12:59 PM CDT, May 2, 2012
Anthony Gonzalez grew up in Antibes in the South of France. The Mediterranean resort town is one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and Gonzalez says he had “the perfect childhood.”
“My memories are genuine and happy,” he says. “I was the happiest kid on the planet.”
Yet after making five richly textured electro-pop albums under the name M83, Gonzalez moved to Los Angeles two years ago to begin work on “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” (Mute), his 2011 double-album.
How can anyone get tired of living in the South of France? Gonzalez laughs. “After 29 years, I needed a fresh start, a new environment. Don’t get me wrong, I love the south of France. I still miss it a lot. I spent my whole life there, but it’s almost too easy with family and friends who are very protective of me. I needed to put myself in danger a little bit more.”
Gonzalez says he spent the first few months in Los Angeles missing home and feeling sorry for himself, so he tried to fill the emptiness by concentrating on the music. It worked. The sadness fueled his determination to make an all-consuming album like the ones he revered as a kid.
“I love old-fashioned albums made in a proper recording studio with real musicians,” he says. “I was craving something really produced and very ambitious, something big. I started my career more than 10 years ago, and it was me in my bedroom with a four-track (recorder). In the back of my mind, I had wanted to do a double album since I was a teenager, but I didn’t have the tools or the budget. I finally reached a point where I thought, ‘If not now, when?’ So I took the leap.”
He set up with trusted collaborator Justin Meldal-Johnsen at Sunset Sound and Sound Factory studios in Los Angeles, where landmark albums were recorded by the Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield and the Doors, among others. Besides his array of vintage synthesizers and keyboards (he has 16 at his home studio), he and Meldal-Johnsen hired numerous musicians plus a string and brass section to flesh out the album.
His primary inspiration? The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1995 double album, “Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”
“That album hit me when I was 14, 15, and I was discovering all this new music. It was just so deep and rich, I got lost in it every time,” Gonzalez says. “I know what people say about it; some people criticize Billy Corgan for putting himself out there like that. Like who is he to make a double album? But I loved it. You have to be a little bit selfish when you’re making an album, as long as you stay true and sincere to the music, because that’s how people connect to it.”
Not surprisingly, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” reflects back on his childhood, with a mix of nostalgia and melancholy.
“I was missing home a lot during the first three, four months in LA, and the only way to reconnect with my town and memories was to write music about it,” he says. The cover art depicts two young siblings in a half-lit bedroom with their toys, and the album evenly divides 22 songs on two discs that are mirror images of one another designed to tell the children’s stories.
“This album is a tribute to my parents and my life in the south of France,” the softspoken multi-instrumentalist says. “I have a brother and we’re very close. The songs are all about the relationship between us. I am pretty shy, and I only really express myself well through music. So this was a way of letting out all those emotions, fears and insecurities. It is also a way for me to behave like a kid, still. In a way, music is my way of trying to prolong my childhood and all that was good about it.”
M83: 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Riviera, 4746 N. Racine, (soldout); jamusa.com.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC