Real Talk with Firmin

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Interview by jovoj

FIRMIN is a Belgian DJ and electronic music producer currently residing in Norway. With over 20 years of DJ experience, he ventured into producing successfully in 2023. In his first year, he released tracks on labels like @underground_lessons , @holymountainrecordings @camelviprecords1 @cafedeanatolia

His music is a blissful fusion of organic, deep, and spiritual moods, often incorporating elements and instruments from various cultures such as Indian chants and African grooves. Unbounded by genres or borders, Firmin consistently delivers an evolving groove that invites you to dwell in its richness. Follow him for more exciting releases in 2024

Could you walk us through your creative process as an artist producer? How do you approach the initial stages of a project, from conceptualizing ideas to the final production?

For me usually it all starts with inspiration to create a certain vibe. Once I am clear of which vibe I want to musically achieve I can narrow my choices and my possibilities, such as tempo, mood, instruments and sounds used etc. The limiting of choices is really something that helps me to get the project forward. After that I am focusing on a loop and start to experiment from there. I noticed that I mostly start with drums and percussions adding melodic elements in a later stage. To get from there to a full track I use to record different versions, try different approaches. Main goal is always to keep the track interesting, without disturbing the vibe. I listen multiple times and rework multiple times in order to get the, in my opinion, correct balance between building and releasing tension. When I am happy about the track it is time for the final stages, mixing and mastering.

Many artists draw inspiration from various sources. Can you share some of your key influences that have shaped your unique style as a producer? Are there specific artists or genres that have had a significant impact on your work?

I am raised in Belgium, which is a country that has contributed a lot to the electronic music scene, think for example about New Beat, or labels such as R&S records or Eskimo records, or legendary clubs such as Fuse and Culture Club. Electronic music was the whole time all around me.
When going to school the choice of music you listened to even defined your group of friends you hanged out with. You had people listening to rock and grunge (we are talking about the 90ies here) and people like me discovering the electronic music, house, techno, etc. Between us Compilation CD`s of clubs and labels went back and forth, mixtapes were made, and we all waited on the tip of our chair until we were old enough to visit these clubs and events. As a young adult I started to deejay (end of the 90 ies) and digging for records.

I was later influenced by other Belgian deejays such as The Glimmers (Mo & Benoelie) who were really playing eclectic and destroying borders between genres, with this they introduced a fresh wind in the scene, and all of this was happening in the city I lived at that moment: Gent. From there I discovered deejays such as Alfredo or DJ Harvey for example. I think the influence I got from deejaying eclectic sets and listening to deejays doing the same is somehow also linked with how I make music, and why my music is so diverse. If I like a track I really don`t care which genre I should call it, and that`s also how I produce, I just want to make good and vibey music, people can call it whatever they want

Collaboration is often a crucial aspect of music production. How do you navigate and foster productive collaborations with other artists, musicians, or even other producers? Can you share a memorable collaboration experience that stands out in your career?

Today is really different than let`s say 20 years ago. 20 years ago, I visited a friend and we would jam a bit, press on record when we were ready and then distribute some CD`s to other friends that might be interested. I still remember applying for my first deejay job with a recorded deejay set on a cassette. Since then, with help of internet of course, a lot has changed and the world has become in one way much smaller. Nowadays I can send a file to a friend in Dubai and receive it back the same day with some extra instruments added to it. This can go back and forth for a while and at the end you made a full track together. Collaborations usually starts with contact on SoMe. This can be after showing interest in each others music, or that we are signed to the same label, or anything really. It is just a matter of opening up. And using SoMe I really feel I am part of a community, we can work together, help each other, remix each other, play each others tracks in deejay sets, and so on. A memorable collaboration was with the artist Jovoj, I really liked his release he posted on IG, from there we started to talk, this ended up with making a track together that will be released later this year. We are also listening to each others productions and giving each other tips and feedback. For me this collaboration not only has increased my skills as a producer, it also has grown my self confidence in the music I make.

The music production landscape has evolved rapidly with technological advances. How do you stay updated on the latest tools and software, and how has technology influenced your approach to producing music over the years?

Until a year ago I still made music on a version of Ableton I once purchased in 2010 or so. Last year I updated this version and also have some tools of course that are modern or new. However I think to create quality music you don`t need much equipment these days. I know these days a lot of people are working with Serum or Diva as main synth, and I use Diva a lot myself as well, and it surely has its advantages, however, the sound of the synths that are standard in Ableton have a high standard as well. People could just buy ableton and make an outstanding track without any other equipment. I am convinced technology is there to help, but technology in itself will not create a good piece of music. To create a good piece of music you need inspiration to start, hard work and I would say endurance to lift the project to a higher level. Most important is that you come with something creative, something new. To obtain that, in my opinion, you don`t need all this fancy stuff. It is better to focus on what you can bring on to the table, which story that you are able to tell than on what your DAW can bring.

The music industry can be dynamic and challenging. What are some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced as an artist producer, and how have you overcome or navigated through them to continue evolving in your career?

Promotion as an artist is always a challenging topic. Promoting music versus creating music is something completely different and is also something that asks a totally other set of skills. Besides this I think 20 years ago promotion was not necessarily easier, but was more based on quality. Of course you still needed your network and the correct contacts to start, but after that more and more quality became important. Quality spoke for itself by way of speaking. If you deejayed very good, or if you made a very good track, people would notice you. That could take some time, but still. Nowadays it is completely different, you can make a very good track but when your label and yourself are not good at promoting it on SoMe almost nobody will listen to it, or you need to be an already well-established name of course. On the opposite if you make something completely average, but you have a huge promotion behind you, your track will get played and sold. This than again will push some algorithms and so on. All this gives me sometimes a feeling of unfairness.. But at the end today as an artist you don`t have much choice, if you want your music to be heard, (something I believe all artists want) you need to somehow also promote yourself. Labels and communities can help of course, but still how many top electronic music producers can you name that are not posting almost daily on Instagram? It is something that I needed to learn and still learning (I only have an IG page since October last year). But at the end it really helps also. You get remix requests, you get more plays, you are part of a community etc.

Among all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that holds a special place in your heart? Could you share the story behind it and why it stands out as a particularly meaningful or rewarding experience for you?

I would say my first release on Underground Lessons. I had just produced for ca 6 months or so and increased my level a bit, and wanted to release a track. I remembered I had played at the same bar as one of the bosses of Underground Lessons for ca 10 years ago (Dj Leoni). After some time I finally dared to contact him to ask if he would listen to my music. Luckily he remembered me and gave it a listen and later also gave me the opportunity to sign my first track on a shared release. After that he also started the label Holy Mountain Rec. An organic house label on which I have several releases and a label that also give me the time to evolve and build on my sound. I am still very grateful for this opportunity he and the label gave me.

For aspiring producers looking to make their mark in the industry, what advice would you offer based on your own journey? Are there key lessons or insights you wish you had known when you were starting out?

Best advise I could give is to believe in yourself, and in your own style. Don`t compromise to much with what is hot today, or what is hot in the genre you produce in. You need of course to listen deeply to tracks from producers in your same genre to learn the technicalities and to understand why something is working and some other things not, but you should always believe most in your own ears and your own ideas. Be unique! Collaborate with somebody, or let somebody from your friends or artist colleagues give feedback about what you make. (and than again, don`t listen to all feedback, filter and keep what you can work with, forget what don`t make sense to you). And then the day will come you created something you are happy with, then don`t hesitate to send it out to labels big and small. Don`t wait for feedback or a release, but keep creating and be consistent. Someday you will receive the mail you were hoping for.

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