Christophe Chassol by © Sylvère Hieulle


CHRISTOPHE CHASSOL is a music phenomenon. This multi-talented French pianist, composer and arranger has collaborated with Phoenix, Sebastien Tellier, Acid Washed, as well as contemporary artists Sophie Calle and Xavier Veilhan, to name but a few. He has also lent his talents to innumerable films, television projects and commercials.

This year, his eagerly awaited debut studio album X-Pianos hit the streets. It’s a 34 track, double CD opus filled with groundbreaking and mesmerizing sound; inspired by classical and jazz, but filtered through his marvelous mind and played & produced with that special Chassol magic that only he can express. Christophe Chassol breaks the boundaries between sound and image, music and life to create a new kind of artistic experience.

Interview by Melissa Unger

Were you a creative child? What is your earliest memory involving your own creative expression?

My sister and I started music very early… what comes to my mind right now is one particular day at the conservatory when I was about 7. I had written a little instrumental piece. The solfège teacher brought me to see the director who was her husband to show him the piece. I was very proud and told my father about it. He then kinda forced me to write lyrics on top of the music, but in my mind it was HE who wrote the lyrics and so it didn’t feel fun anymore. The teacher brought me to the director’s office again with the whole song…but I think I remember feeling a little bit like a crook…having not written the lyrics, but taking credit for it.

Another anecdote also comes to mind:

I used to draw a lot and around the same age, at school, I drew a very big scene full of thugs stabbing each other in a lake of blood…I like to think I just had seen West Side Story for the first time. The teacher was worried and told my parents. I’ve never had a fight in my life.


What initially inspired you to express yourself through music?

My father. And the fact of having a piano at home.


How do you approach the creation of a new piece? Do you have a ritual to access your imagination and creativity?

It depends on the kind of piece. For my personal pieces where only I am deciding, the subject has generally already been flowing for a while in my life and in my subconscious…

For a film score, music for dance, a commercial or anything else where I am writing for someone else, I generally do not play a note before having read the script and done some basic internet research on the places, authors, paintings, companies that are linked to the piece.

But in both cases, it starts by playing a lot of piano before finding the right pattern, melody, idea or anything that will be the first brick.

© Christophe Chassol

When you play onstage you seem completely immersed in the music, at one with it. What do you feel/experience when you are performing?

I feel very lucky.

I am glad you felt I was “immersed”,  in French we say  “être en musique” (to be “in the music”). On stage, when I realize that I am playing and start to think, it is generally not a good sign…


Your musical work intricately weaves together audio and visual elements, you have also created numerous film scores. Please explain how you approach this relationship between music and image.

The writing of film scores is quite different from my personal video work. In fact, I named my videos “ULTRASCORES” in opposition to regular film scores, which would try to convey through music what is not on the screen (the character’s story, their state of mind, etc.)

Conversely, my “ULTRASCORES”  use the audio of what you are seeing on screen as musical material.  Image and sound are made “one” in order to create a new kind of audio/visual music.

In other words, I deal with my images like I would deal with a section of the orchestra, or any musical material. They can be stretched, superimposed, fastened, looped, reversed… like any sound can be.

© Christophe Chassol

To see & hear examples of Christophe’s “ULTRASCORES” please click: HERE.


Please share something that has had a profound impact on you creatively.

I guess one of my most precious tools is knowing harmony. And I remember that I understood how to summarize almost any harmony with a three note chord and a bass when I started to learn Jazz (and this is still helps me in my daily life.)

When I was 17, I met my jazz piano teacher Sergio Gruz from Argentina. He changed my life.

Then of course, among the recordings, books, films, travels, people, etc…I would say that recently (4 years ago), I discovered all Johan Van Der Keuken’s documentaries and fell in love with them. It was like when you see Kubrick’s Space Odyssey for the first time and say “Wahhh..I did not know one was allowed to make films like that!…”

Van der Keuken shot all around the world, with always something interesting and beautiful to say, to frame, to show and with such genius in his editing.

His way of filming reality really inspires me in my quest of harmonizing it (reality).

Also, Chris Marker and his film “Sans Soleil” will stay with me forever.

Christophe Chassol by © Renaud Faroux

Do you have a mentor? Or a muse?  Or both?

Except maybe in India, I don’t think anybody has mentors anymore…since a long time. There are no more schools and disciples. There are admirers of course, but no more disciples that are reproducing a mentor’s technique, exact ideas etc..

As I said just before, even though it might sound cliché (especially in English), but “Reality” is kind of my muse (I mean with the filming of it in order to harmonize and edit it, to sublime it).

As for the people I admire…There are so many, but it is much more their work than their life.

I met Steve Reich a few years ago in Paris and we talked for 45 minutes. I put my headphones on his head and made him watch my Aaron Copland harmonization..He told me about Milhaud, Copland, Miles, Strawinsky and him…and my neck and my forehead were sweating & sweating…I’m a fan!


What is your current obsession?

The current one is Hariprasad Chaurasia and his Bansuri Flute. He’s playing conversations with gods.

But basically I have the same obsessions as when I was 17: horror movies, Haribo candy, Ravelien’s triad chords and so much more…


What’s next for Christophe Chassol?

I am finishing a horror movie score for Marina de Van’s film: “DARK TOUCH”, then in July I go to India (Kolkata & Vanarasi)  with my small team (camera & sound engineer) to film “Indiamore” an Ultrascore which I will perform in September at Elektricity.

I am the Festival‘s guest this year, which mean that I am going to play several concerts and invite artists among which: Alice Lewis, DJ Chloé, Limousine, Léonie Pernet…


If you had to describe yourself in one word…

For a physical description in one word, I would say: BLACK.

For a psychological description in one word, I would say: HAPPY.



M.U. 2012



Published: June 19th, 2012

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A case for embracing mistakes

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