Stephane Argillet says:
I am originally a visual and conceptual artist
We were constantly inventing new rules, and we were designing our outfits
My approach to art and music production is marked by the punk DIY logic
I love to improvise with my music partners in studio
In this exclusive interview with multidimensional artist Stephane Argillet, we dig into his diverse roles as a musician, DJ, owner of the music label Objetrouvé and founder of the artistic collective France Fiction.
From his early days as a visual and conceptual artist to his current ventures in the music scene, Stephane shares insights into his journey, collaborations, and the unique intersection of visual art and music.
Sir Joe: You are a multidimensional artist, meaning that you are a musician, a DJ, and the founder of an artistic collective. Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement in all these activities?
Stephane Argillet: I am originally a visual and conceptual artist, involved in many collaborative projects: in the late 90’s I created together with my friend Arnaud Vincent (now a synth pop artist under the name of Arne Vinzon) the art project ‘9/9 Revue d’Art Pratique’.
It took the form of a DIY art publication involving many artists as well as musicians, and each issue contained a CD with sound or musical interventions.
It’s at this occasion that Arnaud and I produced our first music pieces and did our first stage appearances on the underground Parisian scene. As we were not professional musicians, we used early music software and toy instruments, in a kind of minimalist and experimental spirit. We published 6 issues and stopped the project in 2002.
This publication drew the attention of the creative office of Issey Miyake in Paris for whom I worked a few years as a graphic designer, especially for their DIY fashion project Pleats Please.
In parallel I founded in 2003 a band with artist and designer Vava Dudu under the name of La Chatte. It was an “art synth punk” project, very visual and deconstructed, playing with musical codes. We soon became a trio with guitarist Nicolas Jorio. We released 5 albums and we still play regularly on the underground music and art scenes. We are currently working on a new album that should be released next year.
In 2004 I founded the art collective and artist run space France Fiction in Paris together with Nicolas Nakamoto, Eric Camus and David Television. Some years later the collective was completed with Marie Bonnet and Lorenzo Cirrincione.
In 2012 I founded a new music project, more exclusively focused on synth and electronic, with singer and poet Coco Gallo, under the name Peine Perdue: we released 7 records, toured in Europe, Russia, Canada and Japan until our final separation in 2021.
In 2009 I moved from Paris to Berlin but still worked on these art and music projects (La Chatte, Peine Perdue and France Fiction). There I opened a record and fashion shop (called UNI+FORM) that collapsed after 1 year but transformed into a night bar called HERZ with my friend and partner Bodo Volke, in which we invited artists and DJ to perform (this project lasted 3 years). It was also a place where I loved to play music, more as a selector than a proper DJ actually.
Lately I started my own music label, called Objetrouvé (www.objetrouve-label.com), specialized in synth and experimental music, for which I create series of collector sculptures editions (record objects). I was blessed to work with great artists such as Madmoizel, Martial Canterel, Luminance, Arnaud Lazlaud (first project of Automelodi), UFO Shadow (the new side project of Oberst Panizza), Volcan, HØRD, This is the Bridge, Japanese synth artists Soloist Anti Pop Totalization and Jin Cromanyon, Russian electronic musician OID, Berlin duo Sir Percy, as well as creating visual extension to my own projects (Peine Perdue, La Chatte and a music collaboration with Latvian poet Sergej Timofejev).
I am now working on a new release with the great Kline Coma Xero that will be released in January 2024. Another way to marry visual art and music.
Stephane Argillet: France Fiction started spontaneously in 2004 around a very silly and poetic idea which consisted in gathering every week with a few friends in a public garden in Paris (the Jardin du Palais Royal) for playing marbles.
This game became a source of inspiration: we were constantly inventing new rules, designing our outfits as if we were an official sports club and inviting passers-by to play with us or even join our “Billes-Club du Jardin Royal”, as we soon called the project. From this starting point, we decided to create a fixed place, a kind of “club-house” where we would gather and create other art and game projects.
We found an abandoned small shop, basically a show-window in front of a sort of narrow corridor which would become our gallery for the next 10 years. As a collective, we have invited artists into our space while producing our own artistic projects, which have also been presented in numerous other exhibitions and art spaces over the course of our 12-year collaboration (in Paris, London, Stockholm, Rome, Berlin, Antwerp, Turin, Mexico ans so on). It mainly focused on the theme of collaborative creation: how to dissolve the person in an art form that could create itself socially and organically.
To achieve this objective, we have set up working protocols for inventing games, scenarios for films that are constantly being revised, reactivating the memory of forgotten dead, collective dreaming sessions, to name but a few examples.
I very quickly understood that this way of making art collectively was very similar to the way a music band operates, where each member makes a contribution which is then fused into a synthesis of all the energies in the form of a piece of music.
SJ: I guess that balancing your time between all these activities must not be an easy task.
How do you manage to keep focused so that you can always give your best, regardless of what you are doing in a specific moment?
Stephane Argillet: All these projects overlapped on purpose, and I found a sort of balance between them, because I always get bored concentrating on a single project, so I can move from one to the other and draw inspiration from each of them.
My working method is similar to that of a juggler who throws plates in the air and finds the most graceful way of catching them, while accepting that some will crash to the ground. Life and circumstances decide, and that’s fine.
SJ:What is the story behind your DJ name, Stereovoid?
Stephane Argillet: Stereovoid is a fictional character I created as part of an art project with France Fiction. Each member of the collective chose a character name that was part of a proposal to complete René Daumal’s famous unfinished novel “Le Mont Analogue”. Our idea was that we could also introduce our fictional doubles into other situations in our lives.
When I started to DJ, but also to sign some music collaborations, I was in search for an easier name to use that my complete name, and Stereovoid appeared as the perfect solution. It also echoed my attraction to minimalism, sound and science fiction.
SJ: How has your relocation to Berlin influenced your evolution as an artist?
SJ: I know that currently your studio is split between Marseille and Berlin. What are the biggest challenges you have to face with such a set up? What software and hardware do you typically use in your music production process?
Stephane Argillet: My approach to art and music production is totally and definitely marked by the punk DIY logic. Inspiration is the rule. You can make sound with free software, a synth you’ve picked up at a flea market, a toy, a microphone – the tools for making sound or images are endless.
When I started out at the end of the 90s, I worked with Fruity Loops and Casio synths, and then I started using Cubase with all the VSTs included (some of them generated sound textures that I cannot find anymore).
Then I switched to Logic (perfect for production) and, for live performances, the formidable Roland SP 404 sequencer, the classic micro Korg and the fantastic Alesis SR-16 beat box. These three instruments are still my favorites for composing or playing live. They’re also light and easy to transport for gigging.
I also have a KORG minilogue, which is very useful for creating atmospheric synth layers, and a small Roland SE-02 for creating punchy basslines.
I produce sound with the instruments I have at hand whether I’m in Berlin or Marseille. Inspiration always finds the tool at hand and not the other way around, so it’s never a big problem to have my instruments in two places so far apart.
I’ve met a lot of musicians who have studios full of expensive synthesizers but lack the inspiration to create anything worthwhile. I don’t have the means to build such war machines but I still think that ideas are stronger than the equipment you use.
SJ: Do you prefer creating music in your studio or performing live, and why?
Stephane Argillet: I really like both. I love to spend hours with my headphones with my tools all connected. This is perfect for constructing elaborated compositions and productions. It’s like sophisticated masturbation with endless possibilities.
But I also love to improvise with my music partners in studio, the warmth and energy you get from interaction with your fellow partners can create great tracks collectively that transcend individual ideas.
This is particularly true of my group La Chatte with Vava and Nikolu. We very soon stopped rehearsing our songs and gradually found our sound by improvising live.
The whole point of putting ourselves at risk is that every concert is a revelation for us and for the audience, and that’s made every concert for the last 20 years totally exciting. It’s like being both a musician on stage and a spectator in a concert that unfolds according to a poetic logic that escapes us. It’s a blast!
We say thanks to Stephan Argillet for this great interview and wish him all the best for his future projects and collaborations.
It’s a pity that several factors did not allow for the usual video interview and studio demonstration, but the quality of Stephane’s answers more than made up for that ‘deficiency’. Perhaps another time…
Don’t forget to visit his Instagram page
You are also welcome to check my other interviews for The Electronic Corner