Paris-based DJ and producer Elise Massoni steps up to deliver our 339th podcast, weaving together a rumbling club focused set of experimental electronics, mind-jarring techno and breakbeat inflected IDM.
Having released her only 12-inch via Man Band in 2017, Elise contributed the opening track to François X’s ‘Irregular Passion Reshaped‘ compilation in 2019 – joining more established producers such as Bambounou, Bjarki, Anthony Linell, Pessimist and Valentino Mora. Her track ‘Blurry Youth‘ delivered subtle cascades of liquid chimes, dubbed-out organic textures, raucous bass moves and adventurous drum-programming.
More recently, Elise contributed a track to ‘Grief Into Rage‘, a 36-track compilation aimed to raise funds for and to support Beirut’s community. Alongside her productions, Elise also hosts a monthly residency on Rinse France, inviting guest mixes from Benjamin Damage, Gaunt, Konduku, Solid Blake and Sherelle.
Having forged a close friendship with Elise over the past three years, plus inviting her to close our 10 Year Anniversary event at Griessmuhle in Berlin last summer, it was about time we invited her to record a mix and shine a light on this multi-talented French producer.
Interview by Tom Durston
"This mix is a blend of old and new music, which I felt like playing in order to create an optimistic mood with a 2029 post Judgement Day ravey touch"
Hi Elise, big thanks for recording the mix and for answering these questions. First up, where are you at the moment and what have you been up to over the past month?
Thanks for inviting me! At the moment I am mostly based in Paris, but I try to go to Corsica as much as possible. I spent the lockdown period in Paris with no sun but I have been working hard on finishing tracks, starting new ones, and working on collaborations with different artists.
Tell us about the mix you have recorded for Inverted Audio, the atmosphere you have created, its track list and how and where it was recorded?
I recorded the mix during a very stressful week, as I was also working on an important and very exciting project. Combined with this erratic period that we are all experiencing, it gave me a post-apocalyptic feeling, where you’re happy and excited to be alive and able to do things again.
Last August I had the chance to play an open-air gig at KALT in Strasbourg. The energy it gave me was incomparable with anything I had since I moved back to Paris, so this podcast is a transcription of that mixed feeling.
From a post-traumatic event and the optimism of a brighter future even if it isn’t completely won yet. This mix is a blend of old and new music, which I felt like playing in order to create an optimistic mood with a 2029 post Judgement Day ravey touch.
You used a rotary mixer for the first time to record the mix – it’s quite the challenge isn’t it. How did you find using it?
Using the E&S DJR 100 was quite challenging for me as I’m not that experienced with rotary mixers. I’ve had the chance to use them on several different occasions on the E&S DJR 400, it’s not the same (there is no eq by channel).
My friend François X invited me to his place to record this mix on his audiophile system, and I took it as an opportunity to experiment with it. The combination of François’s Amp/Preamp/Mixer is so powerful that I had to record the mix at a super low level, almost in silence, trying not to disturb the neighbours. The result is far from perfect, but the music is alive and I love the sound the mixer adds to it.
Who got you interested in electronic music?
My first interest in electronic music came with my strong clubbing thirst. Since I was a kid, I have always been attracted to nightlife culture. My older cousin was the person who introduced me to electronic music through the last good moment of Radio FG. I was also influenced by CD and mixed CD compilations of electronic music, specifically: ‘A.N.D. N.O.W…‘ by The Hacker.
It was a golden era for me. I was buzzing all the time, a time when Kill The DJ was really big and my main goal was to go to see the crew on Thursday night at a famous lesbian club called Pulp. Unfortunately it shut down before I could even get in.
Do you remember a particular moment when your musical taste shifted from generic pop to more experimental music? A track, an album or a producer that helped you realise this?
The album that had a major impact on me was Björk ‘Homogenic‘. I remember my uncle and aunt offered it to me when I was eight or 10, it was definitely the first electronic album I’ve ever listened to non-stop for years. I think this album shaped me musically speaking and it’s really funny I’ve just realised this recently.
On the flip side I have never been into pop music, Bjork’s album might have been the most pop thing I’ve ever loved. My cousin back then, strictly forbid me to listen to mainstream radio…so it was mainly rap and R&B.
Prior to becoming a solo producer, you spent a number of years living in China/Shanghai as part of a band. What happened with that project and where are they now?
I used to play in a band called Acid Pony Club with my besties: Raphael Valensi aka Nahash, Clement Pony aka Pyramid of Knowledge and occasionally Tzusing. It was a live P.A with a punk vibe, fully improvised, sometimes acid but most of the time a beautiful mess of intricate sound happening all at the same time.
Our collaboration is not over yet and can always be revived. Nahash just invited me alongside him to release a track for a fundraising compilation to support Beirut. We are also discussing a split EP for next year maybe, we’ll see!
We first met at Smallville Paris with Jacques Bon in April 2018. You had released your debut on Man Band (in December 2017) featuring a remix from forest Drive West and played a pummelling DJ set at Le Garage down on the Seine. A lot has changed since those halcyon days, how do you think you have developed personally and as an artist/producer?
I’ve had some pretty rough days in my life but I’m finally getting back on my feet and reopening my mind to music, art and every possibility offered to me. The more I grow the more I want to be strong and erase the doubts, the fear and stereotypes people place me in. I want to glow and let my ambition flourish again, leading me to new horizons.
In July 2019 you performed at Inverted Audio’s 10 Year Anniversary at Griessmuhle – it was an honour to have you perform, what do you remember from that night?
I remember that it was a super nice evening, yet I was still fragile. But I was able to close the party – and what an honour! The atmosphere was great and I wish it could have happened again this summer….but you know COVID.
In December 2019 you contributed a track on François X’s ‘Irregular Passion Reshaped’ compilation. When was this first written and what did you envisage whilst writing it?
François and I are good friends, and I was really honoured when he asked me to be a part of his album remixed project. I was a bit scared to be onboard with so many great artists like Pessimist and Bjarki. I think I started working on it in May 2019 and it took me a few months to finish it.
During the composition process the title of the track actually reminded me of my own “blurry youth” and I tried to assemble the mixed feelings of that period. It probably represents what I was going through when I did it because that’s mostly what I feel when I re-listen to it today.
"For me gender equality is a day to day action"
You spend your time between Paris, Corsica plus the occasional visit to Berlin. Where are you most comfortable to create music and get your ideas down into your DAW?
It depends, anywhere could be a good spot as long as my computer and headphones are with me. Moreover, if my OP1 and my Tascam are part of the trip, nothing can happen to me. Honestly I’ve never felt comfortable in Berlin to write music or being inspired, apart from what I did on my first EP, but that’s another story.
Sometimes I start with loops of my voice recordings and play with it, or I could just jam with synths, melodies or textures, it depends on my mood. I’m better with synths than samples, but my sessions are always very messy.
Tell us about your studio setup (analogue or digital) and how you go about actually writing music? Do you have a particular mindset, method or environment that inspires you to create?
I started to write and compose music the moment I stopped looking for the perfect studio setup and taught myself how to use my computer (which I hated so much at the time), to record, arrange, edit my analogue synths and start working with virtual instruments and FXs. If I am in a place with a bedroom studio I still love to plug and play with my analogue machines.
One day I hope to have the opportunity and knowledge to have my own proper studio, but for now I love to be able to produce at anytime, anywhere and in my pyjamas.
What standards do you have for your equipment? Do you use only top-end gear, or do you seek more ‘unrefined’, affordable hardware?
I have a Korg Mono/Poly, SH101, Nord Rack II and I recently got an Octatrack that I still have not uses. I also have an OP 1, an SM58 and my Tascam, that’s mostly it I think. I use a lot of VST and I love it. I tend to love machines with a warm and raw character as much as I love to dive into new plugins.
Alongside hosting a radio show on Rinse FM France, you are releasing more music. Tell us about the challenges that you have faced being a woman and to actually release music?
To be honest the challenges I have encountered have been with Western men. I never faced anything like this in Asia. In Shanghai, every time I had to ‘double’ myself as a woman, it was for local foreigners but still that was ok.
For me, Western countries have this complicated way of doing things where we always have to prove that we are more open and progressive than the rest of the world, but it is often badly articulated, suddenly made up of 100% female line ups, which make us feel like we need more of a reason to be booked and make people believe that some women are there mostly because they are women. For me gender equality is a day to day action.
I’ve heard many times from so called friends in the industry – “oh it’s ok you’re a woman, you’ll be booked” – or “he probably needs a woman on his label” – which made me believe it was true at some point.
Fortunately, there are also some Supermen, who have helped and supported me including Laurent Bassols at Rinse FM, my best friend Nahash and François X on so many levels, (you) Tom Durston with Inverted Audio and for sure Toma Kami from Man Band who was there at the very beginning.
What have you learned over the years about this so-called industry?
Don’t believe the hype.
2020 has been tumultuous in so many ways. I’m interested to learn how you have been dealing with the pandemic, what you’ve been doing to cope with it, keeps sane and if it has helped you to refocus and to create?
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was not very productive because I was a bit anxious and down probably, but to be honest after everything I’ve been through it feels like cheese cake. I felt sad for the people who lost someone. And even if the situation is chaotic, I feel very happy to have a future, my doctors told me to keep my sanity with a daily bask in the sun. Most importantly, I’m not Kanye West and I am taking my lithium.
Looking ahead, where do you want to be in two years and what do you hope to achieve?
Over the next two years I would like to release more music, write a solid album and set up a live set for 2021. I am boiling over with thousands ideas but I don’t want to speak too much while it is too early because that could bring bad luck.
What’s next for Elise Massoni and what should we look out for?
I just released a track on a compilation made by Toumba to raise funds for the Beirut disaster.
I’ve also written a musical composition for Chevaline Corporation. It is the soundtrack of their performance for Jeune Creation 70th Birthday, which is currently happening in Paris at Espace Niemeyer. It’s the second time I am collaborating with contemporary artists. I love it. I hope to do more in the future.
Finally, I have a track on an upcoming compilation for François X’ new imprint XX Lab, which is pending since lockdown and I’m currently working on a new EP for Simo Cell’s new label Temet.
Photography by Victor Malecot
1. Chevel – Crush – GASS
2. Tamburi Neri – Indio – Les Disques De La Mort
3. Joy O & Ben Vince – Systems Align – Hessle Audio
4. Jay – Balsam Drum – Graded Record
5. elise (Massoni) – Seropram (Forest Drive West remix) – Man Band
6. Civilistjävel! – Untiltled – –
7. Aleksi Perälä – UKMH51900047 – трип
8. Pessimist – Love In The Jungle – Ilian Tape
9. D.Dan – Take it Easy – Lobster Theremin
10. Skee Mask – Slow Music – Ilian Tape
11. DJ T-1000 – Karma 2 – Inzec
12. Pearson Sound – Alien Mode – Hessle Audio
13. Unknown Force – Circuit Maximus – 430 West
14. Cadency – Eating Steel – bbbbbb
15. Ryan James Ford – Love Child (Wood Mix) – CBS
16. Nkisi – SubjectiveEngine – R&S
17. PTU – The Pursuit of a Shadow – трип
18. Hajj – I tried to tell ya something thru this fucking phone – BFDM
19. Soft Boi – Bye Then – Climate of Fear