In this edition of Behind the Headphones we spoke to veteran artist Quenum. Quenum is well established with a career spanning 30 years and has released on labels such as Diversions Music, and Second State. He started his journey in London in the 90’s as a sound engineer, and then went on to perform in spots all over London as part of Access 58, a move that would ultimately see him embark on a lifelong journey with music. From a production standpoint he has delved into a number of variations in techno, and house music, existing within the space where genres mix, and identity disappears.
We spoke to Quenum on his early beginnings, touring and London in the 90’s.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought “this is what I want to do”?
When I was in high school in Paris my uncle was working as a security officer for the Palace, which was this legendary club, like Studio 54 in New York. He used to take me with him, that was my introduction to nightlife. I kept looking at the DJ and I wanted to be like him, you know, creating this magical ambiance, this vibe, that made people sweat and dance. I wanted to do what he did, make people happy.
After settling in London in the early 90s, you went on to create Access 58 alongside Paulo Nascimento. A label was also created under the same name. Can you tell us how you guys met, and about the project as a whole?
Paulo and I met in a studio in Brixton. We were hired by this guy called Claudio to produce tracks. “Hired” is a big word, because we were mostly paid with large portions of pasta, Claudio was a very good cook. Anyway we had a lot of fun but didn’t produce anything very interesting, so we decided to get a bit more serious with our music. We worked out of Paulo’s flat in Queen’s Park, and that’s when we got our first contract with Pacific Records. Then we started our label, Access 58, and moved into a super nice studio in Bethnal Green. By the way, Pacific Records are restarting, so look out for some cool surprises!
Fast forward to 2001, where you cross paths with Luciano. Together you go on to create the esteemed label “Cadenza”. Can you tell us about your experience with it and how it came about?
Luciano and I met soon after I moved to Geneva. He had a studio in a village in the mountains, and we started hanging out there and working together. As you know, we made this fab track, Orange Mistake, that nobody wanted. That forced us to create our own label, Cadenza, and the rest as they say is history. Luciano then moved to Berlin and I worked less with the label. But in 2016 I had a super release on Cadenza with Solitaire, and we’re still close. Actually we’ve been spending time together in the studio, so watch out ☺
You have played at some of the best venues/club nights from around the world, is there a party which has stood out the most to you and why?
I’ve been lucky to play amazing venues around the world. I have to say the one experience that sticks out is the Subsonic Festival in Australia, which I’ve played twice. It’s an incredible wild place, 5 hours’ drive from Sydney in the middle of nowhere. It’s a festival at human scale, large enough to be fun and diverse, but at the same time quite intimate. There’s a real sense of community. The staff and the organisers do everything to make you feel welcome. People go there to feel free, to let go, and dance all night long. It’s not a place for show-off. It’s the real deal.
You have a new release called Little Secret coming out on Rebellion. Can you tell us a bit about it and your relationship with Damian Lazarus and the label?
It’s so hard for me to talk about my work with words, that’s why I’m better at making music. I love this track, I guess you’ll just have to listen ☺. Damian and I have worked together in the past and it’s always been a good experience. My music feels at home on his label. When I finished this track I sent it to him and he was so enthusiastic about it, he decided right away to release it. That’s the good thing of working with him and his team, they are super-efficient and I feel like they really support my music.
Over the years, you have collaborated with many artists, what is it that you enjoy so much about collaborating, and can you tell us some of your favourite past collaborations?
What I enjoy the most about collaborations is the exchange –you get to see how another artist works and that’s a super gift. I think I have learned more by collaborating with good producers than in any other way.
You know I don’t choose to work with artists based on their Facebook following or sales. I only work with people I love and whose music I love. I’ve enjoyed all these collaborations because it came from the heart.
I have to say, Mathew Jonson is all the way up there! Not only is he one of the biggest talents in electronic music, but he’s also someone who is dear to me. We get along really well, he is a deep person and a true friend. That’s special.
We see that aside from music your next biggest passion is running. Do you believe keeping fit has helped the longevity of your career? And what are a few of your favourite running spots from around the world?
For sure running has huge benefits for my career, not just physical but mental and emotional too. It’s about balance and keeping a healthy lifestyle. In my work, like in any other work, there’s stress and running is what keeps me calm and positive.I love running in city parks, and my favorite are Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, and Central Park in New York City.
Finally if you could produce a track with any artist past or present who would it be and why?
Burial. Very English sound. I love how he samples and works with vocals. His music is urban and at the same time dreamy, it has amazing texture and beautiful melodies. If you read this man, get in touch ☺
You can buy Quenum – Little Secret EP here.