If you've never heard of Akufen (AKA Horror, Inc., AKA Marc Leclair), we can't really call you clueless. After all, the elusive Montreal-based producer rarely gives interviews and it's been a minute since he's even played in the U.S.
Leclair is one of the pioneers of microhouse, a subgenre of house and glitch music characterized by meticulous hyper-detailed production. In other words, it's the kind of sound that causes techno-head audiophiles to really geek out. And the artist roster of Leclair's Musique Risquée imprint is full of techno geek favorites, including iconoclastic EDM auteurs like Bruno Pronsato, The Mole, and Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts.
So be ready to flex your gray matter along with your muscles when Akufen gets behind the decks at the Pickle tonight.
Crossfade: When were you initially drawn to electronic music? And when did you begin producing it yourself?
Akufen: [It was] 1981. I was about fifteen when I became aware of electronic music. I started producing it around that age. I got myself, with my summer job money, a Roland SH-7 and sequencer, a Tascam cassette four-tracker, and started fiddling, recording loops and layering them.
What can you tell us about the music scene in Montreal? How did it shape you artistically?
The music scene in Montreal is very diverse, due to the city's geographical location. It's ranging from electro-acoustic to house music. Montreal has been inspirational in terms of a strong community. Musicians know one another and respect each other. I never sense any serious conflict. The Mutek festival was sort of a manifesto of our community.
You've cited minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich as influences. How has that influence translated into your work?
It was organic while at the same time very mathematical and organized. I've always liked a fair balance of both in art, generally speaking. Reich especially always strokes me melodically. He's been an important and influential figure for many electronic musicians from my generation. I got Music for 18 Musicians when I was 17, and it changed my way of listening to music forever. It's just so beautiful and moving.
What other artists are you currently finding inspiration from?
Way too many to mention specific ones. Mostly non-electronic musicians. I was never really a devoted and genuine techno head, to be quite frank. I use technology as a way of creating, but I never really considered myself an assumed electronic musician. Maybe because I play the piano, guitar and clarinet to begin with.
I'd say Afro-American-rooted music overall has been a significant influence and inspiration in my life and work. Anything from Muddy Waters to Curtis Mayfield to Public Enemy has been tremendously inspirational. Bottom line is, it's got to groove. Otherwise, it doesn't do it for me. Actually, swing music is one of my all-time favorites. The Duke [Ellington] and the Count [Basie], I listen to regularly. I very much appreciate jazz pianists from Tatum to Hancock.
I also love Russian composers, such as Scriabin, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Such beautiful and melancholic music. It may seem like a huge contrast between jazz and Russian classical music. But there is suffering contained in both, which I believe makes those two genres supercharged emotionally.
What is the current status of Horror, Inc.? Will there be more studio material or touring in the future?
Hopefully. But then, I'm never sure of anything. Life works in mysterious ways and I trust it'll take me wherever I'm supposed to go. An album should be released on Perlon in the year. It's mostly ready. As for the touring, I don't know what I'll decide. One day at a time.
You're known for your meticulous microsampling technique -- an emphasis on nuance and textural detail. How do you typically approach a track from start to completion? And how much time do you spend on it on average?
If only I knew, I would gladly explain it! But it's never the same, really. I never know how it's going to turn out until I'm done. I'm pretty much like a child playing with scissors, paper, and glue. There is a big mess when I'm done. I believe the results are extremely naïve and playful as well. I never meant to be serious in what I do. Even in my most introspective work there is always a subtle touch of humour.
What's going on with Musique Risquée these days?
My labelmate Vincent Lemieux is handling pretty much all the work. I'm slacking at the job. We're struggling like any other label, but we're glad we can still release the music we enjoy and we wish to share. It's a family label -- mostly our dear friends release on it. And I'm grateful to all of them for supporting us. They're brilliant.
Musique Risquée is French for risky music. How important do you think risk-taking is when making music? And what sorts of risks do you take in your production work?
Every choice or decision in my life was a gamble. Risking is challenging and often rewarding. My entire life was built on that principle. I gave up a career as a painter and illustrator to make music. Nobody believed in me or supported me in the choice of becoming a musician. Being a successful visual artist seemed so obvious to many in my surroundings, that I chose music. And to this day, I do not regret it one bit. And I still can go back to visual art. Nothing's lost, and I proved myself that anything's possible when you have faith.
And while we're still analyzing words ... Your Akufen moniker comes from "acouphène", the French word for tinnitus, a ringing in the ears that torments people who suffer from it. What sort of noise is your tinnitus? A sound you can't stand? And what would you be happiest hearing for the rest of your life?
People screaming at each other and car horns drive me insane. Anything that comes from arrogance irritates me profoundly. I love silence and the sound of nature, as cliché and cheesy as this may sound.
Akufen with Baez, presented by Flight Crew. Thursday, April 19. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
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