Ladies & Gentlemen I proudly present to you the very first in our new line of interviews. Interviews that are set to cover a vast array of genres from dubstep producers to soul singers, from indie bands to house DJ’s. But right now we’ve got a wondrous dive into the mind of French drum & bass hero Robin Leclair, better known as Naibu.
We managed to grab a hold of Robin and ask him a few questions and here’s what he had to say to us….
Hi Robin, hope you’re all good? So let’s first understand where your taste and style comes from in terms of music. You’re a solid and incredibly soulful drum & bass producer. How is it that you came to flow with this genre? Were there any early influences?
All good thanks, enjoying the summer heat wave and taking some time off to do the interview.
My journey through music started a long time ago when I was a young kid, I’d say one of my first musical shocks was the red and blue Beatles compilations my parents used to play. Tunes like “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “A Day In The Life” or “The Fool On The Hill” had a strong impact on me, and it’s only by listening to these songs now, with a more mature ear, that I can understand why they had such an impact. The song writing is incredible but I also realized the production and arrangements were mainly responsible for this unique, almost weird musical experience. I was born in the 80s and I was also exposed to the sounds of new wave, when I listen back to some of the things that my parents used to listen to, or that were on TV at the time, there’s no wondering why I love synthesizers and moody sounds so much.
Later in my teens I fell in love with sampled based music, abstract hip hop from the likes of DJ Shadow, Mr Dibbs or DJ Krush, and this led me to find an interest in the sources these people used to sample to make their music, and inspired me to start making my own. The great thing about making music with samples is the long process of looking for sounds, I’ve spent hours and hours listening to music most people would skip, and that broadened my horizons immensely. I started building my early production tastes and aesthetics during that period, it was a great learning experience.
The drum n bass came to me around that same period, which is the early 2000s, but I was only exposed to stuff from the mid to late 90s at first. Listening to Photek’s “Ni Ten Ichi Ryu” was a decisive moment. I didn’t know much about drum n bass or its scene, but this music seemed so fresh, next level.
What was it in the music that got you so hooked?
The thing I loved about it is the pace. I always loved drums, I’m addicted to good drum breaks and rhythms, and drum n bass used to incorporate a lot of chopped up funk breaks, taking them somewhere unique. I really wanted to explore its intricacies. The great thing about it was also the broad range of influences being incorporated into the genre.
And do you listen to a lot of d&b? Or do you make room for other genres in your listening time?
I used to listen to drum n bass all the time after I started producing it. It was a good way for me to learn the sound, and guess the techniques. At that time my goal was to mix the crate digging aesthetics of abstract hip hop with drum n bass. So I used to dig for a lot of records and listen to a huge amount of random music, film soundtracks, 70s electronics, library music, experimental, musique concrete stuff, mainly because I was looking for sounds to use in my own creations. And on the side I would listen to a lot of drum n bass, almost exclusively.
Nowadays it’s very different, I almost never listen to drum n bass anymore. The only time I’ll listen to some dnb is when a friend sends me a new track or when i’m gathering new music for my DJing. As far as production is concerned, I don’t find much inspiration in new drum n bass anymore. Of course there’s still some people providing the good stuff but the rest just seems to be a copy of a copy of a copy. Inspiration is elsewhere for me these days.
Did you always know that you were going to do something to do with music? Be a producer?
Not at all, in my teens I thought I was gonna be working in the video field, it used to be my passion but the music took over. A lot of people tell me my music has a “visual” aspect to it, my background probably has a direct influence.
What is it like to be a producer in an age where music sharing is so easy and software for production is so readily available? It must have its fair share of pros and cons?
It’s great. If it wasn’t for software I probably would have never got a chance to start making music. Before that you had to know some people who had access to a studio, or slowly build your own, which was costly. I doubt a lot of modern producers, including myself, would have pursued a career in music 15 years ago. Music sharing also has its good side for underground music, especially when you’re starting out. It’s an effective way to spread your music and build an audience.
The con is the flood of music, we’re submerged. I can’t keep up with the constant flow of new releases. Music tends to become an expandable commodity, because everything is so readily and easily available. It’s a double edged sword.
You’re releases over the years always seem to have shared a certain amount of flow. A lot of producers today can have a lot more robotic tracks, that step about and jump from one place to another. Your tracks, in contrast, always grow, shift and move around in a much more fluid style. Why do you think that is? Is this some reflection of yourself? Or is it influences elsewhere?
One simple reason for this sort of progression is that I tend to lose interest very quickly. I always start with an idea which seems exciting, but soon loses its magic so I need to find something else to keep the excitement, until I reach this unexplainable feeling of completion. The process is very long, it’s a bit like a fruit maturing, I have to grow the ideas until everything works together and carries some emotion.
I think darker and more aggressive production is easier, in terms of creating a dark & aggressive emotion than perhaps a deeper set of emotions. In terms of your straight up liquid tracks, there is a real emotion in the production. Is it something deep inside you that helps you to produce the music that you do? Or is it un-explainable?
I think it’s in the realm of the unexplainable, which is probably why it’s difficult to achieve. I can’t explain it, I can only feel it. When you’re dealing with these sorts of emotions there aren’t any rules, and I don’t think you can find a tutorial for it. This is something you can only learn through your own experience and sensibilty.
Do you listen to any other genres that are reflective of this soulful vibe?
Everything I like to listen to has to have a big chunk of soul in them, and by that I mean that the artist puts a bit of himself into his music. The genre doesn’t matter.
Do you ever think you’ll ever stray away from d&b production? It seems pretty common-place amongst many of today’s producers to want to make almost everything and anything. Is that something you embrace or want to decline?
Yes of course, I’ve got a couple of side projects going at the moment. One of them is a collaboration with Japanese producer Ena. We mix our influences at 135 bpm. I find it more rewarding to work away from a specific genre. One of drum n bass’ strength is its tempo, but it’s also its greatest weakness. It’s not the easiest speed to work at when you want to make songs.
If you could produce a track with any band/producer/singer etc. who would it be and why?What kind of track would it be?
There’s too many. In an ideal world, I would be writing songs with Thom Yorke, making an album with Jon Hopkins, producing Fink’s next album, jamming and drinking with Sebastien Tellier, discussing synthesizers with Isao Tomita, or working with Joe Hisaishi on his next soundtrack.
Dream performance location for a DJ Set?
A small bar packed with open minds.
What do you think the future holds for yourself and your music?
Hopefully more diverse projects and of course, more collaborations.
Any tips for aspiring producers/DJ’s out there?
Follow the trends, study by listening, learn by copying but always put a big chunk of yourself into the mix. Follow your instincts.