Working with Daniel Larrieu
Interview with French Embassy
by Ellen Otzen

Daniel Larrieu

DANIEL LARRIEU, the former director of the National Choregraphy Centre in Tours, has worked with British composer Robin Rimbaud, alias Scanner, for the last five years. Together they have created the dance performances Delta and N’oublies pas ce que tu devines. Larrieu now leads his own dance company, Astrakhan, in Paris.

Q : How did you meet Scanner ?
Daniel Larrieu : I was attending an ‘interplanetary’ cultural event outside London, where Scanner made a set of improvisations with the dancers.
At the time, I was working in Tours, at the National Centre for Choregraphy, and I wanted to try out new collaborations, to work with unique individuals.

And Scanner is rather unique ! We started setting up a production together in 1998 called Delta, a 40 minute performance, which was later extended.

It wasn’t hard work, as Scanner is incredibly open, he listens to people, makes suggestions and readily changes his work.
When I recently left Tours, I asked myself who I wanted to work with again. I kept thinking about « new music» and the French work in this field. It occurred to me that I was making things uneccessarily compliated, when I knew Scanner !

Meanwhile, I received two discs from him in the mail. As I am very attentive to this sort of thing, it resulted in the performance Don’t Forget What You Feel. We sent him some images in London, he then came to Paris for two days in June and the production continued.

Q : How would you describe Scanner’s work ?
D.L : What is very exciting with Scanner is that his music is very light, which does not mean that it is simple, for he knows what the work demands. He gets really involved. There’s something very gentle about his work, while at the same time he is capable of creating things that are hard and tight.

I like the precision of his material. It’s a type of music that gives a great deal of space for movements.

Q : So this is a very successful collaboration ?
D.L : We made a connection…It’s something that cannot be explained. We put a lot of trust in each other’s work, I think there’s a great deal of mutual respect.

Q : Does the fact that Scanner is a British composer play a part in this success ?
D.L I think the difference exists, but more in a spiritual sense. It’s a different way of thinking.

When I first started out as a choreographer, I was often in London. The first time, it was for a large European stage, then I did a piece for a British company. I have always kept an eye on what was going on the other side of the channel. I still do today, although I rarely work here now.

Q : What do you enjoy about the British spirit ?
D.L It’s different. It is a different way of thinking, of seeing, of laughing. The British have a very humorous approach to things, and I am sensitive to that. Over the past 22 years, I have had the possibility to draw some lines on the other side of the channel. And if I am invited to London, I come as quickly as possible. I love it!


From his apartment in an East London converted warehouse, British artist and electronic composer ROBIN RIMBAUD, aka SCANNER has been involved in several Anglo-French artistic collaborations, most recently with choreographer Daniel Larrieu in the performances N’oublie pas ce que tu devines and Delta. He has also re-soundtracked Jean Luc Godard’s seminal film ‘Alphaville as well as writing the soundtrack to a working morgue outside Paris in 2002 (Hôpital Raymond-Poincaré)as part of the bereavement suite.

Q: What made you decide to work with the choreographer Daniel Larrieu ?
Robin Rimbaud: Around 1995 I had an invitation from Daniel and he invited me to meet with him. He was the director of the centre of choreography in Tours at the time.

I said, I’ll be free tomorrow and he said, o.k, we’ll buy you a ticket.
I suddenly had a first-class ticket to fly to Tours, was picked up by a car and driven to the studios. Met with Daniel, whose work I already knew from London.

I asked Daniel to tell me about the piece, and he said : ‘Okay, the piece is 50 minutes long and it’s for seven dancers.’ That’s all he told me! And he asked me to write a soundtrack based on that- the only thing he wanted, was a recording of the actress Rita Hayworth speaking in a movie.

So I went back to London and wrote the soundtrack. It was such an unnerving experience, trying to make a shape for something that in a way had no shape, at that time.

I finally sent the recording away and heard nothing. I’ve subsequently learnt, that the best thing that can happen when you make work, is to hear nothing back for some time. Because if somebody does not like what you do, they’ll telephone you immediately to tell you it’s no good.
The funny thing is, the longer you leave things, the more you realise that perhaps they like it- they are engaging with it, adjusting to it.
I eventually plucked up the nerve to telephone and got a message back saying, ‘we love it, could you write ten more minutes’. And that literally was Delta. It toured around France and is coming back as part of a catalogue of his work.

Subsequently I’ve heard why Daniel enjoyed working with me. He said it was just very easy and I understood what he needed. Quite a sympathetic ear, because the sound I make, is very open – it suggests movement in an open architectural space. It doesn’t map out any particular direction.

For me, working with Daniel was interesting because it is wholly based on trust. You produce this world which doesn’t have any true meaning in a way, at least it doesn’t have very clear reference points for an audience – I don’t think Daniel is interested in that. With the sound, I’ve been trying to map it in a similar way, to map out regions of sound. I use the sound as a texture or a colour, as if you were painting.

Almost everything is made with artifical means, but in my work I’ve tried to maintain some relationship to the real. I’ve always found a place which is somewhere in between the two –to me that’s a very seductive place to be. Because if it’s completely abstract, if it’s presenting a language that your ear has never heard, it’s very difficult to have any relationship to it.

If you throw in more organic sounds- be it a human voice, be it footsteps, the sound of birdsong, any enviromental sound- you can actually get away with a lot more in some ways, because your logic is attaching itself to the recognisable points. But you still have this other thing around it.

Here, everything is synthesised. What intrigues me with this is that in a way it has never existed. When you play an instrument, it’s working with the resonance and harmonic frequencies and the acoustics of the space around you. You record it onto a tape, and then it becomes stored- whereas these kind of sounds, all they really are is zeros and ones inside a computer. In some perverse way, it’s never really existed ! It’s just a playful philosophical idea.

Q: Apart from Daniel Larrieu, you’ve worked with a number of French artists- Luc Ferrari, Christine Bastin etc. What is the thing you enjoy most about working with French artists?
RR: That they like to go shopping ! I like working with people who are – I know it’s a useless word, but – quite liberal in a way. I mean that in the sense that, when I worked with Daniel, I’d suggest that we go shopping. And we would go off to the shops. It’s quite a generous approach to work,because there’s no insistance that we have to keep to the strict discipline. It’s been fun, that kind of adventure.

I have never in my life worked in a country, where the chief curator of a grand gallery, like the Centre Pompidou, will take you out for the night and then give you a lift back on her moped!

In England, a lot of people still perceive France in a particular way. There’s all these jokes, as you can imagine. In France, all the people I’ve worked with have been incredibly generous in terms of offering me space within projects- quite different from when I’ve worked in the States. The feedback I’ve had has been incredibly responsive and really warm. In the last ten years, there seems to have been quite a shift in French music and contemporary art – the art scene in Paris is really exciting, there’s so much stuff happening. There’s so many young contemporary art galleries that have opened up, and many artists have taken over industrial spaces and are presenting their own shows.
I’ve had such a strong relationship with France, and I can think of no reason why. If I think about recordings, they have always sold best in France. France is where I have the biggest audience. Fondation Cartier was where I played my first concert and I’ve done shows at the Centre Pompidou every couple of years.

The big shift in the last ten years has been Eurostar. It sounds so trivial, yet at the same time it is invaluable. It’s quicker for me to go to Paris than to go to Liverpool. It’s an incredible psychological difference to feel attached like that. For me, it doesn’t feel like I’m going abroad. The Eurostar has refocused people’s thoughts and directions in terms of artistic collaborations, when someone I work with suggests I come to Paris or they come to London. It’s a much more liberal way of thinking now, and it has really helped in terms of collaboration.

Q: You seem extremely enthusiastic about French culture. Is there anything about it that disagrees with you you dislike about it at all ?
RR: I think there is an awful issue with bureaucracy. As an artist, there is an aspect that people forget, which is that the economical mechanics of getting paid have a very strong validity in your life.In France for years, it’s been so complicated.

There’s an aspect I find amusing as an outsider, but if I lived there it would probably drive me crazy – which is the consistent strikes that seem to go on. English people complain a lot, but don’t do anything about it. In France, if people are dissatisfied with something, they are on the streets immediately. I like that dynamics, I have admiration for it, it makes you feel like you have a position in your society. But at the same time I take a step away from it, when I’m there I think- no, not another strike !

Q: What could the British learn from French society in terms of cultural policy ?
RR I learnt recently that the French state actually offers housing and positions to artists. As a cultural gesture and as an understanding of the value of art to a society, I think it’s really admirable. It doesn’t happy in any other country that I know of.

En Francais
Daniel Larrieu

Ancien directeur du Centre Chorégraphique National de Tours, Daniel Larrieu a noué depuis plus de
cinq ans une « belle amitié culturelle » avec le compositeur britannique Robin Rimbaud, alias Scanner. Les spectacles Delta et N’oublie pas ce que tu devines sont ainsi le fruit d’une coopération artistique franco-britannique inattendue. Larrieu dirige actuellement une troupe de danse à Paris, Astrakhan.

Q : Comment avez- vous rencontrés Scanner ?
Daniel Larrieu : Un jour j’ai été à une rencontre interplanétaire culturelle, près de Londres, dans lequel il faisait un set d’improvisation avec des danseurs. A l’époque, j’étais à Tours au Centre Chorégraphique National et je cherchais beaucoup à alterner les collaborations et à trouver des gens singuliers. Et Scanner est plutôt singulier ! On a commencé à faire une production ensemble, en 1998, qui s’est appelée Delta, un format de 40 minutes, qui s’est agrandi après. Je n’ai pas eu d’efforts à faire, car c’est quelqu’un d’extrêmement ouvert et qui écoute beaucoup les gens, qui propose des choses et qui est prêt à changer, à voir ce qui fonctionne et ce qui ne fonctionne pas.

En quittant Tours, récemment, je me suis demandé avec qui j’aurais envie de retravailler. Je me posais toujours la question des « musiques nouvelles » et celle de la création française dans ce domaine, et puis je me suis dit « pourquoi je vais chercher midi à quatorze heures », je connais Scanner ! Parallèlement à cela, je recevais de lui par la poste deux disques. Et comme je fais très attention à ce genre de choses… on a travaillé ensemble sur ce projet, « N’oublie pas ce que tu devines » (Don’t forget what you feel). On lui a envoyé des images à Londres, il est ensuite venu passer deux jours à Paris en juin et on a continué la production.

Q : Comment qualifieriez-vous le travail de Scanner ?
D.L. : Ce qui est génial avec Scanner c’est que c’est incroyablement léger, ce qui ne veut pas dire que c’est facile, car il sait très le bien le poids que représente le travail. Il s’y investit pleinement. Il donne une sensation d’extrême douceur en produisant des choses qui sont parfois très durs, très tenus, j’aime la matière très précise qu’il a. C’est de la musique qui laisse de la place aux mouvements.

Q : Cette collaboration est donc un succès ?
D.L. : On s’est trouvé… Ce sont des choses qui ne s’expliquent pas. Nous avons une relation de grande confiance par rapport au travail, de grand respect aussi je crois.

Q : Pensez-vous que le fait que Scanner soit un compositeur britannique ait joué dans le succès de votre collaboration ?

D.L. : Ce n’est pas en terme de compositeur…. Je pense que la différence existe, mais elle est de l’ordre de l’esprit. Il y a une manière de penser différente. Au début de mes années de chorégraphe, j’étais très souvent à Londres. La première fois, c’était pour un grand stage européen, et puis j’ai une pièce pour une compagnie britannique. J’avoue que c’est nettement moins le cas aujourd’hui car je pense que l’économie culturelle est très différente et beaucoup plus raide. J’avais tout le temps un œil de l’autre côté. Je l’ai toujours mais j’y travaille beaucoup moins. … Comme quoi, tout se lie…

Q : Qu’est ce qui vous plaît dans cet « esprit » britannique ?

D.L. : Il est différent. C’est une manière de penser, de voir, de rigoler sur les choses qui est complètement différente. C’est une manière de voir les choses beaucoup plus drôle, en terme de qualité d’humour, et je suis sensible à cela. Depuis ces vingt deux dernières années, où je travaille, j’ai eu comme ça la possibilité d’aller tracer quelques lignes de l’autre côté. Et si on me dit de venir à Londres, je viens tout de suite. J’adore !


Le compositeur de musique électronique Robin Rimbaud, alias Scanner, habite dans un ancien entrepôt du quartier des docks de Londres. C'est un habitué de la collaboration franco-britannique. Ses derniers projets l'ont amené à travailler avec le chorégraphe Daniel Larrieu pour N'oublie pas ce que tu devines et Delta ; à refaire la bande son d'Alphaville de Jean-Luc Godard ; et à sonoriser le funérarium de l'hôpital Raymond Poincaré de Garches.

Vous avez travaillé avec plusieurs artistes français : Daniel Larrieu, Luc Ferrari, Christine Bastin etc. Que préférez-vous chez eux ?
Robin Rimbaud:… pour s'en tenir à la stricte discipline. De ma vie je n'ai travaillé dans un pays où la conservatrice en chef d'un grand musée, comme le Centre Pompidou, vous invite à sortir un soir et vous ramène chez vous sur sa mobylette. En Angleterre, on a encore souvent une perception particulière de la France. En France, tous ceux avec qui j'ai travaillé se sont montrés incroyablement généreux, m'offrant de l'espace dans leurs projets - rien à voir avec ce que j'ai fait aux Etats-Unis.

Ces 10 dernières années, ma musique et l'art contemporain ont beaucoup bougé. A Paris, la scène artistique est vraiment intéressante ; il se passe plein de choses. Beaucoup de galeries d'art contemporain ont ouvert et de jeunes artistes ont investi des espaces industriels pour s'y exposer eux-mêmes. J'ai eu une relation très forte avec la France et je ne sais pas pourquoi. C'est là que mes enregistrements se sont le mieux vendus. C'est là que j'ai mon meilleur public. J'ai donné mon premier concert à la Fondation Cartier et je fais un spectacle au Centre Pompidou tous les deux ans.

La grande nouveauté, c'est l'Eurostar. C'est peut-être bête, mais c'est inappréciable. Je vais plus vite à Paris qu'à Liverpool. La différence psychologique est incroyable. Je n'ai pas l'impression d'aller à l'étranger. L'Eurostar a recentré les idées et les orientations des collaborations artistiques.

On dirait que vous adorez la culture française. A-t-elle quand même des aspects que vous n'aimez pas, que vous désapprouvez ?

RR: Il y a l'horrible question de la bureaucratie. Et autre chose qu'on oublie : la simple mécanique de se faire payer compte beaucoup dans la vie d'un artiste. En France, depuis des années, tout est si compliqué…

Il y a encore un aspect que je trouve amusant de l'extérieur, mais qui me rendrait fou si j'y habitais - ce sont les grèves en permanence. Les Anglais se plaignent beaucoup, mais ils ne bougent pas. En France, si on est mécontent de quelque chose, on est tout de suite dans la rue.

J'aime cette dynamique ; je l'admire ; elle vous donne une place dans la société. Mais en même temps, je prends du recul et quand j'y suis, je me dis : non, encore une !

A propos de politique culturelle, les Britanniques ont-ils quelque chose à apprendre de la société française ?
RR: J'ai appris récemment que l'Etat offrait des logements et des situations à des artistes. Ce geste culturel, ce sens de la valeur de l'art dans une société, je pense vraiment que c'est admirable. Cela ne se fait nulle part ailleurs, que je sache.