M83

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Published April 16, 2012

Anthony Gonzalez, the force behind the musical act M83, cofounded the band more than a decade ago in his native South of France as a vehicle for his lush sonic landscapes and cinematic songwriting. But with the release last year of M83’s critically acclaimed double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez has finally stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight, playing before enormous crowds around the world and sharing stages with childhood heroes like Depeche Mode. But as Gonzalez knows well, true success never happens overnight, and legendary artists are shaped by the accumulation of pivotal moments, transformative experiences, and happy accidents that drive them to take chances, do courageous work, and find their own voices. Now, though, Gonzalez’s future looks so bright that he’s gotta wear shades (in this case, a pair of classic Ray-Ban Aviators). Here, he reveals some of the most important influences, discoveries, and achievements of his musical journey thus far.

When did you first know that you wanted to become a musician?

When I was 7. I was watching TV with my parents and saw the French composer Jean Michel Jarre performing. He was surrounded by all of these amazing synthesizers, and the music was like something from the future. It was actually kind of a shock-but a good one. That’s when I realized that I wanted to do this for a living.

Do you remember the first album that was a big influence?

My uncle gave me a copy of Harvest [1972] by Neil Young, and I was really moved by it. There were these very simple, acoustic-sounding songs that felt very intimate, but sounded at times like they were recorded with a symphony. They were songs that made you want to be part of this world in which they existed. I’ve always treasured music that takes you somewhere else.

What about live music? Was there a concert that made a big impression on you?

It was actually an Iron Maiden show. [laughs] They were playing in the South of France, and I saw them when I was 10 or 11. It was a big show with lights and loud music. It was very theatrical—and really exciting.

You relocated from Paris to Los Angeles before making Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. What prompted the move?

Well, I was drawn to L.A. for a long, long time, probably because of the movies. When you’re a kid and you see all these movies that are made in Hollywood, L.A. starts to seem like this very special place that is really attractive—especially for a French guy like me. [laughs] The entire West Coast is visually just amazing. But my life before I moved seems like it was almost too easy now. I was comfortable back in France, surrounded by my family and friends, but I needed to take a chance and do something for myself, so I decided to move.

While you were making the record, you spent some time in Joshua Tree. Did the desert inform your songwriting?

I know I’m not the first musician who goes on a road trip to the desert to make music—and I’m not going to be the last. But it’s amazing because it works. [laughs] I rented this small cabin in the desert, made music, and enjoyed the landscape and the stars.

So how does it feel now that all of these people are hearing your songs and you’re playing in front of these big audiences?

It’s an amazing feeling. You know, we just played in front of an enormous crowd in Singapore, and we’ve been playing these huge stages in Europe. We recently opened for Depeche Mode, and listening to them is like a religion for some people, so it was not easy, but it was something special. It has all given me more confidence.

What does the future hold?

I really believe in moments in life that just happen and aren’t planned, so I’m waiting now for the next thing. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep doing what I do. Whatever happens is gonna happen.