Name: Baptistin Cabalou
Current release: LB aka LABAT's FEEL THE BEAT EP is out via Poumpet.
Gear recommendations: MPC 2000XL; SAUSAGE FATTENER from DADA LIFE :)
If you enjoyed this interview with LB aka LABAT and would like to explore his work in more depth, visit his profiles on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
It all started with just two turntables that my big brother gave me a long time ago, when I was around 12 or 13 years old.
3 or 4 year later when I was in highschool I had a iMac with Logic cracked, a midi keayboard a Mackie Onyx firewire mixer and a MPC 2000XL.
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
If I'm totally honest, I have to say that a sizable percentage of the gear I accumulated over time had something to do with the ''collection“ state of mind. I remember telling myself that in order to make more and better music I had to have this equipement and this instrument etc …
Of course I made some good choices along the way (laughs). I managed to buy a Venice F32 with the firewire option, for example. Wich is crazy, because you can record 32 tracks at the same time, wich I don't do by the way.
Also I have a 73 Fender Rhodes that is very important for me, a good drum kit and several more MPCs.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
Indeed the possibilities are possibly limitless with a computer (if you are talking about that) because an MPC 2000XL and other vintage stuff are also digital in a way. But I tend to think that possibilities with an MPC or any samplers are equally wide – albeit in other ways, of course, than a DAW. Let's not forget that the track is in your head. It's not inside the gear.
This is something I try to tell myself as a lesson.
Basically I just use my computer to record instruments that are pluged into the mixer via firewire outputs. I rarely use lots of effects or mastering and mixing tools. Usually when I use them, by the end of the day the track will have lost its primal sound take and intent. So I try to keep it simple, effective and not too complicated.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
I have tried to do music on laptops in the train or plane or whatever, I usually don't do crazy stuff. At most when I get back to the studio and listen to the sessions, it's just random loops that could start a real track in the studio.
I prefer being in my studio with all the gear unpluged and plugged in, all the cables and the non useful stuff that piles up everywhere (laughs). It just suits me more in order to make songs or beats.
If I could have a multi room recording facility as you say, I would very much prefer this to just a laptop and headphones.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
I don't have any controllers. My very best piece of gear are the MPC 2000XL, my electric guitar and my MPC 2500. I don't have any tactile gear in the studio except my phone.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
My very big jump in technology which I performed not all that long ago, was to change from ZIP disks to CF cards for my MPCs.
For more than 10 years I stacked ZIP disks with all my music on it, and lots of my music got lost because the ZIP disks got damaged.
So putting CF card readers in my MPCs was a big step for me, and changed significantly my way of producing. It really changed lots of aspects, for example the waiting time the memory for each tracks and all the DIY stuff I could do in order to make music with ZIP disks.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
I record lots of tracks most of the time. And 90 % of them are recorded live. I record things fast, the music is never perfect and I usually don't go back to it. From my perspective, I always stick with the idea that the first take is best and has to stay like this, even if there are mistakes. It just feels right for me to do so.
Also what I do is go back to older ZIP disks, transfer them onto my CF card and start another track with elements that are already there and that sounds good.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
It's already difficult to stay on the conventional path and make good music, so I don't worry to much about how I could do things differently and inject some suprises and try to invent a new way of creating. For most of what I do somebody already tried or recorded and even released music that could sound pretty much the same.
The only thing that changes in my opinion, is the percentage of honesty you put in your music.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
Most of the time it just comes as a result of listening to music and getting inspired by it. It is a good exercice to try and replicate stuff you like. Well for me at least it plays a pretty big role in my creative process.
Then there are those times when the track or the idea of the track is all in your head and asks you to put it in place. Thoses moments are awesome!
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
It's very important for me that all the seperate elements sound good on their own. Since I usually don't have music with more than 10 or 15 tracks, all of them should be tight.
I started very recently to work on the mixing aspects. All my music before my release on SCDD (Steel City Dance Discs ) was recorded as a master with no seperate tracks. 95% of my discography was recorded like this. I still do it because I like how it sounds. But I work more on the mixing nowadays.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative provess. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I attended a very interesting french conference by Michel Serres who was a French author. He passed away not so long ago. He was a old man, but had this capability to talk about technologies so well, it blew my mind the first time I saw it. It struck me when I read your question.
I haven't used the kind of tools you are describing in the question I think - or maybe I haven't been able to consider it as AI.But I think all the tools that can boost your creativity can be nice. You just have to choose wich one are best for you.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
Wireless instruments!! Even if cables are for me very aesthetic and charming, I dream of wireless studios.