French-Canadian multitalented-musician, Julien Manaud, recently released his new single, “Save Me From Myself.” The song is the first to be heard off of Manaud’s latest EP, Adaptation Vol. 2, which was released through his own label, Lisbon Lux Records.
Manaud defines himself as a music cinematographer, both composer and musician, performer and also sound engineer, producer, editor, and manager. Having worn several hats in this industry since the start of his career, there was plenty to chat about with the multi-talented artist.
Thanks for your time Julien. How is 2021 treating you so far and what are your plans for the year ahead?
Julien Manaud: “2021 will be busy for me as label manager. We are planning, in addition to my EP, five album releases, including the highly anticipated first album of Canadian artist Russell Louder. I took advantage of the lockdown to move our offices from Lisbon Lux and be ready to receive my employees (who have been teleworking for almost a year) in a new location by the end of 2021.”
Plenty to talk about so we’ll start with your new EP, which is a follow-up to your 2019 album. Was there always a plan to put out two EPs and what were your criteria for the songs you chose to cover?
“I liked the idea of dividing the project into two parts. The first EP was to have all French covers (I was born in France, and moved to Montreal, Canada 15 years ago). So I released the first EP in January 2020 with four covers of the artists I represent first in French, and I decided to release a second EP in 2021, this time with four songs of English-speaking artists I represent. The choice of songs was made with pianist Alexis Dumais. I sent him a larger list and asked him which ones inspired him to make piano arrangements, and that’s how we managed to select the songs.”
In terms of the future, will there be a third in the series?
“I’m not planning an Adaptation Vol.3, at least with the same concept. I’m very busy as a label manager, but if I find the time, I’d rather produce a different album, probably instrumental, and very rich in musical arrangements. I’m a big fan of film music, of the band AIR, etc. Maybe I’d like to write the music for a film that doesn’t exist?”
The artists are all from your label Lisbon Lux, what prompted you to start a record label and what do you look for in an act?
“From the age of 18, I played in bands where I was quickly involved in the management. I was the one who looked at the contracts, did the tour management, I wanted to move the project forward (I was less interested in playing live, but rather in creating music in the studio as well). After several musical projects, a few tours around the world, and some success, I realized that this was not what I was looking for anymore. I wanted to pass on my knowledge to new projects. I like the pedagogical approach in my work.
What I am looking for in an artist is that he sounds like ‘Lisbon Lux Records.’ We are a label with a precise artistic direction and I know in a few minutes if an artist fits or not. We develop an indie sound, like a good local restaurant, I’ve never been attracted to sell albums on Costo, for that you have to make ‘Costo music.’”
2020/2021 has been a brutal year for the industry as a whole. What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
“The biggest challenge was the show aspect. We had to cancel nearly 50 shows, 45 in the United States (for Das Mörtal and Le Couleur) even though it was months of work. The artists are very eager to get back on stage and the situation is becoming long and stressful. We have decided to refocus our efforts on radio, synchronization of music to image, online sales, etc. and we are lucky in Canada to have a government that supports the arts. We have received support which has allowed us to keep our staff but let’s just say that we are very eager to get out of this cycle.”
Aside from the label and your music, you’ve been involved in the industry across many areas. Firstly, you must have some great stories you can tell us? Any favourites you’d care to share with our readers?
“My best memory as a musician is probably a tour in China that we did with the Montreal band Chinatown in 2008 (we were a kind of Blur singing in French). We did 17 la-ba concerts. We had a bit of a Franz Ferdinand look and we had a bit of a Beatlesmania look. Hordes of fans after the concerts, sometimes obliged to call the police to escort us out of the venues, we lived so many emotions in three weeks… something that united me for life with the four other members of the band. As a label, my favourite moments are when I receive the final master, I listen to the demos again, and I see the path taken by the artist, thanks to his work as well as ours. It’s like making a piece of furniture, it’s very concrete.”
Going back to the start though, what took you into the entertainment industry as a career?
“From 13, 14 years old, I wanted to be a musician. I invested all my time in it. By the age of 25, I had played around 1,500 concerts. Then, once in Canada, I wanted to continue my career but I started to feel a little tired of touring, and also other desires, I didn’t see myself at 50 years old on a stage. I started to make albums and commercial music, but finally, the idea of creating a label with a specific genre interested me. I saw Montreal bands with potential that didn’t fit with the local labels, so I started my own vision with the help of Steeven Chouinard (former partner in Lisbon lux Records, and also the drummer of the band Le Couleur, with whom I still work closely). I love my job, I really enjoy my job, I’m really blossoming between the studio, the festivals, and the accounting (laughs).”
On a similar note, what do you think have been the biggest changes, good and bad, to the industry?
“I find that the turn to all digital/streaming has unfortunately not been managed in the right way. Before we used to blame the majors for stealing artists, now the powerful ones are techies, Spotify, etc… we can tell ourselves there is not much difference between Soulseek/Napster and Spotify, the incomes are almost the same (zero or almost) except that at least, in Soulseek’s time, people still bought physical formats in large quantities. This actual market mainly based on live concerts is very fragile, as we can see right now.”
As you’ve worn many hats in the industry, where would you say your biggest passion lies?
“What I prefer is to be in the studio with the artists, to participate actively in the evolution of the songs, the albums. I could stay locked up there for several weeks or months. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in the studio in France, in New York, in Montreal a lot, in those moments, time stands still, it’s an isolation that I love.”
We’ve already discussed changes to date within the entertainment industry. Where do you see the industry going in the future?
“Hard to say. I think we will know less ‘big icons’ who will make long careers like Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones. The market is now fragmented around the world, everyone listens to his music in his corner. There will be fewer albums that everyone will know by heart like the time of Nirvana, etc. Artists become famous because of a video game, TikTok, the rules have changed a lot. Festivals have also changed because people are less concerned by the lineup (as we can see festivals sold out before even announcing the lineup) but rather because they live the experience of the place themselves, through their Instagram, etc. I think that the musical offer is only going to grow and grow, which is good, but it will also reduce the impact of an artist in our lives. People like playlists, and spend less time listening to whole albums, so artists have to give up the concept album, etc. It’s a bit sad I think for the creation.”
And what about yourself? What are your goals and ambitions?
“My goal is to release records without commercial compromises, without artifice to ‘please the masses.’ I couldn’t sign an artist ‘ready for anything’ who would do any kind of music to become famous. Above all, I want to develop and maintain a healthy community and help them express their art in a free and professional way. I recently dreamt of being in a tight lineup where it was very hot. A situation that is often complained about, and yet I miss it so much right now. Personally, I want to see my daughter grow up happy. I want to help her become a creative and self-confident person, with a strong sense of criticism and analysis, while doing good around her.”
We’ve already talked about your plans for the year ahead. On a personal level, it’s going to be another tough year for many people. What are your hopes and expectations for 2021?
“I want people to understand that vaccines will speed up the return to normal, as they have done for 130 years. That discipline now will prevent the situation from getting any worse. On our side, the Lisbon Lux team will work hard, stay focused to help our artists feel understood, and develop their art in a safe space.”