Virginia-based, French composer Nicolas Laget releases his captivating new EP, ‘Dark’, out now on all streaming platforms.
Inspired by the likes of Johann Johannson, Max Richter, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds, Nicolas draws from his combined influences to create his own unique brand of Neo-Classical compositions. Fusing modern classical with electronic beats, Nicolas thrives on being able to experiment with his music and the concepts and emotions he’s able to portray.
We caught up with Nicolas Laget to speak about how the “Dark” EP came about, and loads more. Read our chat here!
Nicolas Laget Interview
Aditya – Hey Nicolas, happy new year! Glad to have you for the interview. How was 2021 for you?
Nicolas Laget – Like everybody else it was covid strange. Not being able to freely hug people, go to a museum, go to a club, or a concert. Those things are painful for everybody. Luckily the studio never stopped. One of my musical hats is engineer/producer. That never slowed down.
Neither did my new son’s crying. Those little humans… they are a challenge. So add to covid strain a persistent lack of sleep. Of course it only takes one smile from him to make my day.
Another positive development is that I decided to finally start releasing music. I’ve worked for years on various scores and a lot of personal projects but never took the time to share those with the world. I realized it was a mistake and decided to do something about it.
Aditya – Your EP ‘Dark’ sounds mellifluous, certainly a journey through space and time. What’s the creative process of this EP?
Nicolas Laget – Waitaminute… looking that up… AH! Ok. Mellifluous: sweet and pleasant to hear. Thank you!
DARK is a collection of pieces from various projects spanning close to a decade. This is probably why it sounds like a journey through time. It actually is. As I decided to release music it became clear I needed some sort of guiding principle to help me organize such a diverse body of work. Emotional content seemed like a good basis for selection. As I started to decide which pieces would go into DARK I realized that idea works. If I’m going to introduce myself as a music creator it is useful to illustrate the various ways I can express one mood. One of the great exercises for a composer to flex his/her muscles is variations on a theme. (Check out “Variations on a Theme by Paganini” Op. 43 by Rachmaninoff for an example.) You could say DARK is “Variations on a Mood” by Nicolas Laget”.
Aditya – Among the 9 tracks in the EP, which is your favorite track and why?
Nicolas Laget – Which of my children do I love most? So cruel… Let’s see… “Last Night”. I love themes, melodies. And I love the cello. And I love really sad music. This one is about a woman who is contemplating the end of her life but sees a glimmer of beauty and happiness in the family she leaves behind. This gives her a sense of acceptance and peace. I think I managed to pack all that in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Pretty happy with myself there hahahaha!
Aditya – How do you begin writing songs, do you write over a piano?
Nicolas Laget – Often but not always. Let me note here that for some reason a real piano yields better results than even a great sounding sample library. Go figure. It’s all in my head I’m sure. Sometimes I start with my first instrument, the flute. I have more melodic freedom when I play flute. At least it feels that way. Another way is whistling. I whistle a lot throughout the day.
I should say that often I just start in my head. Especially if it’s a score. I look at the scene. I listen to the dialogue. I consider the discussion I’ve had with the director. All these things simmer in my brain while I look for visual clues on screen. Pretty soon something emerges. It’s either an instrumentation, or a rhythmic framework, or a melody, or a structural/formal plan. These are the groundwork that form in my mind before I actually create any sound.
Aditya – Who are your biggest influences and why?
Nicolas Laget – The reason I decided to do music full time is a desire to get into film music. I decided to get into film music because of three composers: Vangelis, Ennio Morricone and John Williams.
Aditya – What do you think about the modern pop music charting the billboards?
Nicolas Laget – What’s striking is that pop music today means any genre of music, including a heck of a lot of throwback genres. Where would TheWeeknd be without A-Ha, or 80s synth pop in general. SilkSonics and Tiesto on the same chart? Who woulda thunk it!?
The consequence of the complete global explosion of musical output is that it is extremely difficult to remain relevant longer than a couple of years. How is Billie Eilish dominating the landscape one year and seeming like old new just one year later? People like Adele who have had a career for 10+ years are rare. That’s a new phenomenon. Will we remember Lil Nas X in 10 years? Only time can tell whose contribution will last. I guess that’s not new. Beethoven wasn’t a global superstar. He was successful but others were more during his lifetime. What is new is the fickle nature of the cel phone culture which makes pop fame ever more ephemeral.
One thing I am particularly happy about is that non-US stars and genres are breaking through into US charts. There is a ton of great music in Asia and Africa and Latin America. One World.
Aditya – You’ve bagged multiple awards over the last few years, how do you feel about that?
Nicolas Laget – Awards are nice but gigs are better. I know a few Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning artists who are still hustling hard just to make ends meet. And I’ve never heard of an asshole who’s managed to keep on working very long just because they have an oscar.
An award is proof that you don’t suck. It’s a nice warm hug for your ego at a particular point in time. You should enjoy that hug for a minute and then you should let it go and get back to work.
It’s hard for some but it should be easy to not let things like these get to your head. All you have to do is go on youtube and watch how many 8 year olds can play better than you. There is a bazillion amazing musicians out there. Stay hungry. Stay humble.
Aditya – You’ve performed across continents, any notable moments you’d like to share?
Nicolas Laget – Every trip is good for the soul. It’s nice to see people who don’t speak your language resonate with your music. It’s mind opening to walk the streets of a country you had preconceived notions of and realize human beings are fundamentally the same.
One thing that blew my mind is watching the team of event organizers that invited my band to Kuala Lumpur move into a club and completely re-decorate it in 1 hour. I’ve never witnessed anything like this. They covered the entire surface of every wall with a stretch out white lycra on which they projected cool visuals. Absolutely awesome.
Aditya – Could you share some info on the Sweet Spot Studios that you’ve founded?
Nicolas Laget – Sure. Composition is far from all I do. I also run a recording studio (sweetspotstudio.com) and just launched a music publishing and licensing company (ambrosiamusic.net) The studio came to be because early in my career many artists approached me to help them with their music. I have always enjoyed the variety of projects and the interaction with an ever larger community of musicians. So I created a home base where this could take place: The Sweet Spot. Ambrosia Music is an extension of the support we want to provide for the artists who come through our doors. It’s very hard for music to break through on Spotify. On the other hand a good song can be licensed to a commercial or a movie years after it was released. This is a great new adventure for our team. We’ve worked on it for the last three years and are very excited to finally start operating.
Aditya – Lastly, what do you look forward to in 2022?
Nicolas Laget – Helping Ambrosia take off is going to be a treat. That’s not creative but a large portion of a career in music is actually dealing with the realities of the business. The sooner people realize this the sooner they can quit their day job. Plus: there is real joy in being an entrepreneur and creating systems which benefit and serve the artist community at large.
I am working on an album called Shema. This one has a spiritual aura about it. The Shema is the central prayer in Judaism. I’m not at all religious but the spiritual power of this melody almost makes me feel like a believer!
In fact music is the only thing that ever gives me a sense of the divine. It’s no surprise that most religions incorporate and value music as a part of worship.
So. Shema. The idea is to explore expressions of the divine in various musical cultural traditions. Time will tell where this takes us. Not sure the end result will match the initial intent but that’s the motivation.
Otherwise I have a few releases scheduled for this year. The follow up to DARK is LIGHT. That’s coming out this spring. I’ll also release the score I wrote for the documentary “Struggle & Hope”.
2022 is already sounding pretty great. Hurrah!