Q+A: Five minutes with Pablo Nouvelle

Since his lauded 2012 debut, Swiss producer Pablo Nouvelle has continued to follow his instincts when it comes to creating music. This means he’s particularly multi-faceted, as comfortable releasing EPs full of moody piano compositions as he is crafting layered and dark techno. Last year saw the producer collaborate with ambient folk artist Kinnship on the stirring Stones & Geysers, where he lent his cinematic electronica to Kinnship’s emotive multi-instrumentalist approach. Now on his new album Vulnerability, out this Friday, October 21 on Armada Electronic Elements, he’s returning to the dancefloor while retaining the soulful depth that’s distinguished him in the dance music sphere. We caught up with Nouvelle to speak about Vulnerability and on how he’s embracing this new phase in his artistry. 


Hi, Pablo! Welcome back to The Playground, it’s good to chat with you. The last time we spoke, we premiered a track from your collaboration with Kinnship. How have things been since then?

It went on restlessly. After the release of Stones & Geysers in autumn, the first single from Vulnerability was released in February. In contrast to the collaboration with Kinnship, most of the other songs were not yet finished when the first single was released for this album. On the one hand, this gives the music something immediate. Today I might write a song, a few weeks later it’s on Spotify. On the other hand, this workflow was connected to a certain (time) pressure. In addition, the visual story is always very close to my heart. This time it’s especially personal because I scanned friends for the artwork. Everything is done on the go. 


You’re gearing up to release Vulnerability. What can we expect to hear on this record?

 For the first time, it feels less like an album rather than a compilation of individual songs. It’s the best of dance music created over the last two years, and although it can all be grouped under the umbrella of electronic music, the range is very wide. There are hard to digest songs with depth like the title track, but also feel-good songs with a slappy house beat like You Make My Days Better or Lovesongs & Sextapes. And then there’s Lights On. The cuckoo’s child. A song I just love too much not to put on the album, even if it comes from a completely different planet. 



How has the last few years shaped the direction of your current music? Were there any significant turning points that led to this moment?

 I feel at home in so many different styles that it is sometimes difficult for me not to lose the thread. The release of the album Obsolete and its predecessor Atlas Internet Cafe was an “aha” moment for me. Instead of working with vocalists, I started working with other producers, and suddenly I was making more instrumental music again and that felt right. Since then, my releases have been more stringent and less mixed. 


Aside from dance music, you also release music as a classical pianist. Does this facet of your work inform how you approach electronic music?

 Funnily enough, it was actually the other way around. I wrote piano pieces the same way I approach electronic music. I played the piano but the song was actually “written” on the laptop. I recorded a few chord bits, put a melody on top of it, and then I used some rudimentary means to rework the instrument itself. The songs only came into being through the collage work on the computer. At the moment I’m writing new piano pieces, but this time I’m taking a more classical approach. It’s incredibly nice to be able to sit down at an instrument and play my own compositions, something that usually doesn’t happen too often as a producer of electronic music. 


Your new single ‘Lovesongs & Sextapes’ is a highlight. Could you tell us a bit about how this track came about?

 Last year, Tom Gibbons shot a mind blowing documentary about Karel Sabbe, an ultra runner who runs the alps in 30 days. That’s two marathons and an average of 4-5k meters altitude a day! It’s called Solace – you can watch it on Youtube. They gave me two weeks to score the whole film. A race in itself. One of the tunes I composed evolved further and further, but it was still missing that certain something. Then, late on a hot summer night, I had a conversation with a good friend who told me she was yearning for a relationship where she could rely on her partner. She was sick of all the drama, sick of lovesongs and sextapes. I thought the ‘Lovesongs & Sextapes’ quote was so genius that we ran to the studio that same night and recorded the vocals for the track. 


There’s always a strong emotional core to the music you create. What do you find powerful about making that sort of ‘cry on the dancefloor’ electronica?

 For me, music is the one-to-one translation of emotions. A universal language that makes it possible to experience the inner being on the outside. Music without a strong emotional urgency has no raison d’être for me. I find the tension that arises when opposites meet, like the drive of dance music and sadness, particularly interesting. 


Do you have plans to tour this album?

 We’ve put together a completely new show. We’re playing a few classics like Ice or Heartbeat, but mainly the new songs with a full band and a big visual bang. It’s so incredibly extensive, but also just extremely fun to finally be back on stage with the whole crew and to bring the music to life. We’re playing a few shows in Switzerland in November and December, and then two or three exclusive dates in Germany in spring. We hope to be able to present the show in other European cities as well. 


What are you looking forward to most when it comes to sharing this music live?

 Ecstasy. Jointly experienced, all-pervading, ecstasy.


If you could turn back time and have the power to write any song in existence, which one would it be and why?

 OMG, I have a song every month that I think is so awesome it makes me jealous. The current one is Massive by Drake and Gordo who produced the song with Zastenker & Klahr. What a blast of a beat!


Famous last words?

 Well, I could go on.. 


Listen to Lovesongs & Sextapes from Vulnerability below. Pre-save the album here.

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