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Rencontre avec Sam et Henry de ZERO 7 à propos de "When It Falls'

February 2004. It's been 2 years since Zero 7 released the first masterpiece of their own "Simple Things' that succeeded at the time to become one of the best records in electronic soul downtempo never ever. The genius of this band results in the complicity of 2 simple guys : Sam & Henry, old dudes that conceive music they like. With "When It Falls', the 2 friends bring us farer in their dreams. We spoke with them at the Villa Royale, Paris. Sam & Henry rock. But that's not a scoop.

La traduction française de cette interview est publiée dans le sixième numéro d'ElectroTrip. : You did class together, got your first job in the same studio, you had children together - not together, I mean in the same period - (laughs) , so now you are responsible parents, now you form one of the most talented pop-soul songwriting duo in the world. What else are you gonna do together ?

Sam : In terms of project, future projects, I want to offer my services to Henry to help to build his house, his poor house. For the moment, it's a ruin. It has some walls but has no roof. That's the main project... (Henry : I need help man !) Yeah you need help, so I'm gonna go down there and help you carry it done. : Where is it ?

Sam : It's not in the city. It's on the countryside. ( : wow, where did you find that ?) Actually, his mum lives in the next valley. Yeah, she has a house there. We go there at the same time but usually we don't see each other. Usually, we spend enough time together. It's South East, in the "Santa Lucia' area. : Does it mean you're gonna have a break or something ?

Sam : For the moment we know that we're gonna tour until the Summer and then we're gonna do festivals around Europe and then ... I don't know... I guess, these things will be determined by how the music is perceived and get the tour more or less... I don't know, we'll see.

We've got enough, definitely, we've got enough till the Summer.

Last time, it was a long time before we got back into the studio, got a chance to start and make new music. It's quite difficult and it didn't feel that great to us that people were still be talking about "Simple Things' and with the shows, we were still playing the same music. It was pretty exciting, generally we had good experiences, but it was strange. ( : yes, we see...) Yeah sometimes it took us to some strange places, not geographically (laughs)... : You're not media fans, right, like doing promotion, stuff like that ?

Sam : No, I don't mind, I don't mind. It's just that sometimes, it's just inadequate in terms of what I have to offer, people want a lot of information you know, and all the time and we have so much information about everything... So you're expected to kind of divulge all of it. And some of it, I don't even understand really, I mean, some things don't lend themselves to a kind of snappy description. And then I can see people disappointment. And then you're like "Why ? Why let you know ? What were you waiting for ?" Sometimes, it's fine you're having a conversation... and then sometimes, people will just throw stuff they want to know and say "Give me a hint for this ! What is it ? How does it work, How did that happen ?..."
( : that's funny cause last week we were with a French band, and they said to us that we were the first to ask some real questions about their music...) Oh yeah ! (laughs) Man, that's really kind of depending on the paper.

Henry : Yesterday, we were with some men magazine and the guy was talking about some trashy TV show and we were like sorry man, I know you want me to be funny and kind of, but look I'm not.

Sam : We do what we can and we try to entertain. ( Henry : Yeah, well we try). (laughs) Yeah well, that's the thing, we are not entertainers man. There's so many aspects to this thing that we do... : Yeah, well, you saw that funny aspect of the Music business before starting your carrier (Henry and Sam were working in a studio, meeting a lot of stars) didn't you ?

Sam : We were just observing. At that time, we were just like shit in the corner... watching what was going on to a band. It was really interesting and the fact that was the most interesting aspect of working in a studio, was to see how people were making a record. That was fascinating. But mostly, we saw how people behave. : I am in contact with some of your fans, and I have 2 questions of a really deep one. The first one is : Are you actually recognised on the street or not ?

Sam & Henry : No, never. Never happened. ( : but you'd like people to recognize you ?) Sam : No ! I am very happy with the way things are you know. There were quite actually, quite small... the average I'd say. I mean, sometimes people stare but they're just used at it... (Henry : Yeah "sometimes' ! laughs) : What does your family think about your success ?

Sam : They love it man ! You know we have both kids, and they love it. They really love it, yeah they like it. I have one daughter, Henry has a son and a daughter. Both of the girls really like the singers, they're really interested in Sia and Sophie and Tina. They like the sing part. They know the songs and will recognize the singers. They love that all thing. And Louis is more interested in who's playing what instrument. He knows everybody's name and what they play. Yeah, it's great man, really. : and they don't mind the travel ?)

Henry : Yeah ! My girlfriend is kind of ... I don't know...

Sam : It's kind of "What do you do ? Where do you go ? What happens to the family life that you leave..." We live separate lives, in long periods of time...It's very difficult. : We'll go back to your music. It seems that you were both fed up with playing "Simple Things", do you think you played it too long ?

Sam : Yeah, I think so. I think something happened I guess, because it was one of those things for the label that they did not really expect... (Ultimate Dilemna, ndlr) so when it started happening it was like, we have to go as far as we can. And then we were like "that's great man, we got to get off now'... and they were more like "C'mon, you just got to do this and that and that...'

Henry : You know there's definitely a kind of conflict there. In a way, it's like doing an interview. People are asking questions about things they want to know and this is good, this is genuine. But after a while, you start repeating yourself and suddenly you can hear yourself differently... I mean it's the same in playing, you still get influenced but after a while, you just don't feel yourself as genuine... and that at every, every, every play you do... : Yeah, is it frustrating when you want to compose something new, and you just don't have the time to do it ?

Sam : Yeah, you know, we didn't have anything set up, we didn't have anticipated and we hadn't worked ways to write outside the studios, so it was kind of frustrating. And I think that the length of periods of time between finishing that album and get in the studio was so long that we took time to reacclimatize ourselves to what we were doing... it was such a long time ago... you know what I mean, everything changed, we had to make ideas fit... It was kind of weird, and I think there was a lot of uncertain periods in which we asked ourselves : "where are we gonna start ? how will we do this and that ?..." : How do you compose your songs ? There's just the two of us on this, right ?

Sam : Yeah ! I mean Henry plays, I'm not a player and I don't think I'm myself a musician really, I'm involved in the project. So Henry plays and comes out with ideas. It goes from that point, sometimes we have a melody, but ... there's not a particular method. Because of the nature of the thing, people are involved, they work in different ways, so it's kind of flexible whatever particular song, or track means. : do you work on the songs one per one ?

Sam : We're the kind to sit down and write songs, but not a hundred of them to just get 15 at the end. I know Sia did that for her album. I mean, for us, we have to use what we got. Usually, we have a feeling that this track is good and is gonna work out. And sometimes, you just have to put it away for a month and then you have Henry to come and play in a different way... : Everybody in the band is involved in that ?

Sam : Yeah, as you know, Sia was doing her own record at the same time, so she was pretty busy. Sophie had a lot of work too, she's trying to make a stuff of her own too. She's quite unlucky... You know it's quite hard when you're a young girl doing pop music. So, I mean, they come in and they're obviously involved in the process of their songs but in a kind of big featured album. They're not there, they come in for maybe a week or something, sometimes for a day. We do some work and they give their ideas and then go away. : It must be difficult sometimes to manage everybody's requests, right ?

Sam : Sometimes yeah (laughs), quite of. They have their own ideas, and it comes sometimes that we have to pull in a direction. It's specific to me and Henry what our music should be like. Sometimes Sophie for example will go in, and we wanna write lot of tunes and eventually we will be like "no, no, no... go away, eat something'... and you have to be like that. Sophie will maybe say she wants to do something really panky... but we will have to follow our thing. : Do you have sometimes a huge difference between the song you wanted to compose and the song as it is at the end ?

Henry : Sure. You know, I've been accused for not helping to let go... cause there is a spinal line

Sam : Who ever said that !? Who would say that !? (laughs) : Did you start the new album from scratch or did you have already some ideas or songs ready ?

Henry : We had some. We had a very very weird version of "Home'. Yeah. I remember we had "Morning Song' as a description of the birth of "Home' for a long time before it become hippy noisy.

Sam : Yeah exactly... ! and we had "Morning Song" and "Morning Song" for a while !

Henry : There were quite sketches... : Did you work a lot on a song and decided that you didn't want it anymore ?

Sam : Yeah. "Warm Sound'... The first tune of the album... but it's finally out. But there's few songs that we kind of put time into and worked a lot and said finally OK these songs are working, we have to use them some other time.

Henry : How many times did we say that about "Warm Sound' ?

Sam : Yeah, we did man. With "Warm Sand', that became a real source of things that mean a lot, we felt something realty good about it. I don't know if we got there you know, but we get to the point where we said this tune got enough as much as we can do, at this point.

Henry : I am proud of it. We quite like it ! : How do you conclude a song ? Who decides ?

Henry : Well, that's what I mean you know, we have to get the point... It depends on how many doubts you have that can pull you back into it... : Tina Dico is new. How did you meet and choose her ?

Sam : I think it was not a matter of "choice' really, yeah, it was just something that came up. Henry wrote a song and had a friend in Denmark and she was doing her own stuff there. Henry just said she was trying to start something, and he proposed to do something together. And she is very good... She was really involved. At that time, we weren't quite sure everyone else was gonna be involved as earlier. So we just felt as "let's do something'. : We are in contact with Jonathan Morley (her manager) and she's searching for a license label here in France. So you are definitely helping her... : With all the solo projects of the people that are touring with you (you're like eleven on stage right? And that's a brand new concept, to bring guests on stage each time with you)... it must be difficult to manage everybody ?

Sam : yeah, that's great that they can come with us. You know, like Tina could sing "Destiny' for example, but it would be totally different thing... it's just difficult to got all this people and doing their own "live', to commit to their thing. They are a big part of their project, but it's not theirs. It's our thing, we are the ones to record... They are along the record...

They have their own stuff, like Sia, Sophie, Tina... and they're sometimes asking for help, but we're like "Yeah Yeah, let's do your stuff later'... (laughs) we must get them angry sometimes...
You know, we definitely owe them for the tracks we did. : Last time I saw you guys it was in Toronto, April 2002, it was HUGE concert there. And if we consider "When It Falls' tracks, we can say that it is definitely a more "live' album (example : "Look up') Did you plan any live record them ?

Sam : We'll do it, well yeah ! On sometimes, in the next 6 months of touring. We'll do a live record and hopefully we'll be able to put that out and be a sort of live record. You know, we never heard a live record of one of our concert... : But you know there's bootlegs trade !

Sam : Yeah, yeah ! I heard one of our drummer used to sometimes plug a minidisc on the source, just for us to be able to hear. I never heard one...

Henry : There's a trouble, it's just that we play differently if we know that we are recorded... We just feel different if we know that's gonna be used or not.

Sam : Yeah, I think we'll definitely do it, this time. I hope there will be some record during the shows. : It will be greatly appreciated for sure by your fans !

Sam : Yeah man ! : And what about remixes ? Do you consider working on a remix soon ?

Sam : Yeah, if we get time. We just have moved out where we made the record, cause we were just leasing it. We haven't a studio now, but we're gonna try to find a place to do stuff during the tour, while we're on the road, if we can get ideas. We'll see what we can do. But it should be great. It's stuff we both really enjoyed, it's inspiring to do other things. You usually get few ideas when you're trying to do a remix. It's good stuff. : That's how you started right ? With Radiohead's "Climbing Up Walls'?

Sam : Yeah, right. : Lenny Kravitz's one is great too...

Sam : You love that one ? : Oh yeah... you made it really more soulful.

Sam : I can remember, thinking, and was not sure... : Mostly, people love the Mos Def's and the NERD's you did...

Sam : The Mos Def's one was never released... : Yeah ! and people are searching for ! Hey guys, do you ever plan to release all your remixes on one album ?

Sam : yeah, maybe, I do feel we need to do a few more you know. : You did a lot already, like what, 10 ?

Sam : no, no... 5 or 6... : I think more !

Sam & Henry : yeah... like 8. (laughs) : It's like your first EP's... so hard to catch one nowadays...

Sam : Yeah... (smile) Someone gave me one the other day. For my birthday, I actually did not have one before... He gave me one. : Are you interested in soundtrack project ? It could be dangerous ... no ?

Sam : I'm interested in the word "dangerous'. What do you mean exactly by "dangerous'? : Yeah, well. The movie is most of the time done when you start composing. You have to compose on things that are fixed...

Sam : Yeah, I agree. I just wanted to know what you meant by "dangerous'. That's dangerous in this way... I wouldn't go into it without a lot of liberty. For the film that is ready to go, it's not easy. We wouldn't compose tracks of 2 minutes to arrange the transition between the scenes...

Henry : We were approached to do it, and it never came out and I don't know what happened to the film (laughs) but the way they were explaining it, it wasn't simple : they were specific sections that we know we want some pieces of music, none of them are along in the whole. : Any name of director you'd be interested to work with ? ...(after a pause)... like Sofia Coppola ?

Sam : Yeah (laughs) I think we will leave that one !

Well, I don't know, it's like for a remix, you quite don't know for whom you can do something... That's what happened with Lambchop, it was not obvious first, but when we got the track we both really liked it ! So I mean... I don't know...

Henry : I love the Cohen Brothers. (dude) : maybe for the sequel of the Big Lebowsky ! (laughs)
That's true that they really pay attention in the music environment of their movies...

Henry : Yeah, that's right ! It makes the whole... thing. I love their soundtracks. : About the new album, do you think it's much different than "Simple Things' ?

Sam : It feels really different to me. It feels a lot more personal, I don't know if it's to be linked with the way it was done in one period of time. It was much more intense. We had all the aspects of kind of an expectation, from outside, from the record company.... And you know, there was people around us...

We didn't feel in any way certain and knew how to proceed. But it was good, it was productive and that can be really creative. We were so happy to make another record and there was a lot of shits going on how you were gonna do it, a lot of questioning... And all the personal things going in our lives, people who were involved in things... And when it came all together, it was quite apparent that a lot of things impacted us : war was happening while we were doing our record, ... I don't know if everything has to be related but there was a lot going on. Yeah, in that way it is much more reflecting our spirit. : What tone do you think you used for this record ? Is it the same than "Simple Things' ?

Sam : We really tried not repeating ourselves. We really tried to avoid that.

Henry : I think Sophie described it well the other day : she said soulful. I don't mind that description, really. I quite like that.

Sam : I think we are more confident now, really less shy. We have confidence in what we do, and that's thanks to the tour really. We tried to work our way through. Something definitely changed.

I think that now we know each other really well. : Why did you name "When It Falls' ? It is an instrumental track, no lyrics to justify the title...

Sam : Why Not ? : I don't know... So why not "When it Raises ?"

Sam : It's more about life as an arc. It's just you have down and up periods, as a process. We were interested in this part, but also in the continuum. It is not negative. It was just a comment on the nature of this process. But there's not an explanation for every thing in life...

Propos recueillis par : Dude et Jérôme.
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