Almost three years have passed since Paris techno producer Paul Ritch released his first EP on Dubfire’s SCI+TEC Digital Audio label. Judging from his new ‘Circus’ EP, his sound has moved on quite a bit.
Whilst 2008’s ‘Crazy Madness / Aquarel’ and much of his earlier work revolved around bleep-driven techno sounds, arena-sized synths, and percussion explosions, the Frenchman’s groove today is much more rooted and refined.
There’s a real funk quality on the ‘Circus’ EP that firmly pushes Ritch into house music territory. With SCI+TEC’s first release of 2011 hitting Beatport today, we called Paul Ritch in Paris to find out more about the EP, his studio techniques, live set up, and continued funk-fication.
Your last SCI+TEC release was in July 2008. How would you say your sound has changed since then?
I would say it’s a bit groovier than previously. I’ve been working a lot more with bass. Before, my music was more minimal with a shuffle techno vibe but for this release I didn’t do any shuffle. I guess you could call this my new sound. It’s in between tech house and techno. The bass is more housey anyway, but the energy is still techno.
Why have you switched sounds?
I’ve always listened to a lot of house and a lot of techno. I can’t really explain how this new sound came about, as I just create music based upon my feelings at that minute. When we finish this interview, I will probably try something new in the studio and you can never really predict how that will turn out.
Also, another part of me didn’t want to get locked in a cycle. I didn’t just want to be about techno.
‘Shake It’ is definitely different to some of your early tracks like ‘Samba’.
‘Samba’ was the first track that exposed me to people and the club scene. Almost every big DJ played it, and it was a massive opportunity for me to show the club world what I could do. That was my first big track. Then came ‘Murder / Nordbanhoff’, and five or six other releases in a row that really blew open the market and helped raise my profile.
I still get people coming up to me at parties who began following my music right at the beginning, and they know everything I’ve done. They continued to follow me, even though my sound has changed.
Tell us more about the ‘Circus’ EP.
I’m very happy with the release. It’s in between techno and tech house. Ali [Dubfire] asked who I wanted to remix ‘Shake It’, and I chose Daniel Stefanik, who I think is the perfect choice. I love his music. He fits into that nice area between techno and house. His remix is great.
The B side of the ‘Circus EP’ is quite unusual for you and SCI+TEC – ‘Common Sense’ has vocals.
I do vocals every now and then. The vocal on ‘Common Sense’ is very hip hop, which probably came from my past life as a hip hop sound engineer. From the age of 10 to 17 all I listened to was hip hop. I still probably listen to more hip hop or soul than techno. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a hip hop track and I’ll hear a cool vocal that I end up using in a techno tune.
How did you get into engineering hip hop?
I worked as a hip hop engineer in Paris after I finished school, where I studied audio engineering. I did it for about a year and then I stopped to make techno.
There’s actually not that much difference between techno and hip hop in terms of sound as both rely heavily on bass, which I learnt how to do properly whilst engineering hip hop. The way you mix down a hip hop record is very similar to a techno track actually.
What producers or labels are you currently digging?
I like the Ilian Tape label, from Munich. They do great tracks that always have a good sound, with very raw, very fresh grooves. Right now, I love the raw, dry techno sound that is kicking around – the tracks that don’t have many FX. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to sound as I studied audio engineering.
So which producers would you say consistently have a great sound?
Carlo Lio really impresses me, and I would also say Jerome Sydenham and Alan Fitzpatrick. Those guys are really, really good.
Can you describe your normal studio workflow?
First I start with the kick and bass, and then after that comes the drums. Then I edit the rhythm, add the breaks and everything else, and then finally I work on the atmosphere before finishing with the lead melody.
You do the lead last? A lot of producers would start with the lead.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always done my leads last. I just like to have my track and beats all finished, before I work on the musical aspect.
How long have you been producing?
I started at around 18 or 19. I’m 27 now, so that’s about eight years. I didn’t actually graduate from my audio engineering course, because I was offered the chance to work in a studio before the end of the year. I’d learnt everything that I wanted to learn from school, so the certificate didn’t matter to me.
I never planned to work in a studio my whole life, I just wanted the knowledge to produce my own music.
When did you first start DJing?
I started out as a DJ, playing in this tiny place in Paris. And then after I studied audio engineering, I realised I loved making tracks more than anything else so I said ok, from now on I’m going to focus on that and playing my tracks out live. Then about a year later, I stopped DJing as people kept booking me to play live.
What’s your live set up like?
I’ve tried to simplify it as much as possible because I travel a lot and it’s not easy to fly with lots of equipment. I use Ableton Live, and have all the loops and parts to my tracks controlled by an Evolution U-Control UC-33e MIDI controller.
Do you think you’re treated differently from DJs, because you play live?
It’s funny, but a lot of people don’t really understand what I do. Even big DJs ask me if I’m really playing ‘live’. The thing is, these days I think people don’t really dont care how you play, they just want to dance to really good music.
Most of the time I play after a DJ. I generally play peak time, as my music doesn’t make sense at 1AM, it is more suited to 4AM. You can’t start a party with my music anyway! So for the people on the floor, it doesn’t really make much difference if I’m DJing or playing live.
Can you explain a little bit of your live process and how you have it all set up?
My laptop is pretty complicated when I play live. I break each of my tracks into eight individual parts, and that allows me to drop into breaks, intros or outros whenever I want. I can then focus on one particular percussion noise or loop.
I don’t just play one clip after another clip, like you would do in Traktor. I have two big blocks of parts that I move and play when I want, how I want. I find it flexible and powerful.
I do all of the work internally. I never use hardware. However with my album coming up, I will probably incorporate some hardware into my live shows as the album will be a lot more musical.
How’s your album coming along?
Very slowly! I’m trying to find the time to do it, in between building my new studio. Once that’s built, I will focus on my album. For the moment I’m in a small studio in south Paris, but soon I’ll be able to work with live musicians in my new studio.
I really want to do something mellow but intense for the album. It will still be techno, but it will have more leads, more atmosphere, and some nice deep bits too. I want to record some live instruments played by musicians, but Ableton is not the best for working with real instruments so I may switch to Cubase.
Don’t get me wrong, Ableton is great for producing techno and I’m really fast with it, but I will probably use Cubase in my new studio.
What about plug ins?
I use all the WAVE plugins, Rob Papen’s Albino for bass, and I also like the D16 Drumazon, Amplitude, and some of the PSP Audioware and Sonalksis plug ins.
What’s your most productive time of day to write music?
I never work at night. I work from 12 to 9 every day. I’m not obligated to work those hours, but I love making music and try to be in the studio as much as possible. PLus all my friends work, so what can I do every day? [laughs]
What monitors do you use?
I’ve got two Genelec 1032A monitors, and a pair of KRK RP5s, which were my first monitors. I made all of my big tracks on those small monitors.
How’s your label Quartz Rec going?
The label is very good. I’m very happy with all of the releases so far. We’ve got our 16th release coming out soon from Steve Parker, and it’s exactly what we like at the label – a balance between techno and tech house. It’s got a filtered house sound actually.
Why did you decide to launch the label?
I launched it in 2008 because I wanted the opportunity to release my own tracks without approval from anyone. I wanted the freedom musically, and to be able to choose the graphic design and do vinyl too.
How many records do you press per release?
We generally press 500 vinyl per a release, although it depends on the release. Sometimes we sell 250, sometimes we sell 1200. We’ve also found that some releases work really well on Beatport, but don’t do well on vinyl, and vice versa. I’ve never understood that!
Finally, what’s your relationship like with Dubfire?
I always send him my tracks to play them out and test them for me. It’s really important for me to get feedback from DJs about the tracks before their release. He’s really great for that. The way he runs SCI+TEC too is admirable.
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