In light of his tour down under for the ever growing Strawberry Fields, contributor Nick Saw takes on one of the festivals headline techno craftsmen, Eric Cloutier. With a serious history of DJing and a masterful back catalogue of productions, Cloutier means business. Eric speaks below on being meticulous, DJ mediums and he even gives Nick a gold star for wise use of vocabulary.
Your career path compared to most is quite unique, could you talk us through both the positives and negatives of your transition from an internationally regarded DJ, to a producer and artist?
I was blessed from the start to grow up in Detroit, which is a massive proving ground as a DJ, and as cutthroat as you can possibly fathom. Having that sort of pedigree, and being able to prove myself there, it definitely influenced the landscape for me as a DJ and pushed me to continue to pursue it. This must have, in some capacity, put pressure on me to do my best to try to live up to some overarching potential that comes from the Detroit culture. I’ve had some success in the DJ department and that’s been my main focus and love, bordering on obsession, I guess you could say. However, because of said level of quality that I adhere to and strive for, when, 12 years later, I finally decided to take my hand in the production department, many, many eyes and ears were on me to see if, to some degree, lightning could strike twice. A bit of pressure was there – one that was quite intimidating at first – but I began to settle in with my production and stick to my guns and trust the ear that I had spent so many years calibrating with my DJing and record selecting, so it began to fall in place and my confidence and comfort as a producer has been building.
In terms of your sound and your creative process, have you found now that since the widely praised releases of both ‘Raxeira’ and your contribution to ‘Split Series Part Two’ the process has become more insouciant?
No matter what, I’m still exceptionally calculated, patient, and self-deprecating when it comes to my time in the studio and the music I’m producing. I often walk away from tracks for days or weeks on end because I can’t listen to it any more out of frustration, but I also just need to seek some outside influence and clean out my ears and come back with a fresh vision on things. I’m notoriously late on almost everything I commit myself to (sorry, everyone!), but in the end I do get what I promised done, and I will only submit something when I’m 100% proud of and confident in, thus the epic delays and reevaluations of my tracks. All in all, I may never be completely comfortable in the studio, simply because of my O.C.D. with things, but also because I’ve never aligned myself to be known for that aspect and am first and foremost a DJ and enjoy that process more…but that’s not to say that I don’t have a lot of fun in the studio sometimes, and definitely find myself losing track of time at my desk in the same way that I can behind a pair of decks.
Also, gold star for using a fabulous word like “insouciant” in this interview, as I fancy myself a bit of a lexicon, if you’ve not noticed by the names of all of my tracks.
For artists, labels and fans it is astounding the positive effects that continue to come out of the increased importance of vinyl in the industry. However many also consider its prevalence to be creating some divide and stratification amongst not just artists but also fans. As a DJ and vinyl purist what is your take on this?
There’s some ridiculous crown placed upon the heads of people that only play vinyl or only release on vinyl like they’re doing something original or are in some way carrying the historic weight of an entire industry on their backs. While I will always champion vinyl, and regardless of where I go on this planet for gigs I will never show up with only a pair of thumb drives, I don’t see why it’s supposed to elevate you above the person who rocks a crowd better than someone with Traktor and an expensive, blinking light controller. The medium is NOT the message, the music is – deliver me solid music done intelligently and with a level of originality and I will be more impressed with that than if you played it for me with a pair of dusty records or a pair of freshly minted mp3’s.
That being said, I am beyond thrilled that vinyl is making a comeback and record stores are less of a hipster, boutique, “High Fidelity” experience and is actually something old and young can enjoy. I’m loving that there’s a steady stream of music that I can find that makes the hunt of being an original DJ fun again. And I’m loving that I’m cultivating my vinyl collection to be something people want to dig through and see what piques my interest – something that sets me apart from the normal DJ. But I’m annoyed with the fact that it’s become a “cool” thing to do, something that somehow gives your music validity above others.
Moreover, the issue with this has become something that everyone in this industry speaks of regularly – more and more clubs do not have functional turntables, booths that can withstand resonance and feedback, and needles that have stereo channels. Press and purchase all the vinyl you want, but when I or others show up to a gig and can’t play the way we comfortably do with the degree of quality we want to display, its exhausting and frustrating, and in some capacity embarrassing, as an artist, and possibly more so for the ones that spent money on us as professionals. We can only be as professional as the instruments given to us to perform with, so when they’re crippled, battered and incomplete, that’s exactly the experience you’re going to receive in return.
I’m aware that you are very appreciative (like many techno artists) of quality sound and the effort promoters put in to get this just right. Playing open air festival gigs like Strawberry Fields, how does this change how you approach your sets?
I approach them all the same, to be honest. All I’m really doing is evaluating the surrounding artists and timetable and adjusting myself and my music to deliver a cohesive experience to everyone listening. While quality sound at the gig is paramount to many other things (minus the aforementioned need for the DJ booth to be 100% functional), primarily because I strongly believe a weak sound system will cripple a night, I put faith in promoter to not half-ass this and understand its integral part of the event. Open air’s always lend themselves to a different approach, though, as slamming, rip-your-head-off techno sounds a bit odd at 4pm on a Sunday with the sun shining. I’d say it’s a bit short-sighted to ignore that and just do what you want, but that’s just me.
Musically or personally is there any big standouts left uncrossed on your bucket list at the moment? A particular artist you’d want to work with? A sound-system you want to play on?
I was recently asked about when I was going to do a live pa with my music and I literally laughed, possibly rudely, at the question. Therefor, that is exactly NOT on my bucket list…though I also said I was probably never going to produce tracks, so…
As for artists to collaborate with or systems to play on, I never think about it in that capacity and just continue to be surprised with the requests I get. I put more attention to keeping my personal quality high rather than trying to bend to another’s. That, however, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy going under the tutelage of some of the people I’ve respected and admired over the span of my career – namely Damon Wild, Echoplex, Ben Klock, Donato Dozzy, Peter Van Hoesen, Terry Lee Brown Jr., The Timewriter, Daniel Bell, Biosphere, and Mark Broom, to name a few.
Obviously you are not one to rush your creative processes in producing music, however I have been told that your EP for The Bunker NY is almost 4 years overdue. Can we expect this soon or any other exciting projects that may be on the horizon?
With The Bunker NY being my home above all others I don’t want to just contribute something I’m not feeling represents me or the label / club / brand properly. While I have stopped slinging tracks over to Bryan (the label and event owner and manager) simply because I know they’re not up to his (or my) calibre, I am still slowly thinking of it. However, interest in me as a remixer has been growing and that’s distracted me a bit, but, as previously mentioned, I work pretty slowly and sporadically, so it’s extremely hard for me to lay down deadlines when I know I’m most likely going to miss them.
I do, however, have some other contributions coming out, mostly remixes, but there’s an original sprinkled amongst them for people to keep a look out for.
For those readers who have not gone under your brand of musical hypnosis before, could you leave us with a track that is sure to create a bit of a mid-journey moment for those under your spell at Strawberry Fields?
Something that’s been in heavy rotation the previous gigs has been this gem from Trevino on Klockworks. A perfect dancefloor stormer if you ask me.
Thanks for taking some time to talk to me today. Like many others I’m eagerly awaiting your set and I hope you enjoy your time down under!
Absolutely! Thanks for firing over these great questions – looking forward to bending mind, ear and body on the dancefloor in a few weeks!
Catch him at Strawberry Fields 20th – 22d of Nov 2015