Antoine Fafard unveils some “secrets” behind “Perpetual Mutations”, his new album with Gavin Harrison

“It’s impossible to say that this album is “one thing”. In a way, it’s like the result of perpetual musical mutations. It’s a “never-explored-before” type of project.” (A. Fafard on his new album “Perpetual Mutations”)

I had the incredible privilege to interview Antoine Fafard for the first time in December 2020, before the release of Chemical Reactions his first joint project with Gavin Harrison (http://musicalmind.altervista.org/inside-the-creative-world-of-antoine-fafard/).

Then, in October 2022, in a second interview, we discussed his project Alta Forma and their debut album, Spatium & Tempus, where, for the first time in his career, Antoine decided to add lyrics to his music.

I have recently interviewed Antoine again, and I was lucky enough to have some insights on his upcoming album – Perpetual Mutations – his second joint project with Gavin Harrison as well as about his future challenges.

Q.: Is your new album completed?

A.F.: Yes, the album is ready, but the process in getting it out is slow because I’m also making vinyl and, as you probably know, this is a long process. I would have liked to release it sooner, but I had to delay it because of this alone.

Q. In what formats will your album be available?

A.F.: The album will be released on CD, vinyl, and digital download. I received the CDs recently and ordered a limited amount of vinyl. The vinyl format seems to be popular, but it’s also very expensive to manufacture. The reality is that, compared to CDs, you have to pay more for the manufacturing, it takes more space because storing and shipping are more expensive. However, it is a nice product in itself. The regain in popularity is more than likely related to a certain nostalgia which I can relate to. I think that the mastering that we have made for the vinyl is very good. I look forward to receiving the test copies and then we will go for the final manufacturing and release it soon after.

Q: What are your views about the digital format and streaming in particular?

A.F.: It’s a good question. Independent artists need to think about this aspect carefully. If you give your music for free, or if you make it widely and easily available on streaming platforms, you will never get a return for it. The first few months of a release are critical. You have to maximize the potential income that you can make out of your music. For me, the CDs and the vinyl represent the core of where I can make a return on the production cost, and even a profit. The album will be digitally available on Bandcamp, a platform used by many people. It will also be available to download on my website. And then, maybe, four or five months after the official release, meaning towards the end of the year or early 2025, I might put it to the various streaming services out there. I have to be really careful because it’s just in human nature: if you get something for free, why would you buy it? I know there will be people who will not be happy about this, but it’s a question of survival. Besides, I always post plenty of material on YouTube for people to enjoy. A friend of mine in the United States is making a high-quality music video for one of the songs. In addition, I am also making music videos on my own… so these will be posted gradually.

Releasing music independently is like putting any product to the market. You need to think of all the aspects of producing, storing, shipping etc. I’m a musician, but when I release an album, I’m not a musician anymore. I am more a project manager, an administrator, a marketing manager, a salesman… even a postman! When you are a self-employed musician, you must touch all aspects, including marketing, sales, graphic design, copywriting for press releases. I’m not saying that I’m good at everything, but I have to do it because if I start to hire people to do these tasks, it becomes too expensive for such a small operation. For anyone who does “independent artistry” at large, if you don’t look at every aspect, no-one will do it for you. You might release the best music in the world, but that’s not enough… you must do that extra work that maybe will lead to have good results. In other words, you must take ownership of everything.

Q.: Tell me about “Perpetual Mutations”. Why this title?

A.F.: I always try to use something that conveys the music. On the first album, as I merged a string quartet and an orchestra to drums and electric bass, I made the parallel with chemistry, where you can mix different elements that results to a reaction. In the case of the new album, “Perpetual Mutations” reflects the fact that this album is different from the first one. It mutated from it. But the “mutation” applies within it, as there are no two pieces with the same orchestration. You have one song with piano, bass, and drums. Then, you have another song with a brass ensemble, another one with cello and handpan. It’s impossible to say that this album is “one thing”. In a way, it’s like the result of perpetual musical mutations.

Q.: When we talked back in October 2022, you mentioned that you had plans to create an album including “unconventional instruments” and asked Gavin to play the marimba. What do we have to expect from “Perpetual Mutations”?

A.F: In this album Gavin mainly plays drums, but he also plays marimba on two pieces. In addition, I also hired someone else to play more marimba and vibraphone on some of the other songs. In total there are nine collaborators on this album. We have violin on one piece, cello on two pieces. We also have some piano and oboe. It’s all very “eclectic” and definitely not conventional. It’s a “never-explored-before” type of project. The consistent thing is that Gavin and I play on every song. I’m at a stage where I want to try more and more things and take the risk that the result might be different from what I expected. As a composer, it’s important for me to experiment and not stay in one place. The whole project was an interesting challenge…and we got there in the end.

Q.: It took you like four years to complete this album. Is it correct?

A.F.: I suppose that it did take nearly four years. All the music was ready for Gavin who managed to record his drum parts in Autumn of 2023. In all that time between December 2020 and September 2023 he was either on tour or recording with other bands (The Pineapple Thief, Porcupine Tree etc.). Although it took longer than I anticipated, it’s often a good thing to take breaks, come back and see if it’s still right. But I also like to complete my projects, therefore I’m happy that we can finally share it.

Q.: On the day when you teased the release of this new album, you also unveiled the cover. Where did you find this image and why did you choose it?

A.F.: The artist that made the piece on the cover of the album is the same artist that made the image we used for “Chemical Reactions”. Her name is Galina Timofeeva and has created a series of “Abstract Fluid” artwork. I then created the graphic design around it myself. I wanted something abstract because this music is kind of difficult to define and there are no lyrics. There is no clear imagery or a story behind, so it has to be abstract in my mind.

Q.: You mentioned “lyrics”. In your previous album, “Spatium & Tempus”, you added vocals to some of the songs. In this album, there will be no lyrics. Is there a specific reason? How was the experience with adding lyrics to your music for the first time?

A.F.: It’s an interesting question because I went through roughly twenty years of music without lyrics. I released my first album with the band Spaced Out in 2000, and from 2011, started to do my own projects. Only in 2022 I released the vocal album with “Alta Forma”. I did it because I like to challenge myself. Going back to instrumental projects is perhaps a more natural fit for me because I have been doing it for so many years. But doing an album with a singer was great. And I am doing another one. This is one of the things I can tell you. We have another album practically done with Alta Forma and it’s going to be for next year. I haven’t stopped there because I liked the experience.

Q.: You often create your projects with a specific drummer in your mind. In this specific case, it is the second time you release an album together with Gavin Harrison. What is the reason why you chose him? Does he have something special compared to other drummers?

A.F.: Gavin is one of those drummers out there who has his own sound, his own approach, his own musicality, and you can recognize him immediately. There’s a lot of music out there and you cannot really tell who is the drummer. It all sounds the same. But with Gavin, and a few others, it’s different. The first album did well, and it was rewarding process. Straight away I told him: “We should do that again!”. It is something different from what he does in his other projects and for me it’s a nice exploration which is also different from what I have been doing in music so far. Having done two albums so far means that we have created this kind of entity together. If you listen to Gavin Harrison and me, you will hear something strange, maybe, but also different and hopefully unique and exciting.

Q.: You also like to re-arrange your previous pieces of music and add them as part of the new album you publish. It happened for “Chemical Reactions”. Is it the same for “Perpetual Mutations”?

A.F.: There are two pieces that are clearly re-exploration of previous pieces of mine (there’s a number “II” next to them). In one case – Solus Souls II – the piece is very different if you compare it to the previous version. Sometimes I change things so much, including adding new parts, which makes it really difficult to recognize if it’s the same piece or not. It’s now strange for me because we are talking about a new project, but it’s already old in my mind because I started the creative work a few years ago. But that’s the way it is. I’m recording some music now which will come out in the years to come. This means that my mind is focused on what I am doing right now.

Q.: Which instruments do you play in this album?

A.F.: I played with three types of bass, and I also recorded on the classical guitar. One of the things that makes this album different is that there weren’t any guitars on the first album. In fact, the first album did not have any piano or guitar, while this album has a lot of piano and classical guitar. I compose on the guitar and therefore it was natural for me to play it on the album. It’s really different from a sonic perspective.

Q.: Is there a “theme” or a “storytelling” in this album?

A.F.: I wouldn’t say there is a “storytelling” in the conventional sense. I think that “eclectic” is the best way to describe it. You listen to one song but it’s not indicative of the others. Each song is different. But the order of the pieces was carefully throughout, so it takes the listener into a journey. Some songs are quiet and soft, almost like traditional jazz, and other songs are pretty intense. So, it is completely eclectic in the dynamics too. I think it takes you into a wild and original journey. The main idea behind it all is to experiment and to go into unknown territories.

Q.: What will be your next challenges?

A.F.:  First, there is this album, “Perpetual Mutations” which I will promote in the upcoming months. There will be a lot of information on YouTube, including a documentary on the making of the album, with a few words from the collaborators, just to provide a little bit of background on what the project is about. I will also offer a book with all the music that I wrote for it. This is something that people can get exclusively on my website. I’m going to promote it on social media, and this is going to take a lot of my time in the next few months.

I also have an album composed with Todd Sucherman on drums and JK Harrison on vocals for the Alta Forma project. Todd will record his parts this coming Autumn and the album will most probably come out in 2025.

Then, I have an album with Gary Husband on drums and Jean-Pierre Zanella on saxophone. Jean-Pierre is Canadian played who used to be my teacher back in Canada and is a very renowned saxophone player in Montreal. He also participated to the first song, Dark Wind, on “Perpetual Mutations”, playing the soprano saxophone. He once recorded some tenor saxophone separately and I was so impressed that I decided to compose an album for him.

In parallel, Gary Husband told me that he had access to a recording studio in London with a brand new, transparent drum kit which Pearl made specifically for him. I decided to marry the two projects: Jean-Pierre on sax and Gary Husband on drums. We are finalizing all the parts, including mine (I play bass and guitar). Gary will finalize his drums at the beginning of June. I don’t know yet when this album will come out. I really have to think to release my albums strategically because I will have two albums ready at the same time in 2025.

Separately, I’m also working on a piano music project. One of my dreams is to have an album where I composed for the piano and that will include a concerto. As a composer, I want to convey my vision of melody, harmony, and rhythm into more conventional settings. I think I will busy with all these projects for 2024 and 2025. In the meantime, I might also take part to occasional collaborations. I recently did an arrangement job for The Pineapple Thief. These are the bonus tracks featured on the album entitled “It Leads to This”. That is in fact a side thing that I did for Gavin and that was a really cool project to be involved in.

Finally, I recently started to share some music theory findings on my YouTube channel. I released a first video where I talk about musical scales and I have put together a reference guide with lists of all the scale possibilities in music. I’m now starting to think that I might be doing more on this sort of educational content in the future if I see that it gets some traction. My reference document is something that I have never seen explained that way and I use it all the time. I think it is useful whatever instrument you play.

Perpetual Mutations will be released in July 2024.

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