Interview with Los Angeles musician and producer Remy LBO
We had the great opportunity to interview producer, musician and LA resident Remy LBO. This man has been crafting his music for years now and with hundred of hours of music unreleased, he has found his way into releasing records through various labels and outlets. Remy LBO’s sound is very unique, his sound has its cross origins of influence but his sound is his own. Below we included a Bandcamp streaming audio player for his latest full length album Umpqua Fire. We hope you enjoy this interview and check out Remy LBO’s music more. ~ Erik Otis
How did you take on the name Remy LBO?
Remy LeBeau is Gambit from the X-Men’s name. When I was sixteen, it made a lot of sense to name myself after a comic book character, now that I’m an adult, it seems a little silly. I changed the spelling because I realized I was calling myself “The Handsome”, but now people don’t really know how to pronounce it. (I still say “LeBeau”)
You have released a full full lengths with most of the instrumentation to your credit, what instruments and effects do you use on your recordings?
The live instruments that I typically use are piano, fender rhodes, guitar, bass guitar, drums, and whatever percussion instruments I can find. I’ve also used an accordion, trumpet, and glockenspiel on a few things. Besides that, these days, it’s all Ableton Live and whatever VST synths and effects that I can get my hands on. Recently, I’ve been using a lot of Kontakt based sample instruments. “Peeling in the Drum” has one flute part, which was actually played by my Dad. I was happy to have him be a part of the record, and I still really like that solo he played.
Where did you grow up and how many places have you lived?
I grew up in Maryland. I moved out west to go to Pitzer College, but dropped out because I wasn’t getting the music education that I thought I needed at the time. Then I moved to Brooklyn, where I worked for Fat Beats for about 4 years, and then I moved back to Los Angeles, where I currently reside.
Did you enjoy working at Fat Beats or was that just a means to make rent and so forth?
I mostly enjoyed my time at Fat Beats. There were times when me and the management didn’t quite see eye to eye, but for the most part, it was a great job. I worked really hard for them, and sometimes I wonder how much of it was a waste of my time. It was really hard to make music during that time period. During the last year that I was there, I would show up to Fat Beats around 9:30am, work until about 7pm, and then go to Fat Beats’ studio and work on my own music until about 11pm. So, I would often be there 12 hours.
How much time do you put into constructing your music and what type of settings do you record and compose in?
I spend A LOT of time on every single song I release. I’m constantly skipping back and forth between songs, but I’m sure if you added it all together, it would be a couple weeks of 8+ hour days, on just one song. In addition to that, for every song that I’ve released, there are probably 100 that just sit forever gathering dust on my hard drive. For me, pushing myself and succeeding with new sounds or concepts is what I care about. It’s not, “Oh, I’m making an album so I guess I need 12 songs”. It’s usually more along the lines of, “I’ve been working on songs for too long, I should just finish some of them them so that I can move on”. I care much more about trying things out, than finishing a song, or even releasing it. Releasing it comes second, its really the process that matters to me.
Who are the first circles you have found yourself to have kinship through music, playing shows and others that you have connected to?
I really don’t play shows at all. There was a brief period when I thought it was something I’d start doing, but after a few very small shows, I decided that I pretty much hated doing it. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I spent a fair bit of time hanging out with the mysterious, Clutchy Hopkins. That was a positive experience, I think I learned a lot. I don’t know man, I wish I felt more of a kinship with other musicians, especially in Los Angeles, but I rarely go out and do the sort of social activities that would foster that sort of thing.
How was your time with Clutchy Hopkins and did you guys record any music together?
Clutchy and his family were so kind to me. They welcomed me with open arms and I spent a few weekends seeing how Clutchy worked. I never recorded anything serious with Clutchy. There’s at least one cassette jam in there, but I really was a bad musician back then. I can’t stress how much I’ve learned and practiced in the past few years. I wonder how many of the musical elements that I use every day now, I knew back then… like if I even knew what a dominant chord was.
Who are some musicians and producers whose records you dive into deeply and find yourself on repeated listens?
Most of the big ones are listed in your next question, I would probably add Weather Report, Thanasis Papakonstantinou, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Lalo Schiffrin, and Can to the list.
You have stated that Sun Ra, J Dilla, Madlib, RZA, Flying Lotus, Alice Coltrane, Sly Stone, and Pink Floyd amongst others carry influence on your sound. What records are you really into right now and who are some people you think are creating true unique and new music?
I’m working on becoming a film composer right now, so it’s resulting in a pretty drastic change from what my old music was sounding like, and what I listen to in my free time. So, I’ve been listening to a lot of classical stuff and film score stuff. People like Debussy, Satie, Prokofiev, Jerry Goldsmith, Alexander Desplat, and many more.
Beyond that, I’ve digging:
Bajka – “Bajka in Wonderland”,
a few of the Madlib Medicine Show albums,
this Junip album – “Fields,
Laetitia Sadier’s “The Trip”
Rap stuff: Killer Mike, Wiz Kalifa, Black Milk, Random Axe
Also, I don’t know if this is weird to say, but I would not say that Flying Lotus has much of an influence on me musically. I haven’t even heard a few of his albums yet. There was a period of time when he was just coming up, and conceptually what he was doing was pretty inspiring to me. By that I mean, before Flying Lotus, the idea of someone doing funky, experimental music, and turning Hip Hop beats into songs was something I thought only Madlib could do. He came out, and put his own spin on what Madlib was doing. That was pretty exciting to me, because I really thought that it couldn’t be done by anyone but Madlib. But, I do feel that FlyLo, and all of his Brainfeeder guys are really doing something that is substantially different from what I do.
What compelled you to move towards film scoring and are there any particular film composers that you absolutely love?
There are a lot of things that are pushing me toward film scoring, but not the least of which is money. I’m consistently and rudely reminded at how hard it is to make a living as an independent musician in 2011. Even the independent artists that everyone knows and loves, struggle financially. I know a lot of film composers who often struggle to get jobs, but at least there’s a big industry there, somewhere. With that said, I love it. My goal is to continue working in some way that allows me to stay in my studio and write instrumental songs all day. Film is the perfect medium for that, and there’s so much great film music being made all the time. I really like Jerry Goldsmith, a lot. Some newer guys who are cool are Alexander Desplat, Ferndando Velazquez, Michael Giaccino, and Cliff Martinez.
With so much variation in the music you prefer to listen to, do you find yourself searching constantly for more or have you settled into what you like and has that search become less of a need?
Ooh, that’s a good question. I don’t search for music the same way as I used to. Not because I love it any less, but I think that I’m capable of filling a lot of that musical need with my own music. You know, when you’re young, you look everywhere for music to reflect who you are personally and what you are feeling at that moment. At this point, I often know how to make the music that represents who I am and what I’m feeling. These days I am finding myself really loving classical music and film scores. That is something completely new to me, and certainly not settled from my youth. This actually illustrates my point pretty well too. Why would I listen to someone who makes instrumental music like mine? I know how to do that. But, I do not know how to orchestrate or modulate or develop a melody like Prokofiev did. So, the same way I used to love listening to Madlib when I was making beats, this classical stuff is really exciting to me right now, because I have so much to learn from it.
I am working with Porter Records and they sent me your full length album Peeling in the Drum/Comical Cheating. How long did this album take to construct and is there an overall concept or theme to the album?
I’d say it took me about a year to make that album, maybe 9 months if you don’t count mixing and mastering. The name comes from a bad google translation from a Japanese website review of one of my older albums. But it means something. “Peeling in the Drum” brings to mind kind of a syncopation, sort of what happens between the quantized grid. “Comical Cheating” was a little snipe at some of the other guys who just use the cheapest of electronic music tricks to impress people.
There is a story if I’m not mistaken that you blew out speakers recording or mastering for the Porter Records release, is this true and if so how did it happen?
Yeah, the record pressing plant couldn’t handle some of the frequencies in Peeling in the Drum. I was really pushing how much synths and effects I could cram onto one song when I was making that record. I like that story, but I think it cost them money.
In search of a balance between electronics and live instruments, how much gear have you owned in your lifetime and what have been your favorite instruments of choice?
I used to use my MPC 2000 XL for everything, and then I would sample everything. I had a few different synthesizers in that period, and also some rackmount effects. I had a set of turntables that I would lug into every apartment I lived. I’ve also had a few different bass guitars over the years. But these days, most of it happens in the computer, or with acoustic instruments. My Fender Rhodes has become, without a doubt, my favorite piece of gear. I originally bought it because I thought I was moving out of the place where I was living, that had a piano. So, I needed something portable to be a backup. But it has taken over everything I do, it is the backbone of how I write most of my songs these days. I will say, that modern digital audio workstations are one of the most important inventions to music. I wasted a lot of my time, hanging onto this idea of “purity” while making all my music within the MPC 2000. Once I finally rid myself of that 16-bit baggage, I could really learn how to write songs in a meaningful way.
When can we expect something new and where will you take listeners with your next release?
I have a new album, it’s done. It’s called Exceptionalism and its probably my favorite thing I’ve done. I have no idea when it’s coming out, I’d love to put it out soon, but there are a lot of practical concerns that I need to figure out. It’s funny, when I was making it, I was sure that it was radically different from anything I’ve done. But in hindsight, it’s very much in a similar vein as my other records. I think it’s better, more composed. I spent a lot of effort making sure each song morphed in a natural feeling way. It feels a little less “Hip Hop” sounding, some of the drums are quieter. The whole thing is a bit less ‘in your face’ as, say “Peeling in the Drum”.
Thanks for your time, we hope to connect with you in LA soon.
~ Erik Otis