Two years after releasing his debut EP Where Do We Begin, Mickael Karkousse is ready to step out into the spotlight.
Granted, that sounds peculiar for someone who has already made six records with one of the biggest Belgian bands of the 21stcentury – 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.”
MK’s debut album, set for release in 2023, 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.”
Acclaimed producer Victor Le Masne was instrumental in this collaboration and to Mickael’s embracing of the French Pop sound championed by the likes of M83 and Phoenix. At the beating heart of the French scene, Le Masne, who also worked on Endless, GOOSE’s previous release, and records for Kavinsky, Julie Armanet and Gaspard Augé (Justice), and recently was asked to write a new arrangement for the Marseillaise for the Paris Olympics next year.
The album sounds noticeably more upbeat and abundant than the previous EP. 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”
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.