This week we catch up with Hungarian producer Reelaux. Ferenc Topa aka Reelaux is known not only for his amazing productions on Armada, Baroque, Perfecto, Mistique and Stellar Fountain but also for his Reelaux Digital imprint which has been running for almost two years now. The label has amassed an impressive discography which includes appearances from: Beat Syndrome, Inkfish, Loquai, Kay-D and a long list of others. They have a new release out this week from Snorkle and we had a chance to chat with Ferenc just prior to its arrival on Beatport, a transcription of the interview is below and we hope you enjoy it.
1. Hi Ferenc, thanks very much for joining us for this interview today! How old are you and how long have you been producing / DJing?
Reelaux: Hi, first of all, thank you for the opportunity. Now I’m 28 and it all started some 15 years ago, but I would really not call producing, what I was doing in the first 5 years. It was more like practising with the good old FastTracker2. (Older guys surely know this.) It really amazed me what more experienced music maniacs could do with that MS-DOS based software. With no real musical education, it took me years to find out how music is actually made and programmed in a hexadecimal environment. After that switching to Reason was like changing your VW Golf to a private jet.
2. What are your earliest memories of music, what did you listen to growing up? How did you get involved in electronic music and what made you decide to pursue it seriously? And where do your roots in electronic music lie?
Reelaux: My musical taste is the mixture and – let’s say – evolution of my parents’ musical taste. I grew up in a family where music always played an important role despite no one had musical education. From my father’s side I was influenced by the music of Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and Mike Oldfield. My mother listened and still listens to more easy listening, dancy, happy tracks from artist like Queen, Madonna, etc.
This might sound funny, but my first ever electronic track was Feel My Energy by Brooklyn Bounce when I was 12 and it really changed my life. It was on a compilation album and I had not known that such tracks exist so I immediately knew I had to find out how to create this type of hypnotic sound. From that point I knew it’s serious for me.
So I came from the more popular, commercial side of electronic music and I think there are still elements in my tracks that can be originated from these genres. Then I decided to dig deeper in the underground and I fell in love with groovy techno and progressive house, so basically these are my roots that still define my sound the most.
3. Did you have any formal music training growing up? in regards to composing or engineering / sound design etc.? and if not did anyone help you out along the way?
Reelaux: After I decided to make music, I bumped into FastTracker2 and as I mentioned it was very hard to learn the basics, so I started learning drumming in a music school. It helped me a lot to understand how a good groove is actually composed and played and of course I also received some theoretical education there. Beside this, I got a lot of help from three of my friends: one I met in the same music school was really into electronic music as well, so we shared all our experience and knowledge regarding producing. The second guy is a french musician/producer I met on myspace in 2006 and we are good friends from that time. He taught me a lot about arrangement, wise use of elements, and a lot more.The third guy is a great sound engineer who helped me mixing and mastering some of my early works and I was there with him and asked a lot of silly questions about studio techniques, so i’m very grateful to them for these times.
4. Many people know you not only for your great productions but also for your label Reelaux Digital. Before the label you were releasing tracks on Inkfish, Silk Digital, Mistique, Baroque and several others. What was it that made you decide to start Reelaux Digital?
Reelaux: In 2009 I started my Reelaux project and in 3 years I released more than 30 tracks and by 2012 I really saw that I was going the wrong way: as you wrote I had the chance to release at some of the biggest labels like Armada, Baroque, etc. and although I felt very honoured to be there, it wasn’t satisfactory for me as much as I expected before. Let me explain this a little bit more. When I started music making, my dream was to entertain people with my very own tracks, so my biggest goal was to have at least one official release anywhere so that my music can be heard by a broader audience. When I reached this goal in 2004, I was extremely happy, but begin to want much more: A lot of fans, the biggest labels, etc. After more than 30 releases and a lot of feedback from djs, a&r’s, I realised that if I want to achieve these, I have to burn a lot of bridges and give up my original and biggest goal: to create my own kind of music and I have to be a very very trendy copy-cat. So in 2012 I stopped to think about my past and my possible future and I decided to create a platform, where I can be free of the pressure of being trendy, and this way I can produce exactly the way I want.
5. Where do you see Reelaux progressing to in the future, do you have a vision for where the label might be in another 2-3 years.
Reelaux: It’s a very good question. If I want to think of Reelaux Digital as a serious label, I have to plan its future and set exact goals not just releasing what comes to my inbox. The first year was about setting it up, testing djs’ reactions, beatport sales, etc. Now it’s time to improve this child of mine with more serious a&r work, management and promotion. What I’m very proud of is that my label could already help some artists to mature. For example we have Dmitry Molosh who were quite unknown before his Reelaux Digital appearance and it’s the same with Andy Weed and also Shimmer.
Beside some more and I’m very happy to see that now they start to get recognised by other labels as well and this is a very good feeling. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t claim that it’s all due to my great work. No, It’s the result of the artist’s great work of course, but I’m proud that I could contribute in this with my advices, promotion work, etc. And to answer the question I would say I want to go on this way: to build a massive community of high quality producers and give them the opportunity to be heard. I want djs to think the following of Reelaux Digital: If they want to add a unique spice to their dj sets, they search for Reelaux Digital’s releases and they actually find something that can be a little, but essential part of that given night. Something extraordinary. We don’t wanna be played everywhere, but where we are played, we want to be played loud. This is our ars poetica. I hope you see what I mean. 🙂
6. Your DJ charts are quite diverse, everything from Tim Green to melodic breaks, tell us a bit about your DJ style, how does it differ from your own production sound and do you play a lot of your own tracks when you are playing out?
Reelaux: I’m very glad you noticed that. 🙂 As in the world of movies, there are 2 main types of dj sets: The first that are precisely designed for the industry professionals and critics, and the other type is made for the audience. I always prefer the second one. The audience wants to party hard, we have to keep them interested in what we do, so we need to be creative, surprising and eclectic. Some djs are proud that they can find 50 tracks that sound exactly the same and call it a journey. In contrast, I try to mix the broadest range of tracks in a dj set when I play live and it’s actually works. So with my dj charts I want to represent the same attitude. To open up the eyes and say “Hey, there are tons of good track out there, why do you stick to 1 genre only??”
In radio mixes it doesn’t work the same way, because people mainly use them as a background noize, so there the key is to create a beautiful texture of soundwaves with only a few changes in the style.
I rarely play my track in a club. I think the reason behind this is I get too bored of them during the long time I spend making them, so they are not interesting for me anymore. But its awesome to hear other djs play it. At these points I feel that Its worth to spend that enormous amount of time producing them.
7. Talk a bit about electronic music in Hungary, It there a healthy scene there? How do you think it compares to the rest of the world? Do you get a chance to DJ there very often? and were you inspired by any Hungarian producers when you were just starting out?
Reelaux: I talk a lot to djs from abroad and they tell me it’s the same everywhere. Commercial music took over. Bigger, better equipped clubs want to make sure they got their invested money back and can’t risk with unknown djs. Despite this we have some great proggy events and everyone can find a place where his favourite genre is played. I had the chance to play in some very good clubs here and also abroad, but now in most cases they would invite me if I played commercial hits only, so if they don’t want me for the music I wish to play, then I rather don’t play at all.
8. Many of our readers are probably curious about your current studio setup, what does it look like right now?
Reelaux: My set up is not a big deal, but good enough to produce the most amazing tracks possible. The rest always depends on the producer. It consists of a PC, a Motu Ultralite Mk3 soundcard, KRK Rokit 6 G2 studio monitors and a 5 octave midi keyboard. I’m very satisfied with these.
9. How do tracks come together for you? Take us through the process of writing a track in your studio if you can. Where do you get studio inspiration from?
Reelaux: You should ask my ghostproducer about this. No lol, it’s just so annoying for me that there are so called artists that pose in their hi-class studio and do nothing there.
I sit down with the inspiration of making a track. You know, It’s like a game. I want to reproduce the sound in my head and want to make it hearable by others. Usually the result is something totally different, but I don’t care as long as I like it. So after I sat down with an exact idea I select the most suitable samples for that given sound. I spend the most time on this phase, because if the samples are cheap, there is no way to make a good track. After I have them, I always start with the drum section. I think it’s because of my everlasting love for grooves. If it gives that pumping feeling together with the bassline, you can’t go wrong. Of course, harmonies are also very important for me, so my favourite arrangement style is built up the same way: I start with a heavy groove & bass and as we reach the peak of the track, more and more melodies are coming in, you can notice this easily if you listen to my tracks. The mix-down and mastering phase is nothing special. I try to keep the character of each samples and try to make them sound big while in the same time I have to be aware of the dynamic range. It’s a science, much to learn I still have. 🙂
10. What are you working on right now? anything you can tell us about?
Reelaux: Right now I’m busy as hell (fortunately). I accepted 3 remix requests. (Let the label names be a surprise) And I work on some own materials as well. I started to work on an own album (in 2005) but I think this is not the decade, when I readymade it.. 🙂
11. What radio shows do you regularly listen to and do you have your own show?
Reelaux: I rarely listen to any radio shows, only if a friend of mine recommends me to do so. I prefer the live parties if I want to get new impressions. And to tell the truth I don’t think nowadays it’s worth to run a radio show. In these days literally everybody can have one and most of the bedroom djs actually have at least one. But I don’t know why, when hardly anybody listens to them. For just posting on my facebook wall that ’m so badass that I have a radio show its too time consuming if you want to do it with high quality. Of course I do guestmixes for my dj friends, but it’s enough for me.
12. What in the electronic music industry irritates you the most?
Reelaux: Nothing really, as I think everything happens for a reason, so I try to understand what I experience, but it’s really pain to see that a lot of djs give up their roots, their identity to play exactly the same as all the other likeminded djs do. Oh and there is one more thing: downloading a loopmasters sample cd from torrent, putting 3 drumloops together, sampling a complete music into the breakdown part and calling this a new track. I don’t blame people who buy this, because in a commercial disco the audience still goes crazy for these, but I would simply sentence the producer to listen to this 1 track 24/7 until he promises to delete every music related thing from his PC.
13. Thoughts on the DJ Mag top 100 poll?
Reelaux: I don’t really care. No matter what some people say that it’s a load of bullshit now not like in the good old days when it was a real deal, it always was a big load of shit. The only difference is these crying people’s favourite djs were in the top100, not the new generation’s big names. There were and are still there a few who are actually great as a dj, but this voting is about something else: to be on the top = to get more money for a gig.
14. What artist or track would you love to remix?
Reelaux: The strange is that I prefer to remix a track that I don’t really like. If I really love one, my mind stops working and I don’t know what to change to make it better. It’s seems impossible in case of a perfect song. But when the track is not so perfect, a lot of ideas come instantly to my mind. So if I listed some of the artist I’d love to remix, that would mean I don’t really love their productions.
15. What producers consistently impress you? Who are some of your favourites? And who are some of the best undiscovered talents right now?
Reelaux: In the past, about 10 years ago, James Holden was the man who broke every boundary in a way that his tracks remained enjoyable for anybody. He was the only artist who never disappointed me. In these days, with the boom of home studios, the number of released tracks are 100 times more than in the past. And the more you can choose from the more chance it has that you find a great track, so I cannot choose one talented artist, not looking far, we have some at Reelaux Digital who easily can be the next James Holden. I’m an optimistic guy so I think everyone will be discovered once, who deserves to be discovered.
16. What do you like to do for fun outside of the music? and do you have a regular job? What is a typical day like for Reelaux?
Reelaux: After a longer break, now I have a regular job at a financial company. It makes hard to have time for everything I like, but I can’t focus deeply on other things, so my favourite freetime activities are very common and average: being with my girlfriend, being in beautiful places, enjoying films, etc.
17. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? How big of an influence are other styles of music when it comes to composing your own tracks? Could you give any examples?
Reelaux: This was pretty much answered in the second question. I listen to everything from rock to r’n’b, hip hop to jazz, dance tracks and also movie soundtracks. I do not think of any other track when I start a new one, but of course they form my taste and influence me in subliminal level.
18. Reelaux Current Favourites (you can list more than one per category if you like)
Food: a good steak, fish, seafood and gulash 🙂
Drink: wheatbeer, wines, mineral water
Drug: don’t use any.
Animal: I generally love and respect animals, especially monkeys, apes, dogs and frogs.. and let’s not forget about snails 🙂
TV Show: not really interested in them
Movie: all kind of comedies and horror movies
Video Game: don’t have time for them
Album: Pulse double album by Pink Floyd
Track / Song: too many to list, I can’t choose one.
Producer / Band: Dr. Dre, Max Martin, Trevor Horn, Nile Rodgers and a lot more
Record Label: too many to choose one
Nightclub: Italian clubs in general. The audience is awesome!
DJ: I like a lot of dj’s style, but I don’t have an idol.
19. If the final DJ set of your career was next week what would be your last record be?
Reelaux: From the first time I read a Release Promo interview I’ve been thinking about this, but it’s the most difficult question ever Maybe one of these two:
Depeche Mode – The Darkest Star (Holden Remix)
Pet Shop Boys – Love Etc. (Gui Boratto Remix)
Release Promo would like to send a huge thanks to Reelaux for taking the time to do this interview.
Snorkle’s ‘Duna Part’ is out now on Reelaux Digital, you can purchase the release: here