The musical mad scientist speaks about a life dedicated to the mechanics of sound, and working with everyone from Robert Wyatt and Aphex Twin to Issey Miyake and Jaki Liebezeit.
Pierre Bastien’s work has seen him gradually refine and expand upon a practice of building his own instruments — he refers to them as players — a childhood curiosity that led him to create his own 80-piece machine orchestra, Mecanium. As a solo artist and Mecanium leader, he’s composed music for dance companies; performed in ensembles such as Operation Rhino, Nu Creative Methods, and Effectifs de Profil; and collaborated with an array of creatives, including Pascal Comelade, Robert Wyatt, Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit and Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. Bastien has released dozens of solo and collaborative albums, most notably for experimental British electronic label Rephlex. His most recent, 2015’s Blue As An Orange, was released on Rabih Beani’s Morphine Records; it is a recording of his Silent Motors performance work, described as “an ensemble of musical automatons constructed from Meccano parts and activated by electro-motors, that are playing on acoustic instruments from all over the world.” He speaks about the wondrous world of his players, the mysterious-but-loving messages from Richard D. James himself and Jaki Liebezeit’s ability to play tighter than any drum machine.