Interview with Christian Mazzalai of Phoenix: Becoming Iconic

True mavericks in the world of modern pop music, France’s Phoenix have created their own style and sound over the last decade without burning out or selling out. On the contrary, with their fourth and most transcendent work to date, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, these Frenchmen have only become finer at their craft which possesses a timeless quality that is a rare commodity these days.

Early on the group were revolutionary and fearless in their pursuit to break down musical barriers fusing elements of ’70s soft rock, ’80s electro funk and R&B, electronic, and indie rock. And like their French brethren Daft Punk and Air, Phoenix have been hailed as taste-makers and extremely influential for laying down the groundwork for today’s more open and creative “anything goes” atmosphere that is alive and well in edgy new artists MGMT and Empire Of The Sun and as far-reaching as the Top 40 funk of Maroon 5. And with a recent jaw-dropping performance on Saturday Night Live, a new record out, and full scale summer tour planned, France’s pop mavericks may be on the cusp of becoming tomorrow’s pop icons.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Phoenix guitarist and founding member Christian Mazzalai.

All of Phoenix’s records are great in their own way, but there seems to be an extra magic and electricity that runs through the new record. Was the band aware of this during or after the recording of the album?

During the end of the last week of recording we felt we had something very exciting but it wasn’t really up till the very end that we knew. It’s always a mystery, but at the end of the album it was more clear, you know? We could see the frame was more evident. We felt that we had achieved what we had in our minds, it was very tough. We were supposed to do this album in two months and we almost did it in two years.

Back in the ’70s artists used to take a year or two to produce records which are now considered timeless. Do you think the two years the band took to record had anything to do with quality of the songs and overall sound of the album?

Yes it was crucial, it was long journey to find the right destination. If we had done it in two months it would have been like a bad reproduction of Its Never Been Like That or something. So we had to do a revolution and destroy everything and find the right combination.

Is the songwriting process with Phoenix a total collaborative effort?

We are like four dictators. We are the four in the room and we all depend on each other. If there were only three the song will not be stable. We don’t know how to write a song alone, we know that it would sound like a cliché.