Principleasure speaks loud and clear. He has been doing stuff outside music throughout the global health crisis, and he does not care what people may think of his next album, which promises to see the light of day in September. “It’s just really nice to have it out there at a time when music can be appreciated fully again in a club or screen environment,” says the Los Angeles-based visionary artist, whose unique experimental electronic sound has received great acclaim in recent times. He now presents his new track, Of Love & Loss featuring Mønölitio, included in the same-named EP that will be unveiled on August 2.
He doesn’t feel comfortable with any label when it comes to defining his musical style. “Someone said ‘slow techno’ which sounds a bit wanky, but I probably just prefer ‘electronica’ for now,” says the established artist, who was reborn under the name Principleasure after years in the profession. A new chapter in his career with which he found his way while embarking on other projects such as the creation of Principle Pleasure Studios, while the tools did not stop improving by leaps and bounds. The first clue of his upcoming work, Of Love & Loss featuring Mønölitio, shows where Principleasure’s sound is headed. “I’ve gone more cinematic and soundtrack on this record,” he explains.
After 14 months and with a global pandemic in between, you return stronger than ever to present four tracks, including the soaring vocal track Of Love & Loss featuring Mønölitio. How do you feel?
Cautiously optimistic, relieved, all those things. It wasn’t a deliberate decision to not make any music during this time. It just didn’t feel relevant to release anything given how shit things were looking globally. It was a good opportunity to dive into other stuff too outside music which had been neglected for too long.
These tracks are a preview of your next album, out in September. What can we expect from this new work and what has it meant for you?
Firstly vocal tracks, I’ve known Mønölitio for years, but only started working with him properly by complete coincidence. I’m really pleased with how those tracks have turned out. I’ve also gone more cinematic and soundtrack on this record. Not by design, I just started getting into Kontakt libraries, Eventide reverbs and playing more with live instrument sounds. For the last album, it was all vintage analogue synths and the story was ‘going backwards’ with technology.
On this album, I’m just using the same digital tools everyone else has access to. The difference is these tools have got so much better sounding over the last 2 to 3 years and it’s been awesome to rediscover that. Finally, finishing this album has been a profound personal achievement. I made so many false starts. I don’t really give a shit what people think of it, it’s just really nice to have it out there at a time when music can be appreciated fully again in a club or screen environment.
Hexagonal Dab or Handtwerk, included in your acclaimed first LP, I, surpass two hundred thousand streams on Spotify. And it is that this first work turned into your cover letter was selected as Mixmag's Electro album of the month, topping the Bandcamp’s Electronics chart. Which memory comes to mind when you think of this time? What has changed since then?
Obviously, this was all encouraging and helped get my name out there beyond just an electronic music audience. Since then, Mixmag has temporarily gone out of print which is sad. Bandcamp has grown exponentially and no longer feels like a niche little record store. But mostly that my system of creation has changed completely. It used to be entirely feasible to jump on a plane spontaneously for a weekend and use a studio like Handwerk (the room I recorded much of that album in), sadly that place is no more, and Europe and the United States have largely been out of bounds for the last 18 months. A lot of this album was produced in the early stages on a laptop in my attic.
In 2020, you presented four new tracks under the title of Glasma. 17 minutes of immersive music in which, through Sagittarian Dream or Aurora, you let us know a little more about you and your new stage as an artist. How would you define your sound?
I can’t categorise it easily, not because I think it’s particularly genre-defining – it isn’t, but there isn’t a ready-made tag for it because there are quite a few styles in there and the beat per minute range in the tracks is comparatively large. Maybe that’s a good thing. Someone said ‘slow techno’ which sounds a bit wanky, but I probably just prefer ‘electronica’ for now, because usually, electronica charts are the only ones I look at and buy music from myself as a DJ.
It was when you started a new chapter in your career under the alias of Principleasure that you rediscovered why you had gotten into music and sound design. What do you enjoy the most about your profession? Which is your favourite part of the creative process?
I was stuck in a real rut before I started Principleasure, just really unsure where I wanted to be as a musician or even if I wanted to keep doing it. It was generally a really shitty place. There was a lot of groundbreaking electronic music in the tail end of the 2000s and early 2010s, and then everything just went a bit stale.
Then I moved to Los Angeles and started putting together Principle Pleasure Studios in an old loft. It was one thing to have all that old technology in working condition, but getting everything to sync together and all the sequencers to play in time was a beautiful moment. The groove of the drum machines and the unique idiosyncrasies were exactly as they were in recordings from thirty or forty years ago without any computer emulation. It was magic working like that.
Which are the phases since you have an idea until you materialise it and shape it through sound? Is it a trial and error process, or are you very clear about how you want the result to be?
I usually start out with a clear idea, but the process of bouncing and finalising tracks is pure trial and error. It’s not too different to using a guitar and voice, I suspect. You start an idea, develop it and either keep or shelve it depending on how it pans out once it’s properly arranged or how it fits with the other tracks in the album. Usually, I’ll work in the classic eight-bar loop and keep layering on drums or a melody. By the time I’ve added three or four elements, I’ll know whether it’s worth arranging or not. I don’t usually go back to something, it either works or it doesn’t on the first attempt.
We have listened to your music in such a popular series as Baby. In an era in which social media, streaming platforms and continuous releases are the constant in our lives, being part of projects with such an impact can be a great speaker when it comes to disseminating an artist's work. How do you rate the current music scene?
I’m a bit cut off lately, like most people. My favourite form of discovery was always clubs, particularly in downtown Los Angeles, which had a really vibrant techno scene before the shutdown. I do some digging on Bandcamp and sometimes Beatport, but it’s not the same. I hope all this strife brings some new creativity but at the same time, I’m not holding my breath. There’s a lot of people in a weird space and that’s fine. There will definitely be some form of musical upheaval soon, whether as a rebellion towards major streaming platforms or lack of opportunities in general. Hopefully, that will mean more variety and uniqueness.
Do you have a dream to fulfil? What can you tell us about your next projects?
I really want to do Principleasure live with a drummer or vocalists and some of those synths. For me, nothing comes close to playing live or at second best DJing. Put simply it would be excellent to start touring this thing. Beyond that, of course, working on a good movie soundtrack is an ideal aspiration. I’ve always had music technology projects in the background too, without a doubt I’ll be working on launching something new there soon.
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