When Christelle Gualdi is not practicing the art of yoga, she crafts mind-altering ambient and body-jacking dance music as Stellar OM Source. Transitioning from one sound to another takes time – and above all discipline. We called the former yoga teacher to talk about Parisian ghettos, enhancing your consciousness and how idealism fits into that
Interview by Sander van Dalsum, photos shot by Yana Foque in Antwerp, Belgium
‘I’m not really attracted to the word “idealism”. I’ve always thought that if we would adapt more to our surroundings, we’d be much better off’
As a kid, I thought the world would be a better place if we didn’t have to eat our veggies. Did you have any juvenile thoughts on how everything would be more ideal?
‘I’m not really attracted to the word “idealism”. I’ve always thought that if we would adapt more to our surroundings, we’d be much better off. It’s better to accept what’s happening than wanting to change something.’
Were these your thoughts on idealism as a kid as well?
‘I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking as a child, but I do recall thinking about letting things just be. When my parents got divorced, I had two homes. My father’s home was located in the middle of Paris’s ghetto. This place was exactly like that movie La Haine. My mom lived in the suburbs of that same city – very peaceful, but super boring. There was nothing to do except for riding my bike with the other children of the neighbourhood.’
And what did you do when visiting your dad in the ghetto?
‘We weren’t supposed to go outside at his place, because it was pretty dangerous. There would always be guys smoking pot in the elevator, and our doors were all spray-painted. We often saw something burning – either cars in parking lots or garbage. And I saw somebody getting stabbed once. So I got confronted with reality pretty hard.’
That’s a long way from having your own yoga practice. You teach the art of yoga to creative people, right? That’s pretty idealistic.
‘I actually stopped doing that last year. There weren’t enough people visiting the classes to make it really worthwhile. I think it’s difficult for a lot of people to commit to a weekly practice of emptying their minds – sadly enough, because it’s so important when you’re a creative type.’
What kind of people visited your classes then?
‘All kinds of artists, and a lot of fashion students that lived here in Antwerp. But also friends and people who just liked to clear their heads every once in a while.’
I take it you still practice yoga. You do that a lot?
‘Yes, but I do it alone, so I can make up my own routines. In a class it’s difficult to reach a certain level of consciousness. There is always someone who will disrupt the class, and also it’s really hard to find a good teacher. I had a fantastic teacher named Ben in The Hague though. He had a practice named Kristallen Naald in his living room, where only eight people could fit.’
Do you still have idealistic views that you learned from him?
‘Discipline, mostly that. Ben’s classes were like one big flow and he conducted the class from his mat, without the need to correct us. His methods were cold and concentrated, and jokes were never made. The seriousness of these classes was really impressive; the curtains were closed and you forgot about everything happening outside of that room.’
So you would take discipline over recreation?
‘Yeah, if you want to reach something with yoga, you have to. I did my teacher training in India, where discipline was very important. You couldn’t go outside, you’d have to get up at five in the morning and there was a strict diet. I liked that.’
Your previous recordings would fit real nicely in my naïve interpretation of a yoga practice. Your new album is more like an ecstatic club experience though. How come?
‘My last record was released in 2009, but it wasn’t like I came into the studio this year and made something completely different out of thin air. It was made during a couple of years and the songs are like a time frame. It’s basically the same as taking a picture of you the one year and taking another some years later. Maybe you changed your hair, who knows? It’s a natural process. I always wanted to explore new sounds and I feel like I’ve really reached a place with this record now. I really love this record; I’ve never felt as strong about my songs as I do about these.’
On 5 July, we’re teaming up with RVNG Intl. for Stellar OM Source’s Joy One Mile release party at Mediamatic Fabriek, Amsterdam featuring herself, Maxmillion Dunbar, the Future Vintage DJs and the first of our curated visual experiences by Mike Pelletier. Stellar OM Source also headlines our Metropolis Festival Pre-Party at BAR, Rotterdam on 6 July.