At the end of the steppe

Leaving the protective cave to face the empty, hostile steppe.

Leaving the cavern and its comforting shadows to face the emptiness of reality.

Leaving the bunker to face the emptiness of the devastated world.

Leaving your teenage bedroom. Leaving the womb. Leaving the safety of the bedroom where you can lock yourself away to dream at will. Matrix blues.

But also leaving the cave of the grave, on the third day.

As a teenager, around the age of 13 or 14, I liked to spend quiet, solitary afternoons at the living-room table – the good old, very long, old, irregular wooden table in the living-room – drawing, writing role-playing scenarios or reading.

My father owned hundreds of comic books; I was particularly fond of Balade au bout du monde, Grimion gant de cuir, and Les Passagers du Vent. The latter series featured a beautiful young woman with long black hair, grappling with the harshness of her century (the 18th), exile and the need to build a new life in Africa. Femininity, the sea, travel, the unknown, elsewhere... it all spoke to me. Africa, of course, evokes the savannah, wild animals, the dawn of humanity... and Sapiens.

I spent hours in Sapiens on my Amstrad, hypnotized by this prehistoric landscape in primitive 3D, this primordial steppe as flat as Space itself, which seemed endless but at the very end of which we could see smoke and a mountain.

The smoke promised life, warmth and community. The mountain was a symbol of moral and spiritual elevation.

I moved forward as if hypnotized, accumulating flint, fruit and food, step by step, for later use, "if need be".

As a child, at the same time, I attended a day-care center that seemed to me to be planted in the middle of nowhere, or more precisely at the junction between an infinite forest and infinite fields, which you could only reach after an interminable bus journey, until you had left behind anything resembling a town or village, or civilization. A hunchbacked country, poor, silent and empty, where my family had come from.

I'd learned to make a fire with a flint, set up a teepee and shoot a bow.

Playing Sapiens was a way of continuing to haunt these places.

Going to the day-care center was a way of living in Sapiens "for real".

I started composing Bunker Blues around 2007, 2008. It was just a few primitive, wobbly melodies. The title came to me first, before the first note of music, because at the same time I was playing La Secte Noire again, and there's a place in the village called "Les Ruines du Pendu", where there's a metal door with a skull on it, which seems to indicate the entrance to a blockhouse or some such place.

I also had to think back to Eden Blues, another CPC game, where the aim was to escape from a prison guarded by robots. A surprisingly melancholy game, which even as a child, without my being able to formulate it, seemed to me a secret metaphor for human life; it's even more operative today.

I didn't touch these tracks again for years. But I continued to accumulate sounds, bits of melody, percussive patterns, over time, without coming back to them either. I was stockpiling for an indeterminate future. It wasn't long before an album called Bunker Blues was out of the question. One project chased another, and I soon stopped making them, content to move on and accumulate.

Bunker Blues wrote itself, formed itself, in secret in silence, over the years, as I blindly composed like this. The name came back to me, a long time later, like finding your way back; like recognizing a forgotten landscape after wandering for a long time.

I'm absolutely convinced that the album chose a certain number of pieces from among my countless drafts to constitute itself. Works of art create themselves, and our job is to let them, to be patient, to keep moving forward.

I wanted music that recalled the video games of my childhood: 8-bit Amstrad games, with their distinctive sounds; old DOS games with their mysterious, lo-fi music, played on Ad-Lib cards or primitive-sounding General MIDI banks.

I allowed myself to indulge as much as I wanted in the nostalgia of new wave and its characteristic melodies, as on Avance dans la steppe with its synthetic harp à la Small town boy.

The music of Sapiens, itself, had strong new wave overtones.

The album also features a minimalist cover of Southern Death Cult classic Moya.

The kids of the Coca-Cola nation
Are too doped up to realize
That time is running out
Nagasaki's crying out
The doomwatch says it's time
To give back what you took away
Oh Uncle Sam meets the reaper
Wounded Knee over again
Kasota Kasota
Kasota Kasota
Kasota Kasota
Annihilation of our nation
Of our nation
Of a world population

The American Indians and their great empty plains, the atomic bomb, the bunkers to protect against it, the cavemen who were our past and perhaps our future, the infinite steppe of Sapiens.... It was all one and the same.

A few years later, one morning, I went for a walk in a village in the miserable, run-down, forgotten rural area where my family came from.

I wandered aimlessly for a few hours through an unfamiliar village where farm ruins adjoined dwellings, where dwellings adjoined abandoned houses, where vegetable gardens opened onto vacant lots. An unused railroad line, overgrown with tall grass, led out of or back into the village.

The streets were empty.

But just as in Sapiens you couldn't see NPCs as you walked along, only smell them, so, just before I set off again, I caught the scent of a wood fire.

Someone, somewhere, in the village, was there, and this feeling as old as the species took hold of me: I had come back to the camp.