MEHDI CAYENNE, Since he wrote his first poem when he was only 6, he probably knew what he wanted to be growing up. Anyway, he didn’t stop to poetry. Mehdi Cayenne is a versatile, a so called all-round artist: he’s a comedian, actor, songwriter, musician and a writer!
Born Mehdi Hamdad in Algeria from French and Algerian parents, he grew up in Canada. After studying dramatic arts at the French High School “De La Salle” in Ottawa, Mehdi moved on to perform in cafés, bars and theatres in Ottawa and Montreal.
He created the Mehdi Cayenne Club – then shortened Mehdi Cayenne – the day Michael Jackson passed away. Between 2009 and 2016 Mehdi won several awards and increased the shows all over Canada and Europe. Meanwhile in 2011 is released the first album “Luminata” followed by “Na Na Boo Boo “ in 2013 and Aube in 2015. The last one will be released in 2019 and called “Radio Batata”
Bilingual, sings both in English and French, mixing also the two languages to create unique tracks. Being such a multitalented artist, it’s hard to define his music. Definitely experimental with pop-rock, folk and funky influences and with four albums under his belt.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mehdi Cayenne!
ITALY SPECIAL – CASA CAYENNE – EPISODE 14
Forza a tuti i miei amici!
Special for XO la factory, Mishima, @sfogliaatella
Hi Mehdi, I’m Fabiana Ditaranto from Radio Wau, XoLafactory’s media partner. I’ll just take some minutes of your time to know something more about you and your music. Let’s get started!
Having growing up in a multicutural environment, as we said before, could you say which one had the biggest impact on your life and your music if any?
I’d say that linguistically especially, every environment has had a cumulative effect; making a kind mix of accents that seems particular to me; I’m very sensitive to sound, for example I love the sound of the Italian language (I am aware there are big differences in accents around the country, but of course I can’t tell the difference). Musically speaking, I feel the encounter of the classical dramatic flair of French chanson (à la Jacques Brel etc) mix with the grooves and semi-tone inflections of Maghrebi music (such as Rachid Taha, Oum Kalthoum etc), colliding with this sort of North American indie scene abrasion (à la Deerhoof, Fet Nat, Death Grips, Saul Williams…) – I feel being exposed to these cultures (I could continue with many more examples!) creates a particularity in my interests and reflexes.
Having performed on “alternative” stages (eg. Retirements houses, prisons and streets) added something more to you as a person and a musician. What’s the most important lesson you have learned?
That the show, the magic element of the spectacular, the extraordinary, the transformative potential of the show, is not contingent on big lights, big sound, big money, sparkling water in the green room and whatnot – it is a based on a moment, an energy that is shared with the people that are there. Emotion transcends thought, and reaches to people’s hearts rather than their heads – I find when you respond to people as people (as opposed to “people that are like this or that”), you can create surprising, unexpected moments. Also, Murphy’s law dictates than if you feel it might be a crappy show, it often turns out to be a great one, and vice versa 🙂
You have under your belt four albums, the last one is Radio Batata: what’s the inspiration behind it? What about the evolution as a musician you’ve been through between the different releases of the albums?
I’ve learned so much in these four albums… From working with my collaborators (Charles Fairfield, Olivier Fairfield, François Gravel, Oli Bernatchez, Pascal Delaquis), I’ve learned SO much about composing, recording, arranging, and generally fostering and editing artistic ideas… And so, every album has been an opportunity to simply be more aware of what I was doing, and also – most importantly – to write better songs, as that is what I’m aiming to do. With Radio Batata I took on more a producer role, and recorded in multiple studios (in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Hull, and Paris) – which was simply the consequence of being on the road a lot – and it was a very big growth experience for me. I am very proud of the bright colors on the album, of the wide spectrum of sounds and emotions (from the sweetest to the darkest) that are explored – I just see a lot of growth in there. From there it triggered even more growth, and I’ve learned so much as a producer, having made much more new music (which I haven’t released yet), doing soundtracks for a few things – I also edited multiple music videos for the album and made a lot of the surrounding artwork for it. But even though I am happy to explore being a lot of more capable artistically, all these things are solely dependent on what I learned from my dear collaborators – and frankly when this confinement ends, I will be very elated to finally work physically with my people!
In your bio I read that you’re also a radio commentator, so we could say we’re collegues! Tell me about your working on the radio.
Yes I’ve been very fortunate to work much more in radio recently! I’ve done a few dozen capsules last year for Radio-Canada (the national radio outlet here) where I wrote poems about what was going on – from there, my girlfriend runs a radio arts company called Magnéto (www.magnetobalado.com) for whom I’ve done a lot of music, and with whom I co-directed a documentary about my family life and immigration, called “L’écorce et le noyau”. I find radio is beautiful medium, and that speaking on the public airwaves is a tremendous privilege, and responsibility.
Since the lockdown started, how has your life changed?
Well, one always has to fight with anxiety, depression, lethargy. In that way it’s more of the same – I try to stay in contact with family and friends, to stay healthy, and create as much as possible. I’m trying very hard to find new ways of doing what I do, and reaching out to people differently, and also, crucially, to take it one day at a time.
Thank you Mehdi for your time!