Alan Braxe’s musical journey began in Paris in the mid-90s and he was at the epicenter of the French electronic music scene as it exploded. Alan’s work ran deep through the collection of seminal tracks that made the rest of the world sit up and take notice of the French Touch sound. Braxe’s debut single, ‘Vertigo’ came out on Roulé in 1997 and was a huge hit thanks to the ‘Virgo Edit’, which was co-produced with Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter. He then scored a global smash (including US Dance Chart No.1) in 1998 with ‘Music Sounds Better with You’ a track co-written with Bangalter and Benjamin Diamond under the name Stardust.
Hi Alan. Where are you from, where are you now?
I was born in Paris, in the 14th arrondissement (borough). now I live in Toulouse
Have you always had a passion for Dance and Electronic music?
When I was a kid I was living in the suburbs of Paris I played cello, bass guitar and clarinet. But it was when I moved to the South of France, Toulouse, when I really began to make Electronic music.
Do you still play the instruments when making Electronic music?
Yes, although I am not that strong at playing keyboards because I’m very much used to the monophonic instruments and getting my left and right hands to do separate things can sometimes be a problem.
Why did you make the move to Electronic music if you began with such classical instruments?
At maybe 16 or 17 years old I discovered Techno and House music and I started buying 12-inches and going to clubs. The scene was so incredible to me, it felt like this music movement was so creative and fresh. I bought some equipment when I was about 25 years old and decided to try and make Electronic music also.
What did you buy?
I bought a small 12-channel Mackie mixer, an Alesis 3630 compressor and a very old sampler from Casio, the FZ-1. This was what I learnt to sample on before I got the E-mu SP 1200 that you see in my studio now. By this point I was lucky enough to have met Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk and I played him my first demo, Vertigo, and he wanted to release it on his label, Roulé.
As far as sampling goes, you’re using the Elektron Octatrack. Is that used for chopping and reorganising samples in the same way you were using the SP-1200?
No! I bought the Octatrack about five months ago and I’m not in full control of it yet because it’s quite complex. You can do a lot of things but what I find really interesting are the parameter locks on the sequencer. I’m mainly starting to use it as a MIDI sequencer because you can control every parameter of hardware synths with it. In one minute you can build a pattern and control notes, filter settings, decay, attack, MIDI continuous controllers on every step of the bar. It’s really cool. The other good point is the looper mode where you can loop and overdub. Before, I was working with the Lexicon JamMan delay. Overdubbing loops in real time helps you find the luck. Weird stuff happens that you couldn’t program. The cutting point of the loop gives you weird envelopes, things like that. That’s how I’m working with the Octatrack: it’s intuitive, it’s fast and it helps you get something your brain couldn’t imagine.
And the main synth you’re sequencing with it is the Oberheim Xpander?
I love the Xpander. I also have the Studio Electronics Omega 8 and I’m going to build a modular synthesiser. DJ Falcon has a huge modular synth so he’s giving me some tips. I also think the Moog [MF-104M] delay unit is amazing. There’s a MIDI input on the pedal and the LFO and delay time can be synced in MIDI. When you change the delay time you have this kind of pitch-shifting effect, so you have this kind of synth. With the right settings you can build sequences, so you play one note, you process it through the delay and from a single note you get several notes playing. I love it. If you played the sequence it would sound like shit but when you do it like this it’s really cool.
Looking around the studio you’ve got a really clean, high-end summing and mixing setup: the SSL mixer and compressor, the Clariphonic EQ…
The Clariphonic is really important. I’m very bad at EQing high frequencies and this is just perfect for me. I put it on the master bus and the music shines. It’s just beautiful. Thomas Bangalter gave me the SSL bus compressor three or four years ago and I only just discovered how to use it in a good way for me, which is almost no compression at all, less than 4dB. The SSL desk is cool because it’s clean so it’s very versatile. But the most important thing is actually the patch bay. I only did this room about four months ago and it’s the first time I’ve had everything patched. It makes it really easy to experiment. The converter is important too: the Universal Audio 2192. Conversion is the key. If the way you convert your analogue signal to digital isn’t good, you’re losing everything.
And then you reintroduce a little bit of warmth and dirt with things like the Rupert Neve tape emulators?
I bought them last summer and at first I was a bit disappointed. With a specific setting you get some really beautiful bass and high frequencies but they weren’t compressing like tape should. I just discovered last week that you have to overload it to make it compress and overdrive. The cool thing is there’s a blend mixer on the unit itself, so you can make the 100% signal dirty with distortion and then just use 10% of that signal. It’s a very cool effect.
So are you happy with the setup of the studio now?
It’s very clean because I’ve sold quite a lot of equipment. I really wanted to have something simple. It helps me to be focussed on what I’m doing. I still need an API pre-amp and EQ for the lunchbox, then I’ll be OK for one or two years!