Pheek (Archipel Musique Canada) Q&A

Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Jean-Patrice. Your music on Fleksebleco combines elements of precision alongside an improvised free flow of electrical impulse. Who (or which records) inspired you to take this direction outside of more conventional mainstream styles?

I’m not sure where I read that quote, but it said something like, you are who you surround yourself with. So I think my friends and people who share my life are more influential than most other musicians, mostly because I get direct feedback from them. Since I coach and teach much, I could even say that those people are also quite influencing me in some way. Over the years, I went from trying to reach as many people with my music, to being more interested in making music for the immediate circle of loved ones. What I realized, it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders when I stopped caring about reaching masses, labels, big labels, top sales, etc. As you progress as an artist, you can get absorbed into toxic goals and also, completely unrealistic ideas of wanting to be part of some circles. Nowadays, music is fun again.

What can you tell us about the meaning of the new albums title? And also about the accompanying artwork?

In most of my music titles, I use Esperanto as a language that is meant to be universal. In this case, it means Flexibility. To me, as an artist, I think flexibility is one of the most important and useful trait to develop. Making electronic music is extremely complex and if you keep an open mind, things get easier.

Do you ever feel that electronic dance music has lost its radical impulses becoming too reliant on clichés and tried and tested formulas for ideas? I ask because your music feels like the opposite of that.

Like any music, what we refer to as clichés are just part of a style. For instance, techno has its own aesthetic because people who make it want to make sure to be part of that movement, therefore they will repeat what works or emulate what’s in trend, what sells, what the big DJs play. It gets boring and redundant if you follow a genre for a while and sometimes, if that genre gets popular, then it gets flooded with the same ideas. I like to see less popular genres losing its main trends as it slowly reinvents itself and then you’ll see many new ideas build up again, attracting new producers who will be interested in the refreshing waves. As for myself, I’ve been kinda making the same music for almost 25 years so it is quite a relief that I don’t come up as something jaded or redundant. I’m just being myself as the sum of all the different influences: drum and bass, drones, ambient, jazz, indie rock, pop etc. I find a lot of joy in ambient. I’m interested in ideas, not trends. I’m also interested in techniques more than pre-made concepts.

Talk us through your creative process. Do you start with a single musical idea or can inspiration come from an outside of music source like cinema or a book?

I mostly create accidents, then will go through everything I have and cherry pick what stands out as memorable. I see my music as a journal, a diary of ideas and moments collected. Whenever I have time, I open a software and will play some music based on my current mood. Then I’ll let all of that rest. There’s some sort of process of dealing with awareness and presence through that. For instance, I work in little sessions at a time and then will do something else. I pay attention during the day to what stays/plays on mind over the same day or later. When I have an idea I like, I usually stop working on it and let it rest for weeks or months to see if it resists the test of time. I find that when I get excited about an idea, it’s not a good thing and I don’t want to create attachment to it because it will grow into a toxic relationship of false hopes, expectations which will ruin it. I prefer letting it rest, detach from it and then pick it in a neutral mind-set to get the most of it. I trust my future self to have more knowledge and time will let me build potential complementary ideas. On that album, All songs were recorded live, no editing or so. I’ve been using this way as the best method to not fall into my own habits, patterns while having a physical intervention over my arrangements. Not just mouse and click. There’s a live set with the whole recording here.

Do you have a favourite piece of software/ hardware you couldn’t live without?

The Subpac has been my most important piece of gear in the last 10 years. If I had to build my studio from scratch, it would be in the first things I’d get. It is a way of understanding the low-end, which is what I love in music. I love my Zahl Mixer as well.

What are your thoughts on running your own record label, Archipel? Are there any particular advantages/ disadvantages in doing so?

It’s a love and hate relationship. It outgrew itself and became a monster that is almost impossible to run anymore. I have to trim it down because it requires so much energy that it costing me much to operate. I think labels aren’t as important as they used to be. I think they became some sort of list of personal selection but since it is so easy to start one, it becomes questionable on what’s the purpose of it. The only advantage I see in my label is that it lets me release my music whenever it’s ready and if it was rejected elsewhere. I have a new distribution now that has a lot of tools I was dreaming to have years ago so it became easier.

Outside of music which artists, painters, writers etc inspire your day to day?

There are many and it’s hard to name a few out of the blue. I think it mostly comes down to anything related to philosophy and art. But I think psychology is what drives me the most. Making music can be a cycle of suffering and self-help has been extremely crucial to remain focused and balanced. Learning dance was also quite important.

Tell us about the city you are close too, Montreal. How do you feel it inspires the music that you create?

I don’t live in a city, but in a county that is located about 1h from Montreal. I live in the woods. It has been a life of a hermit and that has its pros and cons. I think nature is quite influential to me as I’ve been more and more interested in making ambient music or experimental. To walk in the woods, you get this multi-sensorial experience that is refilling me with ideas I want to translate to my art but it gets a bit hard to put it all together. I noticed the social aspect influences me to make dance oriented music and that is the part that is a bit more complicated, when living alone.

Do you see the future for artists in positive terms regarding generating income for their art, or is the future darker?

Neither of that. Whenever people I work with start to bring to our conversation anything related to income generated by their music, I tell them they’re distracted. When you make art, the money should be the last thing on your mind and that is something many people who make music have misunderstood. People repeat what works in hopes they’ll have the same results but in most cases, it fails, leaving them confused. Then we get overwhelmed with how everything sounds the same. There are so many people who put the income as the first thing that you get, as you said yourself, into clichés and recipes to fit in a mould. The more you try to fit, the less you are yourself and then you will lose your inspiration. This is something I struggled with for a while when I did the jump to become full time musician. If you want to make an income our of your music, you need to be a business man and turn your vision on other’s needs to fill them and while we have all the tools to make that happen, its a double edged sword, as there’s no recipe for success. Everything is a question of timing and more importantly, it’s happening in person, not online. I think that the rise of AI will be more challenging than helpful, for a while. That’s a more important topic.

pheek · Sensibili (Digital LP, Archipel, Ambient dub)

And finally. Your website, audioservices is full of great advice and tutorials plus access to your mastering services. How would you describe the process of mastering and what it brings to the final piece of music?

I started to do mastering because I needed to but after 20 years, it became a passion. I see it as a polishing process but it can be artistic, when the artist trust me. I find that most of the time, people have amazing music and they’re completely unaware of it because their understanding of engineering is limited. Whenever I hear a mix, I know in my mind what would be it’s final result and then I reverse engineer where it is to bring it where I have in mind. What’s amazing about it is, mastering is all about tastes, just like production or mixing. You may know everything but lacking vision or limited tastes, and then you’ll have impersonal masters. This is where AI services who offer mastering all fail for now but it could change, just like when Midjourney kicked illustrator’s asses.

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