French electro-pop singer Anthony Gonzalez lives in Los Angeles and dreams about witches. “I had this crazy dream—maybe a nightmare,” says the leading member of M83. He was skateboarding down a hill, he says, when a horde of witches descended upon him, “flying all around” and forcing him to maneuver around them at breakneck speed.
Gonzalez equates his dreams to “tons of pictures mixed together, tons of memories mixed together,” things not worth interpreting. But these nighttime visions did fuel the production of his latest record, a double album aptly named Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. He calls it a “self-retrospective” work inspired by a mash-up of memories, which came to him in dreams, about his childhood in Antibes, France. The two-part effort is filled with sweeping, grandiose tracks draped in nostalgically retro 1980s instrumentation. Each track on the first disc, Gonzalez says, has a thematic and sonic “sibling” on the second, though it’s a bit of a challenge to determine exactly which tracks are related. Some like “OK Pal” employ the same synth-like vocal yelp of first single “Midnight City” or its energetic and emotive tendencies, while others like “Train To Pluton” have a more ambient, winding appeal.
Midnight City by M83
Assorted as it is, the albums are rooted in a theme that came to Gonzalez after he moved to L.A. just under two years ago. “I was kind of lonely, and I missed my family a lot,” says Gonzalez. “I started to remember dreams I used to dream of as a child.” Gonzalez had “the most wonderful childhood” growing up in the South of France outside of Nice, and his latest album finds him yearning for the simplicity of a childhood where hard decisions were left to his parents. “I miss that, and it’s something I’m never going to be able to live again. So I just want to catch the moment with my music,” Gonzalez says.
As the concept for what became Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming started to take root in Gonzalez’s mind, he was approached at a festival by producer and Nine Inch Nails’ touring bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen about combining their creative forces. Meldal-Johnsen got involved with Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and brought an expert hand to the instruments Gonzalez was eager to try, including saxophone, flute and acoustic guitar. “I play a lot of instruments, but I’m bad at every instrument,” Gonzalez says. “Justin just plays a couple of instruments, but he’s so good at them. When he plays bass, every take is good.” Gonzalez describes the lush, dramatic, dreamy end product as “cinematic,” a style he began exploring while working on the soundtrack for the 2010 French film Black Heaven. The project didn’t work out well due to tensions with the director, and Gonzalez’s dissatisfaction with the experience has been well documented. Too well documented, he says.
“Do we have to talk about this?” he asks, shifting in his chair. “Every time I talk about it I just say bad things about it. My mother said, ‘You have to stop talking about this movie,’” he says. “I just felt like I really tried to experiment with the music, but I was refused by the director. It was a waste of six months of my life.”
Black Heaven will not mark the end of Gonzalez’s foray into producing soundtracks though, as he moved to L.A. specifically to focus more of his time and energy on film music. “I can’t wait to work on a movie where I see something and I say, ‘Oh, I could work hours and hours on this’ because I’m inspired,” he says. But this ambition to break into Hollywood doesn’t spell out the end of M83 so much as it signals a new direction for the artist that allows him to consider both sound and image.