Something I’ve wanted to write about since I started editing my first online course, is the amazing music which I’ve used throughout the videos, all of which was created by one prolific, thoughtful and inventive musician: Rrrrrose (formerly Monplaisir)/Loyalty Freak Music.
If you’ve ever listened to any of my podcasts you’ll know I approach the very concept of “background music” with a good dose of suspicion; I strongly feel that sounds are tied to particular times, memories and contexts and I think that treating field-recordings and music as neutral surfaces or wallpaper to just paste on in the background is always a missed opportunity to be intentional, and to use sound as another layer of meaning and significance for our work.
Simultaneously, while working on my first online course – KNITSONIK Bullet Journaling – the prospect of 4+ hours of video content with no music felt very austere to me, and not what I wanted to put before a group of keen journalers! And, as much as I love field-recordings, I thought it would be too intense to soundtrack my course with baaing sheep, or the sounds of rain on the roof, or spinning wheels or urban birdsong or any of the other many things I have recorded over the years. Accessibility was a concern as well; I wanted to use music to create a friendly and positive atmosphere of play, curiosity and adventure, but also for it not to dominate so much that students would struggle to hear the content of the videos. With such a specific list of criteria, I first thought I might compose all the music myself but quickly realised that this could become a bigger project than building the course, and so shelved that as impractical.
Therefore, some years ago when I first started to think about online teaching, I began exploring what was then the Free Music Archives website, looking for music 1. released under a creative commons license, to avoid complex and expensive licensing arrangements beyond the scope of my tiny one-woman business 2. speaking to the gentle mood of creative adventure with which I aim to suffuse my teaching spaces; and 3. – and this is the hardest bit to explain – I knew I wanted to use music with very little production on it… something uncompressed… analogue; home-made;… something that could easily be the sound of a neighbour, doodling away on their instrument, the notes drifting out through an open window. I wanted to find music which would speak to one of my central themes: creativity as an abundant, daily-life resource – something we can pick up and play every day. And that idea of PLAY was part of what I wanted, too.
My rather fussy search continued for a while until, one day, I stumbled on It’s Time For Adventure which I now know to be the first in a long series of such albums made by Rrrrrose under their Komiku alias. These musical adventure albums are built for fantasy games, places or adventures that do not yet exist. If you’ve read my Sourcebook, you’ll know the idea of an adventure is precisely how I like to frame all creative endeavour, so this idea really spoke to me. I just loved the imaginative concept, and the sense of a broader narrative or context behind the music.
As I listened more and more, I began feeling that the music for this first adventure album has something indefinably emotional and quest-like in it. It contains zero sung-lyrics, so was also ideal to have on in the background for tasks involving a lot of writing. It quickly became not only the music I wanted to use in the course itself, but also the soundtrack of its planning and production.
Many of the people who did my course in May reported back that the music was a highlight – it was for me as well. I really hope you’ll enjoy reading more about its background, context, and the amazing person who created it. In this Q&A, Rrrrrose and I begin by talking about that amazing adventure series and go on to speak about some of the other projects that have come out of their seemingly bottomless creativity.
Happy Reading and Listening and, if you find you enjoy the music of Rrrrrose/Loyalty Freak Music you can buy, download and enjoy all of it here: https://chezmonplaisir.bandcamp.com/music and read more about them and their music here: https://loyaltyfreakmusic.com/.
Felix: Thank you so much for joining us on the KNITSONIK blog! I wanted to start by asking you about your adventure albums… I love the idea of creativity as an adventure – a search for the thing; you know roughly where you’re going, you have the map and compass; – but you don’t know exactly how it’s going to unfold. You pack the bag, you start out, off you go… would you mind telling us a bit about these adventure soundtracks?
Rrrrrose: I started to produce It’s time for adventure songs for a Role Playing Game forum where I was active for like five or six years. We were celebrating the ten year anniversary of the forum that year. That first album was, in fact, background music representing the towns and places of that forum. It was also the first album I dared to put under creative commons 0 public domain licence on archive.org. The forum had a medieval fantasy theme so I wanted to mix acoustic instrumental music with some « magical » effects produced using the guitar. For the next few adventure albums, I was more focused on trying to do some RPG (Role Play Games) video-game like music, with a battle theme, a boss them… With the third album, I decided to do some music speaking to J-RPG (Japanese Role Play Games) tropes and heavily inspired by the music of the Final Fantasy franchise. Following that third album, you can find some leitmotivs running through all the songs. I wrote a timeline of the songs to create a kind of a story to accompany all the tunes but sadly that playlist isn’t available anymore (we can’t go to the Free Music Archive member page since the whole website changed hands and was restructured). That series of albums, and mostly the first album, is maybe my most well-known and oft-used work. The first album was highlighted with the use of « Bleu » in the Nicky Case Evolution of Trust project. It was really unexpected, haha, before that my work wasn’t used much by other creators – I was really lucky that my work was found and used. It was a great experience to do that false soundtrack. It was one of my dreams to work on the music for a game and I didn’t want to wait for a developer to make me a proposal. It’s happened a few times now since that soundtrack has been released; I’m so happy about that.
After that, I took a small break from that project and became more focused on learning how to correctly use virtual instruments on my digital audio workstation. And after some time – (three years, haha) – I eventually missed doing acoustic recordings of soft songs and battle theme, so here it goes again ! – and recently, I revived the project with The adventure goes on, vol.1.
Felix: You release different sorts of music under different names – Monplaisir; Komiku; Demoiselle Döner; etc. – could you say a bit about these different aliases, and how they are part of your creative process, when you are making music? And do you have a preferred name – for if someone refers to you? In my videos for my online course, I have credited the music to Monplaisir/Loyalty Freak Music – or Komiku/Loyalty Freak Music if it’s from a Komiku release! But is there a different credit that you prefer?
Rrrrrose: Every aliases serve a different way of producing music. Some are more about aesthetics (Soft and Furious with electronica music, Dancefloor is Lava with noisy disco, Demoiselle Döner with super lofi/harsh noise/experimental stuff, BG du 72 with french protest lofi songs, Tequila Moonrise for tropical goth music, Anonymous 420 with remixing utilitarian music and remixing stuff in general…). Some are bands I have with friends (Comme Jospin, A tape full of mistake, Adeline Adrenaline…). Some are more about utilitary music (Komiku for RPG-like music, Loyalty Freak Music for totally utilitarian music in a more royalty free music way…). Some aliases are « dead » like Alpha Hydrae. Monplaisir is on their way to disappearing in favour of the alias Rrrrrose Azerty (mostly because Alpha Hydrae and Monplaisir are also taken by other bands). And some aliases are more about passionate music. Like Monplaisir, BG du 72 or Rrrrrose Azerty are about my anarchist-ic needs and thoughts, and Soft and Furious is totally about gender fluidity and my way to live it.
Felix: Your amazing album I’M NON BINARY GENDER FLUID AND PROUD improvised around guitar pedals arranged roughly in the colour sequence of the LGBTQI+ flag strike me as a brilliant example of the imagination, inventiveness and heart you seem to bring to everything you make. The breadth of different sonic textures in your work is absolutely amazing – synthesisers, guitars, pedals, all sorts of different instruments – could you share a bit about what you use to build your sonic worlds, and say something about your journey as a musician? I grew up playing the flute and the piano, and then later I got interested in field recording and picked up the accordion because I realised I love the immediacy of a song – and I’d love to know a bit about how you got to this point, where you are producing all this beautiful music all the time… how did you get here?
Rrrrrose: Flute is so good, I’d love to know how to play it well ;___;
I wasn’t really interested in music before I met some friends who played together in a band. I started to play drums with them and learned to play and improvise on the guitar with a friend; I was like eighteen years old. After that, I focused more on guitar and the use of effect pedals on my playing style. I was a bit obsessed by dexterity and skill but after years of practicing and not being an awesome guitarist, I stepped from that way of practicing the instrument and towards a more personal way of playing the guitar. Aside from the guitar, I practiced a bit of bass guitar, singing… a little bit of piano. I am completely self-taught both on instruments and in my understanding of musical theory and so I have a lot of flaws, and am incapable of reading sheet music. My music ideas come mostly by copying other artists to try to reproduce their sounds but I often fail, like 99 % of the time, haha. If I find an interesting idea somewhere, I’ll try to do an album about it with by my own means, to not forget it. I’ve a tendency to forget everything so recording stuff and publishing it helps me to remember ideas. It’s a bit hard when I’m stuck in one idea because I often feel I’m trapped in one place. So it’s nice sometimes to listen to old stuff; remember an old idea; and try it again.
To work, I use a Zoom H2N and H4n to record my instruments and do some field-recording when I travel. On my little desk to record at home, I use a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 and Reaper DAW. For my instruments, it’s mostly cheap second hand guitars, I prefer to invest in effects pedals when I can. I like the sound of cheap acoustic instruments or broken but still working stuff. Now, I’m trying to learn more about how to play tenor saxophone, haha, it’s a work in progress which you’ll have heard if you’ve listened to my most recent Komiku albums.
Felix: Everything you release is offered under a Creative Commons License – which is amazing and so generous – but it sort of goes against the traditional financial model for musicians, where licensing rights are – traditionally – how musicians make money. What was the decision behind making your music freely available for people to download and remix, to use in their projects, with reference and credit to you?
Rrrrrose: Before releasing my first album, I discovered a website proposing free music and creative commons licences. It was nice and had a great community so I decided to participate. Everything on it was released under a Creative Commons By Nc Sa license. I didn’t trust the French musical rights collection body (I still don’t trust them now!) and felt my work at that time wasn’t good enough to protect by paying a company to protect my copyright and collect royalties on my behalf. After some time and several albums, I decided to put out all my work under Creative Commons 0 (when I uploaded my work on Free Music Archive the first time). I thought it was a good idea because the search engine of FMA was really great, and releasing my music under the most liberal licence meant it would appear at every step of licence searching so more people would find and use it. I really think now it was the best idea I’ve had because now my music travels the world and people are doing my marketing for me, haha. It’s the work I most hate doing. Free Music Archive was the biggest lever on my decision to do that. I miss the old website team so much. After a bit of time, I’m actually earning a little money through my music; not very much but it’s getting bigger and more regular as time goes on. I don’t think I could say the same if my music wasn’t free. It’s a totally different way of working with your music and I’m really not comfortable doing large marketing campaigns to promote music; nor do I want to be in competition for attention with other bands who sound better than me and who are sexier with their merch and aesthetic. Marketing my stuff is another job I really don’t want to have, haha.
Felix: There is a sort of zine/gamer/scrapbook texture to your bandcamp page – with live casts; beautiful little handmade album covers; and these lovely names that you give to your music; it feels like your creativity spills across multiple mediums – digital art; writing; and music – and like you are carving out a specific and beautiful little corner of the Internet which speaks to several different interests. Could you say a bit about the different media that feed into your creative process – not just music but how you put together releases and the different things that influence and feed into what you make?
Rrrrrose: If I am not playing music or recording stuff, I play videogames or read about music and writing. I love reading theory books, mostly about experiments in art or politics in art. I am greatly inspired by the work of Kenneth Goldsmith on Uncreative Writing (I really use that kind of writing to write some of my song titles), and enjoy reading about experiments in music and art such as John Cage’s compositional strategies, or the Fluxus approach to producing music. I try to put everything in the workshops I’ve started to do at my workplace, exploring experimental music practice via musical games I’ve tried to create or reproduce.
Videogames are a big influence in my aesthetic, mostly for my Komiku alias; all those albums are for videogames that don’t exist. In this case, I try to invent a scenario with underlying gameplay mechanics and scenes, as the basis for a coherent musical universe.
For my visual arts, I try to create my own cover art. When that’s not possible, I use the Flickr searching engine for CC0 images, haha. I’m not that good at taking pictures or thinking visually, and my only skills are a bit of pixel art, and crossing stuff out, haha. So a few months ago I decided to concentrate my visual aesthetic around that sketchy style, because pixel art refers so strongly to videogames.
Last but not the least, I think that politics drive me a lot in my process of creation. When it’s not possible for me to go out and protest, my alternative acts of resistance include creating free stuff with anarchist references in the song titles, lyrics or in the mechanics of how the music is built.
Aside from doing music, I’ve worked a bit on creating games with the Bitsy application (you can find all my little games here https://monplaisir.itch.io/), I also try to take time to write poetry because it helps me to let off steam when I can’t play music (mostly written in colouring books so it’s always a bit beautiful).
Felix: Because I work with knitting and sounds, I was especially drawn to Unraveling Chords – the piece you produced using recordings made of knitting machines in the workshop of Cecile Feilchenfeldt; could you tell us about your experience of visiting the studio and what it was like for you, working with these sounds and integrating them into your music?
Rrrrrose: It was super fun to do. She proposed that I could record some sounds in her workshop after my partner invited me to the workshop, and we met. We did the recordings in the morning. It was super weird at first because I’d only known the workshop when nobody was working in it (I always go when they have finished working so I don’t bother the workers) so seeing my partner and her coworkers working in silence after I started recording with my microphones was a little bit tense and weird. But the results were really incredible. All that mechanics; those sounds; it was inspiring. There is so much to listen to and to work around. After listening to everything, I thought it would be better to integrate my recordings from the workshop into a sort of minimal techno with some heavily-reverbed guitar. I hope I can do more recordings of sounds in workplaces; I think it’s a great way to appropriate the routine of workers and make it live again outside of the workplace.
Felix: what you say reminds me of the album Mossley Mill by Robert Jarvis; it was a beautiful musical project, all built around field recordings and oral histories with factory workers. There’s something there about rhythms and labour, which really speaks to my interest in repeat patterns in knitting, and the whole idea of rhythms in sound – the KNIT and the SONIK!
Thank you so much to Rrrrrose for joining me on the KNITSONIK blog today; I really can’t say enough good things about the rich, curious, playful sonic world of Loyalty Freak Music; I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a bit more about this important element in the videos for KNITSONIK Bullet Journaling; I honestly feel the course would not be what it is without this central element. Please do go and spend some time going through the many hundreds of hours of glorious music on Rrrrrose’s bandcamp page; it is genuinely The Sonic Palace of Dreams.
Yours in a glorious profusion of sounds and thank you again to Rrrrrose for all your sonic inventions –
YOURS IN ALL THE SOUNDS X