“When I listened to music at first, it was like watching movies,” Paul Régimbeau – AKA French electronic music pioneer Mondkopf – tells me. “When I was younger I wanted to write comic books, then direct movies. I started experimenting with music on pirate software and found out I could tell stories through music – maybe more abstract – but stories still.”
Originally from Toulouse – France’s “pink city” near the Spanish border – Régimbeau was inspired to start making music after hearing the cinematic compositions Vangelis and Aphex Twin were making towards the end of the ’90s. Moving to Paris at 22, he found the electronic music scene exploding and jumped into the club circuit DJing and producing remixes. But his 2006 album Un Eté Sur L’Herbe (Annexia) and it’s follow-up, 2009’s Galaxy Of Nowhere (Asphalt Duchess) became Régimbeau’s calling card – heartbreaking, swelling, ambient master works that earned him comparisons with Brian Eno. The comparison to our Elements Issue cover star isn’t unjust. On Eno, Régimbeau says, “His music is one of the most moving to me. Another Green World (1975) is a record I come back to again and again.”
If Eté was Régimbeau’s calling card, 2011’s Rising Doom (Fool House) was his battle cry. The track “Day Of Anger” starts out with a slow piano melody, echoing earlier minimal ambient efforts, but is quickly taken over by threatening fuzzed-out distortion over a heavy, alternating beat. By 2014’s Hadès the lilting melodies of Eté are completely absent, replaced by heavy, doom-metal influenced dystopian soundtracks. When asked what prompted the shift in tone, Régimbeau vaguely claims, “the heaviness of life.” Regardless, the injection of doom into an otherwise minimal ambient composition was something completely novel, and it made Mondkopf a household name among connoisseurs of the genre.
In 2008, The Guardian reported a study by scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh stating that fans of metal and classical have the same disposition. Controversially, Adrian North, the professor who led the study claims, “The general public has held a stereotype of heavy metal fans being suicidally depressed and a danger to themselves and society in general but they are quite delicate things.” Both forms, certainly, are characterized by drama and a wholly immersive sound.
For Régimbeau, the comparisons are apt, but the genres are also joined by their frequent disregard for the rules. “There’s a part for improvisation and for the programmed in each,” he says, “the immediate difference for me, apart from the historic styles, lies in the instruments, their expressive range and dynamic.”
Like punk and hip-hop, electronic music has gone through an accelerated lifetime in the last 50 years. The explosion of EDM in particular has been swift and comprehensive. In L.A., billboards for Skrillex, Calvin Harris, and Afrojack pepper the Hollywood skyline. It might be heartbreaking for someone who has been instrumental in the trajectory of the genre to see it so commercialized now, but Régimbeau is hopeful. “It’s a good thing that more people are open to electronic music and its wider spectrum,” he tells me measuredly, “but filtering has gotten more difficult because the media tend to present things as if everything’s worth the same.”
On what does break his heart, Régimbeau is coy, but he will reveal his prescription for getting over it: “Friendship and music are a big help. Music, art, and even craftsmanship are great ways to leave behind things. It has been said to the point it’s become a cliché but it’s always worth remembering.”
Written by Amy Marie Slocum
Photographed by Louis Canadas
Styled by Emilie Turck