LA-based producer Alexandre Mouracade has been making an impression in recent years, as a solo producer under his moniker Sonns, as a DJ and promoter, and as one half of the production duo Split Secs.
His most recent release, Teacher, sees him landing on influential German label Kompakt for an EP of left-of-centre Dance music infused by a heavy dose of Dub and Synth Pop. FM caught up with Mouracade to find out more about the influences and techniques behind his eclectic sound.
When did you start making music, and how did you first get started?
"I started making music at the age of 16 with a four track and guitar, my buddy let me borrow a cheap drum machine and I was hooked. My first instrument was an American made Fender Stratocaster I still use today.
"I was mostly playing in bands through out my teens and early 20s. At that time, I was incredibly inspired by artists like Cristian Vogel, Mad Professor, DJ Premier, Richard H. Kirk and Ron Trent. I wanted to write dance music without a specific direction - House, Techno, Down-Tempo, or Dub it didn't matter as long as there was good groove. I bought an MPC2000, a 24/4 Mackie Console and a bass guitar. I loved sampling records to start an idea and write around the skeletons blending all genres and noises together. I didn't get into collecting synths and drum machines until I got into my first DAW, which was Cubase."
Tell us about your studio
"My Studio is in At Water where the Beastie Boys ran G-SUN Studios and recorded Ill Communication and Check Your Head. Lots of friends, history and parties in that building - feels right at home.
"I mostly use outboard gear and instruments to record into my DAW, which is the main brain for everything really. I do all my critical mixing in the box but my goal is to always try to print the best possible image first so the mixing is less arduous.
"I have a few consoles I use to track with. My favourite one is a German made Midas 240 Venice. I have a lunch box with some Neve pre-amp strips and an UAD LA 610, which most of my tracks will be run into at some point.
"My Roland Space Echo is also an important centre-piece for me, I run a ton of sounds out and my back in to my DAW, iy just adds a certain colour and grit I love. I also use old guitar pedals that I daisy chain in different orders to add various textures and layers. I have a pair of Genelec monitors with a sub that tell me how terrible everything sounds - I'd say one of the single most important parts of my studio besides my fridge with the cold beers in it!"
What DAW (or DAWs) do you use, and why did you choose it?
"I'm still on Logic 9, but making my move to Logic X sooner then I want to admit. I also really love Ableton, which I'm finding myself use more and more."
What one piece of gear in your studio could you not do without, and why?
"The computer. Mainly because I compose with it and it remembers all my bad ideas. I would tell you my OBXA or Trident but picking my favourite synths is like asking the neighbourhood cat lady to pick her favourite cat."
What's the latest addition to your studio?
"The Elektron Octotrack. I was in the market for a new sequencer and sampler. I was intrigued by it, I've seen a few acts use it live and then my buddy John Tejada gave me a quick demo at one of our favourite stores called Big City Music. He just scratched the surface on it and I saw some of its capabilities, which really are limitless. I would say this is the deepest, most intuitive piece of gear I own. If my short-term memory was better I'd be an expert by now, but I find myself having to relearn how to use it almost every time I turn it on. That said, it's an incredible piece of artillery."
What dream bit of gear would you love to have in you studio?
"A big SSL or NEVE Console."
When approaching a new track or project, where do you start?
"It depends, I'll sometime write a song and melody on the guitar and use that as my skeleton, most of the time there's no guitar when I finish but the bass and composition will remain similar. Vocals will be written and harmonized around the melody I played. Other times I just make a groove with drum machines and synths and start printing ideas in my daw.
"I'll also sample noise and sounds from records or recordings I've made and use them around the grooves. I just like to go with the flow sometimes - two or three songs will come from one long jam session."
What are you currently working on?
"I'm currently working on an album for Kompakt Records and a remix for my buds Rick Trainor and Dave Taylor's (DJ Switch) new project called With You. I'm also working on a few singles for my label Machine Limited. My other project Split Secs with my partner Travis Kirschbaum has me pretty busy as well. We have a remix we're doing for Chaka Khan produced by our good friend Mark Bell (Blakkat). An album we will release in 2016 and a new subsidiary edit label called Version Limited."
Sonns' three essential production tips...
Less is more
"I always try to peel back as much as I can when I'm arranging. It's very easy to get used to a sound that your mind will just block it out. I find it important to always get back to the basic element of any groove or section and only add something if it makes the difference and you can't live without it. This will also help out in the final mix."
"If the fun fades, switch to another project or take a walk, get a coffee, smoke a spliff - whatever it is you do but this is super important. Taking short breaks is great to rest your ears and reset your creative juices."
If it ain't funky, it ain't right
"This is more of a general idea, not necessarily linked to funky music. Basically if the groove isn't there, stop, dump it and move on! You can sometimes get caught up on a track just because you love one or two elements of it but never seem to get to the finish line and its probably because it's not in the pocket. Cutting ties to songs is an important part of productivity and turnover rate."