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Interview: Jacques Renault

Interview: Jacques Renault

Jacques Renault has released on more disco and house labels than you care to mention –from New York’s DFA to French imprint I’m A Cliché; via Matt Edwards’s Rekids and Toshiya Kawasaki’s Mule Musiq. Apart from being a talented musician (he’s mastered everything from the violin to the trumpet and drums), he’s also in demand as a DJ, producer and remixer. Add to that his Runaway project and new label On The Prowl, and you have a real, erm, Jacques of all trades (did we mention he was once a carpenter too?). Aaron Coultate caught up with the man himself to find out more.

You are one half of the Runaway project with Marcos Cabral – how did you guys first meet up?

We met at the Sonic Groove record store in New York, not long after I moved to the city in 2002. I was a carpenter at the time, and every week I’d go to a different store after work in the city. I switched from using Pro Tools to Ableton, and asked Marcos to come over and give me a hand. We made a couple of tracks together and it just grew from there. Now we continue to work together and both have our individual projects going on, which is ideal. Like all good relationships, you need to spend some time apart!

How does the production dynamic between you two work?

Marcos is more experienced and technical, I have a musical background. Working with someone in a production sense is great, because you are hearing different things. I think a lot of Runaway music ends up as this weird blend, because I’m more of a disco house DJ, and Marcos has a freestyle house and techno background.

You guys were pretty prolific in 2009, was that due to a lot of hours in the studio or had you been working on some of this stuff for a few years?

A bit of both really. I went full-time with music about two years ago, which has given me more time to focus on production.

And what made you guys start your own label, On The Prowl?

Starting a label is something we wanted to do for a while. It is Marcos, myself and Dan Hill who run it. Dan is great because he’ll push to get things done on time, so that gives us the structure we need. We are doing it for the love of it, there is not much money to be made in records. It’s hard work.

Where did the name come from?

The name On The Prowl is a bit of a joke, and all of the track titles are jokes really.  But the artwork, everything, is totally basic. You know, guys like Levon Vincent and Jus Ed, their concept is so simple, that New York house thing, and it works.

Have you got many releases coming out in the coming months?

We’ve got a Brennan Green remix coming out, and a Revenge remix as well. We’re also keen to start On The Prowl breaks, with house edits.

“I’ve done some terrible vocal tracks, really embarrassing. I mean, me and Marcos coming up with lyrics, are you kidding?”

You’ve released music on so many great labels – DFA, I’m A Cliché, Mule, Wurst, Rekids, the list goes on… is it hard maintaining all those links?

Often the hardest part is trying to figure out where some music should go. I’ve built up so many great relationships with people at all these labels, I really want to keep working with all of them. I’ve just released an EP on Canyons’ label Hole in The Sky, they are actually some songs I finished a couple of years back.

You are well known for your edits and clever sampling – is that how you started out in production?

Yeah that is how I learned to produce music. I’ll make edits for myself, so I can play them out, and it’s kind of strange to see them get a proper release. But hey, it’s nice to see people get excited about them. I like people who take samples to the next level, make them their own. The Revenge did it, he got the singer from Crazy P on his latest track to sing “Just Be Good Te Me”. It’s a real slow burner.

Do you hope to use vocalists in the future?

I’ve done some terrible vocal tracks, really embarrassing (laughs). I mean, me and Marcos coming up with lyrics, are you kidding? But we are going to be working with two guest vocalists next month. One is a woman we met through our manager. She used to be in a classic house group, but we’re not quite sure what she’s like now, she’s a mother living in New Jersey. We looked up her videos on YouTube and we loved them, and she’s really excited to be working with us so fingers crossed…

Have you been doing much solo work lately?

I recently spent some time working with a band called The Hundred in the Hands, who have just been signed to Warp. It was my first time working with a band, and it was so much fun. They asked me to do a remix and they started playing my version live, which was quite an honour. I ended up working with them for a couple of months, on 7 or 8 tracks. Then they worked with Richard X, Chris Zane, guys like that, and they polished up what we worked on. It’s insane. They’ve got a single, an EP and an album out this year so it’s pretty exciting.

Are you good with instruments?

I started playing the violin when I was 4. My mum used to play lots of classical music around the house, so I was pushed and pushed in that direction. In about the fifth grade I decided I wanted to learn the trumpet. Mum said, that’s fine but you’re not giving up the violin, so I started to do both. I think that was when I first realised, hey, I don’t need to limit myself to one instrument. From there I went on to learn the guitar, bass, drums, keyboard. For the remix I did for The Hundreds in the Hands I played bass, trumpet and strings. I’ve also done some strings for Holy Ghost, although I’m totally rusty, I could be a lot better (laughs).

“A lot of people say I should move to Europe but the truth is I love New York. I get to come home to a great place, I’ve made so many good friends here”

Have you got your own studio?

I’ve been in my own studio since April. It overlooks the Williamsburg Bridge, you can see Manhattan right out the window. (At this point Jacques proceeds to proudly show images of his Brooklyn studio on his phone). How can you not find that inspiring? A lot of people say I should move to Europe but the truth is I love New York. I get to come home to a great place, I’ve made so many good friends here.

Where are your favourite places to play?

Well New York loft parties are hard to beat, and the Brooklyn day time parties in the summer. Plastic People in London is great too, and I love playing in Paris. I’m a sucker for that city. In New York, Paris and London, you will always find like-minded people. Berlin is another thing altogether.

What is your take on the current New York club scene?

I hate badmouthing New York clubs, but they seem to be self destructing with infighting and things like that. But great things have come out of the city this year, House of House, Still Going, new things on Golf Channel. It’s like the disco guys are all heading in a more housey direction. Plus Todd Terry has started playing again, so there is a lot going on.

I used to run a Tuesday night thing with Justin Miller at the 205 Club, and we had we had big names like Horse Meat Disco and Moby play, and the Glimmers boys just came down to watch one night. It was just a small room, but there was a proper sound and a Urei mixer. I’m sad to say we no longer put parties on there…

Whose tunes are you spinning a lot these days?

The Revenge, Still Going, Mark E, Motor City Drum Ensemble… I bought “Raw Cuts 1” two years ago and Marco teased me for playing because it was so loose. But then 3 and 4 came out and he blew up. His Tom Trago remix was great too – he added a vocal and just nailed it. I also find myself playing a lot of older records these days.

Interview: Aaron Coultate