“You have to get out of your comfort zone…” 909originals catches up with Kasztan

Joining the dots between post-rock and electronica, French producer and composer Pierre-Marie Maulini launched his new Kasztan moniker last year with the stellar Rare-Earth Elements EP, and has just followed that up with the three-track Celeste EP (you can stream/download it here).

Having cut his teeth in the group A Red Season Shade while still in his teens, the Nice native went on befriend M83’s Anthony Gonzalez, which led to him joining the electronica outfit on tour, travelling the world for the Saturdays = Youth tour in he early 2010s.

This, in turn, led to him releasing music with the group STAL, as well as writing music for commercials and soundtracks – not to mention undertaking remixes for the likes of Sia, Tinashe and Years and Years.

With Kasztan, a project born out of lockdown, Maulini is venturing into the world of techno, while also retaining components of cinematic electronica and post-rock – both looking forward and paying homage to his catalogue of work to date.

909originals caught up with him.

Hi, thanks for talking to us. You launched the ‘Kasztan’ moniker last year. How does it differ from your previous work?

Well the main difference is that it’s the first time I’m going solo. Now it’s just me handling everything; composition, production, mixing.

Of course, that means there’s a lot more machines involved, which is something I’m not used to, but I like the freedom that goes with it.

How would you describe the new EP, Celeste?

It’s always a tough exercise to describe your own music but I’d say Celeste is another attempt at making electronic music while staying true to my post-rock DNA. Compared to the first EP, you can tell I’m getting into more complex and typically UK-style broken beats. I’m trying to find the right balance.

It has to have a drive and yet remain melodic and atmospheric. I was also surprised to hear a few people label my music as ambient.

The name ‘Kasztan’ is inspired by family connections with Poland – tell us more?

‘Kasztan’ means ‘Chestnut’ in Polish. I like the way it sounds, it’s pronounced “cash-tan”. My wife is Polish, and Kasztan is a reference to a tree in her grandparents’ backyard that means a lot to her. She used to spent a lot of time at her grandparents’ when she was a kid, before her family moved to France.

I’ve been there several times and I know that tree too, it’s not just a thing from the past that is totally disconnected from me. 🙂

Is it fair to say that Kasztan was a project born out of lockdown? Was that a productive period for you, and did you find it difficult to get motivated at all?

Absolutely. I started Kasztan while I was stuck at home and I couldn’t play music with my friends. I had no other choice but to make music with what was available at home, which was my Telecaster, a computer and a couple pf controllers, my Novation Bass Station and a handful of guitar pedals.

It felt very refreshing and quite exhilarating for me to start something from scratch. No motivation issues at all! I guess it was a good thing to have that minimal and constraining framework.

I began making several tracks a week, mostly for fun, but after a few months I started to feel some of the material was probably worth sharing. It’s still an ongoing evolution process – I’m still learning, still shaping my style. I’m also listening to more new music now than I’ve ever done before, which is exciting too.

Do you see Kasztan as a largely studio-based project, or are there plans to develop it into a live experience?

Because of my background, I can’t imagine Kasztan without a live show. I played my first two shows recently and it was so exciting that I want to build a nice live show for the future. It’s probably not the easiest period to launch a new live concept but that’s the goal anyway.

The artwork for both the Celeste and Rare-Earth Elements EPs is quite striking. Who developed that for you?

The Rare-Earth Elements artwork was made by French 3D artist Berenice Golmann – she’s very talented and totally captured the essence of the music. The artwork for Celeste was made by an Australian 3D artist named Stu Ballinger, and the overall graphic design is handled by French graphic designer Thomas Desnoyers.

Spoiler alert: there’s a third EP coming which also features 3D art – another artist, and more than ever, a beautiful mix of organic and synthetic. I’m very excited about this one.

Your time with M83 coincided with arguably the pinnacle of the group’s career. What was that experience like, and did you part on good terms?

Anthony and I became friends, and he was kind enough to invite me to join the band and tour the world with M83 but I’m not taking any credit for his success.

It’s been my biggest music experience for sure – to date, anyway! It’s also at that time that I was introduced to the world of analog synths. It marked a big change in my musical path.

And yes, Anthony and I parted on good terms. We haven’t seen each other a lot recently, though.

Over the years, you have dabbled in a myriad of genres – post-rock, shoegaze, electronica, dream pop. How have these influenced your approach to production?

Indeed, I tried a lot of styles, and I was lucky enough to spend some time in big studios, with big rooms to record drums. I got to test all kinds of guitar amps and microphones and worked with great sound engineers. With Kasztan, I’ve become more and more of a bedroom producer.

I guess for most musicians it usually goes the other way around! But at least I’m done with the ‘I could do a better job if I had this or that piece of gear’ fantasy. I go for whatever works.

The term ‘cinematic’ is often used to describe your style, and indeed you have worked on many soundtracks over the years. Has working on soundtracks helped to broaden your musical horizons, do you think?

I liked cinematic music before I got the chance to be asked to compose for fictional works or commercials. It’s actually the one thing techno music and post-rock have in common – that cinematic, landscape-style quality.

I guess composing for moving images has also influenced my approach. When you work for a director it becomes teamwork, you have to make compromises or get out of your comfort zone.

What’s next on the agenda for Kasztan?

We have some Celeste remixes coming out next month from Love Over Entropy and Lawrence Hart. Following that, there will be a third EP.

Through the Skies is also getting an official music video in a couple of weeks – we had the chance to work with up and coming contemporary dancer Mellina Boubetra.

Thanks Kasztan for chatting to us. Photo by Thibaud Robiolle. You can download/stream the Celeste EP here.

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