Stéphane sets the stage ablaze at PICelectroNIC!

After his first performance at Congés Annulés in 2022, Ouai Stéphane returns to Rotondes to set the PICelectroNIC stage alight.
© Photos 1 et 2 : Ouai Stéphane / Photo 3 : Elliott Bossé

Stéphane, tell us a bit about yourself!

Hey, what’s up! Hope everyone is doing good. So, I’m Stéphane Ouai (note: ouai’ is a colloquial way of saying yeah’ or yep’ in French) and I’m all about making music using my computer. Then, I take those tracks to the stage and play them with electronic instruments and custom-made gear I’ve crafted with my own hands and brainpower.

How did you come up with the Ouai Stéphane name?

It’s a bit complicated to answer that question, and it always evokes a sense of unease (albeit not entirely unpleasant) when I do. When I was around 15 years old, a friend of mine filmed me with a low-quality phone while I was in the bathroom. Upon barging in, he shouted, Ouai Stéphaaaaane’. Anyway, it was a joke that barely scored a 3 out of 10. Fast forward a decade, and the video resurfaces. To continue the cringe-worthy jest, my friend decides to set the video’s sound as both his ringtone and alarm. When I was looking for a project name, it just seemed obvious.

You completed the renowned master’s in Music and Media Technology’ at Trinity College Dublin. Did the Dublin vibe’ leave its mark on your musical style and compositions?

Yep, I was fortunate to both study and live there. It wasn’t entirely new ground, as my mum is Irish, and family there also provided a familiar backdrop. Dublin’s eclectic atmosphere undeniably left its mark, socially and culturally. It was a period of profound learning that drew me closer to the vibrant UK music scene, an experience that continues to shape my musical journey today.

Your trademark style intertwines humour with an offbeat tone. What inspired this quirky outlook on life?

I attribute it to my experiences within the music industry, where I often encountered overly rigid norms. I came to the realisation that it’s just music’: there are no hard and fast rules, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not overly significant.

So, where do you find your creative spark when composing your tracks?

There are two main approaches:

- I often embark on sound experiments, treating them as practical groundwork. But I refuse to do this in a sterile, academic manner. Instead, I invest time and care to refine the process, ultimately creating a piece that’s somewhat polished. I’m intrigued by the idea that people can dance to something abstract, born from fundamental sound experimentation.

- Sometimes I’m also just struck by an idea, a theme, or even just a phrase, which I quickly record with a microphone. From there, I enjoy playing with the material, sculpting it into something presentable.

Experimentation appears to be a cornerstone of your musical approach. From crafting your own MIDI instruments to exploring new techniques, do you see this as a pathway to creating a sound that truly reflects you?

For me, it’s all about pushing the boundaries of experimentation. It’s hard to say whether I’m pioneering new ground or not, I have no way of knowing, and that’s beside the point. I see myself more as an inquisitive teenager, tinkering away in their bedroom purely out of intellectual curiosity.

After your successful appearance at Rotondes during the Congés Annulés in 2022, you’re now gearing up for your very first family concert at the PICelectroNIC festival. How are you approaching that, and what are you hoping to convey to this new kind of audience?

It’s wonderful that it’s a family-oriented event! My music isn’t tailored to a specific demographic; primarily, it’s a personal expression, which I believe is paramount. But, if it manages to touch a 70-year-old or a 6‑year-old in some way, then I’m overjoyed. I’m really looking forward to performing at PICelectroNIC!

Could you tell us about your artistic philosophy? What does music mean to you, and what are you hoping to communicate through your work?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I could go on about it for hours without quite capturing the essence because it’s such an abstract concept for which I don’t have a straightforward answer, just different ideas. Perhaps discussing my current train of thought will prove more illuminating than attempting to summarise everything. Right now, I’m focused on encapsulating as much as possible of the emotions, values, and sentiments I’ve experienced in recent years through my music, and it’s proving to be quite a daunting task. 

It’s a form of therapy, albeit one that becomes public once the music is released. I’ve never really grappled with this aspect before, or at least, I hadn’t fully realised it, so I’m not sure if there’s anything concrete to convey beyond my personal journey. To be honest, I’m still pondering over it. Thanks, and yet, perhaps not thanks, for giving me such a thought-provoking question – I won’t be able to get it out of my mind for the rest of the day.

Which track means the most to you, or of which are you proudest? And why?

Without a doubt, it’s one or more of the tracks I’ve composed for my upcoming album. As I’m still deeply immersed in the creative process, it’s a bit hard to talk about. However, I might single out the piece I Have Feelings También (featured on the EP Ché Pas released by Global Warming), where I ventured into exploring texture and atmosphere to convey a more personal narrative. Expressing emotions, especially through music without lyrics, isn’t easy. Yet, it’s where I feel most at home.

What was the most unforgettable moment of your music career to date?

Oh, there are countless, but perhaps the early experiences leave the deepest impressions. I once performed aboard an OuiGo train, right in the bar carriage. It was a surreal setup, with my equipment arranged on those weird wavy counters. As passengers queued for coffee, I was tapping away on a clothes rack to make music.

How do you envision your future as an artist? And for those of us who are curious (count us among them), are there any exciting projects in the pipeline that you can share?

Yep, absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my album, dropping in 2024, although the exact date is still up in the air. I have a whole lot of extra content planned – I’ll be diving deep into my instruments and gear, and there’s like seven music videos in the works, along with a bunch of fresh tracks. It’s going to be wild, and I’m really excited!

We’re on the edge of our seats awaiting your concert at Rotondes in April… Can you drop us a hint about what’s in store for the crowd?

That’s so cool, thank you. And yeah, it’s going to be lit! So, there’ll be a stage set up with custom-made instruments, a clothes rack to my left, and a clock to my right, adding to the sonic experience. Armed with a microphone, I’ll kick off the evening with a Hi, how’s it going?’ and then boom, we’re straight into the first track.

Hope I haven’t given away too much?