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Kris Menace: The Interview

Kris Menace is probably the most versatile producer of our time as he composes some of the best and most memorable pieces of electronic music to date and remixing contemporary pop stars such as Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Felix Da Housecat, Evermore and so on.

Christophe Hoeffel started producing music in the mid 90s (I think I was still in school at that time). Around 2005 he collaborated with Lifelike to bring us discerning electronic fans one of the most laid back, disco-inspired tracks of our time which would be ‘Discopolis’ released on Alan Braxe’s Vulture Music and later picked up by Defected. Not only that, it was accompanied with a rather sexy video starring Lily Tenue (go on, google her name) and directed by Seb Janiak.

The next music marvel to come out of Kris’s studio was SCALER which was at first an unknown track (due to Kris not putting his name on it) having the dubious honor to be the first track to have a never ending build up which seems to go on and on. This track has been played out by Radio Soulwax, Erol Alkan just to name a few.

Electric Horizon is out now (and online for those inclined) and we talked to Kris Menace and find out a few things about what makes his MIDI clock in his studio tick.

How did you get your start in music?

I was brought up by music lovers and it became clear that after my mother forbid me to listen to techno that i def wanted to do exactly this when I grew up! As a kid i only had melodies in my head and i was recording these melodie/toplines by recording them with a tape recorder. I always focused on being associated with music.

Compuphonic and Work it Baby are two labels that you run, what can you tell us about your labels and are they 2 separate entities in terms of musical outputs?

Work it baby is a house label where i release music mainly from my friends. This label mainly focuses on a particular style of music. Personally I’m not a french house artist as i couldn’t limit myself to one specific style of music, but i adore french house and i like to experiment a lot with it. i´m not really into the daily business of the label anymore like i used to be, i just don’t find the time anymore to give it the attention it needs.

Compuphonic on the other hand is my personal playground for all the Kris Menace madness! I wanted to have the possibility and freedom to have a ‘home base’ label where i can do whatever i want without having any anybody around limiting my ideas. I really enjoy having my own label and everyday i wake up to more and more possibilities that can be achieved!

You probably get this a lot but I really love your music, what is the secret to making great electronic music like you do?

Oh, thank you! As you can´t see I’m just letting you know that I’m getting a bit red from all the blushing. 😉

Let’s get serious for a minute: In these times where the market is flooded, and the competition is so huge, releasing music has no value anymore and actually trying to make a living from music is not feasible anymore. The logical consequence from all of this for me is that I’m doing this because i love and like what I do so the music really comes from my heart; music I feel, music I can be sad to, I can dance to, I can feel good to.

Run us through how you come up with tracks, like what do you tend to work on first and does it follow any sort of concept or theme?

No, it really never follows a set way as sometimes I’ll start with a beat, a melody, a sound or maybe even with a bassline which was stuck in my head after I woke up. Sometimes i note it down for later or sometimes i go straight into the studio to start creating the idea that’s stuck in my head. As I know my synths and workspace well I get results quick. The whole process of producing music is quite fast for me as i don’t like to be stuck on a track for weeks. Whenever i listen back to a track I’ve done 2 or 3 months ago or even a year ago I want to go back and to rework it but the more you work towards perfection, the less soul and less magic it will have!

Berlin was responsible for minimal music which is great music to dance to and make you feel cool with, but cool is not necessarily beautiful. I think we are living in such an overdosed world where people have so much industry, consumption and influences that they lose value for the things they love and start setting wrong priorities. I just try to bring back some love into electronic music again!

I have to talk about 2 of your most famous tracks from you starting with Discopolis with Lifelike and yourself. How did you come up with that tune and would it be fair to say that it’s now a timeless track?

I’ve signed Laurent to my work it baby label and we became close friends over the years. Laurent aka Lifelike was living in Strasbourg which was not far from where I’m living. One day we met and were joking around and we ended up in the studio just playing around. A funny thing is Laurent wasn’t into the track at first as it had a lot of trance influences in it but I slowed it down to 115bpm which changed it. Slowing tracks down was quite crazy in a time where most of the tracks where around 130!

On a side note, I’ve always wanted to slow down music. When most of my friends were spinning drum´n´bass / ed rush / bad company/andy c vinyls I always played them on 33RPM instead of 45RPM. 15 years later that slowed down sound is what people call dubstep today!

Well, anyways I was later forced to bring Discopolis up to 120BPM but what nobody knows is that the original recorded 115BPM version is on my idiosyncrasies album! 😉 Some dj´s might have had a problem with mixing the track when they purchased the track from my album instead of the single, but I thought it was a good idea to stop dj´s playing the song faster than 123BPM’s as the pitch won’t make it faster and Discopolis sounds horrible for me when its faster than 115BPM! 😉

Scaler is another track that you done and according to Wikipedia “it’s the first track in electronic music history which created a psychoacoustics never-ending-build-up soundeffect”. Elaborate on that would you please, I mean was it your intention to have it gradually keep building and building?

The track is based on an idea from a friend of mine who sent me a demo. I asked him for the parts, reworked it and then arranged it. It really is an impressive track and was played all over the world by some of the biggest dj´s, maybe that’s because i didn’t put my name on the promo! 😉

When we started to release Discopolis, i had the idea to just send out the vinyl white labels with “discopolis” on it and without any artist name as I thought it could be interesting to see what happens. Pete Tong played it and thought it was Alan Braxe´s new record, so the very first time it was ever played on radio it was written Alan Braxe – Discopolis” on the tracklisting!

A few years later i did the same with Scaler but this time I applied that idea to the MP3 format, which at that stage no one (that I know of anyway) has done with MP3.

People where quite surprised that they got a press release thru a high class PR company without any artist name or label. People loved it but the funny thing is that when my name was later added to the track I noticed that a lot of people said that I’ve lost my way because they attached my name with one specific track or genré. These days everything is branded and when you buy mcdonalds, you get mcdonalds, so people started to apply the same logic to musicians.

This might work for vocalist/singers as their instrument is the same voice all the time but even then you’re not allowed to think outside the box.

If Robbie Williams feels like doing electronic music, he loses half of his fans and gets criticized. What kind of fucked up world is that where people don’t have the freedom to be open minded because the rest of the world isn’t!!

Would it be rude of us to ask about your studio setup that you work in briefly if you can?

My studio is a mix of analog and digital. We are living in an analog world which is slowly become more and more digital so i decided that i will do the same for my studio.

I have a digital mixer as well as an analog one and i love to combine the 2 worlds as it gives me more options and allows me to do more organic electronic music. Even my techno tracks sound organic and for some of the techno people that might be a horrible thing as they want a crystal clear but warm and hard sound.

I remember a famous dj saying once that these ideas are great, but the mixdown wouldn’t fit to the rest of it and that techno needs to have another mixdown nowadays. i thought that was quite funny as for me the stuff he´s playing has no magic. It’s great to dance to but why should I limit my music only for clubs?

In the end music is just a matter of personal taste!

i personally became an endorser for some companies after i worked with their products for years but I would not associate my name with a company I’m not 100% convinced of. When the first plug ins came out i had a cracked version of Waves, which I later purchased, and i was very surprised about the quality. For me, Waves is the only company which is able to produce real professional audio processing tools.

For a sequencer I’ve worked with Cubase for the last 14 years but I started with Notator (which later became Logic and bought by Apple).  I liked logic but it never gave me the speed Cubase did. Logic might be too logical for me!

So just a few weeks ago I decided to become an endorser with Cubase. For digital synths I use Arturia and after I bought all the plug ins I decided that i definitely would like to work with them. Their synths sounds ridiculously amazing for software synths. When it’s about analog or hardware synths i’ve got a nice selection of old tools that I’ve collected over the years. I´m still buying a lot of new things and I just got an ax-synth for my live shows. i also got real guitars, shakers, rhodes, as i love to add a little bit of a “real” aspect to my songs.

Electric Horizon is your new album and its fantastic and wonderful, how long did it take to make and what can people expect when they go and pick up a copy?

I always wanted to do a space disco album that sounded like it was made in 2012. I was working on a vocal album and other projects of mine last year and whenever i wasn’t in the mood to work on these tracks, i just did music for myself and played around.  I wasn’t thinking of doing an album or releasing it at all when i was making the tracks, but when i later wanted to put them in my dj set I noticed that it could be a very nice album!

So I decided to release “electric horizon” before i drop my vocal album. Now that I think of it I just needed to release this album so I could close a chapter and move forward with my life!

I really believe in this project and I’ve invested a crazy amount of money into this, enough money to give any businessman a heart attack! There really are a lot of times when I ask myself: Why are you really doin this?!

The thing is though that it’s my music and my vision and i would regret not having at least tried it.

I saw some footage of you with a Keytar and Hexstatic doing the visuals, is there a live aspect of the Kris Menace experience that is in the works?

Yes, i always wanted to do live show and over the last years a lot of promoters asked me to do live show. To be honest I’ve never really wanted to do live show as I didn’t see the appeal in doing an electronic live set.

With my live show it’s absolutely live! Nowadays people just press play with Traktor or Ableton and call it “live”. I would lie to myself and i would lie to the people if I approached it the same way. Some friends told me that they don’t care what the people think but i couldn’t’ be like that. Whenever i dj I invest a lot of time to search for new music and re-editing the tracks. I only know a handful of people who approach DJ-ing the same way.

In the end I never got anything back from it. Maybe that why I’m not dj anymore? I’ve always had the feeling that people only want to go in a clubs to hear noise and banging music. I might have been booked on the wrong nights, but it gets quite depressing if you want to play a set coming from your heart but in front of you are people who wants to hear banging noise music. Of course that’s great music to go crazy too but it’s not me.

I’ve never been given the chance to really play sets that I would like to play. I´m not booked into the super cool clubs as I’m doing remixes for Kylie Minogue or Robbie Williams and I’m not commercial enough to play festivals or big events.

With the ax-synth i found a possibility to do at least do something “live” and to re-play the basslines or lead-sounds.  When i started to think about electric horizon i wanted to have a visual concept. Of course I’m limited to what can be achieved as I’m a small guy living in a small village and I don’t have a big amount of money available to create a big show.

I really had to look at ways to make this happen within the resources that was available to me and with Hexstatic i found the perfect partner for my visuals. Robin and I had a great time when we did our first live show in Barcelona! It was more an album release party and I’ve always said to myself that whenever I will try to do something special, I will do this at Razzmatazz in Barcelona as they´ve been the only club who really understood me over the last few years.

Before we conclude and thank you, would you like to finish our interview with some wise words?

You’re asking the wrong guy as I’m not wise. Also, no need to thank me as I have to thank you for your time, work and motivation in doing this interview with me.

Indeed its been a pleasure!

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