biography in English

Blending music and moving images into a creative utopia is a great artistic achievement. The
kind of feat which generally requires big teams. Or a single ingenious visionary! Somebody
who has shot music videos for artists such as Yelle, The Shoes and Moby. Somebody who has
produced videos for Katy Perry‘s Teenage Dream, Lana Del Rey’s global hit Born To Die or
Drake & Rihanna’s Take Care. Somebody who’s music was used for a Dior fashion show.
Somebody who has been showered with prizes in Cannes and who is nominated for a
Grammy now. Somebody who must be some kind of Time Lord because he still manages to
find moments for his second life.
His life as Woodkid. A life for and in music. His own music.
Music creates new worlds
“My video shoots have given music a whole new significance,” Woodkid explains. “It’s been
like a maelstrom which pulls me towards this art form. And last but not least music has
created new and different worlds.” As a result, Woodkid released his first EP Iron in March
2011. Somebody with a creative eye like Woodkid’s doesn’t allow others to produce a video,
he has to shoot his own. The finished product had been on the Net for hardly six months
before more than 25 million people had been fascinated by it. And there’s no end to this
fascination in sight. One of the reasons for this was that Ubisoft, the leading game studio
worldwide, used sonic images from Iron for their global campaign to launch their blockbuster
Assassin’s Creed: Revelation in autumn 2011. Naturally, that sort of thing motivates an artist.
May 2012 saw the arrival of Woodkid’s second single, entitled Run Boy Run. The video to
support this release picked up where the “Iron” sequences had left off. So seamlessly that it
was also used for the recently launched Assassin’s Creed 3 campaign. In the meantime, Run
Boy Run’s professional fan community has continued to grow. Nike decided to use
Woodkid’s sound not only for their current TV campaign in the UK, but also in the cinema
and on the Internet. What better proof could there be to corroborate Woodkid’s statement that
“music creates new, different worlds”.
A passionate live affair
A visual artist like Woodkid allows his notes to jump off the big screen with radical
directness; and like he would compose a film he composes a live performance entering into a
passionate affair with the stages of this world. So passionate that he, together with a 30-piece
orchestra, turned the venerable Le Grand Rex theatre in Paris into a place of ecstasy in front
of 3,000 listeners last September. “Music played a major part in my clips even before I started
making my own music,” Woodkid points out. “When I started playing my own music, I
wanted it to be as tall as a skyscraper. Images can achieve that. A really big orchestra can also
achieve that, and that’s my answer to this question.” And it’s exactly the right answer; after
all, what better way could there be to express that diversity of emotions which a person is
capable of than to allot them to the different instruments of an orchestra. This concept has a
tradition. Just think of Sergei Prokofiev’s musical fairy-tale Peter and the Wolf, where each
character in the story has a particular instrument. Woodkid operates in pretty much the same
way. He takes emotions and allots them instruments. “That was the most plausible way for
me to get a sonic cosmos to glow in Cinemascope format,” Woodkid continues. This way, his
notes become as big as his images. “Take three chords which are played in sequence and you
can illustrate an emotion,” he continues. “It feels to me as if the chord which has just been
played simply provokes the subsequent one and so forth. I can’t help it. The sounds run
through my head, instrumenting each number in a very precise way. I can hear each
individual instrument. That way, the strings are the harmonic foundation of the numbers; they
are not used as accompanying instruments, they act as the focus. Then I hear the wind section
which lends an amazing power to the melodic arches and the timbales which propel the song
on.” Finally he has created that sonic image in all its glory on his first full album “The Golden
Ground down between adolescence and adulthood
It’s not just any emotion which Woodkid ministers to. It’s about the storm and stress of
emotions. “It’s all about that time of passage between adolescence and adulthood, into that
confusing hyper-reality,” Woodkid notes. “I talk about those perceptible changes of the body,
that budding sexuality, wanting to be different from the norm, like in the first line on Run Boy
Run: ‘Run Boy Run!/This world is not made for you’.” It’s about love, life and death. Striving
for your own identity. Those basic crises of adolescence. “I always play the part of the
sympathetic observer,” Woodkid stresses, “never that of an annoyed or angry observer;
possibly that of a critical observer.” Woodkid‘s lyrics are the expression of an experience of
crisis and at the same time they offer a strategy for crisis management. Woodkid’s poetry
follows Rainer Maria Rilke and his multi-layered logic registers losses as gains, defeats as
victories and injuries as awards.
Woodkid’s musical versions of intoxicating happiness and the brutal return to reality could
never sound technically clinical. They are always full of instrumental warmth. And again,
there’s no way past that ensemble which is the orchestra.
By the end of each piece, the listener has experienced a tour de force which always consists of
deep colours, never of black and white, be it musically or in terms of the lyrics. A tour de
force which may have clear contours, but its edges are so blurred that they inspire the
listener’s wide-screen imagination. That things get to be pretty wild in the process is due to
the songs’ opulence and sparseness. Both at the same time. They have the accessibility of pop
numbers which work in candlelight with guitars, piano and vocals, yet every simple note
explodes into a grand fireworks display of symphonically epic sounds.
Every now and then a hero comes along that has the ability to affect the course of time.
There’s a new one: Woodkid. The inspired passion that drives him is not about temporary
heroism. No, The Golden Age is an album for eternity.
Franz X.A. Zipperer
Label: Island Records/Universal Music Germany