Philosophy

The studio is run by Guillaume Nicolas, producer/arranger, multi-instrument player, studio and stage musician, leader of For Heaven’s Sake and an expert of American music, also passionate about world-music, notably Oriental and Indian.

 

Since 2004, he is a faithful friend and collaborator of Kevin Salem, one of America’s greatest musicians (Rolling Stone Magazine’s 1997 "Songwriter of the Year") and producers (Mercury Rev, Emmylou Harris, Rachael Yamagata, Matthew Ryan, Peter Paul & Mary, Shivaree, Mandy Moore, Howe Gelb & Giant Sand, Chocolate Genius, Amal Murkus, Nicolai Dunger, Yo La Tengo, Valerie June, Zee Avi, Citizen Cope, Lenka, Mike Doughty, Dumptruck, Daniel Johnston, Butch Vig, Madder Rose, Danielia Cotton, Chino Moreno/Team Sleep, Rich Robinson, Brian Fallon/Gaslight Anthem, Alice Temple, Tracy Bonham, Ida Jenshus, Southside Johnny, Bad Brains, Esmé Patterson). Guillaume has also worked with some of the greatest artists on the American folk and country music scene, including Neal Casal (Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson/Black Crowes, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks, Willie Nelson, Gin Wigmore, Rufus Wainwright, Tift Merritt, James Iha, Shannon McNally, Hazy Malaze, Hard Working Americans, Gospelbeach, Reef, Beachwood Sparks, Sera Cahoone, Johnny Irion, Leeroy Stagger, Minnie Driver, Duncan Sheik, Blackfoot) but also on the rock and heavy scene, particularly with Jim Wilson (Mother Superior, Henry Rollins Band, Daniel Lanois, Lemmy Kilmister/Motorhead, Queens of the Stone Age, Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf, Anthrax, Wayne Kramer/MC5, George Clinton, Iggy Pop, The Sparks, Pearl Aday, Neil Fallon/Clutch, Cedric Bixler Zavala/The Mars Volta, Corey Taylor/Slipknot, Hank Williams 3, Mike Patton/Faith No More, Tom Araya/Slayer, Inger Lorre, Motor Sister). Guillaume also contributes to film. He notably designed the credits and soundtrack of the documentary on the making of “Bernie”, a French cult film directed by Albert Dupontel, with the participation of Terry Gilliam ("Monty Python", "Brazil", "12 Monkeys", "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas").

 

With the amazing quality of its sound, Lumiere 13 studio is a must for all warm, soft, intimate and acoustic sound lovers (Folk, Blues, Americana, Jazz, Country, Soul, World), as well as heavy and powerful electric artists (Rock, Heavy, Doom, Stoner, Prog Rock, Psyche) and experimental musicians (Ambiant, Drone, Industrial).

 

"Personally", says Guillaume, "I love the traditional oriental music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Blues of Robert Johnson as much as the psychedelic scene of the 60s and 70s, the Grateful Dead, as well as Motown and Stax soul music, the creative genius of Prince, the Folk/Americana music of Townes Van Zandt and Mark Lanegan, the heavy metal of Iron Maiden and Metallica, the atmospheric sounds of Tool and Ulver, the progressive universe of Opeth, Stoner music as in Kyuss, but also very pop artists such as Sarah McLachlan and Anneke Van Giersbergen and of course the Rock N’Roll sound of Sun Records, Social Distortion, AC/DC and Elvis Presley.

 

I’m passionate for music, a fervent lover of a beautiful sound, and fascinated with the idea and the will to give songs the treatment they deserve and need to sound, live, exist and breathe. I consider myself as a sound craftsman. I’m not interested in pure technique as such. I have tremendous respect for the work ethics, intransigence and integrity of someone like Steve Albini (Neurosis, PJ Harvey, Page/Plant). To me, every production is unique and personal. There are no rules, no standards, no conventions. The only rule is emotion, feeling, intensity, truth. I try to bring out the humanity and personality of the artists, the soul of the bands, the beauty of the albums and the depth of the songs. I believe a producer should be at the service of the artist and his songwriting. We should never forget that what makes projects work are the songs themselves.

 

My personal favourite records are Bruce Springsteen’s "Born to Run" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town", Bob Dylan’s "The Freewheelin" and "Bonde on Blonde", Neil Young’s "Harvest" and "Tonight’s the Night", Tom Waits’ "Mule Variations", the complete "American Recordings" of Johnny Cash, the early Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Doors albums, as well as "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns N’Roses, "Exile on Main Street" and "Beggars Banquet" by the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles’ "Revolver" and "Abbey Road".

 

These are very different records, but they do have in common a much asserted personality, an incredible vibe, a unique sound, deep soul and moreover a human and artistic dimension that affects me a lot. They are intense records made by real songwriters, with outstanding creativity and vision. You can feel the emotion. However, though I confess an incredible passion for the analogue, warm, lively, sensitive and charmingly imperfect productions of the 60s and 70s, I am also highly interested in the surgical and precise work by artists such as Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails or Devin Townsend.

 

Again, it’s all about the artistic coherence between bands/artists, producers (whom I often call "sound makers" – I like the comparison with the role of the "film maker". I personally define myself more as a "sound maker" than a "producer") and the songs. You have to know how to listen, feel, and understand them to provide them with the best sound, the best treatment, the best sensitivity, the best design. I’m not interested in producing for the sake of producing, or flattering some ego. Producing to give songs their correct meaning is at the heart of this business. In that sense, I’m fascinated with the "Field Recordings" of the 20s and 30s. An album such as "Nebraska" by Bruce Springsteen, or the very first version of Nirvana’s "In Utero", are prime examples, as well as Johnny Cash’s "Bootleg Series". In terms of technical and pure production as such, it’s raw, down to the bone, but the interaction between the spirit, soul and message of the songs, the artist’s composition and attitude and sound making of the end product is extremely moving and perfect. That’s the exact kind of treatment the songs on those records needed to sound right and to deploy their quality and the extent of their beauty.

 

Concerning Lumiere 13 studio, I wished to create a place where I can share more than a simple musical experience with the bands and artists who come to work and record their albums here, but also a human adventure based on taking pleasure, sharing, exchanging and listening. I’ve always thought that the places where records were made had an incredible influence on the end product, on all levels. On the sound, of course, but also on the feel, the attitude, the vibe. That's why the Lumiere 13 studio is a gorgeous place, with a soul and a story. Being French, I grew up to the tales and myths of the legendary Château d'Hérouville (Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Grateful Dead, T.Rex, Rainbow) and as an international musician, I’ve always been aware of the feel and atmosphere of the studios I was lucky enough to work in. I loved working in cult and historical studios, especially in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Memphis.

 

Beyond technical and material perfection, I think the artistic, human and emotional consistency, the feel, soul, intensity and integrity are the most important elements in music and production. The best records are the ones whose sound and production are never out-dated, because they were not made according to any code.

 

Nowadays, unfortunately, too many albums are being produced with the eyes rather than the ears. I have nothing against the digital tool in musical production, on the contrary, because I use it and love it. It’s an incredible and very practical asset if used correctly, with parsimony, musicality, intelligence and justness. I think that today, too many producers and musicians totally depend on their computers and trust their softwares a lot more than their own ears. That’s why I feel we’re witnessing a period of standardisation and sterilisation of sound. It’s very smooth, very clean, soulless and without any personality, with the same treatments, same corrections, same formulas. In the end, I feel it is mechanizing, dehumanising music.

 

Personally, I privilege analogue technology as much as possible, but mostly my ears to judge the quality of a sound, a take, a performance, a mix, a master. I like this old fashioned way of working. That’s how I learnt, and it’s the way I like to work. Again, there are no rules. If some productions work wonderfully with analogue, others may find their whole meaning in digital, as long as the tool is used with precaution and musicality. To me, every band is unique and every songwriter has his own personality, so, every production also has to be unique and personal. I believe we’re experiencing an incredible period in terms of production tools. It’s a fascinating time for recording and mixing techniques and equipment. It’s all about sincerity in the use of the tools, but mostly about creativity and moreover complementarity between analogue and digital. These two techniques, methods and skills can be incredibly complementary and can bring together the best of both worlds for an exceptional result. Personally, I like to use an analogue tool for the warmth of the sound, the unique print and incredible dynamics and then to use the digital tool for its versatility and all the possibilities offered by the technology. Again, today, I believe in the complementarity of those two worlds and that’s what makes this period so exciting and stimulating. It’s a blessing to be able to use both methods, both techniques.

 

I’ve always religiously followed the ethics of "know-how". The key to a sound’s warmth and precision, to the beauty and depth of a production, lies in this art. Nothing can replace old recipes and other ancient tricks known to the best producers since the 60s. Moreover, nothing can replace experience. Everything lies in there. When the whole crew of artists involved in an album, including the producer/sound maker and the band, have that "know-how", that knowledge, that freedom, then it’s all about feeling and having pleasure in the studio. It’s probably an old fashioned philosophy, but I believe strongly in that, and I apply it every day in my methods and work ethics. I continuously learn, grow, evolve, create stronger human linkages, and always understand the music better, whether the blues, jazz, folk, soul, psychedelic rock, heavy stoner, and always feel the words and sounds, be they from India, Europe, Africa, Scandinavia, South America, Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe or deep down in the USA and Native American culture. I always have the will to make progress and move forward by keeping the desire to explore new pathways, to keep the notion of humility and open-mindedness to others and to the world, in order to be continuously inspired and creative and give the right colours, the right directions to the songs, with honesty and passion. I believe there is an almost mystic and spiritual dimension in giving birth to a sound, to a song, to an album."