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Zombies, Comics, Fast Cars, and Video Games: An Interview with Kavinsky

Our fascination with superheroes grows out of the desire for an alter ego, a Superman to our everyday Clark Kent. Most of us fall into characters of our creation quite often. Through our art, flirtation—even our social networking pages—we present...

(Photo by Vincent Desailly) Our fascination with superheroes grows out of the desire for an alter ego, a Superman to our everyday Clark Kent. Most of us fall into characters of our own creation quite often. Through our art, flirtation—even our social networking pages—we present amplified versions of our true selves. French electronic artist Vincent Belorgey, known to the world as Kavinsky, has made a career through his alter ego. The legend of Kavinsky goes something like this: After crashing his Ferrari Testarossa, Vincent's real-life car of choice, he dies and reappears as a zombie to create electronic music. “Nightcall,” the song that launched Kavinsky to fame largely through the Drive soundtrack, is about the zombie going to see his old girlfriend to let her know he has changed. But, the story goes, she has already moved on.


Vincent’s foray into electronic storytelling began by accident. In 2003, Vincent's good friend Mr. Oizo almost threw out an old Macintosh computer, but gave it to Vincent instead. “I was really into video games, and then he just gave me that computer. And from that I just started to make music with it, so that was the start of everything,” Vincent told me on the phone from his hotel room in Los Angeles, where the mysterious French flirt took a break from relaxing by the pool to chat with me about the recent debut of his anticipated album OutRun, what's next, and how we can devise a plan to land him a special guest appearance on The Walking Dead.

VICE: How are you?
Vincent: I'm fine, I was having a little bit of sun at the pool. My skin is a bit red now. I'm breathing a little bit after all the turmoil, really good to be here as always.

So you're there for pleasure rather than work?
Yes, three days left and then back to Paris.

Your new record’s name, OutRun, is a Sega reference, correct?
Yes, it's a tribute, you could say, to a game that I used to play a lot.

How similar are you, Vincent, to the character of Kavinsky?
We are very similar, but you could say he is a little bit more badass than me. We make the perfect balance, except he’s a little shier, yet also more badass. He's maybe the guy I wanted to be. Along with just a way for me to make music. OutRun is a plot line, like a story in a movie. It's just more fun for me to make music in this abstract sort of way.


Tell me about the development of OutRun.  
I actually was in the studio making this album from, like, 2010, not 2005 as people say sometimes. After we did “Nightcall” with Guy-Manuel of Daft Punk we decided to make a full album with some new tracks, with my friend Sebastian (a French artist who has worked with Daft Punk, Nero, and the Beastie Boys, among others) and then we found some voices for it. We wanted to take some time to then go back and revisit, so that's why it came out a little later, you could say.

How did “Nightcall” make its way into the film Drive? The song works so perfectly.
Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of the film, contacted me because he was listening to the music in his car going down Sunset Boulevard, and after that I think he began listening to it a lot. And then he asked for it, and of course, me, I was really happy he chose my music for the opening credits. And I was a big fan of him particularly from the films the Pusher trilogy. So, for me it was, "Of course, you can use my music!"

There are parallels between Ryan Gosling's character, the Driver, and your own, Kavinsky. The mystery, the love for cars, was that just a coincidence?
Well, I know that I'm less good-looking than Ryan Gosling [laughs]. I don't know, maybe it was a coincidence, I'm really not sure about that. I never had the discussion with the director, but I really loved the movie. It was the best visualization we could have for “Nightcall.” That's why I don't want to make a music video for “Nightcall” in the future, because Drive is the best video we could have.


I've read that your music is largely inspired by thousands of films and TV shows you watched as a kid. What were your favorites?
Yes, The Goonies, Back to the Future, of course, E.T., and then actually I like a lot of scarier movies.

I love scary movies too. What are you into today?
I love The Walking Dead.

Hah, of course, because you are a zombie!
Yes, it's like a zombie watching a TV show about zombies. I sit and watch and think, Hey, I know that guy! [laughs].

Let's get you in touch with The Walking Dead's director. You've acted, you should make a guest appearance as one of the zombies.
That would be cool, yes. Let's make that happen. Maybe he will read this and invite me. I would do it.

Do you see acting in your future?
Well, I act in all my videos. It's very cool to create your music and then play your own character. I wish when we finish all the videos, we can put them together, and it will be the start of a movie.

So what projects are you working on these days?
Well I'm a very big fan of comics, especially Spider-Man, and my dream was to get my character into comics. That's why I started to convey the Kavinsky character through drawings, so creating a comic is something I will keep in mind for the future.

We're making a game for iPhones and iPads. It's coming out very soon. We are just finishing up the last details, will polish it, then it should be ready in less than one month.

Spider-Man, huh? I'm more of a Batman girl. Regardless, I'll be checking out the game for sure. What's next in the realm of music?
After my days in LA, I'll be back in Paris in the studio getting ready for the live show. It's taking all of my time, so I hope it's going to be ready soon. I really hope everybody's going to like it, it's going to be cool, smoky and lightning, like a real-live show, not just a guy behind his computer.

Badass. Well, thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and enjoy the sun.
Of course, thank you.

Contest! If you'd like to win a signed Kavinsky poster and Outrun CD, in honor of his love for comics tweet @TheBowieCat and tell me what superhero you'd bang and why. Whoever has the best answer, I'll have the poster and CD mailed to you.