An Interview With LIFELIKE
French House and Nu-Disco vanguard LIFELIKE, aka Laurent Ash, is no stranger to the music industry.
French House and Nu-Disco vanguard LIFELIKE, aka Laurent Ash, is no stranger to the music industry. He began as a bassist in the mid-90’s, but soon after became interested in synthesizers and samplers, moving on to dance music. Mainly working with samples, he helped create a new sound infused with the disco of yesteryear.
Eventually his record wound up in the hands of Daft Punk’s manager, and was played by Bangalter & DJ Falcon during the famous “Together 2002 tour.” Since then Ash has worked with many musical titans – mostly on singles and remixes – but soon, he plans to release his first full-length album, “Electronic Dreams,” featuring a slew of talented artists like A-Trak, Chromeo, Electric Youth, Oliver, Yota and Audio District/Benjamin Dante – and he wants your help too!
We sat down with him to find out more about his new album, the kickstarter and his thoughts on the current music industry.
You’ve been in the music business for years, working with many other very talented artists – why are you only now releasing your first full-length album, “Electronic Dreams?”
I wanted to drive my car in the record industry the way I wanted it. I didn’t want to do an album before – it’s just as simple as that. I liked the fact that I could have the freedom to release singles and remixes and not having the need to release a full album. I felt now that I had enough good tracks to go for the album.
I don’t believe that in today’s modern times, its fully needed to do album after album like in the other decades. You can be successful and drive a community of followers that is strong without the need to feel the pressure of doing an album.
Why did you choose to use kickstarter for this album? Why not use a label?
Well the problem with other labels and especially major record labels – they can’t drive this type of specific project – my album needs very specific image and promotion.
Big structures aren’t able to this properly. I would need to tell them how to proceed and who to hire and survey constantly what they do.
This is far too stressful, they should be able to drive this by themselves – it’s their job. Unfortunately, today, they are not able to drive these kinds of projects properly anymore. That’s why you hear so much bad music out there, they are only interested in releasing fast short terms projects to bring in fast money.My music isn’t like mainstream, so this is not something they understand how to promote or push. Not to mention that most A&R working for those labels have no sense of artistic development, most of them have only experience out of commercial marketing and sales.
You don’t sell music like you would sell a piece of cheese.
You’ve noted that as you work with bigger labels you lose creative control – can you tell me a bit more about how that happens?
I remember that most A&R in major labels constantly wanted to tell you how to arrange your music, how it should sound, to remove this or this instrument here and there.
This is unacceptable for me. Nobody tells me what I should do with my music.
I accept critics on the sound, but when a guy out of a marketing school who never sold anything other than cheese or computers comes and tell me what to do, I’m not ready to compromise on that and I prefer to throw the deal in the trash rather than discussing what he thinks is the best for me.
Back in the days of the early Daft Punk albums at Virgin Records, they still had the finest A&Rs who would understand the creative process and the scene they were coming from – giving them a total control and freedom over their music.
Those guys were fired 15 years ago…
What made you eventually start you own label, “Computer Science?”
I just wanted some space and some freedom to release my own music, whenever I felt like it. Also, it helped me to create a business structure to protect my music and myself from being eaten by other bigger structures in case I would sign a deal with bigger major labels.
It’s absolutely necessary to have your own label today.
Can you tell us more about “Electronic Dreams?” What I’ve heard sounds utterly amazing…
It’s a collaboration album with friends of mine. I’ve been working with A-Trak, Chromeo, Electric Youth, Oliver, Yota and Audio District/Benjamin Dante.
It’s lies somewhere between, discofunk, synthwave and pop music which are the three main genres I’m really digging now.
What was your inspiration for the tracks? How did you imagine the sound would before actually digging in – and how has the final project changed from your original concept?
It really depends on the tracks, the song I co-wrote first with Chromeo, needed some magic I couldn’t get in my studio, so I called Vaughn from Oliver and they worked on the track again, giving to it this final 80’s retro touch that sounds amazing.
With Electric Youth they wrote the lyrics and went in the studio – but I finalized and mixed it alone. I’m actually producing, mixing and sound engineering everything in the album.
“Electronic Dreams” is a collaboration with many amazing artists such as Chromeo, A-Trak, Electric Youth, Oliver, Yota, etc…and much of your work is in remixes – why do you like working with other artists so much – and did you find it hard, with so many influences, to maintain a cohesive sound for this album?
I think it makes the music more rich to add more influencers and musicians, making the songs or tracks stronger than if you do this alone. Three brains working together are better than one.
Do you have any “White Whale” producers – someone you’d love to work with, but just haven’t been able to nail them down?
Yes unfortunately, at the very first start of the album, I asked UK top producer Martin Rushent to work with me on this album, he the guys who produced The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and other big acts from the 80’s.
Sadly, he passed away – just a couple of weeks after we started to discuss how we would make this happen.
Much of the music that has evolved from the Valerie, the new synthwave movement – much of it is not necessarily dance music. How did your disco sound fit with the 80’s soundtrack sound?
Well its amazing to see this evolution and where this comes from. I recently got invited to a synthwave party, to DJ here in Paris and met some guys from the scene, all of them told me that I was one of the pioneer in this genre, long time before it would be called synthwave, because of a track I release in 2007 called “So Electric”.
One of those artist, Robert Parker, had been travelling all the way from sweden just to meet me and give me his album, and to tell me how influential my music was on his own way of doing music.
This is the most rewarding thing that can happen as a producer.
Thanks to Robert, I decided to open a new synthwave label with Vitalic ex manager Fred Gien, it will be operational early next year, and we have big plans for our artists.
When you sit down to create a track, what is your creative process? I know you use a ton of samples?
Yes I use a lot of samples, because I love the fact that you can bring that old feeling from an old record into a new song and make it sound even better.
What is some of your favorite gear to use when producing?
Akai MPC, Akai S-950, E-mu Emax, Yamaha TX81Z, Roland Alpha Juno 2, Lexicon reverbs and delays
What is the most important problem facing dance music today – and what is your solution?Getting back the money we lost from the digital and physical sales crash in recent years.This means fighting to force the streaming companies to raise their rates per play, so we can start to earn decent money from that, even as indie producer, and not only big pop stars with millions of plays.
It’s on the way, but it will take a certain time, hopefully this will get better – I’m positive about that.