An excellent DJ, the Tigersushi Records owner has issued notable offerings by John Tejada, Poni Hoax and MU, toured as front man of his live band the Disco (formerly the Ectoplasmic Band) and remixed Air, Cut Copy, Friendly Fires and the late DJ Mehdi.
With the September release of his fourth record, 'Nothing Gold,' Joakim has finally come home, as it were, putting out his best album to date, on his own Tigersushi label. We talked with the French DJ/producer/label owner over some Mexican food in Los Angeles and discussed the theme and of his new album, growing old, inspirations and his childhood.
What's the theme of your new album, 'Nothing Gold?'
Actually there's some confusion about the theme. Because of [the single] 'Forever Young,' it seems like people think this is gonna be the theme of the album, but it's not. Every track except one, I pretend I'm somebody else, or I describe a character that is very different from me, very extreme or dark -- it's like I'm playing "bad guys."
It's quite dark, all the songs, so when I was thinking of lyrics, I had all these stories, things I read or movies I've seen, and I picked inspirations from specific things. One song was inspired by a vampire movie I saw, 'Wrong Blood.' 'Wrong Blood' is the title of the song, not the movie. The movie in English I don't know, it's a Swedish vampire movie.
'Let the Right One In?'
Yeah. One song is inspired by a text I studied when I was in school that I remembered a lot, by Plato. It's a dialog between Plato and a dictator, so I'm talking as if I am the dictator. That's kind of the theme of the album. It's not really unified. It's like scenes, you know? Like movies with different scenes and sketches.
So then, why the title 'Nothing Gold'?
It was the title of one of the songs.
Is that song inspired by the Robert Frost poem, 'Nothing Gold Can Stay'?
No, I found the expression when I was reading a book.
Yeah. And then I did the song, but I used this phrase because I liked it. It was not the ... yeah it was a little bit the theme, it's a little bit the same, but not directly.
The single talks about being suspicious of adults and their attempts at trying to be cool. We grew up never wanting to be that 35-year-old in the club, but now we're almost there, and it's not so bad.
It's funny because it's the first time people actually care about the lyrics, or the theme of the song. Before, nobody would talk about it.
Why do you think that is?
Probably because it's striking a chord, I think. It's always like that.
Yeah, a lot of us feel the same way.
I really remember when I was 25 or 28, I thought "Oh, these guys, they're so depressing, I don't want to be one like that," you know?
Right. It represents a major shift in you personally. You're an adult, you're that person now. Does the music reflect that change as well?
I hope not! I hate when people start to say, "Oh, this is the mature album of blah blah blah." But I guess that's a bit egocentric. You don't want people to remind you that you're 30, so you don't like when people say it's a mature thing. Also, I think it's important to keep connected with the roots, and the first feelings, and the reason why you were in music. When you start making a lot of music, albums after albums, it can become a kind of job, you start to understand what people want, or how you're perceived, and you can do music according to that, which is really bad. With this album I tried to work a lot alone, not like the previous one, where I worked with the band, because I wanted to be in a bubble and to find those emotions that i had when I started doing music, like doing music for myself.
And how did you find the process?
It's always a bit more painful every record, I find. You're never satisfied, your level of expectation is rising. That's how I feel and when I talk with other musicians; most of them, they say the same. The more the more they're frustrated, or they want to make better ... That's the problem. When you start, you don't think about what you're doing. You don't think. You don't judge what you're doing. You just, you know, "It's amazing, I can make music. I didn't think I could make music. I'm a genius!"
It seems sometimes like the more people make music, the less they enjoy making music.
Yeah, kind of. That's also what I want to avoid. It's very important for me to keep enjoying it, otherwise I would stop, for sure. Some friends compared this to taking heroin, like the first time is just like, "Oh, I'm with God," and then, you just trying to find this [feeling] again. Music, it's a bit like that. You're trying to find the first rush forever.
You're in a slightly different position because you also put out music ...
With the label? Yeah, but that doesn't make things really different. I think it might be be even more difficult, because then you see also the other side of the story, and all the bad things about the music business.
Working with like-minded artists must make it easier.
I work with like-minded artists, but I'm not trying to make money. I'm ambitious with the label, but I'm not selling out, so I can keep my mind in one place.
Returning to 'Forever Young,' and the nostalgia of growing old, at what point do you feel like your childhood ended?
I don't know because in my case, I didn't have that, what we call in France the "teenage crisis," when you start to hate your parents. I never had that, which is kind of weird to most people, so I don't know exactly when I started to think, "Oh yeah, I'm an adult," or "Oh no, I'm a child." I didn't really think about it, I was just doing my stuff. I was doing music for a long time, so there's not a point where I thought, "That was childhood, and now I'm not a child." It was more of a progressive thing, but I think when you get out of school and you have to cope with the real world, then you realize. I know a few friends that had amazing childhoods, and they are in real trouble now.
What was so good about your childhood?
Oh, no, I can't tell one specific thing, it was just nice. I had great parents and nothing to worry about. It was a very good balance, you know? Not spoiled, with sisters and brothers ...
Where did you live?
Just outside of Paris, in the countryside. And sometimes, I know people who had bad teenage years and who had fights with their parents, and now they have this kind of strength that you need.
Right, it makes you wonder what we're supposed to do, when we raise kids. Shelter them? Let them loose?
Exactly, that's what I'm thinking about a lot, I don't have kids but I'm thinking yeah, it's tricky. I mean, you want the best for your kids, but at the same time you can't protect them too much, it's dangerous. But even when I was a kid I was leaning toward melancholic music, I always liked to play the most sad classical pieces and I listened to requiems and minor symphonies.