Interview: Nicolas Michaux

by Tom Welsh

Belgian songwriter, producer and label leader, Nicolas Michaux, talks about new album, Amour Colére, his dual duties in life and exciting future projects

‘For me, it’s very important to get across the whole picture about what I do or what I am. I don’t want to hide one side of me to be more cohesive – I‘m always searching for the two sides to everything.’

The duality of humanity is a theme that runs through both the life and work of Nicolas Michaux. Currently dividing his time between his native Belgium – where he is a producer and an integral part of Brussels-based Capitane collective – and the idyllic Danish island of Samsǿ with his young family, Michaux’s music acts as an exploration of his opposites.

Originally attracting acclaim with 2016’s A La Vie A La Mort, new album Amour Colére (translating as Love Anger) is a bilingual collection of high-end bedroom pop that explores Michaux’s past, present and future in a way that reflects the dynamic nature of his reality.

‘There’s these two poles – two extremities – that are running through the record,’ explains Michaux. ‘The record looks like my life in a way. All the love side is very influenced by the life I have in Samsǿ – it’s directly influenced by this change in my life and there’s this pastoral feeling in some of the songs, but then you also have some of the more city, Brussels-inspired songs.’

This dichotomy is best exemplified by the rustic feel of the opening track, Harvesters, which exalts the virtues of holistic family living, and the power-baiting Parrot, which struts on its seventies palette while simultaneously displaying an anger against established echelons and a love for those active in opposition.

These themes are reflective of what Michaux sees as his two core duties in his dual life. ‘Since I became a father, and also had more responsibilities towards other people here in Brussels, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is to be a decent person,’ explains Michaux.

‘My conclusion is that my duty is to do two things: to be with my family and child, and make it so she spends a good childhood knowing the animals and the ocean, being connected to the real things I life, but also to be on the right side – to be with those who are fighting to save the planet and work towards more social equalities.’

This drive for equality also feeds into his musical life, both for his own art and the Brussels scene and beyond that has found an ally in the Capitane label.

‘When I started Capitane two years ago, I was working with many other musicians, but we didn’t have a structure to express ourselves how we really are. We’d be making music and then we’d be spending months and months persuading people to spread the word, but there was always something wrong with the relationships. Capitane is a musician-owned label, and I try to be and do as good as I can for the musicians.’

The desire for the honesty of expression and an organic way of working is evident across the Capitane collection, and is further exemplified by Michaux’s warm, stripped-back production as displayed on Amour Colére.

‘I try to go for the core of the songs – I don’t care about the frills,’ says Michaux. ‘I like the very simple and naked production in general – I think there is a lot of beauty in being very simple and going only for the basics. I really tried on this record to make sure that every instrument – every part on the record – would be soulful and useful to the song.’

With much of this year understandably spent holed up working on records – both Michaux’s own and others for the label (cult American songwriter Turner Cody has an exciting upcoming project with Capitane) – Michaux hopes some scheduled live dates will go ahead, although thoughts have already turned to how to make his next record a more democratic process.

‘I would like to do a much more collective record next – Amour Colére was recorded alone with just a drummer. It was very creative, and I like the loneliness of creation, but I think next time I would like to do in another way – I want it to be a collective venture.’

Nicolas Michaux’s new album, Amour Colére, featuring the single, Enemies, is out now.

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