Interview by Shannon Lawlor
Erwan Castex aka Rone is French-born experimental electronic musician currently located in Berlin. As well as holding collaborative and remix credit with the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre, Bryce Dessner of The National, Jabberwocky, John Stanier of Battles, Max Cooper, Etienne Daho, Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead and many more, Rone has since 2007, released a number of singles, EPs as well as four full-length albums, including 2017’s recent output titled Mirapolis, inspired by childhood memories of a now closed theme park to which he never got the chance to go, and loosely based on Fritz Lang’s 1927 hit sci-fi film Metropolis, released on November 3rd via French record label Infiné Music.
In 2015, Rone released the first ever music video created entirely in virtual reality, crowning him a pioneer in this sector. Mainly exploring IDM and minimalist-techno within the realms of electronica, Rone’s ability to merge such propensity and experiment further by adopting elements from all kinds of styles and settings is captivating, perplexing and unfathomable, to say the least.
We spoke with Rone on eclectic collaborations and favourite places to tour:
For anyone foreign to Rone’s kaleidoscopic mesmer, how would you describe your sound?
It’s always a challenge to talk about one’s own music. I consider myself a musician, my instruments are a collection of synthesisers, drum machines… but even though I’m branded “electronic”, when I’m in the studio I don’t feel that definition fits. I try to break boundaries, I try new things with artists from other genres. It’s really when I’m on stage with a couple of machines and my laptop that I feel the energy of electronic music.
Known for extensive genre-bending, what personal influences have you weaved into your music, and do you feel this is difficult to escape?
My influences are really widespread and varied. I draw from many different styles. This can be heard in my collaborations with artists from various scenes, rock, hip-hop, classical… The past few years I must admit though that I’ve been influenced a lot by the indie rock/folk scene like The National, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens… these artists definitely coloured my sound. I feel like a sponge, soaking everything in and later regurgitating what I have absorbed. Actually I reckon it doesn’t really matter where inspiration come from, the question is how far can you take it.
2015’s Creatures featured an array of collaborations with different musicians, how did this recording process differ to your latest album Mirapolis?
In my first collaborations I think I was intimidated by my guests. In some ways I believe I put their fulfillment before mine. For this album I took a big step and decided I wanted real collaborations. For instance, when I got John Stanier to play drums, I let go of the rhythm, which gave me more freedom to dig deeper in my melodies.
If you could collaborate with anyone – living, or deceased, who would you choose, and why?
First of all it would have to be someone who can master something I can’t, like singing or playing the guitar. Difficult question… living I’d say Sufjan Stevens and Feist. Deceased, I think John Coltrane would sound awesome with just about any of my synths. Yes, a solo by Coltrane would be unbelievable. Also Moondog. When I listen to his music I feel like it’s a kid playing, it feels like anything is possible, that there’s no limit. It must have been fun to play with him.
What piece of equipment do you feel is essential, or integral to Rone’s live performance?
Abelton Live! It’s so rich that I could do a whole performance only with a laptop running Abelton Live. But I always like to enrich my live sets with more machines to go further.
Can you explain the importance of your visual appeal and aesthetic portrayed in Rone’s imagery?
It’s a way for me to set a canvas in which to evolve.
Creatures was darker, black and white, in a way musically it was also a little darker. I wanted Mirapolis to be colourful. I hadn’t finished the album when Michel Gondry showed me a mock-up of this colourful retro-futuristic city, with a touch of utopia and psychedelic. Then it all made sense. Michel’s artwork definitely influenced the colour of my music.
Rone has performed in many parts of the world – to date, where has been your most memorable place to visit, and why?
London of course 😉 Seriously, I can’t answer that question. I love London, but I also loved touring the US. But then I also like Eastern Europe or Asia. What’s interesting is to travel through totally different and sometimes unknown universes, flying 12 hours to land in a paradise-like place like Reunion Island, or play in a freezing cold old warehouse in Georgia, warming up with a shot of vodka in the company of friendly promoters.
What does the future hold for Rone?
More music of course! …and working closer with film directors… anyway, stay tuned because there will be more!
Rone will be performing at The Playground’s upcoming exclusive event at The Steelyard in London on November 11th alongside Parra for Cuva, Sex of Insects, NHOAH, Øfdream and Rare
For more information follow Rone on Facebook
(Image credit: Olivier Donnet)