Pascal Arbez, aka Vitalic, has been a leading figure in electronic music for over two decades now. A prominent figure at the forefront of the French electronica revolution in the late 90s alongside the likes of Daft Punk, he is known to blend many different elements from as many genres. His debut album, ‘OK Cowboy’, was released in 2005 and since then he has come to release three more LPs and countless singles. Set to return to Ireland to play at one of our most respected festivals, Body & Soul this month, our editor Jordan Kinlan caught up with him for a chat deep into his Voyager tour…
Vitalic: The tour, yeah it’s going very well! The album has received very good feedback and the tour is going great. I’ve performed the new ODC show about 30 times so far and at I’ll be doing it again at Sonar in Barcelona next week. Summer is here and so are outdoor festivals!
J: Speaking of your latest album Voyager, some tracks on the album are said to resemble those releases of Giorgio Moroder. Do you take this as a compliment and was that a sound you were aiming for?
V: I do take it as a compliment! In fact, Moroder has always been a major influence for me, even when at a time when I was more techno and less disco. I can’t say that Voyager is a tribute to Moroder, but I believe that some sounds and melodies on the album do refer to the 70s synth disco, and Moroder was the king of synths in the golden age of disco.
J: Your sound has began to borrow more from the soundscape of disco lately, while remaining firmly steeped in electronica, what has influenced this?
V: As I said previously, mostly all of my music was influenced by disco, because I was raised in a family who liked that style of music. Voyager is even more disco than my previous albums because I wanted to go even further into my resources in retro-futurism. I am digging up a direction and a concept I started with on the first album.
J: Your debut album, Ok Cowboy, is some of your finest work. I know you were making music for a long time by then, but looking back now do you feel you got more emotionally attached to the project than others during that writing period?
V: OK Cowboy was the beginning for me and like every beginning you experience new and exciting emotions. So it’s exciting but it’s only a moment and the first time never comes again. I was a newcomer, discovering many things, like travelling and playing big festivals. I still like the candid approach of this album and it was a great period in my life. But everything I do, I do it with the same energy and the same engagement. I’m very attached to all my albums because they are like diaries that tell different moments of my life through a distorting prism.
J: How do you manage to balance workflow and a healthy lifestyle while touring so extensively?
V: I lived in the countryside for a long time in order to separate the two lives, but I moved to Paris five years ago because I missed meeting other artists and being in the cultural whirlpool of a big city. During the week it’s all about making music and when I feel like it, making the best of what Paris has to offer and a bit of sports. I am not obsessed with the workflow because I don’t produce like a machine, although I need to give myself some time to recharge my creativity.
J: You were at the forefront of the French electronica revolution alongside the likes of Daft Punk, did you ever work with these guys or any other contemporaries during that period?
V: Not really. I would see them sometimes but I was living in Dijon, so I was not part of the Parisian scene unfortunately. By then I was close to some musicians of Lyon and Grenoble that were way closer to my city, like Miss Kittin and The Hacker or Oxia.
J: You are set to play one of Irelands most respected festivals, Body & Soul, this month. Are you looking forward to returning to Ireland? The last time you were in Dublin I remember there was a slight problem with the mixer.
V: Yes, technical problems are a nightmare… but you have to cope with them without losing your nerve. I love playing in Ireland, the public is both incredibly enthusiastic and avant-garde. It’s gonna be great to be back and the festival looks awesome.
J: At Body & Soul you’ll be performing your music to a new generation of Irish festival-goers, how gratifying is it to see people react to your music the same way they did 10-12 years ago.
V: It’s funny because I don’t really see the time going by. In my concerts you have 15 years old kids and 50-something ex-ravers coming. It’s gratifying indeed and I devote a lot to music, but I feel well rewarded.
J: At a festival, do you prefer the atmosphere playing an open air stage or inside a tent?
V: To me, this is not essential. The atmosphere that both the performers and the public are creating together at a precise moment is a fragile alchemy. The spot is a just a part of it, like the sound system and other stuff, but to me the public makes the biggest part.