At first there was this vivid memory of Dungeons and Dragons, this childhood sensation of living in an imaginary world set in a faraway past or a lost future. I wanted to create some music that could be part of this adventure and journey with all of its solitary knights, dreamy landscapes, strange animals, forgotten myths and old spells.
Originally, the Digital Shades project was supposed to be much more intimate – a collection of B-sides and unused tracks destined for the hardcore fan base. Digital Shades was the name chosen to dissociate it from a proper studio album, although it would be fully part of M83’s discography. I liked the idea of lost pieces of music being available to the public. When I work on a record, I have difficulty saying goodbye to some pieces of music that I think have potential but don’t necessarily fit the style of the album.
This is how Digital Shades became an excuse to give a second life to some tracks instead of letting them disappear into the void.
Digital Shades was also supposed to be a bedroom project – just me and my machines. I wanted to create an album that would only be comprised of simple, mainly instrumental, ambient music; a record that I could produce on my own without the help of musicians or a producer.
I love the idea of a collection. I’ve always been fascinated by Brian Eno’s ambient works. These records all had a lot of things in common, starting with similar artworks and titles that made you think they were all connected to each other while providing a different experience each time.
I wanted to create a similar production of ambient music that could evolve throughout the years.
After my album Junk, I had a weird sensation that people didn’t fully understand the direction of the record. Despite a very successful tour all over the world, I couldn’t stop thinking that the fans were disappointed with Junk. And a feeling of failure stayed with me for a very long time…
I then started to work for the Cirque du Soleil, creating the music for their show Volta. It took a year of hard work in Montreal and was a truly amazing experience with the feeling of being part of a family. I loved it and will always be thankful for the opportunity. But I was just part of a team, I made music for this creation to help build a show which was not mine. I wasn’t always in the same spirit as the creators or the production, but my job was not to decide. I was there to provide.
After this, I felt empty; mentally and physically exhausted. I went back home to the south of France to rest and reflect on what would come next with one idea in mind: this time, I wanted to create for myself.
Digital Shades Vol. 2 is, in my opinion, far more advanced than Digital Shades Vol. 1. The first volume was way less ambitious and didn’t require as much energy and work. I was also 26 years old at that time. I had different goals, taste in music and knowledge. With Digital Shades Vol. 2, I wanted to come back with something stronger that featured the depth of a proper studio album without the pressure of providing pop music – faraway from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and Junk.
During the summer of 2017, I spent five months in Cap d’Antibes, France. I mainly spent my time swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, reading, watching films and playing 80s video games. The inspiration behind this record is mainly video game music. It felt so refreshing to play all of these old school games again. There is something so naive and touching about them. It’s simple and imperfect. And this is exactly what I tried to achieve with Digital Shades Vol. 2.
I wanted to be surrounded by nature and the past. I would only feed myself with older art. It’s almost as if I couldn’t stand living in the present and didn’t find much interest in modern things anymore. This is probably why it was important for me to only use analog equipment for this record. We recorded everything with vintage equipment in my studio and at Justin Meldal-Johnsen’s studio in Glendale, California during final production which took place from the fall of 2017 to the spring of 2018.
Video game music:
The Legend of Zelda / Koji Kondo
Phantasy Star II / Tokuhiko Uwabo
Solomon’s Key / Michiharu Hasuya
Crystalis / Yoko Osaka
Final Fantasy / Nobuo Uematsu
Dragon Quest / Koichi Sugiyama
Faxanadu / Jun Chikuma
Mother / Hirokazu Tanaka
Plantasia / Mort Garson
The Wozard Of Iz / Mort Garson
Switched-On Bach / Wendy Carlos
Discreet Music / Brian Eno
Trilogie de la mort / Eliane Radigue
Manhattan Research, Inc. / Raymond Scott
Seven Waves / Suzanne Ciani
New Age Of Earth / Ash Ra Tempel
Fantastic Planet / René Laloux
Gandahar /René Laloux
Satyricon / Federico Fellini
Zardoz / John Boorman
The NeverEnding Story / Wolfgang Petersen
Phantasm / Don Coscarelli
Quest / Saul Bass
In the Mouth of Madness / John Carpenter
Main synths used for the recording:
Roland Jupiter 6 and 8
Roland Jx 3p
Roland Juno 106
DSVII will be released on September 20th and is available to pre-order here now.