Argo: Banlieue Beats

It’s always a cool feeling to see established artists you look up to supporting your tunes. I used to struggle a lot with confidence when I began making beats so I’m very grateful.

While London may be renown for its rich and diverse underground dance music culture, Paris has always been regarded for its close relationship with the electro, techno and house music scenes. During my time in the Franco capital a number of crews were trying the hardest to push the dubstep sound, and while the turnout was always good, the crowds were no match for what you could expect at a house or techno rave at Concrete, Showcase or Rex Club (granted those are Paris’ premier nightclubs). And yet, with all the odds stacked against them, a couple of producers have still emerged from the banlieues of Paris determined to make their mark on the dubstep narrative. Von D of course being one of the most well-known purveyors of the 140 sound, and now a new artist breaking through who goes by the name of Argo. Having only downloaded a copy of Fruity Loops back in 2013, Argo’s first attempts at building tunes were quickly recognised by FatKidOnFire, Indigo Movement and Encrypted Audio – labels which have built a reputation for sniffing out fresh and exciting new talent. Digital releases on the aforementioned were later followed up with a 10″ on Encrypted, and a 12″ earlier this year on Trojan Audio. This early support it would seem has given Argo the courage and motivation to push himself and develop his beat making skills beyond what originally started as a bit of fun during the school holidays. You can catch a glimpse of this growth on his debut EP for Kenzo’s Artikal Music, which sees the young Parisian blend trap aesthetic data with good old fashioned eyes-down rollers. Ahead of his third vinyl release, I caught up with Arnaud to discuss the dubstep scene in Paris, the arrival of Rinse France, and his progression with production.

Easy Arnaud, thank you for taking the time to speak with me, how’s everything going in Paris?

Yo man my pleasure, all good over here.

When I was living in Paris between 2012 and 2015, most of the dubstep events were organised between Exploration Music, Digital Warfare, Lutetia Dubz, Skank It Up, with Bass Paradize joining the party late 2014 closely followed by One More Tune in 2015. How’s that landscape looking today in 2016?

It was a pleasure spending a few of those nights together back then man. Thing is now sadly many of the crews that supported this sound have shutdown, some have just decided to take a break from organising nights, but yeah it’s still kind of risky to bring international artists to Paris. It’s usually an important financial struggle for the crews. However, the good side of this being a pretty restrained community is that we get to know pretty much everyone who is into this sound. It’s now like a big Parisian family where local supporters, producers, DJs, promoters or radio hosts are all very friendly and supporting each other. If I had to mention a crew, I’d say Bass Paradize is still pretty active, I know they have some nights in the works, they still book the biggest artists and I get to play for them often so yeah there is still something going on.

With the arrival of Rinse France, do you think that platform has helped expose the dubstep sound to fresh ears especially in a city whose electronic music culture is centred around disco, house and electro?

As a heavy Rinse FM listener I was absolutely stoked to see Rinse FR come here. There is room for every sound now, and there are a good handful of shows playing dubstep and sound system music so it’s always a great opportunity for me to show my music to locals. I don’t really know if new people have discovered and really got into this music thanks to the radio, but I know I’ve definitely got in touch with new people thanks to it. No doubt it’s a big chance to now have this platform and I’m sure it’s going to keep growing, I mean, it’s up to us to make it grow anyway.

Tell us a little bit about your musical journey, from discovering underground music, to learning how to DJ, your interest in dubstep and the motivation to start building beats?

I’d say my big brother has something to do with me being into music. As we grew up, he was always into various underground music, stuff that I couldn’t hear anywhere but in his room at that time. I remember going there to play PlayStation 2 while he was playing many different genres of electronic music and it basically went from there. I then started spending hours on YouTube to dig the tunes I heard and the good thing about YouTube is the weird people arguing in the comments, you know the famous “check burial for real dubstep” and shit like that. I finally got to discover the roots of the sound and I just got really into it. Then later, in 2013, I had a school break and pretty much nothing to do for two weeks, I don’t even remember exactly how it happened but I ended up downloading a copy of Fruity Loops and started playing around. I guess I just enjoyed listening to tunes and I thought I might have something to bring, I had ideas and stuff. I started to DJ later, when I started getting invitations to actually play.

In terms of production, from the hardware you use, to any additional software and plugins you can’t live without, how do you make the most out of your studio setup when approaching the build of a new beat?

I’ve evolved a lot in my production processes during the past few months but I’ve never had any hardware material, because of the money I guess and also because of my lack of technical knowledge, I’ve always been a software guy. Still, using the same FL copy and beside of the few VSTs I’ve downloaded here and there, everything is pretty simple – I don’t even own a pair of monitors yet (laughs). I used to be a lot into soft synths when I was making sort of more mid-range bass oriented tunes but at the moment I’m definitely more into actual sounds. I’m now using almost only samples that I have fun playing around with and adjusting as I want. Resampling has became a major part of the way I build tunes. I’d say when approaching a new beat, it mostly starts in my head, I just think about a vibe, a drum pattern or a groove before touching Fruity Loops. Then I always get myself a cool sample to start with, so the project has something original right from the early stage.

Your first vinyl release “Impulse” was picked up by Encrypted Audio for their 10″ vinyl series, which you then followed up with “Recurrence” on Trojan Audio. How did it feel to finally have some material out there on physical format, and are you happy with the response they’ve both had?

I don’t DJ on vinyl and I don’t even own a decent pair of turntables yet but I definitely appreciate holding a record, I think it’s a more resourceful way of approaching music, it sort of engraves it in time. So when I started to get opportunities about releasing records I was down for sure. I think it was a turning point as a producer, I’m really happy to have material objects out of my music, it makes it real you know, it makes your work real. The response was good as I reckon we sold all the records (there might still be a few copies of TA002 here and there though), and having LX One on the remix duty was an absolute honour as I remember he was one of the guys I listened to way before making music.


Nooo EP artwork by Marissa Malik

You’ve also been snapped up by none other than J:Kenzo for his Artikal Music imprint. What does this signing mean for you as an artist, and how did the link up originally come about?

I have a cliché story about this (laughs); one time Compa was in Paris for a gig and we had a little chat, he knew some of my tunes and asked me what would be one of the big labels I would love to sign on. I remember saying Artikal, I loved how the label is versatile and yet have a proper sound identity. When Jay hit me up I was just pleased to know he considered I had the potential to feature in the labels catalogue. Again, Artikal is part of the labels I was following before even thinking about making beats, so yeah, it’s wicked.

In his interview for FatKidOnFire, Kenzo named you as one of his “ones to watch” at the moment, and also mentioned that he signs music if it has flavour and identity. On that basis, would you say that “Nooo” and “Glowz” represent a maturity in your production skills now that a key figure in the scene is signing your work?

It’s always a cool feeling to see established artists you look up to supporting your tunes. I used to struggle a lot with confidence when I began making beats so I’m very grateful it has started to happen more regularly. I think as a producer we are, no matter what, constantly evolving, technically wise, we can only progress as well, and so those tunes apparently represent a sort of new sound I’m currently on, and people seem to feel it so it’s all good.

There’s a catchy arrangement of melodic rhythms and smoked-out basslines engineered across the whole EP, from the iconic chime shuffle on “Nooo” to the rolling hi-hats and stomping 808s on “Glowz”. Take us through the creative process behind the tracks you and Jay picked for the release.

I made the three tunes on the EP in a pretty short time and for that I’m happy it actually represents a certain vibe I’m on at the moment. I like it when records capture a state of mind. I used a good few 808 samples, I guess I wanted to manipulate those sounds we know so well and make them sound as I wanted. I think these tracks represent a mix of what I’ve been feeling lately, applied to my production style and skills. When it comes to picking the tunes for the EP, it went very naturally. Jay wanted to hear the new tracks I was working on and about to put out and he told me he liked those 3 and found they would work together on a record.

I haven’t seen or heard any Argo collaborations or remixes, is that an area of production you’ve given any thought, or is it just a case that those opportunities haven’t arisen yet?

I’ve done a couple of collabs since I started and it’s tough man, we cancelled many projects too. I don’t know, I always struggle with working with stems, I feel like it’s not enough for me to understand where my partner wants to go. I think I prefer to get in the same studio with someone. I’m sure it’s a more natural way of working as we can express continuously and learn from each other easily. I look forward to having this opportunity. Still got a few collabs projects in the works with some mates I’m really feeling though so we might come out with something cool in the end.

On the other hand, you have uploaded some decent hip-hop beats to your Soundcloud. Is that a genre of music you like to dabble in and out of to keep the creative juices flowing when taking a break from building club orientated music?

It started exactly like that yeah, just as a way to explore new sounds, new ways to make music and to learn more from doing different stuff. I really got into it though and I feel now that it is a legit part of what I do. I don’t think I still consider making hip hop beats as a bonus project. I just try and not overthink too much now, I just try to do what I feel like doing.

On that note, what else can we expect from you in the coming months, is there any other forthcoming material, interesting projects, or up and coming music gigs you can inform the readers on?

So I’m putting out the Nooo EP on Artikal Music UK this week, glad to finally make those tunes available as I know it’s been a long time coming. I played a guest mix for J:Kenzo’s Rinse FM show so check out the podcast if you want to know what I’m on. I also should release a new track as part of a bigger project early 2017. Got a handful of shows to play in Paris and a few international gigs I can’t announce yet in the works as well. Also, I’m planning to properly put out some hip-hop beats in the future so I’ll see how I progress on that side. Link up with me on whatever socials if you don’t want to miss what’s coming.

Thank you for your time brother, all the best with the forthcoming projects. Are there any final comments or shout outs you wanna share to wrap things up?

I’d like to give a massive shout out to anyone that has supported me in anyway so far. Knowing that people from all around the world are into the beats I’m making in my bedroom instead of doing homework is crazy. Big up to the entire Encrypted Audio crew as well. Getting involved in that project has undoubtedly been a turning point for me. Love to my Paris crew too and lastly thank you TRUSIK for the interest, it’s been a pleasure.

A track…

by you’re favourite new artist: Sub Basics – Untitled (he’s not a new artist but we got in touch recently and I’m really feeling his stuff).
you’re currently opening your sets with: I like to do little hip-hop sessions to open my sets where I usually play some of the beats I’ve made.
you give the rewind treatment every time: Epoch – The Ville
you would like to remix: District – Street Knowledge

ARTKL024 is released December 16th and available to purchase from Unearthed Sounds, Redeye, White Peach, Intense Records and the Artikal Music Bandcamp Store. Read our review of the Nooo EP.

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