Acumen Interview

Antoine ‘Acumen’ Garcia is a busy man. A label owner, a DJ, a producer, a live act, a pharmacist and a father, he’s a man who leads numerous different lives. Even so, it’s his ability to conjure up celestial, melodic house and techno strands that has endeared him to many, not least through his work at his own label, the much renowned Time Has Changed (the label he runs alongside compatriot Damien ‘Timid Boy’ Almera), but also on other seminal imprints of the scene a la Mobilee, Get Physical and Suara. Acumen’s story, of course, is a nuanced and detailed one. Inspired by the infamous Barlive party in his native France (a place where ”everything was possible and where he discovers the electronic music”), he soon started DJing and it wasn’t long before he was bitten by the production bug, and in the early ’00s he soon gave in to an insatiable desire to make his own music. It wasn’t long before his productions perked the ears of some of the scene’s foremost players, with Richie Hawtin among those championing his sound way back in 2009.
His new EP, Between the Lines, on Time has Changed was released mid-January to much support from a range of influential house DJs and is available from all good retailers. We caught up with him to find out more…

Hi Antoine, great to talk with you. Lets start with the Barlive parties. They were a source of great inspiration for you at the beginning. Where did they take place and what were they like to attend? 

That was my first step into electronic music. It was an incredible period because I discovered so many things if you know what I mean. My perception of music had been really changed by those parties. The Barlive parties were the biggest after hour in France, it was a place with an incredible atmosphere and a very good DJ called Cebb. He brought new sounds to France coming from the German wave. It is still great source of inspiration for me, seeing people in union hands up in the air at 11am.
How long after learning to mix did you look for gigs? Where was your first performance? 

To tell you the truth I am really more confident in the studio than making some live shows. I began first making music in the studio then naturally moved to make a live show. I had been elected in 2009 best breakthrough producer by Richie Hawtin. So gigs happened really fast. I think my first gig was a live act show in Paris… at Regine Club, good memory…

The French scene was once a dominant sound in Europe. Artists like Dimitri from Paris, Bob Sinclar, David Guetta among others were at the top of the House tree. How has the French scene evolved for you over the last 20 years?

Yes this scene had an extraordinary impact. I was like a lot of people, completely amazed by this scene even if I didn’t like the music of everyone you mentioned. Anyway when you listen the first albums of Bob Sinclar it was kind of revolution for me. Even if today I cannot listen to more than 30 sec of his music! Guetta is incredible, he’s like the anti icon of the underground scene!

Everybody likes to piss on him; destroying him, saying that his music is kind of bullshit. Ok, I don’t like his music but what? see what he was when he was 20 years old and what he’s now, I am pretty amazed by this guy, and all the work he did. Otherwise the French scene wasn’t a big source of inspiration for me, except maybe Super Discount or Saint Germain.

With artists like Daft Punk and Guetta crossing over into more commercial sounds, do you think the underground and overground scenes have a equal part to play? Does one ever influence to other? 

As I said before, I think there is place for everyone. I don’t always feel very close of these artists, but that’s the same for all music genres. Do you prefer pop, rock, punk or metal? Anyway, what’s more important is the listener and what they would like to hear, I have a certain respect for every artist even if I don’t like so much their music there is always some work behind it.

What has been your favourite gig so far? 

Best event was without any doubt the upon you records label night where Marco Resmann invited me to play. Never seen a place like that with this kind of atmosphere. One of the best clubs I’ve ever been. Playing there was such an amazing experience.
The Acumen live show has been 5 years in development. Hows it going and where can we catch you playing?

My live act set up is made with a Macbook Pro, Ableton Live turning with all my loops and sounds and some controllers like Novation Launchpad, Novation Nocturn and a NI Mascine to play some live sound and effects. My live show is an overview of all my production skills and I am trying to make the show active and funny and not just pushing a play button as for a recorded live show.

You will see me playing in few selected dates all around Europe this spring and summer.

As with many DJs, a natural progression from mixing to making records occurred. What DAW did you start with and do you still use it? What about hardware? Any favourites? 

I am really a software guy because I’ve liked those tools for so long now. I was a geek with a PC and now with Mac. I like the idea of having so many instruments in a little box like an iMac. This idea is just fantastic for me. It is like the idea of the infinite. Otherwise I have few hardwares synths like Minimoog Voyager, Novation Bass Station and a Juno 6.

Where did the name Acumen come from?

This name comes from a real and simple fact: I am lazy sometimes! So I was looking for an artist name in the English dictionary and I began with the letter A and found the first interesting word, it was ACUMEN, hahaha…

Hahaha, with your early success – name checked by Richie Hawtin no less, has there been any pressure to just write tracks aimed at those big room DJs? 

You are absolutely right. At the beginning making music was just fun and passion for me. I have no pressure as I am not living with that, as you know I am a Pharmacist. Being elected by Richie was such a great moment but maybe it came a bit early, I had so many requests, so many attempts then, but no time to make music that I felt a bit lost after that. I am now more confident with my sound and have some excellent moments in my studio but thanks Richie, you made my day that time !!!

Time Has Changed began life in 2007. What was your motivation to start a label? 

There was a time in my life that nightclubbing and DJing became too much to try and balance with my pharmacy studies. I had to slow everything down. But all the same I wanted to keep one foot in the music world. So I had the idea of creating my own label, initially to release other artist’s productions as back then I did not compose music myself. My friend Damien, aka Timid Boy, began as an artist of the label but he soon became a friend and a co-partner [running] the label. He joined me [in managing the label] shortly after the creation of this album and I think we form a good team.

Whilst we share most the running of most things on the label, I must admit that for some time Damien has actually done more than me. It’s not that I’m less interested, but I have two children to manage and a pharmacy. It is sometimes difficult.

Having had some time to reflect on its success, would you have done anything differently in those early days? 

No I am not the kind of man with regrets. Of course I am not doing only good things but honestly we have not so much time here to always think of what you did if you make some errors.

It is just a good lesson for the future no??

How does your A&R work? Do you think web based labels consider these concepts as physical labels had to now that the cost breakdowns are different? 

We were both physical and digital label before and we know how it works. My label works like all labels, we received some tons of demos, have some listening with my partner then decide the opportunity to release on the label.
You’ve mentioned you still have a day job as a pharmacist. How did you balance the demands of work with the draw of the music industry? 

It’s very hard because you have to manage everything at the same time, which is why I don’t play out as much as I’d maybe like to. Otherwise, everything is a matter of time and organisation and I guess it also helps that I’ve found the best woman possible to help me.

You’re also a dad, congrats to that! How has that adjustment to your life been? 

Becoming a father hasn’t changed how I approach producing my music, apart from the fact that I’m sometimes less inspired to make ‘clubby’ tracks. Although, this changes completely when I’m able to get a babysitter for the kids and go out to a club with my wife. Especially if the club has good rum and cola!

Finally, whats the rest of 2014 looking like? Will you be in Ibiza at all? 

The rest of 2014 looks like real good. I have a lot of projects, a lot of releases to make. New live shows all around the world. I have also a new wife and that’s a big change but happy change for me. And to give you secret, we will launch a new label with my wife who is a painter!

I’m sure I will be at ibiza like every year, it is like a pilgrimage for me every year, and it gives me always a lot of inspiration!

 


Ian French
About the Author

Director and DJ, Ian French (Naif) is passionate about every genre of music from Breakbeat, to Drum & Bass, to Techno and Progressive House. If he was to describe his preferred style of music he would probably describe it simply as electronic music. Besides his love for music and DJing his other passions are fine cuisine, wine, and travel.