VIBE Interview: House Music History With Etienne De Crecy
French producer Etienne de Crecy may not be as recognizable as those robots basking in the media spotlight, but he is every bit as important to the history and popularity of electronic music in the last 20 years. Starting out as a hip hop producer, Etienne de Crecy famously became friends with Phillipe Zdar, and went to college with Alex Gopher and the guys from Air in the early 90s. With Zdar, who later formed Cassius, de Crecy created Motorbass and released Pansoul, a techno funk album that is one of the cornerstones of late 90s House music. Along with Gopher and Air, he released the Super Discount compilation, which captured the essence of the exploding “French Touch” movement that added Paris to the list of music meccas alongside Chicago, Detroit, London, and Berlin. Since then EDC has been working as a solo artist and touring with a dynamic live show that features him performing live in the center of a giant synchronized Cube.
Vibe caught up with de Crecy to discuss his place in House music history, the meaning of the Cube, and his upcoming EP, ‘Beats ‘N’ Cubes Volume 2,’ out August 5th. Stream a preview of “We, Computers” after the jump.
VIBE: This is ‘Beats’ N’ Cubes Vol 2.’ How many more volumes do you think you’ll do?
Etienne De Crecy: This should be the last one! I made several tracks especially for the Cube. All the songs I’ve done for the Cube have been released on the Beats ‘N’ Cubes series. The last unreleased track from the show is ‘Supercomputer’ and it’ll be released later.
You’ve said, “I have only been playing these tracks live so it is really exciting to have these songs finally being released.” How did you choose the tracks for the EP?
During the show I needed a lot of energy and I decided to slow down the tempo for the studio version as you don’t need the same energy on a record or during a live gig. The four tracks of volume 2 are slightly different from the live version, so DJs can play them in clubs.
“We, Computers” is a great track. It sounds like the computers are taking over. Why is electronic music so obsessed with the rise of the machines?
I worked with Alex Courtes for the 2nd version of the show. He was director for the new animations on the Cube. I gave him a screenplay to prime his imagination. It wasn’t essential that the crowd understand the story, but it was meant as a guideline to build the show around.
It’s the story of a super-computer that uses the computing power of all the computers connected to Internet. The computing power is so great that this machine becomes the most intelligent entity in the world. Then it attains consciousness and sets out to alter its state of consciousness, which explains its quest for a digital drug. “We, Computers” happens when the super-computer declares its independence!
When I first discovered techno music at a rave in the early ‘90s, I thought the music was made by computers. I didn’t see the DJs (at this time they were really discreet) and this music struck me by its impersonal appearance. It was poetry from the future! Electronic music producers, we aren’t musicians. We do music thanks to computers, that’s why we are so obsessed!
Can you describe how the Cube works, or how you work in that space? I heard no laptops are allowed in the Cube, is that true? Why?
I have a ‘home studio’ in the central square in the Cube. I work with a MPC 1000 & synth and rhythm box and mixer. The animations are linked to my MPC 1000. You can prepare too much with a laptop. It’s more fun to me when I have lot of stuff to do during the show. With my set up, I have to mix, send the effect, cut the beat, open or close filter and I decide how long the show is. I can fuck up a track or the whole show if I’m not focused on what I have to do. I have no laptop for a selfish reason: I have more fun with an analog home studio!
Do you think your use of the Cube has contributed to DJ performances becoming more theatrical? Has this theatrical environment affected the quality of the music?
I think we need stage design on big stages. Even if I work with a real analog studio, what I’m doing on stage is really not spectacular – I’m pushing buttons and moving a fader! That is not taking enough space on a large stage! When I’m in the crowd and I see a single guy behind his laptop, even if he provides some good music, I’m a bit frustrated! And the stage design doesn’t affect the quality of the music, you can make theatrical shit or theatrical gold! I love DJing house music in clubs and playing strong techno music in a Cube on big festival stages.
You went to college with the guys from Air and Alex Gopher. How do you feel about those early days when you created Solid [records] together?
Alex & I have our studio in the same building and we see each other every day. There is no sound I released before he gave me advice. We started Solid at a fantastic time when electronic music took off really strongly in Europe. It was all new and there were only young people like us in this business. We did it with the feeling we were inventing the future. (In fact, it was business.)
What do you think of the idea of a “French Touch” movement now?
I’m trying to not answer any questions about French Touch. It’s harder than giving up smoking!
How do you look back on the Super Discount compilation?
Super Discount is a really chaotic story. It began in 1994, the Paris techno scene was pretty small and took itself very seriously, which is why I chose to release EPs under a non-credible name like Superdiscount. But I’m very ambitious musically. I want to produce thoroughbred house that is both abstract and elegant. The release schedule we agreed on for 4 Superdiscount EPs forced me to produce music under constant pressure and I completely failed in my ambition to make thoroughbred, abstract music!
I didn’t get the time to produce all the tracks. I decided to use lot of different names to make a false compilation. Our EP’s success gave us the idea of putting them together on an album, which, to our surprise, soon went on sale in supermarkets.
Pansoul by Motorbass is easily one of the most influential house music albums. What are some of your memories from creating that album? Any chance you and Phillipe Zdar would do another Motorbass album?
Thank you! We were living in a big duplex flat in Montmartre with a lot of friends.
We used to go to all the raves around Paris (there were many at this time), every week end! Then we made some music together with Phillipe Zdar. As we were sound engineers for French hip hop bands, it was natural to us to work with samples from funk or soul music records. The album has such an iconic place in house music, it’s difficult now to imagine a follow up…pressure is too high!
How do you see Tempovison fitting into your discography?
I spent too much time to produce this album! I do like the tracks but the sound is not good. I should have mixed it very fast on analog mixer.
You’ve done many great remixes, one being Boris Dlugosch’s “Cycle.” Boris also did a great one of “Beatcrush” for you on your last ‘Beats N Cubes’ EP. Will you be working together on anything else soon?
Why not!? I agree that remix swap was pretty amazing. I met Boris after the swap & we had a lot of fun at my Pixadelic party. We are the same generation and we do like a very wide range of electronic music!
Who are the Shoes? They did an interesting remix of “Am I Wrong.”
The Shoes are two crazy guy from Reims (country of Champagne!). You should check their debut album Crack My Bones. They are so skilled, they go in every direction and it’s always amazing !!
You are deeply revered by many industry people as one of the most influential producers in music, not just electronic music. After twenty years, how do you see your work? Are you where you want to be with your life and your career?
I’m pretty happy with my life! I can always do the music I want to do. I’m really interested in the evolution of electronic music and I don’t want to be locked into a single style of music. I change my sound very often and I still have an audience! I feel really free in my choices, and I’m confident some people will follow me. My audience in Europe now is very young (from 17 to 20 years old) and many of them just don’t know I’m the age of their parents! I have a small reputation…but all over the world, which is the best!