Coachella 2015: Madeon Talks Rock Collaborators, Debut LP ‘Adventure’ & Working With Lady Gaga

Mike Wass | April 17, 2015 8:30 am
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Madeon has been at the forefront of EDM since the release of 2012 EP The City, but until recently he was better known to pop fans for his dazzling production work. That all changed with the arrival of the French DJ’s debut LP Adventure. With features from Bastille frontman Dan Smith (Bastille) and Marc Foster of Foster The People, it’s shaping up to a major crossover success.

I interviewed the 20-year-old before his Coachella set on Sunday night (April 12) and he talked about pre-show nerves and memories of his first appearance at the festival in 2012. Hugo Pierre Leclercq (his real name) also opened up about his change in musical direction and spoke openly about working with Lady Gaga on ARTPOP. (He also set the record straight about unreleased track “Tinnitus”). Find out more below.

Are you nervous about your set?
I’m nervous because it’s my brand new show, which is all my own music. I’ve been doing it a few times in Europe, and just once in the US, and it’s been great. But it’s also still very new, and there’s a lot of things that can go wrong. I’m crossing my fingers. It’s been a lot of effort, so I’m anxious for it to happen and to be relieved of that pressure.

I’ve been leading up to this moment for a while. My dream has always been to play Coachella, playing all my own music. I played Coachella in 2012 as DJ, and it was great, but coming back after my album is so much more meaningful.

Have you had a chance to check out any other sets yet?
No, not at all. I’ve stayed in here [ie. his trailer], eating, doing promo. I’m not going to be able to see anything until after my set, I think.

Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Stromae, Gesaffelstein and Drake.

Will you be debuting any new material not on the album?
No. The album came out like two weeks ago. If I start putting out new music, it gets a little overwhelming. I still want people to learn this new music first, but there’s a lot of brand new live versions of the songs that are very different from the album. Even if you’ve heard the album, it will feel very fresh.

You said you were here in 2012. What was your favorite memory?
Yeah, just going on the stage, really. Coachella was definitely the first music festival I heard about. It has such a worldwide aura. It’s so meaningful, like internationally. Just being there was amazing. I do remember it was the first year they started doing two weekends, and I remember going into the second weekend with this very weird deja vu impression and kind of freaking out about living the exact same thing, meeting the same people at the same time. It’s kind of crazy.

Let’s talk about Adventure. One of the things that I found interesting is the number of rock vocalists on there — Dan Smith and Mark Foster, for example.
Michael from Passion Pit.

What that your intention or did it just happen?
I feel like I am making pop music with the aesthetic and the tools of electronic music, and I feel like ultimately what I want to make is write songs and melodies, so it was natural for me to collaborate with people that were song writers and producers. Those were all bands that I loved and was a fan of, so that I reached out to. To me, that’s the kind of music I’m touched by, so it felt kind of natural to reach out to those people, and I was really happy they were willing to collaborate.

You just called them up?
Pretty much. I had met Mark Forster before, so I had some connection to some of them before, but it all kind of happened with me reaching out to them, sending something out. They were all quite different processes. With Dan, I had the track finished, and we went into studio and wrote the lyrics together, and the track existed. With Mark, we started from scratch. It was all kind of different processes I wanted to try out. I wanted to have this human connection with the people I was collaborating with without being in the same room.

Does it make a difference to the music when you collaborate on something from scratch?
I think so. “Nonsense,” for example, the song with Mark, we started it by just playing chords. We were going back and forth, not thinking about production, just keeping it song driven. I think you can hear it in the song. There are a lot of lyrics, it’s very dense. I produced it afterward, and my approach to production was very much informed by the songwriting.

In some of the other songs, they kind of have a production that has a lot going on, so I have to make room for the vocals, but when you start with the vocals, it’s a very different process. I can hear the difference in my technical production, for sure.

You’ve produced music for a lot of other artists. Did you put that on hold while making this album?
Yeah. There are like three things I want to do, which are make my own music, do a live show, and produce for other people. But you can’t do all three at once. I kind of stopped working for other people, because I wanted to make sure I did not distract myself. I stayed in that zone of coming up with ideas for my album.

Are you relieved that the LP is out there in the world now?
There’s definitely some kind of relief, especially because I felt very vindicated by my fan base. I felt like they really understood a lot of what I was trying to do, so it was a big relief. There were some songs on there I was really anxious about sharing. The fact that there is only one house on the album. Everything is very slow. It’s just a groove that’s been more touching to me lately. Seeing that it didn’t make a difference, that I didn’t have fans that just wanted house music from me, they wanted emotions, was super liberating and amazing.

What’s your next single?
We have a third and final part of the music video trilogy that I’ve been doing. It’s going to be “Nonsense” — the song with Mark. We actually filmed in Dubai.

What was it liking working on Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP album?
It was awesome. It was a great experience for me, definitely. She’s a very, obviously insanely talented person. She’s a great vocalist, a true, real songwriter. She’s great. It was very impressive to me and inspirational, but also, she cares a lot about everyone that works with her. I felt like she respected me, and that was very meaningful. She doesn’t work with tons of producers all the time.

The way I approached it was to trust her judgements and be a tool in her process to execute her vision. I didn’t want to come in and try to make it a Madeon song. I wanted to make sure that it was a way for her to express her ideas. If I worked for someone different, I would probably have a different approach, but I felt like I came in, started working on the album, like halfway through it’s completion, so it already had an identity.

It wasn’t my role to define it, you know what I mean? That’s how I approached it, but I saw her again recently. I saw her performing the songs we had worked on together live, and it was very, very touching to me. Overall, it was a very important experience for me.

I think “Gypsy” was the best song on that album.
Thank you, I think so too.

Is there an unreleased song? There’s a rumor about a track called “Tinnitus.”
Pretty much everything we’ve worked on has been released. I don’t have, how can I word that, I do not personally have any copy of a song with Lady Gaga singing that’s called “Tinnitus.” I don’t have it.

How is it working with Lady Gaga different to say Coldplay?
It’s quite, first of all, it was a much longer process. We worked together for way longer, but as I said, I have to keep in mind who she was and try to understand what she wanted to do to make sure I was helpful in accomplishing her vision. I think when you work with an upcoming artist, or something like that, you may have more of a possibility to assert your identity, and help them find their identity.

I think, now, if I were to work with Lady Gaga right now, I would do it very differently, I think, because I’m more confident as a producer. It was an insanely meaningful learning experience for me working with her.

Have you checked out Madeon’s album yet? Let us know in the comments below.

Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.