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Feature: YokoO [Interview + Podcast]

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French born, Australian at heart, Berlin based and full time globe trotter, over the last few years YokoO has floated, dreamed and swooned his way across the world to some of the loftiest echelons.

YokoO is no stranger to house music in all its deepest forms. A studio head in the true sense of the word, he spends much of his time pondering basslines and warm synth riffs that heat up dancefloors the world over. With releases on highly regarded labels such as All Day I Dream, Musik Gewinnt Freunde, Kindisch, Get Physical, Moodmusic and Plastic City, YokoO has marked out a spot for himself in the global house music scene with talent being sought after from every corner of the world.

Hi Julien, thanks for joining us, how are you today, where in the world are you and what are you up to?

Hello there, thank you for having me. I am well, enjoying some down time in Barbados, preparing myself for the busy weeks to come.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a producer and ultimately a DJ?

It was during my late teens, while living on the French/Swiss/German border, that I fell in love with the energy of the dance floor and begun playing about on a set of turntables with friends. I will never forget the night I saw Laurent Garnier navigate the decks like a true captain, mashing up musical genres in a flawless manner for seven hours. It was such an inspiring experience and a pivotal moment in my life. The desire of producing music followed naturally. It became an obsession of mine almost 14 years ago now, just after relocating to Australia. My partner at the time inspired me to write my first ever song. Bless her for leading me down this path.

Tell us about your record collection, where do some of your early influences lie?

My record collection stopped growing when I moved to Australia in 2006. Turntables of quality were difficult to find in the venues I was frequenting there, so at the beginning of my professional career I was forced to play with CDs.

My main influences lie in the early 2000’s when Techno and Hard Techno were, in my eyes, at their peak. Drum n Bass, Electro Techno/Tech House/House were also very prominent in my world. As a result, my record collection is full of music from the likes of Laurent Garnier, Jeff Mills, Miss Kittin, The Hacker, Thomas Schumacher, Monika Kruse, Ellen Allien, Carl Cox, Marco Bailey, Christian Varela, DJ Rush, Chris Liebing, Adam Beyer, John Dahlback, Oliver Huntemann, Dj Hell, Modeselektor, Aril Brikha to name but a few.

As far as we know you’ve spent time in Australia, Berlin and France. How have living in these countries and also shifting from different homes throughout your life shaped the music you make and your career path so to speak?

I was born and raised near Mulhouse in the North East of France, moved to Australia at the age of 20, and relocated to Germany at 29.

It is hard to exactly tell how moving across these specific countries has affected my career and the way I write music. Every human experience I have had has helped shape the person I have become and indirectly has had an impact on decisions I would take throughout my journey. There is so much ground to cover that I honestly would not know where to begin. Stepping away from my comfort zone indubitably was the key catalyst element giving me the drive to excel in whatever endeavour I was going to take. I took a leap of faith and made a statement of independency. The whole world was in front of me.

I have always been passionate about music. It was my best friend in some of the harder times I went through growing up. I never thought I would make a living out of it back then. It only became clear as I left France for Australia with a one-way ticket and a bag full of records.

I never looked back. I said I would make it and channelled all my energy towards it. It has been a lot of work. I always have kept my head down, remained focused and extremely disciplined.

Your artist name is quite unique, is there a story behind it? How did you end up settling on YokoO?

YokoO is a nickname I was given by my friends as a teen. It originated from a Yoplait TV commercial. Before following a path in the music industry, I was skating every single day. The original cartoon character Yoko de Yoplait was skating too, and we looked alike, hence why my friends named me after him. I added a capital O for aesthetic.

Your first album ‘Nothing Can Compare’ was recently released on All Day I Dream, you must be quite excited. Tell us how it began to take shape? Was there an initial goal of writing an album from the beginning or did this happen organically in a way?

I am thrilled yes. The album is a collection of pieces, which expresses many of the emotions I have experienced after meeting a woman who changed the course of my life forever. It depicts the passion, longing and heartache felt through the process of falling in love. I see this as quite an achievement and also an opportunity to “turn the page” on a powerfully transformative phase of my life.

The idea of putting an album together came about as the story of our love unfolded. It was not an easy path we walked, navigating emotional mountains and valleys. Countless highs and lows were experienced. 

There was no initial goal of writing a long play, it just happened as life unfolded.

This is a profound narrative to work from and also a daunting one in a way but also incredibly inspirational. Tell us about the muse behind this album and why it was important for you to express your thoughts and feelings in this way.

If I ever had to imagine an angel in human form, She would be it. I have never met anyone radiating as much light as she does. She is mindful, kind, caring, giving, compassionate, selfless, loving and strikingly beautiful. She inspired me in changing for the best and certainly facilitated my awakening in the remembrance of my purpose. The transformation I have experienced since meeting her deserves an ode. I don’t paint, nor do I write . . . So what better way to do it than through the music I create?

The musicality is compelling and at points quite emotional, there’s a poignant quality to it, which is definitely ideal for multiple listens and the album’s timeless sensibility is undeniable. How difficult was it finding the right artists to collaborate with to bring some of these ideas to life?

Thank you, I am glad the music resonates with you in such a way. The artists I collaborated with showed up on my path as life was happening. There was no difficulty experienced whatsoever. The universe decided it was going to be so. I simply saw the opportunities and seized them as they came to me.

You’ve had a long-standing relationship with Lee and All Day I Dream; tell us how that came to be and why the label is the perfect home for you and your debut album and a very personal one at that.

Matthew Dekay is the reason why I joined ADID in the first place. His releases on the label will forever resonate with me and his ever-evolving vision will always inspire me. He was my mentor in a way. We had met in Australia and spent some time together in Berlin during one of my visits. We bonded. He introduced me to Lee after drilling the idea of involving me with the label into him. Lee and I kept in touch and started working together from then on. All Day I Dream has been my home and main release platform since 2014/2015. It only made sense for me to unleash this story under the same umbrella. I am proud to have launched the album with the label and am grateful to Lee for his continual support.

How did you end up with the final track selection and how did you go about cutting stuff out? There must be a point where it becomes quite difficult letting go of certain pieces?

In all honesty, I did not overthink it. All tracks came out of my studio during this time period. I simply knew what was fitting as part of the album story.

Is there a timeline behind the track order? And do certain tracks represent given moments within your journey?

There is a timeline behind the track order yes indeed. I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the exact moments each track corresponds to as it all ends up blending together as the one story. But yes, every single piece has its own meaning.

How difficult was it deciding on the flow from a listener’s perspective?

It was not. It happened naturally, following the flow of events.

Given that this isn’t really a club album did the majority of the tracks begin around a musical idea rather than something beats or groove oriented? Or is the process the same for you regardless?

It is not a club album AT ALL, nor was it ever intended to be. All tracks originated from groove/beat creations though. I simply decided to strip/slow things down as I went, depending on my feelings and the dynamics I wanted to create for a better laidback introspective listening experience.

There’s a very genuine feel to the album, from a compositional perspective but also design wise. What are your go to tools in the studio and what featured heavily on this album?

Ableton Live 9 & 10 were used as the main DAWs and sequencers. Many of the samples heard were captured throughout my travels and daily activities with Zoom’s H4N field recorder. All tracks on the album were designed with the help of Native Instrument’s Maschine Studio (creating grooves and recording live jams), Roland’s TR8 (layering sporadic drum loops), Dave Smith’s Prophet 08 (adding atmospheric sounds), SE X1’s cheap microphone (recording some vocals, creating complementary effects and atmos as well as drum elements) and a whole bunch of virtual instruments (Diva, Ace, Sylenth, Soundtoys, Fabfilters, Valhalla Vintage Reverb, Minimoog V, Rob Papen Suboombass, Native Instruments Kontakt 5, The Drop, Absynth, Alchemy, etc.). All external sounds and instruments were run into Fireface’s UCX soundcard. Everything was then monitored through a set of KRK VXT 6s.

Should you wish to know more about the technical side of things, and the equipment used by the featured artists, feel free to follow the link below.

https://www.magneticmag.com/2019/04/how-it-was-made-yokoo-nothing-can-compare/

How much of an effect do other genres of music have on your own productions, and in particular the album?

Indirectly, a ton I suppose. I grew up listening to all kinds of melancholic music. All of which set me up to go down that same path.

I would guess the writing of the album was a long process. Now that it’s done and out, what are your thoughts reflecting back on the process?

4 or so years after making the conscious decision that an album was going to be written, I was finally able to let it go. Looking back, I am so very deeply grateful for all that has happened throughout the process. The highs and the lows were utterly powerful in shaping the person I have become.

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed?

Negative. I officially stopped letting people remix my music a couple of years ago. The only way I would see this happen is if I was somewhat involved in the process.

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should?

The digital era completely changed the way we perceive artist albums indeed. We live in a fast paced consumer society, and just like most consumables, music is very disposable nowadays. Whilst online streaming platforms give easy access to the music via portable devices, I believe the digital era made them lose their significance to some extent. Albums used to be cherished and listened to countless times. There was some kind of magic associated with placing a record on a turntable, watching it spin as the crackling sound of the needle led to the music. It was like a ritual. The physical aspect helped the music obtain sentimental value.

I personally was deeply attached to releasing this album on record. We made it a double vinyl package with personalized artwork, turning it into more of a timeless collector’s item, a piece one would want to hold onto.

Where can fans hear you in the coming months, what does the festival season hold for you and is there an album tour?

There is an album tour indeed, a tour that will take me throughout North and South America as well as Europe up until the end of June. All confirmed dates are already showing on my website www.djyokoo.com. Feel free to take a sneak peak.

YokoO’s Debut Album ‘Nothing Can Compare’ on Lee Burridge’s “All Day I Dream” imprint is out now! Get your copy here: Download

 

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