Agoria: Infinity is presence and presence is infinity

In Blog, Interview by Apok

One of the most important figures of the European scene, Agoria, made his Serbian debut performance on Friday, the 16th of December, in Belgrade’s “Depo”.

After years of waiting, we finally got the chance to listen to one of the best ambassadors of the French sceneafter Laurent Garnier, as evidenced by the numerous awards for BestNational DJ, and capital issues for the prestigious label Kompakt, Hotflush and Innervisions. His CD “At the Controls” is considered a masterpiece of electronic music, while Resident Advisor named it “one of the finest and era-defining”. Knowing that he scheduled our phone call interview at a time when most performers choose to write, i expected this to be a different kind of talk.

Sebastien Devaud’s love of music was acquired at a very early age through his father, a vinyl collector, and mother, an opera diva, while his first contact with Detroit techno happened at the age of 12 after purchasing a record named “Big Fun” by Kevin Saunderson’s cult group – Inner City. I just had to ask.

Yeah, this track changed everything. When i first hear heard it, it didn’t leave a mark immediately. Only years later the sound of Detroit started leaving strong impression on me, says Agoia.

His stage name is derived from the word agora, meaning public gathering places in ancient Greece, which was also the name of the first parties he organized. Soon, his buddies named him Agoria, right about the time when he experienced another revelation from Detroit.

First really important moment for me happened when i saw Jeff Mills mixing. It was something completely new for me. He played on three turntables and brought lots of rhythm machines and samplers which mesmerised me. I had the feeling like a jaguar or a puma is behind the turntables, because he was moved so fast like he came from another planet. He intrigued me into buying my first turntable. I didn’t have the money to buy the second one, so i started working by mixing records with the radio. That was the only way i could practice, says Sebastien.

Agoria is considered one of the most influential people on the French music scene, as one of the founders of the famous festival Les Nuits Sonores and the world-renowned publishing house InFine, a platform for contemporary artists whose music is considered “out of time” such as Carl Craig, Seth Troxler, Oxia and Francesco Tristano.

Five years after he left InFine, Sebastien founded his new record label named Sapiens with the intention to push the working boundaries of regular publishing labels. New platform, devoted to the fine creative blend of music designers and film directors with musicians and visual artists, started its journey on the 25. of November when “Up All Night”, label’s first EP was published. It sounds as a melodic whirl of emotions progressing from struggle and melancholy to happiness and triumph. Sounds of a violin layered around the thrilling piano chords guarantee those Agoria epic moments at parties.

This is a platform for all types of art. I’ve been living in Paris for two year now and i have the opportunity to work with many different artists, musicians, directors, actors, painters… It’s nice to have a music label, but there are so many already. If i want to publish a good club track, i send it to Dixon for Innervisions or Maceo Plex for Ellum, says Agoria, explaining that Sapiens is one of the brightest moments of his career.

Poles of his rich discography are four studio albums: “Blossom”, “The Green Armchair”, “Imparmenece” and “Go Fast” composed as a soundtrack for the film of the same name which was directed by the legendary  Luke Besson, while his Scala EP published for the prestigious Innervisions became an absolute global hit. In search for inspiration and creative work, i asked Agoria if there is a method he uses to stimulate his mind:

– Each time it’s different, because every artist has his own personality. I never impose, but listen. I learn a lot when i listen to the other person. With Phillipe Pareno you never know what might happen. He is always in the mood for surprises when i have to present my project. I adore working with him. Once we went to watch fishes in the aquarium. That is what our meetings are like. They go from the most absurd moments to the most relaxed. That is the beauty of our collaboration, says Seb happily.

His width is further reflected in releases such as “Les Violins Ivres”, “Baboul Hair Cutting”, “Panta Rei”, “Europa” or “Speechless”, while the universality of his music is reflected in sets of very dissimilar artists such as  Carl Cox, Dixon, Laurent Garnier, Carl Craig, Solomun, Gesaffelsetin or Efdemin. He takes his remixing duties very seriously, which can be heard in his versions of “Crystalised” by Martina Topley-Bird and Mark Lanegan, and Mobys “Almost Home,” while being on of those responsible for refreshing the careers of Neneh Cherry and Peter Murphy.

For years, Agoria has been on a very intense tour and his travel calendar recorded performances from Tokyo to Brazil. In addition to the leading festivals, clubs like Berghain / Panorama Bar, Sub Club, Womb, Warung, Amnesia and DC10 can be found of his touring list, while being one of this year’s residents at Circoloco parties in Ibiza and a regular guest at Maceo Plex’s Mosaic and Ellum parties. Before all of this, a great publishing success happened.

At the moment when my first EP came out, “La Onzième marche” was released in 400-600 copes. It was published on an underground label, but later got licenced by PIAS and sold in 30 000 copies, Agoria recalls his breakthrough moment and adds with a smile: From that moment on, i started playing all over the world.

Seasoned connoisseur of mix showed his skills on several occasions through Balance and Fabric compilations, while his “At the Controls” received a perfect score from the distinguished Resident Advisor critics, quoting: “It is quickly becoming the canon by which every other recorded mixes will have to be judged by“.

I remember my first mix, Agoria revealed and admitted: I practiced it for hundreds of times because i wanted it to be perfect, without any editing. “At the Controls” was completely different from it. My intention was to use every possible way of mixing to surprise the listeners and take them on a different journey.

What is most interesting with this revolutionary mix is a distinctively new and daring blend of music pearls such as the theme of the film “Mulholland Drive” and “Experimento” signed by Carl Craig, a mixture of orchestral composition by Raymond Scott and Onur Ozers minimal, as well as the combination of Aphrodite’s Child song “Loud Loud Loud” and samples from the LCD Soundsystem opus.

Each week as DJs we perform and try to follow the course of the night. That is a bit obsolete for a CD like this. If you have ever read the book by Nick Hornby called “High Fidelity”, you know that  the book is about creating the perfect playlist. At the end of the year lots of DJs make serious mixes which are supposed to show their musical taste and knowledge through the selection of their favourites. At certain moments in a DJ’s career, that can help a lot, shares Sebastien.

Infinity, his favourite food for thought is deeply linked with electronic music.

Infinity is presence, and presence is infinity. While we talk, in moments between our words, eternity exists. Some say it is the future, but i think the endlessness is present in this moment. This moment is immortal. That is why i love electronic music. Loops we make, the repetitions and cycles, create that sense of infinity and that is what makes electronic music special.

At the end of our chat, Agoria thanked all the lovers, artists, or simply sapiens who danced with him at his premier show in Belgrade.

Every time i visit a new city i get excited. Couple of my friends are from Serbia and i can’t wait to tell them my impressions of their home country!