Since 1999, Akufen (Montreal's Marc Leclair) has been amassing a thick stockpile of 12" releases for labels like Perlon, Background, Traum, Oral, Trapez, and Force Inc. With influences ranging from Bootsy to Mancini to Moroder to Reich, Leclair's productions veer from challenging experimental techno to pop-oriented micro-house. For most of the tracks on 2002's My Way, his first full-length album for Force Inc., Leclair employed a technique he referred to as "microsampling." Leclair would spend hours of each morning recording material from AM/FM dials and a shortwave, and he would then use those recordings as fodder for his productions, splicing seconds into minute fragments (consisting of voices, song snips, acoustic guitar flicks, and all sorts of unidentifiable moments) and applying them to danceable, hook-heavy house tracks. The anticipation for the album was increased significantly by a limited release of the album's feature cut, "Deck the House," a dazzling crazy-quilt of short-attention-span house dementia. Leclair has also recorded as Anna Kaufen and Nekufa.
"August 13, 1966, Montreal.”
“You mean my parents? It was totally not a musical or even artistic background. Actually, I’m coming from a very square, religious family. I never related to them.”
“I got into music when I was very young. Even as a baby I was shakin’ and singin’. At the age of five I was playing piano, and I was a guitarist for several years too. I was always in touch with music, generally speaking. I was never immersed in one specific genre, I’d an overall interest in music that spanned jazz; classical; rock; disco; funk; country; salsa; anything!
When something is done well, it is fine with me. I’m a huge collector of music but again, it’s very general. I’ve got a big room at home with a huge amount of vinyl. I’m not into CDs to be honest; people give them to me but I don’t buy them. My vinyl is from literally every period of time that it has existed in. As a young kid I was heavily into classical music, from the age of five until now - I still appreciate it – I’ve loved it. I’m also a real fan of crooners like Tom Jones, Sinatra, and these guys. The Beatles were a huge influence in my teen years, and around 14 I discovered electronic music through Kraftwerk. I was always into contemporary composers like Steve Reich, Boulez, and many others. I studied a bit of theory and practise, but my ear was pretty good and I tended to be lazy on theory. I gave up.”
“It was always clear in my mind that I wanted to make music all the time. I started to make a living from it four years ago, around the time of the first Mutek festival, but before that I was always working in the direction of making this my life. I wasn’t bothered about making a lot of money, but I wanted to have regular income, pay my rent, pay my bills. I don’t have to focus in anything except music now, and I feel very privileged. My very first official project was 1995’s Noiz Slack-r, a very experimental project in the vein of Aphex Twin, or Alec Empire. These people are the foundations of my style; I was mainly working in an experimental way, trying to find new approaches and ideas. Then the whole house thing happened to me, I would say, by mistake. I was caught by my own trick. When I started making house in 1996 or 1997, it was more as a joke. A friend of mine and myself did a project – we got the title, Juice Box, from a porno movie that we picked at random from a magazine – and I found that I really liked the rhythm, I loved the shuffle, and it gave me a refreshing alternative to redundant techno music.”
LABELS & PRODUCTION
“It’s funny; I never do anything with a plan. Everything comes together in a very natural way, almost intuitively. As I’m working I don’t really realise what’s happening, and it’s later that it all seems to come together. I remember giving my debut album [‘My Way’ on Force Inc., 2002] to my manager, and it hadn’t even grown on me at that point. I flew back into the country with a CD under my arm, and I said ‘You guys have to tell me what you think, because personally, I don’t have a clue what I’ve done.’ I was so much into it when I was doing it – the situation, the location, the isolation – that it wasn’t ever going to be as obvious an album as if I’d done it in Montreal. As I recorded ‘My Way’ in a cabin in the nether regions of Quebec in the dead of winter, the album may sound different, and new, because I didn’t have anything else around me when making it. I didn’t even have any other music to listen to. I wanted to put myself into this situation, where I wouldn’t be influenced or coloured by anything surrounding me. The plan was to isolate myself and not be interrupted by people. There was no phone, no internet, no television, absolutely nothing. For a whole month I was alone in a country home, overlooking a lake, with absolutely no neighbours around me. The closest town was an hour from where I was. If I’d had an accident I would have been fucked. Really. But I had to put myself there. Everything from the tension and the stress, the not knowing what was going to happen to me, also played an important part in the making of the album. You can hear it in the first pieces especially, on ‘Installations’ and ‘Even White Horizons’. I tried it last year as well because I wanted to begin the process of the second album, and I realised that it isn’t something that is applicable in every situation. It depends on the mood of the movement. Right now I’m working in my studio at home with my family around me, my daughter and my wife, and it seems to be working fine. I suppose it’s going to be different each time, but I really needed to experience isolation again because I was so convinced that having worked once, it would work again. I think I’m going to find other ways, and try not to generalise with my albums. The active label I work with is Perlon. I released my first two Akufen releases on Oral, a Montreal label put together by a friend of mine, Eric Mattson, and another Montreal label, Hautec. I began to work with a label from Toronto called Revolver, put together by Jeff Milligan and Mike Shannon. So I had five releases as Akufen on Canadian record labels before anything was available in Europe. Trapez made some of my stuff available in Germany, thanks to Triple R and Thomas Brinkmann. We had three ‘Psychometry’ EPs and remixes. There were probably too many remixes. I think the cow was truly milked there, and I didn’t approve all of the mixes. Background was through word of mouth – this is Andy Vaz’s record label – and I made the Dada EP. This was such an important release for me, it’s where the roots of my way of working - micro sampling – were defined. Perlon came in and my ‘Quebec Nightclub’ became the most important record I’d released to that point, giving me a bigger, wider audience. Then came Force Inc….for these past four years I’ve been really lucky. There’s been so many remixes and collaborations. It’s such a privilege to have been able to work with my peers: Richie Hawtin, Cabaret Voltaire, Yello, Thomas Dolby, Massive Attack, etc.”
“The first time I touched a mixer and two turntables was in London. It was in 1993, I think I was there for a vacation. The march against the Criminal Justice Bill was taking place in the streets, and I joined, I demonstrated like everyone else. There I met some of my closest friends, and I got to know my wife through them on that trip too. I stayed at their place and one of the guys was DJing. I was attracted right away, as a musician, to the turntables. I waited for them to go out of the apartment so that I could grab a few records and try to do it. The very first two records I mixed were perfectly in synch. It’s only later I started to deteriorate through lack of practise. When my career started as a musician, DJing got swept under the carpet. My favourite time to DJ is at a private party, in a loft, at six in the morning, when everyone’s completely fucked up. I just like to hit them on the brain with the music, just play the wackiest, weirdest shit. I really enjoy it – not for the same purpose as some other DJs, for the fame or anything – but on an education level. I want to educate myself and hear more music, know more about it. I enjoy mixing other people’s music more than performing live. After a while you get bored of playing your own music over and over. You make it in the studio, you learn it to go on tour, you play it all the time, for a year or two or three… people always ask ‘please play this, or that’… I find playing other people’s music is invigorating.
“I’ve been fortunate to have had a good taste of what Fabric is. I was in the booth the first time, and then the stage the second time. I have a tendency not to like being on stage. I just think it’s ridiculous being on a big stage with just a laptop. It’s better to be in the DJ booth; I’d rather people didn’t see me at all. I’m not technical, I’m not juggling with the mixer, I’m there to make a track in a live situation.”
“Right now I’m focused on getting the next album together and looking for the right label to release it on; it’s on its way, My ideas are down, and I’m going to make a record with a few dance pieces but less so than the first one. It’s going to be more eclectic, more downtempo, more loungey and experimental. I just want to go off. I want to treat myself a bit. I think I can afford now to go a little further, take some risks. When you start you have to be a bit careful. You can’t do everything that you want to. I can permit myself to have a bit of an extravaganza now. I’m also keeping busy with my new label Musique Risquée. I set it up, with my pal Vincent Lemieux, to support our community and also help bring up new artists that we’re really into – Stephen Beaupré, Atom Heart, The Rip Off Artist and Philippe Cam are all scheduled for releases this year.”
“I always loved a certain level of risk taking when it comes to my DJ mixing. Marrying the most awkward music together often turns out to be crazy and sexy. And I strongly believe that if it's done right, it'll compliment the artists work while challenging the listener's mind. It's all a matter of momentum, like time does not exist anymore. Ninety percent of the people on this CD are close friends of mine. Right from the beginning my goal was to put as many of those people on this record. My manager said ‘You can’t please everyone, you’re going to have one hell of a time fitting all of those people on there,’ but I thought I had to try. I think I found a way. It took me God knows how many hours before I thought I had it right. I really wanted to find the perfect combination between all those musicians. I don’t like people that mix in and out, fade in and out. You have to create a special environment by having two tracks in the mix together for as long as possible.”
Maria am Ostbahnhof, Berlin