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By Philip Runco.

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“The past is not really that interesting to me,” AIR‘s Jean-Benoît Dunckel once said, “because I mostly care about the future and the present.”

It’s an interesting sentiment coming from one-half of a band whose sound has often been defined by a distinct retro-futurism. From the analog lounge music of 1998’s Moog symphony Moon Safari to the robotic prog and sci-fi folk of 2001’s bonkers 10,000 Hz Legend to the full-screen beauty of 2004’s Talkie Walkie, AIR’s best music is capable of having one foot in the soundtrack to your fuzzy childhood memories (that is, if you also graduated high school in the late ’80s) and the other on a space station orbiting earth centuries from now. (Appropriately enough, the French band’s last widely available release, Le voyage dans la lune, was a new soundtrack for Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film “A Trip to the Moon”.)

But whether he likes it or not, Dunckel is now in the situation of having to look back on the past. Last year, AIR released Twentyears, a retrospective of the duo’s twin decades of musical output, spread over 17 “greatest hits” and 14 rarities and b-sides.

Last weekend, AIR played its first U.S. show in seven years at New York’s Governors Ball. Prior to then, I passed some questions over to Dunckel via the internet.

AIR plays the Strathmore in North Bethesda tonight and Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre on June 20. Twentyears is out now.

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What were your biggest considerations when deciding what 17 songs wound up on the “greatest hits” disc of Twentyears?

I think we chose the strongest ones, the ones that the fans picked up in their choices and that we hear more of. These tracks are often the symbols of our different periods, of our different styles, of our different way of making pieces of music.

What are some favorite AIR tracks that didn’t make the cut?

I love all my babies and I refuse to have some favourite ones. Seriously, I like for example “Caramel Prisoner” or “Suicide Underground” – weird, heavy psyche tracks. I love them because they make me jump in the dream or nightmare dimension. Music is a trigger for space travel in the mind.

Has the 20-year anniversary mark (and assembling all three discs of the compilation) inspired any sort of introspection or nostalgia on your part? As you looked back over two decades of AIR, were you struck by anything?

It just makes a more constant heavy records with less mistakes. AIR is big not because of its creators but because of the strong universal relations that the fans continue to have with our music.

Does it ever feel strange to see AIR’s name atop a festival poster with traditional rock bands and pop stars? In that kind of setting or otherwise, has the reach – and endured popularity – of your music surprised you?

Yes, I’m surprised to still be around, but I must say that I don’t feel old and I feel still a lot of energy deep down. I think time is an absurd thing that humans don’t really understand. Maybe there’s no time in paradise and every track lasts a lifetime. Time is a concept, as fashion and as a music career – we might escape from these concepts because there’s so much love to offer in our music.

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