Nauga in conversation with Bijou Clochard – multimedia artist and writer

Nauga: I am feeling very cheesy today!  Multi-talented Bijou, who created the new Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown mix and video, is flying in for a chat over a large plate of fromage today. The Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video features me of course, in my multiple shape-shifting forms, and is just one of many Gentle projects Bijou has worked on including a variety of cover art and even a forthcoming documentary.

Today, Bijou is taking time out of his busy schedule to float among the bubbles with me here on planet Naugalyne. It’s time to find out more about Bijou’s many artistic talents. Let’s meet the star of today’s interview, Bijou Clochard.

Nauga: Welcome to Naugalyne, Bijou! I know you like to travel and it’s great you could visit my home planet and sample some cheese with me.

Bijou Clochard May 2011

Bijou Clochard

BC:  Thank you for having me Nauga.  I tend to prefer the exotic and far-flung when traveling, but this is ridiculous!  Naugalyne is stunning, and your outstretched arms certainly have the most welcoming of effects.

Nauga: My fellow Naugae are delighted you have shown our shape-shifting ability in combination with our other favourite delight, cheese! We thought it would be great to find out more about you as you seem to understand Naugae very well.

BC:  Thank you Nauga.  I hope I do not make you blush by revealing that you’ve been an inspiration for some time!

Nauga: I understand how I could be such an inspiration so please don’t be concerned about my blush response which by the way takes the form of the scent of cheese (smiles). So, tell me about this inspiration.

BC:  Thanks to a swirling cacophony of influences during my childhood, I have always been interested in creating art.  Originally, that took the form of doodling my own cartoon characters or visualizing theatrical performances that starred costumed action figures under the proscenium arch of my childhood desk.

Later, at the age of 11, I started heavily collecting 12″ vinyl singles and the proper paraphernalia required for DJing/ mixing music.  These were the days of ’80s dance/ soul/ freestyle and acid house, of which I am still a fan.  I soon started putting together mixtapes, leading to my own remixes of songs – I have not stopped since.  Music is such an important tool for me and it informs so much of my other work.

Nauga:  This other work includes painting I understand. Have you been painting long? Also, do you paint cheese? Or Naugae?

"The Pyeceean," acrylic on canvas, visit www.vivabrady.com for more information

The Pyeceean (acrylic on canvas)

BC: Although I had always dabbled here and there, I started taking it a bit more seriously while in college for a film production degree.  Focusing on surrealist portraiture with a graffiti edge, my influences were that of Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tamara de Lempicka.  After exhibiting work in galleries in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, a few of my pieces even turned up in Pop Art book releases.  More recently, I have been involved in photography projects as well.  And yet, along the way, I have always been writing – short stories, screenplays and even a novel.

I particularly enjoy when various aspects of my work converge, as with the Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video.  It was really fun to be able to create the remix, generate a ton of graphic design and then edit the images into one final piece!

Nauga: Yes, so let’s talk a little more about the Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown mix and video you created. What was the inspiration behind this work apart from my good self and the deliciousness of cheese?

Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video cheese logos

He went to Edam, to Cheshire, Cheddar too, Pont l'Eveque and Port Salut

BC:  Well, ever since I saw The Gentle People perform Cheese Freak many years ago in Moscow, I had always rooted for the song to be released in some form.  Earlier this year, I was working on a more up-tempo, electronic remix of the song and in the midst, I happened to get tickets to the game show “The Price Is Right.”  To gear up for the taping, I listened to some of the fantastic incidental music cues that composer Edd Kalehoff created for the show back in the 1970s.  When his track “Dig We Must” came on, I immediate starting singing Cheese Freak over the top, no doubt since the lyrics had already been so much on my mind.  The resulting “mash-up” was a very quick process.  The entire mix was finished in a day or so, with some additional tweaks made later.

As for the video, I was really looking for a way to get my digital editing feet wet again since I am to deliver an as-yet-untitled Gentle People documentary by the end of the year.  I was having difficulty sleeping one night and it was then that the idea for the video came to me:  a simple white background with various fonts and Pop Art-inspired graphics that mirror the words of the rap, almost like a children’s TV program but groovier, and minus the bouncing red ball that follows the lyrics at the bottom!

Originally, I had made a challenge to myself to complete the video in under four hours, but once I sat down and counted how many times words and phrases like “Camembert” and “Cheese Freak” were spoken, I realized it was going to be a bit more involved.  The trick was to sustain interest during the entirety of the video, making certain that the different slides retained the same visual weight throughout.  Simple changes of font and color were just not going to cut it.  To bring it to the next level, I thought it might be fun to play around with the logos of many famous cheese-related brands from around the world.  In the end, I think the new direction faithfully brought things full-circle, back to the consumer-savvy “Price Is Right” game show that inspired the mix.

It certainly was not an easy task to redesign so many iconic logos, especially since few of their fonts were readily available.  With many of the slides I had to simply re-create the font myself, letter-by-letter.  I think my diligence paid off however in some pretty neat results, and that is ultimately what kept me moving toward completion.

Nauga:  Mmm I am thinking of all those cheese types and it’s making my mouth water. How many cheese logos are in the video?

A selection of cheese logos from the Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video

A selection of cheese logos created for the video, some of which didn't make the final cut

BC:  I think there are 117 different slides of graphic design in the final piece, though I created over 260, many of which were ultimately revised or tossed in the cosmic dustbin.  In fact, the original ending depicted you and your fellow Naugae flying through a large piece of Swiss cheese in space!

Nauga: I was wondering when you were going to get round to my involvement!!

BC:  Oh yes, Nauga, how could I forget your appearance?  Aside from all the logo fun, I also wanted to pay homage to The Gentle People.  It was really fun to include “gentleness” into many of the slides, and as always Nauga, you were a thrill to work with, the consummate professional… no matter how naughty!!  (Nauga giggles)

Laurie Lemans by Norn Cutson

Laurie by Norn

Nauga:  Thank you. I was wondering about the Naugalyne mouth at the end of the video with the delicious large cheese, however. It’s most odd!

BC:  That is Laurie Lemans chomping away at the cheese!  The caricature was rendered by the very talented Norn Cutson in New York.  You can view more his work here.

Nauga: Ah yes, the lovely Norn. But back to you. I know you’ve worked with The Gentle People a lot over the years, and of course you have featured me on much of your work. How did you initially get involved?

Four of Bijou's designs for various Gentle People releases

Gratifiyingly, Naugae appear on three of four Bijou cover designs for The Gentle People

BC:  I think the first artwork I did for the Gentle People was for the iTunes release Galactic Confections.  That started off a chain of different pieces for albums, compilations and EPs.  It is always fun to play inside Gentle World with its array of zany colors, textures and bubbles!

Cover artwork for Boy in the Window

I am the Boy in the Window...

Nauga: Indeed it is. My favourite cover artwork by you is Boy in the Window where I am in my contemporary living space.  Which is your favourite?

BC:  I really like Boy in the Window too!  There were originally three different versions – one with a groovy spy boy hanging out in a window, another with a gentleman that had only a Naugalyne head, and the final version that featured only you!  I think it is definitely the most well-balanced of the three!

My favorite piece though has to be the work I did for the double-sided single Plastic City / Naughty Nauga, particularly since it was made into a 7″ record in Spain!  No offense, but it was fun to introduce a new character in the mass-produced plastic baby that features on front.  Of course, the swirl of Naugae on the back and on the label was really fun to imagine as well.  I really liked the idea of taking Gentle People artwork in a completely different direction since much of the earlier stuff was laid against highly saturated pastels.  It was a challenge for me to feature a completely black background that still read as part of the Gentle World.

Plastic City single release cover artwork

Plastic City single release cover artwork

Nauga: A change indeed. So, other than Naugae, what influences your work?

BC:  When designing cover artwork for a musical venture, you definitely want to think of the content that it is portraying.  Usually though, I like to take that concept and then turn it 90 degrees or so to put it in a new, less literal context.  A good example would be the What Do You Know? EP.  That’s the one where I placed you as a contestant on the “What Do You Know?” game show, a concept which, although still groovy, had nothing to do with the actual lyrics.

Nauga: You are a master of juxtaposition! So, looking at some of your other work, you’ve had a variety of art exhibitions, have produced a multimedia photographic series and I understand you are currently working on a Science Fiction soap opera novel.  This I know will be particularly of interest to Honeymink who is a big SF fan.  Have you been taking cloning lessons from Kaoru?

BC:  Guilty – as charged.  I think what keeps me going, chipping away at the many projects I have going on, is planting a seed and watching it grow.  It may sound simplistic, but I really enjoy the creative process and learning how others take that same journey.  I have a ridiculous spreadsheet and calender that keeps me on schedule, writing a certain amount of chapters each month, or completing a series of photos and/ or drawings during a certain time period.  It may sound a bit unorganic, but ultimately, it’s very Capricorn!

Nauga: Capricious too no doubt (smiles). Naugae just love to travel through galaxies – they are so full of wonders. The Naugae and I were therefore very interested in your new book,  Stars of the Desert. How did this come about, and have you any plans for a book about Naugae?

Book cover for Stars of the Desert - a journey across the dunes of Tunisia to discover lost "Tatooine," the new travel photo book by Brady Walters, as part of the www.setofdrifters.com

The cover of Bijou's book: Stars of the Desert

BCStars of the Desert is my first travel photo book.  It follows my partner Doug and I on a voyage across Southern Tunisia to locate the last remaining “Tatooine” sets from the Star Wars saga.  The book features 68 pages of images and text that detail the adventure.  We just released it in August in conjunction with our Set of Drifters travel blog and I am very proud of the way it turned out.  Even if you are not a fan of Star Wars per se, I think the subject matter can relate to anyone who is interested in travel and/ or archaeology.

And as far as a Nauga book is concerned…  After seeing how easily it was to transform you into a slice of Brie, just think what we could do with some gelatin cubes, a glockenspiel and a basket of ostrich plumes!  The possibilities are endless!

Nauga: Oh yes! I can’t wait! Recently I have been really enjoying conversing with friends old and new who have been involved with Gentleworld. I have a entire series of items planned for the entertainment of the wider Gentle family. What do your plans include?

Photograph from "Past Lives" multimedia project due out 2012

Bijou and Binnorie photograhed in "Past Lives" multimedia project due out 2012

BC:  “Past Lives“, a multimedia photo series that tells a number of pre- and post- histories via “Past Life Regression” hypnotherapy is nearing completion.  I hope to have the project in a gallery later this year or the beginning of next.  I am also working hard on the aforementioned “Sci-Fi soap opera,” a story told over three books, the first of which should be out late next year. And then there is the Gentle People documentary.  I must tell you Nauga, there is a great scene of you traipsing down the lane in Brighton on Christmas Day!  I think it will bring a lot of laughs from the audience!  You always know how to steal the scene!

After that, I am going to come back to Naugalyne for a well-deserved looooong vacation.  I hope you’ll have me!

Nauga: Of course, as part of the Gentle family, I consider you an honorary Nauga so you are very welcome. It’s been a real groove eating cheese and chatting with you today. Do you have a message for the Gentle friends, fans and family?

BC:  I do!  Please remember, Gentle friends, that we are all here to share love and experience life to its fullest.  This means that even if you may be lactose-intolerant, it’s important to indulge in cheese from time to time!

Bijou sips a cocktail in a tropical island paradise

Bijou sips a cocktail in a tropical island paradise

Nauga: Thank you so much for visiting today. May your travels be fun-filled and fabulous. And can you just tell me, Hawaiian or Space?

BC:  Nauga, you’ve saved the toughest question for the end!  More often than not, it’s space, though anyone will tell you that I am a sucker for tropical landscapes as well.  Can we call a truce on “tiki rockets?”

Nauga: A fine idea! A très bientôt, Bijou!

Nauga in conversation with Pavel Polyakov from Copy Cat Project

Cover artwork for Electronic Tales of Tenderness by Copy Cat Project

The latest Copy Cat Project album

I am feeling electric today! I am hoping to share some Tales of Tenderness with Pavel from Copy Cat Project. Pavel is the creator of the brilliant version of h20, part of the We Love You (Copy Cat Project Mix EP).

 

Pavel has also released several albums under the Copy Cat Project name (you can find the Best Of Copy Cat Project here) although he has yet to write a song about Naugae. This is something we hope he does soon of course.

Lets meet Pavel who is lounging with me here on some resplendent naugahyde cushions (kindly shed for me by my fellow Naugae).

Nauga: Welcome to Nauga News, Pavel, I havent seen you since Moscow so I feel very happy to see you again.

Black and white photograph of Pavel Polyakov

Pavel Polyakov

PP: Hello, Nauga, nice to see you! Your crazy space dance in Solyanka club is unforgettable (smiles).

Nauga: Why thank you! So, while filming the video to accompany h20, I listened to your song over and over and I still love it. I am feeling very pleased you are here today to tell us about your work particularly with The Gentle People.

PP: Yes, it was a great pleasure for me to work with Gentles. They are one of my favourite bands ever and their music helped me to find my own musical direction and approach. So, I was very excited when they asked me to collaborate.

Nauga: Ah, those connecting space vibes are most harmonious. Now, my fellow Naugae and I would like to know more about how you got into music in the first place and a little about your influences (apart from the songs from my home planet Naugalyne).

PP: I started as a drummer in a school band and we played a sort of New Wave using live instruments. Later, during my university years, I was fascinated by electronic sound and the ability to create unreal soundscapes, even your own musical universe, using synthesizers. That passion for electronic sounds changed my life, and music has been my main occupation since then. When I started Copy Cat Project my main influences were soviet sci-fi movies and cartoons, as well as retro-futuristic art. Musically I was into Matthew Herbert’s deep house, early AIR, Bent, Royksopp and The Gentle People of course! Thanks to The Gentle People my own music became as light and easy as it is now.

Cover of We Love You EP The Gentle People and Copy Cat Project

Cover of Copy Cat Project and Gentle People EP

Nauga: An interesting journey already then When we Naugae travel away from Naugalyne, we always play Messages from We Love You (Copy Cat Project Mix EP). How did you end up getting involved with The Gentle People and doing these specific songs?

PP: I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Dougee Dimensional DJing at Gorky Park in Moscow one day. I presented him with a CD of my stuff, he loved the music and asked me to co-produce some songs for The Gentle People. I gladly agreed.

Back cover of We Love You EP The Gentle People Copy Cat Project Remixes

Back cover of We Love You EP

When working on the arrangements I tried to mix the Gentle atmosphere with an electro pop flavour. Though the new songs sound a bit different from classic Gentle People, I hope the result is quite good!! Floating in The Gentle People’s galaxy was a fantastic experience for me! Dougee Dimensional also did some nice vocals for Copy Cat Project.

Nauga: Groove is in the park in this instance (smiles). So, in addition to creating this version of h20, you also produced the sound effects for the video, which featured me, as you know. I particularly like the mix of sounds in the laboratory scene. Are sound effects something you do regularly or something you would like to get into?

PP: I worked for a TV production company for 7 years where my job was to find or sometimes to create the original pieces of music or sound effects to support the video for different TV programmes. But I had never done a sound design for a music video before so it was a kind of new, interesting experience. I would like to do something like this in the future. By the way you can hear the sounds of ancient soviet synth Polyvox in that lab episode!

Cover of Copy Cat Project album Dream Drops

Dream Drops album cover

Nauga: Ah I did wonder what that was. Youve also produced a lot of your own music and have released several albums including one called Dream Drops. Im always making up dreamy little songs to sing as I fly round the galaxy myself. What inspires you to write songs and what kind of process do you follow?

PP: Beauty of all kinds is the main inspiration for me, I suppose, and Space – Space of course (smiles). The relationship between humans and Space, the realisation of the unity of everything in the universe inspires me a lot!

For me the images, some visuals and the story behind the music are very important. When you listen to the music you might close your eyes and see some images or imagine whatever you like, if there are no images, no story, it’s not worth listening to. As for the process, hmm… usually I just hear some melodies in my head and then I try to remember them and reproduce them using my synthesizers. Where the melodies come from?  From Space of course (laughs).

Copy Cat Project at table with Robot and mirror

Copy Cat Project have friends electric

Nauga: Youve written lots of songs and some of them mention Robots and Cats. Which of your songs are your most favourite and which ones do your fans like most? Also, do you think you would write one that has Naugae in it?

PP: Well, I’ve got three full-length albums and quite a number of non-album tracks, so for me it’s hard to choose… From the latest album my favourite are Electric Sun and Algorithm Of Joy.

My listeners from Earth love Foggy Ride and Oh, Never, Never while the aliens prefer Fragile Boys.

Naugae’s Intergalactic Hymn is the first thing I’ll do when I’ll get back home (big smile)  I promise. I hope you will like it (smiles).

Nauga: Thank you! I know Honeymink likes Fragile Boys best and she is indeed an alien. Thinking now about technology, you know my flying space bubble is retro-hi-tech. What kind of technology and equipment do you use when creating and playing your music live?

Aleksey plays the Theremin

Aleksey - theremin, live space noises, fxes

PP: I’ve got a lot of Russian retro synths: Alisa, Aelita, Maestro, Polyvox, Estradin + modern synths: Nord Modular G2, Waldorf Blofeld, TC Electronic and Korg effect processors + laptops and all kinds of modern software. We also use a handmade theremin during the live shows it produces some weird sounds from another world.

Sometimes we invite robot-dancers to support the show (smiles) You can see an excerpt from a live Copy Cat Project show here.

Copy Cat Project performing live featuring robot dancers

Copy Cat Project live with Robot Dancers

Nauga: A fabulous selection! On Naugalyne, we love to lie round eating cheese. When you arent making music, what other things do you get up to?

PP: I love visiting some wild places: forests, mountains… When you live in a big city and there’s no sea near, only small fragments of the sky are available for your eyes – the houses and the buildings prevent you from panoramic sight and that’s sad. Magnificent views and an open cyclorama give man so much power.  So visiting mountains fascinates me a lot (smiles). And when I have free time and I am at home, I love to play with my mechanical toy robots. I’m a retro robot fan! (I hope it will be taken into consideration when the machines finally conquer people, ha-ha) (laughs).

Nauga: I am sure the robots will consider your request especially given the tribute dancers you have (smiles). I have been visiting some wild places recently too. I went to a fabulous chill out party in the ice fields of Titan, Im now thinking of a brief holiday on Mars. I have heard the salt-water cocktails are amazing and I want to sun myself a little. What are your plans musically and in any other projects you are working on?

PP: I’m planning to collaborate with 3D Mapping makers. I think 3D Mapping during Copy Cat Project show will be great. I also want to produce some music to support cool 3D Mapping performance. Plus, I’m dreaming of writing the soundtrack for sci-fi animation, hoping to realize it one day, oh and the song about Naugae of course!

Nauga: Good! Oh theres a message from Naugalyne coming through. I think its time for us to finish lounging here. Before we fly away, do you have a message for the Gentle friends, fans and family?

PP: Let the tenderness rule the world! Let your bubbles be the fastest and the most comfortable in the universe.  Stay gentle!  I love you all (big smile).

Album cover for My Secret Space Love by Copy Cat Project

My Secret Space Love album cover

Nauga: Thank you so much chatting today, Pavel.  Until we dance together again, I wish you much Secret Space Love.

PP: Thank you, Nauga. You’re such a cutie!  Adieu!