Tag Archive for: professional development

Managing relationships, parenting, and music

I’m a father and have a family of my own. I’m often asked how I can still manage to find the time to make music amidst the chaos of all of the moving parts of my life. There’s no perfect way to balance everything life throws at you–balancing music and parenting is a challenge–but I manage to run a record label, play live sets, and release recorded music, all while being a parent. The life of someone who has the responsibilities of making music and parenting is very different than the life of a person whom only needs to focus on themselves and music alone. Knowing this fact and accepting it was, for me, the first step in taking ownership of my own time-constraint frustrations.

Your free time will become sacred

As a parent, you have to eliminate any possible distractions to when you’re ready to make music, because your time is limited. “That’s obvious” you might say, but when it comes down to it, as a musician and parent, this is the most important point I find one must follow to make the most of his or her time.

  • Schedule dedicated time for creation. This also involves your partner’s help, as she/he also deserves to get his/her own creative time in return.
  • Try to make music outside of your home. If this is possible, either share a studio with someone, or try to find a place where no one can interrupt you.
  • Turn off electronic notifications; social media, your phone, etc.

The number one enemy to creativity is to focus on too many things at once. Try to steal some time away from less productive things like playing video games or watching movies, to instead do things like learn how to use certain plugins that will be beneficial to your craft.

Echo Beach and Dahlia (Photo by Katherine Hoos)

Work faster, fix later

One thing I’ve noticed since becoming father, is how I’ve had to optimize my use of the little free time I have to maximize my productivity. For example, I’ll squeeze programming a percussion loop into a 5 minutes window of spare time. I’ve also developed tricks for myself to turn a loop into a full song in the fastest possible time. I tackle certain things in the creative process that don’t needed much critical thinking as fast as possible. Here are a few advisory points you can use to do the same:

  • Predetermine how you’ll be using your time. This will require discipline, but for instance, I know beforehand that my incoming session is meant to focus a specific task, like remixing or mixing. This helps me, once in studio, stop my mind from roaming to unrelated topics or chores. One of the things I realized after becoming a parent was that when I would get to the studio, I would be so excited that I wanted to do too many things at once, and ended up not progressing on anything at all.
  • Plan in advance how this or that track will be like. You’ll have to apply this to song making. Is there anything you can decide beforehand will free your mind from time consuming decision-making? For example, how long will the track you’re working on be? Is it ambient or dancefloor? Punchy or subtle? Athletes can go beyond their limits by visualizing in advance what they’ll do and this applies to you as well. The clearer things are beforehand, the more efficient you’ll be. Use a notebook if you have to.
  • Don’t focus on details until later. Details are time drains, so try to focus on the big picture and then do a sprint to fix all the small details in a future session.
  • See your time limitation as a creative tool, not a constraint. I’ve learned a lot from working in accordance with Matthew Herbert’s music manifesto and one thing I’ve learned from this is that leaving mistakes in your tracks isn’t a big deal. It can even be an artistic statement if you believe in imperfection. Sometimes, they can actually end up being okay… if you can let them go.

Not making music isn’t a waste of time

One of the things I’ve had to deal with is daydreaming. When not making music, sometimes I feel anxious that I might be behind or that I’m going to miss an opportunity. However, some of the best music ideas have come to me while I haven’t been making music at all. Sharing this with others has made me realize that I’m not alone in this phenomenon. It seems as though the brain can hatch great ideas when doing other things; everything comes in due time. In a past post I explained how to spot your creative triggers; this can be a game changer in this context if you are aware of them.

Echo Beach and Dahlia (Photo by Katherine Hoos)

Echo Beach and Dahlia (Photo by Katherine Hoos)

Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to start making music. Just get used working sometimes with headphones, at a very weird moments of the day. Get things done.

Make room for healthy habits

For some reason, I see a lot of people resisting the idea of forming habits. They associate music making with debauchery, partying and going a bit off the hook. Yes, it can definitely be that way, and if that’s how you see it, why not? But at the same time, if you aspire to be a bit more professional, organized and to actually get things done, you’ll need to focus on priorities. One of the most useful things to do is to make your art healthier.

  • Play more sports. Sports helps with concentration and ideas. This is factual. In my case, I can do way more creative work after jogging, and I’m usually am more enthusiastic about new ideas after I do yoga.
  • Don’t have dependencies. I don’t mean “dependencies” as in a partner or kids, but that if you’re dependent on substances or any odd conditions to make music, it’s time to break them. Making sure you can make music with no preparation, or lots of preparation, much is one of the most liberating things. If you need to “party” to make music, this will greatly limit your options.
  • Make the most of your morning hours. If you don’t already have experience with this, mornings are actually an excellent time to be creative. Some people believe they can only work at night, but this is–for the most part–not true. You can get a lot of things done with a clear mind and fresh ears. I always do mastering in the morning as at this time of day my ears are at their best.
  • Meditate. Actually, this was probably my secret weapon to remain productive through my parenthood. A simple 5-10 min practice of Mindfulness would clear out my mind and help me remain very creative, seeing through issues.

Last but not least, try to involve your child or loved ones in your music. It’s not something that has to work but it can help them understand what you do, how you do it and what it implies in terms of focus.


I hope some of these points help you maximize your time as a parent or partner! Remember that you can always ask for help, too.


SEE ALSO :  Make Your Music Bucket List Happen 

Music Making Is Problem Solving

Every once and a while the excitement to launch into a session fully inspired, fully motivated, literally can’t-get-into-it-soon-enough hits me, and it’s amazing. Seriously, in my experience there really isn’t anything that gets me pumped like that because when you know your idea is that good, and everything seems to come together perfectly, you know it’s going to be big. It’s different this time. So, you get started, loading the drum kit, mapping out the midi, tweaking the saturation.. soooo gooood….. then, your Facebook beeps, the insurance guy calls, your plugin freezes, and before you know it you’ve completely lost the groove, and the dream is over before it started. Music making requires endless problem-solving. 

Why is inspiration so quick to fade out? Why are there so many obstacles in the way? Does sitting down to make music always have to be this difficult? If you can relate to the experience I painted above you have tasted the sourness of the scapegoat in music.

There will always be a need to solve problems and cut through obstacles, both unexpected and predictable. Yet for better or worse, they come part and parcel with making music. Questions and distractions… Instead of fighting them, we need to minimize their effect on us, and as much as possible reduce the chance of distractions from happening altogether.

Looking back at nearly 100% of any consultations and coaching I do with people, I find there are four main ‘problem’ areas which seem to rotate and steal our attention. While there will always be some form of distraction, if we work to minimize these four main problems we’ll be in much better shape to stay on track during our next session.

We’re talking about a creative solutions to common solving problems.

Problem one: How and where do you get inspiration? I believe that there is a special energy that comes to us when she knows we’re committed to her. When I say her, I mean the work. Professional runners say that the hardest part about running a marathon is simply getting the motivation to put on their shoes, and leave the house. Boom. Just show up and get started – load up your daw, and start making noise, you’ll soon get excited and find something cool to work towards. One of the most important and simple approaches to music production, which I always recommend, is simply making music when you feel great. I’ve read several articles about the importance of rituals – where you design and carry out a pattern that makes you happy inside and out, and within that zone, your mind will enter a very positive space, which is super important when we demand creativity and imagination.

Problem Two: How can I know enough about music production to be a one-man band?
It’s impossible to know everything, and you don’t need to. What you really want to know are the ins and outs of your daw, and instruments you use. If you’ve been buying all the latest synths and each one of them is different, it’s going to take quite some time to know them all 100%, whereas if you are using one or two instruments, read the manuals and learn everything you can about JUST those two synths – you’ll be much quicker to make and achieve the sounds you want by knowing less (less instruments to learn), and focusing more (mastering the ones you use).

Less is more. I watched a video interview of one producer who’s had several track placements with Kendrick Lamar ~ the dude is 18, and records everything into Garage Band on his iPhone. He has a guitar and a phone. That’s it, and he’s making huge strides with his work, even with the most basic equipment.

Find a way to get engaged. Ask yourself what part of music production makes you forget about time, food, and everything else? This is a space where you’re in the zone, fully committed, and nothing else matters. Embrace this process and be aware of when this happens, you may not reach this level of focus and results during other steps along the way. For some, this state will only come to them when Dj’ing, and for others, it will come while locked in a mixdown, etc.. know where you’ll find your flow.

Problem Three: How can I commit to a direction in my music?
While there is no straight answer for this, I’ll simplify things to the belief that – you have multiple options, and don’t have to commit to only one. Record both ideas, and use the ‘save-as’ feature, allowing you to save a second version of the song to work on, and later decide which direction you’ll be happy with.

And lastly Problem Four: What will the afterlife of my song be?

No one can see into the future, so it’s impossible to know. I don’t believe it’s a productive use of your time to dream about what could be one day… without finishing your song, it will stay living on you hard drive forever, which is not what you want. What is important right now is to focus on the important things here:
Making music, Finishing projects, promoting your work, networking with other producers.

(for tips on how to promote yourself as an artist in a way that is personal to you, check this post

To wrap things up, problem-solving can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. While a study suggested that in front of anxiety, one of the best things to do is to take a 2 day break, although I’d encourage you to take a week off to start with.

Photo by Oskar Wimmerman on Unsplash

In an excellent psychology related article I read that when one is faced with a challenge, it’s critical to understand exactly what you’re being tested with – that is, you need to know what is the real problem. To know and understand what the problem is you must be able to explain to someone else with clarity, with a clear description. Understand the problem, and understand the options available to you. I read that negotiators who talk to terrorists holding hostages will eliminate many options down to only two in an effort to achieve a quick, yet satisfying resolution. Reduce your options to get moving quickly. Making a decision in haste can also have a negative effect, so don’t feel the need to always make a decision right away – give your self time away from the problem, and trust your brain’s ability to understand that in the background, beneath the surface, at some point a creative solution will emerge, often when least expected.

In the end, to win more, to score more, to get through to the finish line more often, you need to be as creative in finding solutions to problems as you are in every other area of your productions. Set a up a system where you minimize the chance for distractions to happen.

(quick tip– every mac has an app called Automator, where you can assign a chain of commands for whatever you wish to do. Check this video to setup a quick way to close all programs, turn off wifi, launch Live, and kick-start your session fast.


Cheers Guys JP


  SEE ALSOChecklist to see if my song is finished 

Goals You Set For Yourself

As many of you already know, I’ve been offering personal coaching services since 2016, and seen some amazing breakthroughs with my clients. In every case, it’s best to get a conversation going to learn about what goals you set for yourself. In many cases, I help them to see the bigger picture and then find ways achieve those goals in a way that is very personal, and unique to each of them.

There are many myths about making music that floats around, which aren’t helpful for producers. I feel it’s important to debunk misinformation and share the most common goals I hear from my clients to help do that.

The two most common goals I hear from my clients are:
I want to become a known producer and get signed to multiple labels.
I want to become respected enough so I can tour.

The whole point of offering my coaching service is to help people get from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.

Having someone there to push you creatively can make a world of difference, so we might as well think big right? Big goals will often require big change, and I want to share my strategy to achieving the goals my clients wanted, but couldn’t imagine achieving themselves.

After you’ve set a goal, you need to imagine working backward to determining all the small, and many steps you’ll need to make to arrive there. The thing is, hard work will keep you focused on achieving your goals, but occasionally forces out of your control will make a big difference, one being known as luck.

There are many things you can’t control in your quest to become a known producer, mainly because getting known implies that you’ve been at the right place, at the right moment. Even an attempt to duplicate the step by step actions of another artist who achieved some level of success doesn’t mean those actions will work for you.

It’s very common for artists to try and replicate what others before him/her have done, which can work of course, but, the more likely result will be to be known as someone without originality if you follow someone’s steps to closely.

Now, thinking wide, long term is all fine and good and will test your vision, but often thinking too far ahead will distract you from what must be set in motion in the short term.

The truth is, wherever you want to go in music, you first need to produce a ton of tracks and find your path in that process. Bonus (check out a fool-proof way to know if your tracks sound good)

Now, one of the most common goals I bring people to set is to begin completing one track per week. Their main enemy in this process is getting attached to where the track will end up. It’s safe to say we all hope our music will get attention, will be played, will get signed, but these points are often uncontrollable. Bonus – easy ways to create tracks, and multiple tracks from just one idea.

Being signed, heard, or played out at clubs should not your final destination, this is simply one stage in the every growing process of your life as a musician. The proof is, low-quality music can often get a lot of attention while some fantastic tunes are ignored and get no play time. Why?

This leads me to the second most important goal I generally work towards, (which has been written about often on my blog) developing your network. In my opinion and in one way or another, everything comes down to that. SO much more than your gear, or the number of remixes under your belt, the support you can really count on is the people around you in the long run. Your network can help push you towards making bold work and great things, to outdo yourself, to grow via collaboration and inspiration.

In a very digital age many people have become less social, which can make going out and meeting new people harder. I get that. Yet, not being part of a strong network doesn’t mean you won’t create great music, it simply means without having that support you may not be pushed to create your best music.

Lastly, finding your path is a matter of what path you actually want. This can come to you in two ways: knowing what you love, what you love doing and what you do magnificently well. Whether you believe it or not, everyone has a talent, and through work and practice, that talent can be recognized world wide. So what’s yours? Some people are amazing at creating dynamic arrangements, others at running a label. When you can connect what you do naturally well with what you love doing, you’ll enter a zone of flow where you can achieve truly great things.

My destination as a coach is that zone ~ This is where I want to be leading people to. I find a lot of comfort in seeing my clients reach that point as it truly creates a fullness and purpose to the work they’re creating, as well as my role in the partnership.

In the end, am I trying to divert them from their initial goal of getting signed to labels and touring? No, not at all. What is true is that I’m preparing them to get there by focusing on the only thing they can control themselves: their own personal growth. To tour and be signed, implies to be in control of your art, part of a healthy and strong network, and finding a flow and confidence in yourself as an artist.


SEE ALSO :  Make Your Music Bucket List Happen

What Is A Mature Sounding Track?

Recently, a video artist friend of mine was critical of a clip we were watching, and I was commenting about the audio portion of the video. We were both interested in each other’s point of view to better understand what a professional in different fields felt the video could improve on.

In any domain you’ll eventually find the connoisseur, this is someone with a great depth of knowledge in his/her field, and is always searching for the best within his area of expertise. We can think of wine, poetry, painting, fields where true excellence is sought after. In any area of interest the more you are part of that which you love, the more you’ll be able to distinguish the highest quality.

People with years of experience in any field will have a much deeper understanding and perspective than those fresh to the scene. Without question, an experienced ear will recognize fine details and maturity in the music and can quickly tell if the producer has been around for a little while. This brings up the question –

What is a mature sounding track?

Sometimes I hear sarcastic questions such as “how can dance music be mature”? Different people will always have different standards, yet in this post, I thought I’d share how I perceive a song, both from my engineering point of view but also from the perspective of a label owner.

Firstly, I believe song maturity goes beyond if “it’s good (or not).”  I’ve talked about if a song is good or not before but I’ll comment again because many people confuse maturity with if the track sounds good or not. I believe it has nothing to do with that. If we compare it to food or art, highly acclaimed works are often not accessible from the general public opinion. In music, the more you discover and expose yourself to, the more you recognize patterns, ideas, clichés. To sum up a song by “this is good” has no resemblance to what the track/song may have been intended to do. You’re likely judging based on your preferences, which is biased by how you feel or what trends you are following.

The song brings to light it’s initial intention. An experienced producer will have a particular idea in mind that will be made fairly clear when he makes his song. In some cases, he may have a second purpose working within that track. What I mean here is, what the listener decodes from the song might not be what it is initially suggested, as there might be a second, hidden message behind what is going on sound wise. This depth of songwriting can play a huge factor in demonstrating the craftsmanship of the producer.

The song has a clear voice and something to say. Hence the “aha” moment or the “wow” you might have after listening to just a few seconds of a song. Sometimes the light bulb moment may come only after an exhaustive and focused listening session, or after listening to the full song several times. What’s unique about electronic music is that very often there are no lyrics, yet through the use of sound textures, melodies, tensions, and releases, a producer can communicate a state of mind and emotion that words may not be able to express. Just like the word Saudade which comes from the Portuguese from Brazil only, describes a definite feeling that other languages can’t clearly relate to. The use of certain frequencies can suggest specific feelings, and moods, quite powerfully.  I’ve always felt the title of a song is critical and provides context for the music. As artists, we have the power to shape information to make a statement, which can be very powerful when presented right.

It’s not a matter of complexity or simplicity. I’ve had someone who felt that complexity was a sign of maturity. All the crazy tricks and effects up front,  yet the thing is, with experience, you realize that sometimes doing less will often have more impact than overdoing it. Like I said above, creating a wow effect on people is something, but to capture their attention over the whole duration of a song is often a wow effect in a more subtle way.

Time invested in the song doesn’t make it mature. If you spend 5 hours in a row working on a song, you might bring maturity to the song yet perhaps you’ll dilute the original essence of what you originally heard. Over the years, I’ve noticed the significant benefits of letting a project in early development sleep and settle for a time before returning to develop it further.

Timelessness is one of the central points. Songs that don’t age and those that seem to haunt you are often the results of something very well planned or completely improvised. But in one way, this is the often the result of well-paired elements coming together in the right way. There’s part knowledge, culture, innovation, exploration, risk and good taste. The thing that is magical is when someone, no matter how experienced, gets inspired by a moment of grace and comes up with something even himself, cannot explain. That part, which is often pure intuition, is what fascinates me. It is in those moments that you get the best out of yourself.

Using and Choosing an Alias

Artist aliases have a colourful history that goes back centuries. Long before techno, stage names and pen names were common in music and literature especially, with artists often wanting to separate their david Bowiepublic personas from their private identities. Voltaire (aka François-Marie Arouet) and Bob Dylan (born Zimmerman) both wanted to break away from their pasts. David Bowie (born David Robert Jones) wanted to avoid confusion with Davy Jones, later the lead singer of The Monkees. And many of history’s biggest musicians and authors have wanted to disguise their genders (if women) or ethnic origins. There are as many motivations as there are people and contexts.

At the beginning of techno music, virtually everyone had an alias. It was part of the culture of techno for producers to want to remain faceless, with the idea that techno was supposed to be all about the music, instead of the egos. At the risk of getting too nostalgic, it was one of the things that made techno different.
One of the beautiful things with aliases is that they allow artists to channel one musical direction into a distinct brand, which frees them to explore many different projects or genres without fear of confusing or alienating their followers.
Two of the biggest examples in electronic music are Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman moniker and Aphex Twin, each with their own identifiable sound and even logo. Some artists, like Daft Punk, will take the concept even further, donning elaborate costumes during live performances to avoid ever showing their faces.
For artists like these  — or like Bowie, who probably opened the door for these kinds of stage personas — using an alias can be a way to get around personal fears or insecurities and achieve complete creative freedom. In the 1990s, against the backdrop of Detroit’s urban decay, the city’s underground techno scene went all in on aliases, with many artists channelling superhero personas or other fictional characters to envision the future of music in a dystopic world.

So let’s say you’ve decided to use an alias. That’s likely the easy part. But how do you find the right one for you?

When it comes to techno music, there are often trends with aliases. One recent one was to remove the vowels and place all letters in caps. Another was to swap the first letters of the first and last names. But if you’re like for something more original, here are some tips for finding your own alias:

If you already have a nickname, use it. The whole idea behind an alias is that it’s something that is unique to you, and that people will quickly associate with your music. If your friends (especially those in your music circles) have given you a nickname because they think it expresses something interesting or special about you, they might just be onto something.

Use a vocal imitation of a sound (an onomatopoeia). Not many people know this, but I got my own alias by using an onomatopoeia (like swish, hiss, buzz, etc.) for a sound that I felt captured the feel of my music. There are no official spellings for sounds because everyone will hear them differently, so you can get really creative with this.

Do a random article search on Wikipedia. This might sound a bit strange, considering that I just said how important it was for an alias to be something unique to you. As a springboard to further research or new ideas though, Wikipedia can be a great resource. Just enter the first keyword that comes to mind and go from there, jumping off from article to article whenever something piques your interest.

Have fun with languages. If you’re having difficulty finding the right alias in your language, why not explore a different one? This can be especially fitting if you have a multicultural background yourself or speak different languages, or even if you just have a special bond with another culture and feel that its language speaks to you in some way.

Whether you follow one of these approaches or find your own, the important part to remember is that your alias is your brand. It should translate something essential about your music, and be striking and original enough that people will hear it and immediately think of you.

Have fun with it! The process of choosing an alias can be extremely constructive, since it invites you to explore what your music is all about.

SEE ALSO :  The next big thing? 


2016: Studio Trends and My Clients

It’s been a crazy first year for the audio services I founded in November 2015. Things really got started with the website in January, and it fired up right away. I thought this would be a good time to look back at 2016, and to share some of the year’s highlights: of the plugins I used the most, the projects I worked on, and the producers I had the great pleasure to work with.

Where to start?

Let’s begin with some numbers. With online sales alone, I completed over 300 projects by early December, though the number for all sales combined is closer to 350 projects for the entire year. This includes sound design, mixing, mastering, and training services, both online and in person. This was indeed my biggest year since 2004.

Add to that my online coaching service that reached 450 people in 6 months. It’s been a bit overwhelming to be sure, but being able to help so many people fuels me as well.

Overall, the breakdown of services offered by my studio in 2016 looks like this:

Mastering: 43%

Mixdown: 24%

Arrangements: 15%

Coaching: 15%

Other: 3%

And in terms of musical styles, it broke down like this:

Tech house/house: 24%

Techno: 33%

Deep/dub techno: 14%

Hard techno: 4%

Experimental/Ambient/Chill out/IDM: 15%

Pop: 3%

Hip hop: 7%

The most frequent requests were:

  • Rounded lows.
  • Warm bass.
  • Punchy.

I’m really happy that people have generally stopped asking for the music to be “LOUD,” as this was a common request years back. In 10 years, I’ve seen that people’s tastes have slowly evolved, and that they’re more and more into the warmer sound that analog provides.


In terms of plugins, these are some of the ones I used the most this year. In general, I try to create a different chain of compressors and EQ depending on the label or client, to create a unique aesthetic. One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that the combination of various effects adds grain to the sound. It’s like combining ingredients when you cook: you can try 2 different brands of a same spice, and the results will differ subtly.

Universal Audio Ampex ATR-102 Mastering Tape Recorder Plug-In

This is certainly a very creative tool, as well as a nice mixing plugin. It adds saturation and will beef up flimsy parts. Anything that goes through it seems to come out in perfect shape.


Sonalksys CQ1

This is certainly the best multiband tool out there — and trust me, I’ve tried them all. You will need multiband for mixing, but you can get very interesting results if you use drastic measures for sound design. This one never fails.


Harrison 32C

This is definitely an underestimated player in the EQ world, as I rarely hear people talk about it. This year was when I started using it almost every day though. It has this little thing that makes lows so warm.



A simple compressor, but it works like a charm. Brainworx never fails to create quality products that use simple and intuitive controls. A huge help on percussions.


Space Strip

A fun little tool for sound design, it creates really cool spaces, as the name suggests. Throw it on the master and watch it craft lovely atmospheres out of so little.


Reason 9

The DAW of the year without a doubt. If you’re one of those people that has been overlooking Reason, run now to get yourself the trial and be ready to have your jaw drop in awe. Rewired with Ableton, it is the most powerful tool to get over any creative block. It also does crazy (I mean it) sound design.



This reverb didn’t get the attention it deserved. If you’re not familiar with Zynaptiq, they really make state-of-the-art products. These guys are machines. Adaptiverb is hard to explain, so I’ll leave the descriptions to them, but suffice to say that it is not your typical reverb. It’s certainly a nice add-on to your plugin collection, as it can form creamy textures out of simple pads.



One of the things that really got me motivated this year was having clients who were interested in pursuing a long-term association with me. They’d come to me for all of their mixing needs so that they could focus their energies on recording new ideas. Some wanted their studio sessions arranged around songs. It’s great to have multiple contracts with someone, because you start by working with a reference artist, until eventually that shifts and the producer starts referencing themself.

It would be impossible to list all the clients I had in 2016 whose work I loved, but here are a few of the highlights that come to mind:


From Argentina, Franco worked with my buddies at 31337 Records, producing a superb palette of ambient sounds, intricately organized into a beautiful microcosm.


Kike Mayor

Kike has been one of my most loyal clients this year, as we worked together to define his sound as something “fun and sexy,” as we both liked to call it. Kike’s style is hypnotic and catchy, and he always comes to me with projects I love.


Debbie Doe

Debbie had a breakthrough this year, as she managed to pull her very first project together and nail down a growing number of important gigs. This Lebanese-Montreal artist is not afraid of reaching into her Arabic influences to craft some exotic moods.



Another very serious producer from Italy/France who booked me regularly to handle mixes and mastering for his music. He’s a nerd collector with a massive modular set-up, and he prefers focusing on designing quirky house instead of spending time on his computer.


Andrey Djackonda

From Moldova, Djackonda was a nice discovery for me this year. The guy makes really organic techno with dub influences. It’s been a headnodder for my mastering sessions. You know you have some groovy music when you start spending time shaping the track into these groove monsters.





From Montreal, Stereo_IMG is a serious sound designer who builds weird devices to extract found sounds that are both beautiful and intriguing. Working with him in the studio turned some of his tunes into Audion-sounding gems.



A programmer and kind soul, Wiklow came to me for mentoring, and we spent the next 2 months discussing music philosophy and the mysteries of human behaviour. This fantastic trip of anything-but-music-related talks led him to create a beautiful EP that would make Jan Jelinek blush.



Ruslan runs a label in New York named Minim, and he has been one of the most supportive people for me this year. We worked together closely, talking almost daily, and it was wonderful to see him at MUTEK to dance to Barac’s set.


Dom Varela

A young producer from Laval who I’ve seen grow slowly, finally releasing his first track this year. It’s been a pleasure to coach him and work closely with him on his development.



This was my most demanding mixdown this year, but man did it turn out well. Bmind is an artist I adore. His free-jazz perspective makes his music feel like a spiritual journey through an LSD trip. Nothing easy, but never flaky.



Not to forget also 2 other clients who were super busy with me, Isaac and Luis.

These guys make albums in a matter of months, and each time, it’s spot on. Not only are they dedicated, but there’s a real depth to every song they make.

There are so many others I could mention, and I have to apologize if you’re disappointed that your name isn’t featured here. But the truth is that working with ALL of my clients has been amazing! 2016 has been an incredible year, and 2017 will be too, without a doubt.



Make Your Music Bucket List Happen

We all have a bucket list of things we want to accomplish. In a recent music production webinar of mine, I was asked:

What does an artist with 20 years of work have on his bucket list?

listIs there ever an end to new ambitions? I’d say that your bucket list changes a lot through time. I’ll discuss this a bit later. But first, I’ll try to give you some resources to help you achieve your goals (for 2017?).

What are the most common bucket list items I hear about? From the people on my coaching list, they are:

  • Finish a track/EP/Album.
  • Get signed to a label. Release on any medium (digital or analog)
  • Release on vinyl (my track, my EP, my album)
  • Get more gigs. Play abroad.
  • Play my first live set.
  • Collaborate with certain artists I love.
  • Start my own label.

You see, I’ve been there. These were all in my list of things I wanted to accomplish at the beginning too, though not necessarily in the same order. I started playing live before I thought I’d release on vinyl, but it happened. Then I wanted to do a solo EP, and then an album. At the time, they were released on CD (which was as big a deal as vinyl back then). The thing is that when you do one, you often want to do another soon after, to improve on the first. At some point, the “make it better” drive can become a bit more technical in nature, and you might want to approach your next release from a different perspective.

The direction you choose can lead you to aim for a specific label. I’ve tried to do an album for Kompakt, for example, but it led nowhere. The same for Force Inc. Basically, releasing on a specific label opens up a new network of contacts, a new pool of followers, a new territory. If you think strategically, picking a label properly can be extremely valuable for your career.

Now, let’s pinpoint some ideas on how to accomplish your goals. I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m happy to share my own experiences.

synthFinish a track/EP/album. This is the beginning, and it might be the most massive undertaking you’ll tackle. It’s easier for some, more complicated for others. And it won’t get any easier because you’ve finished one. Finishing a project can be a bit of an esoteric puzzle, as it’s evolving constantly as you go. That’s why I’ve published quite a few blog posts on the subject to help you. I’ve also posted a few videos on YouTube on how to start a track,  and it’s mostly the same approach for finishing it. If you’re feeling desperate, I can always coach you personally too. For now though, I’ll just stress the importance of setting yourself a deadline. Asking friends to help you is another thing to consider. But above all, the most useful tip I could give you is to work with a reference track to find inspiration for your tracks’ structure. I’ve written this post about it to get you started.

Get signed to a label. Aside from making music, getting signed might be one of the greatest challenges faced by producers today. There are so many producers and so many labels that it can be overwhelming, and often discouraging. Matchmaking between you and a label can be a bit of a lottery, though I’ve tried to demystify the process for you in this post. As a label owner and manager myself, one of the things I notice the most is that people just don’t know how to sell themselves or how to approach labels to get their attention. You have to see this as job hunting: be professional, try to create a real bond, build friendships, and commit to making it happen. I emphasize the commitment part, because too often people try to reach out in all directions instead of focusing on the right ones. That is a no-no. You have to spend time searching for a label, because getting the fit wrong is a huge deal-breaker.

Release on vinyl. Focus on getting signed first. After, if you can find a label that releases vinyl, this can become possible. I say this because you need to keep a few things in mind: labels don’t release you for fun, and they especially don’t want to lose money. Some distributors will refuse to carry certain releases if the artist has no profile. So if you can release digital first, create a buzz and expand your online presence, this will become more appealing for vinyl labels and distributors. Making music that’s DJ-friendly will also make it easier to get attention.

Get more gigs. This one is difficult, but following this logic could help. Clubs will book you if you bring people in, and therefore sales. If you go out a lot and have a network of people who party with you, this is a good start. Having a great Soundcloud profile isn’t enough to get you a booking. You might be great technically, but it doesn’t mean that people will show up. You need a certain buzz or some releases. Invest yourself in playing a lot, even the boring gigs, and make sure to make tons of contacts. Every extra contact has the potential to lead somewhere. I remember once I was super nice to a guy who came to say hi after one of my gigs, and it made him so happy. Months later, he contacted me for a really great gig… karma!

Play my first live set. This will happen once you understand how to finish tracks. You can then convert your tracks to a live set. If you can learn to jam, this is the best way to get started. I plan to cover this topic in another post soon. Stay tuned.

beach partyCollaborate with certain artists I love. This will sound too good to be true, but there’s nothing like trying to meet artists in person first. It’s true that with much persistence, you could make a lot of online connections through Facebook or Soundcloud. But meeting in person is the only way to know if you might really have an affinity with him/her. Imagine that your hero turns out to be a dick, for example. That’s not a great investment of your time and energies.

Start my own label. This has become easier than ever, which is why there are so many labels out there. If you dig a little, you’ll find all the details on how to get started. But here’s an important tip: don’t start a label because your music doesn’t get attention. If it doesn’t, there might be a good reason for it (ex. badly mixed or weak content). Also, don’t start a label alone. Get help at the beginning.

So, to end where we started, what does my bucket list look like?

dj outside partyActually, it’s pretty empty. I have ongoing needs and desires like anyone, but not really professional goals anymore. The things on my list are mostly related to my friends. Basically, I’m more excited to finish music and share it with my friends than to see it on vinyl or on sale. It’s weird to explain, but I feel more accomplished knowing that certain close DJ friends of mine will play it than by trying to conquer a market. It just involves so much hassle. It can take months or years for music to get out.

I still want to release music, but I’m mainly focused these days on the desire and need to share something, a story. Strategic releases still happen. But I’m more interested in working with friends. Collaborations are one of the biggest driving forces for me now. It’s this kind of special experience that takes me to the next level.


SEE ALSO : Strategic Guide To Releases Planning And Production


Photo by Gavin Whitner

Creating Beauty Out of Ugly Sounds

This post is inspired by one of the most useful experiences I’ve ever had for my personal development as a producer. I’ve made it into an exercise that you can try.

Back in the early 2000s, when Montreal’s MUTEK festival was just getting started, our community of electronic music producers was blooming. People were spending as much of their time developing concepts as finishing tracks. I remember one sunny summer day, when Tim Hecker and I were sitting outside of my friend Mitchell Akiyama’s home, and we were discussing sounds. We had this interesting debate about what made some sounds “ugly,” and what the word meant for us. We felt that maybe it was cultural, or maybe it was producers using sounds the wrong way. At one point, we got to talking about how the guys of Porter Ricks recycled ugly rave sounds into what they do best, a kind of deep, mysterious techno.


A new concept was born: how to transform ugliness into beauty. Suddenly, the art of recycling meant that anything was possible, no matter the sources.

Tim worked on some of his albums using granular synthesis. He used sources like Van Halen or other weird heavy metal sounds. He even used burps for one installation…

Mitch and I went in to the studio. We loaded some rave samples from CDs and started playing around with them. By the end of the session we had 2 IDM-oriented songs that lacked any hint of a rave sound.

It was a great experience. I’d throw out some ideas, which Mitch would then apply to what he was doing to the best of his understanding. The directives I gave were descriptive rather than technical, and there was a lot of room for interpretation. It often wasn’t what I had in mind, but whatever emerged would be great as it was.

The only references we worked with were ugly sounds and some general, non-technical ideas.

The thing is that producers will often come to the studio with their minds already full of preconceived ideas and expectations on what’s nice or not. This doesn’t leave much room for mistakes, discoveries, oddities, or for your subconscious to express itself spontaneously.

So what is the exercise?

  1. When you’re picking sounds for your track, just go for the worst, ugliest sounds you can find on your hard drive or in your presets.
  2. From those sounds, discover how you can transform them. You can use filters, pitch shifting, EQ, and any other effect that might help. Reverb, even a little, can add a dramatic feel to a sound. So try to play with these 4 elements, plus resample yourself while doing so. You will then be able to play again with the new modified sounds. Each time you experiment tweaking the sound and record it, we call that “a round.”  To create a new, beautiful sound, you will need to re-process your sounds into 2 to 4 rounds.
  3. Detach yourself from any preconceived notions or expectations you have about where the track can or should go. Just try to explore and see where it takes you. You can take a look at my recent post on experimental music too.

Another thing that can be done is to use randomizing options to see what kind of crazy results emerge.

And be sure to have fun!


EDIT: Bjork seems to share the same idea.

SEE ALSO : Create Your Own Concept Album

Music Production Webinar

It’s been almost a year now since I started this blog and began offering my coaching services. By emailing with people daily, I noticed that people felt the need to just bounce questions off someone who’s been around for a while. They would often ask for advice about technical issues, but also career orientations or share whatever is on their mind. I chat with many other veteran producers about what we do too, but I understand that someone who is approaching electronic music as a hobby often doesn’t have other people to talk to or share things with. The more you venture into production, the more you want to know… Well I hope you do anyway, because I do.

I feel that the next logical step is to create a forum for discussions with a wider audience, and to begin to form a community that could hope to answer this growing need. This will take the form of a music production webinar that will cover the technical aspects of production. It will be open to anyone who has joined my coaching mailing list.

And yes, I will do this for free, once a week.

You see, through the many casual meetings I have with friends in my studio, I’ve come to see how truly valuable these exchanges are, not just for them, but for me as well. I rely on these personal connections to find inspiration, and I think that expanding the circle can only lead to greater opportunities for achievement.

How would it work?

I’ll come up with a fixed time every week where people can drop in on the webinar. There might also be some improvised sessions based on the number of people who reach out. And don’t worry, European friends, I’ll keep the time difference between Europe and Montreal in mind.

Easy, convenient and fun.

If you’re interested, it’s not too late to join my mailing list and jump in.

Let’s catch up soon!

Getting Lost in the Sea of Tracks

Searching for music these days has become a real skill. I was in a few music stores recently browsing for new tracks for an upcoming DJ gig, and I realized just how counter-intuitive the experience had become — not only because music stores are, in general, a huge mess, but also because the noise factor was so high that I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. By “noise factor,” I’m referring to the ratio of songs I found that were irrelevant to my search.

sea of tracks, music production, crowd, vacationsWe can attribute part of this to the accessibility of music softwares today, which helped democratize electronic music by bringing production within reach for so many people. Part of it can also be blamed on the fact that launching a label has become so simple that basically anyone with the resources can start one. It might seem ironic for a music production blog to point this out, but this is the reality. I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this, you’re someone who is dedicated to your art and is looking to really make something happen.

But how do you find your way through this wall of noise?

Consumers have more difficulty than ever finding the music they like. Scroll back in time and you’ll understand that the invention of records was to answer a simple need: to be able to play something again. Once that need was met, a lot of the innovations were centred on making the music sound better. robot, missing hubRadio appeared later as a way of broadcasting over distances. Then, at the same time as music was becoming easier to make, the internet came along to dramatically expand its accessibility and reach, leading to an overall decrease in the quality of what’s available. The sea of music out there today is the result of this over-proliferation caused by these technological advances all converging at the same time. For the consumer faced with thousands of new songs daily, it can be very disorienting. One’s community of peers therefore become an important reference.

Artists have difficulty finding appropriate labels to release their music. If you’ve overcome the technical challenges and are now hunting for a label, you might feel overwhelmed. Like I explained in a previous post, you’ll have to spend a considerable amount of time in music shops and online just trying to pinpoint which labels are a good fit for your sound. But with so little time and so many choices, finding what you’re looking for can be a huge challenge.

What seems to be missing is a hub between both parties.

So what’s the solution?

headphones, music, selectiveStop searching elsewhere, rely on your network. I have a few people who I follow attentively on Spotify or Soundcloud. These guys seem to either have a great radar or amazing connections, because they’re always finding gems. I’ve been told that a great way to keep up to date is to follow as many artists as you can, and then cut out those who are idle too long or change styles abruptly. I also ask my friends who are DJs or label owners to share their recent discoveries with me every now and then, and I do the same. Very efficient.

Find influencers. Influencers are individuals who seem to be at the intersection of multiple networks, who are followed by many people and will make waves with their track picks in charts or podcasts. Each genre has its own influencers, of course. Perhaps check a site like Resident Advisor to get an idea of who they think is trending currently.

SEE ALSO : The New Face Of Albums 

Making the Choice To Be Exclusive to a Label

You might have heard of record labels asking for exclusivity, or maybe you’ve at least heard the term mentioned in one way or another. But what does it entail exactly, and how should you approach the decision if you’re ever faced with such an offer?

In another post, I shared a personal story of mine where I had the chance to commit to a huge label and bring my career to the next level — but I refused. It’s the kind of moment that doesn’t happen many times, but when it comes, it calls for careful reflection before making a decision. In my case, it was hard to seek advice from friends, as not many of them had been in the same situation before. I followed my gut feeling, and opted to follow my dreams without considering the possible outcomes.

All and all, there are a few questions to consider:

    • Where do I see myself in 5 years, musically speaking?
    • How can this exclusivity arrangement help me reach that goal?


So that should pretty much form the basis of your reflections.

While it’s hard to imagine ourselves down the road or even to give ourselves a reality check on how achievable our goals are, it is still quite essential to develop a vision of where we want to go. There will be certain things you have in mind, and if you have a firm idea of your goals, it will make it easier to decide whether you should commit to being exclusive to a label or not.

For the DJ and producer, the label you're exclusive to should cover a lot of ground The DJ and producer

Being one doesn’t exclude the other, and while you can do both individually, the winning combination is to do at least some of both. This way you can create a great release, for example, and you’ll be able to tour to promote it, which then brings you more requests for new releases, and then more gigs, and so on. The wheel spins organically. In this case, if you commit to a label, you will need this label to cover a lot of ground for you because there will be a lot of opportunity.


The entrepreneurLabel exclusivity might not work well for the entrepreneur

You want a label, you want to do a bit of everything, and you want to be in control because you like things done your way. This is pretty much a scenario that many people see themselves in, but if you’re not an entrepreneur, it is a difficult road to choose. More power brings more responsibilities, but also all the freedom to express yourself. In this case, exclusivity doesn’t work well for you.

The studio artist

This means that you prefer producing to DJing, and that you’re not so interested in heading out to the clubs to tour. This is a tricky road. Exclusivity can be interesting to you because you will have a platform for your releases, and you can still use aliases to release elsewhere. But to make this worthwhile, your flagship label will have to be a major outlet.

Being exclusive to a music label can work well for some artists/producersBeing dedicated to a label

Some artists want to be with a label and plan all their projects around it. They will be okay not creating many releases, will want to tour using the team’s contacts, and they’ll feel comfortable with everything the label does. The great thing about this is that you’re part of the label’s brand. This can make your own image and sound more powerful in a way, because you’ll be part of a collective of artists who you admire, and who will shape the label’s identity. If you produce a bit less, this outcome might be well suited for you.


SEE ALSO :  Are online communities replacing labels?

The Day I Refused Exclusivity to a Label

I don’t always talk about things that happened in my “career.” Since this is a blog though, I thought it would be fun and instructive to share some of the different decisions I had to face, and the consequences of each of them. I have a bunch of fun stories going back to 1998, and some might interest you.

If you haven’t read my bio, I can tell you that I early on took out the standard line all artists have, where they say they’ve been into music from an early age. Instead, I will point you to 1998, to the year where I created my alias, Pheek. What really ignited the project was a performance by Richie Hawtin, who made a rare live show (back then) as Plastikman/Concept:96. It was amazing!

That inspiration was critical in my development. It took me 5 years to figure out where I wanted to go and for me to feel confident enough to send a demo to Rich, which I finally did around 2003. He loved it, and he asked me for more music for a release. What followed was one of the most creative moments of my life: I made and sent him 5 CDs full of music over a span of 2 years. He finally picked one track, “Le Plan B,” which was released on the first Minimize to Maximize compilation, on Minus.

That was a big deal for me. Well, not just for me, but for everyone in the netlabel scene. You see, in 2005, there was no Beatport, selling MP3s was a bit of a weird concept, and people releasing on netlabels were seen as outsiders, even nerds. It was one of the first times that one of the guys from the community graduated to a big label like Hawtin’s Minus. Almost at the same time, there were other artists that followed, and netlabels became more and more recognized as a source for quality music.

I wanted to stay a free artist so I could pursue my own label Archipel, which I launched in 2004.I had my own label, Archipel, that I had founded in 2004 and that I wanted to pursue. There was no doubt that a release on Minus could only mean a great push for my personal projects. I started touring more, and soon there came a big milestone for my career that I still think about often. The guys at Minus offered me exclusivity, meaning that Pheek could only appear on their label, which would have given a huge boost to my career.

I refused. Yeah, you read right. I said,


“No, I don’t think I can see myself being exclusive, but maybe under another alias?”


To be honest, when I think of that day every now and then, I wonder what would have happened if I’d said yes. It was around that time that Minus was exclusively signing big names like Barem, Gaiser, Troy Pierce, Heartthrob and others. If I’d said yes, I think I could have pretty much become someone else entirely than the person I am today. But in a way, I have no regrets.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s hard to achieve alone or with friends what an established label and group can do for you. You can build from scratch, but it will take a long time to get things to the same level. I released for labels like Sushitech and Leftroom in their early days, and I watched them grow as they became what they are now. I’m proud do say that I was a part of it at their beginnings.

If I decided to work with other labels, it was because I was producing a lot of tracks and felt like I wanted to tap into different networks and reach out to people I liked, even if that was the more difficult path.

There are two types of artists out there:

  • The ones who want to work with you for the long term. Those are the ones you connect with intellectually, and you love each other’s musical output. The connection is real and both parties feel it.
  • Then there are others who you only want to work with in the short term. Both labels and artists can qualify. Unless there’s drama, if the arrangement ends organically, then it had to be this way.


The reason labels want exclusivity is to get a return on their investment (ROI) by farming their own artists. The constantly changing branding is risky and tiring for labels. If the sound constantly changes, it can be an irritant for fans too.

I hope this helps you understand the complexities of label exclusivity from another perspective.