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Presia [Interview]

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Burgeoning French talent Presia has carved out a unique sonic identity in the world of electronic music and indie dance, resulting in a string of uniquely crafted records that present a resonant worldly sound. Hailing from the Alpine town of Annecy, Presia's musical palate takes reference from a legion of genres across the industry's vast spectrum; creating an authentic voice that is discernibly his own. 2022 proved to be a breakout year for the French talent, with a contribution to Isolate's 'Mutations' collection preceding a five-track showcase for the Turkish imprint in July. Support from industry tastemakers soon followed as did an EP for Avidus' Empore Music to end the year. Now, for his first project of 2023, Presia makes his microCastle debut with a four-track showcase entitled 'First Time'.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Presia to learn more about the release of  ‘First Time’, his studio process, musical history, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

Hi Geordie, thanks for joining us. How has the start to the year been for you and what are your plans for the coming week?

Hello, thank you for the invite and for the warm welcome. I spend a lot of time in the studio to finalize the releases planned this year in different labels and I also work on collabs. It's also wintertime here in the French Alpes, so it’s the season of skiing and eating a lot of cheese :) like Raclettes and Fondue Savoyarde which I share with my friends.

First of all, how did you come up with your artist-name? And what musical projects preceded this (if any) and how was the Presia alias born out of your musical past?

The name Presia is the result of an anagram of my family name "Piseri" with the addition of the letter A at the end for some reasons. Between 2000 and 2005, i was in a Post-Rock, Math-Rock band called Cornelio Gama. These progressive rock or post-rock experiences changed my musical approach dramatically (and i discovered Loopstation pedals). It continues to imprint on my electronic-leaning productions to this day. In 2009, I started my first electronic music project called "Winner Louise”, with a sharp focus on French-Touch music. It was my first electronic music gigs experiences. I started with some live performance, without any knowledge of the scene. Then, i started DJing . It was a time that i discovered a completely new music scene. It was in 2016 that I started Presia. It's kind of the logical continuation for me, after having experimented the indie rock and electronic scene, it was time for me to merge my influences and create the project that fit me today.

Which producers/musicians have had the biggest influence on you, electronic or otherwise, and why?

Between 2000 and 2005, I worked as a sound technician at a live music venue in Annecy. There, i was with musicians from amateur to pro everyday at work. It was there that my interest in post-rock, math-rock and electronic music began to flourish. In this period i listened to such bands as The Mercury Program, Battles, From Monument to Masses, June of 44, DJ Shadow, Amon Tobin or Faraquet. I think that these bands or artists marked me in my construction, and that these indie sounds invited themselves and found a place in me that they still keep today.

Let’s focus a little on the scene in France. What are the country’s current musical trends and what’s your part in the scene?

I'm not sure I follow and am really connected to trends. I have to represent a sample of artists who try to propose an authentic and spontaneous music, without worrying too much about the trends. Having said that, we have a beautiful scene and magnificent representatives of electronic music here in France, from different generations and various styles.

If you were a tour-guide, what would be the clubs you’d take the people and what local DJs do they need to hear?

To be honest, I feel more connected to Berlin's club culture, because like many, my trips to Berlin and my time in places like Sisyphos, Club Der Visionäre or Katerblau have marked my journey and sanctioned my love for club culture. I had the chance to live some time in London as well, where I was able to experience some exceptional musical moments at The Steel Yard. In my region, we also have the chance to have super great clubs in Geneva like the Audio Club where I have the chance to play regularly and a little further away in Zurich with The Nordstern for example. Many good DJ's are to be discovered here but if I had to propose a discovery of an artist, I would take you to listen to Carla Durisch with whom I actually collaborate on some tracks and who has this energy and this elegance in the mix.

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

I spend most of my free time in the studio but I am also lucky enough to live in Annecy, where nature is omnipresent between lake and mountains. I take advantage of it to do sports and walks with my closest. I also like to contemplate the stars and wonder about our universe.

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

I became interested in sound engineering and production as a teenager. I was playing in a grunge band and I quickly wanted to record our rehearsals. A few years later, I was hired as a sound manager at the Brise Glace in Annecy, a structure including rehearsal room, recording studio and concerts. It was there that I got to know experienced sound engineers and had my first contact with professional recording and production tools. At the time, we were living in the early days of the internet and the only resources available were books and professionals. Today, we have a lot of resources on the internet but I would also advise new producers to connect with experienced people, not to hesitate to try things and to be patient because as in every specialty, it is often the mistakes that allow to progress and to understand.

You have a new EP ‘First Time’ out this week on microCastle, tell us a bit about the release and how it showcases your current sound.

This ep is representative of a period of time, I produced the 4 tracks in a short time, between March and June 2022. These tracks are the reflection of my feelings of this period. For First Time for example, I was inspired by a person with whom I shared a lot of first times. For Brizz, you can say that it is a reaction to the period of confinement and a desire to breathe again.

What does writing a track look like for you? Could you walk us through the production process on one of the tracks from your microCastle release?

I use a fairly direct process, I try to capture the energy and the intention of the moment without thinking too much. My setup is live and allows me to jam with myself. When I feel I have captured something sincere and spontaneous, I record an arrangement. I rarely spend more than 2-3 studio sessions of a few hours per song. Sometimes I start without a rhythm, I try to express what I feel through a melody or a sound ambiance. This is the case for First Time.
And then I go to my drums to play over it and bring a groove.

Which one of the tracks from the ‘First Time’ release is your personal favorite or do you feel tied to the most, and why?

To be honest, I think that this feeling is constantly moving and depends on my moods and states of mind. It's probably because my songs come from genuine feelings and my perception of them, my memory of them is often affected by time and what I've been through since. From a more technical point of view and with a bit of hindsight on these tracks, First Time and Brizz are quite direct and uncluttered tracks, so maybe they travel a bit better in time.

microCastle is a home to artists like Ivory, Mulya, Echonomist, Ditian, Radeckt, Adrian Roman, Upercent and more, what made the label the right home for your EP?

I think microCastle is a place for authentic music, without compromise of trends or fashions. This is evident in the diversity of the artists and releases on the label but also in the strong character and signature of each release. I consider myself very lucky to be in this house, where I think honesty and singularity are essential to be invited.

Let’s talk about production a bit more for a moment, where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play? And was there anything that inspired the tracks which make up your ‘First Time’ EP?

Music production and composition has been a part of my life for over 20 years. Not a day goes by that I don't go into the studio, or record an audio memo, or listen to one of my songs again, music is omnipresent. I often feel the need to go and play music early in the day, and I look forward to it, because I know it has become an outlet for me. It allows me to get out aspects of myself that I have learned to externalize in this way, like an automatism for my body and my head, like a mechanism that has been installed over the years. A bit like practicing a sport or going to a shrink. Every feeling, situation, idea can become a source of inspiration. It is the game of converting an emotion into music or action. In the long run, we don't even pay attention to this mechanism. We act out of pure pleasure, desire, need or automatism.

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite, I think. What marks the end of the process for you? How do you know when a track is done?

I will not proceed completely alone to finalize a track. I think that sharing it with other artists, friends and in the club gives you a clearer idea. It's always hard to be objective about our creations. On the other hand, I try to record my ideas in a short time and quickly record an arrangement right after to keep the initial energy. I usually produce my tracks in a few hours and spend a few more hours in arrangement and mixing. If it doesn't work after these 2 steps I quickly move on to another piece.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you’re satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?

I think like a lot of artists that you feel immediately if a track is nice or the opposite. It's sometimes difficult to let go of an idea that seduced you at the beginning. But in any case, it is essential to let rest a little and to make a new listening a few days/weeks later. This allows to come back with fresh ears and more objectivity on what you have produced. To confirm my feeling, I use to ask for feedbacks from other artists, friends, I mix my track in clubs, I listen to it in different contexts, while cooking, while doing sports, while driving... If the track remains interesting after all this, I go to the mixdown step to try to sublimate the track and these elements. In some cases, I listen to old demos that are a year old or much more and I throw away all but one element of the track that still sounds interesting to me. Then I create a new track around that element.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

I enjoy all the steps but my favorite part is the creative and even recreational part. Again, I think it's really therapeutic to experiment, to go in different directions without being limited to one style and to develop an idea. Setting up a setup that allows for vivid and instantaneous expression can take time. But once in place, it allows you to express yourself freely and play with the spontaneity and sometimes the wonder of a child. The mixing and mastering stages are more technical, but they allow to better understand the production in general and it is also exciting. A step that is less often talked about is the creation of the setup and the layout of the studio. In my opinion, it is essential to take the time to find and develop your own instruments/tools, as well as improve the acoustics of your studio to be as close as possible to what you produce and record.

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

I started playing music live, first in bands for several years, then as a solo artists in clubs with Ableton. It influenced a lot my approach to DJing. For me, it's about creating a longer piece of music, like a live show. Besides, I use my own setup to mix, with effects that I created along the way in Ableton and always with a kind of live approach.

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?

For me the discovery of electronic music and club scene was quite revolutionary in my understanding and approach of music. I first experienced the scene as a drummer or bass player in Post-Rock or Math-Rock bands, styles of music often contemplative where the music proposed is in accordance with the idea of the band and adapts very little to the public. Unlike the Deep-House and Techno scene where I think that the audience, the venue, the dj and the music all play an important role in creating an unforgettable party. It's more of a communion, and maybe less of a show where the audience is more passive. The feeling as a DJ is also unique and for me, the connection with the audience is tenfold.

What would be a musical extravagance for your studio you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?

There are many instruments that make me dream like a Minimoog, a Rickenbacker bass, a Gretsch drum kit, or a wooden snare drum. And also, an open air production studio with a view of the ocean or lagoon. I love audio and vintage gear equipment too, like tape recorders or Neve consoles.

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?

2-4pm Wesseltoft & Schwarz
4-6pm Rivale Consoles
6-8pm Elif
8-10pm Jennifer Cardini
10-00pm DJ Koze

What artist would you want to play a b2b-set with and where?

With Marc Wolf at Luna club

Outside of electronic music what genres or bands do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy every kind of music I must say. In every genre I find something I like. But I am more sensible to Indie/Post-Rock and groove or instrumental music. Some bands/artists I really like: Toe, The Medication, Civil Civic, Al Pagoda, Yussef Kamaal, Domi & JD Beck to name a few…

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

Step across the Border is a documentary movie about Fred Frith, a musician specialized in improvisation from the 90’s that i recommend. The way the movie director looks at the musician and the way he shows him in his film was original and very singular to me. I remember that it open my eyes on another side of music, and maybe art in general. The fact that there is no limit to express yourself and also the fact that there is an infinite number of ways to express and feel music.

If you could travel anywhere for one day, all laws and limitations void, where would it be ?

I think I would like to travel in space-time with the ability to move instantly in the infinitely large and infinitely small.

What is one superpower you would like to have and how would you use it?

I would like to be able to access the cellular level to fight diseases and enemies of the living.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

Some new releases coming soon on greats labels like Art Minding and AOC, and others are actually in discussion. I am also working on collaboration at the moment with amazing artists and friends. It’s another way for socialising, something i discover and i think it is a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone.

'First Time' is available now via microCastle: https://bit.ly/3LRckkI

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