The Brussels effect according to De Grandi and DJ JM
For Parisian producer and Paradoxe Club co-boss, De Grandi, and Lithuania-born hard drum enthusiast, DJ JM, Brussels seemed like the obvious choice as a breeding ground for their club-ready productions.
Since their initial meeting at the 2018 edition of Berlin’s Bread ‘n’ Butter festival, both found themselves drawn to the fertile underground club scene of the Belgian capital. It’s here that the duo would go on to collaborate on the their weighty self-released 4-track EP which dropped via De Grandi’s Bandcamp earlier this month.
With rapidly pulsating sub-basslines, syncopated rhythms and possessed vocal fragments, Catherine Tracks EP is deeply evocative of both the mutated club output of Nervous Horizon and also the burgeoning Bérite Club scene currently taking French underground by storm.
Sound like your cuppa? Join us as we eavesdrop on a conversation between the two Kiosk Radio affiliates as they meditate on the influence of Brussels scene, gabber-fuelled workout sessions and harnessing outbursts of creativity.
DJ JM – Can you say something about the music scene in Brussels?
De Grandi – I mostly know it through Kiosk Radio since clubs have been closed for most of the time I’ve been living here. I don’t really feel I’m part of the “scene” yet but from an outsider perspective I’d say that a place like Kiosk Radio has been really important, especially during the pandemic. I like how people are going to see each other’s shows while hanging out in the park. I feel that here
people really support each other. It’s also a city that isn’t trying to be a new Berlin or London like some other cities, people are doing their own thing.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Do you feel that living in Brussels has impacted in any way your tracks or the way that you produce?
DJ JM – I would also say that people in Brussels are great – supportive and honestly interested in what everyone’s doing! Yes, for sure my productions completely changed here, especially in the last year – it got more electronic than organic, more synthesized sounds, than sampled sounds I would say. I’m not sure what really influenced that, but De Grandi is for sure one of the reasons haha! Maybe going a few times to C12 club is part of it too. Or maybe in general my focus is moving to some other genres or soundscapes that I haven’t explored enough.
In your case, you moved to Brussels from Paris, how did that change your lifestyle? And more precisely, the way you work?
De Grandi – Well I think first of all it was nice for me to get out of Paris and try new things. Brussels is more laidback in a way that there’s less people living here, rent is a lot cheaper also. I’m fortunate enough to have a studio space in my flat where I spend most of my days. Since I got here, I’ve really been producing a lot more than I used to, it really helped me explore and experiment. I feel that my sound has changed a lot since I got here, and I’ve gotten much better at what I do.
I was wondering, what do you find inspiring outside music?
DJ JM – I really enjoy visual arts, possible visual narratives, and ways of telling a story or an atmosphere through an image.
You talk about how you produce more and more, your sound is changing, that’s exciting, can I and your other fans expect to hear some new sounds in 2022? In what form?
De Grandi – I don’t really wanna say too much but what I can say is that in the next few months I have a single and an EP coming out on Paradoxe Club this year, I’m doing a split EP with my friend Lux18 that’ll come out as a tape on High Digital, an EP for a British label also that should come out on vinyl as well, a couple of tracks coming out on various compilations also. There rest I can’t really talk about!
You also have a couple of releases lined up this year, is there anything you can talk about? Also, I was wondering if there was anything new in music you’d like to try?
DJ JM – I have two EPs coming out in the first half of the year, one of them is on vinyl – always funny for me, because I don’t know how to play vinyl or at least I don’t think I do. Also, a couple of tracks coming out on compilations. One remix too… Quite excited about all these releases, because they will show something that I was talking about before – more electronic sound design versions of JM tracks.
When it comes to trying something new – I would love to find more opportunities to work with vocalists. Two tracks that are coming out this year are with vocals. I think they are really special to me, obviously, because it adds a significant layer of musicality on top of my extremely functional and bizarre tracks.
I know you exercise a lot by running, do you listen to music while you do it? What do you listen to?
De Grandi – It really depends on my mood! If I feel really energetic, I’ll listen to some gabber or fast techno, but usually I listen to the promo’s I’ve received and all the new releases that have come out.
I’m amazed how you regularly have outbursts of creativity where you’ll make 3 tracks a day for two weeks, what’s your creative process like? Do you hear music in your head before making or does it come through the process of making it?
DJ JM – Gabber and fast techno – I love it.
These so-called outbursts are spontaneous, I’m also quite impressed by them sometimes, when I look at a folder at the end of the month, and there are 25 tracks there, quite cool. But, on the other hand, to be more critical, they are usually not really finished, or have too repetitive structures, honestly, they need to be worked more at, but I let them go as they are and move on – out of those 25 there is for sure 1 good one. That’s why ‘outbursts’ is a perfect name for this creative process – sometimes unfinished, sketchy, all over the place, but also energetic, banging, and functional.
Ye, I hear quite a lot of rhythm patterns in my head, but not really melodies, obviously. I also ”hear” possible structures or simply – ideas, but it’s not an easy thing to explain.
“I think this really sums up music production, it’s like throwing darts at a board and seeing what sticks.”
It’s cool that we met in Berlins Bread’n’Butter festival in 2018, where we both played, and now having a chat here in 2022. What did you think of me when you met me?
De Grandi – Hahaha, I thought you were really annoying! No, I’m kidding of course, I was already a fan of your music and really happy to meet you! We really had fun there! It felt like a big summer camp where artists from all over the world hung out for a few days in Berlin, I met so many nice people with whom I’m still in touch today! I also got to see Mumdance in Berghain which was truly a special moment for me, a sort of techno – grime epiphany haha.
Also, fun fact: Simon, my neighbour aka Slim Sim with whom I’m doing the Yser show on Kiosk (and also the main cause behind the EP we just released), was there too at the festival but we didn’t know each other back then!
But circling back to what you said about making 25 tracks and having one good one, I think this really sums up music production, it’s like throwing darts at a board and seeing what sticks. I usually explore one technique or idea through different tracks before finding the “sweet spot” and moving on from there.
You know I’m a lil nerd, are there any production tricks you’d like to share that you’ve learnt recently?
DJ JM – True – Simon is the real cause of the single we released!
Not really, honestly, I haven’t made any new productions in a couple of months, because of other stuff getting in my way and taking all the free time, but I’ll get back to it soon, I feel the ‘outburst’ is coming haha. But one thing, I like to do, which I think you already know, is to take any other style track, like a rock band track, and look at it as many layers of patterns – put those patterns in your interface and replace them with your samples, some very interesting stuff happens then! Not sure if I’m clear enough, but I think you get it…
It’s true that you are the ‘master’ of production, because of your huge baggage of skills and attention to detail, but what do you think is still a weakness in your musical experience so far, that you would like to work on more?
De Grandi – Haha wow thank you, but I think there are a lot of producers who are much better than me! There are so many things I could improve and work on! Off the top of my head, I’d like to improve my piano playing, I feel like I’m always playing the same type of chords and I’d like to change that. I think mixing is something I could improve, especially in a creative way. I’m not bad but I think I could be better! I’d also like to start using more hardware, especially effect units since I’m mostly doing everything on my computer, which could spark some fun ideas. Lastly, I’d like to experiment with vocals more.