by Stina Isabel Gavrilin
With the return of the Sonic Impact event series to HALL on November 17th comes also the return of the legendary French electro/EBM producer Millimetric (FX) to Tallinn! Supported locally by our very own Tamhiis as well as Sugar Rody and Sofia&Sofiia. Ahead of his LIVE show, FX spoke to us a bit about his production process, new and old technology, and the underground of electronic music.
You’ve been making music under the Millimetric moniker for over two decades now. How much has your way of composing and producing tracks changed in that time?
Today, technology has evolved so much that indeed, my approach to music has also changed. At the very beginning, when I was 16 years old, I used an ATARI computer to sequence machines (which were very expensive) and recorded my tracks on a 4-track tape recorder. At that time, we had fewer possibilities, but I feel like we experimented much more than we do today. The approach to music was much more instinctive and thoughtless. Nowadays, there are so many possibilities (reissued vintage synthesizers, free VST plugins,) that sometimes I feel a bit lost in this vast array of options... that's why I limit myself to certain machines, certain effects... I'm so curious that it's sometimes hard for me to resist novelty... and I don't use (yet) artificial intelligence for creation, which scares me a bit (hahaha).
What do you consider absolutely essential in the anatomy of a Millimetric track?
The starting point of creation is always the emotion of a sound, a voice, a word... After that moment, the construction of a track happens naturally, a bit like in a state of unconsciousness. On the technical side of building a track, I usually start by creating the bassline, and gradually, I build the rest. Beyond the anatomy, what is crucial for me is that the sound doesn't sound too clean, digital, or plastic.
What inspires the themes and topics in your music?
What deeply moves me is what I can see on the news on what is happening today in our world: wars, human madness, injustice, the surveillance of everyone (via technology) that sometimes reminds me of the world of Big Brother. But also, I am very inspired by the themes of old science fiction movies from the 1950s.
Which do you enjoy more, creating music in the studio or performing it live?
These two approaches are very different, but I love both. For creation, you are alone, you start from a blank slate, you try, you experiment, and you gradually build something that you like. For live performances, you use fragments of creations already made to recreate a new adaptation of an existing piece, to share it with the audience, which is, for me, the most important thing: capturing the emotion of the crowd.
Your origins in music are rooted in a scene in which bands and artists tend to be really in touch with the direction that technology goes in, almost on an ideological level. Do you find any inspiration in current technological advancements?
Even though I use a lot of vintage synthesizers today, such as an ARP Odyssey, a Korg MS 20, or a Crumar BIT99, it's hard to resist, as I mentioned in another question, the allure of new technology. Vintage instruments have something that new machines will never have: the sound texture, presence, and imperfections, even though it must be acknowledged that nowadays there are very good reissues of old machines available in the market. I'm particularly thinking of German products like Behringer. It always feels a bit strange to me to connect a USB version of an old synth (laughs).
Since the turn of the century, the “poppier” side of electronic music has seen a shift from futurism to nostalgia. How do you feel about that? Are you a nostalgic person?
The world is made up of cycles: the cycle of a product, the cycle of a trend... It is perfectly true today that we have shifted from a futuristic vision to a nostalgic one, and we can indeed observe it in the sound (such as the reissue of vintage synthesizers and TV series). I think many people are fans of "it was better before." I am a bit like that as well, but it must be clear that the new tools available to us today, in addition to the old ones, allow us to save a lot of time in the creative process. We live in a hurried world, but for me, despite everything, it is important to preserve the value of the past.
Has anything in particular really grabbed your attention in the current underground electronic music scene?
I think the underground scene has never been so vibrant. New producers, influenced by electronic music like new wave, Italo disco, or 80s EBM, are emerging and showing great talent. The rise of labels like Detriti Records, which features original and high-quality artists, is noteworthy. I feel a strong connection with all of this. What has also struck me is the resurgence of old bands, such as the Marseille-based band Martin Dupont (a group from the 80s that has greatly influenced me), which after several decades of hiatus, embarked on a US tour in 2023! It's fantastic!
You played in Tallinn once before, in 2011. How much do you remember of that? Do you know anything about HALL, the venue you’re playing in this time?
Yes, I remember receiving a warm welcome from the organizers and the audience, and I hope they enjoyed my music. I am sincerely very happy to come back to play in Estonia!!! What also struck me was the DEPECHE MODE bar!!! We don't have that in France! I don't know much about Hall, but my friend Bloody Mary, who recently played there, had only good things to say about it!! ;-)
Lastly, because we all love a list, name five of the most important albums for you.
Martin Dupont - Just Because
DAF - Alles ist gut
Liaisons Dangereuses - Liaisons Dangereuses
LFO - Frequencies
Dopplereffekt - Gesamtkunstwerk