We had a chat with French minimal synth artist Hante.
Hello Hélène. Many people consider your music as minimal synth which is of course a fact, but despite many other acts you develop a very contemporary sound. Do you agree?
Hello! I take that as a great compliment, thanks! I have read a few times that my music could have been made in the 80’s, but I actually disagree with that. I have no interest to redo what has already been done! Of course, I’m influenced by the sound of the 80’s but I’m also very moved by some recents acts that inspire me a lot. Maybe my music is a mix between all that and that’s what makes it special, I guess!
In fact which sounds, artists or moods are your inspiration when composing a tune?
It can be anything really. Sometimes it starts with the sound of a drum I heard in a tune or a movie that really moved me or an emotion like a nostalgic memory, the look of someone or the feeling of loneliness... And sometimes it’s only accidents, trying to compose a danceable track for example and ending with the slowest, most depressing song ever ahah! And vice versa! It’s the magic of synthesizers and computer: you can make a song evolve in any direction, there is no restriction.
Artists who make minimal synth pop sometimes seems like instrument nerds who know everything about all those synthesizers. Is Hélène a woman as such?
I really wish I could! Unfortunately I don’t own a lot of synths. To be honest, I even never tried a lot of mythical synths... But I love the objects and I love to spend a lot of time testing every button to create the perfect sound. Actually, I’m always looking for the synth that would be perfect for me. I didn’t find it yet. It would be a mix between the sounds of course but also the price, the size, the possibilities... This is my « holy grail »!
I hear a lot of melancholy and tristesse in your sound. Do you consider yourself as such a person?
I couldn’t explain why but when I compose music, I’m always taking refuge in my darkest thoughts and emotions. It’s like I need to make all this sorrow go out. I find creativity and beauty in sadness and melancholy. But oddly, I’m a really positive person in everyday life! Of course, like everybody, I have my ups and downs but I consider myself as a very lucky and happy person.
You are a French act. To be honest I don’t know that many French artists who play synthpop like you do. So I guess you’re a bit on your own in France, not?
Ahah! Why do you think I have so much sadness in my music? I’m kidding... But you’re right, there’s not a lot of minimal synth acts in France. Often when I fall in love with a band who sings in French, it’s almost always from Montreal! But there are a few French projects that I really love and inspire me. I think of hørd, Opale, Peine Perdue, Sydney Valette, Fragrance...
In fact, while we’re at it. Hante is of course popular in Germany, but how is it in France?
Very recently, someone asked me why I was not playing more often in France. The simple reason is that I don’t have much propositions from French promoters ahah... He said: « I guess it’s because no man is a prophet in his own country » and I think he’s right. Of course, there are some exceptions! But I always feel like the fact that I’m French is often an advantage in other countries (the accent is cute, Paris makes everybody dream etc.) but French people don’t like French people ahah! They are bored and blasé of French people! So, a huge hug to my few French fans who support me despite the fact I’m French!!
You used to be in Phosphor and Minuit Machine, and even if it was hard for you when the bands split up, it seems like Hante is the perfect solution, not?
The perfect solution, I don’t know. Of course, you don’t have to compromise and it’s really hard to split up with yourself but I really miss being in a band. I often feel lonely. It’s hard to not share everything with someone. The excitement when you compose a new song, the travels, the gigs, all the experiences are different. But at the same time being on my own pushes me far away from my comfort zone and we all know that’s where great things happen...
Maybe it’s me, but your album was called This Fog That Never Ends. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a perfect title for the state the world is in today...
Absolutely... I sent the album to production three days before the attacks in Paris so it was not related to that. But those words were describing perfectly the atmosphere that shrouded the city for months, and then the whole world. Like an unfortunate prediction...
Sometimes people say the worse the world looks like, the better the music. Agree or is this just stupid?
I don’t know about the music in Belgium but when I hear what’s really working in France, I guess there is some hope for the world then... ahah
You sing in both French and English. Why do you do this?
It’s just because I like both languages. And I don’t want or need to decide to focus on only one of them. I don’t know in advance if I’m gonna write in French or English. It’s often easier in English because simple ideas or words can be really strong and beautiful. In French, it has to sound smart to work, using metaphor and figures of speech... The way to sing the words are different too. I’m always more « talking » when I sing in French so it depends what suits the song better.
We want to know everything about you, so tell us, when can we expect a new album and can you tell us something about it?
I’m releasing a new album in May! The 24th to be specific. The title is « Between Hope & Danger ». Once again, it is very personal. I wrote it during a time of transition in my life. When the future seemed exciting and terrifying at the same time. I think we can really feel this atmosphere in the whole album.
Let’s talk about W-Fest. A festival indicates a lot of people for whom some acts are new. For those who don’t know, why should they have to see Hante?
My music is full of emotions. On stage, it’s only me, playing and singing with all my heart. If you love 80’s drums, powerful and melancholic synths melodies, deep female voice, you could like what your hear and may be touched.
We all know you like the 80s, in fact there are a lot of 80s acts on W-Fest? Who do you absolutely want to see?
I am so honored to play with so many great acts!! I can’t believe I’m playing on the same stage than The Human League, I’m a huge fan!! And also, I never saw Peter Hook and Front 242 play live, this is gonna be amazing! Desireless is really famous in France, everybody knows her from her huge 80’s hit « Voyage voyage » and I can’t wait to see her. I also recommend Xarah Dion who is a good friend of mine from Montreal. Her music is beautiful and unique! Her show is definitely not to be missed.
What pleases you most on a festival? French fries, ice cream or beer?
Beer ahah! Even if on festivals, it’s often not the best ones... But what pleases me most on a festival is the music of course. I don’t go to festivals to show off, it’s all about the music.
If I say Belgium, you say?
Irony. Belgian people don’t take themselves too seriously and it’s so refreshing!
The last word is yours!
I can’t wait to meet you all at the W-Fest! In the meantime, don’t lose hope and keep dreaming.
Interview by DIDIER BECU - Luminous Dash