Frédéric Aubourg is a French electronic music producer based in Berlin. He released his first record in 1999 under his hip-hop focussed ‘Skat‘ moniker and fourteen years later he celebrates the release of his debut album ‘Random Is A Pattern‘ under his Oleg Poliakov moniker via Circus Company. We took up the opportunity to speak to Frédéric about his album writing process as well as his favourite Berlin haunts and his passion for aviation. Frédéric has also provided Inverted Audio with an excellent house vinyl mix featuring music from Floating Points, Ron Trent, Robag Wruhme, DJ QU and many more.
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us what you’ve been up to recently?
I’m Fred, 39 and I live in Berlin. I’m a DJ and producer and I just released my debut album ‘Random Is A Pattern‘ on my beloved record label Circus Company.
I was first introduced to house music when I was 14, in 1988 and it never left me, even if I listen to a lot of other things. I also work for Circus Company and their booking agency.
What’s the story behind the moniker ‘Oleg Poliakov?
I don’t know if the story behind it is worth sharing. I just wanted to change my nickname and to start a new musical project.
You’ve also produced records under the alias ‘Skat’. How do you differentiate between these two musical projects and what does the future hold for ‘Skat’ and other monikers?
The Skat moniker represents the Hip-Hop and Karat Records years. I’ve had that nickname since I was 19 years old. My friends keep calling me Skat. I guess the Skat moniker is the real me.
Whatever name I use, I do it with total freedom. It’s true to say that over the last few years the Poliakov records were more DF oriented. I also have a techno project in progress, and will probably choose another moniker to release it, as it has nothing to do with my other projects.
Tell me about the mix you’ve recorded for Inverted Audio and artwork that you have provided? How was the mix made / recorded and are there any particular tracks that are poignant to you?
It was made at home, with vinyls, recorded on Logic. I’m really into all the records actually, but the Manoo track AGOE is really special to me. So is Mr Barth & A.D. ‘Above the Skyline’ on Svek, a timeless record. The artwork represents the contemplative side of the mix I chose to illustrate, the timeless beauty of it.
How did you get involved with Circus Company?
First as an artist just after my Skat releases on Karat Records. Then we became closer and closer with Mathias and Nico, and Mathias always wanted me to release something on Circus Company, so I did it.
Three years ago, Mathias asked me to join him to work with him for the label management side of the company. Last winter, Mathias launched a booking agency and I also work for him. It’s a real pleasure to be behind the curtains and also to represent the label as an artist. I have that close relationship with our artists of course but now also with promoters and clubs all over the world. I kind of like it.
There is no doubt that Circus Company is a stable of genuine musical talent. What is it about the labels DNA that has spurred the hunger to release quality records?
I can’t talk much about it, Mathias and Nico are the real founders and driving force of the label. But I think it’s about the extraordinary open mindness and the desire of not being stuck in a specific genre. After many years of listening to music, tastes are sharpened, of course, you know what you like and what you don’t.
Where are your favourite places to hang out in Berlin?
Easy, Tempelhof, I love to spend hours at this now closed airport right in the middle of the city, with some beers in my pockets and walking during hours watching the clouds and people. Spacehall record store of course, where I spend all my money and Zur Wilde Renate, best club in town where I love to play with the other big one we don’t need to mention further.
What artists and albums have helped shape your musical taste and personality?
Basically, all the music I’ve listened to over the years. From Dolly Parton to Sun Ra or from Satyricon to Pergolesi.
When did you start experimenting and producing electronic music?
I got my first synth when I was 16, and first things I did on it, before doing beats for MC’s on a ASR10 later, was to try to copy house / new beat things I heard at that moment.
What does your studio setup consist of? Have you noticed a change in your approach to producing electronic music over the years?
ATC-1, Orbit, Nordlead 2x / Korg MS 2000B, MPC1000, Fat Track from TL Audio, Jomox 888 and I’m currently trying the Europa sequencer a friend of mine lent me. Logic Audio / Ableton live and plugins. Yes it changed of course, now I’m more into textures and atmosphere than into loops, I try to do some more musical pieces. I don’t have a magic recipe to produce music so it changes all the time.
You recently released your debut album ‘Random Is A Pattern’ on Circus Company. Tell me about the album writing process, its incarnation, studio environment, track titles (C.A.V.O.K. – What does this mean?) and artwork?
First of all C.A.V.O.K. means Ceiling And Visibility are O.K. which means good weather conditions to fly. Because this track has a positive and aerial energy, I think it would fit with an open air party. I told you I was a freak about planes and aviation.
So, about the album, my idea was to make a listenable album, I mean in every situation, driving, walking, and travelling. So I needed it to be versatile and to do different styles, various tempos and to find the right colors to make it coherent at the end. I wanted something deep and textured; I wanted it to represent me 100 %.
Over the last few years I focused on dance floor tracks, which was a mistake because I think I didn’t do the best tracks at that time. Now with this album achieved, I feel free to go in other directions, this means Random is a Pattern is all about crystalizing the past years. I started to produce it in Paris, and then I moved to Berlin where I finished it. All the tracks names are based on the feeling I had when it was time to give tracks their name. It is never easy though. It often starts with a picture, a photo or an impression.
Around two years ago, I was looking at some graphic design blog and I found this photo (the album artwork) and instantly started to find who held the rights for the photo. It took me a whole year to find her, and to contact her and to have the rights to use it. This totally expresses my main feeling about the album, a silent tornado. It is also about the creative process, the beauty of randomness, of mistakes and then the destruction to start something else. I love this photo.
Do you have a philosophy on sound and producing music altogether?
Not really, just trying to enjoy myself when I’m doing it. I also try to do interesting enough things to be shared with the others.
Where do you prefer to write music? Is there a particular environment or mind space that enhances your creativity?
At home, alone, with my headphones. The best moment to do it is when I close my laptop and I don’t have any emails to answer. This weekend for example. I have to be in a good state of mind, forget about everything else. It isn’t easy. The creative process doesn’t start when I want. Too bad!
What else do you get up to apart from music?
It’s true that music takes up all of my time. I mean ALL of it. I love to travel and I love planes. I fly from time to time on my Xplane simulator. I have to say I’m a total freak about aviation.
Have you spent much time in London before? What’s your experience of the city and its musical culture?
I love London but have never played there unfortunately, and yes I spent a lot of time there back in the days. When I go to London (I’ll be there in a couple of weeks) it’s mainly for personal reason as my best friend lives there now. I have never been involved in London’s electronic music scene but I know it through the records I buy, even through the non electronic music scene. Anyway the UK music scene has played a major role in the development of my music.
What do you have planned for 2014? Can we expect more Oleg Poliakov 12”s or a live performance perhaps?
With Mathias, we talked about a remix EP with some tracks of the album chosen by the remixer. Will work on other EP’s of course and I’m now thinking about a second album and maybe a Skat thing too.
Do you have any words of wisdom / warning to people who want to do what you do?
I would say one thing, the same thing I’m telling myself everyday: Be yourself, even if people don’t like it and be patient.