The Intangible Into the Real: An Interview with Marguerite de Roche

Marguerite de Roche’s Sous ma peau, un volcan has been on regular rotation since I came across it a few months ago. There’s something so inviting about the Ethiopian artist’s music that I lose myself to swirling thoughts of self, past lives, and distant futures. Besides music, de Roche is a poet, and Sous ma peau, un volcan isn’t just an album, but also a book of her work. There’s a seamless integration between the sounds and words, and while much of it exists with its own gravity, it lands its hardest blows with a soft, gentle touch.

Sous ma peau, un volcan is out now on Connivence répétitive. Pick up a copy HERE

I always like to start at the beginning, so what are some of your earliest memories or experiences related to music or sound? What are some of the real formative things from when you were young that have stuck with you? 

Music has always been the universal language established within my immediate and extended family. My folks’ tapes were classical meet French lyricist meet country/blues meets jazz… 

I remember listening to the same exact record on my way to school every day with my father. It featured a lot of blues and country. One of the songs was, “Down in the Valley to Pray,” which we sang all together in harmony for years and years at family gatherings. Among zillions of other songs… 

From very early on until now, what really stuck with me is the strength of the right sound, the power of harmonies, and how visceral and immediate is my body’s reaction to it all. I try and keep it in mind when I create. 

And when did you start writing poetry? 

I wrote what I thought were songs before poetry as a teen. It turned out to be poetry and not songs. I decided fairly early on it’d be free of form/shape and expectations. It did take me years to come clean with the idea of it being okay! No boxes were ticked, but the words and sounds started to take a shape I’d feel more and more comfortable with. 

Did you always want to be a musician or play music? Has your family been supportive? 

I started singing when I was 9 or 10. I first got onstage at age 10 or 11. I already knew then. My family is supportive though I’m not exactly sure they know what it all means. I may be wrong though. It hasn’t been a straight road. I got distracted, on the way, by the world around me before pushing further towards the life I’m leading now. 

I spent a few years working with international jazz and Western African bands on tour around the world (production side). It was my first approach to a professional music environment and essentially a great highlight on dos and don’ts. 

Building on that, what first pushed you to start writing your own music and playing, recording, and so on? 

Besides music itself, there is a sense of courage and commitment I needed to embrace in the idea of assuming an idea to the very end. Together with a necessity, an urge to separate my emotions from my body and from the rest of the world. Insert a distance; fly over. Transform what’s intangible into something real, and concrete and fill a gap around our blurred storylines perhaps. Obviously, at my very own personal level. 

So your recent project, which I really adore, is Sous ma peau, un volcan. How did this project first begin? Did you always intend for it to be a poetry collection with a soundtrack, or did that evolve as the project did? 

Thank you very much. The project started without even me noticing, I acquired material throughout years of searching for a sound and a voice. Years of writing without a real purpose, then eventually I had gathered a library of ideas and words that felt mature enough to share at the time. Everything evolved simultaneously, quite fast and organically. 

What was your process like with the project, especially with translating ideas and imagery in the poems into sounds? Did the music or words generally come first? 

The title Sous ma peau, un volcan was intended for the collection of poems at first. The idea came first but was soon altered by the tracks, a permanent back and forth. 

Surely, the poems influenced the tracks (ambience, questionings, track listing) as well as the sound influenced the writing along the way. 

Although, in my opinion, it is more of a sense of timing within the creative process that truly made them a coherent ensemble. My body and mind were a whole and communicated well at the time. I was going through a real momentum of catharsis (not all good, not all bad) in my life which I believe opened that conversation. It sounds all very dramatic but it’s not (not totally at least, ha!)! 

I’m also curious how you are influenced or inspired by landscapes or a sense of place. I ask because, to me, your music has this feeling as though it inhabits particular spaces. There’s a real visceral quality to it where each piece sounds like it is from somewhere specific, so I wonder how the places you lived or grew up or visited during this period impacted the sound. 

I studied media arts and cinema in London. It did forge a strong sense of space, scenery, and more globally, visuals when I intend to create something – whichever the medium. Selfishly, I guess, I focused on a universe I would love to stumble upon randomly. A unique place I feel strongly about. A fantasy of my own, I imagined a meta-trip within the world of an alternative upbringing, to be honest. So you’re quite spot on! 

What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome to get the project finished and out into the world? 

Myself, really! Emotional. I had to learn to trust the process, and believe that it is not just an ego trip, I discovered a whole world I almost drowned myself in. And I’m only getting started. What a joy! Kidding aside the whole process was a blast: writing, composing, mixing, creating the visuals. I did everything myself and I loved each minute of it. (Sous ma peau was mastered by Vincent Malassis, a talented composer and a fine contemporary artist. Don’t miss out on him!) 

The doubt is important and worthy, considering the warm feedback I’m getting on the project. Also, I find it important to remind myself, quite frequently, that I am not saving lives so I try and take it, easy(ier) on myself. 

What surprised you the most while working on it? 

Everything fell into place smoothly, and the dialogue was fairly easy to coordinate between the writing and the composing. It made perfect sense to me that both had to live side by side. 

What’s next for you? I noticed on your website that you’re working on a new collection to be published in both English and French, and I’m really excited about that. 

I am currently finishing up a second diptych, poems, and sound. I am aiming at both French and English which will take me a little more time in terms of designing the whole. (proofreading, editing, and pressing) It will, obviously, also be accompanied by new music. I have explored a new dimension I imagine more focus on the now than the then. I look forward to having your ears on it. Also, I’ll be performing, Sous ma peauun volcan, live over the next few months. Thus there shall be a moving image before your eyes soon as well… 

To wrap up, what are some of your favorite poems? 

If I had to cite one it’d be, 1918’s Sara Teasdale, There will come soft rains. The author is definitely not getting enough credit for her oeuvre (at least in Europe). 

More contemporary and French, I’d say Laura Vazquez who’s currently a Villa Medicis pensionary. Her style is so creative, sharp, and sincere. 

I also very much enjoy Mark SaFranko (in general) whose multidisciplinary oeuvre I find inspiring. 

And what are your favorite sounds in the world? 

I know it’s quite lame and easy but sadly true. I live by the ocean so it’d be the sound of the waves. Though I do love me some cracky sound of a match getting lit. Psssssch!

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