Frenchman's great sound experiment

Anthony Gonzalez was behind the soundtrack for Oblivion, which starred Tom Cruise.
Anthony Gonzalez was behind the soundtrack for Oblivion, which starred Tom Cruise.PHOTO: ANDREW ARTHUR

Lead singer of electronic band M83 Anthony Gonzalez has created a radically different album, Junk

For Anthony Gonzalez, the leader of French electronic outfit M83, the chance to work on the soundtrack of 2013 Tom Cruise-starrer Oblivion proved to be a particularly positive experience and a turning point of sorts.

The 36-year-old Frenchman, who worked on the project between albums, says it was "completely different from working on his own album".

Originally a two-man outfit, M83 was founded in 2001 by Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau in their hometown of Antibes in the south of France.

After two albums, Fromageau left the group in 2004 and Gonzalez has a four-man band backing him.

While albums are almost selfish pursuits, he enjoyed working with a team on the bigger project.

"You're part of a team and you're all working for the same project - the film - which is always going to be the most important thing," he says. "No matter what you want the music to be, you have to serve the film and the director."


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The experience produced the epic, soaring ballad Oblivion, that features Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfor.

While that was his first experience on the soundtrack for a major Hollywood blockbuster, he says these are "two different sides of my career that I'm trying to bring together".

It is how the musician, who has been in the industry for 15 years, keeps it fresh for himself.

"I'm just trying to have fun as a musician doing different projects, changing my album and my sound and trying to experiment," he says.

The experimentation with sounds was well and truly felt on his latest album release Junk, which came out last month to mixed reviews.

While previous album, 2011's Hurry Up We're Dreaming, was responsible for stellar, atmospheric tracks such as Midnight City and Reunion, Junk leads with the jaunty 1980s-influenced Do It Try It - an almost cheesy, piano-driven house number.

The radical difference was deliberate, according to Gonzalez, who says he did not try to repeat the same album he had done with the Grammy-nominated Hurry Up We're Dreaming.

While he acknowledges that people were probably expecting something in a similar vein to Junk's critically acclaimed predecessor, he says: "I like to go where people don't expect me to be and this is what I tried to do with this album".

While Gonzalez typically takes on vocal duties, the new album also features guest vocalists such as French singer Mai Lan and American singer-songwriter Beck.

He adds: "I just wanted to have a lot of guests on this album and come back with an eclectic album; it's exactly what I wanted, a sort of party album."

After a run at music festival Coachella and a string of dates in Australia, the band are heading to Singapore for the second time tomorrow. While he remembers fondly their last trip here to play at the Laneway Festival in 2012, Gonzalez hopes that this time it's going to be "even better".

He says that M83 fans are going to enjoy the show and that he will be playing a lot of songs from previous albums.

"The sound is big and the lights are really going to bring something special, a kind of science fiction to the show," he adds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Frenchman's great sound experiment'. Print Edition | Subscribe