The Sundowner. Mix #22 comes from French DJ and Producer Atawël, who’s first EP will come out soon on the “192” record label. Driven by the image of a perfect and colourful sunset, Atawël take us into his own deep, mysterious and melancholic world. We hope you enjoy his mix as much as we did, and don’t forget to check out the interview we had with him.
Inés: Hi Raph, how are you?
Raph: Hey, I’m good, thanks! Right now I’m in Paris, at a friend’s place in the lovely neighbourhood of Belleville. I’m going back to Berlin tomorrow. I just spent 3 months in the French countryside where I’ve been volunteering in several organic farms. I needed a break after I quit my job a few months ago and I wanted to learn how to grow food! It was an amazing experience. I’ll be back in Berlin for the summer to enjoy the lakes, parties and to work on new music projects!
Inés: What was it that triggered your interest in music?
Raph: It started during a weekend when I was around 8 years old. We were in the countryside with my parents’ friends and their kids. One kid had brought a pair of bongos and showed me how to play. A few months later, I decided to start learning drums and other percussion instruments. Rhythms and grooves have always been very central in the way I experience music and I think that’s what triggered (years later) my interest in House music.
Inés: How would you describe your sound?
Raph: If I look at what I’ve produced so far, I would say there are two sides to my music. One that is playful, warm and groovy and another one more melancholic, with some nostalgia and dreaminess. Each track has a bit of both. When I picture my music, I often have in mind the image of a sunset. Something colourful, which marks the end of something and the transition towards something else. There’s always a form of nostalgia during those moments, and I’m myself a very nostalgic person.
I think that electronic music is particularly appropriate to evoke such feelings. People often relate to electronic music as futuristic but I personally think that it definitely also has a strong connection with the past. That’s one of the reasons why I love electronic music so much. A lot of electronic tracks use samples of old music. Some old drum breaks or 90’s sound effects we hear in some tracks have even been used so many times that they almost became memes. Besides using samples, the production techniques used by many producers also have the power of making us travel through time. Look at the lo-fi scene, or at the 90’s revival of the last 4-5 years, it definitely has to do with a sort of fascination of the past.
I also love the way certain producers are processing sounds to make them sound a bit “broken”, like they’re coming from an unknown old machine.
In my last EP, I tried to incorporate some retro elements and subtle references to tracks that I love. My sound is nourished by all of that.
In the future, I would like to give a deeper direction to my music, more minimalistic and hypnotic. That’s another aspect of electronic music I love and that I would like to explore more.
Inés: What’s your creative process when creating a track?
Raph: I would say that my creative process is kind of “introverted”. Indeed, besides the music I listen to, a lot of inspiration comes from me singing alone in my head ahah. This way, I almost never start a track completely “from scratch”, I always have something pretty precise in mind, could be some chords with a melody or even an idea of structure. However, a lot of inspiration also comes during my studio sessions, especially because what sounds cool in my head sometimes turns out to be crap when I try to translate it into real sounds ahah. Anyway, most of the time, the final result is quite different from the initial idea I had.
When it comes to the production itself, I often start with melodies: finding a beautiful chord progression is usually the very first thing I do. This will define the overall tone of the track. Once I’m satisfied with it, I take care of the rhythmic part. I often have this image of a rhythmic backbone, a body to sustain the chords and melodies and transform them into something danceable. Then comes the bassline. I can really spend a lot of time working on the very core pattern of the track. I want to create something the listener wants to be repeated over and over again. Once this is good, I can start to decline it into several variations.
That being said, a good drum pattern with beautiful chords and a bouncy bass-line, along with some effects and a little bit of tweaking can often result in a very good track. I’m fascinated by how simplicity can be powerful, especially in House, Techno and other related genres. My favourite Deep House record of all time: Atmospheric Beats by Kerri Chandler is the perfect illustration of this.
The way the drums, the bass-line and the chords stick together is just insane, it’s pure genius! I will never get bored of this track.
Inés: Which problems do you face most often when making music?
Raph: Getting distracted is one of the most common problems. But I would say that the hardest, beyond being disciplined, is to combine music with a full-time job, especially if your job is done in front of a computer. In that case, the first thing you want to do after a day of work is not necessarily to spend 2 or 3 more hours looking at a computer screen! Except if you work only with hardware but it’s not my case.
Inés: Can you tell us a little bit about some of the music you’ve included in the podcast, perhaps about some of the labels or artists featured?
Raph: I tried to include tracks that have a sort of mysterious and cinematic side. The type of tracks you want to listen to in a dusty car or in an old adventure movie. That’s why I called the mix “Dusty pictures from a past life”. There is one of my own tracks “Underwater Funk” which will be on my forthcoming EP on 192 Records.
I also included a few of my favourite records like “The Power of Music” by Chris Lum or “Mind Salve” by Hannah who is one of my favourite Deep House producers.
In Chris Lum’s track, there’s a voice talking about how music is “calling on your past to evoke emotional reactions”. I think it kind of reflects what I was talking about before!
Inés: Your first EP Colors is out soon for the label and collective 192, can you tell us more on how you landed on the label and how does it feel?
Raph: The decision to release an EP together came after I went to an afterparty at Kizoku’s and played some demos that I had on a USB stick. Reusbi and Justin were there and loved it, especially Easy (A1) ! I’m really happy to work with them, they really are beautiful human beings and talented artists. I also love the artwork, Justin did an amazon job!
Inés: In which part of the city do you live? What’s your favourite place in the neighbourhood for food?
Raph: I live in Friedrichshain, close to the metro station Samariterstraße. I’m a big fan of cooking so I often prefer to stay home rather than eating outside. But what I love is to grab a Gözleme at the Boxhagener Platz Market on Saturdays after buying vegetables. So simple and delicious!
Inés: Last but not least, what are your plans for the future?
Raph: I’m already in touch with some labels for the next EP which I’m working on. I hope it will be ready soon!! Other than this, there will be an event by Zeevonk from the 21st to the 23rd of July in an amazing location where I’m gonna play.
Other than that, my experience in France of the last months really triggered me into learning more about agro-ecology. In the long-term, I really see myself having a project in link with that. Let’s see how I can combine it with my musical activities!
Inés: Thank you Raph, we are really excited for what the future will bring you and we are looking forward to hear more from you!