Alan Briand AKA Shelter is a artist, active both sonically and visually. His music has been released by labels such as Uber, Plaisir Partage, and International Feel. Crafting a modern Exotica of Post-Italo dances moves, and Post-Wally Badarou Balearica. His designs grace the covers of his own records, and he`s also responsible for the graphic direction of esoteric imprint, Seance Centre. With a second LP, Profondeur 4000, in the shops, care of Growing Bin, and a hand in Strangelove`s recent Arvo reissue, I figured that now might be an opportune time to ask Alan a few questions. To try to get a handle on the ideas behind his sounds and images.
Where are you from?
Where are you based?
I moved to Paris five years ago. I now live in the 11th arrondissement.
How did you first get into DJing and making music?
I started making music and mixing tracks at home, mashing things up in Audacity, I was probably around fifteen. A friend introduced me to Ableton in high school and I then started to make my own electronic music.
Some of your first releases were Jazz-sampling slices of Deep House. What would have been your influences back then?
I was into Moodymann, Theo Parrish, DJ Nature, and Pépé Bradock’s stuff, when I arrived in Paris. With the same friend who had shown me the Ableton software, I started to make more soulful Deep House tracks. He was better than me with the keyboard so I focused on arranging the samples and the production.
I really like that Sandy Traces record you made with Hysteric. To me, that`s proper modern Balearic Beat. How did that collaboration and release come about?
I chat a lot with George (Hysteric) on the internet. We met through his release on Tanguy’s label, Edit du Plaisir. We both love editing 80’s dance music, and George is a pure mine of frustrated 80’s records that just need a little cut or some extra part added. At first, the Sandy Traces tracks were supposed to be two extra edits for some random label we were selecting for. So we started to work on some Italo tracks and we went a bit crazy on the additional production. We added DX7 parts all over the shop, SH-101 basslines, sound effects, distorted 505 and this annoying flute sample from the EMU II. We ended up with two mixes for both tracks. I spontaneously made a cover that seemed legit and we released it ourselves because the initial label didn’t like it. I’ve been working like that with other people too. I really enjoy these kinds of editing exercises, because you always end up doing things you would never have expected.
Staying Down Under, you recently remixed / edited Arvo for Strangelove. Was that connection made through Hysteric (who also features on the E.P.)?
Yeah. After our little New-Beat-ish Italo collaboration, George presented me to Ben (Stevens) who runs the Strangelove label. He needed an edit with additional production for Arvo. Because he only had a master of the Bikini song, making a dub wasn’t an option. So I tried my best to make it DJ friendly, and a credible 80’s mix to play around with. It’s not radically different but it has a proper climax at the end, an extra underwater break and a lot of subtle details in the mix! I even use my voice to make extra silly background noises!
Solo, as Shelter, your music seems to take Malcolm McClaren & Trevor Horn`s World Music experiments and mix them with Jan Schulte / Wolf Muller`s playful 21st Century ethno-rhythms. What kind of music feeds the inspiration for these tracks?
Not so long ago I was into ethnographic recordings like the Ocora releases, Roberto Musci, field recordings – searching for samples and ideas. Then Library Music became a constant, especially Italian water-related early electronics, Umiliani’s work… I’m also very sensitive to demo-like / odd sounding electronic and tracks that are often considered “happy accidents”, or music that has a displaced element from other genres. The very unique Obatala track on McLaren’s Duck Rock is a great example because it mixes really well these interests that I have. It has something from Dub, melodies that sounds very Pop, this Hip-Hop like overpitched vocal sample, and the overall track feels very relaxed and New Age-y.
Kosmische also seems to be a big influence, is that correct? If so could you give me three of your favourite Kosmische tracks?
Somehow it is, yeah. I’m definitely a Kraut enthusiast, but I’ve never been totally into it. I mean I never intended to make a Prog or a Kraut-like track. It’s more something that creeps into my production. When it’s here I sometimes will go for it, but usually, I’ll try to avoid it. Because most of the time it ends up being cliché, and a repetitive hypnotic mess. I do have some favs like Czukay’s Persian Love, Popol Vuh that I discovered through Herzog’s documentary, Emotional Rescue introduced me to Dunkelziffer three years ago. Their Oriental Cafe track did change the way I make music, I’m pretty sure about that. I love the Wolfgang Barthel comp on Growing Bin, I sampled it several times on Shelter Island. Oh, and the Elektro-Dschungel record that has been repressed recently is going into my all time favs too.
What equipment are you currently using, or is that a secret?
I know some people that are bound to a piece of musical equipment. I’m not. I like using Ableton because I know how to use it, basically. I do have a thing for analog time-based gear though. It’s messy and it creates that weirdness in the mix that I love. The same thing that can also ruin your phase. I often use the roughness of these machines to anchor a melody or a rhythmic thing. I don’t collect synths, but I already had the occasion via friends to work with classic gear like the DX7, DSS1, Dynachord effect rack… I use an SH-101 because a friend lends it to me too. It’s quite intuitive to use and really fun for FXs. I don’t mind an MC 505 sampled drum machine or a fake Moog VST if it sounds good enough.
Your tastes seem pretty diverse. Could you give me five tunes that we could expect to hear in your current DJ sets?
I do have We Are Franck Chickens by Franck Chickens on my USB stick, but there are actually a good amount of nice tracks on this album, so I bring the vinyl with me when I can. It’s a good use of record space in a DJ bag!
That silly dance mix of the Twin Peaks Theme (featured at the end of Alan`s podcast – please see below). I’m looking forward to closing a set with this one.
This MAS 2008 track that sounds like a wonky yet catchy Drexciya.
When I can, I drop a Captain Ganja or two.
Oh and Cosmic Surfing will always be on my stick. I`ve not managed to bang one yet.
Do you have any residencies or regular DJ gigs?
Unfortunately, I don’t. I used to organise club parties with my mate, and was playing there, but I’ve been focusing on making music recently. I’m still DJing here and there, mostly in Paris, nothing pro. I do need to work on that a little bit more because I truly love mixing and I wish I could practice more.
Can you tell me more about your involvement in L’international Records, and Dave and Master Phil?
Well, the shop is now called Bigwax Records. It moved four months ago. We released the Bigmove record for this occasion on Master Phil AKA Tanguy’s label. I work there most of my time. I’m also making music there, surrounded by records! Dave and the shop environment is an incredible source of inspiration. It feeds a lot of my production and taste. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people and have fun, talking about music and more.
How about Plaisir Partagé, the home of some your most sought-after releases? Are you involved in the running of the label?
We created Plaisir Partagé three years ago to release my first maxi, but we always intended it to be Tanguy’s label. I did help him to set things up by providing mastering, artwork, and maxi material, but I don’t see myself as a co-founder of the label. Mainly because it’s a one-man job.
Can you tell me more about Profondeur 4000? How did you hook up with Basso and Growing Bin, and what did you find so inspiring about Jean Faurez` documentary of the same name?
P4K emerged from a massive pile of demos I made in late 2016. I was fascinated by that twelve LP box set by Vinyl On Demand called American Cassette Culture. It’s a big collection of tracks released on rare tape between 1971 and 1983. I kept listening to it via Dave, and my roommate of the time. who bought it back in 2015. On it I discovered K Leimer, Don Slepian, Marc Barreca, and somehow it allowed me to make more weird sounding stuff – off-tuned wonky and more spontaneous tracks. The cool thing about this box set is that they don’t provide any visual cue point for the music. It’s pure post-modernist dryness, Helvetica on white paper. So suddenly I was making an abstract soundtrack, music that came from no movie. At the same time, I found a PSS 380 FM synth in the trash bin that I immediately cleaned and hooked up to my delay and started recording hours of… abstract trash: I had to filter out the high frequency of the FM synth because it was really inaudible, and somehow it gives the tracks their underwater feel. And here comes the idea of Profondeur 4000, a name that sounds like a random french Library record – like Montparnasse 2000 – and that happens to be a 1955 black and white short documentary about subaquatic life and oil drilling. Unfortunately, the film is nowhere to be found, I sent a few emails to Faurez’ relatives but I haven’t had any answers so far. Because Growing Bin was one of my favourite labels at the time, I decided to send Basso an email with forty tracks. During one year he helped me construct an album from that collection of demos, and create a proper alternative soundtrack for this as yet unseeable movie.
I`m assuming music scenes of all kinds are extremely healthy in Paris. For you where would be the key places to listen to, dance to and buy – other than Bigwax Records of course – music?
For me, It’s really more about the people. Places are only interested in profit…the LYL Radio team has been doing a great job at providing an accessible channel for Parisian music selectors and musicians. The Antinote crew and Bruit De La Passion are also a really positive influence here. If you are in Paris and searching for records you definitely have to check DDD Records, Betino’s, Superfly, call Vincent Privat, or go to Saint Ouen Flea Market.
If you are searching for clubs you can check La Java, or La Station. They often have an interesting lineup. I can recommend 9B Bar, Le Cannibal, or La Rotonde Stalingrad for a casual night. But be careful because the interest in those places is subject to change. Paris is expensive to live in, and musical niches are not that profitable.
I also wanted to ask you about your graphic design. Your work has appeared on the sleeves of most of your own releases, and you have an on-going collaboration with Seance Centre. I was wondering 1. which artists have impacted your designs? 2. How did the hook up with Seance Centre happen? 3. Are you working for Seance Centre exclusively, or open to offers?
I’m so glad I sent an email to Invisible City Editions two years ago. This collaboration with Brandon Hocura is the most rewarding work ever. I have a graphic design background. I came to Paris to study print and graphic design. So when I saw a message on their group board about a new graphic designer I immediately sent them my website. Because Brandon and I both have a sensibility towards book design and the work of Jan Tschichold, we decided to think of the label as a book publishing company. And yes I’m open to offers. Right now I’m doing mainly artwork restoration for the repress business, and I’m definitely interested in imagining visual looks for other labels.
I was also wondering if you could give me three record covers that you wished you`d designed, perhaps with short reasons why?
I’m really into artwork that works as a series. For example, the three volumes of Phobiza by RAMZi, whose art comes from the Actual releases on BYG. The originals are awesome looking, but what she’s adding is really clever. Plus it settles a nice visual context for her music. Making her exotic Dub experiments look like Free Jazz. I like the work of The Designer Republic too (Ian Anderson and Nick Phillips). Sometimes it’s just silly 90’s style, but it reminds me the work of Peter Saville or Neville Brody. I discovered their work at school, through a rare type design magazine, and more recently I stumbled upon that fake video game cover for B12’s Time Tourist LP. A futuristic Library cover, it obviously contributes a lot to my appreciation of the album! I like the last Aphex Twin E.P. also. It has that layered map artwork from the awesome clip by Weirdcore. Warp included an extra silver foil sleeve in the fashion of the Prospective 21e Siècle series devoted to electroacoustic and avant-garde music. WRWTFWW also did one for Bernard Parmegiani, I think it’s a cool “clin d’oeil” to an impressive collection of striking covers.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2018?
I’m working on some Electro stuff, maybe an E.P. for the winter, maybe a new alias, maybe my own label? I want to explore some different feelings through music, things I would not consider doing as Shelter, the dude who made that Banzawa record. I think it would be interesting for me to take on some live performances with analog gear too, away from the computer. I never really thought my music being replayable, or even sounding different to the studio-produced recording. Probably because I always make music with the actual record in mind. Now I want to try to play live, and make something that says more about me than just what music I like to listen to.
Alan`s also kindly put together a mix for Ban Ban Ton Ton & FM Karuizawa. Plundering a wide range of genres and time-frames, yet creating something cohesive. Starting with soundtrack synth ambience, it slips into serene static. A subliminal, subtracted music of suggestion. Then Mondo Exotica. Theremin-like keys. Modern pieces that update that vibe. Either bubbling, beatless, or running on delicate, intricate, Black Dog-esque rhythms. Organic percussion racing at Drum & Bass tempos. Gamelan chimes, koto tones, and tubular drones forging a heat haze mirage. When it dances it`s a squelchy, mutant Fusion. R2D2 having a conniption fit. Rarities mix with classics. Loon bird twitter accompanies large half-speed bass-lines. Tracks nostalgic for LTJ Bukem`s Looking Good / Good Looking. Their Speed falling into a break-beat driven Pop finale.
Pole – Berlin
Franco Potenza – Pescatori Di Perle 2
RAMZi – Phobiza
Red Cell – Infinite Lites (Primitve mix)
AFX – Untitled (Melodies from Mars)
Paul Williams – The Sirens
Lamusa II – Variatio Ad Absurdum
Enno Velthuys – In The Royal Wood
Unit Moebius – Ecology
Short Term Memory – Twitch & Jerk
EBI – Hi
Eric Vann – Dancing Plancton
Silicon – Rules Of Engagement
Deep Blue – Fantasy #2
X-Pensive – Many Are Called (Gilb’r 96 VIP mix)
D. Twins – Fallen (club mix by DJ Herbie)