Tucked away in a french coastal town resides Alif Tree, one of the best and youngest members of the Compost Records family. Alif Tree is actually Alex Altain, and he released French Cuisine earlier this year. It is a refreshing look at the future electronic sound of jazz. Besides electronica, he also has many other passions like good food, Pomerol, and cinema. We asked him a few questions and took a peek into the world of Alif Tree.
Slackline Radio: Tell us a little about growing up as a youngster. Where did your sense of musical creation come from?
Alif Tree: There was almost no music at home, not even the very beginning of an artist around. As music instruction, I got three LPs that I used to play as soon as the parents left home: Giorgio Moroder “Giorgio” with a famous cover of “Night in White Satin”, Ennio Morricone “Once Upon a Time In the West”, Nina Simone, sorry I miss the tittle. On the other hand I kept reading tons of sci-fi books. So maybe this can explain that….
Slackline Radio: What are some of the other musical genres that you enjoy outside of electronica? Are there any artists that you might be listening to that you feel the world should know about?
Alif Tree: Many, many, many. I guess electronica is 20% of my discoteque. Jazz, classic and modern rock, OST, Classical and contemporary, some funk, soul, blues, reggae, ska, plus the fact that I’m a big metal/indus fan! Who would have guessed?
Slackline Radio: Unlike some electronic artists, you play different instruments. Who was a big influence in your life that lead you to become a musician?
Alif Tree: [At] first, I play[ed] some different instruments, all quite badly, and some in a very experimental way, a little bit like children, so please don’t imagine I’m some kind of new Prince of the electronic world. My style is closer to a punk Lego band mixed with some Boulez influences. And if I had to synthetise how it started, I’d say [I] need[ed] to escape. But it’s probably the same for every music lover in the world….
Slackline Radio: What is the origin of your studio name? How did you come up with the name, Alif Tree?
Alif Tree: Alif is the first letter of the arabic alphabet, Aleph in hebraic. Alex Alif sounds like the beginning of a song, and I love the image of a tree where little singing birds can lay on the branches.
Slackline Radio: I must say your new website is nice. The synergy between music and food is indeed a great mix. Tell us how music enters into your dining experiences and how food enters into your musical experiences.
Alif Tree: I’ve always cooked, as my family, half rumanian, half Landaise (south west of France) is very much into eating (men) and cooking (women). Now, I guess [in] th[ese] modern times [it’s] mixed a little, and here I am. Well, after a while, I noticed that, even if french restaurants are among the best in the world (as french I’m obliged to say that otherwise I could loose my passport), the musical ambiances are most of the times some of the wor[st] in the world. France is not a very musical country to tell the truth….Well, as if Bontempi Mozart wasn’t enough, some places started to play some loud Ibiza house at the end of the 80’s. [It’s] very efficient when you’re up to spend[ing] a good time with your friends around a good table. So, I finally decided that a meal is a moment, and that a moment is a unique mix of senses. If you try, you’ll verify that the Boeuf ourguignon tastes much better with some Helen Merrill on top……
Slackline Radio: Here at Slackline we always try and create a broader understanding about an artist. The truth can always be found in food. You are what you eat! Tell us your favorite recipe at the moment.
Alif Tree: OK, I usually cook depending on the season’s products, a lillte bit like our grand parents did. So October is good for blackberrys, pies or marmelade, chicory salad with walnuts or blue cheese sauce, and it’s the most expected time for one of my very favourites: le pot au feu. Some kind of ragout that tastes better each time you reheat it! Everyone has his own secret recipe in France, exactly like the couscous in the Maghreb. But mine is the best.
Slackline Radio: Which do you prefer more, olive oil or garlic?
Alif Tree: You’re talking about the base of the mediteranean cuisine, very hard to separate. But, I use more olive oil, and it’s often easier to digest.
Slackline Radio: On French Cuisine, you have sampled some really great vocalists like Nina Simone. If there was anyone from the past that you could collaborate with, who would it be and why?
Alif Tree: From the past? Schubert or Mozart. Can you imagine the album we could compose and produce, Wolfgang and I? Huge!
Slackline Radio: What projects are you currently working on, music or otherwise?
Alif Tree: I compose a lot of music for television in France, that fills the fridge, as we say. I’ve started the demos for the next Alif Tree, quite different from the Cuisine I guess. Also I’m working on at least 3 or 4 different projects, from Slam to Rock. Also writing, playing, singing, and of course cooking….
Slackline Radio: Are you still running your radio show program, “Le Meilleur des Mondes?” What was the theme of your program?
Alif Tree: It’s a rereading of a movie, mixing it’s own sound elements with some wide open selectioned trax. Last one was on “The Three Burials of Mequiades Estrada”, excellent movie, scenario, brilliant also. If you’re up to [it], you may want to try this link, then click on the “antenne” for live listening, or type Alif Tree.
Slackline Radio: I understand that you are also involved in some other side projects. Tell us about your project called The Machine with the drummer from Dupain.
Alif Tree: Sorry, aborted. But I’m singing now more and more, that we will check on the next LP, for the best or for the wor[st]….
Slackline Radio: Are you planning a tour to the States soon? Where can your fans expect to see you next?
Alif Tree: I’m much more a studio guy than a stage freak. But I regulary play @ some cinemix (a mix around a movie, documentary….), next one will be on the 23rd of November in Toulon with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and I’m gonna play in Bulgaria on the 25th on a Enki Bilal cult movie named Bunker Palace Hotel. I’m always open to any kind of proposal including music in cinema in general.
Slackline Radio: What was the reason for leaving Paris and settling in Marseilles? How do you find the music scene in Marseilles different than Paris?
Alif Tree: I left Paris because I couldn’t take the life over there. Here I got some quietness, a nice house and the sun to be able to grow like all the good things that come out of the earth. The music scene here is small, very much into reggae, smoking type. Marseille is a small town facing Africa, not really organised, but really nice to live in if you want to take your time.
Slackline Radio: Bordeaux or Burgundy?
Alif Tree: I’m not a wine expert, this is a lifetime task. A good Bordeaux can be sublime, I personnaly have a crush on Pomerol, but you’ll have to spend some money on it. Never buy a cheap Bordeaux! For the everyday needs, we are a lot into Cote du Rhone at home. The very favourite would be some Pomerol or Chateau Latour, and yes, 1969 was a good year for Bordeaux, moonlandings, and musicians births!
Well, 2006 was definitely a good year for Alif Tree and we look forward to the future years. Slackline sincerely appreciates you taking the time to speak with us. Keep writing, producing, and, of course, eating well.