Since the noughties, François X has been carving a name for himself as a purveyor of the finest techno. His production career began with early releases on DJ Deep’s Deeply Rooted before deciding to take things into his own hands. In 2011 he launched Dement3d Records with HBT, and soon after its series offshoot DEMENT3D XXX, both of which have housed François’ continuously fluctuating vision of techno.
Not one to rest on his laurel’s, last year he started a new label for his own material and that of other independent artists. XX LAB is multi-faceted platform inspired by the philosophical concept of private corporations, often seen in modern science fiction, and sonically driven by avant-garde electronic music. It’s the home of his latest EP, and first solo material in two years, Digital Fever, which, in keeping with XX LAB’s mission, is themed around loneliness and self-identity.
Amongst other things, outside of music François is a keen lover of fashion and art. Aesthetics have long been a guiding light in his life, something you can easily gauge from his clean, minimalistic studio. Alongside giving us a window into his production practices and approach, he guides us around the Paris-based space and the gear that makes his music a reality.
What’s your musical education?
I received a few piano lessons as a kid but nothing extremely serious as I was allergic to music theory. It’s only now that I understand a bit of it and how to use it.
What was your first ever set-up, when you started making music?
My first setup ever was an IBM Thinkpad T42, a cracked version of Ableton 7 and MPD 23 pad controller. It was already too confusing for me.
What was the first serious piece of kit you bought?
I believe the first significant piece of gear I bought was a korg electribe or a motu mk3 sound card. I don’t remember which one was first.
Thanks for taking some photos around your studio. Could you give us a little walk through the main components?
At the moment, the studio is very minimalistic, everything is centred around my ZAOR Mack 12 studio desk. In it you have my main audio interface which is a motu 828x, a Nord rack 2 synth and some power switch. Behind it I have a pair of Focal Solo Be 6, installed on zaor stands. On the right you have my synths stand with a Korg Minilogue on top, a prophet 8 in the middle and my midi keyboard. The room acoustic is pretty flat but I have installed 8 Gik Acoustics panels around my seated position.
Where is it located and do you share with anyone else?
As a unique and cherished child, my studio is located at my parent’s place. They have a spare room; they generously lend me to install my music studio. It’s very comfy and has its own luxurious benefits like my mom’s daily cuisine.
Was there any method to the way you’ve laid it out and have you made any special non-musical touches to make it feel like a productive workspace?
To be honest, I am constantly trying to improve the quality of my room to give it a chill atmosphere. So I’ve picked up these blue basstrap and put this treadmill in the back. I’m utilizing it to do some cardio training but also I’m using it as a listening spot. When I’ve just laid out or drafted some music, I’m going on it and walking to have a proper listen. Some people sit on a couch while I’m walking on a treadmill… My Hermann chair is crucially important as it’s really a comfortable seat for me. I can stay on it for hours without any back pain.
What’s been your method for creating this studio? Has it been a gradual accumulation or a bulk purchase? Any key inspirations in pulling it together?
I never had any method, and it was a constant evolution flow. I have a sound engineer friend who is consistently giving me advice without spending too much money or buying no necessary stuff. Nothing but enjoying the accurate pieces of tech to get the most out of my room.
Are you always seeking to experiment and develop your studio, by changing or adding equipment? If so, what warrants a change?
I am always experimenting. For example, I just got rid of some pieces of hardware I had and just kept three synths, to buy a new pair of speakers, some super high end stands and new lights. I did that because I wanted to get a better sound especially in the low range which is really difficult to get without a professional sound acoustic treatment.
If money were no object what would you add?
If money were no object, I would go for a complete room acoustic treatment, that’s it!
You must have a most treasured bit of equipment. If you had to keep just one piece, what would it be?
hdd sata bay which contains every sample I’ve gathered over time. It’s my little treasure.
How do you condense your studio set-up for your live sets?
Funny thing is I don’t do live sets, I just did once and it was a hell of a nightmare. I was not prepared to condense my studio equipment for it.
Before you head to the studio, is there anything you do to prepare or get in the right headspace?
Every time I head to the studio, I need my routine which consists of eating 3-4 oranges and drinking one glass of sparkling water. But to be really effective in the studio I need to lock myself in it for several hours without any distraction and then the magic happens. Nowadays you get tons of distraction and as a hyperactive person my mind is always boiling on something. Watching a tutorial on YT, reading an article etc.
What’s your creative approach when you’re in the studio? Do you go in with a concept in mind or is it usually an impulsive exercise?
My creative approach has evolved over the years as I am more skilled to be able to produce what I have in mind. Therefore, it’s a proper combination of improvisation and conception, and accidents tend to produce more creative music.
Are you someone to labour over a track until every crease is ironed out or do you prefer a raw, instinctive approach without dwelling too much on something?
It absolutely depends on the track but most of the time I’m working till I’m completely satisfied with everything related to composition arrangements and mixing. I need to learn how to let go.
Where do you go or what do you do when you have writer’s block? Anything to reset the mental hardware?
Every time I have writer’s block, I go back to listen to some of my favorite albums. It has always given me inspiration. Sometimes even watching tutorials can unlock my creative process and generate new production ideas.
What inspires you outside the world of music?
I am a man of passion and am inspired by many things outside the world of music. I tried to be a professional tennis player as a teenager (electronic music and clubs influenced me otherwise), the fashion industry has a huge impact on me… I’m extremely keen on aesthetics. I also used to work on financial markets, and geopolitics and economy are topics that I’m absolutely into. All those things combined are channeling my inspiration.
What would you say was the most important piece of kit in the making of your new album, and why?
For this project, the use of my voice was the most dominant kit. I utilised it to create loops and atmospheres FX and I indeed achieved pretty nice pads. It is absolutely crazy what you can achieve with your voice, it’s an incredible instrument.
What else is on the horizon this year that’s getting you excited?
I am already working on a new EP, practically finished it and at the same time working on an album. The latter one is incredibly exciting to me as I’m trying to achieve something infused with pop trap and techno!