Recently, French techno pioneer Arnaud le Texier released his first album, a surprise for someone who's been in the industry for over 30 years. We were fortunate enough to catch up with him to talk all things production, life, and overcoming adversity and dark times. Be sure to grab a copy of his new album, Granular Therapy, out now on his Children of Tomorrow imprint.
Hi Arnaud, it's a real pleasure to be speaking with you today. A huge congratulations on releasing your first album. To get things started, how has life been since the release?
Hey, my pleasure. Busy time; just back from my album tour in Asia. It was quite intense and liked it a lot.
Before we get too into the album and its process, there are a few things we would like to know. First, take us back to your beginnings. How did it form the person you are today? What was your introduction to electronic music?
I’ve been introduced to electronic music around 1989 as I was listening to it a lot on the radio and liked it straight away. After that, I started going out to Rave parties around where I come from in Rennes where I’ve also managed a record shop from 1993 and another one in Paris from 1996-2001. Then I’ve been Djing since the 90’s.
Next, it's honestly surprising you've never released an album. The question is, why now? After more than 30 years in the game, what made you decide now was the time for your first album?
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and never really found the time to do it. Always busy with different projects. And I’ve thought that after all this time, being in this industry for almost 30 years, it was the right moment.
Let's talk production. What were some of the main tools you used on the album? With a name like Granular Therapy, it makes us wonder, was there a lot of granular syntheses used? Are you a hardware or software kind of guy? Modular?
I think the main tools were my Elektron machines which I like a lot. Then a lot of treatment with some software to work on every single idea that I found. You can do some granular synthesis with Digitakt for example. Playing with a pad or soundscape then I was recording some ideas and using them in other granular Vst. The combination worked well. I like the combination between hardware and software and the craziness of granular synthesis. Since I’ve moved to London my studio is more limited because of space but I like it in a way because you have to keep the focus on the essential.
Speaking of hardware, and this is a touch off topic, what are your thoughts on the new Moog One synth? Are you a Moog fan?
I saw it on the web and I would love to have one but with a more affordable price…
What about the rest of your setup? Run us through your studio setup. DAW? Monitors? Any weird souvenirs from your travels?
My studio is really basic at the moment with some Elektron: Digitakt, Digitone, Analog Heat then 909, 808 Tb03, Sh01, Juno 01, Blofeld, Mackie Onyx 12, some controllers Push2, Apc 40, Nektar Panorama, Maschine Mk3. For DAW I am using Logic Pro, Ableton, Maschine and Reason. I like to work with different DAW as sometimes they have their unique way of working and make it easier to develop ideas for some parts and also I don’t get bored looking at the same screen every day :) Then at times I borrow hardware from friends when I need particular sounds.
In your 30+ years of music making, surely you've picked up a few tricks, and learned some interesting techniques. Tell us, how has your process evolved over time, and, how has it, if at all, stayed the same?
For sure I’ve picked some tricks but I am someone who likes to get rid of them to avoid to get stuck. And after 30 years to find a way to renew yourself and evolve your sound it’s the hardest part. Even if you want to keep a style it’s nice to change at some point. But with time now I’ve built different templates ready for all the DAW where everything is routing in buses with some fx chain and hardware ready to record as soon as I get ideas. So I would say that I am more organized over the years and I know where to look when I need something.
Building off that last question, let's do a bit of role-playing here. You've just sat down to write a new track. What is the process? Do you have a standard starting point? Any strange pre or post track rituals?
I start mostly playing around with Synths and tweaking with fx to find a base that sometimes I will keep or that will help me to build an idea.
Who or what are some of your biggest musical influences that might surprise us? Anyone or anything you're currently obsessed with?
I would say Herbie Hancock is the one that influenced me a lot. I like Jazz, funk and I like him because he managed to renew his music over the years and being creative and innovative doing some trippy electronic Jazz back in the 70’s. Then I like Pink Floyd a lot too and in the most recent years, Radiohead is probably the one that I listen quite often when I travel.
Let's venture out of the studio and into your daily life. What does the first hour to 90 minutes of your day look like on average? Have you developed a daily routine? Anything that you've recently changed or added that might help us be more productive or efficient?
Breakfast then going to the gym for more than an hour while listening all the promos or demos that I’ve received the day before. Then shower and straight in the studio.
Ok so, a bit more role-playing. You've got two weeks off from traveling, and you are purposely avoiding the studio to clear your brain and make room for new ideas. What are you doing?
I am going to Sardinia on the beach with a book and don’t even listen to music so that I can empty my head.
You're originally from France, but are based in London. What are some similarities that you personally identify between the two, but most people may not if any?
Both countries have a big sense of humour, different but it’s part of everyday life in both.
Any favorite local pubs, record/hardware stores, or restaurants we should check out?
Kristina is a cool record shop and London modular shop is a nice one too. I am not a pub guy so can’t say… About food, I like to go to pop up markets and I have a favorite stall called Pasta e Basta.
14) As artists, there are times when we feel like anything and everything we do, no matter what, is awful. We get uninspired to do our work, and that in itself leads to more frustration. How do you get past these rough periods?
Yes after all these years I had some of these moments and with time I’ve learned how to deal with them.
First of all, as an artist, it is normal to lose inspiration and the best thing to do is to relax, take some time off or fresh air, watch movies, read books, listen to music or just enjoy the silence for a week, meet friends or go to exhibitions.
It can take days, weeks or months to be creative again. You have to decide for how long do you want this break: a week or a month it depends.
The second thing I do when I am back in the studio after a rough period I try to work a bit every day but I don’t fix a target. I just try to experiment with synths, fx just to have some fun and let the creativity come back or learn new technics that will help me to evolve.
Mental health has become a huge topic recently, and, as artists, we will all experience some dark times in our musical journeys. Can you tell us about any of those periods in your life and career, and how you got through them?
It happened to many people that I know and each one deals with it in a different way. There is nothing wrong to be lost in your life and your career at some point and I think it’s important to know that you are not the only one. Don’t keep the feelings for yourself, talk about them!
I think bad things happen for a reason and it’s a challenge to get through them and this challenge will make you stronger when you’ll find your way. In the end, it will pass and you will be probably happy by what happened because you managed to get over it.
Sometimes the way we want to achieve something is not straightforward and other times we complicate things to get what we want. It’s about learning from our mistakes to become better.
Arnaud, once again, a massive thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Before we go, one last question. In all of your experience as an artist, and as a human, what is the single most important piece of advice you can give to a new artist starting on their path?
Believe in yourself and do what you like just follow your dreams and never give up.