Thursday, 6 July 2017

Julien IncontroL - Syed meets a pioneer

Julien IncontroL was one of the first artists that this blog ever came across, and his take on the swing-house sound has informed many copy-cats, surely a mark of greatness. Here's what happened when Syed spoke to him about his latest project.

In one of my earliest posts, I went over my specific musical journal as a listener only. After living for six years in Canada, when I discovered House Music, I went crazy and listened to every 4x4 beat I could get my hands on: classic 1980s through newest releases. When it started to bore me and when “We Speak No Americano” went past my listening limit, I turned to Saxo-House. There was not enough good Saxo House out there but it kept me hooked for a while.
The first ever track, I heard, by IncontroL, I took it as a Saxo House track but better than anything I had heard in a very long time. I listened to it so many times but I never got tired of it. It is called Le Swing Ist King. It was right up my alley. I should have tried to listen to more stuff by IncontroL and Wolfgang (the duo behind the making of Le Swing Ist King) but, by then, the electro swing world had already opened up to me and, without caring who the singer/band/producer was, I was already living in a modern swing era, but, as a tourist.

Over the time, I came across many electro swing tracks by IncontroL and, as a swing house fan, he became one my favourites of all time. Julien IncontroL is a French producer + DJ, a former French resident who lives in New Caledonia, Canada now. Though some of his swing house tracks (some with Wolfgang Lohr, a German electro swing DJ/producer) made him really well-known in electro swing community (most of its newest members mostly start with swing house), he has taken upon various vintage music styles/genres including minimal swing, swing hop and electro blues among many others. His brand new album, Let’s Fall In Love, contains something for every electro swing listener. Every song is refreshingly unique and no two songs sound the same. He really has pushed the boundaries when it comes to blending different elements of vintage musical styles even including the vocals.

He got a chance to speak with me about his personal musical journey as a listener and as a producer/DJ and, also, about his new album, Let’s Fall In Love, which will be released on June 30th, 2017 and has been available for pre-sales since June 15th, 2017. It can be found on Itunes, Spotify, Bandcamp and Google Music.

Here is the transcript:

Syed: Thank you so much.for speaking with me.

Julien: Thank you. You taking (out) time for me. I appreciate that.

S: No no, not a problem. Thank you. Well, it’s a bright new day in New Caledonia, eh [it was 7:15pm in Toronto and sun was setting in about 2 hours].

J: Yeah, when I moved in with my girlfriend, there was a lot of light so we have to put on glasses [shows me view outside the window]

S: That is very nice. Oh my God.

J: That is Nouméa, you know – the place I live in. It is cloudy but there is so much light that you need to put sunglasses (on). [laughs]

S: Just want to start here: I have been listening to your music for a very long time. You know one of your songs, Le Swing Ist King – I don’t know if I am pronouncing it correctly – that was the first song that got me into electro swing in the very first place a long time ago. Back then, I used to search for Saxo House music and then you used saxophone in this (track) and it really opened my path towards electro swing because of that. I have noticed that you and Wolfgang Lohr worked on many songs before. You, as a New Caledonian resident, and him, as a German resident, how did you guys meet?

J: Actually, I just came back to New Caledonia two years ago. When I met Wolfgang, I was living in France actually. I was DJ’ing in Switzerland and Germany very often. I just sent a message to him: “I really like what you do (so) maybe we can do a track together”. It was very nice and easy. He said, “Yeah, come to my place and we can start a project”. We started on internet and, then, when I went to Berlin, we worked on this song: Le Swing Ist King. This is between French and German – French and German words in the same sentence.

S: Oh, I see. I never caught that.

J: « Le » is french, « Swing » is universal, « ist » is german and « king » you know… Le swing ist king !

S: [Looking at IncontroL’s earliest post on Soundcloud which is an electro swing mix] Were you producing when you got into electro swing?

J: Yes, yes. I started to produce when I was maybe 18. It was the beginning of Soundcards and computers – you know you could buy a Soundcard for cheaper price. It was home studio when I started to play with different things. Yeah, sure, I did.

S: Many of your earlier electro swing tracks can be put into the category of swing house, especially You Got me Voodoo, Indian Chief, Baton Rouge, etc. I am personally a huge fan of your swing house tracks. What attracted you towards Swing-House in the beginning over other sub-genres of electro swing music in your earlier days?

J: Do you mean what track inspired me?

S: I mean, what inspired you about Swing House as compared to other forms of electro swing music in your earlier days? Why did you begin with swing house?

J: When I first discovered it – do you know G Swing?

S: Yes, definitely. For sure.

JIt is in my CD collection here. I bought the CD and I was with one of my best friends. The first time we came across electro swing was through Caravan Palace. I was living in Paris and a few people knew them. We just went to a show and we saw them live. It was very exciting and it was very good to see this music being played this way. I really thought that this was a great (way of) mixing: DJ’ing and mixing with swing music at the same time. [Julien is also looking for the album through his collection] I don’t know where the album is. It is somewhere in there. We discovered Caravan Palace. Then we looked on internet and found G-Swing – that project really inspired me the most. Most of the tracks were swing house and swing hop. I don’t know when I started to produce [swing house]. I like all genres of music.

S: For sure, I noticed. You have many variations on your Soundcloud page.

J: My album is also very different.

S: Exactly, I was going to talk about that actually [laughs]. Before we get into that, you probably see the posts on Electro Swing public page (on Facebook), many electro swing artists have criticised the 4x4 swing house music and they have claimed that, because of this, electro swing may die one day or it is not evolving when everyone keeps making swing house. What is your personal opinion on that?

J: I think that in some way they are right. I like swing house. For me, it was natural to make swing house music. There are many great artists who make great swing house music but I also think most of the artists making swing house music are not taking it very seriously. They don’t have much of jazz and swing culture. They are doing it like McDonald’s songs – doing it very quickly, and just taking a loop/sample and putting it together. 

I think most of the people do not know the story of jazz. They just do it because it is trendy and they want to do something which could have play counts on the Soundcloud and ‘likes’ on Facebook. I think they [electro swing listeners/artists/DJs criticising excessive production of swing house music] are right in that way. I think people who criticise swing house music also like and play some of these tracks (the nest ones). There are great tracks in swing house. I would say 90% is not good.

As a DJ, when I look for swing house, it is getting harder and harder to find good tracks. If you are open minded and a music lover and a good DJ you just select good music, call it swing hop, swing hop, electro jazz or whatever… [laughs].

S: As an electro swing artist, how hard is it for you to remix or cover the older swing tunes as compared to creating brand new swing tunes with the help of people who can play musical instruments? Some artists are taking older swing tunes and some artists are actually hiring people to [play musical instruments for their tracks] or they play [instruments] themselves including piano, trumpets, sax, etc.? What is your approach towards [making] electro swing music these days? Do you think it is more effective to dig the older tunes or spend some money and hire people [to have a bigger band to play the music]?

J: I like to do both. Sometimes, I play the guitar and get friends playing saxophone or [other] instruments. But, it does not really matter. If it is good, you are happy with it, people like it and have a good time listening/dancing to it, it is fine with me. To me, it is not important. I think, if you are using samples, you can play on the samples. Then, it creates new harmonic landscapes and you can go in other directions. It is very interesting to have samples in the beginning, take them off, play/get inspiration from the samples, and go in different directions. This is something I personally do sometimes but there are many different approaches. If the result is good, whatever you way you get there…

S: What are some of the challenges you have faced as an electro swing artist?

J: Maybe, [one of the challenges] is getting new ideas and make them grow – not stay in the same [for example] swing house like you said. You could make more than one tracks easily but try other things. When we started, we were very excited about electro swing. [After making] more and more, [now] it is more like global beats, world music, [special] kinds of old tunes, special vibrations – I think I would not even say that I am [an] electro swing [producer/artist/DJ] only. The challenge is to make new songs and keep being happy making them.  The best challenge for musicians/artists is to just do new things and not [use] the same recipe: “Oh, this is working so I will do this, this and this again”. In Swing House, maybe that is [what the] critics [are saying]: “[They] just add the noise and just do the same thing over and over”. As a good artist, try different things. Songs are evolving/changing and that is what I am trying to do.

S: Thank you for sharing your album with me. I really appreciate that. Thank you. I did listen to it and it is beyond amazing. I have noticed that your new album has a very refreshing unique style of electro swing/vintage music bordering electro blues with some swing hop in it and some minimal swing. There are a lot of different/unique and refreshing styles merged/blended together. Tell me a bit about your new album and what kinds of surprises the listeners can look forward to?

J: If they know me from before, the surprise would be that it is not really club music. It is more downtempo. This is the kind of music you want to listen to in your car or at home. The surprise is that every track is different. There are different styles of music [in the album]. I really hope that people take time to listen to it from beginning to end because when you are doing an album, you are trying to imagine a little story. I am trying to create a journey.

S: It’s a great album.

J: Thank you very much. I hope people enjoy the music because that is basically what we try to do: make people enjoy the music. It was great to work with all the musicians [involved in this]. It was really nice to meet all these people and do all this together. More importantly, many artists contributed to this album.

S: Was this album, if you don’t mind answering, self-funded?

J: Yeah. I got money from a music contest in New Caledonia. [As] I told you [that] I came back 2 years ago to New Caledonia. When I came here, there was a music contest here. I won some money in that because I applied at the contest and they liked my project. I got some money which allowed me to make some CDs and pay for good mastering. Mainly, it was from that money that I won and the rest was [paid] by myself. There was no fund-raising.

S: Could you please tell me about your any upcoming tours or future plans – maybe to play some of the songs from your new album around the world? Do you have any plans?

J: I have some friends who asked me to come back to play in Europe. For now, I am going to stay in New Caledonia. Next time, when I come to Europe, I will get some shows like a mini tour. I think I can organize something. But, right now, I am doing a live set to play the album here in New Caledonia. It is a small country. There are not so many people but there are good musicians [here]. It is more like experimenting stuff: how to play the album with this kind of setup [showed me his setup] including mixer, loopers, turntables, a guitar, etc. I want to leave room for live improvisation. I will use loopers too. I will take some elements from the album and try to play it live. This is big challenge for me, something exciting and maybe I’ll come to tour in Europe or somewhere else. Ever since I came here, my life has changed so much. I am going to bed early [laughs]. I got away from the clubs because it was too crazy for me. I just want to take time and live with the nature. It is a different lifestyle totally. I really enjoy making music. For touring, I don’t know – I have no plans yet, we’ll see…

S: I know your album has been released on bandcamp. Has it been released on any other places where we can get it from?

J: It will be everywhere: Itunes, Spotify, Google Music….everywhere. There will also be some CDs from CD Baby. They are not made yet. I think I will get them in 15 days or a month – I don’t know.

S: Will your CDs be available in the other countries as well?

J: You can buy CDs off CD Baby and they can send it anywhere in the world.

S: That’s perfect. Thank you so much Julien for speaking with me. You are one of the earliest electro swing artists I know of. There are a lot of new people/DJs and copycats but you, Wolfgang Lohr, Parov Stelar, etc. are one of the earliest ones who brought this (music) around the world. I remember one of your songs was posted on the electro swing page (called Big Voodoo) and everyone was going crazy trying to figure out who made that song. You had shared that song a long time ago. It has been an honor speaking with you. I hope you have a good rest of the weekend.

J: It is my pleasure. Thank you so much for taking time and doing this. Just keep on listening to good music.

S: I will. Thank you so much. Have a good one.

Please, give his album a listen when it gets released on June 30th. I was lucky to hear it earlier and loved every bit of it. There are some mind-numbing brilliant tunes in there. Please, as Julien IncontroL said, take some time to listen to it. You will enjoy it and will want to play in your car or to just dance to it!