“I’m a DJ first and foremost, so I really want to play my tracks in the right environment and share what I do with the people.” The Mekanism talks us through his new album.
A debut album on Seth Troxler’s Play It Say It is potentially something of a poisoned chalice, with the added expectation of a co-sign by such a leading light bringing valuable attention and exposure but also pressure to perform.
That pressure is probably easier to handle when you’ve been around the block a few times. Damien Roussel, aka The Mekanism, is already over a decade into his career, with a regular slot on Rinse FM France and single releases via the likes of Needwant and 2020 Vision.
His debut is a distillation of his influences and experiences: heavy on acid sounds, but with hints of tech-house and disco to keep things moving. We asked Damien to talk us through how he made it.
I’m really excited that my first album is signed to Seth Troxler’s Play It Say It label. These tracks are made for the clubs, with love. I’m a DJ first and foremost, so I really want to play my tracks in the right environment and share what I do with the people. All tracks are a totally different vibe, from acid house to disco and funk. This little album represents what I’m about – happy and wild!
When I make tracks, I always use samples, and hardware such as the Roland TR-8, Akai MPC3000, Roland MC-505 and Moog Voyager. In this modern acid track, I used the Roland TB-3 for the hypnotic synth coming in the break, with the TR-8 and some hits to add groove and punch.
I had seven tracks ready and Seth asked me to do one more. What came of it was ‘Journey’. I listened to some of Seth’s DJ sets and productions for some creativity, then I added the groove with the TR-8 and samples, then the bass. I was trying to add something cool and different from another track I made, the voice and the synth from that worked with a modular synth.
I listened to a mix Seth recorded at Output NYC, I know that he loves to play it and I heard the reaction from the crowd – it was great!
Now this track is made for clubs! The funny thing is that I used the TR-8 to control the vocal, and the result is really nice! I took some groove from two old acid tracks to add energy on the beat, and the bass comes from the TB-3. To have this “old space sound”, I worked on the saturation. It’s a simple track in the construction, with beat, bass, vocal and FX. I try to make all my tracks groovy and simple.
I love playing this track in my sets. I remember a guy was asking me the name of the track but he didn’t believe me when I told him that it was from my LP – maybe because I look like a teenager!
I wanted to have a “WTF” track– one you can listen to when you are in another world – so I did it in two parts. The first is the vocal in the break and a second at the end with a big bass from my Moog Voyager. The vocal was made with some delays from a modular synth and the beat is a combination of TR-8 and samples.
I remember when I was at Sonar in Barcelona for Circoloco, an amazing venue. I was dancing with my friends and suddenly Seth played the demo to have a test. To be honest, the result was super cool even without the mastering! I said to my friends: “Listen, it’s my track!” As you can tell I was really excited.
I really love this one – funky and groovy. I sampled some elements from disco funk vinyls on my MPC3000 and then the beat appeared. Then I found the funky bass on my Roland MC-505 groovebox. After the break I wanted to add an acid synth, like a Phil Weeks vibe, so I used my TB-3 to do it. I grew up with funky house and French house so it was important for me to have one like that on my LP.
‘What’ is a freaky acid track. I began to do the rhythm (a combination of TR8 and acid hits), then when I had the groove I added some bass with my Moog Voyager.
I wanted to have something hypnotic, imagining people on the dancefloor, so I added an acid lead with a Moog bass sample and I put in a sampler from Ableton, then worked on the ping-pong delay.
This one is more happy tech-house with a groovy bass and druggy vocal. I used the Moog Voyager for the bass, similar to the track ‘Lost Girl’ I’d done before.
For the vocal, I went on YouTube and looked for a girl talking. When I found a good one, I downloaded it and I used Effectrix to do the modulation.
‘Time To Party’
A totally happy acid track. I used samples that you can recognise! I wanted to have fun on this last one. As always I made the beat with TR-8 and samples from old acid tracks. The vocal comes from NASA – ‘Time to Party’, and the siren in the break from Mantronix – ‘King of the Beats’.
It’s interesting to recreate a new track with your creativity and some samples that you really like. It’s a way to give the track a second life.
The Mekanism’s Breath is out now on Play It Say It.