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Marianne Dissard

Marianne Dissard

Tuesday 12th April, 2011 9:37AM

Marianne Dissard is a french-born, US inhabiting mutli-medium artist, who has just released her latest album L'Abandon. She is touring New Zealand in support of the release next week, and UTR caught up with her to discuss the writing and recording process, what drives the myriad of collaborations she embarks on and why she'll still be performing when she's eighty.

You’re about to embark on a really long tour. How do you find the tour experience?

I am very excited, but to keep going there’s got to be something a little different and a little more challenging. When I tour in Europe I take the whole band from Tuson and it’s a whole different experience - it’s like this hoard of Tuson musicians coming together but in New Zealand it’s going to be different. It’s a solo tour and I get to play around with video projection and make it into a little bit more of a cabaret act.

Because the performance element is very important to you?

It is. It’s very different than recording an album. When you record an album it’s a one-time-one-place ‘we did this to the best of our abilities’. The more I tour and the more I perform the more I can make the live experience into something really exciting. I had no idea five years ago when I started singing I would enjoy being a performer so much. It’s a revelation every time I get onstage that I’m not shy any more and that I can actually do something a little crazy and wild. The more I do that on stage the more I retreat in my personal life which is a strange balance, but it keeps things interesting.

I guess the performative element takes the music to another place? Do you explore the music through performing it?

Yes yes yes. You discover it, you change it, you adapt it. You’ve got people in the audience and the music is only alive when there’s a real connection happening between you and them. It’s almost like you’re steering a really heavy, slow boat; you can’t change it right away, you have to agree to spend an evening or a show with the people that are there and work and create something together. It’s a real interaction and a real creation and that’s really exciting for me .On this tour I also get to play with video projection and try out how images that are going to be in my background are going to interact with the audience.


Tell me a little bit about the new album L'Abandon.

I started working on the songs with the composer Christian Ravaglioli and was actually in Italy for most of that process. Christian is a composer who is classically trained and is completely different from my Americana rock and roll world, and not someone who tours a lot. He’s more like someone who composes a lot at home on the piano – relentlessly writing - so we just locked ourselves in his studio for the process. We don’t even speak the same language – I don’t speak Italian and he doesn’t speak English or French – we were just there talking music. We just built songs like that and it was a very intense, maddening process in a way because I’d spent that entire time in this foreign place and no-one spoke my language, so I felt I was going mad at some points. I was like ‘Oh my god nobody understands me!’

And Jim Waters produced it?

Yes. We recorded at Jim Water’s studio. Originally I was producing it and I hadn’t talked to Jim about it. But he was so essential in the whole process that at the end of the recording I told him, ‘you know, I’m going to give you a producing credit because without you I would’ve made big mistakes’. He was very gentle and very intelligent person to have around because he would not allow me to make big mistakes. He really educated the process. He would let me do my thing and run around all crazy but then at some points he would be like ‘nope you can’t do that’ and so it was great.

It must have been quite amazing to write the album with a classically trained musician and record with Jim Waters who comes from an alternative rock background. How did these different minds inform the process?

We were all from different backgrounds and somehow we managed to find a common language. I’m not sure how it all worked! It’s hard to explain afterwards what exactly happened but in the studio I guess my main contribution was a sort of energy, almost like a performance. Like ‘I’m here’. I don’t think I sat down the entire time I was in the studio; I was just this bouncing ball trying to make sure that that kind of energy, which to me was essential to the album, was relayed on it.

What were you trying to say with the album?

I think when you’re doing it, it’s hard to think in those terms but when I look back it had to do with finding yourself and a certain type of freedom and excitement about life, I guess I was trying to portray that life can be really exciting and fun, but it’s also got some deep dark undertones. If you embrace both the dark and the light or the sunshine and the darkness you come out with something that’s really exciting, called Life. That idea just makes me happy. Just being able to be in a sad song, being able to be in a nostalgic song, being able to be in a goofy song – I love all of that! I think I was coming down from two years of touring and seeing how things were progressing and how I was progressing as a performer, so there’s this momentum to it which is really exciting. I’ve just been excited about the whole process and can’t wait to go on the road and play it to people.


Tell me about the accompanying film you made for the album, Lonesome Cowgirls.

That also kind of surprised me when I decided to do this. I did not intend to go back to making movies. I had put that aside a few years ago and I wanted to focus on the music and being good at that, but I think I’m getting such energy back from being able to do music that the idea of doing a film was fun, and it seemed like an essential accompaniment to the album. So again, I didn’t have to second guess myself, I just opened my mouth one day and the whole film just flowed from there. I went like ‘Oh there’s this Andy Warhol movie and it somehow seems like it’s going to be a perfect compliment to the album’. There’s something about the raunchiness and freedom and experimentation they looked like they had when they were making the movie that was in the spirit of what we had done with the album. It talks about the story of the Western land and it’s got these people who are trying to figure our their relationship to the land and to each othe, and, more generally, the history of Western civilisation. By the end of the process we had gone through this communal experience from doing this out of nothing. There was no budget, it was just everyone’s thrill of doing something.

Tell me about the collaborative process more generally. What draws you to collaborate with particular people?

It’s about taking reasonable chances, about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and growing and learning. For example, the co-producer of the album BK1 comes from hip hop. He’s from a place called Minneapolis and he’s always been in hip hop and rap. I don’t know anything about that world but when we met we knew at the core what mattered is music and being interested in it and wanting to push what you do. It’s about all these bridges you can build and get to something you haven’t gotten to before. We started working on the new album and he’s doing the beats and samples and musical base for it. I’m a little bit scared, I’m supposed to talk to him today but I don’t know if I can and I’m like ‘Ah I’ve never done this before how do I even think about being a singer on this stuff.’ But hopefully I’ll learn a lot about the history of these genres and grow as an artist.

Tell me about your output as a multimedia artist.

Well, it’s about enjoying performing! I think it will be the thing I’m doing when I’m eighty years old. There’s something really intense about. It’s a struggle to keep going and make it more meaningful each time but the actual performance element not a struggle. When I’m editing a video for example it’s painful - you feel it in your body - it’s a struggle and it’s going to hurt having to spend hours and hours editing. I mean it’s exciting but it’s not something my body wants to be put through. I listen to the body and the body loves performing.



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