It was that hot last Thursday for the opening day of Europavox festival 2019 and, at the Factory stage, you had the impression the instruments of the musicians could melt right in front of your eyes.
Still, in the Petite Coopé, the atmosphere was different. Obviously, the coolness of the air conditioner had something to do with this. But there was also the music played by Tomáš Dvořák, aka Floex, and his two partners (a guy behind the drumkits, a girl playing piano and directing a computer), all dressed in black and accompanied by a whole orchestra… video-projected in the background.
A true wizard of the European electronic scene and an author of various albums, themes for video games or movie trailers, Floex and his friends played songs from A Portrait of John Doe, an album the Czech musician and producer imagined with english composer Tom Hodge. A perfect mix between electronic inflections and classical arrangements, the music had the incredible feel of a 60s soundtrack that could transform any venue into a James Bond set. You just had to close your eyes and you could imagine yourself in a black tuxedo sipping a dry martini and waiting for some action to come…
Yes, the show was that cool, with this perfect marriage of organic sounds (clarinet, xylophone, inventive drums…), loops, infectious grooves and electronic blips. During the two days which preceded this gig, Floex and his friends perfected this complex live set at ImagO, an amazing venue dedicated to musical and video creation based in the north of Clermont Ferrand. That’s where we met him, just after a little showcase the trio played in front of some privileged spectators.
How many days did you spend at ImagO?
We stayed two days in residency. It was my very first time in a place like this. It is quite unusual for me since I come from the electronic music scene, the world of the home-studio philosophy! I’ve got a great studio in Prague and I mostly work here every time. As we had lots of time, we wondered what to do exactly in addition to the rehearsal in itself, and we decided to try and compose a new song. It was quite an experience for me to write a song this way! It’s rare for me to record proper drums for example, as I always program them…
As you create your music in your studio, I was wondering if you rediscover your compositions when you played them live?
It’s quite obvious for me that live and recordings are two different kinds of situations for music. When I compose, it’s more like a sonic sculpture I am trying to build: the music is like a material I have to work with. When I play live, there is the importance of the energy, the interactions you try to have with the audience. Sometimes It’s quite hard to find a good transition because you don’t want to lose the sound quality but you know you have to find these new dynamics… For A Portrait Of John Doe, Tom Hodge and me had the great opportunity to work with a proper orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphonic Orchestra.
Obviously, after the recording, it was impossible for us to think we could play live without all these instruments. But it was also obvious that we couldn’t afford to go on the road with a full orchestra for each date! So we had the idea to film it, and we used these images in the background and had the arrangements on tape. The very first gig we played for this project was with the full orchestra with us on stage. By chance, I had a friend who is into video and video mapping. We filmed with GoPro cameras and recorded the whole gig, and the results are what you can see and listen to on stage.
How did you work with Tom Hodge for the album?
The most important thing to know about this project is that it was very spontaneous! We met in a festival in Berlin, started to speak and, some months later, Tom was in my studio. Tom and I have common grounds, tastes and focus in music, but also some differences. We worked five days in Prague to create the musical core of the tracks. And from there, we built the songs. We complemented each other:
Tom was more implicated in the writing and arrangements side, I was more involved in the production part – I’m more into how the music should sound in a studio. l always take a lot of time to produce because it’s what can make the music sound different…
Do you consider yourself as a perfectionist though?
Oh yes, I do, and I don’t see it as a quality! Maybe it has something to do with unsureness, maybe I should give more freedom to the songs from time to time.
Tom or you also compose quite often for movie trailers or video games: do you write in exactly the same way when you compose for these medias as you would you write for an album like A Portrait Of John Doe?
I think the main differences are not technical in a way, but more about the emotions you try to put into the music… For example, when I work for a video game, I try to come with more playful stuff.
As you really seem obsessed by the production and how should sound a song, do you consider yourself more as a soundwriter or a songwriter ?
I can’t choose between these two sides, they are totally imbricated for me. The music is quite sophisticated but… I also like purity, simplicity. I like things you don’t normally expect, things that will surprise you, the marriage between strings and electronics for example. I also really like to work on the songs structures and finding particular dynamics.
Just a last question: how would you describe the music recorded on A Portrait Of John Doe to someone who had never listened to the album?
Deep, emotional, and sound-visionary.