Hifiklub is an experimental trio that collaborates with a range of artists to release music frequently, most recently with Faith No More keyboardist, Roddy Bottum for the album Things That Were Lost in the Fire. Régis Laugier – the group’s bassist and vocalist – and Roddy Bottum chatted with Pana Markides about the album.
Hifiklub is a Toulon, France-based experimental project formed in 2007 made of three permanent members: bassist and vocalist Régis Laugier; guitarist Jean-Loup Faurat; and drummer Pascal Abbatucci Julien. The group collaborates with musicians from all points of the spectrum and release their music frequently – with albums coming out several times a year. Most recently they teamed up with Roddy Bottum (Faith No More, Imperial Teen, Nastie Band, Crickets and most recently, Man on Man) to release Things That Were Lost in the Fire.
Other notable collaborators for Hifiklub include drummer Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) and trumpeter Reuben Lewis in the group’s first release of 2020, Rupture; Alain Johannes (Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) and Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam) in 2014’s Plans Make God Laugh; Paulo Furtado (The Legendary Tigerman) in the soundtrack for the 2018 film Hálito Azul and whole host of other musicians from across the world.
The Things That Were Lost in the Fire is itself an electro pop album that is easy to listen to thanks to Bottum’s deep resonant and poetic vocals.
With the latest release in mind, Régis Laugier and Roddy Bottum were both kind enough to talk more about this album to THB.
How and when did this collaboration come together?
Laugier: We met by chance in New York City, at a gallery! Hifiklub was working on it’s album and film In Doubt, Shadow Him! alongside Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth). A few months later, the band got together with Roddy to compose a single for a project as a tribute to American poetess Emily Dickinson. This first musical collaboration inspired us to embark on a more extended project together – the album we’re talking about together today.
Talk about the creative process for the album? Did this differ from the variety of other projects either of you have worked on?
Laugier: With Hifiklub, we love when the creative time is condensed on a very short period. This is how we manage to work on so many different projects every year. We quite often release two, sometimes even three albums every year!
Compared to other albums from our catalogue, quite a long time elapsed between our respective sessions. For this project, after a handful of rehearsals, Hifiklub recorded the music in Toulon, without Roddy, at the very end of 2016. Pure DIY mode, in the basement of an old, dingy nightclub. In less than a weekend, we had all the instrumentals.
Much later, in May 2018, Roddy came to see us in the South of France, not far from our Toulon base. We rented a studio for three or four days, not more. On the spot, Roddy wrote new arrangements and texts that led the compositions into an otherworldly dimension.
Bottum: The project had an interesting evolution. When the band started making the music and I started writing the prose to put to the music we did not all know each other very well. We had two musical factions collide and create something that was not me, not Hifiklub, but something unworldly.
When we got together and became friends the project took on an entirely new life. Morphing the music and changing things to suit our different personalities as well as the friendship we developed made the record what it is today. It was a journey that took many unexpected turns.
Morphing the music and changing things to suit our different personalities as well as the friendship we developed made the record what it is todayRoddy Bottum, keyboardist, Faith No More
Can you talk about the meaning behind the album title, Things That Were Lost in the Fire?
Laugier: The album is so called because Roddy had gone through a particularly difficult time prior to recording, I’ll let him talk about it if he wants to.
Bottum: Part of my process of getting onboard and working with Hifiklub was me getting through the year that I had prior to.
In a surreally poetic chain of events, Trump won the election, my apartment building had a big fire in which we all had to evacuate, leaving me homeless and losing everything and my best friend committed suicide. I was at a loss and struggling with how to cope with the trauma.
The overriding theme in my days at that time was what I had lost. Looking back on it, it seems a little bit selfish to dwell on things lost but at the end of the day I find the poetics of life to be about material things.
Roddy makes great use of spoken word for the vocals in the album – was this the plan from the outset?
Bottum: Thanks, I like the sound of my voice too much. I always wanted to be a voice actor but I think I’d really need to be able to do imitations and like cartoon voices. I’m not capable of that. Hifiklub and I had previously collaborated on a piece based on an Emily Dickinson poem [It Was Not Death, For I Stood Up].
In that project I spoke the prose rather than sing it. Singing a poem seemed kind of pompous at the time. It worked well and led us to the idea of making the record in prose form.
Is there a message you were wanted the album to convey?
Bottum: I think, in terms of contradiction, that things that burn or are lost still exist and are maybe not as important as they initially seem to be in their physical form. In forms of memory or dream tangible things live beyond destruction.
That things that burn or are lost still exist and are maybe not as important as they initially seem to be in their physical formRoddy Bottum, keyboardist, Faith No More
Hifiklub releases new material quite frequently – what are the benefits of this method of making music, and does it bring any challenges?
Laugier: I don’t think we can talk about any specific benefit. This is just how we like to move forward. As a group, we are very focused and organised in our schedules. We like to keep our commitments and follow through with the opportunities that present themselves to us, whether they come from the most total chance or whether they are more thoughtful.
Since 2006, after more than 150 collaborations, we have more and more opportunities to collaborate and establish new friendships. We constantly like to face new musical challenges.
Since 2006, after more than 150 collaborations, we have more and more opportunities to collaborate and establish new friendships. We constantly like to face new musical challenges.Régis Laugier, bass and vocals, Hifiklub
How do you consolidate your style of writing with the style of your collaborators?
Laugier: We try to remain the most faithful to our own primary desires, as a trio. We already have very varied influences, within the group. To be honest, we don’t have to adjust anything. In a collaborative work, the important thing is not to compromise your own musical approach. You have to stay true to what drives you as a musician.
The only adjustment may be in the form, whether or not this is an improvised or composed project. If we work with an improvisor, maybe we’ll more go towards free form compositions. But it’s not even sure. Improvisation inside pop structures can also work well. We’ve tried it in the past.
In a collaborative work, the important thing is not to compromise your own musical approach. You have to stay true to what drives you as a musician.Régis Laugier, bass and vocals, Hifiklub
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your plans for the year, and how are you overcoming this?
Laugier: In a way, 2020 has offered us some kind of the luxury of time. I always try to stay positive. We took the first lockdown in March as eight unforeseen weeks of creation during which Hifiklub was able, on the one hand, to provide the single “Staying At Home” with Jad Fair (Half Japanese) for Joyful Noise Recordings compilation Safe In Sound – Home Recordings From Quarantine but also, on the other hand, remotely record an album called Rupture, with French producer Anthony “Daffodil” Belguise, drummer Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) and Australian trumpet player Reuben Lewis.
That, while reformatting the internal balance of the group, returning to an “open tri” formula – and no longer a quartet – around permanent members Pascal Abbattucci Julien, Jean-Loup Faurat and myself.
On a more negative level, we haven’t been able to travel to Chicago to record our album with producer Steve Albini. But I can’t say it’s dramatic, we’ll do it later in 2021, if we can! It’s just a matter of schedule.
What else can fans look forward to from Hifiklub and Roddy Bottum respectively in 2021?
Laugier: A pretty big project of “fake twinning” between the cities of Toulon (Hifiklub) and San Pedro in California, where Mike Watt (Minutemen, Dos, Firehose, The Stooges) is from and lives.
The project includes 25 guests and Mike’s three trios playing at the same time!
We are also releasing an album with legendary improvisor Eugene Chadbourne with whom we covered the late Lizzy Mercier Descloux first album (Press Color (1979)) in two days.
Also we have a very special project with Duke Garwood, composer Jean-Michel Bossini and a string trio. Oh, and our upcoming album with Steve Albini, of course.
Favourite gig you’ve attended as a fan?
Laugier: Nirvana in Toulon in 1994, without hesitation.
Bottum: Cate LeBon in NYC in 2016. One time I saw Air at the Hollywood Bowl and that felt very special.
What are you must-listen music releases of 2020?
Laugier: I really loved the new Fiona Apple and the latest Nels Clines albums. On my top list for 2020, you would also find White Boy Scream, Bob Dylan, Einstürzende Neubauten, Bell Witch + Aerial Ruin, Imperial Triumphant and A.A. Williams.
Bottum: I love the Waxahatchee record.
What piece of gear would you struggle to live without?
Laugier: My Mike Watt Signature Wattplower bass prototype (Reverend) that Mike Watt offered me a few years ago. A gift that matters a lot to me.