Musical mastermind Gautier Serre ushers us into his weird world of Balkan beats, ancient harpsichords and, er, musical chickens.
Could Igorrr be the weirdest metal band ever? The brainchild of French musician Gautier Serre, they mash genres together to make a disorientatingly heavy noise. Plus, one of their members is a chicken
Ask Igorrr mastermind Gautier Serre what he was like as a child, and he’ll pause, before phoning his mum.
“She says that I was always very curious, thinking about many existential things like life and death,” he relays. “I was always asking many questions. She also says that I didn’t really fit into the rules of school and society – I was more like an outsider.”
That outsider thinking is stamped all over Igorrr. Formed in the early 2000s as an electronic-orientated project that’s gradually become heavier, everything about Gautier’s vision is quirky, from his fusion of extreme metal, opera and gypsy jazz to the batshit track titles and the imagery you see on these pages. On songs like the glitchy Spaghetti Forever, he’s not so much messing with conventions as shredding them in a pasta machine.
“When I was a teenager, I was looking for a band far away from the horribly boring mainstream music on TV and radio,” explains the multi-instrumentalist. “I couldn’t find anything like that, so I wrote the music I wanted to listen to. I love metal, baroque, electronic and traditional Balkan music, and I wanted to have it all in one place, without segregation.”
His journey began back in those inquisitive childhood days in Bretagne, north west France, when he’d mess around with synthesisers and old tape recorders, before moving onto drums, piano and guitars. He played in death metal and electronic bands, but felt constrained by their limits: he needed to be let off the leash.
“Igorrr was the place I could really express myself without restriction,” he states.
Letting his freak flag fly, he set about creating his own inventive sonic world, influenced by the compositions of Chopin and Bach as much as Cannibal Corpse and Meshuggah. As we talk today, Cradle Of Filth and Romani singer Gabi Lunc˘a are playing in the background. So personal is the project that it’s even named after his beloved deceased gerbil. Wait, what?
“I called her Igor because she was all black and hunchbacked, so she looked a bit like the Igor from Frankenstein,” he says. “I was sad she died, so I took her name just to make her alive somehow. I added the extra ‘r’s, just because.”
That ‘just because’ is a driving force behind how Gautier works – as well as his love for animals. He’s written two songs with the help of his chicken, Patrick. After sprinkling birdseed out on a mini piano, he let him peck the keys and then arranged the music around him. Because why not? My Chicken’s Symphony and Chicken Sonata are strangely compelling pieces. “I was trying to find harmony in chaos,” he explains.
‘Harmony in chaos’ could easily be the tagline for Igorrr’s latest album and third full-length,
Savage Sinusoid. To make the outlandish ideas in his head to life come jerking to life, Gautier enlisted 20 guest musicians from five countries, spanning the harpsichord, classical guitar, accordion, saxophone, sitar, strings and piano. At the core are his long-time collaborators and compatriots, vocalists Laure Le Prunenec and Laurent Lunoir, plus drummer Sylvain Bouvier. From the metal world, Mayhem’s Teloch plays a hulkingly heavy riff on Viande, while Cattle Decapitation frontman Travis
Ryan lends his throat to A pop at hodiaphul atop hobie( which apparently means the fear of being constipated), Cheval (Horse) and Robert. Oh, and there’s the odd cluck from
Despite having software at his disposal, Gautier was determined to record real people playing real instruments, to capture their “original spirit”.
“The notes could have been made electronically, but the sound and emotional charge wouldn’t have been the same,” he explains. “I used a 17th-century harpsichord, recorded with very modern microphones, to make the instrument fit the big sound of modern death metal while still keeping
“I TOOK MY DEAD GERBIL’S NAME”
GAUTIER WANTED TO KEEP HIS BELOVED PET’S NAME ALIVE…
its origin. It’s the same with basically all the instruments on this album. It would have been pretty cheap with plug-ins, but the live feeling on this album made the music stronger.”
Gautier has synaesthesia, meaning that he sees the tracks as paintings, and has a clear vision about how to put them together. To get the best from his guests, he occasionally tricks them into singing or playing parts they weren’t expecting, like a genius puppet master manipulating the effects on his sonic canvas.
“I sometimes play the wrong instrumental on the headphones of the instrumentalist on purpose, in order to influence the colour of the way they play or sing – sometimes to make it stronger, sometimes lighter,” he reveals. “It makes the contrast between the different musical styles clearer.”
Savage Sinusoid is certainly a sound clash, nipping at the heels of the tech metal scene. Problème d’emotion is a mournful, moving, string-laden song that comes across like the soundtrack to rainy scenes in French arthouse cinema, while Cheval marries tumbling accordion parts with savage screams. Va Te Foutre feels like being thrown into a wormhole and hearing mysterious universes rush by, while instruments fly out and collide with your head. Deepening this sense of disorientation, the record’s vocals are nonsensical, rising and falling without forming any words of this earth.
“The singers have their own language that they created some years ago, and to be honest, I have no idea what they’re singing about!” he confesses. “In Igorrr,
I’m using the voice as an instrument, so I care only of the musical meaning of the sound. I want the language to be something which speaks straight to the heart, without any intellectual pollution.”
It’s impossible to glean specific meanings from the obtuse songtitles – some of the older gems include Half A Pony, Moldy Eye and Lullaby For A Fat Jellyfish – but they likely make sense to Gautier’s wired mind. He reveals that Savage Sinusoid’s third track, Humous, where Balkan accordion melodies meet chiptunes, is linked to an altogether more ordinary, non-musical passion. “I used to work in a restaurant to pay for my first bits of audio gear, years ago. I’ve still got this love for cooking, and I very much love Mediterranean food!”
Now signed to a metal label and with their ducks (or should that be chickens?) in a row, Gautier’s hoping Igorrr will capture people’s imaginations. In April, they played at the Metal
Oper’Art festival at the prestigious
Opéra National Du Rhin in Strasbourg, France. With its gilded interior, it wasn’t a typical setting for a metal show. “The place was beautiful and Laure’s voice sounded great, but the soft sound and the red seats were not suited to such strong music!” he laughs. When they come to the UK’s more conventional venues this month, you can expect “eclectic and loud music in your face for one hour”.
Beyond that, it’s sure to be a showcase of Gautier’s beautiful, if enigmatic, freakiness. Ask what goes on inside his brain, and he’ll simply chuckle and refer you to the three obscure ‘making of’ videos for Savage Sinusoid on YouTube. They feature disjointed studio footage, his mohawked pianist Benjamin playing in a pink tutu, and lots of star turns from Patrick. “That’s why we do music,” he concludes. “To express in art what cannot be said in words.”
Twister gets really out of hand chez Igorrr