Part 1

Name: Anthony Malka
Occupation: Producer, composer, keyboardist
Nationality: French
Current Release: Le Commandant Couche-Tôt's Une histoire d'Amour Brésilienne is out via Black Milk Music Records.
Recommendations: Painting: Sir Morett Charles de Sollier by Hans Holbein; Movie: Spirited away by Hayao Miyazaki

If you enjoyed this interview with Le Commandant Couche-Tôt, visit his spectacularly designed personal website for more information. Or head over to his profiles on Instagram, and Facebook, for recent updates, personal insights and much more music.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I actually started pretty early to compose, write stuff. I would say when I was 11 or 12.I was learning classical piano back then and had my first jazz workshops at the music school every saturday. In this time, my older brother was providing me with a lot of music to listen to. I had my first crush in 93, while listening to the first album of Jamiroquai, it totally blew my mind. I knew every part of every song, I could sing all the strings, horns, basslines, flute solos. That was a true milestone to my musical path.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

Again, Toby Smith, the keyboarder of Jamiroquai has been a huge influence on my sound. I tried to get what he was playing and discovered that he was almost always using the same chords (laughs): the minor9 and a very specific voicing that I was then playing in every key and that's how I started writing my own material using only this beautiful voicing of this minor 9 chord.

After becoming a Jamiroquai junkie, my brother had to introduce me to other stuff while I was waiting for their next album to drop, it was in 95. That's how I discovered Roy Ayers and the Roots, Stevie Wonder etc … It was also a confirmation to me as I noticed that Roy was also using this one voicing in songs like "Our Time is Coming". If we dig a bit, there's plenty of them. To sum up, I spent my first years trying to be like Toby Smith, playing the same way, and sticking to a very basic jazz knowledge. I also listened to a lot of Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters but while I was admiring him and loving this jazz funk sound, I was clearly not skilled enough to play like him and maybe not interested in becoming a jazz virtuoso.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

I actually never thought about it.

The question about my identity is also quite complex. I think I identify myself as a European jew. Born and raised in France from jewish Moroccan-polish parents, living in Germany since 15 years I'm a bit of all that and I also try to catch influences from other cultures everyday, living in a very cosmopolitan neighborhood in Berlin, being always open to new food, music, visions of the world.

This big pot of sensations clearly influences my creativity as it feeds it with their multiple sensibilities and colors. That's also why I love living where I live, I just have to go down the street and open my mind and I can feel millions of voices.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

Well, in the beginning I didn't have so many challenges as I also didn't have any special expectations. I was recording my stuff on Cubase mainly using drum samples, a midi keyboard and that was pretty much it.

Trying to get to a more professional level I would say that my main challenge was to stay a lot of hours in front of a computer editing, working on the sounds as I was and I am still always more excited by the beginning of the process.

Sitting at my untuned but lovely 135-year-old piano, working on some chord progressions and melodies. Singing parts, recording them on my phone, not to forget, beatboxing the drums, imagining arrangements in my head. I spend as little time as possible at the computer as I still consider it as a limitation to my creativity.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

As mentioned before my first studio equipment was a computer, a sound card and midi keyboard back in the late 90s. I also bought my first proper keyboard, the Yamaha CS1x, which was affordable and part of Toby Smith's rig, so a must have for me.

Then I started to hang out with a HipHop producer who was influencing me a lot back then. He also introduced me to Pete Rock and all this HipHop production world, that's how I had the idea to buy an Ensoniq ASR10 a digital production studio that a lot of cats back then were using. Unfortunately I wasn't nerdy enough to go and dig into these pieces of gear, I was really obsessed with playing. So I was basically spending all my Saturdays at this guy's laying down some soulful chords for his HipHop productions.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Years after the Cubase era, I got completely crushed by the Ableton revolution. The ability to test ideas on the fly and experiment arrangement solutions moving squares was an absolute game changer to me. I then started using Ableton for the live shows with my funk band The Hoo and started to dig deeper in its endless possibilities.

I still use Ableton to produce to date, as I still find it an extremely straightforward tool to make music. But again, I'm not a plug-in freak. I basically just use the recording interface and plug my audio recordings into it, that's it.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

Collaboration is everything to me.

Talking about Le Commandant Couche-tôt project I see myself as an artistic director as I coordinate and breathe ideas into the minds of the others. Everything always starts with a concept for a new record, a story line. I then prepare a collage of my ideas for the visual of the record and I pass the ball to my visual wizard hand, Madd Muddler. We have been working together since 2017. We then usually do a lot of Ping Pong working on the visual. She always brings incredible ideas and I am most of the time very open to them.

Once the visual is there, I start the demos of the songs I want to work on. I then send the respective part to the musicians and the collaboration can then be remote or live. For the recordings, I had some sessions in my flat, with the guitar player for example, so we could really try out a lot together. Drums and bass were recorded remotely, so there were not a lot of possibilities to exchange. But the guys always recorded 2-3 versions of what I needed, so I could be completely free while editing their parts.

On the first record I collaborated with super talented guitarist and arranger Paul Audoynaud. I brought my songs and he basically arranged them adding some amazing strings for example. On the new one, I wanted to be completely free again on this part and do my thing, so I arranged everything totally on my own, assuming some kind of naivety or fragility sometimes. But I wanted to give a more "live" feeling to the record and be even more myself this time.

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