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Sonic Boom

Q&A
Michel Gaubert sporting one of his beloved scarfs as he strikes a pose.

By Jessica Michault

Music maestro Michel Gaubert is an icon in the fashion industry. For more than four decades, he has composed unforgettable fashion show soundtracks for collections for the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons, Nicolas Ghesquière, Phoebe Philo, Dries Van Noten and J.W. Anderson.

Known for his insatiable need to discover new sound, Gaubert—who is not a trained musician or composer—has gained a reputation for his ability to communicate the emotional essence of a collection through his unique mélange of music. Here, we speak with the sound stylist about his lifelong passion for music, how the digital age of sound has changed his job and his other creatively charming obsession.

What do you remember as the first music that really moved you, one you had a visceral reaction to?
As a kid, I was very much into Rolling Stones and the Beatles, but the music that really got me going was Davie Bowie and other English musicians from the early ’70s. Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was an album that really opened up my whole music life. I was going beyond the music; I was fascinated by the person, the look, the artwork, the lyrics—which were so strange.

When was your ‘aha!’ moment, where you realized you could actually make money doing this, creating an atmosphere with music?
I don’t think I ever realized that moment. I was maybe lucky and met the right people at the right time. In the late ’70s, early ’80s, I was asked to be a DJ at the club Le Palace. That was really the place in Paris at the time, and I met a lot of people there. But I didn’t think I would do it for the rest of my life.

I began to be exposed to fashion shows through a close friend of mine, Dauphine de Jerphanion, who invited me to Mugler shows. It was there that I realized this is what I wanted to do. Mugler was such a good show director—the show mattered to him as much as the clothes. I was fascinated by the energy that all these people put in, and all the effort for something that lasted 25 minutes.

Is there any particular musical form or style that’s especially interesting to you right now?
Over the last few years I’ve gotten into more into melody. I think we’re in the mood where people like listening to melodies—things that are catchy. I’m really tired of listening to music that’s too intellectual—whatever that means!

Can you think of one of the most audacious musical compilations or mixes that you’ve done for a show?
There was one show we did for Jil Sander a few years back. Raf Simons did a whole show that was inspired by Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. We extracted dialogue and sound effects, and we built the whole soundtrack with it. It was very abstract, and it probably drove a few people nuts.

It sounds like you have a very close relationship with the designers when you’re putting music together. Is that always the case?
There are a few designers with whom I’m very close. We exchange ideas, we text, we send emails, we send images. I send them a couple of tracks to listen to. And that’s when I have a really good time. When you connect, it’s the best. And I’m ultra-connected these days.

Have you ever been really surprised by the reaction to your shows?
At the Chanel show in Dallas—that was fantastic. We had the luxury to have the space a few days before to do sound tests and all of that. I didn’t really know what I was going to play because I wasn’t sure what to expect from the sound system, but it turned out to be one of the best ones ever. The whole thing was was quite stunning. It got pretty emotional in the end—people cried—and that’s very rare to achieve.

Is there something you always travel with—besides your laptop?
When I travel I have three or four suitcases; there are a lot of things I can’t be away from! I always travel with cashmere sweaters and scarves. I cannot be without them. They’re essential.

You’ve followed your passion with music, but is there anything else you ever dreamed of doing?
Sure. I love images. I started my Instagram just a couple of years ago, and I have more than 169,000 followers now. I just like to play with images, and I want to try creating music for films.

Are there any missed opportunities you wish you could go back and take?
I decided a long time ago that I would never have any regrets. If it feels right, you shouldn’t be stressed about it. It’s not healthy to regret.

 

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