Now based in LA, Gonzalez kindly got up early to chat to us about the demise of The Pussycat Dolls, meeting Posh and Becks and, of course, the inspirations behind his wonderful, electronic dream-pop. You can read what he had to say below.
Hi Anthony, congratulations on the new album! Can you tell us a little bit about the inspirations behind it and any underlying themes or concepts?
It’s a tough question… I don’t know! I really want to say “everything and anything”. This is exactly what I like in music – that you can be inspired by so many different things. Having spent 29 years of my life in France, I moved to California a year and a half before the making of this album and I was excited and inspired by so many different things: by the landscape, by the way of life, by live shows, by movies, by the road trips I took alone... I was feeling alive again and this is, I feel, something that you can hear on the album.
There's a theme for me, definitely. But what I love about music and making albums is that I can have a story and a concept in my head but everyone can have a different interpretation of what they’re listening to. I love that; I think it's beautiful.
We think there’s definitely an 80s feel to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Would you agree? And are there any particular artists that have had an influence on your sound?
I don’t know, there’s a lot of songs that are connected to the 80s period but there’s also something very 70s and something very 90s about this album for me. But, yeah, definitely the 80s: I can’t help it but I’m somehow, like, obsessed with this period of music because I grew up at this time. Even if I discovered the bands later, when I was a teenager, the sound of the 80s is something that’s a huge, huge influence on my music, definitely: Cocteau Twins, Brian Eno, Talk Talk, Tears For Fears, Joy Division... (Laughs) Not very original!
What prompted you to embark on such an ambitious project?
Um, well since I was a teenager I was really obsessed with big, orchestral, conceptual music and albums. And making a double album was a dream of mine [but] I never really had the opportunity to do it before. Or maybe I didn’t feel like I was ready to make a double album. And I toured for so long with the previous album, Saturdays = Youth, [that] it gave me a lot of time to think about what my next move would be.
I just wanted to enjoy myself, have fun and experiment with my tools in my studio, not worrying about what people would think about me and this album. I mean, this album is almost like a gift to myself, y’know? (Laughs) Maybe that’s selfish but I really felt like, if I was enjoying myself and feeling emotional while making this album (if I was happy and dancing stupidly in my studio by myself), maybe other people would feel the same connection when they listened to it.
You chose to work with Beck's producer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen. What do you feel he brought to the record?
Tons of things. He’s obviously such a great musician, first of all. Every time he plays bass or guitar it’s just magical, and it’s really rare to feel emotions when someone plays an instrument. I don’t know, he was like a father figure. I'd moved to a new environment for a new life, a new adventure, and was feeling homesick and really sad [for] the first two/three months and Justin was there for me. It was the perfect relationship with him.
Is there a particular track on the album that you’re most proud of?
I really like the track ‘Splendor’. I’m a huge fan of Brad Laner and it was such a pleasure to meet him and to work with him on this album and I think he did an excellent job – I think the harmonies and lyrics on this song are amazing. Obviously I’m not going to pick a track where I’m singing... (Laughs)
Why not?! Do you not like your own singing voice?
Hmmm, I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just that it’s me; it’s annoying! I mean, I hate listening to my music... Obviously I have to sometimes, but I’m really shy about it and this is totally never gonna change. Like, every time there’s an M83 track playing at a party, I have to leave the room because I can’t be surrounded by people with my music playing in the background. It’s impossible: I feel ridiculous! (Laughs)
How was it working with Zola Jesus on the album?
That was terrible: she’s such a b*tch. (Laughs) She’s really awful, I really hate her… No, that was fantastic, she’s a good friend now and I really feel like I share the same musical vision as Nika. I mean, we love simple chord progressions but we love something very epic and emotional in the sound, something very melancholic and nostalgic. It was great; she’s so easy to work with and she’s very smart.
How do you feel your music’s progressed since Saturdays = Youth?
Hmmm, well I really think that my music is my baby and it’s growing up and evolving at the same time as myself. And the more I grow up, the more I feel I have to say in my music, and the more I feel I have to express myself in a certain way. So because I have more experience now as a human being, this album, for me, is more complete than the previous ones. But then probably I will say the same thing for the next album – it’s only going to be more complete.
So you’re not intimidated by the prospect of following up a double album?
No. I feel like that if I come up with a reggae album, it’s gonna be fantastic. I’m super-excited about it. (Laughs)
You also worked on the soundtrack for 'Black Heaven' – are movie soundtracks something you’d like to do more of in the future? And are there any particular directors you’d like to work with?
Definitely, yeah. I’ve loved watching movies and listening to movie soundtracks ever since I was a teenager and I feel like my music can connect very well with pictures. You know, when you’re a musician and you compose an album and then you go on tour, it’s never the same thing. And making soundtracks is also like something different. I like that about being a musician: there’s never a routine, it’s always different. There are tons of different directors I’d love to work with: Gregg Araki, Terence Malick, Gus Van Sant, David Lynch...
Being a solo artist, when you write music do you take into consideration how you’re going to perform it live? Or is that something you figure out afterwards?
I usually figure it out afterwards, which can be a problem. Because now we’re rehearsing for the live shows and (laughs) it’s just so hard… The album is so produced and, now we’re just a four-piece band trying to recreate the sound of the album onstage, it’s a nightmare! But it’s fun and I love challenges. We have our first gig on – oh my god – Friday! Oh… We’re not ready yet… But we’re gonna have a fantastic light show and I’m really super-excited about it. I’m just thrilled to go back on tour after two years of doing nothing.
It was tough but it was a great experience – I’m super happy I did it. On this album, if a bigger band proposed that we opened for them, I’d probably say no. But I think at the time I was craving another experience and to play with bigger bands, to see how they work and how they connect with audience.
You released remixes of your single 'Midnight City'. Is there anyone else you'd like to remix your work in the future?
God, this is difficult. Maybe The Pussycat Dolls…
They don’t exist anymore, apparently…
No? Really?! Oh god, thank you for breaking my dreams. (Laughs)
Aside from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, of course, what's the best double album ever written?
Definitely Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Just because I have so many great memories of my teenage years connected to this album. And you know how music can be so powerful when it’s connected to great memories? Every time I listen to this album it’s like I travel back to the past.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
One night I went to a restaurant with my girlfriend and we met David Beckham and Posh Spice in the elevator. He’s so good looking… He’s super good looking in the pictures but when you see him in real life you feel like sh*t next to him. That might sound stupid but he’s so beautiful that I don’t care!
And finally, where do you hope to be in 12 months time?
I’d like to be lying on the beach with a margarita in my hand.