Definitive recordings has an interesting A&R process. Label head John Acquaviva and label exclusive producer Olivier Giacomotto tour the world, testing out potential new releases in their club sets. Audience reactions determine what gets picked up for release. So it’s no surprise that when John and Olivier had a Definitive label party in Austin and hung out with producer Francis Preve that some shared studio time would lead to some hot tracks. “Get Down” starts off with a subtle house groove which gradually builds in intensity. The “Get Down” chant is not a command, but more of a suggestion that builds with repetition. The bleepy loop that starts about two minutes in slowly becomes the focus as it crescendoes into a monster hook that will get any crowd cheering. “Turn Around” starts off a little more aggressive than “Get Down” and just gets more powerful as it builds into a massive drop-out. DJs take note, here are two tracks that will work in any big room club. Continue reading SONG OF THE DAY: John Acquaviva, Olivier Giacomotto and Francis Preve – “Get Down / Turn Around”
RS: When you work with other people, say Roland Belmares or Joe Bermudez, how do you collaborate on productions? Francis Preve: Well, Ro and Joe are both super-talented DJs, so they come to me with fairly specific ideas about how they want to sound and
my job is to help bring that to life and add my own influences along the way. With Roland, he was really focused on the tribal sound, so my job was to deliver that – though to be candid, I really wanted to take tribal to the next level in my work with him. To some degree, we were able to achieve that with our mixes of Billie Myers “Just Sex” and Amber’s “Just Like That.” With Joe, it’s much more of a collaborative process since we’re both listening to a lot of European electro and tech tracks. Basically, he calls with a mix and visits Austin and we spend a few days listening to the tracks we’re spinning and create mixes that will flow seamlessly into our sets. I create all the musical parts and sound effects and some of the beats in Live and he makes suggestions along the way. He has an awesome ear for what will work on the dancefloor.? Then he takes that, embellishes the beats and does the arrangement in Pro Tools. Other times, it’s a long distance project where he’ll send me the parts – vocals and such – and then I’ll just do the track in my studio and send him the parts to finalize the arrangement. We used that technique on Hilary Duff’s “Stranger” and it came out great, in my opinion.
RS: You’ve also done several solo remixes – including a really cool discohouse take on Gabriel & Dresden’s “Tracking Treasure Down.” I’ve read that you are working with Organized Nature (their label). How did you meet up with Josh and Dave? Francis Preve: Josh and I met at South by Southwest back in 2000, when we were both on a panel discussing music technology and production
tools. We totally hit it off and have been friends ever since. I’ve gotta say it, Josh Gabriel is one of the kindest, wisest and most talented guys in this industry! A true genius. When “Tracking Treasure Down” was coming out, he called me to see if I’d try my hand at a remix. I cleared my calendar and did the most concentrated work I’d ever done. It really paid off and they asked me to do a mix for “Dangerous Power” which is available on Beatport as well. Josh has really encouraged me to develop the “Francis sound” and I’m working on some original tracks for Organized Nature that hopefully will be released in the next few months.
RS: It sure is hard to pin you down to one sound. Your sounds range between electro (Jacinta remix), discohouse (Gabriel & Dresden), tribal (collaboration with Belmares), and pop (collaborations with Bermudez). How would you define the Francis sound – or is there one? Francis Preve: That’s such a tough question. For me, it’s all about the love of music itself. I listen to absolutely everything – from Om to Toolroom – and I’ve been programming/producing since I was a kid, so when a new subgenre pops up and catches my ear, I dive into it and
figure out the exact sound design and groove techniques that define the sound. In fact, for Jacinta, I just called her and said that I couldn’t figure out whether to make “Can’t Keep It A Secret” a sexy classic house groove or a hard electro jam. She said, why not try both and we’ll put ’em both out? So I did.
That said, there’s also a sound inside of me that fuses all of my influences into something that blurs the lines between the various subsets of house and trance. In that sound, there are elements of progressive, tech house, some electro, some glitch and some soulfulness that is often missing from the more obviously electronic styles. It’s a totally organic process that involves being truer to my internal musical compass, rather than just cashing in. I really hope that comes through in the tracks I’m working on. Time will tell…
RS: That’s really cool. I think that flexibility and able to handle many genres is the sign of a talented musician and someone who will be around for a while. Does this same flexibility apply to your DJ sets? What kind of music do you play in your live sets? Francis Preve: When it comes to DJing, that’s where the focus really shines through. I only started DJing a year or so ago and it’s really helped me to zero in on the music that moves me. When I’m doing a set, I only play tracks that I love, which can be a little risky, cause if the crowd doesn’t dig it, it’s really hard to not take it personally. Fortunately, people have really responded well to my sets. Touch wood. I play a lot of European and/or underground stuff like Dave Spoon, Mark Knight, Nic Fanciulli, Jimpster, Deadmau5, Richard Dinsdale, and such. I’m really getting into Switch – and that whole “fidget house” subset these days. He’s my new favorite ’cause his mixes are so thoroughly insane, sonically.
RS: On that European tip, you are working with Joe on a remix of a new Martijn Ten Velden. Do you approach a European record any
differently than you approach a US project? Francis Preve: Sort of. It’s really important to treat artful underground tracks with a lot of respect. I hate when a great track gets cheapened by a by-the-numbers mainstream mix. So when Joe and I tackled Martijn’s “I Wish You Would,” we really wanted to deliver a mix that Martijn himself would dig, but that still makes sense for the US market. We also just did a mix for (John) Creamer’s next single that’s really unique, combining elements of tech, electro and retronica 80s sounds. I’m loving that one right now.
RS: Speaking of retronica, you have an interesting link to the Scissor Sisters. Care to share? Francis Preve: Wow. You really do your homework, Ron! My first bandmate and best friend in high school was Brendon Sibley, who you might remember from the remix team Nikolaos & Sibley. We had a band called Sons and Lovers, that was managed by Neil Harris. Then Neil managed my boy band “Beat Goes Bang”. When he moved to ffrr, he signed me to that production deal I was talking about earlier. Neil discovered and manages the Scissor Sisters. It’s amazing, he’s really the guy who “discovered” me when I was a kid. We’re still good friends to this day…
RS: When you’re DJing, are you spinning on vinyl, CD, or laptop? Francis Preve: Laptop. It’s really the future of DJing, though I have much respect for the history of the art. So many of the top guys have switched to laptops and Ableton Live – Gabriel & Dresden, Paul Van Dyk, Pete Tong, Sasha – it just makes for a cooler set, since you can do so much more with the tracks.
RS: Do you ever get resistance from other DJs, for using a laptop? Francis Preve: Sometimes. But really, it’s the year 2007. I don’t ride a horse to work anymore either.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there? Francis Preve: Honestly, I just want to thank the people out there who understand what I’m trying to accomplish musically. I mean, without an
audience supporting you through your gigs and remixes, where are you? I am so grateful to these folks, because they make me possible. And to all the budding remixers and DJs out there… Do not be afraid to follow your dream, despite all the challenges. Every dance artist who has made it has done so by simply staying true to their own dream. Stick with it long enough and you will succeed.
Making the move from writing to DJing and producing may seem like an odd transition, but when you consider the career arcs of Dave Dresden, Bill Coleman, and Joe Bermudez, it starts to make more sense. As contributing editor for Keyboard magazine and writer of three books, Francis Preve covers the latest technologies. As a sound designer for Korg and Ableton, he creates the sounds that other producers use. As a producer, he has worked with circuit DJ Roland Belmares and commercial DJ Joe Bermudez. With a diverse range of styles from tech to discohouse to pop, Francis Preve is one to watch as a rising star in the electronica world set to explode on the international scene.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Producer. Musician. Writer. Remixer. Programmer. How did you get started in the music world? Francis Preve: My first break in the music world, as such, was in a boy band during the 80s called “Beat Goes Bang.” We had the usual label-inflicted horror stories and ultimately broke up, though we did have the dubious distinction of performing the theme song for “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” – a cover of Tommy James’ “Dragging The Line.” That experience taught me tons of things about the music industry and made me realize that focusing on remixing and production was more in line with my musical meanderings.
After that, I took a few years off, then snagged a contract with London/ffrr records, doing remixes and production under the name 1926 Productions (with hip-hop producer Jeremy “Cochise” Ball). At London, I ended up working on remixes for Orbital (“Lush”), Utah Saints (“What Can You Do For Me”) and a hip-hop group called “Poverty.”
Then during the 90s, I took a detour through the music technology industry. I’d always been obsessed with synthesizers and sound itself, so after being approached by NemeSys (now a division of Tascam), I took the position of Program Director and helped them to develop and market their PC-based software sampler, called “GigaStudio.” After they were purchased by Tascam, I got back into music production and remixes, and here I am now.
RS: What inspired you to start producing dance music? Francis Preve: I grew up on 80s dance music like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and New Order. So it was sort of a natural outcome of that. I remember hearing house for the first time. Tracks like “Baby Wants To Ride,” “It’s Alright,” and “That’s The Way Love Is” and fell in love with the combination of soulfulness and technology. I was very young at the time and it all made a HUGE impression.
RS: You are definitely a proponent of pushing the boundaries of technology with music. Tell me about some of the work you’ve done with Ableton and Korg. Francis Preve: Well, since 2004, I’ve been one of the principal sound designers for Ableton, designing a huge portion of the synth sounds, drum kits, and effects presets that ship with Live. I love that shit. Just sitting in my underwear at 2 AM, thinking “Oh this sound would be cool in a dance track” and helping musicians and producers make their own tracks.
In 2006, Korg approached me about contributing a bank of sounds for their PolySix software synth. Since I was an owner of the original analog hardware version, that was a no-brainer. They liked those sounds, so they added me to the team that developed the sounds for the MonoPoly softsynth and their flagship mondo synth, the OASYS.
It’s funny, ’cause Ableton is my favorite software company and Korg is my favorite hardware synth company. I definitely don’t take that stuff for granted. I’m very very lucky to be able to do this kind of work.
RS: In your quest to help musicians and producers, you’ve also written books and for the magazine Keyboard. Do you think writing influences your production or your production influences your writing? Francis Preve: That’s a tough question. See, when I was growing up, I really didn’t have any resources to learn sound design, so I had to rely on Keyboard magazine – and trial-and-error – to learn the craft of creating dance music. I read every issue cover to cover multiple times, so it all came full circle when Keyboard approached me in 2000 to do reviews and write tutorials. It might sound silly or uncool, but it’s such an honor to be able to give back to the dance community by giving away my bag of tricks every month. The free software doesn’t hurt either (laughs). Basically, the two aspects – writing and production – dovetail nicely.
RS: Your most recent book “The Remixer’s Bible” is a great guide to help up and coming producers and remixers. The book focuses on Acid, Reason and Ableton Live – which begs the question, what software do you use to produce dance music and why? Francis Preve: Generally, I use the holy trinity of electronica software: Reason, Logic, and Live. Though since version 6, Live has become my primary workhorse since it’s so fast and efficient. I can whip up the framework for a track in a few hours using nothing but Live. Of course, having all my favorite sounds in there as presets is incredibly useful too.
RS: When you are commissioned for a remix, how do you approach it? Is there a set method that you follow? Francis Preve: There’s no real set method, as such. I’m a huge fan of house in all its forms – tech, electro, classic, deep – so I generally just listen to the vocal (if there is one) and see where it leads me. That said, I’ve been really focused lately on refining my own sound, taking more chances, rather than just phoning in a track in the “style du jour.”
As for the process itself… Like a lot of remixers, I’ll start with a basic drum groove, lay the hook or vocal over that, and let the rest of the parts come from that organically.