Gotye Talks "Making Mirrors", Graphic Novels, Movies, and More
Mon, 10 Sep 2012 07:23:45
Gotye's creative palette remains one of the most vibrant of any artist this century.
Employing a diverse array of instruments, his manipulation of sound reflects a tapestry of emotions on Making Mirrors. Each track vividly tells tales of love and life via the artist's poetic, potent lyrics and irresistible delivery. He's managed to elevate pop to a new plateau all together with this record, and it's bound to continue progressing as he evolves further. He's one of those voices that just begs to be heard, and he's going to be remembered as the man that made pop music smart again...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Gotye talks Making Mirrors, the story behind "Bronte", graphic novels, movies, and more.
Did you approach Making Mirrors with one vision?
I started off thinking I might try to make a record that was more consistent in terms of the sonic aesthetic. It's not necessarily subject matter. "Eyes Wide Open" is one of the first songs I tried with that mindset. Very quickly, I started experimenting with all sorts of sounds and directions. The record became a similar process for me. Each song is like its own little world as I'm exploring sounds and how that world fits together with the concept of the lyrics. Once you've got half an album's worth of songs, you start to get a sense of how they might fit together or which songs might pull away from each other. Sequencing the record becomes very integral. Choosing the final track list and the story that the sequence tells obviously make the record. It can potentially break the album if it's a bit off. The same thing happens when I write a set for a show. I feel like some songs can't move together. Others don't work in some points against certain tempos or key signatures. I always find it's like a little puzzle I'm trying to put together.
Did it take a while to achieve the final sequence?
Yeah, I did tinker with this one a lot. For my last record, Like Drawing Blood, I only had nine songs that I'd finished. They naturally suggested a certain order of how they'd work, whereas the material here seemed to confuse me more. I had lots of different ways I was trying to put everything together. At some stage, I thought "Dig Your Own Hole" was a definite on the album. Then, I couldn't find a place for it. It took a few attempts at sequence and working out whether or not I thought Making Mirrors had the right flow. The up-tempo tracks in the middle work like pivot tracks to come out of the introspective, frustrated, and dejected songs at the start. They pivot the album into stuff that's more playful and experimental.
What's the story behind "Bronte"?
It is one that's close to my heart. I wrote it about some friends of mine. It's about them and for them. They were letting go of their old dog Bronte who had been a member of their family for 21 years. When you love and care for an animal, you don't want it to suffer too much. You also respect nature and the natural cause of things. They really struggled with the eventual decision of deciding they had to let go of the dog and put it down. I thought they did it in a very loving way. From what I could tell, it was very instructive and inclusive for their daughters. They did it as a family. I wrote that song like I was vicariously experiencing it. That's what I'm proud of. In its simplicity, I felt like it captured my feelings of that experience even if it was at a distance. You don't have to necessarily interpret it as a relationship between people and animals. You can flip it on its head and turn it into a group of animals letting go of this peculiar relationship with a human child they have in the forest.
Do the longer songs like "Smoke and Mirrors" give you more room to speak musically?
You can take your time a little bit more. A lot of pop music these days doesn't even seem interested in allowing you that bit of breathing room. It can be really significant. The build-up and anticipation is different than trying to get to the chorus as soon as possible, repetition, or turnarounds happening every second. "Easy Way Out" had a lot going on. Possibly, there didn't end up being room in the mix to hear a lot of the instrumental elements that I'm actually quite into behind the vocals. There's a lot of vocal conversation going on between harmonies and lead vocals in different ranges. If you heard "Easy Way Out" as an instrumental, it's interesting to hear the details of what's going on.
What other art forms inspire you?
I like reading. I'm into graphic novels. I read both nonfiction and fiction. I'm interested in using fairly plain language but trying to find that combination of words that are quite direct, yet still open to interpretation. Still, they have that bright resonance. It's a very intuitive thing. I can't describe it once I strike it. I like lyricists and writers that are more poetic and have more flourish to their use of words, but I seem to gravitate towards things that are more direct. For me, I want to capture a story or emotion with that balance of poetry and explicitness.
What graphic novels do you come back to?
I really like the surreal world of Jim Woodring and his Frank comics. I've been reading a lot of stuff by Joe Sacco. It's really heavy. He does a lot of war journalism in graphic novel format. He's an incredible illustrator and war journalist. He's done a lot of pieces on the Gaza Strip. He was reporting on the Balkans in the '90s. Bruce Mutard is an Australian graphic novelist whose work I like. I enjoy reading Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. I used to read a lot of Flemish comics. Tintin has been translated widely. They're popular in English. There's a whole culture of what they call "strip books" in Belgium, France, and Holland. I read a few of my favorites in Flemish. I grew up reading those. I might've read a few Donald Duck comics, but I never got into the superhero, pulp comics. Graphic novels are something I've discovered more in the past few years.
If you were to compare Making Mirrors to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
If I was forced to consider it, maybe Making Mirrors would be something like Four Rooms. It's got a lot of jump-cutting. Different influences are mixed, but there's a thread running through it. I don't think my stuff is nearly as dark as that movie, but the aspect of jumping around all over the place comes to mind [Laughs].
Have you heard Making Mirrors?