Hélène de Thoury (vocals) from Hante.
I listened to ‘Morning Tsunami’ - the album that will be out in summer 2021 - and I thought “wow…. it’s a real blast”! After having delved into the magical world Hélène created, I decided to ask her a few questions about the upcoming album, but also her previous works and art in general.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Hello Hélène, first of all congratulations on the new release, ‘Morning Tsunami’, that is scheduled to be out on 2nd of July. Itis a real blast. I cannot say a soundtrack to dream journeys would be a good description here, but it certainly gave a vent to my mind and send it to great places… Please tell me more about the concept behind the album. When did you start working on it?
Hélène: Thanks so much for the kind words! I started working on the album last October but really spent the three first months of 2021 working on it full time and polishing it. I know that lots of artists couldn’t find inspiration during those strange times but I’ve been lucky enough that, on the contrary, the situation helped releasing some really deep emotions.
RoD: Already the first song, ‘Apnée’, is a strong opening and it introduces the mood for the album - it’s electronic, hypnotizing, trancy and very powerful. Did you have a particular mood in mind while you sat to writing new music? Was there a particular effect you wanted to achieve with the content on the album?
Hélène: ‘Apnée’ was actually the first track I composed for the album. It was really weird because I usually don’t work like this but the first thing I did was to write some words, some themes I wanted to explore in the album and even some potential titles. And they all ended to be the titles of my tracks. Then I started to compose ‘Apnée’ knowing it would be the opening. I wrote this album like I was writing a book. An open-book on my world and my mind. I’ve never been as honest and free than when I was composing this album. There was no barrier. The only thing I wanted was to write down all my feelings, I needed to really love every single part of this album. I was not trying to please anybody, and I didn’t try to fit to a particular scene other than an electronic one. So, I think it is a perfect mix between everything I love and it’s 100% me.
RoD: I like how your music oscillates in between, so to say, hot and cold, energetic and pacifying - it’s as if you were taking us into the cosmic journey through a totally different moods and experiences. It’s cinematic, profound and yet very uplifting, invigorating. What is your general concept of music? What is its purpose?
Hélène: I see music as soundtrack of life. It’s a companion. It helps you go through difficulties, helps you feeling good, feeling better or let yourself dive into some needed darkness sometimes. There are so many albums or songs that helped me going through stuff, stupid or profound and I’d like to do the same for others. That’s why you can find all kind of emotions in my music, from despair to hope or peace.
RoD: You sometimes make purely instrumental songs and sometimes add lyrics - what is the lyrics writing process like in your case? What moves to an extent that you decide to create lyrics about?
Hélène: I use my voice like an instrument. I’m not considering myself as a great singer and sometimes I’m limited in what I would like to do. So, I use it to tell stories or to give an identity to a song. In ‘Morning Tsunami’, there’s less voice than usual because I wanted to let more place to the electronic, to the melodies and let you live your story through what your emotions are at the moment. There’s one track without voices at all: ‘Transparent’. This track is just a moment of pure emotions halfway through the album.
RoD: Would you say you’re a melancholic or dreamy person? How much of you is in your music?
Hélène: I’m both! And both a lot! I’m very melancholic and nostalgic, I’m often thinking about some moments in my life where I felt very happy and wish I could go back then. But at the same, I dream a lot and always live in the future. I need to have goals and big dreams to go on! I try to learn to live more in the present because I really think it’s key to happiness.
RoD: When I think about your overall artistic output, meaning music, videos, artworks and the way you present yourself as an artist, I’d say it’s a very complex and yet juxtaposing matter. Like an inner conflict or struggle in between styles, emotions and images transformed into sounds and lyrics. Would you say you are the kind of an artist who has two co-existing opposites inside? I think it is also reflected on your new release to some extent.
Hélène: This is really funny that you can feel this in my art because I didn’t realize it at all! And I think you’re totally right! Humans are complex in general and I’m not an exception :) And also because I love lots of different things in term of art, I’m influenced by totally different styles. I try to digest all of this and create my own. But of course, it also evolves with my mood. The link is what I can’t help to do. Even if I’m pushing myself into some directions, there’s always something that comes from me, deeply.
RoD: I’m asking this also because your music, be it from the new album, ‘Between Hope & Danger’ or ‘Fierce’ or any other for that matter - they all form strong sonic constructs that are both delicate and kicking, plastic, mesmerizing, beautiful, fragile and yet energetic and danceable. Is the art of balancing the contrasts close to you? How would you yourself describe your music?
Hélène: It’s something I don’t do in purpose. I guess it’s the constant battle between the “I want to make people dance” and “I want to make people feel something”. To find the right balance is always hard. And I really tried to not think about it while composing ‘Morning Tsunami’, I just did what was coming from me without questioning it twice. To be honest, I don’t know what is exactly the kind of music I’m doing. I would say that I’m a mix between Darkwave and modern Electronic. Some kind of Dark Electronic? I don’t know, I read everything on my style, I think people hear what they want to hear. The nostalgic ones will hear some deep 80s influences and some others will hear something more contemporary.
RoD: I listened to your album and could not escape the visions of small, atmospheric clubs, filled with smoke, strobe lights, with people enjoying themselves, trancing away, releasing their emotions thanks to your music. Such views - well we’ve all been deprived of them for more than a year. I realize all interviews last year were also about pandemic - how do you feel about the current state of things and how do you personally feel about the situation? Did it influence the content of ‘Morning Tsunami’ in any way?
Hélène: I have lots of hope at the moment. I want to believe everything will be even better after what we experienced. I feel like all those months have been stolen from us in a way and I’m sure we’ll all enjoy twice the gigs and parties after this. I really hope the clubs will reopen at the end of the summer. But I don’t know, I just wait like everybody… This definitely influenced the content of ‘Morning Tsunami’ because I wouldn’t have had all this time to focus on my emotions and I think I went deeper with this one. And also, because I’m scared of the time passing so I’m giving everything I have in my art. I don’t want to have any regrets.
RoD: I absolutely love the video for ‘Wild Animal’, it made me think a bit of Antonioni’s ‘Blow-up’. The way the camera and light operate with the actors’ eyes and faces is very private, with numerous close-ups but not obtrusive, it proves your manner of operating with emotions that you include in your music to be approached in a delicate, sensitive way, but an observant one too. Are you a rather feeling or analytical person when it comes to transforming reality into art? Will there be any videos to go with the new album?
Hélène: ‘Wild Animal’ has been directed by ‘Ouroboros’, a duo of directors from Berlin I really, really love. They had carte blanche on the video. So, it’s all their work and vision on this one. They already worked on my very first music video for ‘The Storm’ and I loved their work so much that I wanted to trust them again for the first single of my previous album ‘Fierce’. For the new album, I released last month a first music video ‘Blank Love’ that I directed and edited myself and I’m working on a new video to be released in June for the single ‘Wasting Time’. The album is so personal that it made sense to do some very personal videos to accompany the songs.
RoD: Speaking of art - what would you say is your major inspiration? Do other people add a creative sparkle too?
Hélène: Last year, I discovered an electronic project called KA:AST and they blew my mind with their album ‘Unreleased Tracks’. I think it has been a big influence in the new direction I took with ‘Morning Tsunami’. Movies and TV shows are also a great inspiration for me as I usually compose my music with an emotion in mind that I felt when watching some intense scenes. I think that’s why my sound is often described as cinematographic.
RoD: How would you say your experience with PHOSPHOR and MINUIT MACHINE influenced your work in HANTE.? How do you feel you evolved artistically with your subsequent releases?
Hélène: I learnt so much about the production process when I was in PHOSPHOR because I was not composing the music, except for a few synth melodies. It influenced both of my projects MINUIT MACHINE and HANTE. in the way I was producing the songs at the beginning. Now, it’s always really difficult to dissociate MINUIT MACHINE and HANTE.’s music. Because I compose a lot, sometimes I don’t have the choice but to compose a song for one of the two projects while I’m working on the other project’s album or EP. And because my music is very personal, it’s difficult to have two very distinct sounds. But what makes MINUIT MACHINE different and particular is obviously the influences that Amandine brings to it.
RoD: Tell me about your artworks - I’ve seen some and they are very much like your music - a journey to a magical, a bit dreamy world of exceptional objects set in a mysterious atmospheric ambience.
Hélène: I studied cinema and fashion design after high school and even if I found a better way to express myself with music, the visuals are still very important to me. And I have the same kind of process than for music, I find an image, a picture, and I work around it, mixing textures etc. I follow lots of artists on Instagram: graphic designer, fashion designer, tattoo artist, 3D artist etc. And all this influences my artworks, the same way other producers can influence my music.
RoD: Having the new album in mind and the changing situation in Europe - any chance for concerts? Are you planning anything for us?
Hélène: I have a few gigs planned at the end of the year. Most of them are postponed gigs from last year. I have no idea if they’re gonna happen or not! I really hope so. I should be touring in Europe around February / March 2022. But for now, I’m a bit in a state of uncertainty, like a lot of us!
RoD: Thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate!
All pictures by H+A