italic (Pascal Arbez) is responsible for one of the biggest dance releases of the 00’s, the Poney EP, a rare record where every song eventually became a hit. Four long years later, Vitalic followed with a proper full-length, OK Cowboy, which was released in Europe last year to critical acclaim. Stylus caught up with Vitalic on the cusp of his tour to support the record’s distribution in the U.S.
How’s the response been so far for OK Cowboy?
It might take a while to get reports of how it’s doing in the US. The US is pretty different from Europe, so I have no idea. In Europe, there was quite a good response.
What type of equipment do you bring for your live show?
For my live show, I use a broken down version of my home studio. It’s pretty similar, but in a portable way. Instead of a big computer, I have a laptop. Instead of huge synthesizers, I have smaller ones—polyphonic synths to create a couple sounds.
Do you use Ableton?
Yeah, in the past I used to use MPC, but it wasn’t reliable—it’d always break down. Ableton is very powerful and is MIDI—saving me from using a sampler for playing live. It’s really live, too, so it’s a lot of fun.
For your live show, you only play—is there a reason that you don’t DJ?
When I started to listen to recorded music, I knew I didn’t want to DJ—I wanted to compose my own stuff. I would buy some records, but I preferred to wait and buy my first synthesizer. I didn’t put my time and money in something that wasn’t my cup of tea. Now is not the time to learn DJing techniques. Thanks to Ableton, if I want to be a DJ I can be a DJ. So it’s too late now, in a way. I still do it for small parties, though.
What type of process do you use for making your music? I love the sound of the organs for “Polkamatic”—how did you get that specific sound? What type of instruments do you use?
I only use synthesizers—I don’t use samples. With the presets of the synthesizer, you have the organ sound. They’re not the organ sound in my head, so I had to go through different processes. I tried to do the melody with a sound which isn’t the real sound that I wanted to use and, little by little, I could reach the sound I wanted. This organ sound is very special because it’s very situated.
But of course, the solution to my problem with the organ sounds it wasn’t just about putting the right distortion with the right effect, so I usually had to make a draft and leave it for a while. Then I work on it again a couple weeks later. Sometimes you can do tracks in a couple hours. It happens for me with techno, for example, with pure dance music. I’m not an organ player, I’m not a piano player—so it’s a longer process to make the melody. I’m not a drum player either, so I have to make the drum rolls with a mouse. This is time-consuming, of course. I lose a lot of time because I have to prove it to myself that I can do something. When I want to do a polka, I take the time.
Does it change the music?
Of course! If I invite a guest to play the organ in my studio, it will sound like an organ, like a session. Because it’s me who does it, it sounds real, but not really real—it’s what I wanted to achieve.
Are you bringing your vocalist, Bridgette, on tour with you?
She’s very portable—she fits in a suitcase.
Is there a reason that you chose a vocal synthesis tool instead of a real singer?
Because it’s my first album, I didn’t want guests. If I needed some vocals on a track, I’d do them myself. For “Pony” it was my voice in a vocoder—but the vocoder was programmed in a strange way to make a weird sound. To do it yourself is time saving, because you don’t have to meet with someone and you don’t have to do a bunch of takes. But because you don’t have a proper singer or vocalist, it forces you to find different techniques to achieve something and, as a result, it sounds different.
Whenever I see your biography, there’s always a note about how you worked as a male prostitute. Did you work in the business for a long time?
No, it was all just fake. I didn’t want people to know that Dima behind the Vitalic alias. When I started to do interviews after the release of the Poney EP, it was fun to lie to people and to pretend to only speak in Russian. For three months it was really funny. I don’t know if you say it in English, but the saying goes “all the jokes have to come to an end.”
Did you have a favorite lie?
The prostitute thing was very striking and I had many great moments with that story. The Russian was pretty funny too, because when I toured, in some countries, they gave me a translator because they thought I couldn’t speak English.
So, the obligatory question: What music are you listening to?
I like to listen to the radio even though some of my friends are really fed up with it. I like to listen to R&B. The R&B music with these claps. You like the music for one week. But for that week, you really like it. The music is made to be consumed, like food or whatever. I use it the way it’s designed for. In Australia, I re-discovered the Talking Heads. I really love “Heaven,” I listen to that song like 200 times a day.
I saw an article the other day with your friend, the Hacker, where he talked about how he hates minimal techno—do you feel the same way?
I don’t hate it—I like it. I think he was talking about the hype that is really is too strong: I don’t know how it is in the US, but in Germany, in Italy and in the UK—it’s like, everybody likes it, and it’s intellectual to like this music. What I don’t like about the hype is that minimal music has always existed. With electronic and without electronic: people pretend it’s a revolution, which is not true.
There’s some really good tracks, but it’s not a revolution. The movement now is good, but it’s not that new. I have been listening to minimal music for a very long time. And also, Hacker is right about it: everyone likes it in a club or in a rave, but I would really prefer the proper techno sound. Everybody likes it and pretends it’s cool and all that, which is sometimes true, but when you have techno DJs it’s more fun than two hours of minimal German music, y’know? As far as I’m concerned, I don’t listen to that music all the time, I’m more disco-y. I like people screaming in the sound, with explosions and all that.
By: Nate De Young
Published on: 2006-04-07