Interview: Yann Tiersen

Edited from a conversation at The Duchess, York, on 10 May 2009 (interview conducted for The Yorker).

Yann Tiersen performing in Switzerland. Photo uploaded by Inisheer to Wikimedia Commons.

Yann on…

…his new music

I always wanted to write songs with a really acoustic part and a really electric heavy part, and the next album has songs like that. I love the contrast. The album will have a lot of vocals too, very long tracks with instrumental parts and vocal parts.

A reinvention? No, it’s a slow switch, an evolution.


I try not to think too much about public perception, but of course it’s good to have a response. I love playing live, more than ever. I used to be quite boring on stage with piano and accordion. I wanted to move around more freely, so I use guitars now, even on the albums. In the past, I would start writing a lot of songs with guitar, very simply. It feels most natural.


I don’t mind being known for that; it caused a real change when it was released. The soundtrack was like a combination of all the things I’d done before, so people were suddenly, without knowing, getting into my old stuff. As soon as Amélie was released, I’d already moved on musically.


I don’t listen to a lot of classical music. My parents were listening a lot when I was very young, but I grew up with bands and the radio. I particularly liked the Velvet Underground’s album, and Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.

…French rock music

France, not good for rock music? I agree! I’m not from France, I’m from Brittany, it’s quite different, haha. Brittany has more musical tradition, more venues. When I was young I saw a lot of bands, mostly not French bands. It’s a very strange part of France. It’s not very French; I went to London before I’d been to Paris.

…life in Brittany

I have a house on an island in Brittany, and I always start the albums there. I have a lot of friends nearby. It’s a tiny island full of crazy people. Artists? No, everybody’s just mad there. Even the old guys are like that. We have a lot of fun, we drink a lot; it helps to avoid the pressure to start new stuff, and allows music to grow.

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