It’s great to have you on the blog, you have been an artist all of us here at No Dough have been fans of for a while. This is the first interview in our new series kicking off the new decade, and we are gonna get deeper, techie and move away from the standard interview questions.
As an artist with your own unique sound and a record label that keeps delivering the goods, most of which you run yourself – it can’t be easy? What keeps you motivated? What gets you out of bed and into the studio?
Thank you for having me guys! True it isn’t easy to run a vinyl label nowadays but despite all the difficulties, I still love it and still find the energy to carry on. I run my label all by myself as you said because I couldn’t do it otherwise. It means that I finance and control every step from selecting the tracks, supervising artwork, validating the mastering and test pressings, promoting the releases and eventually sell the records as I willingly work without distributor. Entrepôt Records is a little underground machine with 2-3 releases per year. My motivation remains the same as day one: releasing quality house music on vinyl independently. Couldn’t have someone telling me what to do and how to do it. Now what gets me out of bed are the thousands ideas that I have constantly on my mind and that won’t let me sleep as well as my will to always create something better. I’m more and more focused on little details. Probably few people will notice them but they are what make the difference in a track. I’m a perfectionist who is almost never happy with my own music. I’ve always critics to make. The day I would tell someone that my stuff is absolutely incredible, please take me to a doctor. Also I need to be in the studio each day because I firstly make music to evacuate what I feel inside. It’s a very selfish process. I’m not like “ok now I’m gonna produce 3 tracks for this or this label, no. I create for my little self and the day a label comes to me, I then make them listen to the stuff I’ve got in stock. That’s how I work. I can’t create feelings on demand, I’m not a robot.
So inspiration comes to you through working all the time? Or do you do anything specific to prepare for a writing session?
I don’t do anything specific to prepare for a writing session. What happens often is that I have an idea of a rhythm or of a melody in mind. Then when I hit the studio, depending on my feeling of the moment, I would start with switching on the hardware to construct a beat or instead go directly in Ableton to play a melody with a certain VST I thought of. So I guess we could say that I sometimes make a little mental preparation as ideas are constantly flowing in my mind. Working all the time brings me the experience to know what would probably be a waste of time – in term of musical efficiency – from what would be interesting. But with that said, experimentation remains my favourite part in the creation process.
UC Beatz was also kind enough to provide our latest podcast too. Check it…
From what I have heard, the best way to describe the way you work in the studio is a hybrid setup of hardware and software? We are in a bit of a golden age when it comes to some really cool hardware tools being released, software too. Do you work on live jam with the hardware and capture it with your DAW? or do you sequence everything from inside the computer?
Right it’s a hybrid setup. I do both but what I use to do the most is to sequence everything from inside the computer. Capturing hardware with my DAW is cool to give that live touch to a track but it doesn’t really allow me to work on details in depth for the arrangements for example, I can do that much better while sequencing. Actually what I usually do is using both techniques in a same track to have the live atmosphere and the details precision too.
Do you plan to do a live act one day? If so what kit would you take on the road to make that happen?
To be honest I generally find live acts quite boring. I don’t get excited by looking at someone pushing on buttons and tweaking. Though there are artists that make amazing live performances like Mr. G or Kink for example. But yeah when it comes to play live I prefer a deejay with 2 turntables and a mix table. Same when it comes to me, I rather play a DJ set.
Has any new kit or software changed the way you work in 2019?
I still work with Ableton 9. Didn’t tried 10 yet btw. Not sure if there is a big difference? Otherwise I always download a lot of plug-ins. Lately I’ve abused with stuff from KORG!
Did you see they just released a VST of the whole Triton Workstation? Some memories locked in those classic sounds. Do you find the VST is equal to sound people used to get from the hardware? Or do you have a special way of working it to make it better?
Yes I saw it and there are some great memories in those sounds indeed! In my opinion a VST generally equals sound from hardware – there are sometimes disappointments though. Nowadays with Ableton or any software coupled with good VST’s, you can definitely obtain the same result than the one you would obtain with hardware. Recently I was playing with the Minimoog VST. Man the sound was just amazing. At a blind test I couldn’t tell if the sound would come from the real synth or from the VST plugin. It’s bluffing. Also I’m not really a hardware fanatic, I like to work with software too. Comparing both is a bit like the old vinyl VS MP3 debate. I mean it’s a different approach but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter as long as the music is good.
The kind of House music you make, often rely s on a lot of clever sampling / found sounds. Do you use a lot of samples and if so, what advice would you give people on mixing samples from records with their own sounds to get a good sound going?
The art of sampling is essential to me. It comes from the fact that I’ve started producing hip-hop back in the 90s. I’ve been influenced by artists like Pete Rock, RZA, DJ Premier, The Alchemist, etc. Then when I began exploring other music genres I’ve kept the habit to seek for samples. Sampling requires first a musical culture before mastering the technique of chopping and tweaking. Cause you can be a good technician but what to sample? And where to search for it? I’ve started digging in my parents record collection which was full of classical, soul, pop, disco, folk and rock. Quite eclectic. Then later as an adolescent I began buying my own records. I’ve always listened to a lot of genres. Being musically curious is essential for a producer in my opinion. So when you’ve found that sample, transformed it as you like and added your own synths on it: that’s when magical things happen. Getting a good cohesive gel is just a question of equalising and finding/adjusting the right filters. However what people often forget is that a sample is a piece of music that has often been recorded by real musicians and that has already been mastered. You can never reproduce exactly the same grain and texture by replaying it as the recording conditions wouldn’t be the same. Lots of those samples where recorded on old analog material from the 50s to the 70s; it got that inimitable warmth and crackling sound. It is what gives a soul to a track.
Yeah, there are a lot of musical decisions and work already at play when you find / work with a sample. That’s one of the reasons its so inspiring to work that way imo – there has been a lot of talk recently, about cultural appropriation. Not sampling from cultures other than your own etc etc – don’t make tribal unless your in a tribe. What is your view and are there any limits to what you would sample? As long as you add your own art to it?
This is ridiculous in my opinion. It is killing art and freedom of creativity. In this optic me being born from a Belgian mother and a British father I could only sample stuff like Jacques Brel or the Beatles? Come on. If everybody should sample elements only from his own culture then there wouldn’t have been a Wu Tang Clan for example. Those guys from Staten Island sampled tons of old Chinese kung-fu movies and made it their brand. Even the name Wu Tang was inspired from the sacred mountain Wudang in China. So should we now delete Wu Tang Clan music from all platforms? And there are countless examples like this. No I don’t pay attention to those futile debates. Music is above races, cultures and genders. Trying to restrict people from using elements from other cultures reminds me the stinky mentality “each one at home”. I don’t like it and as far as I’m concerned I’ve always sampled from all cultures and will continue to do so because it is what makes the richness of music.
I see you have the new Roland 909 and 808, classic machines that with some work can get you a very wide breadth of sounds. How do you work with them to get the UC Beatz thing going?
My favourite piece of gear is the 909. I usually start a track with the beat. When I’ve got the loop I need, I start to sample and eventually play with synths in order to put little adds. But it’s not always like that of course. I can make a track without sample and compose everything with the Rhodes or the Juno 106 for example. It depends on my mood and on what kind of feelings I want to put in the track.
Do you find the Roland kit works straight away in your music, or do you need to process it?
I generally process them for compression, fx, etc. unless I want to make a raw sound and even though, I would add some filters.
Tell us a bit about your studio, what kind of monitors? is it fully treated or just a nice sounding room?
My monitors are PMC. I’ve got them since many years now and still happy with it. My home studio is just a nice sounding room. Don’t have a fully treated place with tons of gear in it even if I wish I had though haha.
Yeah, once a very experience mastering engineer told me, he would take a room he knows over a new room with the best gear and treatment any day.
Do you have any plans to add the studio in 2020?
Not really in term of hardware but I will certainly download new VST plugins. Actually it’s what I do the most.
In the past year or so you dropped your first LP, how did this come about? Did it start life as an LP or an EP that grew too big? what was the concept behind it?
My first LP is something that I’m proud of even though it hasn’t been constructed like a real LP. It was a compilation of tracks, not a conceptual project. Actually I had a lot of decent tracks sleeping in my archives (85 at that time) and one day I thought that it was stupid to let them take the dust. So I made a selection and kept my favourites. Now I’ve got a second album completed with an intro, outro, interludes, and that tells a story through 14 tracks but I’m not sure if I’m gonna release it. Everything I make isn’t meant to be released.
That’s interesting, very true and something a lot of young artists should take note of. Are you creating your own Prince like underground archive filled with unreleased music?
Currently I have currently something like 120 unreleased tracks in my archives. Most of them will never be released. Each one correspond to a period of my life and reminds me good or bad memories. As I told you, I don’t create music to release it so I don’t feel any pressure to share them with the world. I just keep them for me. It’s my secret garden.
How did your process change when putting together an LP?
For me an LP is a format meant to be listened outside of a dance floor at so it’s an ideal ground for experimentation. That’s why I like to put some unusual productions on an album. It’s totally different process than creating an EP which focus exclusively on the dance floor.
How would you say you have improved as a producer this past year and making the LP. Do any big lessons or steps forward jump out at you?
I’m progressing each day actually. The lesson I’ve learned since a long time is to listen to a lot of music. I mean carefully listening to all the details like how do others equalise their tracks, how do they use compression, how do they manage their arrangements, etc. Listening to others work gives you the best lessons. Not to copy but to open your mind and acquire new knowledge. We can be influenced by others but our music should always be our own style.
How have you seen your sound evolving recently and where do you want to take it in 2020? Does new gear affect the kind of music you make? or other things like the scene or culture going on?
Actually I’ve mostly produced “late nite” stuff until now and that’s gonna change a bit as I’m more focusing on producing “peak time” tracks right now. That means more BPM, more groove, more sweat on the dance floor. I’ve come to realise, while playing DJ sets, that I like to play dynamic stuff. I mean I’m eclectic of course as I like to build up a set but when that BPM is increasing and the grooves start to make me turn my head and I feel like wohoooo that’s when I feel good. So my next EP on Entrepôt will be all about that. New gear or plugins certainly affect my sound as I’m always trying new things. If I would repeating myself I would be quickly bored.
Yeah deeper stuff is always good, but there is a definite energy in the House scene for more up stuff!
It has been a pleasure having you on for a chat and a mix, you better tell us what’s next for you? Any gigs? Next record? Your public awaits…
2020 comes with a new challenge for me as I start taking bookings. These last years I’ve been focused on production and building up my label but now time has come to move out, plus I’ve got an increasing demand to play and my supporters want to see me live. I will soon announce all details related to my bookings. Then of course I’ve got new records scheduled. On the Entrepôt side, there is a various artist in the pipeline. It’s a special release as it is the result of the remix contest I’ve organised last year. The 4 artists to appear on it are the 4 winners. There is also a new UC Beatz EP to be released and a new EP from Chiraya. Then next to my own label, I’ve got 4 releases so far scheduled on other labels. 2020 gonna be a busy year!