Meet Steve Journé, conductor of the Monster Orchestra

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In the Meet Our Musicians series, Jellynote introduces you to the creators behind the sheet music on our platform. Discover their musical style and get to know them!

On October 31st 2019, Steve is conducting the Monster Orchestra this Halloween eve in Paris Pleyel. Check out this link and enter the Code REVENANTS for 30% off the standard seat price!

As I enter the house of Steve Journé, I am somewhat disappointed. What was I expecting? A bachelor pad? With pots of Chinese food and half-drunk glasses of whiskey littering the house? Sheet music scattered on every available surface?

Instead I am greeted by a warm grin and a well-kept house. He is not the tortured-artist I had expected him to be, but rather a cheery family man. His piano, clarinet, metronome and sheet music have been consigned to one corner of the living room, while the rest of his house is pristine, as if to suggest a clear divide between these two aspects of his character.

Steve had pretty standard musical beginnings. He was seven when he first started playing piano, his father discouraged him from pursuing music as he didn’t believe it was a real career, but his mother encouraged to follow his dreams etc… in the same vein as every other musician ever.

What came after his university studies– the monster – is something quite different.

The Monster Orchestra is the name of Steve’s orchestra. It is made up of musicians, all of whom have a regular number of body parts, have (probably) never killed anyone and undoubtedly have good relationships with their parents. However, it is far from your typical 40-piece ensemble.

Steve injects spice into his orchestra through his performance; his musicians do not just play catchy songs, but rather tell a story. The orchestra has a very separate and distinct identity, often wearing stage make-up to help them embody different characters. Perhaps vampires, or zombies or something altogether more terrifying. They are monsters and Steve is their creator.

“Today, we want to break free from our microphone cage to share this musical spirit with our audience. It’s the moment where the caterpillar becomes the butterfly, where Symphonifilm becomes THE MONSTER ORCHESTRA, which, from a flutter of wings will create thunderous applause,” his website reads.

The Monster Orchestra first took life after Steve finished his studies. He knew he wanted to work with an orchestra, but first had to find musicians. On doing so, he created Symphonifilm – a company that writes music for films. To most people, Steve was deemed a success. He had found work as a conductor, orchestrating and performing music for films. But something was missing.

Steve has always had a close relationship with his orchestra and he wanted to open this world up to his audience, to allow them to see what happens behind studio walls.

Hence, the idea for The Monster Orchestra.

“Music should be alive. We have to play it live because it allows us to give more of ourselves to the performance”, his face lights up as he says this.

Steve conducting The Monster Orchestra

“Which is more fun to conduct – The Monster Orchestra or Symphonifilm?”, I ask.

“Both are fun because I am there,” he replies.

He makes a valid point. He is a lot of fun. I spend just over an hour with him and by the end I feel my mood has significantly lifted and am confident I could write a self-help book. There is something very unique about Steve. He possesses a strange curiosity, paired with the energy of a 12-year-old, I fear for anyone that stands in his way. Given his character, it makes sense that he would feel constricted by performing behind a screen; he is a natural performer with (frankly) incredible hair.

He often takes on the mantle of Professor Journey, a mad scientist who leads the orchestra.

“Where does the inspiration for such a character come from?”, I ask.

“Me,” he replies, “It’s natural. I’m him all the time.” He temporarily adapts his voice, embodying Professor Journey, with wild hand gestures and mad eyes, but I can tell that, beneath the bells and whistles, is the same excitable spirit he manifests in his everyday life.

Though he is cautious to avoid overplaying the role and is keen to retain some semblance of spontaneity and naturalism. After three years of The Monster Orchestra, with each performance getting more outlandish, Steve is wary to ensure that he retains “artistic independence” and avoids becoming a parody of what the show was originally.

“I try to give a unique performance each time. And do a lot of improvisation.”

At the end of our meeting, I can’t help but ask Steve how he settled on the name “The Monster Orchestra”.

“As a conductor, before you enter the practice room for the first time, you can hear your orchestra playing, almost as if it was a monster. At first, you’re afraid. You will appear before 30, 40, 50 musicians and give your interpretation of the music. One person facing 80.”

With enough performers to eat him alive, it’s certainly a daunting prospect. But just as Daenerys Targaryen, Hagrid and Samantha Jones managed to tame the beast before them, Steve has managed to tame his through respect and communication. And perhaps learnt something important about himself in the process…

After all, “the monster is not just the orchestra. The monster is me.”

Check out The Monster Orchestra in action!

Feeling inspired by Steve’s story? Why not try playing one of thousands of songs at Jellynote to get you started?

Want to get to know our other musicians?

Check out our interviews with Yuri Matsuura – the woman writing piano scores specifically for people with small hands, Oleg Maximov -the man transcribing all your favorite songs and Jonathan Dimond -a guy who wants us all to “unplug”.

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