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Mickael Karkousse

Two years after releasing his debut EP Where Do We Begin, Mickael Karkousse is ready forthe big leagues. Granted, that sounds peculiar for someone who has already made sixrecords with one of the  biggest Belgian bands of the 21st century – a foursome that bridged the gap between rock and electronica in highly incendiary ways. But it is no overstatement to say that it took some time for the GOOSE frontman to find his signature sound.

“That first EP was almost like a research project,” says Mickael Karkousse. “After years of being in a band, I was uncertain about the direction I wanted to take as a solo-act. How could I make something that was not GOOSE? It took a while to find that opening, and I also
tended to censor myself. Out of fear, no doubt, of ending up with a sound too close to GOOSE.”

Mickael Karkousse was convinced of one thing, though, in the making of Where Do We Begin: for once, he would also write a couple of slow, emotional songs with strong melodies. “For me, that EP was a cinematic, nostalgic trip to the first time: the first kiss, the first love, the first trip, the first everything. That nostalgic, even melancholic streak will always be part of what I do, because it is part of who I am. But my musical spectrum is so much broader, and after making that EP, I felt I was truly poised to jump – full-on, head-first.”

MK’s debut album is pure expression, an extension of himself. “I have always had a hard time expressing feelings, except with music. And on this record – because there was no one else to take into consideration – I was able to do so more than ever. Moreover, I learned not to be afraid. Every time my producer asked if we were sure about doing something, I said yes. By doing so, we often found the songs taking a surprising turn – so surprising even that I often had to get used to it myself. Everything felt like unexplored territory, and I’m proud of that.”

This of course is not to say that Mickael Karkousse has now renounced his love of synthesizers or that he no longer wants to make people move. “The first single ‘HELLO’ leaves no doubt about that. The sound is different from GOOSE, but I’m sure the energy will feel very familiar.”

By the way, the aforementioned producer is called Victor Le Masne, a Frenchman who also worked on Endless, GOOSE’s previous release, on top of records for Kavinsky, Juliette Armanet and Gaspard Augé (Justice). Recently, he was also asked to write a new
arrangement for the Marseillaise on the occasion of the Paris Olympics next year – the first to have received such a request in almost two hundred years!

Though Le Masne’s involvement is definitely not the only reason why those surprising turns often led toward French pop. “I grew up with that stuff,” MK says. “My dad is French, and I spent my childhood watching nothing but French ‘variété’ shows on TV. I’m glad that comes out so shamelessly on the record, because it's a sound that’s 100% part of my DNA.” 

But also part of Le Masne’s. “Our bond is quite incredible,” Mickael Karkousse says of his French brother-in-arms. “It was like working with family. We truly feed off each other and throw ideas around rapidly. Although it often came down to this: if it sounded expensive, in good taste, modern and generous, we knew we were on the right track.”

In addition, the album sounds noticeably more upbeat and abundant than the EP Where Do We Begin. And yet again, the French are partly to blame. “While recording the album in Paris, I saw the legendary rock opera Starmania with music by Michel Berger. And then and there, it just hit me: the album had to sound like a musical! Not that, all of a sudden, I wanted to make a concept album – far from it! But I didn’t feel like holding back anymore and pinning the whole endeavour down to one mood or emotion. That’s not me. Each song ended up being a chapter of a bigger story – each with its own mood, rich melody and ditto arrangements.”

Often, the ‘70s and ‘80s come squeaking in, “and that will probably never change,” Mickael Karkousse admits. “There’s a certain warmth in the productions, song-writing and even voices from that period that feels like coming home to me. It’s hard to put into words, but let’s say that Patrick Swayze and Michael Jackson – to name but two– are part of my subconscious.

Though that might not be clear from listening to the first single from MK’s debut album, as ‘HELLO’ is almost entirely instrumental. Or so it seems. Until you realize he’s uttering ‘hello’ in many different ways throughout the song. “Think of it as my modest contribution to the genre,” laughs Mickael Karkousse. “Lionel Richie and Adele are in good company. Plus, I want to start the album and future live sets with that track, so why not put it out as the first single too?”

On that note, then: “HELLO!”

Booking agent: Seppe Maesen