Anoraak on Traveling the World and the Spectrum of Electronic Music

The French rocker-turned-DJ tells us about keeping it real in the face of his unexpected success in the world of synthesizers and samplers.

by Emil Hofileña, photo by Renzo Navarro
Philippine radio stations are, for the most part, saturated in American electronic music. Not to discredit the popularity and success that these EDM artists have earned—but there’s still nothing quite like being taken to the unique musical frontiers that European DJs and electronic acts have been venturing into for decades. So whenever an artist from across the proverbial pond—no matter how obscure or well known they are—makes their way to our shores, it feels that much more like an event.

Enter Anoraak, the stage name of French musician Frédéric Rivière, who made his second trip to the Philippines on October 20, headlining Fred Perry’s Subculture Live at XX XX, Makati City.


With two (arguably, three) full-length albums and several more EPs and singles to Anoraak’s name, Rivière has displayed supreme confidence in exploring the vast spectrum of electronic music. Since starting in 2008, Anoraak has taken on the guises of sun-drenched synthpop, French house, and darker, disco-influenced EDM—all without betraying his rock roots. Live instruments and generally unaltered vocals mark much of Rivière’s repertoire, ensuring that the human element never gets lost amid all the synthesized beats. Anoraak doesn’t have the largest dedicated fanbase in the Philippines, but we could learn a thing or two from Rivière’s sincerity. He’d be doing us a favor.


Below, the French DJ talks to us about his music, performing live, and hearing Daft Punk for the first time.


How did your interest in electronic music begin?


The electronic music/DJ world, I was not looking for it. It just accidentally happened that my project was considered electronic music. When I started Anoraak, I was in bands. And at some point, I started to make beats with drum machines. So I started like this and, instantly, people labeled my music as electronic, 80s, retro—which was not a problem, but a bit surprising. And people started asking me to do DJ sets, which I had never done before, and I just got into this big world I didn’t know, ‘cause I was definitely coming from the rock scene, which was pretty different at the time.


How is your songwriting process different now, compared to when you were in bands?


It depends on the track. Sometimes I start with a drumbeat or something very electronic, or just a keyboard sound, and you just feel the track over it. But sometimes you just start with a guitar, you just write a song that you would do for a rock band, then afterwards you reproduce it electronically. But it depends. Every track is a different, new experience. It comes as it comes.



When a lot of people think French electronic music, they think of artists like Daft Punk and Justice. Are they as influential in France as we think?


Yeah, definitely. They’re not even French anymore. It’s more like they’re masters of electronic music and that’s it. Back in the late 90s, it was not like now. Rock and electronic music were two separate gardens. I was a real, real rocker—long hair, holes in my jeans, I’d say, “Fuck techno!” I thought I hated electronic music just because I loved rock music. And one day I heard Daft Punk, and it just rocked my world. I was not expecting to be so hooked by electronic shit.


How does touring and traveling the world influence your music?


I’d always wanted to travel since I was a child. I had a globe and I spent hours on it to know how the world was and to spot some places I wanted to go. It was an obsession. So, definitely, the traveling is a strong influence for me. But I think everything is a strong influence. Everything you hear, everything you see, even if you don’t like it—it’s influencing you in a way. It’s just driving you to new thoughts.


How can you tell if you’ve played a good gig or not?


It depends on the places you play. In some countries, people won’t go nuts. They’re pretty quiet, just listening and watching your show. Like in China, for example, it’s crazy because they’re very respectful, but at the end they come to you stunned, amazed, like, “Wow, that was a great show.” And sometimes people are so crazy not just because it’s your music but because they want to blow off some steam and party. But I’m trying not to think too much about this. I’m just trying to do my thing, and if it works, then great. If it doesn’t work, I did my best anyways.


Where do you see your music going in the future?


It’s just coming as it’s coming. I thought too much in the past about these kinds of things; now I just want to forget it and make music. I just want to make stuff that I enjoy. Because I really think that if you enjoy what you’re making, it’s going to be much easier to perform it, to sell it, to put it out there, and to be proud of it. It just has to be sincere.


I’m guessing you don’t feel pressure from what’s popular to mainstream audiences.


Not at all. I’m not even trying to go down that road a little bit. That’s how [Anoraak] started: I just made music to please myself, and at some point, people liked it and asked me to play. There were some moments where I was like, maybe I should try to step up. But to step up, maybe I should do some compromises in the music. And that was not a very good experience. When I love what I do, when it comes out of my heart, that’s when it works the best. And for me and for the audience, the feedback is always better. That’s how I work.


What is it about electronic music that brings people together?


Oh, because it’s definitely in its own time. We’re in a DJ era. I think it all started with Justice. They’re not the only ones, but they’re the biggest, they’re more symbolic. They came up with something—a laptop on stage and a shitload of lights—and they could fill enormous rooms. So a lot of people said, “Wait, if I buy just a laptop and a couple speakers and I do this in my room, I can do some crazy batshit music and potentially make a lot of money out of it?”


You need to put much more of yourself, physically, into a band. You have to rent a room, find good guys to play with, rehearse for years to get the right songs as a band. And it’s—I wouldn’t say easier—but it’s more straightforward to get just a laptop and make electronic music. It’s the thing of nowadays.



Listen to Anoraak on Spotify.