Official album art from Echo System by Subjex.
Call it other-worldly, tripnotic, or fantastical, Subjex makes beats meant to give rhythm to secret visions in your mind. The French DJ and musician blends electronica with dub erudition to create “Intelligent Dance Music (IDM),” a niche variety of the world’s most dramatic genre. Less poppy and conventional than deadmau5 or Kaskade, Subjex draws upon darkness and matter, in a narrative sense. Stories of the unfamiliar, questionable, and even nightmarish circumstances that give rise to inner pulsations. His latest release, Echo System, a 10-track LP on Schematic Music Co, brings bass to the cosmos, as he furthers his vocation to mismanage time by curating breakpoints, and manipulating the rhythm.
Here’s what Subjex – born Matthieu Debliqui – had to say about his music and novelties.
BreakThru Radio: Can you give us a general idea as to what got you into music?
Subjex: Originally (I was) into hiphop. Then a crazy night in Belgium in the ‘90s – my actual first techno night ever – when, among others Jeff Mills playing, totally traumatized me. I wasn’t aware of the existence of such kinds of sounds. The day after, I bought vinyl in the local techno record store without even having turntables. The quest for reviving this original sensation started. I went through a lot of Detroit techno and hard techno and progressively enlarged to gabber, breakcore, electronica, etc. I began DJing 24/7 in my bedroom. My quest for weird/exotic sounds really started at this time.
BTR: What is your goal as a musician?
Subjex: Well, it’s to make music I like that doesn’t bore me. I think I’m trying to achieve this particular dark, psychedelic tension I heard that night in Belgium. Nowadays, with a bit more knowledge about what I’m doing, I think I’m after representing the sensation that certain sounds are producing to a receptive mind. It’s a bit “meta;” music about sound and the space it occupies, trying to get things organic and mechanic at the same time…ordered chaos versus disorganized order, something that would have a life for itself, etc. I love alien landscape/structures and I try to propose some personal “angles.” I remember that the producer I’ve always been a fan of stressed the fact of “finding your own sound.”
BTR: I see Public Enemy is one of your influences – How does classic rap translate into electronic and techno?
Subjex: I can’t really tell. I’ve been listening to this quite a lot, before knowing about techno or electro. My mom bought me my first CD and it was a Public Enemy LP I chose in the store. I think radical hiphop taught me about core, tension, beat efficiency, groove… well, everything. It also taught me about other music like jazz, soul or funk, as people were crediting the samples they used back in the day. This is very useful when you are curious. I was into this, NWA and their following solo projects: Wu-Tang, Masta Ace, Digital Underground, Gunshot, LOTUG, Pharcyde, Funkdoobiest, Das EFX. But I think dub had even more influence on me.
BTR: Where does a song begin for you?
Subjex: Except for the couple of drill ‘n bass and kinda breakcore tunes I did back in the day, the electronica stuff I do, and that I maybe valorize more, are based on an idea I had while reading tech stuff about synthesis and shit. I was discovering Fourier Transforms, Karplus Strong and physical modeling techniques, granular techniques, etc. At first, I wasn’t finding many clues about what that really was (I’m not a proper math-head) and was struggling to get my hands on some software. Then, my brain started to trip on strange concepts about all this. It sounded quite poetic to me, like, “What’s a melody? What’s a beat? What’s a song? What about ‘life’ in music? What’s an instrument?
I thought every sound could be a source, an impulse to excite something resonating and then by filtering other techniques, you could basically make anything with anything! But most importantly, sounds had to collide, morph, convolve and fuse together in time. I thought it was interesting, musically speaking, to blur those things… I think that’s what I felt that night when I was “virgin” to electronic sound. That’s why I choose to put delay and feedback based processes at the heart of my techno. Most of the time I build a system/process/chain of FX with a lot of intermodulation between channels, so each sound cannot live without the others. Then, I feed stuff into this, sequenced or random, I tweak the FXs till they’re messed up enough to trigger chain reactions and get me excited, and then I start to build by adding or removing elements… Hence, the name of the LP: network of delays (etc.) trying to mimic life or organisms, but in an abstract way. I don’t really wanna use nature samples to talk about nature. I wanna create little robots…
BTR: How would you define a “musical dyslexic”?
Subjex: It’s a joke to illustrate that music is, to me, a language having a lot of norms that I can’t read or really understand, like Solfege or coding, or writing skills, for example. So, I had fun thinking I had a kind of handicap, even if I don’t care… To me, when you have a weakness, sometimes the best thing to do is to put it upfront, and make it your “style.”
BTR: What’s a typical day like for you?
Subjex: My girlfriend, designing sounds/finding processes for my tunes, managing my label, Bedroom Research, mastering tunes for others, cooking, trying to find a real job (anybody looking for a sound designer?)
BTR: Best place to hear live music in France?
Subjex: I’m not aware of this to be honest; I’m not too connected, often better at home, and going to Belgium (I live nearby). For me anything with a great quality system, acoustic treatment, nice people actually dancing, good Belgian beers for cheap, some friends and a real choice of artists playing (not just the guys promoted), sounds like heaven…
BTR: Describe a fan of Subjex.
Subjex: Maybe someone believing in freestyle music rather than promo campaigns and the latest trends. Maybe someone a bit nerdy…”Fan” is a strong word in French, so I’d be fine with just having “an understanding audience.”
BTR: You’re music is super trippy – What’s going on in your head when you compose?
Subjex: Textures, Sci-fi stories… Mixing the Sci-fi stuff I read with the science, biological and nature-related stuff I’m interested in. Sometimes I think about the effect a particular sound could have on someone very receptive. I think about tech-noir psychedelism and abstract alien naturalism.
BTR: Are you an early bird or night owl?
Subjex: A bit of both, depends if something exciting is to happen in the morning or the night, or if I’m “forced” to do something at a given time.
BTR: How can we best enjoy your music?
Honestly, without trying to be trashy cool or something, I think all kinds of substances or hypnoses – an altered state of mind – would really be something that would ensure me to know about the people listening. You know, drop the analytic mind because there’s a 99% chance communication will be broken by values in “normal” circumstances. I’m proposing textures, forms and associations of ideas, and I’d like people to consider them genuinely.
BTR: What makes you laugh?
Subjex: Some chemicals and electrical signals in my brain triggering muscles contractions.
BTR: Favorite dessert?
Subjex: I like everything nicely cooked, and am always trying new stuff. Mental comfort is boredom, so my favorite is the next best thing I’ll eat.