Nomadic Berlin-based Montreal musician/producer Guillaume Coutu-Dumont is one of electronic music’s most eclectic and forward-thinking artists. The threads of his musical fabric are woven together with swathes of house, jazz, Eastern spirituality and beyond. Known for his band Guillaume & the Side Effects’ live shows (Coutu-Dumont doesn’t DJ!), Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts’ latest comes in the form of a brilliant three-tracker, The Fight Within EP, for Circus Company. On the EP Coutu-Dumont navigates through a glorious sea of luscious house-techno journey. (Interestingly, he says he has no recollection of producing of producing “Keys For Hanuman” heard on the EP.) We talked to Coutu-Dumont about the new EP and his plans for the summer a few days before he played Mutek in Montreal.
Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts’ The Fight Within is out now on Circus Company.
The new EP has only three songs, but each one stands tall on its own. Overall, it’s very unconventional yet has all of the elements that an electronic-music lover can sink their teeth into. Did you approach the EP from a specific creative mindset?
Guillaume Coutu-Dumont: Well, thanks. I don’t mind releasing unconventional music. I love the idea of EPs as they used to be. Like a mini album with some sort of narrative. Even though I’ve never been one to push concept down people’s throats… this one make sense to me. The cover ties it up together. It definitely explores the idea of an inner journey. I also love diversity on a EP. I mean, when there’s not only stuff tailored uniquely for the dance floors.
“A Single String” comes on strong with a wonderful, chugging techno groove. But the moment when those synth strings come in it seems as if you instantly marry techno and house. How did this track come to be? And what allows you to personally be so free with your music?
Perception is always so interesting to me. It changes with every one who listens. For some reasons (probably because some of my first experiences with electronic music were in open airs out in some fields…) I always associate music with specific times in the night/day. I always thought about “A Single String” to be a soundtrack to accompany the first rays of light. So in some ways it makes sense with what you’re saying… about the “house” vibe emerging from the “techno night.” I think what allows me to be free with music (if I am, because honestly I don’t always share your opinion) is not caring too much about genres. As DJ Harvey said, I think, “House is where I live and garage is where I park my car. I play music.”
“Instinct and shutting the brains off work for me… I need to repeat that to myself every time I am in doubt about whatever music I am working on.”
When I first heard “Keys For Hanuman” I was enveloped by the melody line and percussion. I imagined a music video where the protagonist was running in a maze. I understand this song came to you after visiting Asia. Please explain!
Yeah, or when you run and don’t go nowhere in dreams. The song was made first before a trip to Asia. I probably made it in one day, stored it on my hard drive and totally forgot about it. Then when I came back from that tour in Japan and China, I sat down and listened to it. I had absolutely no memories at all of composing that. None. But it was mind blowing how much it sounded exactly in the direction I had been wanting to go since a while. Instinct and shutting the brains off work for me… I need to repeat that to myself every time I am in doubt about whatever music I am working on.
“Winning all the Battles (But Still Losing the War)” is pretty epic. Listening to the track I was reminded of Chez Damier and Jeff Mills. How do you feel about references like those?
Wow… I mean… it’s better then Ren and Stimpy as a reference. [Laughs.] I mean, those guys are legends, right? I have the feeling this track has a real Detroit drive to it but is still light years away from that. I love referencing when it stays different.
Performing live has been a big part of your career. What is your live show like these days? Do you ever DJ?
I really try to keep my live show moving as much as I can. I try to improvise and keep myself surprised. It’s the only way to keep things interesting for me and for the people who listen and dance. I never DJ. The only few times I did was wedding style DJing, mixing funk, soul, afro beat, hip-hop, disco, etc.
Now that the EP has been released, what’s next for you? It seems like you have quite a few gigs coming up.
Yeah, I feel very lucky to be rolling like this after quite a long time. I am currently in Montreal where I’ll be playing at Mutek festival. It’s my home town and Mutek has been my most important spring board. It’s the 15th edition, and I’ll be closing it alongside some of my best friends and producers Mike Shannon and The Mole. I’m nervous and very touched by this.
What’s your personal goal for summer 2014?
I will finish the first album of my band, Guillaume & the Side Effects. The band is composed of keyboards, saxophone, guitar, vocals and me doing the rest. I’m half way through the album and I haven’t been excited about a project like that since a while. Really looking forward to this. Other then that… enjoying life, playing shows, having fun.
Any final thoughts?!
I am off to eat a smoked meat sandwich. Montreal is just great. I miss it.