Gasoline story began in the late ’90s as a one-man recording project. Mastermind behind fairly unique instrumental Hip-Hop is Yoann Letard (known also as Monsieur X). In 2002 he recorded and released A Journey Into Abstract Hip-Hop,
which gained quite a lot of fans and his album is especially popular on Youtube. Letard recalls his musical beginning.
(Interview was done already in October, but was published a few months later because we were too occupied with all the articles that’s why some stuff we discuss in the interview has been already made.)
Every man has a destiny.. and I couldn’t escape from mine! The story began around the years 1996-1997, if I remember well. I was coming back from work, when I saw this guy hitch-hiking at the bus stop. I picked him, and during the trip, we started talking about all different stuff… he told me that he and one of his friend were about to create a new label, turning around electronic music, deejaying, and working on a different things. I told this guy I was a DJ too, and we decided to meet again .. and, few days later, I met the hitch-hiker’s friend, named Alain, who will become the executive producer of Gasoline.
We talked a little… I told him I was a beat-maker for the French Hip-Hop scene, and he asked me if I was interested about producing some “abstract tracks” for some other projects. I said: “Okay dude, but …Abstract .?.. WTF is this ? “
Nobody in the French Hip Hop scene really knew these kind of music…
Alain then showed me what labels like Ninja Tune, Mo Wax, Pork Recordings, Pussy Foot, Wall Of Sound, Source, New Breed or Warp were doing, and damned I loved that! Over the years, we became friends, worked together on some new ideas, new projects, travelled all around the country for some “abstract DJ shows”, and well.. that’s how everything started.
What was the concept behind Gasoline?
Gasoline was born to keep alive this old school hip-hop that we loved so much. This hip-hop that we saw dying years after years in our country. I remember that in 1990-1995, when I was picking up some records, I loved 90% of what I bought.. around 1998, everything changed in the hip hop business… We were in that “puff daddy” period, with many funk samples, some “upside down” revisited versions, and it was so far away from what we loved. Gasoline is nothing but for the fans of old school hip-hop tracks and turntablism.
A Journey Into Abstract Hip-Hop came out in 2002. What’s the story behind making this release?
I produced a few songs for the label and because the feedback was particularly good, we started thinking about making an album. But we needed to find a trade mark, something never made before, or, not the way we were about to make it…
How did the recording and producing looked like? What audio gear did you use and where was it recorded? Also, what can you tell us about sampling?
Oh man .. I wish I could show you how my old home-studio was! A dying Atari 520 ST, with a fan above it (this thing was turning hot very quickly!) .
I was praying each time I made a back up- past 4 bars on my Cubase sequencer..the sounds coming out of the floppy drive were pretty scary!! (laugh).
A S300XL Akai Sampler, a DR16 multitrack recorder, a Behringer 24 for the mix… and a portable DAT recorder that worked when it wanted. But it was the good old days… no doubt!
Talent is not in the material… it’s all in your creativity.
Crate-digging, sampling and torturing old records, this is what Gasoline’s albums are all about! I can not do a track without using vinyl… there’s something magical in it… something you couldn’t find anywhere else.
How long were you working on album?
It took me a year to create an album… But I wasn’t satisfied with the results, it was more like putting 15 songs together, and that was definitely not what I wanted to have… so I threw everything in the garbage, and got back to work… after 3 month, A Journey Into Abstract Hip-Hop was here.
This time, I knew that creating a Gasoline album was more like making and directing a movie than doing an instrumental hip-hop compilation.
What does the name Gasoline mean or refer to?
It refers to nothing.. I don’t know why I wanted to use this name..but there’s a funny story behind it. “Gasoline” was originally the name of the album.
A Journey Into Abstract Hip-Hop was just a sentence we put below, to tell people what they were going to listen… like a pitch for a movie… But the media thought that “Gasoline” was the name of the artist… so… here we are! I’m just glad I didn’t choose “Potatoes killer” or “Slap my ass, bitch” for the title… I would have been forced to change something somewhere.
Can you analyse tracks, that appear on the album? Is there something, that really stands out?
Yes… many things, of course!
Man… a hard memory! Our old machines had no automation at that time, so I had to check each parameter of the song, the level of each scratch, which were distributed over 5 or 6 channels only, and add to this the effect to send on some of them. I had to make at least 500 takes to have a satisfactory result..! (with a DAT recorder that wouldn’t work well, of course!) What a torture! I’m glad people love the track, it cured my pain a little bit.
Maki is simply amazing! She immediately understood the direction of the song, and what kind of feeling we wanted! She’s a real artist, who knows how to build a track.
Wow… many guys on this track! Three of my Arabic friends, one of the best DJ ever (Troubl)…
Alain’s favorite ….
You were mixing various of stuff. Can you tell us where do you get inspiration what to use and what not?
Alain is a really huge fan of this old 70’s gangsters movies! He asked me if it would be possible to integrate some dialogues from them in the album. So I started working with this idea, created something like a “music-storyboard”, cutting different movie scenes, and, of course, paid attention to the fact that I was trying to tell a story, from the beginning to the end … I really think that these voices have influenced my work, they gave a direction to the project.
That’s why all my albums will be, I hope, totally different. I always will be inspired by a film or series to work with; the atmosphere that emanates from them can drive you in so many direction.
The cover artwork is fantastic. Who is behind it?
Oh yes, what a beautiful job! It’s from the most talented woman I know. Her name’s Rachel, from H5 Design Agency…a wonderful team, friends with Alain… if you don’t know them, you know their work for sure… www.h5.fr
She immediately understood what we wanted, the type of cover we were looking for, and she has always produced the best for us! The cover I like the most is the one she did for Strategic Thoughts (EP). Her work is really, really amazing, and I could never thank her enough!
Then another release came out in 2005. Snap Your Neck Back is your last release. What’s the story behind it?
Well… one day, we were chilling, mixing, scratching and doing some stuff at the label headquarters, and Alain started playing that old “Warriors” movie on his laptop. I saw that film when I was younger, and I really loved it. So we decided it will be the background for our next project. If I remember well, I started working on it the day after! But, the most important part of it was our new connection with a guy we met during the year. I’m talking about Aerodrink, of course, the multi-instruments player.
He played many stuff on the album, bringing all this acoustic performances you can hear on many tracks. I know he would hate what I’m going to say, but this guy is really talented. He can play whatever you want, with anything you want! He’s a real musician… and I’m not, and that makes a big difference! He always has some new software’s to show me, some new ideas to bring, and he knows what he’s talking about. Aerodrink and I are working on a new album, so you will hear about him again… soon.
What other abstract/instrumental hip hop would you recommend?
Downtempo is the shit I live for, no doubt! Blockhead, fred yaddaden, Tor, Ancient Astronauts, etc… Well all the artists you know if you’re an abstract hip-hop fan.
Do you follow your local scene? Any other artists you would like to recommend?
Not really following anybody in France lately.
Do you work on any other projects?
Yes, We’re working on a new album. I spent a few months looking for some new loops, breaks and sounds. It’s not an easy job, because you have to listen to so many different things, also records you don’t really love.. I spent hours and hours to find the right samples for a track… and sometimes… I can’t dig anything, or, not what I’m really looking for.
So get ready for our new shit, coming from out-ta space.
There will be a vinyl issue of A Journey Into Abstract Hip-Hop. Maybe a few words about that?
A nice gatefold double coloured vinyl collector’s issue… but Rachel and Alain came up with an idea that was never done before with any records which will make it even more collectable…the distributors are stoked, the people from Diess Records who are doing the release and coordinating the fabrication are stoked…so we are stoked! We got the test pressing some time ago and let me tell you the sound on the vinyl will give a new dimension to this record, which never was released on wax before… Only a maxi… (editor’s note: collector’s issue already sold out!)
Yes .. we’re going to work on different projects with Alain & Aerodrink. Some library sounds bank (100% royalty free !!.. and really free, not like what you can find on the internet.) – following us on our Facebook page
is the best way to download it soon! Also Aerodrink and I are going to prepare a Downtempo Album, with, maybe, another band name, who knows ?! .. this album will be very close to what we’ve done with Gasoline, but very focused on slow bpm. So get ready for this stuff too!
Interview by Klemen Breznikar/2016
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