“Joué is the ideal controller, but it’s also a real instrument”
Meeting with Christophe van Huffel, guitarist
Christophe van Huffel is a guitarist and a long time collaborator of French pop star Christophe. A home studio buff and an experienced user of synthesizers, sequencers and MIDI sounds, he was one of the first professional musicians to adopt Joué. We asked him about his experience.
How did you first hear about Joué and what was your first impression of this new instrument?
Two years ago, I did a masterclass at Yeah! Festival in the South of France to present my work, and Joué was one of the exhibitors there. I would walk passed their stand every day, that’s how I discovered their machine that intrigued me because it’s such a curious object. Since I’m a guitarist, I immediately tried the guitar module and really liked it. The first time I played on it, I instinctively placed it against my belly like a real guitar, and it just worked naturally. And then one day I was playing with Christophe in Bordeaux, the city where Joué have their headquarters, and they called and offered to bring me one. It was the very beginning of production, almost still a prototype. I was like a kid with a new toy!
“The first time I tried Joué, I instinctively placed the module against my belly like a guitar.”
And how did you integrate it into your existing setup?
Well, I’m used to working with machines, so getting familiar with Joué was really quick for me. I have a home studio that is hybrid, half analog and half digital – I like vintage gear, but I also enjoy new technologies. So I immediately started using Joué a lot in my studio, and I recently integrated it on stage as well. I really enjoy how intuitive it is, the quick access it provides. And they just released a plug that lets you pilot any MIDI interface, it’s absolutely great, it works with everything – it’s truly plug and play.
You use Joué to control synthesizers. How does that work practically speaking, and what difference does it make?
The first thing is its format. Joué is super easy to take with you when traveling, which makes it the ideal controller. It has its little bag, you put the modules in there with it, and you can take it anywhere along with your computer. You can even work on the train, which I’ve done a couple times! It’s the perfect mobile controller. I used to use mostly keyboards and pads; with Joué, it’s a completely different approach.
“Joué is the perfect mobile controller. I even use it on the train!”
Apart from its practical aspect, what do you like the most about Joué?
Well for starters, I’m a fan of design above anything. Before I even try an instrument, I need to appreciate its esthetics. I found Joué great from the get-go because it’s just a beautiful object. Which means that on stage, I’m proud of showing off my instrument. I’d like to create a table that’s tilted towards the audience so that people can see what I’m doing when I play on it. I got that idea during the last concert I did; people couldn’t see what I was doing so they didn’t understand, like when you’re watching a DJ behind their computer.
You’re also the proud owner of a prototype of the Grand Fretboard: can you tell us about using that as well?
I have several applications for it, but what I like the most is to use it for guitar sounds, quite logically. In my mind, there is a clear transposition between the guitar neck and the Joué, even if the gestures are slightly different. I can play guitar standing or sitting, whereas I play the Joué on a table. My idea for the future would be to develop a model you can wear with a strap, with a long neck; I told them about that, actually. I did a concert with the Joué fretboard flat on a table, and it looks great. When I switch from the guitar to the fretboard, it makes an impression on the audience: I play guitar chords on the fretboard and people are a little disconcerted, they wonder how I can get that guitar sound with a digital instrument. I use only the Grand Fretboard on stage now.
“On stage, when I switch to my Joué, it makes an impression; people wonder how I can get that guitar sound with a digital instrument.”
Joué is high-end object, made with a strong sense of ethics and sustainability. Does that make a difference to you?
I really appreciate that it’s made with noble materials, with a slick design; that really matters to me and makes it a real instrument, not just another MIDI controller. And then beyond the object itself, everything is aligned: what I loved with the Joué team is the human contact we immediately had, that’s really important to me. You can chat with exhibitors everywhere, but with them, I was really speaking with musicians, not just manufacturers. When you use Joué, you instantly sense that it was developed by musicians and engineers, hand in hand: the ergonomics, the conception, the way the editor was programmed…
Lastly, when you tell someone what Joué does for you, what aspect do you focus on?
Actually I hardly explain anything. I just put it in their hands so they can experience it themselves. That’s what Joué is all about: there is nothing to explain, you just need to let people dabble with it. You can see that when they do demos at trade fairs: people come to check it out and two minutes later, they’re having a blast. It’s an instrument that wasn’t developed only for professionals, which is one of its advantages: it’s attractive and accessible for all. Plus the sensitivity is perfect, the aftertouch, the velocity, etc.; you really get amazing sensations.
“When I show people Joué, I put it in their hands and they experience it on their own. That’s what Joué is all about: there is nothing to explain.”
Interview by Patrick Haour