Published Apr 08, 2016The newly released M83 album, Junk, features a number of special guests. But in a recent interview with Exclaim!, Anthony Gonzalez discussed how he decided to change the role he played in the making of the project's first album in five years. According to Gonzalez, there was simply too much of him on 2011's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, so he sought to minimize his vocal contributions.
"I felt like, on the last album, my vocals were very present and I had a hard time with that," he tells Exclaim! "I didn't really enjoy the sound of my voice, and I'm confident in myself as a singer, really. I just wanted to bring more guests to this album. But I also feel like this is my most personal record, which is kind of strange in a sense. There is less of me vocally, but there is more of me musically."
Although it doesn't quite outdo the double-album running time of its predecessor, Junk is without a doubt M83's most ambitious effort to date. The epic synth-pop orchestrations have become weirder and wilder, mostly as a result of Gonzalez's insistence on refusing to hold back on his urges.
"I feel like there were no restrictions on this album," he explains. "There was a lot more freedom. I've always made the albums I've wanted to make, but on this one I just didn't listen to anyone. I just tried to go with the flow and followed the music I was into at the time."
One of the strangest and albeit most alluring features of Junk is the appearance of virtuoso hard rock guitarist Steve Vai on a track called "Go!" For Gonzalez, who grew up listening to Vai's solo work, there was no question about who would best burn up the song's heroic guitar solo.
"I grew up listening to his music, learning how to play guitar when I was a kid," Gonzalez admits, full of awe. "And he was one of the guitar players who really inspired me, because there was something unique about his sound. It was instantly recognizable — if I heard a guitar solo, I could easily tell if it was Steve Vai or not because he had his own way of playing and his own sound. To me, it was the sound of the future. To have him on one of my songs is truly a gift. I was really blessed with the way he jumped into this project."
The other high-profile guest appearance on Junk is a little less surprising. Beck contributes vocals to an '80s slow jam called "Time Wind," which wouldn't completely be outside of the Grammy-winning slacker icon's wheelhouse. But Beck's involvement had a lot more to do with the right connections, which came through the album's co-producer and regular M83 collaborator, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who has played in Beck's bands for decades.
"When I first started to work on the music and shared it with Justin, it almost felt obvious that it was a song for [Beck]," Gonzalez says. "That was also a common wish, to explore the idea of adding Beck because, to be honest, I'm trying to follow the kind of career that he's had. For me, he is one of these artists that is like a chameleon. He can work on a pop album and then come back with a ballad album, something completely different, but still with his sound. Having him on this album was as simple as him being an artist that I really care about."
Check out M83's upcoming tour dates here, and have a listen to "Go!" featuring Mai Lan and Steve Vai below.
Junk is out now on Mute.