Tag Archives: Antoine Guenet

How I became a Vegetarian thanks to “Pay what you want” philosophies

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How I became a Vegetarian thanks to “Pay what you want” philosophies

PWYW

In the last couple of years our interest for “pay what you want” strategies (PWYW), crowdfunding and open-source philosophies has been growing steadily. I started with funding a significant part of SH.TG.N’s debut on MoonJune Records with a crowdfunding campaign, went on with a lot of reading, and recently Susan and I experimented with donation-based living room concerts with our new project RUNtoSEED. We also placed our own bids on crowdfunding campaigns such as Boyan Slat’s “The Ocean Cleanup”-project which managed to raise over $2M from 38000 funders from 160 countries in 100 days to clean up the ocean.

Not only did we discover new ways to consider a music career, but we were exposed to entirely new ways to look at the world, which would change us forever. But in this article I will focus on one in particular : I’ve become a Vegetarian.

Consumption

Now what do these things have to do with each other ? Well simply put : consumption. Being busy with price and consumption in a different, more flexible way, I started to take a different look on what I bought. With no obligation to pay and no set price, you start gaining consciousness of what your payment really represents : an endorsement. And that’s what any payment is, really, even with a set price. The real power of the money we spend is there. If I choose to buy something at one store instead of another, I choose to support that one store over the other one.

So that got me thinking, when I buy something, who am I endorsing ? What am I supporting ? Who am I giving a tap on the shoulder saying “keep doing what you do, this is good work!” ? And naturally I realized I had been an accomplice of a whole bunch of practices I obviously couldn’t support. Now of course I knew they existed, and in a lot of cases I knew the products I bought were unethical and sure I tried to buy, like, fair-trade coffee, organic food and avoid Monsanto or such products (these specific causes happen to be more advertised than others). But I didn’t exactly realize how far my endorsement went, or how big my power actually was.

Everyone does the best they can

Let’s cut ourselves some slack for a minute. We are trained to think fatalistically about the world. The old “this is how it is and has always been and you won’t do anything about it” song. We are trained to look at people who want to do otherwise as either disconnected idealists, crazy radicals, or both. I’m no exception. And I must say realizing it doesn’t have to be that way is a long and complicated process. For one, you start asking a lot of questions, lose one’s points of reference, and it might seem like you start saying ‘no’ too often. So I learn to say no with a radiant smile.

Because now I know, when I say no to casual meat-eating, I’m saying no to the current trivialization of massive insensitive killings, to deforestation, to objectification of animals, to global disconnection with the life-and-death cycle, etc. etc. etc. And my little ‘no’ to a little toast with, say, foie-gras on it, is a big ‘yes’ to embracing life, the world, and my own personal power to make it an even better place. Definitely worth a smile.

I’m aware that being 100% coherent is this approach is difficult and I’m absolutely not there yet. While contemplating veganism (animals are mistreated whether it’s for their meat or what they produce), I do not yet feel ready to make the step. I own clothes and electronics that have been partly created by exploited workers (I’m typing on my Apple computer right now). Even parts of my instrument probably have been. But demanding to be entirely coherent from the start is part of what’s been paralyzing me and influencing me to keep my eyes closed. Now each day they open a little more. And that also means more of the world’s beauty to see.

Passive resistance

You know in the end all this, including the whole PWYW thing, is nothing but Ghandi’s Satyagraha. Holding on to truth, not to force. So I’ll leave you with that song Susan and I wrote together a few months ago for our project RUNtoSEED, performed live at La Monnaie/De Munt (Belgium’s National Opera House), and called “Satyagraha”. With the whole personal power talk I could have as well picked my song “You’re in Charge” but I’ll let you discover that one on your own on our site.

We’ll talk about PWYW and all that again very soon : we’re busy setting up a Patreon account for RUNtoSEED.

Antoine Guenet

PS : Just to show that we have more individual power than we tend to think : here’s a PETA report showing that each vegan individually saves the lives of in average 185 (most of them mistreated) animals per year.

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3 Valses pour ma Famille

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We’re back! After several months without a post on the blog, we’re finally back. Both Susan and I have been very busy lately, between the NY tour, the intensive writing, and other fun stuff. An important part of what I’ve personally been busy with is available for you to listen to right here (for free ;-)) :

Three “waltzes” in French for some members of my family who’ve been in a conflict for about two years, and haven’t seen each other for a year. Feeling powerless when we talked about it, I decided to write them songs to express what I needed to express. Isn’t that basically the use of a song ? My family being French-speaking I naturally chose to write them in French (a first for me).

I won’t go into details about the content of the lyrics but I just want to talk about one little verse which comes back in all three songs :

Le vrai pardon est salvateur
Celui qui vient vraiment du coeur
Et s’il n’est pas une sinécure
De ta douleur il est la cure

It basically means that real forgiveness can save you and while I’m aware it’s not easy, it’s their pain’s cure. You know… what else can you say to three people who love each other but can’t see each other ?

Anyway. I’ll take this chance to officially announce Susan and I will be touring soon with our brand new duo project SEEd ! The three songs I’m sharing here with you can give you an idea of the direction we’ll be taking in terms of content, although they obviously will be arranged differently to fit our duo line up. Can’t wait!

Love you all people, thanks for reading!

Antoine

My first year with Univers Zero (part 2 : studio and RIO Festival)

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Hi there again,

First of all thank you all for you enthusiasm around the first part of this story. Now with the album coming out in two days (!!!) it’s time for me to post the second part.

Back home : Gentse Feesten and Fluxx

Fluxx, Colliding Universes (© Susan Clynes)

Fluxx, Colliding Universes (© Susan Clynes)

After a week of great experiences in Mexico we got back to Brussels and split (to go home of course, don’t worry the band didn’t split up!). I took the train alone for an hour, looking at the pictures of that week, still a little high from the whole thing. The next day was my daughter’s very first little school show, I was still a little jet-lagged and the skin on my face is disintegrating from the giant Teotihuacan sunburn in the middle of it, but I enjoyed the day immensely. For a few months after that the band didn’t see each other and I focused on my last creation as an Artist in Residence (three years, one creation a year) for the Gentse Feesten (one of the biggest cultural festivals in Europe) . It’s called Fluxx, it’s some kind of live drum’n’bass/electro with a string quartet (the great Bl!ndman [Strings]), and I shared the composing job with Koen Quintyn, a young composer from Ghent who I chose as my successor as Artist in Residence. Three months doing strictly something else.

Let’s start recording

As soon as I was done with Fluxx and the concert was over, it was time to start recording with Univers Zero. To be fair we had seen each other a few times before anyway, to prepare the recording. It was time for the longest recording session I’d ever had. I was used to, like, 2-days recording sessions (those things are expensive ya know…). This one was 16 days, non-stop, every day, weekend included. We were going to take our time to do things well and without rushing. I told Susan it wasn’t going to be to heavy on her with the kid because anyway I was coming back home every evening, not late. She’ll tell you I was wrong : when I came home everyday I was so exhausted it was impossible for me to do anything. Well it is intense music.

In the studio (© Laura Di Tullio, Nicolas Denis or Daniel Denis)

In the studio with Univers Zero

First day, again, problems with my gear (among other things). We didn’t play that day. I spent most of my day trying to figure out why the midi signal didn’t send to the sound engineer’s (Renzo Gotto) mixing table. Again, I have no idea what the problem was but it did get fixed… Then I had to open up my Nord Stage to fix a key that was not reacting properly (I just had to clean up behind it). I fixed it but the problem moved to another key, so I opened again, fixed again, problem moved again, had lunch, opened again, fixed again, played a little, went home. The next days the band was so tight and motivated we ended up like 3 days ahead of schedule. Days that the band’s perfectionism of course made us catch up later. We particularly spent a lot of time on some parts of Kurt Budé’s composition “Danse Mécanique”. The attention was on every detail. What was hard with that groove was to find what exactly was the best feel for it. It has to feel extremely natural while it’s not. My left hand (organ) is supposed to play tight with changing time signatures (3/4-5/8-5/8) while my right hand plays piano in 4/4, extremely expressive and laid-back. We could do them separately but it’s important to me to get the feel of the band together. Meanwhile all of the band’s attention is on that tight-but-natural feel and we make close to 20 different takes that are all just slightly different. Again, I’d never worked in such detail before (the advantage of time here, usually we just have to be happy with the 2 or 3 takes we make… no time to do more!). On the solos spontaneity is the key though, so one or two takes max. About that, I just noticed that the only excerpt from the album on YouTube is a solo of mine 🙂 Here it is.

While it was hard and exhausting work it was also very exciting and at the same time a very nice and chill time. We were lucky enough to have some sun, Kurt cooked great lunches for us every day, that we ate in the garden, next to the roosters (sometimes maybe provoking them by eating chicken!)…

Rock-in-Opposition Festival – before our show (Romantic Warriors II, meeting people, the effect of the European Union expansion on Chicago)

In a gas station on the road

Picture I took from the ground of a gas station in France on our way to Carmaux.

Soon after that was the time to get back to work on a live set as we were invited

The concert hall in Carmaux

The concert hall in Carmaux

to play in Carmaux, France, for the Rock-in-Opposition Festival. A few days before leaving, Susan and I watched the Romantic Warriors II documentary about Rock-in-Opposition which extensively features the festival, and Univers Zero. That way we knew a little bit more about the whole movement. I strongly recommend watching the documentary, it’s brilliant! Besides, their makers are busy editing the third episode, which will feature The Wrong Object (we played a few songs for them, including my composition Glass Cubes, the first real vocal track I sing on a record, with Susan (who just rocks it!) – I challenge you to make the difference between our singing voices by the way, it seems that a lot of people didn’t manage… Little hint : the highest one is generally me :-P) Daniel left a couple of days before us and stayed there longer so he could enjoy a little holiday with his wife Chantal. Kurt went in the van with Present (which he was joining for a show at the same festival). And Nicolas, Dimitri, Jeremy and Susan and me went in a giant van with all our material (including Daniel’s drums). Susan came to enjoy the weekend with us and take pictures of our concert.

Rock-in-Opposition 2013 poster

Rock-in-Opposition 2013 poster

RIO Festival is quite a special thing. People come from all around the world for it, to that former mining site in the middle of nowhere, for bands that are totally unknown to the general masses. But that’s how great their dedication is to that music. It was a chance for me to meet lots of fantastic people – some of which I had already met online – and Susan and I felt at home. We arrived at night, had a couple of drinks and went straight to bed. The next morning unfortunately I was too nervous (Dimitri had warned me it was important to be on top with this concert because it was a demanding and knowledgeable audience, as well as some promoters… Pressure was the word) and taken with the installation and everything to go and see the other bands. Susan however caught Cheer Accident‘s show and photographed them (she had no zoom so for their concert as well as ours she was running around, climbing on everything she could, and the result is just awesome). She fell in love with their music. I just was able to see 15 minutes of it and understood indeed that they set the bar high. We met these fantastic people/musicians later and their drummer/leader Thymme Jones gave us a DVD of his TV-show back in Chicago. We watched it in the van on our way back, jeez what a crazy act, reminds me of Andy Kauffman’s stuff, you never really know if it’s real and you laugh at the total absurdity (about “the effect of the European Union expansion on Chicago”). I was also happy to see cd’s of The Wrong Object and SH.TG.N, two of my other bands, for sale there (and even someone with a Wrong Object t-shirt!), and to finally meet in person the Leonardo Pavkovic who released these albums for us on his label MoonJune Records in New York. Unfortunately I ran into him while I was literally running to my soundcheck so we just exchanged a few words and planned to talk to each other later but that never happened. Next time i saw him he was busy with The Soft Machine which is the band from his roster he accompanied there, and after that I didn’t find him again.

During and after our show (technical issues, interview, great community)

Faust's chainsaw

Faust’s musical chainsaw

I found it exciting to find Faust‘s chainsaw and masks on stage before we installed ourselves. Our concert went well, appart from some technical issues (little fight with the light guy who just refused to follow our light plan and ended up doing nothing like what we wanted – which got Daniel and his wife angry ; floor tom falling appart in the middle of the show). All in all that might even have helped the energy… Right after we were done we had to run to the public interview (first time ever for me). I hate talking in public so you can bet this wasn’t an easy task for me. Luckily of course it was mostly Daniel and Kurt they wanted to hear so I didn’t have to talk too much. Dimitri and Nicolas just stayed in the audience (Dimitri was late because he had other business to attend to and Nicolas really didn’t want to participate so he walked with us to the table but stopped in the audience and took a seat!).

Kurt and I (© Susan Clynes)

Kurt and I (© Susan Clynes)

After that everything was just fun and games, meeting this whole great community I just found out existed, having drinks on the terrasse, releasing the pressure and seeing a few gigs. On festivals like these I always want to see everything but when I play myself I just can’t : before the show I’m too nervous and focused, after the show I’m too saturated and I need to release the pressure and talk to people). Anyway I did catch a bit of Poil‘s show which was great, in the line of Mr Bungle and Le Singe Blanc. I also saw a part of The Soft Machine which I didn’t want to miss but did anyway… It was a little out of context to have such a straight forward jazz band like this there, plus I’m a giant fan of the Robert Wyatt era and didn’t really know what they were doing nowadays so you can imagine my surprise. Great quality blues/jazz rock though, just not the moment for me.

Quickly said, kudos to Michel Besset for the organization of this amazing festival I recommend to anybody looking for challenging music in a great atmosphere.

After : mixing the album

Univers Zéro's new album coming up!

Univers Zéro’s new album coming up!

I’m not going to get into the details for the rest but after we got back it was time to start mixing the album, again 2 weeks of uninterrupted work by mostly Didier de Roos and Daniel. I did pass by once to listen and make sure I was satisfied with the way they treated my sounds mostly. Didier has the most amazing mixing studio I’ve ever seen, and a great talent. You’ll hear it on the album : he did amazing work! Now I’m just looking forward to see the album, and get some reactions. It’s coming out in Japan (where our new label DiskUnion/Arcangelo is based) and the rest of the world (where there will be distributors of course) next wednesday. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Thanks for reading, cheers,

Antoine

PS : I updated the first part with a video compilation of excerpts from what we did with the avant garde silent films in Mexico, and a video from a composition of mine we played at that same concert!