25 February 2016

Luc's Musical Journey Around Europe

Written by Published in Art & Culture
Turkey Festival
© Elif Savaşcı Alparda
Switzerland - Van at night
Scotland - Working in Van

French sound-engineer Luc de La Selle is on a mission: to meet European musicians, live alongside them and record their music for free

Euro-PA is the name of the project and since 2014 Luc has filmed over 300 live performances with around 180 bands or artists, across 29 different countries. In present-day Europe, where uneasy politics and migration make regular headline news, Euro-PA is committed to presenting a continent seen solely through musical experience. It’s an artistic exchange built on trust and creative comradeship, a new way of working and presenting the richness of European culture, and is a far cry from complicated commerce.

Travelling alone in a black Renault van, and with little money in his pocket, Luc is something of the modern Renaissance traveller, a man committed to physical, intellectual and spiritual self-sufficiency. His recordings and films are defining a new cartography for Europe: an increasingly detailed map drawn with image and sound. The journey is epic, the road is unpredictable no final destination has been defined.

Helen Van Kruyssen met with Luc to talk about the inspiration behind Euro-PA and life alone on the road.

Sublime: You worked as a sound engineer for a music venue in Angouleme before touring France for five years with the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre. Why did you decide to quit and start Euro-PA?
Luc de la Selle:
Life on the road became my new existence and I loved constantly being faced with the challenge of a new work condition; but most of all I loved meeting different people and the variety of sound experiences. I felt the call to the road, as in Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild.’ I wanted to install myself in the lifestyle of the ‘road,’ but on my own terms.

In 2014 I had the idea to travel around the whole of Europe by myself, meeting musicians and working with them. However I didn’t want it to be like a long holiday, or mid-life crisis. I came up with the idea of offering to shoot a live video for free, in exchange for food, a bed and a shower.

luc-de-la-selleEthnic Band. Turkey Ekofest. Image © Hakan Gürbüz

S: How did you begin to make contact with the musicians?
I went to see a few old friends, but mainly musicians I’d connected with through Bandcamp and Facebook. This worked well. However, in the beginning, I think people were a bit confused. They didn’t understand why I was doing it for free. It was difficult for them to take me seriously. But as the tour progressed and word spread between musicians, it became easier to drive the project forward.

S: How does videoing and recording musicians for free change the experience of working with them?
When money is taken out of the equation the artist feels free and the relationship between us deepens. Because I take care of the shoot’s technical concerns, all that’s left is the music. It’s about releasing a live music performance from the frame often imposed by the music industry machine, and recording the truth of the moment. With me, people are free to record as they wish, without judgement and expectations. So if the musicians aren’t happy with their performance, I delete the recording.

As Euro-PA isn’t for profit I am free to explore any situation and genre of music. From a family singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ in their living room, to professional musicians choosing to improvise. Euro-PA is not about finding the new band in town but meeting people who enjoy performing.

luc-de-la-selle3Eybrimae quartet. Lisbon, Portugal

S: How does Euro-PA benefit the independent musician?
Video has become the default media to promote themselves on the net. This is the reason why I went from only recording sound to video shooting.

Once I’ve finished the shoot, I edit the rushes in people’s houses. Or in the van, which could be anywhere, by Loch Ness, or up a mountain in France. When the artist agrees I post it on YouTube, which enables them to use the video for their personal use or promotion.

At the moment I’m part of a team developing an online media-platform which is designed to meet the needs of independent creatives, so they not only have a direct link with the public but also the opportunity to directly make money from their work. I plan to use the platform to release the videos I’ll shoot during the 2017 tour.

S: Why do you prefer to live with the musicians that you work with?
Travelling is about the meeting experience and living with them enables me to push that experience further, to get to know them and learn more about the country. Also, being close to them can lead to a stronger artistic connection. I often live with them for between one and four days. If it’s not possible, I’ll sleep in my van.

luc-de-la-selle2Carole Martiné. Germany

S: How does Euro-PA contribute to European identity?
Euro-PA is an observer of the different music cultures in each country and also between countries. The videos I make show very clearly that Europe is a map of different music traditions, each very much connected to its country and at the same time connected to each-other. It highlights how much we are all glued together, yet apart. As an individual observer, I see what I see. But although I am involved in the moment of the shoot, I am also standing back and seeing European music as a French cheeseboard. From a modern band in Amsterdam to folk groups in Turkey, from a classical pianist in Estonia to an experimental saxophonist in Barcelona.

S: Why did you sell your house and give away all your possessions when you decided to commit to Euro-PA?
Travelling with the ballet plus the first Euro-PA tour in 2014 made me realise I didn’t need my house anymore. I wanted to be free of the concerns of running a home. I had bought a van and installed a push-up sleeping space located in the roof, above my sound equipment. I had a new home on wheels and I was free.

S: You grew up in one of the Ark (l’Arche) ecumenical communities where people from different countries choose to live alongside people with disabilities, largely those with Down’s Syndrome. How do you think this influenced the credo of Euro-PA?
Growing up in this alternative environment, and being a boy scout broadened my perspective of society. L’Arche was about meeting people who come from lots of different countries and learning to communicate frankly with disabled people. From a young age I was taught that difference is not a barrier to communication and living together.

luc-de-la-selle4Kararsizlar. Istanbul, Turkey. Image © Axelle Paysant-Le Roux

S: You live on very little money, and have everything you need in your van. How do you sustain yourself?
I set aside a short time each year to tour professionally with the ballet or a choir. I use this money to fund the tour. I only spend what I need to spend. Petrol, ferry tickets and a close acquaintance with budget supermarkets. I have a small gas stove to boil water to make coffee, and drink wine from the same cup I use to brush my teeth. I eat simply: a lot of bread and cheese, and rarely use a plate. The experience of Euro-PA provides everything. I don’t have any other needs.

S: Solitude is a big part of the trip. How do you cope with it?
Luc: In some ways I lead a monastic life. I’ve always had a positive relationship with my solitude – I wouldn’t be able to do this kind of trip if I didn’t like being alone. Sometimes when I’m alone in the bed in my van, and there is no wind, and I lie very, very still, I can feel the van moving to the same rhythm of my heart.

Any loneliness I sometimes feel is mitigated by the deepest part of the tour: the experience of meeting people. This feeds me and helps me deal with my solitude.

Follow Luc on his journey on Facebook: europe.music


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