As one of the most influential and revered producers to come out of France, DJ, producer and remixer Joachim Garraud has worked with everyone from David Guetta to David Bowie and Jean-Michel Jarre over a career spanning 25 years.
In November, Garraud releases his new album 96/24, but this is no ordinary album. Alongside its digital release, Garraud is creating a limited edition 'Producer Box'. Funded via Kickstarter, this beautifully designed unit will include an ultra-slim USB Keyboard, Ableton Live + plugins and Garraud's own personal sound bank.
Garraud drops in to talk to us about the Kickstarter campaign that will turn his unique Producer Box concept into reality.
What was your first introduction to music technology?
“I had a classical music education, learning piano and drums, and was splitting my day by making music at the conservatory in Paris learning Chopin and using the computer in the evening to try to make sound.
“I remember receiving a floppy disk that had the first software to be able to make music on a computer; that was the first Atari Pro 24 software. I could sample sounds in 8-bit mono. It was bad quality, but that was a revelation and a revolution for me.”
How do you get into the industry?
“By luck. I never thought I was able to have a successful life in music, but it was my number one hobby. I started as a DJ, spending all the money I made from babysitting to buy records and turntables.
“When I was 15, two friends had their birthday on the same weekend and one said, “Maybe I could give you 50 bucks and you could buy some records?” Making music was exactly the same. I was making music for friends when I had a phone call from a label looking for somebody to make a remix, which gave me the opportunity to remix for famous artists, and bigger and bigger names.”
You’ve worked closely with Jean-Michel Jarre, how did that come about?
“I've been lucky to work with this legend since 1998. He had some tracks ready but was looking for somebody to do a mixdown, so he came to my studio because it was the first in Paris to have Pro Tools. He was supposed to come for two hours but stayed two weeks.
“Imagine this guy coming to my small studio in Paris? He introduced me to the analogue world and we made a good mix down between analogue and digital. Then we went to his studio, sold his SSL desk and bought Pro Tools. I learned a lot from him about the production side, especially for live shows and I was lucky to be the first person to co-produce an album with Jean-Michel Jarre, Metamorphoses (2000).”
What’s the concept behind your new album 96/24?
“The number one thing is that I’m able to play the tracks when I'm DJing, but I also wanted to produce a reference album for high-quality sound. I'm tired of hearing bad MP3s, and it's a shame that the new generation just listen to music on their phone, because there is a huge gap between the sound quality in my home studio, which is 24-bit 96 kHz, and the end of the production when the listener uses the worst quality ever.
“I just want to try to elevate the level of the listener and say, guys, listen to one track on 96/24 and you’ll see that the stereo is a little wider and deeper. Actually, I was talking to the boss of iTunes about 96 kHz and asking why he doesn’t sell this. He said, it’s easy, but kids don't want to have a 300MB track on their iPhone.
“If you have the Producer Box, you can connect the hard drive to your laptop and even with poor headphones you're going to feel the difference, because the master file has all the frequencies.”
So tell me about the Producer Box and what it will allow people to do with your music?
“The Producer Box is 25 years of knowledge and experience inside one single box. You open the box, connect the keyboard and hard drive and then you're able to open all of the album’s master sessions.
“I made a deal with all the plugin partners to be included in the hard drive, so if you don't already have an Ableton Live license, you're going to have it in the Producer Box. You can play with the MIDI files by opening the master session, play with the tracks, mute the bass, make automations with the plugins, and have fun with the music.
“You can produce, remix and do your own versions, and release them without me suing you. The deal I’ve made is that everything inside the Producer Box is copyright-free. It's a new way of sharing music, knowledge and stems.”
If people remix your work what can they do with it?
“The idea is to organise a big remix contest, because all of the people who have the Producer Box will have all the elements to be able to make their own remix versions. Native Instruments has just launched its new format 'Stems', and Beatport has asked me to do a deal that will involve a special remix contest using their new format on a special web page featuring all of the remixes.
“I'm giving away 25 years of music for the new generation to continue the adventure - it’s exciting to make music for the future using past elements.”
What were the technical challenges you faced in putting this type of package together?
“It was complex because when I came up with the box idea, the first partner I met was Ableton in Berlin. When I met those guys, they were super-excited that an artist like me was fighting to give their trademark good exposure in a cool way.
“Then I said, okay, but if you want to be in the box you have to do a special discount because I want to sell the box for $499, which is the same price as Ableton Live. They said how are you going to get that price with the keyboard, the carbon box and all of the plugins you want to drop inside? So I said ‘it's up to you?’”
So you had to make a special deal with Ableton?
“In the end, we made a very special deal just to make this happen. Then I went to visit Sugar Bytes, and when they saw that Ableton was on board it was like a snowball effect with everybody wanting to be inside. Now we have 15 partners and plugins, including the UVI Vintage Vault bundle with 80 analogue/digital instruments.
“If you add all the numbers, you're getting $3,200 worth of stuff, and I haven't even talked about the eight hours of tutorials in five different languages.”
Tell me about the tutorials?
“The tutorials will have three different levels. Some are based on the creative process and how far you can go with the plugins, explaining how you can make a groovy track using just Arturia’s Mini V synth and Sugar Byte’s Egoist plugins, and they also get my knowledge as a sound engineer learning about SSL and Neve desks and compression.”
Do you think people need a lot of educating about production?
“The new generation are using a lot of good stuff through instinct, which is great, but sometimes they're only using 10% of what the product is capable of. In today’s music, it's a competition to be loud and you don't have dynamics any more.
“When Daft Punk did that track without using compression, everyone said, wow that sounds good, but it's only natural that you should have air between notes, space and silence. You only really need to use compression when your lowest and highest point in the volume range is too high.”
How involved were you in the design process of Producer Box?
“The design process was done by Sacha Lakic, a friend of mine who works in the car and motorbike design industry. The idea at the beginning was to keep the Keytar design, because that’s my trademark when I'm on stage. So I wanted to keep that shape by have the sexiest design possible and keep the push button, which opens the box.
“Inside there is the 1TB hard drive and a book, which has pictures of my first gig in Russia with Laurent Garnier, the first record I made with David Guetta and some crazy photos that I could not publish for 20 years of Pioneer’s secret room in Tokyo with the creators of the first CDJ prototypes.”
I understand you’re using a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project?
“For the Kickstarter campaign, I need to pre-sell 1,000 boxes at $500. When I spoke to Kickstarter they were excited about the project, but I can't sell more than that as some companies are losing money because they have to pay an iLok license - so they're not going to be happy if I'm selling 5,000 boxes.
“But there are lots of options; you can buy the whole box for $499, have your name lasered on the box or just buy my sound bank or the tutorials. You can also have a day in the studio with me in my studio in Paris or LA for $3,000, which is only for 10 people.”
When does the Kickstarter campaign begin?
“We're releasing the box on 27 November, which is Black Friday. It’s a strategic day for the US market, and perfect because a lot of kids are spending money on music equipment. I actually had a very funny message on my Facebook two days ago when I announced the price; some kid said, ‘Oh shit, I just bought Ableton!’”
The Kickstarter campaign for Joachim Garraud’s limited edition Producer Box begins on 27th November. For more details, visit Joachim’s website, or follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr or YouTube.