Controlled Chaos with Pierre Rousseau
The most impactful piece of advice that Pierre Rousseau has ever received arrived inside a fortune cookie. “I’m a bit ashamed, because it should be from something more impressive, but I opened it when I was a student and it said, “Over-prepare, then go with the flow.”
“It kind of applies to everything.”
A musician, composer, producer and sound designer, Rousseau has channeled that slip of Chinese restaurant wisdom into his wide-ranging approach to work and art. Prior to releasing his own music, he co-founded the electronic duo Paradis (currently on hiatus) along with Simon Mény, produces for Nicolas Godin of Air, and and creates soundtracks for diverse brands like Marine Serre, Études, and Rimowa.
“It’s something that I realised recently,” says Rousseau, sat on a leather chair in the Paris basement studio that he shares with Godin, a couple of rooms jammed with listening systems and rare synthesisers from the 70s and 80s. “For the longest time I made things where there was no room for a single mistake, which speaks to some people, but I think it puts most at a distance.
“What’s relatable are these little fragments of life. When it’s too controlled you can’t engage someone so well. I think that’s why, in a very curated world, some people are striving for some chaos. Using a field recording, or ambience or free jazz because it’s so much more… relatable.”
As you might have gathered, Rousseau spends a fair amount of time assessing his approach to… everything. “The way I look at culture, aesthetics, symbolism. That could be what I’m making, what I’m listening to, what I’m wearing, I try to consider all of these things the same way. There isn’t a hierarchy, they’re just forms of expression that make us happy to be here. It affects our lives, so we should think about it.”
A Rousseau day starts early. He’s recently gotten into listening to an entire new album in the morning. He walks to the studio every day and will ignore his phone once he’s there. “I think when you’re creating anything, it doesn’t matter what, it’s important to be aware of what’s around you and how impressive it all is. It can be daunting, because in a city like this, so many incredible things that have been created here, but I think it helps you be appreciative, and keeps the ego in check a bit.”
We leave the studio and take a walk towards the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s a perfect day for some appreciation. Rousseau is wearing jeans that were hand-dyed by a friend, a Drake’s vintage mock-neck jumper, and original Ray-Ban Cutters – the ones from The Matrix.
“I’m feeling more carefree with the way I dress now,” he says as we pass through the canopies and neat lawns of the park, the first leaves of autumn decaying on the ground. “I’m dressing more like how I did as a teenager, more free in general.
“It loops back to our conversation about control and style. I think in the past I found some psychological comfort in things being organised and reducing choice. Everything was disciplined and limited. But I’ve been through some life changes over the last few years, and I’ve realised that leaving some room for chaos is what makes me happy now.”