Down The Production Hole with... Agoria

Words by: Lisa Loco
Posted: 3/8/10 14:20

Sébastien Devaud, aka Agoria, is next up to join us Down the Production Hole. This accomplished Frenchman began his journey into sound over a decade ago. His debut album, of 2004, was called Blossom, and it was later followed by his The Green Armchair album and Go Fast movie soundtrack.

Frequently progressing beyond techno, through a style that's melodic and cinematic with a classical twist, Agoria is at last becoming a regular on his own InFiné imprint, while his mixed compilations have included At the Controls on Resist and Balance 016 on EQ Recordings.

Next for 2010, and following on from his acclaimed 'Grande Torino' release this summer, comes something called 'Speechless', allegedly featuring Carl Craig on vocals! 'Speechless' is scheduled to drop this October, probably as a prelude to Agoria's new album... However, in the meantime, you can catch Agoria performing not once but twice this month on the island at Space.

And now, as a heads-up to these sure-to-be-special sets and his forthcoming fourth album, here he speaks in fascinating depth about making, shaping and mastering his music, studio-style...

First, can you tell us something about your frames of reference/what you think makes for a high quality electronic sound recording?
The main thing in your home studio is to know the home of your studio. Obviously you need to know perfectly the software, the hardware and the monitors, but most of all you need to know perfectly the room and the environment where you set up your studio. Each room will colour differently your perception of the sound. Each element from the window to the studio chair can affect the final mix of your track. I was speaking a few years ago with Simon [Davey], a sound engineer at The Exchange, studio mastering in London. He told me that one day they moved the old sofa in their studio and decided to buy a new sofa. But they realised that it became much more difficult to cut a record, because they had the feeling that the bassline and kicks were too loud... because their new sofa didn't absorb as many bass frequencies as the old one! So the best way to make a good sound quality recording could be to ask your uncle or grandmother if he/she still needs his/her old sofa! Then you can start thinking about good mixing effects, compressors or EQ!

Down The Production Hole with... AgoriaWhat's your current music production set-up like?
Regarding the sound recording, it's changing at the moment. I just bought a Lunchbox API at Vintage King during my last trip to Detroit, so I'm reconnecting everything in the studio right now. The Lunchbox is a rack where you can connect lots of great tools from Shadow Hills stereo compressor to Buzz Audio Tonic equalizer, for example. So you can build a personal rack of vintage and analogue tools to equalize a track that may be too digital; you can also warm/EQ some sounds or even pre-master a track. I'm really into this kind of hardware. In a way, that helped me to build my own mixer console, taking the best from each brand. Speaking about making music, now I'm using both hardware and software, I've got a few effects like the Eventide Eclipse, TC's FireWorx and the Distressor. Also, a few synths like the Moog Voyager, Alesis Andromeda or Nord 2, and drum machines, etc... But I no longer have a real console mixer, so the EQs from the Lunchbox are the perfect equilibrium between digital and analogue in my studio. I also spend a lot of time recording many acoustic elements, like vocals, strings and guitars. I like to start working from totally new and 'fresh' material and then add some hardware or software elements.

There is no difference for me between working on hardware and software. I enjoy both and, I guess, I need both. I'm not a snob or a purist. I just try to get the best of each element, 'cos they are still all necessary. The good thing with hardware is that not so many people use it, so in the end it will still sound fresher than the new plug-ins.

What is/are your most essential tool/s of the trade within that set-up?
I can't stop using the Eventide Eclipse, and, obviously, the Lunchbox that I fill with compressors and EQs, it does change totally my approach to mixing.

Can you reveal a secret about your production technique/s?
It depends on the kind of music you're doing. For 'dance music' the coupling of the kick and bass is the most important thing, I guess. If you manage to make the bassline and the bass drum sound in a perfect symbiosis, with the right compression/EQ, then you can do and add almost everything you want. You're almost sure the mix-down will sound well. For that, you can try to use side-chain compression between the bass drum and the bass and see what happens.

Do you have a general top tip for budding producers?
Well, I spend a lot of time trying to help some friends or artists from InFiné, giving them a little advice, but each time the advice is different because each situation is really particular. For example, Franceso Tristano needed help with some frequencies; Spitzer on the final mix; and Manvoy on the arrangement... And, honestly, when I speak with a sound engineer, I think I have to learn much more to give advice. I will say that sometimes a risky mix-down, even imperfect, is better than a cool mix-down. Our ears are so influenced by all that we listen to. The sound of dance records has been brighter than ever because of the software, but it's also due to the mastering of US hip-hop and indie records. The Americans hRecordsave produced and mastered all records at a slightly distorted maximum level these past 10 years, and it's definitely influenced our ears, the dynamic and the standard levels. With my last tracks 'For One Hour' and 'Libellules' I had the aim of feeling more in a cocoon than in a railway station. I tried to have mix-down and mastering really close to this aim and the story of the songs.

Finally, what's your take on the future of electronic music production?
I think it's gonna be really relevant in the next few years. I'm excited to hear what the young generation who were born surrounded by electronic music are gonna create. When I see lot of classical artists around 25, like Francesco Tristano, Justin Messina, Bachar Khalifé, and Aufgang, giving their own classical background to electronic music, I'm really curious about the day they will know and use perfectly the technology. Electronic music has been mostly made by DJs, engineers and producers in the past years, so when artists with a classical background will give their own imprint I guess we're gonna have very good surprises. In the meantime, kids born in a bath of technology will definitely use it differently than I do, so I guess the best is to come...

Regarding the industry, we are at a crossroads. Everyone can make music and everybody releases so many records that no one can pay attention to it all. It's time to look for rarity and think twice before releasing a record and most of all about how to release it. I have the feeling that we are back at the time when there was no money in the dance record industry, but with an underground spirit, so the music will definitely be better and harder to find.

Release Out
Agoria - Grande Torino on Infine
Agoria - Balance 016 on EQ
Agoria - Magnolia & Libellules on Infine
Agoria - Go Fast on Different

Coming soon
Agoria - Speechless feat. Carl Craig on Infine

August 04 - Kehakuma @ Space - Ibiza, ES    
August 07 - Aquasella Festival- Asturias, ES    
August 13 - InFiné Beach Party - Montpellier, FR   
August 25 - Kehakuma @ Space - Ibiza, ES   
August 28 - Escalier Festival - St Malo,FR   
August 28 - Overground Festival - Geneve, CH


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