Thomas Méry
email interview by SEB WOOd

This is a mail interview with Thomas Mery (who sang and played the guitar in French post-rock group Purr). It was made in october-november 2001 when Purr had already split up. Purr met with great critical and audience acclamation in France and is definitely one of our favourite french bands. Thomas’ s sincerity makes very interesting his answers to our questions dealing with his opinion about both Purr albums. He also explains what are his opinions about music in general, about his new projects as well as the projects of the other Purr members.

> - Can you introduce yourself ??

yes I can, my name is thomas mery, I'm 29 and I live in Paris at the bottom of the butte Montmartre.
I'm interested in music, internet programming, chatting with friends at the terrasse of a nice café in the sun when possible.

I am anxious, think too much if not right, and don't exactly know what I'm doing here on earth.

> - I know lots of people who like Purr and they all want to know: has Purr definitely split up for good ?

At the moment all Purr members are into different things and there is no plan of recording anything together. But time will tell and we might decide to take a few weeks off to meet somewhere in the country and record some material. Nothing's definite.

> - Purr members all have new projects right now, can tell us about them ?

Jérôme who was playing drums, trumpet and keyboards in Purr is currently pursuing a project called "Berg sans Nipple", you can check their site out :

Stéphane who played bass and did some samples is currently playing with a band called 'Luke'.

Personally, I'm into some kind of electro-acoustic improvisation stuff which involves 'the loop machine' (a custom loop/filter/effects ensemble built into the Reaktor software) and various sound sources such as voice, guitars, noises and so on. I'm also developing some visual systems that can be found on my website :

> - I saw you playing alone but you had several technical problems... I would say that your project is a sort of minimalist approximative electronica with guitar loops, spoken words and video. Am I right ? What's the name and the concept ?

the name is my own : thomas mery

As for your understanding of the project I'd say you're partly right in the sense that it involves guitar, voice and loops. As for the approximative or minimalist aspect it isn't really meant to be either minimalist or approximative but since I'm looking for a way to improvise with the elements mentioned earlier you can feel like I'm looking for things and that's exactly what I want to convey.

As the project goes it can become less approximative and less minimalist or will stay like this. I don't really know right now. What you saw is a step in the process of gathering all that I am at one moment without having prepared anything. Everything is improvised and my goal is to be able to build something out of that, I hope I can master this process more and more.

> - Your website which apparently contains art performances made my computer bug. I couldn't see it so can you explain what is there ?

My website contains the visual systems I mentioned before. Right now there are 2 video objects that react to sound : SMOKe, which is base on a video of smoke rings being played at different places in 4 different boxes, it reacts to my music. CLOUd is based on the same principle but reacts to some sound made by the viewer through his/her microphone.

These objects require the flash 6 player. 

> - Do you have other projects ??

yes I have other projects based on chance and random editing but it's too early to say anything.

Best thing is to keep checking my website for novelties.

> -Let's now talk about the Purr albums if you don't mind... 'Whales lead to the deep sea' had a great critical appraise, which was deserved in my opinion. Five years after its release, now that you've got some perspective, what do you think of it ??

What I'm gonna say about the first Purr album only involves myself and I. Jérôme and Stéphane have different opinions I think.

Basically I think what we did was very emotional and that's why it appeals to people more than the second album. I also think that it came out at a time when there was an interest in all the post rock scene and that's part (to me) of the reason why we got 'so much' attention.

Apart from that I think we put in this album lots of sensitivity and I like that. I can still be moved by some of the songs and think it was a good start for us.

> - I am not the only one to have this impression: the atmosphere of this album is close to 'Spiderland' by Slint. Did you listen a lot to Slint at the time and what were your influences then ?? Is the title of the album a reference to Slint or just a fascination for the sea ??

In the end I think it's an album that's too much anchored in one particular style and you can feel it. It's still a 'oh I like Slint so much' record although we tried to put more than this in it. As I said I really like it but there were many more things to be done. We were listening to Slint a lot indeed and to John Coltrane as well. Our influences where these ones as well as Sonic youth and stuff like that.

The title is an attempt to tell about our fascination for the sea and we thought it mirrored pretty well the atmosphere of the record.

> - In 'Whales Lead...', there is a great alchemy between the music, the voice and samples. How did you choose these cinematic sound excerpts ? It seems that some of the songs are built around them. Did you choose them when composing the songs or after ?

I guess it was not a 'this after that' process but more of a surrounding atmosphere of music and films at the time. So every bit took its natural place and I can't really remember what came after what. Most of the time we had samples and we'd hit a key on the keyboard on top of the music and it would fit right in but the samples were recorded before we knew what the music would be like. At other times we looked for a particular sample for a certain atmosphere but not so much. It was all pretty unconscious.

> - 'Trust' is obviously a reference to the Hal Hartley film. I happen to like this director a lot and I think that the dialogues in his films have a rhythmic quality added to a deadpan, distanced tone. I guess you chose this sample because you liked the film but did you think about these particular aspects of Hal Hartley's dialogues when making your songs ??

No not really, all I know is that the things you say about Hal Hartley's dialogues are probably the reason why it fits so well with our music. What I like first about those samples is the detached tone of them. But as for the other dialogue samples they were chosen for what they say as well, in 'no sex last night' what the girl says is very important to me. And I would recommend listening to a Madonna song, 'What It Feels Like for a Girl' and you'll see that we have a close connection to Louise Ciccone. the excerpt is taken from 'Cement Garden' an Andrew Birkin movie but the title comes from the Sophie Calle movie ‘No sex last night’.

> - Does Hal Hartley know your song ??

I don't have a clue but I doubt it very much.

> - There is another Hal Hartley sample in 'Open Transport' (coming from 'The Book of Life') and the director is mentioned in a song by Herman Dune ('Martin Donovan in Trust' on Switzerland Heritage). Has Hal Hartley influenced all Prohibited bands ?? From here, it seems that Prohibited is a gathering of friends, which would partly explain it, am I right ??

Actually I didn't know that (about the Herman Düne song). And apart from them I don't see any other band from prohibited records having a particular interest in Hal Hartley.

> - Let's talk about your second album which was much less acclaimed than the first one. I think it is quite unfair and it is especially due to the change of sound (but why would a band record all its albums with the same sound ??) and to the fact that you have alternated english lyrics with french ones. What do you think about that ??

Personally I am much more interested in the second Purr album because I think we tried to go somewhere else. Whether we succeeded is another problem. To me the second album is much less accessible in the sense that it is quite dense and requires more listening. Having said that I remain certain it would have touched more people if we'd done exactly what we wanted. Another thing is the fact that at the time I think Jérôme wasn't necessarily into the same problematic than Stéphane and I. I think we both tried to push the record towards something that Jérôme didn't share which probably was a mistake in the sense that it probably would have worked better to listen more to what he had to say.

But I think we laid things for out own different future in music which is good. I am very proud of what we tried to achieve even if didn't reach all my expectations.

> - Another reproach comes from the fact that some people had the impression  that you no longer built your songs around film samples. In 'Open Transport', it really seems that all the samples were added after the songs were finished, were they ? In addition, I have the feeling that there are  much more samples (of any kind) in 'Open Transport' ? Am I right ?

Basically I am bored to death by bands just making the same music album after album, so if people want film samples they listen to the first record and they'll find them. Having said that it is true that most of the arrangements were kind of layered on top of the music and you can feel it which is not good. And yes there are much more samples and that's why sometimes it's quite difficult to get into the music, but I think that's not necessarily because there are too many samples but more because they're not properly included or mixed with the music. We tried to make a more ambitious record and maybe it was too soon or the conditions were not right. On the other hand I think it's a record where you can find new things listening after listening and I like that in a record.

> - Do you think that film samples are overused in indie-rock now ??


> - I like very much this album (except one song). Its atmosphere (that I like a lot) tends towards despair and loss (and also of being lost in time and space) while 'Whale lead to the deep sea'' atmosphere was clearly depressive in my opinion. 'Open transport' was criticized because of its sound and consequently its atmosphere. Do you think that everyone wanted to listen to the dark atmosphere of the 1st album again ??

I think people tend to like what they know, it was much more fun to make a record that would take people somewhere else. Whether they wanted that I don't know but really don't care, some people saw (heard) what we had to say and like the record for this very reason. Music, to me, is about opening your mind and you horizon, not just listening to something nice and that will comfort you in what you already think or feel (or it can be much more than that). Listening to music means wanting to be taken away and if taken somewhere you don't know you might discover things you would never have otherwise.

> - I have the feeling that in 'Open Transport', the songs are linked to one another (except n°4 - the only one I dislike). The instruments are well interwoven (e.g. the beginning of 'squares' with the guitar arpeggios, the magnificent coming of the bass line and then the voice.) in almost all the songs and the lyrics also participates to this impression because you repeat some lines in french in one song and then in English ? What kind of feeling did you want to convey ?

I think I just wanted to express myself and create some kind of linkage between most of the songs so that the album would have a general feel that it would be difficult to escape from. It was kind of a game too.

> - The only thing that really bothers me in this album is when you mix English and French in the same song (e.g. in 'fragments' which is a very good song by the way, the lyrics are in French but the sample is in English).

what can I say ? it was a logical thing to do for me

> - It seems to me that your lyrics often consist of juxtaposition of thoughts or feelings, am I right ??

absolutely, I tend to write as things come into my mind. I'd even like to be able to improvise lyrics just singing what comes to my mind as I'm on stage. I'm working on it.

> - Why did you call it 'Open Transport' ?

Again because I thought it was a nice illustration of the 'we're taking you somewhere' concept. And also because it is the name of data transfer protocol and that as you've probably guessed I'm quite into computers and am very interested in the data and how it relates to everything in life.

Even it sound a bit corny I'd say that I think that everything can be broken into smaller elements and that everything is data.

> - OK, here are very smart questions now:

> - Was you ever bit by a dead bee ??

what do you think?

 > - What's your favourite chord ??

can't remember

> - Since when America has gone wrong ??

who were the first settlers ?

> - What's your favourite pick-up line ??

'are you german ?'

> - Spinal Tap or Gun's n' Roses ??

it's not the same band ?

> - What is your favourite curse word (French or English) ??


> - What freaks the hell out of you ??

how pretentious men are

> - How do you look like in a tuxedo ??

I'll send you a picture

> - Favourite band ??

I have to say Sonic youth even if I'd have like to make a more clever answer.

> - Which question would you ask in this list ??

Since when America has gone wrong ??

> - Thanks.