Madeon: The French touch

The “prodigy” tag hardly does Madeon justice. At age 10, the Frenchman started composing music. By 17, he was a viral sensation with Pop Culture, a mash-up that saw him mix 39 songs into 3-odd minutes and display a near-ridiculous command of the launchpad. Almost seventeen million YouTube views and a couple of years down the track, the achievements have stacked up: lately, Madeon’s hit the stage at big U.S. festivals Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival, Coachella and Lollapalooza, supported Swedish House Mafia and Lady Gaga on tour and released a string of slick singles: Icarus, Finale and The City. Now, he’s headed back to Australia next month with Future Music Festival – a tour a lot us have been hanging out for.

But it’s not just that he’s young – and admittedly, that’s already a laboured point. When inthemix got Hugo Leclercq (as he’s known outside of work) on the phone, we were greeted by a guy who seriously knows his shit. From insights into his own productions, to an impressive command of English and thoughts on the scene at large, Madeon sure knows how to wax lyrical.

So where in the world have I found you today?

I’m currently in Chicago. I was supposed to open for Lady Gaga today, but I just learned that unfortunately the show’s been postponed because of medical concerns. So I’m just pretty much on a day off and I’m hoping to be back and able to open once the show is rescheduled.

I was going to ask you how your experience was of opening for Lady Gaga has been…

It’s been a very interesting tour. It’s a very different experience from playing a festival or club, but I really appreciate that. It’s a more attentive audience that pays a lot of attention to what’s going on, to what I’m doing. The show I’m doing on the Gaga tour, I have a lot of visuals – my controllers are tilted toward the audience so everyone can really see what I’m doing. It’s a bit more of a transparent DJ experience as opposed to being behind a table mysteriously. It’s really, really fun to play arenas every night as well and the reactions been really, really good.

So do you prefer doing that kind of set to the big festival crowds, then?

No, it’s different: I want a bit of everything. Sometimes I want to do very small clubs, for like five people, sometimes I want to play Milton Keynes Bowl with Swedish House Mafia. It’s a different vibe, a different satisfaction. When I come out of a Gaga gig and I’ve had a good reaction I feel like most of those people probably didn’t know me very well, and now they have an idea of what I do and hopefully I’ve won them over. When I play a club show and I play to my crowd, it’s the satisfaction of putting on a show that everyone enjoys and that they’ve been looking forward to. The satisfaction is equally pleasurable.

At the beginning of the year, you wrote on Facebook ‘I’m looking back at this year and I’m dazzled at what’s going on’. What stands out as the biggest moments of 2012 for you?

Ah, there’s been a few. Obviously 2012 was the first time releasing my own official single, three of those, so that was quite memorable. Holding a physical copy of my song in my hand was pretty cool. Probably one of the biggest was opening for Swedish House Mafia at Milton Keynes Bowl in front of sixty thousand people. That was crazy, I’ve never seen so many people in front of me, ever. It’s extremely exciting. Just touring the world and living this lifestyle and meeting amazing people, it would be unfair to sum it up in one essential memory.

Sounds like you had a lot going on. So you were working with music software from such a young age, what are you discovering now? Are you always looking for new ways to make music?

I very much am. I still use the main software from the studio. Now that I’ve been using it for so many years I feel like it’s an extension of my brain and now, I feel like to some extent, I know the tool well enough that I can focus on what I want to do with it. Most of my efforts researching music is just listening to new music and immersing myself in it, and just grasping ideas from everywhere then sitting down at the piano. I’m really happy to be at that stage now where I can focus on ideas knowing that with some effort, I’ll probably be able to improve it and work with the idea in my mind with the tools I have.

I wanted to talk about the French scene a bit. For a while there it felt like Ed Banger was the king of the French scene. Where do you feel the label’s at now?

I’m not sure. I think that new music comes in waves, and obviously Ed Banger has had an amazing attitude for a few years and has been huge in France. It feels like a lot of new things are coming along that are exciting, Brodinski’s label Bromance comes to mind. There’s a bunch of stuff that is quite thrilling. But yeah, Ed Banger is still in a powerful position for sure, although it is a different situation than it was in 2007.

I guess at the other end of the spectrum France also boasts David Guetta. How do you feel about the direction he’s taken with his career?

You know, I think similarly to Daft Punk he’s had a huge impact in acceptance of electronic music worldwide, so you can definitely give credit for that to him. I’m not necessarily listening to David Guetta albums all the time at home, but I do respect it.

I see a lot of trepidation from older DJs and producers who started out in the early 90’s about how much commercial success some forms of dance music are having. As someone who’s come into the scene a lot later, how do you feel about dance music making it to the mainstream?

I guess as a fan of dance music, I was getting into it when I was younger and not really connected to the club culture around it. So I didn’t perhaps feel as much like an underdog, I didn’t go to illegal raves that were shut down by authorities, it wasn’t quite as dramatic. I remember when I was plenty younger – although I’m not very old – that listening to electronic music was stigmatised as being techno and not really musical and kind of ‘uncool’. This stigma completely disappeared now and it’s extremely cool to make electronic music. I remember when I was 12, 13 starting to make it, I wouldn’t really tell people because it was cool to be in a band, cool to have a guitar, cool to be a rapper. But electronic music? This techno thing was still very much frowned upon, at least by my surroundings. It was liberating when it became chart-topping stuff.

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