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Julien Chaptal interview: The new album, Awesome Soundwave, and producing on the road

The 9 track LP is available now on Carl Cox's Awesome Soundwaves label

Julien Chaptal is an electronic assembly — part French electronics, part Detroit synth machine, and part Dutch minimal robot. His new album ‘The Way’ is a musical journey that was captured on the road, on stage and even on the high seas. We were lucky enough to catch up with Julien and find out more about his new LP!

Hey Julien, Thank you for taking the time to chat with us about your new album. The new LP “The Way“ was released in October on the legendary Carl Cox’s Awesome Soundwave label. How do you feel about that?

Haha! Well, how would anyone feel about that? If feels like an absolute honor to be given the chance to release music I performed live on the label of one of the performers who influenced me and opened my ears to a new musical dimension when I was a teenager.

The album which you’d made whilst on the road in the hinterland of the Pyrenees captures your unique and captivating style of music. What inspirations did you find during your travels to help shape the tracks? 

It seems that the story of me writing this album through the Pyrenees is getting a bit of attention as it does sound like a good story, the truth is slightly different, however.  I’ve been busy performing and recording music on the go for the past years and made a habit of recording various moments that made it to the final cut on the album. One of the tracks was recorded at Loveland festival, one at Gronigen’s club Paradigm, two more on a hillside in Mauritius, and several tracks though the French mountains during the summer of 2018. Most of the soundscapes I added later were recorded during a sailing trip across the Atlantic that same year. It took a little while to shape and form all of these ideas into a story that I felt I could share with you, and everyone else.

That time has now come, I can now show you The Way I’ve taken!

Aside from this, were there any other moments or events which influenced the music on the album?

It is a collection of moments and events over the past 25 years or so of listening to and playing dance music that influenced me for this album. I often like to draw inspiration from other sources and music styles when making music but in this case it has been mainly influenced by other dance music. Of course, the environment in which I have performed these tracks had an influence on the album too. The underlying intention was to reflect the journey through the parts of the world I’ve had the chance to explore and the various dance floors I’ve been dancing on.

Your live setup features some fascinating equipment, can you talk us through your set up and why you chose it? 

The live setup is a constantly evolving band of little misfits. When I was making this album, the Elektron Octatrack was the main sequencer for the synths and also used as a sampler.

Alongside the Octatrack I used a Yamaha DX200 fm synth/groove box. I’m a big fan of FM synthesis and so that’s been a mainstay of my live rig for many years. Lately I’ve also added an Elektron Digitone to the setup, which is an FM synth with a totally different flavor.

Next to this I’ve had the Moog Minitaur on bass duties and the Dave Smith Tetra for chords.

Drum machines come and go, I’ve used an MFB522, a Jomox xbase 09 and a Machinedrum for this project. The main effects are Strymon Big Sky and Timeline, and then the whole mix goes through a RNL limiter.  Voila!

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You’ve lived in Amsterdam for some time now, having moved there from your birthplace of Paris. The Netherlands capital has become known as a hub for creativity, do you think this has played a role in the direction and style of your music?

Absolutely. I met and hooked up with several DJ’s who also started to produce music around the time I arrived in Amsterdam in 2000, we all influenced each other a lot and brought our own influences into the mix so we managed to come up with a sound of our own, which gave us quite a bit of attention at the time. Dylan Hermelijn, aka 2000 and One, had just begun a new label called Remote Area, and featured all of us on the releases and so we began a little family. Amsterdam is a big village, there are several little cliques of producers, labels, clubs etc. We all know each other and although there are rivalries and tensions at times we all somewhat are part of a strong and vibrant music community. I’ve set up a new studio together with my friends Lauhaus and Boris Werner in the basement of Volkshotel last year, there are many studios here and most of us influence each other and are part of a little community too.

The album is filled with hypnotic and rhythmic beats – Polarcus being our personal favourite! During your live performances what tracks from the album have really stood out in shows for you? 

Glad you like that track! There’s a wide variety of styles and influences through the album as I was mentioning earlier, it’s very interesting for me to hear which tracks appeal to who. Polarcus for instance has scared people away at times because it’s a quite aggressive track, but I’ve played it live on stage and people went quite wild every time. Fantasy has been a mainstay of my live sets for a long time, and lately Use Your Mind has been getting a really good response. One of my favorites to perform, when the room has warmed up enough, is Low Pressure System. It’s so intense though, I am careful about when I bring it in.

You’ve previously released on a range of renowned labels including Defected, 2020 Vision, Remote Area, and now Awesome Soundwave. Is there anything about this label that stands out for you? 

What struck a chord with me is when the guys told me they wanted to release exclusively artists who also perform live on the label. That gives it a dimension that I enjoy and I don’t know any other labels with this policy. That gave me the incentive to record everything live as well, which I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.

After taking the time to produce your latest album, are your sights set on any new challenges? 

Many! While making this album I’ve actually made an entire album of very different music, with a stronger house and funk focus and some very downtempo tracks too. I’d like to release this in the not too distant future.

Together with Bobby Massalo and Laura Kamma who also have a studio in the same complex where I am, we’ve been busy redesigning and giving a new artistic direction to the club that’s located in the basement of the venue, Studio Doka.

Finally, are there any tips you can give to aspiring producers who are thinking of creating music on the road?

Find your own path, don’t get caught up in trying to sound like anyone else who is doing well at the moment. Create your own environment, whether you use machines or a computer. Ableton Live and Bitwig are great tools to create your own, unique instrument. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s a right or a wrong way to go about doing it.

Oh, and never forget to have fun when doing it!

Wise words! Thank you for speaking to us, it was a pleasure to find out more about the journey you took and learn about the production of this album!

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Julien Chaptal’s ‘The Way’ is out now via Awesome Soundwave.

Buy/listen to the release here!

Stay up to date with Chaptal’s work by following his pages here:

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