A man with more than a trick in his hat, Jardin – real name Lény Bernay, born in Creil (France) in 1988 – makes hard-edged electronic music with hints of punk. A recent arrival in Brussels, he’s quickly established himself on the local scene as both a recording and visual artist. Here, he talks to us about his childhood neighbourhood, his trial-and-error approach to music and getting TLC’s No Scrubs as a birthday present.
Jardin means garden in French. I chose this word cause my first love was a flower and my second is still a warm summer. I also like the idea of a colourful and outdoor place to make music.
What’s your music about?
It’s technologic music, a cross between an erotic diary and an outdoor political talk. It’s also a meeting point for improvisation and a wide range of dance and popular culture. I have been making rap music since I was 12 until I was 21, so rap still influences my music. When I started the project it quickly became more analogue but I kept the position of a master of ceremony – or a mistress of ceremony to quote Contessa Stuto. I discovered dance music really late and I’ve been touched by it’s lyrical power, like deep, emotional or political statements. Then I started to organise raves with different collectives and blended this energy and engagement with a bit of a punk attitude.
Where were you born, and where are you based today?
I was born in Creil, 60 km north of Paris. I spent only a few years there but I clearly remember gunshots in the nights, junkies’ needles on the way to school, and my friend’s parents involved in drug trafficking or sects. It was a sad and poor place but I was a lucky boy and my mother brought me closer to the Atlantic Ocean and my father lived in the countryside with my brothers. Now I’m spread out between Bordeaux and Brussels and I hope to be completely settled in the Forest area really soon! There is an invisible bridge between these two cities, a shared feeling for electronic music that is a bit punkier and more experimental than other places.
How did you first get into music?
It’s my parents’ fault. They were both vinyl collectors and part-time musicians. I remember spending every Sunday on flee markets looking at Lego’s while my father was digging through every vinyl box and one day he bought me a second hand Yamaha PSS 50. I also played a lot with his tr505. Later my mum lent me her ghetto blaster with a mic input and she gave me a little plastic mic that I still have, so I started my first tape recordings with… I don’t remember what I was saying at that time but I remember that MC Solaar had only released two albums that I could sing almost entirely.
Does your work as an visual artist, and you work as a musician, follow the same path?
Visuals, video, writings, music are all parts of my artistic work. I’m focused or, rather, obsessed by ideas like experience, trance, desire and the idea of experiencing a disconnection with reality. All these concepts are concerned with blurry outlines and compromises. A few centuries ago, or in Deleuze’s talks, art was a kind of magic because magic is about invisible things and a bit like physics or chemistry. In that way, I’m definitely a magician when I’m improvising music or when I’m making pictures. To me music and visual arts will become more and more linked because it connects possible physical experiences and concepts, images or fantasies. I am a bit of a hybrid, but sometimes it’s hard to find the right platforms and in Brussels I found Foreseen which is a collective that really understands these preoccupations and I’m glad to work with them.
How would you describe your local scene? The key people and places that shape it…
I discovered Brussels less than a year ago, but I can talk about precious and inspiring encounters like with Dj Pute-Acier who was the first to invite my duo, Our Fortress, at Café Central or Ian Tocor, Sevyce, Exal, LostSoundBytes, Maoupa Mazzochetti, AIR LQD who are gravitating towards l’Epicerie Moderne and motivate me. I also like Musique Chienne, Pizza Noise Mafia, Ssaliva or the big underground reference MéLODiK PiNPON. The list can be longer but the important thing is the mix of the styles and the live approach. Le Barlok and La Petite Île are music squats where I like to hang out but I also have been invited in the artist-run space Deborah Bowmann and Espace Moss which are interesting hybrid art places.
How do you go about recording music?
It depends on the project but I often use a lot of improvised one shots with a stereo recording, not necessarily separated tracks. When I make DJ sets I always have vocals on it and sing a few lyrics I wrote. Sometimes produce is the same process. But I’m not so radical, I always try different ways. I’m essentially interested in accidents, rough and live materials and heterogeneous textures.
Can you describe your recording space for us and the neighbourhood around it?
For few months I worked in a friend’s Drenched Studio in an abandoned shower of a postal centre. Now we are moving to another place. What was interesting and at the same time violent was the contrast between the financial district all around the north train station of Brussels and tens of thousands of foreign migrants on first floor of our building. In that studio I recorded really violent stuff for Jardin, Our Fortress and Sex Body Ache. It was a huge and dark place where we could play really loud music. It has tiles on the walls so you could really feel the highs and mediums rebounding everywhere.
What do you find the most challenging when recording music?
The most challenging thing in making music is being in the now and not being stuck on the idea of representation. This includes truly acting or doing something without being too influenced by doubt or fear. That’s why improvisation is where I feel the most at ease because you are not trying to be something that you anticipated.
Do you have any habit, good or bad, when in the studio?
I talk a lot with the people I invite or I work with. That’s my way of making art and that’s why Jardin is the hardest project for me because I’m mostly alone.
What’s your favourite debut album by another band?
Light Asylum – Light Asylum
What’s the first band tshirt you ever bought?
I don’t like Pink Floyd but I bought a t-shirt from them in an Emmaus store. The black was already grey and on the front side they tried to represent several multi-coloured lasers but it looks more like an abstract painting with lines and the colors a bit worn off.
What’s the first album you ever bought?
I don’t remember the first album but the first single I asked for as a birthday present was No Scrubs by TLC.
What’s the most important piece of music equipment to your recording process, and why?
The microphone cause it connects my breath to the machines and that’s key for me.
Can you recommend a Belgian band we should be listening to?
What were your favourite three albums of the year?
Acid Fountains – Aitana (Hylé Tapes)
Maoupa Mazzocchetti – Laugh Tool (Mannequin Records)
Violent Quand On Aime – Trigger Moral (Simple Music Experience)
What would you say to the budding musicians with dreams of “making it”?
It’s a long journey full of sacrifices and deep joys to try to be a musician. Please use your machines – and your computer is a machine – like objects you can break whenever you want: don’t be a slave and be dirty!
Growing up, what was your dream?
I dreamt of being an adult but at the same time I didn’t want to have hairy legs. Now I have hairy legs and I dream of being a 3 breasted goddess.Jardin’s latest release, A Girl With A Dog In A Rave, was re-issued on vinyl by Le Turc Mécanique on 15th January 2016. A new album will also see the light of day this year. withnofutureeverythingispossible.com soundcloud.com/jardn
Pictures ©Guillaume Héry