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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Exclusive Q&A with Producer Joseph Borg of Les Grooves

It is always such a pleasure to conduct an interview with contemporary talent in the dance music world who have such a strong, defined aesthetic. Exactly why this Q&A with Montreal's Joseph Borg was a joy for me! Please check out his fantastic new album, Les Grooves, available at Beatport, iTunes, Amazon and Juno. Thanking Barbara Sobel of Sobel Promotions for arranging this Q&A.

Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Hello, Joseph, welcome to our Q&A for Leave It to Beaverhausen, Our City Radio and Dance World Radio.
Joseph Borg: Thanks it is really great to be here!

DBB: I understand you currently live in Montreal by way of Toronto. Where were you born and raised?
JB: I was born and raised in Toronto. But I never really felt I belonged there. After 10 months in Montreal it feels more like home than Toronto ever did.

DJBB: What kind of music did you listen to growing up and what music influenced you? What music influences you now?
JB: Strangely, the music that inspired me as a child wasn't any of the precursor electronic music that you might think such as Depeche Mode, New Order or other early electronic bands. I was always really into classic rock music like Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Doors, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. In fact, I still love all that stuff. If you listen to my music you can really hear the influence of that early rock music. Oddly enough, those recordings are still my greatest inspiration in electronic music. Sure, it sounds nothing like that modern beats you will hear in clubs, but since it is so close to my heart it really sparks my creativity every time. I just chose electronic music because I love the amount of freedom you have, and the fact that you have total control over the sound spectrum without involving other musicians.

DBB: Your new album, Les Grooves (Alpha Milk Recordings; being promoted by Sobel Promotions), has recently been released, so let's focus on that for now. "I don't want to just make another bunch of club anthems here. I have been there already, and although I think I will do more of that in the future, this time I really wanted to shed any kind of template. Experiments like these are what contributes to an artist’s growth," you've said. What made you decide to make this kind of artistic departure? A virtual leap into the blue, no?
JB: Well, I have done this a couple times before so its not really into the blue. Ten years ago, I recorded an album called Away under the Hibernate alias, released under System Recordings. It was EDM, sure, but it was radically different from anything else that was – or is – out there. It really combined many different elements just like Les Grooves does. I just feel that every once in the while I have to take my skills and make music that is MY music, not just me imitating some genre, or expanding on a genre slightly. It is important to do and I think every real artist has to do this a few times. The Beatles did it with Sgt. Pepper and now I am doing it with Les Grooves.

DBB: I was very impressed by the eclectic nature of Les Grooves and its striking variety of electronic music. Did you intentionally set out to display your mastery of various genres with this effort?
JB: I wouldn't say that, no. I don't try to impress with versatility. I just have it, and it comes out with the expression. I have a broader music background than most folks, so when I want to make a statement, I call upon various aspects of it. Not to show the world how well-rounded I am, though. I do it because I feel like that is what a musician should do: create something new and make a statement.

DBB: The kind of trancey, noir-ish qualities of "Alive and Free,""Coming" and "Smooth Ride" are undoubtedly cinematic in style. I can easily imagine them as part of a soundtrack for a film by Cronenberg or David Lynch. Well crafted and beautifully soulful, really. What inspired them? And is film scoring one of your ambitions at this stage of your career?
JB: Thank you! I'm blushing. Yes I DEFINITELY want to score a film or three. I would drop everything to do that in a heartbeat. That is just something I feel I would really excel at.
DBB: I think you would, too.  
JB: Interesting question. "Alive and Free" was actually inspired by the death of a Canadian actor. For the life of me, I cannot recall his name right now as he was not a massive celebrity. This question is uncannily applicable though because both "Coming" and "Smooth Ride" ARE actually soundtrack songs... but for films that have not been made yet. I am in the process of writing two scripts which I plan to turn into movies one day, and both scripts were literally born out of those two melodies. One script is called Smooth Ride and the other has no name yet. Throughout the films – if they ever get made – there are many different variations of those two songs. The entire plot, all of the characters, and all of the photography exploded out of the embryo of those melodies. Music really, REALLY inspires me to create motion picture ideas.

DBB:  I have to say I found all Les Groove's tracks to have a theatrical quality. "Le Burlinage," for example, has a nice, lounge flavor and "Sexy Bitch" is distinctly designed for dancefloors. And yet, I could also imagine them in the background of those settings within a film. "With You I Dive" and "We Love Darth Vader," likewise, had cinematic qualities to them, in my opinion. Was that something you had in mind when you conceived this album as a whole? Or is it just that way to my ears?
JB: Neither. I don't set out to make cinematic music - it just happens - and you are certainly not the first to notice the phenomenon. If I had a half penny for every time someone says that, I could probably buy into Universal Studios. There is just something about that way I work musically that results in a cinematic tone. I just make things flow in dramatic way. There is nothing choppy about my approach, and it is filled with a ton of real life emotion because I apply my experiences to my music. This is what gives the music that motion picture vibe. 

DBB: One thing I have to say is that I had fun listening to your album. It's not always that way. "Fun" isn't always easy to sustain over an entire album. Yet yours does that. It's buoyant, playful and full of surprises. Like the '80s New Wave quality of "Paradise." What inspired that?
: Ha. Buoyant eh? Cool. Yes, I try to make my music animated. Most EDM producers just try to create digital ear candy but I try to give my music a soul of its own using covert measures. I think that soul is what creates the buoyancy you are observing. I really love that compliment! Playfulness is definitely something I experimented with on this collection, and something I never really touched on in previous efforts. Everything I had ever done was always really intense, so I wanted to incorporate some humor on this album. "Paradise" wasn't really inspired by anything in life. Oddly enough, it was a new filter box I had just purchased:  the NIIO Analog Iotine Core Dual Filter Bank. This thing is pure analog and it just sounds so sick. I was coming up with strange, quirky sounds that I had never heard before with it, and those sounds eventually became "Paradise." Every single sound except for the bassline (made on a vintage minimoog through a phase pedal) and the vocals was created using this filter bank. As you can se,e I am very old school!

DBB: When it comes to movie scores, Joseph, what are some of your favorites?
JB:  Good question... and an easy one. Anything by Ennio Morricone.
DBB: I just knew it!
JB: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" was amazing, as well as the rest of the "Dollars Trilogy." For the era, I also enjoyed his work on The Untouchables. I just love his use of distortion on natural sounds on the earlier soundtracks. Giorgio Moroder is also pretty amazing, and I loved his work on Scarface.

DBB: Les Grooves stands out in its singularity and uniqueness. I don't think you'd be able to release something like this today if you were working for a major label. What are your thoughts of creating and performing as an independent artist on an indy label?
JB: It is great because you can do whatever you like without people breathing down your neck with completely asinine perceptions of what creativity is supposed to be. The downside, of course, is lack of funds to get the music to reach people's ears. Major labels spend too much time searching for artists who conform, but what they should be doing is throwing around their money to influence the masses to open their minds a bit. It is possible, but most people working there are just lazy, weak and too afraid of losing their jobs.

DBB: You're a veteran of the progressive house music scene. What do you think of the state of dance music today and of the current club scene?
JB:  I think it is too conformity based. Too much stuff just sounds the same. As I said above, people are just too afraid to stick their heads out and really create something different. Gear and software today has the capability of really making some interesting sounds, and I would like to see producers approach that endless abyss with more of what I refer to as "the responsibility of the artist to push boundaries."

DBB: Fantastic, I wish you all the best in making a difference and I support it. Thank you, Joseph Borg, for sharing your thoughts with us. I highly recommend Les Grooves to discerning dance music fans around the world. Any last shout outs? And what are your plans to conquer the dance music world at this point?
JB: Just more of the same. I plan on creating unique, passionate music that use electronic          instruments to create something with a soul. Thank you for having me! Shout outs to Ennio Morricone and Giorgio Moroder!

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