes the lyrics feel anonymous."