interview originally published in HONK! magazine
Yoann Lemoine (28) is not your typical director – just like WOODKID is not your typical music project. In the meta level of creativity and talent, Yoann merges with WOODKID to create a pan-media project involving visual art, complex compositions, innovative fashion – all that presented with extreme psychological depth. And on October 9 2011 he will give his only German concert.
When you see his work, you would wonder who is the teacher of this wunderkind. Unfortunately for you and me, everything he knows and everything he is capable of, Yoann has taught himself. Well, not completely. He started learning illustration and animation at Emile Cohl School, Lyon, France and screen-printing techniques at Swindon College, London. After college in 2004, Lemoine started illustrating in several magazines and children’s books, in France and the USA. At the same time, he joined a French production team and started to direct his first 3D-animated TV ads and music videos, before putting his eye to the camera for his first live shoots.
Until recently, Yoann Lemoine was living between Paris and New York, mainly working as a film director in media such as video, 8 to 35mm film, 2D and 3D animation, Stop Motion, photography, illustration, painting, screen printing, sculpture, collage, knitting, holograms, and more… That’s until 2011 when he evolved in WOODKID – a musical and visual project born of nostalgia and soul-searching.
I chatted with Yoann Lemoine about his music project, upcoming album release and tour dates and asked him if he would abandon his visual work.
Hi Yoann, what were you doing right before you sat down to answer those questions?
I’m actually finishing the new THE SHOES video that I am working on right now !
You’re commuting between Paris and NYC all the time. What is keeping you in both places?
I like the energy of New York, I spend a lot of time in LA too. These towns are very exotic to me, and exotic is very good for creation. Even if I have spent a lot of time there, I am still fascinated by the level of expectations and the quality of production for films and music in the US. I love Paris as it’s my hometown somehow. Nothing compares to the place you grew up in, and to a place where most of your close friends are based.
Where in Eastern Europe are your roots from? Do you go back sometimes?
My family is from Poland, I have spent some time there during my childhood, I still talk to my cousin who’s Polish, but now lives in the US. At the time, it was a very desolate country, and I have never been back to Poland, it’s not only good memories, a lot of shady family things happened there, and even if I have never been really exposed to it, as a child, you feel that kind of things. I don’t really want to feel this again.
When did you realize you can express yourself best visually?
It’s always been inside of me, I’ve always been fascinated by light, by perspective, shadows, colors, almost in a scientific way. I’ve always wanted to understand things, understand the eye, and anything I would not understand.
Whose artists’ work inspires you most?
I’m a huge fan of Gus Van Sant, Mallick, photographers like Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, Martin Parr… I also love video games, Final Fantasy games, heroic fantasy, I’m also very connected to the fashion world, this create a very crossover mix that I really like.
Vintage visuals are obviously a great inspiration for your music videos – are you following a trend or is it nostalgia?
I am, absolutely, in a pretty violent and aggressive way actually. In my Woodkid project, even if the image does not look vintage, and pretty technological actually, I explore themes such as Nostalgia, and the transition between childhood and the adult age. This is something that really obsesses me.
What is the creative process you go through while creating videos and short movies?
I always follow my emotions, visions that I have. It’s a starting point. In the Woodkid video, I knew marble would be present, It took some time to formulate and achieve this visions, and understand the meaning of it, but at the end all these things always make sense together. It’s almost about finding pieces of a puzzle inside of me and slowly assembling them. It’s a psychoanalytic process in a way.
You have several projects for advertising and campaigns. How did you feel working in the field your parents are working in?
I’ve always been a bit distant with the advertising world, not because it’s my parents job, but mainly because there are too many political and money factors in commercials, and I will never call it art. There are truly amazing creatives in advertising companies, people it’s a real pleasure to work with, but I can’t stop thinking it’s for the sake of a product, and money. I see these people struggle so hard with clients, I can’t stop thinking it’s a lot of wasted amazing creation for very little result…
What do you think of product placement in music videos?
It’s part of the game, I have to deal with it in the big videos I am doing. I will never allow anyone place a product in my videos, I’d rather have less money, but in some cases, like big mainstream pop projects, if it helps you build an amazing set or shoot with a better camera, I say go for it.
Are you quitting with the visual work after committing to WOODKID?
I mean, Woodkid is 50 percent visual work, so the answer is no!
It’s kind of cost effective now for you to direct your own videos.
I’m not the cheapest director right now, it’s true, but I also like to work on very small projects. This video for THE SHOES is a small budget but when I like a project, the production value I can add in a film is very important i think.
You describe yourself as a self-taught professional. Did you learn singing also on your own?
I did everything by myself yes. From directing videos to singing. Alone in my room, by performing live, it’s the same thing with film direction. I like to stay away from people that pretend I owe them what happens to me. I have the amazing luck to be surrounded by very professional and talented teams, that bring a lot of energy and ideas to my films and song productions, and I am super grateful. But It’s also a very important talent to know how to listen what people are suggesting and consider it when it’s actually enhancing your ideas.
Can you compose?
I actually write and compose all of my tracks yes.
What fight and battle are you singing about in Iron. Or is it a declaration of your battle for a place in the music industry?
It’s a track about the violence I had in me at the time, it’s about the fight for becoming somebody, a fight for the adult age. Everything is linked, and people will understand this in the next videos and tracks. This Fantasy world is a metaphor of very human, universal and philosophic themes.
Who or what is the very reason to write the love ballad to Brooklyn?
It’s an old song, I wanted to put it on the record because I didn’t want this EP to sound too pretentious. The album will be much more consistent and epic, and will not feature folk ballads. I just like the idea that I can do that too.
You’re about to head in the studio very soon and will be working on your debut album by the time this interview is published. Tell me more about the idea of the record.
The record will be a massive epic production, I will build it like the rhythm of a movie, with an intro, a storyline, a climax, and an ending. I am using a lot of instruments from classical music and sample them, produce it almost like Hip-Hop. I am using a lot of visual and sound codes from religion and army. In a fascinated and critical way. It’s a love-hate story. Once again, codes from the adult age are very inspiring to me. It’s going to be a very emotional journey, I want people to feel like heroes when they listen to the album on their ipod. I like the idea that my music makes people feel stronger.
Who do you want to work with and who are you working with on the album?
THE SHOES are working on the production of this album with me, they are amazing and they are not afraid by the challenge. There are a couple of other names in the air, but I won’t mention them until things are done!
Are you planning on going into some new genres or using different instruments for the record?
We are actually going to use bagpipes! And an organ church. We have extended the type of percussions and some retro futuristic sounds will enhance the production. Epic and Massive choirs too.
Your tour is starting in October this year. Which places are you most excited about?
I’m very excited about touring in the US, of course. There are a lot of dates in Europe and I am very curious about meeting my public for the first time. I know there is a lot of expectations, and this tour is pretty challenging.
Should we expect some new songs?
Yes ! I will perform some tracks from the album !
Where are you going after this interview?
In my bed, I am kind of sick today.