There’s something to be said about a musician who can almost effortlessly captivate you within just moments of their sounds gracing your ears. Whether you’re drawn in by the hypnotizing arpeggios, sweeping emotive strings or invigorating bass lines – the music of Laurent Heinrich aka Lifelike can simultaneously serve as the quintessential soundtrack to both a daydream and a night to remember.
With a discography of sonically impeccable original works and remixes drenched in unforgettable melody, its no mystery Lifelike’s approach to music has produced one of the most acclaimed sounds in recent memory – definitive yet timeless.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview him and inquire about his musical beginnings, process of production, inspirations and what the future holds for the France based producer.
Killahbeez: Let’s start with your name; Lifelike. What’s the significance behind it and/or how did you come up with it?
Lifelike: I wanted to do a little remix for myself of a track from Depeche Mode “Master And Servant”. I had sampled a short part in a break of the song where Dave Gahan was singing “Like life” I chopped it and swapped the words round to make “lifelike”, and thought that would be a cool name for my music project.
KB: From doing a bit of research I discovered that you have some classical training in piano and also played bass in high school – how and when did your relationship with samplers, drum machines, sequencers and of course synthesizers begin?
Lifelike: Yes I learned piano for 3 years and had a short career as a bass player in a band at school. It’s when I was playing in that band that I bought an Amiga computer and a sampling cartridge called “perfect sound”. I used music tracker and started to do my own music. It was quite simple at that time with only four tracks and a limited memory. Once you had sampled something in that computer it was never sounding like the source because you had to economise the memory to be able to have enough room to make enough samples to use. But I have good memories of this time. From there I went quite normally to buy a synthesizer to connect to the computer, and that is how I started to compose little tracks a bit more seriously.
KB: How influential would you say your early musical experiences were before you started producing electronic music?
Lifelike: It had and still has a huge impact in my way of seeing music. I still think in terms of doing a pop synth track more than doing something like “techno” if I can still use that word today. But at that time I wanted to do like my idols, the same music, I was sampling Cabaret Voltaire or Simple Minds, or whatever sounded great to use those loops and sound in my little tracks at home.
KB: Being a producer who uses plenty of vintage analog synthesizers, where do you stand on the seemingly endless Analog vs Virtual/VST debate?
Lifelike: Well I use both of them. I bought an Apple Macintosh computer for audio and plugins to open my music to new sounds. And I was amazed to discover that in between all those new software and vst instruments, they both have respective sounds of their own. I was thinking a computer cannot have a special kind of sound, not like an analog synth has, but in fact it has a specific sound, depending on how you use it and how you’re recording your sound. Both analog and digital are great.
KB: The melodies in your music are very distinct – however, in addition to melody and sequencing it’s clear that you put plenty of thought into processing the dynamics of the overall sound of your music – how important would say that aspect of production is in achieving the trademark Lifelike sound?
Lifelike: That’s a great question because you’re hitting a point here that is really important to me. The sound is what makes your production different from another producer, and could give a real value to your work. I take care of my sound in a very strong way.
If I listen to today’s productions, for example, in the Beatport global charts, most of those productions are done on a simple computer, I hear it, the sound is big but… it has no character and is hasn’t been worked in an interesting way. The sound is big because of the computer headroom in terms of computing power.
I think those producers aren’t working that much on composing great songs (many of those tracks in Beatport sounds like horrible 90’s one key one finger triggered), and they aren’t working on getting a great sound with character. They mostly use drum samples that you can find on a sample CD. It’s just bullshit music to me.
I worked on analog recordings in the past, and I learned there how to maximize the sound in order to adapt it to an analog recording, so it’s a completely different approach to producing and doing music. I don’t rely on my computer to do the job like most of today’s producers seem to do. And dynamics isn’t only created by a simple magical compressor connected to your mixdesk; it’s more than this. It’s where the sources come from and how you treat them individually. All those things are making, I guess, my way of processing a mixdown, and I still mix on analog desks, that’s maybe my trademark, in terms of sound I mean.
KB: If you had to narrow it down, what would you say are the centerpieces or favorite pieces of gear in your studio ?
Lifelike: Well I still use an old Emulator IV sampler just because it gives an amazing sound to whatever you sample.
KB: With quite the run of notable remixes in your discography, how do you approach remixes and how does that process differ from producing your on original songs?
Lifelike: I try to give the band or the artist I’m remixing my kind of sound on some ways. They will end up with my influences. The thing I love to do is to play around with those influences. Like with the band Chromeo, I wanted to send them back to 85 by using the same kind of technique in the mix that they were using at that time, like those handclaps with reverb. The main voice even has a reverb on it etc… it’s a lot of fun to do!
KB: On the topic of remixing, how important would you say your remix work has been in the almost exponential rise in your international profile over the last while? What are a few of the favorite ones you’ve produced?
Lifelike: Really important, as it’s the Needy Girl remix I did for Chromeo that really sent me all those new remix proposals right after it was played daytime on BBC Radio 1 in the UK. I think the ones I did for The Presets (This Boy’s In love), Does It Offend You, Yeah! (Epic Last Song) and Chromeo are my favorites.
KB: You’ve often cited much of the Manchester underground scene and many iconic Post Punk / New wave artists such as Cabaret Voltaire and New Order as major inspirations – however, you also mention 80’s Michael J. Fox and James Spader films as sources of inspiration and even released material under the alias Ferris Bueller – how do these particular sources of inspiration translate into your production?
Lifelike: Manchester or Sheffield’s 70’s/80s musical scene are really vital to me. For me it all came out of there, in terms of pop synth music as well as techno music in the late 80/early 90’s. Factory records, Mute and ZTT were THE labels of the 80’s and, they had so many hits in the charts. The best is that it was really good music, no commercial bullshit like today, real artists working hard for their music.
I love New Order. It’s amazing when you think that in ‘83 they were topping the charts with Blue Monday, a track totally produced with sampling and drum machines that sounds still amazing today; it’s a masterpiece. How many electronic records can you still play 25 years after in clubs?
KB: With regards to more contemporary sources of inspiration – who are some artists that you feel are making great music these days?
Lifelike: I’m thinking about that Australian label, Modular. They have that rock’n roll music approach, and damn they are filling the rooms when their bands are playing, and its nothing like PC computer music for geeks. Again we’re talking about real musicians with huge talents. Like Van She, The Presets, Metronomy on Virgin Rec, or MGMT (those are great too) or closer to me, Alan Braxe.
KB: You toured throughout 2008 with some dates in North America and seem to have some pretty busy months ahead with dates in Australia and throughout Europe. Initially coming from a producer background, how does it feel to play your own music during a DJ set and hear the crowd cheer in response?
Lifelike: In America the crowd is really amazing, I don’t wanna hurt any national sensibilities, but they were reacting like hell to our music, I was touring with Alan Braxe last summer for 5 dates and we were really amazed by the fact that they knew all our tracks by heart! They even sung on stuff like “so much love to give”. Next revolution of electronic music will be in the USA soon. You can feel that people have a real interested approach to our music, especially what they call French Touch. And it hasn’t to do with that kind of fashionista or hype, no they really came for having fun, not for showing themselves.
KB: Your upcoming release “Sunset” and “Sequencer” are being released on Alan Braxe’s Vulture Records sometime in February 2009, what can you tell us about these two songs beforehand?
Lifelike: I guess it’s quite a different EP from what you heard before from me, like Discopolis. “Sunset” wasn’t supposed to be on the A-side of the record but Alan loved the track so much that I decided to switch and put “Sequencer” on the B-side. “Sunset” was first an instrumental, and I was thinking why not put some vocals on it, so we contacted Yota. She already had a strong background and experience in our kind of music, and most important of all, a great voice that would suit the project. And it ended up being a vocal track, but still not like a full pop song, I think it’s still a not commercial track. “Sequencer” is more of a classic kind of Lifelike track in terms of style. I don’t have any clue on how people will react to this release. Only the future will tell.
KB: What else does this year hold for Lifelike? What about the future in general? What are some goals you aim to conquer as a producer as your career progresses?
Lifelike: I don’t see things at all in term of goals and a career plan you know… but this year I will have to tour a bit more just because we have quite a lot of requests for that and because it’s the way things seems to go on now for me. I’ll do less remixes because you can never do them all from one year to another. I had my time with that last year, so this year I will concentrate more on my music. I have a project with the band Chromeo as well, a co-production on one track and a maybe quite soon a new EP.
KB: Thanks for the interview and all the best in 2009 & beyond – the success is well deserved.
Lifelike: Thank you
Lifelike has also decided to exclusively share his new track “Sunset” featuring Yota with all our Killahbeez readers. Make sure to support Lifelike and buy Sunset / Sequencer coming out on Monday February 9th.