Julien Deblois, aka Debmaster, has been pushing his unique and characteristically glitchy sound for some time now, basing his creative output in pure enjoyment and unapologetic experimentation.
Following on from his production on Mc Yallah’s Ndi Mukazi, Debmaster presented his Crocodiles Homieees EP on Hakuna Kulala near the end of 2018. The release features reworks of African field recordings from Kampala’s Boutiq Studio’s archives. He is now producing for Hakuna Kulala every day.
Get to know the man behind the moustache and this mesmerising mix (tracklist included) from the 28th of May:
Hi Debmaster, how are you and what are you up to today?
Hey, always good, today as yesterday, I’m working for Hakuna Kulala 🙂
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
The most tricky question. I would say “incongruous”. By that, I mean that I always try to do something unusual and creative. We can feel that I produced a lot of hip hop music but I’m also very influenced by noisy electronic with super cool synths and bleeps. Energy is a big part of my sound even when it gets dark, I’m obsessed by giving “pleasant tension”
Tell us about your journey in music, how long have you been producing? What inspired you to start?
I started music as a punk drummer when I was 11 years old in 1994 somewhere in the north of France, countryside… It was fun! Later around the 2000s, I started electronic music by mistake. In my small village, we were a bunch of friends playing video games on a local network with 10 computers. Very late in the night, we were exchanging random softwares by ethernet cables because the Internet was very slow. One of them was Fruity Loops that I installed without knowing the purpose of it. I clicked everywhere and I started to do “incongruous” loops all night and we laugh a lot. But I was already listening to electronic music as Add N to (X) (my favourite band) or Kap Bambino, dDamage, Dat Politics. From this night, i never stopped to play music and it became “relevant”.
What was it like accessing the field recordings from Kampala’s Boutiq Studio’s archives for your latest EP Crocodiles Homieees?
It is incredible, I feel that I sampled only 1 % of it, 13 GB of African music history. Actually, I’m still using it for MC Yallah next release. It was very helpful for me to be inspired by so many African styles. As I was not very familiar with the rules of traditional music, it automatically ended to something creative. I just hope to be respectful with it. With Hakuna Kulala we really have a dope exchange between “European” and “Africans”, everybody got inspired by each other. Slikback from Kenya, Morgiana Hz from Poland, Mc Yallah from Kenya/Uganda, Dj Marcelle from Amsterdam or absolutely great artists of Tanzania playing super modern Singeli music (Sound of Sisso, Mc Zo & Duke). Everything from this label and Nyege Nyege give us lot of inspiration to be productive, whatever if I use field recordings or not, it was just an idea and it’s a good way for me to make a hybrid of Euro/African music as they can do African/Euro music. We have fun to experiment in this family, some came to play in Berlin and I will play in Uganda then we will play all together in Japan because we love bleeps and blinks? Will see.
Take us through the collection of gear, tech or software that accompanied you through this release.
Pretty simple, a computer, Ableton, The Push 2 midi controller and my lovely bitcrusher: Oto Biscuit.
How did you first connect with Hakuna Kulala?
I think it was a few years before the creation of Nyege label or Hakuna Kulala, in 2015. I made an album with my friend Riddlore a super rapper from the Project Blowed (a big nebula of underground rappers and producers in Los Angeles since the ’90s and Busdriver may be the “famous” one for the people who don’t know). Arlen from Hakuna Kulala was listening this music since 10 years already as I did myself and he discovered my music with this album with Riddlore. The same year, Riddlore played at the Nyege Nyege Festival, I couldn’t join but I felt that it was extraordinary. Then, Arlen wrote me that he was often recording people in his studio in Kampala and that they could have fun if I can send beats. I started to send beats every week because I love the eventual surprises. It’s how I heard MC Yallah and it’s how we released pretty quickly her EP on Hakuna Kulala.
What sounds and styles of music have you been most into lately?
As I’m living in Berlin I’m hearing a lot of dope music played lived by close friends. I’m thinking about artists like Dj Die Soon, Patric Catani, Guido Möbius, Felix Kubin, Silnaye, Chris Imler, Dj Scotch egg and so many more. Out of that, I’m into “noisy electronic” but I always feel that we are all in the same family, Third Type Tapes label is amazing. The Skweee music from Scandinavians is also incredible. We are all influenced by Footwork music, I love Dj Rashad and I’m still sad that he is not with us anymore, I listened Double Cup album millions of times.
What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?
The first one who comes in my mind is my second show as Debmaster. Few weeks after my first album, I was on a 2 weeks tour with dDamage and incredibly good rappers from Los Angeles, Existereo and Giovanni Marks. I was on stage with my big computer unit + a big CRT screen and at the end of my show, Giovanni Marks and Existereo were freestyling 15 min on my beats. I was looking at them as if I was in the audience, totally flabbergasted. It was at Point Ephémère in, a lot of people went crazy and I was one of them. We repeated this every day and I was amazed every night. It happened in 2006. Of course a lot of others “best gig” in my mind.
And the worst?
Hm ! In a festival where someone dropped a beer on my computer while I was doing the soundcheck, it could be this one. I remember this same person saying “Hey wassup? Play something hoo héé”. I was frustrated because the organisers were big friends and it was a good spot to play. They allowed me to play 3 dj sets the days after and several times in fusion festival (so… it was dope).
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
A bottle of water!
Considering the very complicated and heavy global political and social climate, do you feel that music is should be a reflection of this, or an escape from this?
It depends… For rappers, it can be a reflection but it must be sincere and not dumb but also not too smart and boring, it’s complicated! I like Run The Jewels, they are solid. In my live sets, it’s mainly instrumental and in this case, it is purely escape from real life. People can take some breaks to be able to stay lucid with their personal life and to relativise about the problems they can meet. In Berlin, being together and fighting for DIY culture is politic and we play a lot of music around it. I like to use visual about this global context but it’s always absurd, Monty Python style, they are political right?
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I have to say, sativa kind of cannabis but I’m using it for medical reasons :), also long-distance running and video games.
What can we expect from Debmaster in the future?
This crazy release of MC Yallah for sure, we will do shows together, we already worked on the track we must perform. As Debmaster, I know I will never stop, I learn every day, I made 100 tracks the last 4 months, I take advance for the next releases. With Riddlore, we are also ready to release 8 tracks we finished a few weeks ago. Between the albums and eps, I like to release some tracks on great compilations full of friends, in France, Germany, Poland, wherever. I’m still doing my solo live sets as often as possible, I still say yes to anyone asking me to play in Berlin, these shows help me to stay creative, I’m an addict to the energy I can get from them.
Famous last words?
Listen to and purchase Crocodiles Homieees here: