Thomas Cochini, engineer/slasher
Thomas Cochini is a seasoned veteran of Trempo. After attending the European Music Incubator program in 2018, and the Accélérateur Culture program in 2019, he has gone from student to master, becoming a trainer himself. This musician – who is also an agricultural engineer – has accompanied eight artists participating in Slash on soundwalk creation, one of his areas of expertise – and one among many for this thirty-year-old, who has many more up his sleeve.
“I brought donuts.” When he shows up for his interview, Thomas Cochini unwraps his fritters, covered in powdered sugar. We politely decline: we don’t want to stain the computer keys, which are dirty enough as is. So we quickly change the subject by asking him about his career. Before becoming one half of musical duo Labotanique, Cochini grew up in the suburbs of Paris where he attended the local classical Conservatory between the ages of 6 and 13, before learning jazz piano in a cultural association from age 13 to 19. The Cochini’s are a very musical family (his great aunt is a piano virtuoso), but they take studying seriously too (Dad’s a doctor). So the young man went into agronomy while also studying music. In high school, he liked biology and thought this would be a good compromise for post-secondary studies. After cutting his teeth with the group The Queen Couine, he met Ronan Moinet in 2014 and set up Labotanique. “We released our first EP, which was very DIY, and recorded my shoebox apartment within a flat-share,” he recalls. “We were in the same vein as Odezenne, who were blowing up at the time. We started to perform on stage and won a few battles-of-the-band in the north of France. In Lille, a support manager asked me if I was thinking of pursuing music professionally. That’s when I really started thinking about it…”
In 2015, the year they moved to Nantes, Thomas and Ronan both graduated in agricultural engineering. They then thought about their project and, above all, how to make it economically viable by diversifying their income. “In 2016–2017, we got our foot in the SMAC network (French organization for current musics) and started organizing cultural projects at the same time. Those were our two points of reference: the band and workshops. I also worked at La ruche qui dit oui, a business distributing farm-fresh vegetables. But it was too much of a strain, and music was becoming more than a weekend hobby. In 2018, I took advantage of the company’s downsizing and left that job.” Since May 2020, Thomas Cochini has benefited from France’s generous artists’ subsidies. “We’re so lucky,” he confides, “because with Labotanique we had concerts planned in parks and gardens. We even had some international dates. Everything fell through because of Covid-19…”
In 2020, the duo were also awarded a FAIR grant, which helps artists develop their careers and become professionals. With the cancellation of their tour and lack of the media buzz that would normally greet their FAIR award – again due to the pandemic – the duo could have given up. But, fortunately, the Akken agency approached them for a project with Corderie Royale in Roquefort at that very same time. This project associated tourism and culture, and involved interviewing locals, in situ recordings, and writing both a story and an original musical composition. Thomas and Ronan decided to create a structure called Bruit vert (“green noise”) in reference to “white noise”, which is brilliantly described in the Bible for the Dumb (aka Wikipedia) as “a random signal having equal intensity at different frequencies, giving it a constant power spectral density.” This association’s primary goal is to administrate Labotanique’s recording rights. In 2021, the group self-produced its first album, Expressions végétales. “We looked for a label, but we wanted an ecological business model. Failing to find one, we decided to create one ourselves. With recording, creating, hiring additional musicians, producing, shooting two videos, pressing records and creating the artwork, this album cost us a hefty sum. But, through crowdfunding, financial help from FAIR, and a few grants, we did OK. And we’ll finally be able to play it on stage.”
Exchanging and sharing
Bruit vert’s second objective is to manage revenue from content designed for museum and heritage spaces – the latter activity being their trademark. “Associating nature and culture is our MO, and what sets us apart. We see ourselves as ‘mediators of the living world’, with the motto: ‘enthrall people in order to raise awareness of the living world’.” The association’s final goal is to integrate cultural action projects.
Last January, Thomas Cochini notably came to Trempo, where he had previously participated in two workshops himself: the European Music Incubator in 2018 and Accélérateur Culture in 2019. “These are some of the foundations that helped structure me in terms of my thinking, my contacts, my resources… For example, I met Laurence Giuliani, director of Akken – a sound production agency for tourist destinations and cultural venues – with whom I collaborate a lot today. I also met Hervé Herrero, head of sound at Château de Versailles Spectacle, with whom I will be working on a project soon.” Thomas Cochini now hosts ateliers of his own at Trempo. He has chaperoned the eight artists who were part of Slash. For two days, in weather so cold it would wake the dead, Thomas and the “slashers” travelled throughout the city with the aim of making podcasts one could listen to in situ: audio-guided content that artistically enhances a heritage site. “I’ve been leading workshops since 2017, but I was feeling a little pressure here because I wasn’t talking to beginners but to experienced artists who had important backgrounds in music. I was just sharing my experience with them. It was exciting to be in this position. Exchanges and sharing are essential. The more advice you share, the more progress you make.” It’s still too early to say anything more, but the word on the street is that there might be a sequel… “You were right not to have any donuts. They’re not very good… Much too dry,” concluded Thomas before taking his leave and going to Transfer in Rezé. This musical jack-of-all-trades will present the results from one of his inventions to sound and light technicians: a device that lights plants up when you brush against them.