“Random Color Swings”
Sound mixed and compiled by Pocket Club
Visual interpretation by Marlene Magnoli
Welcome to the new Pluie/Noir podcast series. 9 years after our debut we decided to press the reboot button and return to our roots. With a new format and back to a regular monthly schedule, Pluie/Noir Interscapes will feature audio collages, mixes, live interviews, and live recordings from P/N artists, friends, and other collectives we admire.
For Interscapes 08 we welcome Pocket Club aka Alex Troubetzkoy – the now Paris-based DJ, producer and head honcho of the Pocket Club label – to lay down his pocket of influences over a one hour mix full of versatility and heaps of blues. Gorgeous illustration full of fauna and flora by the talented Marlene Magnoli aka Mlen Draws. We interview both for the occasion:
INTERVIEW — ALEX TROUBETZKOY aka POCKET CLUB
Hi Alex, such a pleasure to have you at P/N. How have you been?
Hello Bruno! Such a pleasure and honor to be part of the Pluie/Noir podcast series as well; I’ve been a big fan for quite a while now. I’m alright, the past few months have been very calm but pleasant! I love winter as it’s always the perfect excuse to stay in and create, trying not to overthink the other reason we are all locked inside.
The current pandemic has proven quite challenging for the music business as a whole. Considering you are both a DJ and a promoter and record label owner, how did it affect your work?
I’ve spent the first lockdown in Bucarest, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t find a sane rhythm during this period, so I moved back to France at the end of it last summer. I always thought everything would be alright if something like a pandemic happened, as my days were already spent at home making music. But my studio wasn’t at home anymore, and it was complicated to go there every day. So, in the end, it wasn’t an easy period for me, mentally and creatively.
When I arrived back in France, I stayed at my parent’s place in the countryside next to Paris. Little by little, I found my balance again — I mean, as much balance as one can possibly get considering the current situation. Being out of town has its ups and downs as well, but right now, it’s working pretty good, and the creativity came back too, so … 🙂
“I always thought everything would be alright if something like a pandemic happened, as my days were already spent at home making music.“
How have you been using your time?
Well, I made some music… then I made some more music, and now I guess I will go make some music again! I’m also playing guitar a lot, which makes me really happy as I’ve missed it so much. I’ve been drawing a little bit, walking in the forest, and I’ve tried learning the trumpet, although this one will take more time than I thought.
You have a particular workflow or focus when making music?
I’m not sure; I guess it depends on the kind of music I’m making. For dance music, it’s a lot of trial and error – plugging in anything into everything in a search for inspiration in sounds, textures, machines… I create a soundscape or a beat following this ambiance and dress it accordingly. Then, I’ll try to arrange in the most musical way I possibly can.
When it’s not about club music, it’s different, as I don’t count as much on the « randomness » of things. It’s way more about composition; I usually have the main idea already in my head before starting, what kind of colors, chords, melodies I want. Sometimes I’ve had a track in my head for an hour, or even years, which makes it pretty special when it finally comes out! I then write the part for the instruments, record them one by one, and once I have a good structure, I get into the details, transitions between elements, etc.
“”Pocket Club” is literally the club of influences in my head, so there will be different recipes where some take the lead more than others, depending on the EP.“
Last year was also the year you’ve released your first record on your imprint “Pocket Club.” What are your plans for this project?
The idea behind Pocket Club is really to mix all my influences. “Pocket Club” is literally the club of influences in my head, so there will be different recipes where some take the lead more than others, depending on the EP. There are no limitations, really. Electronic, jazz, trip-hop, experimental, bossa nova, pop, funk… If I could put all of them in every track, I would, but it’s challenging to do so as I want to keep a certain balance, so yes, the ratios are changing.
The first EP was electronic; now I’m preparing the second one, which will be a lot more acoustic-driven. I will let it speak for itself as it should be out in a couple of weeks! I will make a few more EPs as Pocket Club to set the tone. Then, I will release music from some of my friends. And little by little, I wish all of this ends up in extensive live studio sessions between producers and live musicians.
“Some people wouldn’t listen to “this or that genre” for 3 hours straight, but maybe they will like 3 min of it between other genres that are perhaps more familiar to them. “
Why, when, and how did you record this podcast?
I recorded this podcast during the first lockdown, so in Bucarest, last May I think. I wanted to take the label’s identity, put it into a set, carry all the small parts I love about everything, and make a nice collage out of it. It was made like that; I put all the tracks in Ableton and built it like a movie to control everything – transitions between genres, etc. Some tracks play longer than others, depending on what it says and what I want it to say in the mix, kind of like a “best of” radio show.
Also, I think personal mixes like these are a good way of presenting more “difficult” music or sounds to a larger audience. Some people wouldn’t listen to “this or that genre” for 3 hours straight, but maybe they will like 3 min of it between other genres that are perhaps more familiar to them. Right now, I’m working on another set like this, and there will definitely be more and more.
Considering your vast music knowledge and melomanous character, are you also exploring other music genres?
Oh yes! I think that’s the main point. We are not much without our influences, and the more you have, the more colors you add to your own palette. The music I’m making is only an interpretation of all those influences, peoples, instruments. So yes, yes, yes, that’s why it’s a unique and never-ending process. We are never exactly the same one year to another, same for our influences. All those ratios are quietly moving as the seasons go by — the good times, the bad, etc. — leaving an endless amount of music to be done.
Short, medium, and long term goals for 2021 and beyond?
Although I don’t want to put a time schedule on this, I started to record my first album, so this would be a nice 2021 goal: finish the album! And a couple more EPs. Later I would like to start composing music for films, hopefully with more and more musicians, and continue making albums, always changing the ratios… Fowever (as a french would say).
INTERVIEW — MLEN DRAWS aka MARLENE MAGNOLI
Hi Marlene, such a pleasure to have you at P/N at last. How are you holding up?
Hi Bruno! I’m good, thanks, and really glad to be here!
Are you keeping active & creative? Was this period life-changing at any level to you?
Especially now, it is hard to stay active and creative (or at least partially). I go through phases; sometimes I’m full of creativity, but sometimes I just hang there. It is challenging to find new inspiration, and I try to bring a lot of variation these days (with moderate success, haha). Then, 20 ideas come at once, and I have to think about how I can work through them!
I finally found the time to try new things out. And I’ve wanted to try some of them for quite some time, like screenprinting. It is for sure not on a professional level, but at least it is fun and artisanal.
“I go through phases; sometimes I’m full of creativity, but sometimes I just hang there.”
You moved to Berlin a few years ago. Do you still find Berlin and its music scene inspiring? What is inspiring you the most lately?
Absolutely. At the moment Berlin is, of course, very constrained. But it’s still the Berlin I got to know almost 10 years ago – not exactly, but almost. There is no other place where I can hear so much good music and meet so many exciting artists. Berlin is simply alive. It is a bit difficult now, but so many still make the best out of it and do what they can to keep the scene alive – like streaming their sets to virtually bring people to dance in their homes.
Lately, I’ve been listening to more music to feel inspired. In the past, it was traveling, sitting outside in nature. Going out. Living. Nowadays, it’s more the little things: cooking things I never cooked before, searching for music I never heard before…
You’re regularly illustrating for the Huhlamb imprint. Do you like doing client-specific works? Do you live from illustration alone?
I regularly illustrate the covers for Hushlamb. It is an enjoyable recurring project because their ideas combine very well with my ideas and style and the music they release! I’m delighted to illustrate for them for so many years, and I think it’s still a perfect fit. Working under client specifications is not so much what I do these days. Instead, I work freely, illustrate whatever comes to my mind. I work for others (illustration-wise) only when it really fits my style.
I’m not a full-time illustrator. I’m a daytime software dev and a nighttime/every time artist. For me having both is really important. Both are creative work: one more technical, the other more free and visual (or even acoustic). The results of my free illustration projects (projected on textile and paper) are also available on Etsy.
"I'm doing some experiments here and there and have turned some of my illustrations into patterns."
One of my current projects is creating patterns for textile printing. I’m doing some experiments here and there and have turned some of my illustrations into patterns. I then print these into the fabric and sew them (not by myself – sadly, I can’t sew anything). Thus far, I’ve printed 3 patterns on 3 different garments (hoodie, bomber jacket, and light scarf). I especially like the print on a slightly shiny fabric like the “Quagga Bomber Jacket” – this is made with duchess satin. I also sell the jackets on request; these are then produced in a single edition. I’m still thinking about how the whole thing can be serialized without having to do individual editions — I hope to work together with manufacturers one day and solve this issue. For the moment, I will continue to design more patterns and print them in single editions, in whatever shape comes to mind (which, of course, manufacturers could too) 😄
What are your techniques? How do you go from primary draft to final piece?
Most of my illustrations are hand-drawn, scanned, and then digitally colored. However, I also started drawing digitally, which means I draw on the tablet and colorize them. Sometimes an idea just comes to my mind, and I immediately begin to draw. Usually, I like to do a little research before I draw – how things should look exactly, etc. – because I’m very detail-oriented when it comes to illustration. When the project is more complex, I make a little collage of whatever I find on the internet and use this as a base to start drawing.
“Most of my illustrations are hand-drawn, scanned, and then digitally colored.”
Tell us more about “Pangolin Color Swing”? What was your creative process, and how did Alex’s music inspire it?
I started listening to the mix, got a glass of wine, and began by picking up an illustration from my archive. The decision fell on a pangolin I had drawn about 3 years ago; A pangolin with many eyes, lots of botany and mushrooms, and a colorful environment. This was the starting scenario.
Alex’s set has something melancholic and surreal in it. The illustration seemed to fit perfectly. While listening to the mix, I started to work on it further: Changed colors, repeated patterns, took another sip of wine, shifted layers, and so on, until the final result you see was achieved.
I had seen your live act back in 2018. Are you still actively making music too?
I am a little bit, although not as much as I was back in 2018. I’m currently more focused on illustration, but I finished an EP this year which will be released on the 26th of April on Ukiyo music. I plan to do more in the future, somehow. I’m also planning a new live act!
Short, medium, and long-term goals?
Uff. Survive without getting mad!