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DAF (FR) [Interview]

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With releases via Elebated and Songuara, French born, Canada based artist DAF has been crafting a deep, organic brand of house music from his Toronto studio, one which has been impressing the genre's trendsetters, while he has also found a place in the city's burgeoning nightlife as a DJ. This week finds DAF returning to Songuara for his first artist EP entitled 'El Cielo', a release which follows on from his label debut in 2022, which was a contribution to the imprint's highly regarded 'Tales' series.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with DAF to learn more about the release of 'El Cielo', his background, nightlife in Toronto, studio process, DJing, and more. Enjoy.

Hi David, thanks for talking to us today. How has your start to the year been so far and please tell us something interesting about your day today?

Hi and thank you for having me! Well 2024 started pretty well since as you might know my EP “El Cielo” is coming out on Songuara and I have to say, I’m really excited about it. n the performance part, I’m pretty busy since I’m literally DJing from Monday to Saturday every weeks!

What’s a piece of music (not your own) from 2023 that had the biggest impact on you, and what makes it outstanding for you?

There is a lot amazing pieces of music that have been created last year, so it’s very difficult to only pick one. But I would have to go with “Volen Sentir & Makebo - Into The Stars”. I think this piece of music shows how to keep it simple and yet be a track that I still play nowadays during my gigs.

What was the music genre you discovered first before you turned to electronic music, and what made you continue with the latter?

I used to listen to “The Red Hot Chili Peppers” a lot! My favourite album is “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”. I could just hit play from track 1 to track 17 and let the album play. Later on my older brother started to go to clubs, and that’s kinda thanks to him that I literally felt into electronic music.

What are some of your best memories from first going to clubs? Were there specific nights or sets that really made you feel you wanted to pursue electronic music?

I own a lot of vinyls since I started to DJ when I was 16 I think. Back in the day there was no controller or SYNC button lol, I owned two Technics SL1210 MKII and a Ecler Mixer. For my birthday my brother bought me some vinyls and one of those was “Kerri Chandler - Rain EP” on Nervous Recordings. The same night Kerri was playing in Paris so we went right after the restaurant, so I was with my vinyls bag at the club. I then came up to Kerri and asked him to play Rain, and he told me he unfortunately didn’t have the vinyl with him. Well I had it so I gave him the brand new vinyl my brother bought me, and he let me play it, then he signed it. I still have this vinyls by the way :)

Take us through a typical day when you’re not traveling, what does a day in your life look like?

As mentioned before, I’m playing almost every night of the week, so during the day I basically seek for new tracks. After that I usually work in my studio on some new productions ideas.

How did growing up in France influence your music taste and direction? Or did it all? And who were some French artists and DJs you looked up or were inspired by when you first discovered electronic music?

Growing up in France has been a blessing because when I felt into electronic music, it was exactly at the moment when the “French Touch” emerged. Artists like Daft Punk, Bob Sinclar, Sebastien Leger have been a huge influence. I actually all the EP that Thomas Bangalter and Guy Man released on their labels (Roulé and Crydamour).

You relocated to Toronto, Canada somewhere along the way, how would you say nightlife differs from Paris to Toronto?

It’s really different… and haven’t been easy for me since Toronto is more a Hip Hop city. When I arrived, most of the night club used to play Hip Hop or Top 40’s music… So not really what I was playing back in Paris.

Toronto is a city that globally is probably best known for a tech house or techno scene, but there is actually a pretty strong organic/deep house presence in recent years. What venues, event companies and local DJs are helping push this sound in the city and what are some of your favourite places to perform and why?

Yes it’s true that’s nowadays, Toronto starts to have a stronger Organic/Deep house scene. “Soluna", which is a supper club in Toronto has helped a lot for developing this scene. Previously a club called “Parlour” was the one I was always looking for, but closed unfortunately. Of course there is also “Coda” but it’s more Progressive House/techno. I mostly got to perform in Supper Club as my style of music fits more.

You have a new EP out this week on Maxxim’s Songuara imprint, please tell us about the release and how it showcases your current sound?

Well I’m very happy that Maxxim and Songuara signed me again. The EP contain two originals tracks “El Cielo” and “A Rose in The Sky”. The first one has more an middle eastern vibe whereas the the second one is more focused on a strong chords progression who evolves during the whole track.

There are also three excellent remixes on the release from Eduardo McGregor, Jiminy Hop and N'Pot on the release. How much were you involved in the remixer selection and why do you think they were a good fit to re-interpret these tracks?

So I met N’Pot when I was doing a remix for St.Ego on Elebated Records. We exchanged contact because I really like the remix he made for St.Ego. I sent him the A rose in The Sky and proposed him to remix it, he really liked the track so he accepted right away. Eduardo McGregor is really good friend of Songuara so we knew that he would deliver is own vision of the track. Jimmy Hop, is a 3rd of Krasa Rosa and I’m a huge fan of them. I knew that he would do fantastic job.

Staying briefly on the subject of remixes, when you are offered a remix, what do you look for in a particular project which makes you want to do it?

I have to like the original track. If I don’t feel inspired, I prefer not to do it. If I like the track, I’m trying to see what can I add to it in order to give my own interpretation.

Songuara is a label you’ve released with before, initially as part of their Tales series in 2022 and with a full artist EP, what makes the label such a good home for your music?

Songuara for me is probably the best label in Organic. Maxxim has this talent of choosing the right tracks, the right artist, and literally sometimes during my set I realize that I’m playing 30% of their catalogue lol.

Let our readers inside your studio for a moment, what is your current setup and what studio tools are featured heavily in your recent productions and more specifically on your Songuara EP?

So I turned my spare bedroom into a studio. It has been a challenge since the acoustic was crap. I had to heavily invest in acoustic treatment.
Beside that my set up is pretty straight forward:
- Ableton Live 11
- Push 3
- Moog Subsequent 25.
I actually used the Moog to make the lead in both “El Cielo” and “A Rose in The Sky”. Regarding the software synth I use a lot Arturia and Diva, but I think everybody does lol.

You’re a resident at some pretty upscale venues in Toronto, Maxime’s, Soluna, Sofia and more. Tell how you approach programming a set for these venues as opposed to a more traditional club space.

My goal is to make people discover new tracks, new artists. I usually start my set with more “dinner vibe” in order to set everybody in the mood. Later on I like to go a little bit more upbeat, but I don’t have a pre set “Playlist”, I go with the flow.

Let’s continue talking about DJing a bit more, tell us about your approach to DJing. What can people expect when they go to see you perform at a club?

I actually wanna try something new lately. Since I upgraded with Push 3, which is a standalone version of Ableton, I’m actually working on a live set in order to include some live instruments while I dj.

How much prep do you put into the tracks you choose to play? Or are your sets totally spontaneous?

It depends, back in the day I was very spontaneous in my sets, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So I’m more in the middle now. I like to have a starting point and go from there. Then it’s spontaneous, but there is so many amazing tracks nowadays that it’s very difficult to remember all of them. So a little of preparation is always a good way to start.

Where do you source the majority of music for your gigs? Is it primarily from producer friends or promo mailouts at this point?

I’m buying all my tracks on Beatport. It’s a real budget since I buy every Fridays the latest releases. I think I spend around US$50 a week. Of course I also receive promotional tracks and I always listen to every of those.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and perhaps also, your work as a producer?
So it’s funny because even if I started to dj before producing music, it’s actually when I started to produce music that I changed my way of dying. Producing music, actually make you be a better dj. Having the knowledge of music theory, delivering a clear mixdown and a good arrangement is very helpful when you select the tracks you wanna play as a dj.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

In that order :

- Lost Desert
- Volen Sentir
- Maxxim
- Tim Green
- Sebastien Leger

If you are not DJing, producing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

I’m trying to get away from the bad weather in Canada going usually Mexico or Republic Dominican with my girlfriend ;)

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life?

I would probably wanna open a restaurant and book my favourites Dj’s.

Current top five tracks?

Valer den Bit - Feel Me (Original Mix)
Roy Rosenfield - Toco (Original Mix)
Maxxim - Moments of Wonder (Extended Mix)
Domingo + Loveclub - GAIA (Original Mix)
Seth Schwarz - Create the Universe (Original Mix)

What are some of your favourite TV series? Both past and present.

Huge fan of 24, Lost, Prison Break. Lately I fell into Formula 1 thanks to the Netflix tv show “Drive to Survive”. I’m a huge fan!

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Going on vacations close to the ocean with my girlfriend and just enjoying good food.

What does 2024 hold for you in terms of releases and gigs? Anything you can share with us?

I’m actually working on few remixes. I’m also finishing another EP that I hope will be released this year. And as usual I have my weekly gigs who also take a lot of my time.

'El Cielo' is available now via Songuara: http://tinyurl.com/yfvkmawz

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