Yoann, could you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Yoann Lemoine, and I am – basically – a music video director. For 10 years now, I’ve been working on a musical project under the name Woodkid, trying to combine sound and image, which are the two great love stories in my life.
We know you as Woodkid. But what is the background behind the birth of this creative alter ego?
I think, as a director, I was frustrated that I couldn’t control the “musical” aspect of my music. And then, at the same time, I met Richie Havens, who offered me a ukulele. I was making a documentary about him. That was quite a while ago, about 15 years. That was the instrument I used to make the first demos that got me signed by a label. So, obviously, telling you about it now, this music seems to be very different from the music I make today! (Laughs) But you can find traces of his slightly folk-style songs on my first EP, especially on a guitar song called Brooklyn which was originally composed on that same ukulele. The project caught on. Then, I released Iron, and everything took off. It wasn’t exactly a “career plan” to be honest. But things happened quite naturally, and today I’m lucky and privileged enough to be able to combine the two.
Tell us about your taste. How did it develop?
It’s developed mainly through encounters. Through the things I see from others. Through the ideology of other artists, and through the way they work. I spend a lot of time looking at images – they inspire me a lot – and listening to sound as well, of course. I think I have a relatively “scientific” approach to the world. I love to look at light, to analyse sounds, to try to understand the mechanics behind them, and I think it helps me a lot by developing my curiosity and the way I look at the world. I think that, as an artist, it’s important to want to look at it and try to understand it. At any rate, to try and find an explanation for emotions, for the intangible.
The notion of “beautiful” is important to you. Can you tell us why?
The notion of beauty has evolved a lot for me in recent years. Until perhaps six or seven years ago, I was attached to the idea of beauty in rather a traditional way. I wanted to associate myself with solid points of reference, like those found in classical art education. Those shared by a majority of people. And then, over time, I began to understand that sometimes I have a propensity to react negatively to things that I find ugly, and yet that I end up liking. It’s a trend that’s increasingly true for me. And it makes me wonder a lot about what beauty actually is. I think, and I often quote people like Lars Van Trier or Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga, both people who, it seems to me, are keen to push the limits of this questioning and perhaps even make fun of it a little. It’s often true that when I see their work, I have a negative feeling about it initially. But these are the works that, in the end, often stay with me. They are things that have an impact on me. I believe there’s a kind of assimilation involved, like an already established habit. A transformation of the idea of beauty in the brain, which is a very interesting thing. It often amuses me when I think back to 10 years ago when Prada bought out shoes that seemed totally shocking when you first saw them. They were like brogues with colourful espadrille soles. I remember seeing those shoes for the first time, and I really didn’t like them at all. And then, six months later, I actually wanted to wear them. I feel that the idea of beauty is very subjective in this and, above all, very malleable.
When did you realise that you wanted to dedicate your life to it?
There was never any question of not dedicating my life to it! I’ve been attracted by light, shadows, colours, textures and so on since I was very young. I try to understand this beauty and to capture it so that I can translate it and make it my own. As far back as I can remember – even when I was playing with my Lego – I had a feeling for graphic design (laughs). The Lego had to be assembled in a certain way, with a certain symmetry, the colours had to be charted. I’ve had my own views about creativity and how I should do things ever since I was a child. I think it’s an idea of exploring the notion of beauty.
In your day-to-day life, what nourishes, stimulates and inspires you?
Looking at things. Living things, minerals, the sky, random things too. All notions of order and chaos are things that inspire me enormously. I’ve been working for several years now in a way that is known as “procedural”. What’s that? Procedural work, in music as well as images, is a way of working, assisted by a computer, by proposing a certain number of parameters, defining a way of proceeding. Depending on this, the machine gives more or less different results. Adopting this process has changed my life, the way I look at things and how they inspire me. When you work like this, you listen to sounds, you look at things, for example, wood or rock, trying to understand how they are made so that, through the computer, you can recreate those feelings, those textures by appropriating them. I find that hugely interesting. I’ve always been fascinated by the fractal dimension of the world, by the repetition of scales. Why things on microscopic scales sometimes reproduce themselves on macroscopic or gigantic scales. The idea of the infinitely small, the infinitely large: I find all this enormously inspiring because it can be found everywhere. I love weaving links between all these textures, all these sounds, trying to find relationships between them.
Are these dystopias that evoked in your latest album: S16?
I don’t think its dystopias that I’m displaying. I’m thinking more of a reality. I needed to show these machines, these places, which are frightening and fascinating at the same time, but which are very real. I actually believe that, in reality, I’m depicting them in a rather plastic way by removing the frightening dimension so that perhaps the message is more tolerable, seductive and admissible. I don’t talk much about the future in this album, more about the present I think. I think that even if there is a future dimension within it, it is rather one of hope, light and openness. In ‘In Your Likeness’, there is this idea that the world and the sky are opening up and that, perhaps through the violence of the world, there is a possibility of openness, of elevation and of light. I don’t think there’s a particularly negative version of the future in that. Rather, I believe that it’s a relatively objective observation of the present time.
We are in your apartment, a space that all seems to be one. Why this desire to de-compartmentalise everything?
I wanted to open my flat up because I designed and created it for my friends. I wanted somewhere convivial, an ode to sharing, a place of freedom. Whether they’re in the kitchen, in the living room or in the office, they can see and talk to each other. I wanted to be able to move around during the evening, for example. When my guests arrive, I’m in the kitchen, then we sit down at the table, then we go to the sofas… My bedroom is visible too. This is a choice I made because I like to open up my private life to my close friends. I like my life to be theirs, to a degree. My friends are really my family, so I think this apartment has the idea of an open heart.
I wanted to open my flat up because I designed and created it for my friends. I wanted somewhere convivial, an ode to sharing, a place of freedom.
And at the centre of it all: the kitchen. Why is everything organised around the kitchen?
The kitchen is extremely important to me! Because it’s primarily the place where I meet my friends. I love cooking, I spend a lot of time there. I find there’s a really potent emotional quality in good food. For me, anyway. It’s something that is rooted in my family, in my youth. And it’s something I continue to hold onto today. I’m friends with a lot of chefs, I love going to restaurants. That’s something that, for me, is the social event par excellence. It’s the ultimate in hospitality. Having a meal is sharing, it’s eating, it’s projecting oneself back into the past, it’s an emotion. I also think cooking has an important place in my life because I’m clearly sensitive to questions of health, ecology and so on. In the end, the food industry and all the questions that revolve around it are very contemporary questions, but, at the same time, they draw upon a great many traditional as well as futuristic things. I find many resonances with my work in the kitchen.
You love to entertain. What would be your dream meal to organise?
For me, an ideal meal is an opportunity to mix people I know and love very much with people that I know less well. I really enjoy discovering people’s personalities over a meal. In fact, I often invite people I’ve only met once or twice, about whom I don’t know very much, but whom I admire. I need to see how they react when they’re close to me, what they’re like when they’re not performing. I find that the perfect dinner is the one where people open up. That’s also why I have very little presence on social networks. I show very little of my Intimate self there because it’s very precious to me. From a human point of view, it is very important to be able to preserve it.
What does your home say about you?
It tells of a kind of rigour and rigidity. Because I opted for a style of furnishing that I like very much, fairly strict and modernist, 1950s style, with American pieces, fairly straight lines and few curves. I also think it embodies the idea of Lego. Its assembled, very “charted”. At the same time, I think it’s quite a fun apartment! I’ve allowed myself “splashes” of colour that bring in a touch of childhood and playfulness. I didn’t want, and I said so frequently when I talked to my architect, Régis Larroque, a flat that looked as if it belonged to a 40-year-old. Because I’m not. I’m young, and I still need this apartment to say that. It’s a particular kind of madness! I think the fact that the spaces open – although there are partitions that can close it off – is one of those crazy things. Some amusing pieces, like those by Ettore Sottsass, are confirmation of that. There are some pretty funny things here. It’s a contrast that says a lot about me!
How did you furnish it?
I furnished it by hunting in galleries. It took me a long time to find all my pieces. They came one by one because I waited for the things I loved. This passion for design came to me through my architect, Régis Larroque, and also through a person who is very important to me, Pierre Le Ny. Pierre was my manager for many years and he introduced me to a lot of French design from the 1950s, Pierre Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé, etc. Then, thanks to Christine Diegoni, I realised that beautiful things always go together. When they are timeless, when they have proven their aesthetic. That’s how it is. It works. At home, it’s a mixture of American and French. There’s some Gerge Nelson, some Pierre Paulin and some Italian too, with Gino Sarfatti and Ettore Sottsass. All these things are here because, for me, they are genuinely artistic gestures, and it was also important to me to have furniture that had a previous life. My furniture is almost exclusively vintage, because I like the idea that objects carry with them a certain emotion, a certain history.
You are also a great lover of design. How did you develop this love?
For me, the love of design comes naturally! Designers are artists. There is a lot of meaning in some of my works, for example in the lighting by Gino Sarfatti, who is a real visionary where that’s concerned. Moreover, the further I go, the more I understand the reflection that there may be behind a piece. Behind its lines, its lightness, its minimalism or its bearing. I understand it’s making a statement about the time, that there is a visual, plastic point of view, which affects me greatly. I think I see design and furniture as works of art. Being naturally immersed in it is, for me, a natural extension of my sensibilities.
Affected by light, you are also affected by Gino Sarfatti – one of the 20th century’s greatest lighting designers. How does his approach, his work speak to you?
I don’t necessarily like everything about Gino Sarfatti! My preferences are for his more “minimal” pieces which I find incredibly appealing because there is so little to them and their balance, in my opinion, is often unequalled. Like the 1083 lamp which is, I think, a perfect light for my apartment because it has this rigidity, rigour and simplicity with its “splash” of green which is really quite striking. I sometimes say that when you start lighting your apartment with Gino Sarfatti, it’s difficult to go to other designers.
You live in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. What are your favourite places there?
I spend time at Café Lomi as well as at Café Néon. I also go to the Olive Market a lot, it’s where I do my shopping. But in fact, I spend almost more time in the neighbourhood where I have my studio, in the 10th arrondissement, towards the Rue de Paradis. My daily routines are based around there. At night, I don’t go out much around my home.
Apart from the release of your new album, where will we find you in 2021?
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily