Keep it Local: Pascal

We sat down with Melbourne’s Eugene Peloza – aka Pascal – for the latest episode of Keep It Local. He’s was also kind enough to put together an hour of live material, exclusively for 6am. 

Where did you grow up? Tell us a bit about that experience.

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne in Thornbury. When I was younger there were heaps of other kids in my street to hang out with. We would play footy or cricket on the street in summer until it was too dark to see the ball! I also remember walking down high street with my mum when I was maybe 5 or 6 and the only shops on high street that were open were a bottle shop, a gun shop and a milk bar. My parents used to take me to music gigs which were mostly blues and “real” R&B.

When and how did you first discover music? How strong was the immediate desire to become a creator?

Listening to and thinking about music first started happening for me when I would go for car rides with my mum, probably aged 3 or 4. We would always be listening to PBS or 3CR. We would talk about the beat and the groove of a song when we listened to John Lee Hooker on the blues show or the old reggae show Chant Down Babylon. I’ll never forget when I first got Limewire (Limewire was an online music sharing program at the time) and mum asked if I could get Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. When I found it and played it I was blown away by how big and powerful the song was! I was around 11 or 12 at the time and hearing this song set in motion a very addictive phase of finding and collecting music and finding out about it, how it was made and who made it. I also got a guitar for my birthday when I was 11 and had lessons at school. Eventually I saved up some money and got myself a sweet Stratocaster knockoff and was trying to be Angus Young, like all my other friends in grade 4. There was a strong funk and disco phase in there too, where all I would listen to was early Michael jackson and KC and the Sunshine band!

It took a long while before I actually thought about trying to write music myself. I feel like it happened late in high school when I made friends with some of the older kids who jammed together. We would play together and it was always improvised unless someone had a clear cut idea. There was something about the improvisation that I always loved. We were mostly using guitars and drums back then but I still try to bring that improvised vibe across in my music now with synthesisers and samplers.

How intertwined is your identity with the music that you make? What shines through about you in your productions?

I feel like my identity is represented differently in different moods when I write music. I could start a session and have something going and feel a certain way about where I should take it, but might have a thought or a feeling and then take it somewhere completely different because that felt right to do. This also comes through in the way that I record my music. I mostly track everything live in one take and I think there is a certain immediacy that comes with doing that which relates to my personality. I am quite a high energy person- when I’ve figured out roughly how I’m going to start the take, I’ll hit record and just go for it. I’ve always been a big fan of music that takes you on a journey, so recording live works well for me because it’s the same vibe you have when you’re jamming with mates. Except the mates are synths now haha.

What was the first record you owned? What was your most recent purchase? Talk us through that transition as succinctly as you can.

I think the first record I ever bought was some white label edit that was basically a mix of Lets Groove by George Morel and the drums from Plastic Dreams / You Don’t Know Me. I got really into buying house records initially because of the obvious connection to blues being the rhythms and how they just rolled and rolled. Also the funk aspect that gave you swing and all the factors that make it such good music to dance to. Last night I bought the latest release from Ectotherm, a 3 tracker EP by Schacke and a wildly beautiful and deep LP by NESS on TGP. Both records speak to me, but in totally different ways. They represent the things I really like to hear in dance music in terms of arrangement and a clear sonic aesthetic.

I’ve only just realised it this year, but I don’t necessarily like “minimal” house or techno or whatever as a genre, I actually just like minimalism as a concept in music. So I feel like what I look for has gone from being upfront sort of stuff to more understated music that evolves subtly and has in my opinion just as much to say. I am a sucker for a hook though, so I love it when a song is really minimal and subtle and then out comes a huge hook. Cheeky surprises in music like that make it memorable. They are the sort of tracks I look for and the sort of tracks I try and create from time to time.

Walk us through the studio- gear, trinkets, posters etc.

My studio is somewhat in disarray at the moment, everything is set up in my room but because I was recording some stuff at a friends studio a few key bits of gear aren’t here. I normally use my MPC 2500 as the main sequencer for all the synths and it also sends a clock signal to my drum machine. Its really good for writing basslines with pitched 808 kicks and I use it to trigger the sequencer on my JX3P. I’ve also got a Moog Minitaur and a Waldorf Blofeld that I use extensively for pads and atmospheric sort of textures. I also swapped some shitty Yamaha groove box thing for a rack synth last year which I’ve fallen in love with. It’s a Wavestation SR by Korg and uses a really weird type of synthesis called vector synthesis. No real idea how it works but its kinda magic! I had a studio set up in my friends bungalow for 2 years and one of the first additions that was made was a small note on a bit of paper that just said “one bird at a time” which I always thought was funny because I couldn’t save anything on my MPC at the time, so I always just recorded a take of whatever I was doing. I’ve got a few posters that ill never get rid of, like this haggard map of Italy that instead of town names, it’s shows the types of wine from that region. Also have a few block mounted posters of old hand painted advertisements from the 30’s from Fiat and Michelin.

What is your process? Any rituals?

I’ve been using the Jx3p as a starting point lots lately because it has this cool polyphonic sequencer that I’ve only properly got my head around now. So I mostly start with that at the moment for something melodic and then work on a groove for it to sit on. I used to just mix my songs as I went because I didn’t have a proper interface and couldn’t multi track, so I would just get the levels and the mix right as best I could, then record a stereo take. Now, because my setup allows it, I write the parts and jam it out a bit, then record an arrangement. I then come back to the project to equalise the sounds and turn channels up and down to get a feel for how it should be mixed.

I don’t have any real rituals so to speak but I went through a big phase of having a big coffee after dinner and working late into the night. Sometimes doing two songs in a night and working from 5pm to 2 am with a few breaks in between. I feel like you can get into a really certain state of mind when you’re by yourself, totally absorbed by what you are doing. Some really cool things can happen in those moments. The same can be said for when I collaborate with friends. You find yourself in this moment of trust where you can both explore an idea and know that its okay to test something out. I really love that push and pull of working with someone else that you know well and knowing what will work well with their style and aesthetic.

How do you spend your time when you’re not making music? How do these things influence your creative process?

When I’m not making music I normally hang out with friends, listen to music or mix records and go to gigs together. I also work with my Dad doing landscaping more or less full time which is cool! The Tour de France was just on last month too and I actually watched most of it live, I can thank the app for that. Sometimes after work I like to listen to a really good mix and just unwind on my front porch.

Melbourne is such a great city for music and there are so many extremely talented musicians, producers and DJs playing and creating music to keep me inspired. I feel like mixing records and listening to music in general will always inform things I do in my music. Often you catch on to one little thing you hear in a track and think you might be able to try that technique or idea in something you’re doing. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but I feel like its always better to see what happens than not. I also feel like there is a time for switching off the analytical and technical part of your brain when it comes to music and just vibing out to something because it sounds good or feels good.

That said though, I feel like listening to other peoples music keeps you inspired and on your toes and makes you stay adventurous with what you do.

Where to next? Any special gigs or records on the horizon?

My cousin is getting married in Denmark in September, and I decided to go to the wedding, which was a good enough excuse to go over to Europe for a few months! I’ve got a bunch of friends in France and Germany too so it’ll be good to see them. Some of my friends over there are also producing music and putting on gigs. Hopefully there will be a few gigs for me in europe which is really cool. I’m currently putting together my first solo EP, which is going to be the third release on my label Merriware. I decided to start the label because so many of my friends were making really incredible music and I wanted to get it out there for people to listen to. Releasing a record of my music on my own label will be really good for me because theres no compromise on anything. You get to do as you please and really satisfy yourself in terms of what you want to hear on a record.