Pulse Code Modulation

Pong 06

For its debut, The Crab has let himself float on heavy and hypnotic loops to meet Pulse Code Modulation, a techno producer based in Marseilles.

Active since the mid 90’s, he started by creating a few tracks for compilations before releasing an album on the french catalogue Megaphone Records. Then he founded his own label, Pong Music, which counts now about ten PCM EPs. Openly influenced by European pionners like Autechre, Coil or Basic Channel, PCM develops an atmospheric music oscillating between ambient, deep and dub techno.

The pulse code modulation  is a method used to digitally represent sampled analog signals. Today, this alias illustrates well the passion of this producer who composes without opposing digital and analogic tools. If he started to produce by computer a few years ago, PCM is above all else a vinyl and machine aficionado; keyboards, drum machines and midi controllers still fill his studio space.

The following interview is an occasion to learn more about this dance music “veteran”; we talked wit him about his influences, his views on contemporary techno, on the mediteranean sea, synthetic drugs and more. He also gifted us with a podcast in which are mixed electronic reveries, techno and…Rock’n roll. The Crab sincerely thanks PCM, it’s an honour to start this blog with him.

How have you seen your music evolve?

I rarely reflect on my work…I tend to create without thinking about trends and evolutions. But as you’re asking, I’m willing to think about it. I’m not living on my music and I don’t try to, so I’m not under any pressure. I’ve been producing under this alias for more than 20 years now, my first release dates back from 95 on a compilation…And my last releases sound rather timeless, as I stay on an old school Techno scheme. I went from a form of techno-ambient to a deep-house rotating about dub, with obvious references to industrial music that I’ve been exposed to during my youth.

In the mid 2000s, I took a musical break as I felt I didn’t fit in this minimal overproduction and the end of the disco-filtered cycle. The only solution was to stop producing and wait for the desire to come back naturally. Then I started producing again, when I understood that what matters the most is to enjoy yourself, be satisfied with your work…and never mind the trends. As long as you have positive feedback…let’s rock!

I would say that my music has not evolved, that’s more my desires that changed, my tastes asserted themselves and my roots are assumed. Nowadays the tools allow infinite combinations, whereas back in the days I could spend hours exploring machines to get one precise result. I admit that I’m thinking about using my old synths and working in the old way, as I feel like everybody wants to make techno, and with software predominance everybody sounds professional, but talentless. Harmonics, effects, melodies, all that seem unknown to young producers.

Do you think that going out often in clubs is important when you make and play dance music?

I’m not the right person to ask…I don’t go out, or rarely, and mostly to support friends who are mixing or when an artist I like is playing live. I worked for years in the electronic music environment in Paris, I enjoyed this world without taking any substance…And I really liked the music without being in a “let’s make a party” mood. When I go to any particular record store, in France or elsewhere, I notice that there are the nerds who are consuming music by pleasure, and other people who are party addicts. Synthetic drugs aren’t sexy, but I guess they allow people to handle the rythm…That’s why we can notice a return of a mental and cold techno in parallel with a big return of chemical drugs.

How would you say that the internet has affected your musical approach?

Affected…Hmm I wouldn’t say that, even if there are negative aspects. In particular when you’re still putting out vinyls, as I am with my label, and that you find your tracks available on MP3 (compress by power hammer) on an Eastern European website two days after your EP release. So, it becomes just difficult to even recover your costs. On the other hand the web allows to keep in touch with the people following you, to discover artists having the same sensitivity, and also to spread to a large amount of people.

I’m kind of a nerd so the internet has really changed my life for the music, but also for the rest. Economy, culture, information, communication etc. had to reinvent themselves.

After the bursting of the network in the 2000s, many labels had to shut down, as digital affected physical sells. Once past the hangover, I feel like records that are circulating now are better and that the quality is there. You really have to produce a good track if you want to put it on vinyl as that’s expensive and quite unprofitable.

We can find Detroit, German and UK references in your music, could you cite some elements of your direct environment that influence you ?

My daily life, quite simply. From the moment I wake up, I observe, and this certainly plays. Unfortunately pictures too. I’m a big consumer of pictures: TV, internet, cinema…And the worst goes with the best. I have a passion for countercultures, which have been very important in my young years, that’s part of my DNA. All the excesses fascinate me in a way, sectarian, religious, illuminated people, fascim, totalitarism, exorcism, occultism, Anton Lavey, Crowley…Generally it makes me laugh in the 20th degree.

Cinema is also a big influence. I have a passion for Kubrick, Carpenter, Lycnh and Cronenberg. 2001 is the ultimate cinema masterpiece to me -thanks to Clarke’s genius notably-in successfully mixing music and metaphysics. I’m also open to TV shows like Dexter, Six feet under, Sons of Anarchy or even Shameless. On the musical side, I inquire a lot but I don’t listen to a lot of techno and electronic music at the end of the day. Soul, funk, jazz, industrial and ambient are more part of the musical atmosphere that follows me in the daily life. I like the idea to get away from any music similar to mine. Maybe that’s the fear to be too much influenced. I admit that the works of Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus marked me for life, as the ones of Coil, Lustmord and Autechre. I know their discography by heart and I would never deny that my sound wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Beyond that, and without talking about proper elements, my private and personal environment is most probably the engine of all that. My friends, my loved ones, my girlfriend are my life pillars. Without them I couldn’t do music alone in my own corner…And of course e-mails that I receive, and people who are following me on social medias are important.

Are there projects –not necessarily artistic- that draw your attention in the Mediterranean region?

That’s an excellent question…The Mediterranean basin is the crib of our civilization and it will always be, though it does not please the ones who have problems with colorimetry and skin pigments. When you live in a multicultural town as Marseilles, which is a port moreover, it’s difficult not to accept each others’ traditions. The MuCEM (Museum of Mediterranean Civilisations) was a beautiful project, but it quickly followed the lines of a contemporary art museum. I do not criticize the place which is a success, but its arts programming doesn’t seem to follow the initial project.

There’s also the Union for the Mediterranean, which is still vague, even if it’s a good start

for a sustainable peace in the Near East. France is kind of acting like a referee, that’s touching and irritating at the same time, as if our Maghrebi friends were incompetent. To hold our hand to them is the least we can do, after having depleted the resources of our former colonies. But honestly, despite all these efforts, I believe that religions and ethnic wars have been existing for centuries and keep progressing, and they will still be there after we die.

I really feel European, this feeling is well anchored in me. The economic form predominates, but the idea of a cultural basis remains a nice utopia…Which I hope will continue on its way. The thought of a return to a protectionist state makes me freak out.

What are your plans for the future in terms of music? Do you plan to release other artists’ music on your label?

My last tracks date back from last summer. They have been released on Morpheus, the sub label of Sean Deason’s Matrix, in Detroit. That’s my first release on another label since a while. Sean Deason liked my previous releases and straightaway he suggested me to produce some tracks for him. Since then, I admit that I stood back a little and I focused on live, as it’s an excellent way to rework the tracks and to blow it up for the dancefloor.

So I plan to do more gigs. But I keep producing, unlike some studio stakhanovists, I’m pretty slow…I’m used to taking time to polish the tracks and the effects. The next release is in the pipeline and will be out on digital through Itunes and Bandcamp for the first time, due to a cost factor. But I don’t turn away from the vinyl, the object has a particularly aura. I’ve been wishing to open the label to other artists for quite a while now, and I got some ongoing projects too. Including a compilation which will be out in vinyl before the end of the year hopefully. I contacted several artists that I feel familiar with and I connected with them for this project.

More informations on Pulse Code Modulation and Pong Music facebook pages.

Special thanks to Chloé for the translation.

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