The “MokoMoko” Musical Adventures and “Fluffy Lifestyle” of Gilles Snowcat
With mainstream artists cramming the airwaves with their usual songs about falling in and out of love, and rock pioneers recycling their classic years, it’s nice to encounter artists unconcerned with the restraints of commerciality or fame. Gilles Snowcat is one intriguing example.
“Anything ordinary scares me to death, because it means it’s over-controlled by some authority,” he says. “Nothing is naturally ordinary, so what gets that label is a danger. Maybe jumping in a plane is a way to escape ordinary duties.”
Snowcat has travelled the globe in his role as band leader and musician, merely flirting with the decadence and debauchery often falsely ascribed to a career in music; his efforts have brought him the support of Japan’s “It’s Oh! MUSIC” label and a good degree of creative control. His latest effort is 2012’s “MokoMoko Collection” a delightful mix of absurd humor and rock, jazz and electronica, with Snowcat’s characteristically gruff baritone supported by a top notch band made up of himself and musicians from the band Awaken (more on them later).
In Japanese, the word “Mokomoko” means “fluffy,” and indeed on the cover of the album he wears a fluffy fur jacket (it’s synthetic – he would never steal from a friend, he says). Intrigued, I pressed Snowcat to reveal the meaning behind this compelling name. Is it only a silly name, or is there something deeper going on? I asked him.
“Something fluffy is going on,” Snowcat says. “It depicts a fluffy lifestyle, a life where everything would be like fluffy, velvety if you prefer. We can call it soft hedonism. Now just remember that fluffy animals have strong claws and unpredictably grumpy behavior.”
As a proponent of the “art rock” movement, Snowcat’s lyrics and music feature the kind of bizarre storytelling and stylistic freedom made popular by artists like the Talking Heads, Sparks, Robyn Hitchcock, and their ilk. And while Snowcat hesitates to cite influences, his approach is rooted in artistic rebellion with a hint of the scoundrel, a la Serge Gainesbourg, whom Snowcat is well acquainted with, due to his upbringing in Belgium (he calls him “a marvelous daredevil, a fabulous lyricist and a fine composer”).
“We would need an encyclopedia if I wanted to cite all of my spiritual masters in music,” he explains. “To make it short, I am fascinated by daring artists, or by anyone having the guts to fly a bit higher than what society expects from them. Being a musician may always be a rebellious act, but there are rebels amongst the rebels, which is even more amazing.”
A career in rock gave Gilles the chance to undergo a fascinating dialectic; over the course of even only a few years, the demands of a creative and often public life can result in dramatic metamorphoses worthy of Ovid. Our subject explains: “Basically, Snowcat is a cat who was angry to tears, and he fell asleep crying of hate, and the weather was cold enough to turn his tears into snow. Then the cat froze into his own snowy tears and his angry spirit became a ghost who decided to take revenge on anything. That might be why he plays rock, after taking a slightly human appearance –me.”
As is common in rock, the myth obscures a mundane story. Gilles’ band Awaken (the Belgian band, not to be confused with other bands by the same name that came later) was created in 1988; the impact of their success with two Vietnamese language songs (“Chú Mèo Ngủ Quên” and Rửa Mặt Như Mèo”) made a dramatic impression on Gilles, who was only a lad at the time. And he’s had fun along the way, vocalizing, playing instruments and tinkering with computers (with an admiration for the “sensual” bass guitar, a penchant for tweaking vintage synthesizers, and a nostalgic longing for the days when Atari devices were used to create music) and roaming the world in search of the perfect song. “It’s a domino effect: one thing leads to another and to another and so on and in the end you find yourself in another land or another musical territory. It’s rather exciting.”
“Mokomoko Collection” was recorded at various locations in Belgium, Japan, France and Australia, employing a host of musicians, including members of Awaken. “MokoMoko” and “Yanagiguara,” Snowcat’s previous offering, are available for download from Amazon and from ITunes Japan. Find out more at www.gilles-snowcat.com