Interview with Yann Hagimont of ‘O’

Back in August of 2007, I sent Yann Hagimont some interview questions. At the time, I had just learned that ‘O’, (a duo featuring Hagimont and Sylvain Ducasse) had just split up. ‘O’ had been one of my favorite groups since I heard their split with Tin.RP, so I wanted to see if ‘O’ might move on in some fashion. Hagimont was a good sport about the interview, and insisted on translating his original French answers for STARTLING MONIKER readers. It’s taken a while, but I think this interview was well worth the wait.

STARTLING MONIKER: First off, what’s happened to Sylvain? Will ‘O’ continue as a solo project?

YANN HAGIMONT/’O’: Well, just what often happens when two people play together for a long time. After some disagreements, we’ve decided to stop our collaboration and to follow different directions. I only know that he focuses on his scientific research (sounds like he’s a really respected archaeologist), but we didn’t talk together for a while… about two or three years ago. So “O” continues as a solo project– or more exactly, as an “orchestra non orchestra”… But as interactions are really important in the “O” creation process, I’ve also prepared some collaborations with artists I really respect. Some years ago, I’ve said that “O” will die after “Numero 0”… Of course, it was metaphoric. It was the death of a concept.

SM: So much of ‘O’ seems to do with duality– the personnel of ‘O’, the split-releases with other artists, and now a split-release in two parts across two labels, even the cooperation ‘O’ expects from listeners to “finish” creating the music. Why this emphasis on duality?

YH: Basically, you’re right… But behind all these dual elements, there’s always a third value– not limited to the fusion of the two others. In reality, there’s no emphasis on duality. To be honest, duality is probably what I hate the most… and that we hated the most. At the beginning, we had created “O” as a way to escape to duality, Manicheism, SYMMETRY, perfect repetition (L’Imperfection est la cîme” ). Duality is sterile: it only permits to create lifeless structures. This aesthetic position could be summed up like this: a + b = c, or possibly, c = a + b + x (consider that “c” is “O” music and “x” all accidents, aleatory events. I’m not sure that’s a good image.

Have you ever seen Henri Meschonnic‘s works? He develops a really specific conception of rhythm, based on a re-definition of rhythm; rhythm in language, rhythm in poetry, etc. According to him, rhythm isn’t a binary shifting… it’s movement, and it doesn’t require regularity. A consequence of this re-definition is that all art productions are unique. And it’s not only an aesthetic approach: it is also applicable to politics. Now I must give another reason: duality goes against my political ideals. Duality is an enemy of freedom, of individuality, of specificities.

If splits with other artists have many positive aspects (as all collaborations, it has positive economic aspects, creates communities and it determines creation), they’re also really stereotypical in underground scenes (which are ruled by many codes) and in many “pop” music scenes. As stereotypical objects, they must be disfigured. That’s the reason of our first split (with Tin RP): it wasn’t a “horizontal” split but a “vertical” split– a stereophonic split. The “O” vs Je split was a split between me and myself. The split with Moon was another variation of disfigured split (a split in two parts on Lona Records and Burning Emptiness). And the next split (with Joe Post, an ex-Monitors member) will be our first conventional split release.

About the cooperation of listeners, I don’t see it as a figure of duality. Oh! A little remark about this. I’ve said in the past that “O” needs active listeners, but all sound productions need active listeners to become music; there are just different degrees to this . Perhaps I was a bit clumsy or naive to focus on this point. At the same time, it was a good way to contest the cliché of “feeling.” Many people consider that music “speaks to their heart” (sorry for my English) but it’s just a romantic vision. They find feelings in music because they have learned how to find them in what they listen to.

SM: I have always been interested in works that fall between the world of “useful” crafts, and art. Obviously, you put a lot of work into ‘O’ recordings, but you also deny that they are communicating something concrete– and even that they are completed! How is it that you came to work in this middle ground?

YH: Of course, there’s months and months of work upstream from “O” music, especially in recent pieces. But this work is not an end. Of course, I must be sure that I can bear “O” approximations (“O” is not exactly music) and in the past we’ve said that “O” wasn’t music. One of the first steps of creation is to listen many times to the raw version. Then, a great part of the work consists in “sculpting” of this raw material: to “organize” it, create different spaces… and arrange this with all non-musical things I can find in the studio. Sometimes, the “non-musical” (more exactly the “concrete” elements) can be used first… I’m not sure that I’ve really answered this question!

SM: Your use of the ‘O’ symbol seems deliberately confusing– it can be seen as a whole, as a nil sign, a closed loop, a vessel to be filled, or a process without end. I have always thought that ‘O’ begins at one of these interpretations when starting to create. Is this true?

YH: Well… When we found this name – “O” -, we were looking at the full moon. We were speaking about more than a polysemic name, but at the same time minimalist and complex. Perhaps you’ll find it ridiculous, but when we found this name, it delighted us. It was like our first aesthetic production. The stupid sound of the letter “O” in French, the mathematical values (not positive, not negative) and the circle had totally charmed us.

But I keep in mind that the interpretation of a sign like “O” totally depends on the context. A text? An equation? A geometric exercise? A diagram? A child’s drawing? That means “O” is nothing. Or all.

To be honest I don’t really like symbolist explanations, which assume a preexisting sense to the form. A symbol doesn’t have any existence outside of a culture anymore. All these interpretations of “O” can be subsumed under the category of subjectivity. Consequently, the only real sense of “O” is the affirmation of the subjectivity. And our main musical objective (ah, ah!…).

SM: Does your recording process assume a listener? Who do you imagine? What are the qualities of this listener?

YH: Of course! And the recording process includes a listener twice. As I’ve said before, an important part of my preparation’s work consists in listening to the raw material. Oh! Even when I play guitar, I play as a listener– I try to introduce “errors;” things I don’t expect, things which can break listening codes. It can take me several months (I need to “multiply” me…). But it also assume other listeners at each step of the creation. How could we really imagine music without any listener?

I can’t believe people who release records and say that they do their music only for themselves, or for none. I don’t know if you ever read Umberto Eco’s “Lector in Fabula”. I think the reading processes described can work as well in music. Even if you say that you don’t (or can’t, which is probably my case) imagine your listener (and by this, I mean someone in particular), an entity determines many of your choices. Unfortunately, it’s probably connected with your environment– cultural, social.

I can’t say– or more probably don’t want to say who I imagine. A listener probably composed with a part of you? The qualities of a listener? Mainly confidence. And doubt.

SM: You have a release on Antenna Records, “Numero 0″… There’s something else I’d love to hear– any chance of a collaboration with The Telescopes?

YH: Ah, ah!… I’d like to work on something like that, but our problem is always time. Never have time enough. I have a deep respect for The Telescopes and Stephen; they produced so many awesome things since their start. They’ve never done the same music, and they’re more and more non-commercial. They follow their way and don’t care about any trend. Their journey into music and sound must be considered as an example.

SM: What music are you excited about right now?

YH: So much! I’m into a lot of contemporary music (my favorite remains Claude Debussy, one of my first discoveries)… and I do love all Messiaen works. Of course I love what some people call “abstract”, but I’m also a great fan of No-Wave, experimental rock, and I even listen to “arty” grindcore. I’m really interested in traditional music too. The only thing I really hate is pretentious popular music. Sometimes, people making popular music are dumb enough to imagine that they’re as great as “real” composers… but we’re not.) Never forget that popular music; from indie to techno, from harsh noise to grindcore, from folk to idm (I’d like to know how dance music can be intelligent. Just another stupid fashion.) are clichéd combinations. Don’t imagine that I’m a snob– I love clichés, and I love playing with them too!.

SM: What is coming up for ‘O’? Is the Monitors split still going to happen? Any touring, other albums in progress?

YH: Unfortunately, The Monitors no longer exist… I really miss them; it was a promising band, a really interesting prog no-wave. Even though they no longer exist, a split EP (the first “O” vinyl ever!) with Joseph Post (ex-member of the Monitors) will be released this August on Golgonooza Records (who also release music from Sberms, G.I. Joe, Gay Beast and many others). Another split (with S/T, ex-bassist of the Japanese band Green Milk from Planet Orange) should be out on Skyr Records really soon as well. The “O” part is totally different from what I usually do– it’s mainly a minimalist electronical work, and was composed between 2001 and 2007). There’s no full album planned for the moment; I’m just thinking about a new approach of “O”… I can’t use a same concept twice.

One Response to “Interview with Yann Hagimont of ‘O’”

  1. Karthik Says:

    Wait, ¿The Monitors are done? Damnit.

    His translations of his French answers are quite skillfully done, and it doesn’t seem like much thought is lost in the midst of denouncing ‘duality.’ It seemed like a good image that he used, but maybe I’ve just had too much Philosophy of Language/Mind/Symbolic Logic. Despite all the thought they put into music that takes advantage of stereo-split accidents, it’s simultaneously refreshing to see that they got excited on a really straightforward level over some of the initially noticed (at least to them) characteristics of the “O” name, along with his appreciation of the utilization of clichés.

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