At Annie-Claude Deschênes’ table: between utensils & sound experimentation

Entrevue réalisée par Louise Jaunet
Genres et styles : Coldwave / Electronic / Experimental / New Wave

renseignements supplémentaires

As a key figure of the Montreal independent music scene for almost twenty years, Annie-Claude Deschênes (PYPY, Duchess Says) is still driven by a constant need to create outside her comfort zone, to renew and grow through improvisation and provocation. Fuelled by a spontaneous creative impulse in her kitchen and hungry to take unplanned risks in her musical laboratory, the songs from her debut solo album, entitled LES MANIÈRES DE TABLE (released on Bonsound and Italians Do It Better), were conceived during the confinement to fill the void of inactivity, without initially being intended for public release. In the face of increasing digital surveillance, perhaps they should have been kept enclosed… Because everything seems hopeless when randomness starts to offend.

Using rhythms constructed from samples of utensils, the theme of the table has become a source of inspiration for looking at robotic alienation and the absurdity of social conventions that sometimes drive us to excessive politeness and precaution. By merging these rhythms with her new fascination for surveillance cameras and other supposedly innovative technologies, Annie-Claude reveals humanity in its constant struggle against its own programmed obsolescence in the face of the increasing dematerialisation of our time. Part of the same coldwave movement as Automelodi, Xarah Dion and Essaie Pas, this radical and masterful album, inspired by the pioneers of electronic music, will be transformed on 26 April at Centre Phi into a live experience combining minimal pop and culinary performance art improbably and experimentally. The audience will be invited to interact with the artist.

PAN M 360 spoke to Annie-Claude Deschênes to find out more about the motivations behind this new artistic vision. Careful, it’s hot. Bon appétit.

Opening photo by: Lawrence Fafard

PAN M 360: You are known above all as the frontwoman of the Montreal bands Duchess Says and PYPY, and you’ve just released your first solo album LES MANIÈRES DE TABLES on Bonsound. These tracks were written during the pandemic because you were bored in your kitchen. What motivated you to release them and share them?

Annie-Claude Deschênes: Well, these songs would obviously never have left home… In 2022 I was asked to do a show at the Centre Phi for HEAVY TRIP, to improvise and experiment to create a twenty-minute performance. I decided to use these songs because the show was scheduled three months later. I didn’t have the time to compose a lot so I took those songs. I enjoyed doing that performance. Then I had a residency at the Phi Centre, where I was able to develop the rest of the album.

PAN M 360: For this album, you used sequencers and drum machines to play around with sounds created with kitchen utensils. Can you tell us more about this particular creative process?

Annie-Claude Deschênes: I opened the kitchen drawer and suddenly had a flash! (laughs). I thought it was beautiful. I don’t know… I started sampling a knife and a spoon. I looped it, dephased it, added a kick to it and that made the first song. I played the keyboard over it. It slowly built up. As the album wasn’t conceived with conventional structures there are a lot of instrumental parts. I improvised it without any purpose.

PAN M 360: You apparently familiarised yourself with drum machines during the creation of that album. Was it something new for you?

Annie-Claude Deschênes: Not in that way. In my bands, drum machines were added afterwards, in the studio. But this time I was on my own. I had no choice but to replace the drummer with a drum machine and the bass with a sequencer. That’s how the album became an electronic project.

PAN M 360: Precisely, you draw your inspiration from the pioneers of electronic music. On this album we can hear Kraftwerk, New Order or Simple Minds. We can also recognise the influence of the Montreal groups Automelodi, Essaie Pas and Xarah Dion. And then there’s the experimental, left-field feel of Born Bad Records’ ‘Des Jeunes Gens Mödernes’ compilations.

Annie-Claude Deschênes: In fact, all these influences were crushed together on this album. I wasn’t so much trying to sound like New Order, even though the album sounds very danceable.

PAN M 360: The subject of this album revolves around table manners, surveillance and the omnipresence of technology. This work has enabled you to deconstruct certain social codes. In the song ‘LES MANIÈRES DE TABLE’, you even say ‘Your table manners may offend’. Could you tell us about the reflections you’ve had around this work? 

Annie-Claude Deschênes: I developed them because of the performance I had to do at the Centre Phi. It was a performance that involved interaction with the audience, with tables and objects, where the guests wondered what they could or couldn’t eat. For example, a USB stick made of marzipan. I wrote that song to speak to the audience in the context of that show. Of course, I’m always reacting against things that are a bit too ‘rigid’, if I can put it that way, but it was really just to have fun. I was also disconnected from the music scene for quite a while. When I came back, I really tried to get to grips with social media, to understand where we’d got to. I found it really strange to watch other people’s lives, I found it absurd. When you think about it, surveillance cameras may represent something technological, but they’re already outdated. There’s nothing really futuristic about it for me.

PAN M 360: And yet, with the emergence of facial recognition, cameras are going to become more sophisticated, aren’t they?

Annie-Claude Deschênes: Yes, of course. But it happens so quickly, you think you’re holding something that’s hyper-technological and innovative in your hands, and suddenly, in two seconds, it’s already obsolete. It also allowed me to reflect on my own existence. We can apply this thought to our own lives. As we grow older, we ourselves become obsolete. I don’t claim to be a great philosopher, but that’s how I felt as I tried to adapt.

PAN M 360: In the song ‘Y ALLER’, you even talk about a ‘digital gaze that uninstalls me’.

Annie-Claude Deschênes: Yes, everything is linked. At the same time, it’s absurd for me to have to explain any of it. It’s abstract. I find it interesting to try, but it’s something that is unconscious … It’s hard to try and explain what I really wanted to say. I just said it.

PAN M 360: You’re launching your album on 26 April at the Centre Phi. Your previous show combined performance art with music. What can we expect from your launch?

Annie-Claude Deschênes: I don’t want to say it’s an immersive experience, because it’s not an immersive experience as such. But we’re trying to create a certain aesthetic. There’s going to be a lot of food… There are going to be projections by Anthony Piazza and guest musicians. Lola 1:2 will be opening. I’m in the process of building a more danceable show, punctuated by three or four performances that leave room for improvisation depending on the audience’s reaction. These moments can end up going in any direction, as I’ve always done with PYPY or Duchess Says. I like to keep things open. This show is actually really dangerous for me (laughs). I really get myself into an uncomfortable situation. I’ve got my turntables, I’ve got my beatboxes, I’ve never done the song order, I’ve never played these songs with the musicians. I have no idea if the show will turn out the way I imagine. At the same time, I find it exciting, given that I don’t really take it that seriously. It’s just going to be funny at worst.

PAN M 360: It’s pretty cool to see artists like you still putting themselves at risk. It’s quite rare, there’s less and less room for improvisation these days. What do you get out of putting yourself in these kinds of situations? Does it challenge you to confront yourself?

Annie-Claude Deschênes: I’d say it makes life more complicated for me (laughs). Instead of doing what I have to do, I’m always looking for something new to surprise myself. Is it good, is it bad, is it interesting? I don’t know. But it allows me to renew myself, with good or bad results. Life goes by quickly, and even if it’s comfortable to repeat what I’m capable of doing, I don’t have the impression that it makes me grow. 

PAN M 360: I just have one last weird question. Your first track is called ‘TASSEOMANCIE’. It is a divination method that interprets the patterns in tea leaves. Do you think music can be a method of divination?


Anne-Claude Deschênes: Absolutely, what I’m doing at the moment will also define my future. But first and foremost, this song has a link with the members of my family, who have a tradition of reading tea leaves in the morning, at noon and in the evening. There was also the fortune-telling dice and dream analysis. It was part of my daily life. I grew up in an esoteric environment. Even though I’ve always found it absurd, it still influences me.


TICKETS TO MONTREAL SHOW : https://phi.ca/fr/evenements/annie-claude-deschenes/

Tour dates

04/26/2024 – Montréal, QC – Centre PHI

05/02/2024 – Ottawa, ON – Club SAW

05/10/2024 – Chicoutimi, QC – CEM

05/11/2024 – Quebec, QC – Le Pantoum



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