Today we sat down with Kubu aka Pascal Lee, an up and coming DJ and Producer based in Paris, France. A man with many years of studying and making music influenced by Jazz, R’n’B, Soul and Funk. Kubu recently released Turning Point – a four track EP with clear influences of modern jazz, Uk garage and 80s souls
Before resettling in his studio in Paris Kubu has done a lot of travelling including studying music production in Los Angeles for one year and spending some time in Berlin playing Jazz jam sessions at some of the city’s underground jazz bars. We sat down with Kubu to hear about his music, the creative process and sources of inspiration.
THE WORLD IS YOUR KUBU
HMWL: Hi Kubu, thank you for wanting to do this interview. What have you been working on recently? Could you tell us a little more?
Hi Alex, thank you for granting me this interview.
I have been working on some new tracks which are kind of a follow-up to ‘Turning Point’. I also want to make new tunes in a very different style in the near future.
And the recent Turning Point EP? It’s a mix of funky house with UK and jazz influences on Ballroom, Stange Jazz and Jambalaya as well as Detroit infused lo-fi jazz lounge on Twilight. Please tell us about the tracks and a bit about every track?
Sure. Turning Point is my first EP as an electronic producer. Before becoming that I was a jazz guitar player for a long time. But I was always listening to other styles of music based on solid grooves and rhythms: Funk, RnB, Soul, Hip Hop,Techno, Drums N Bass and of course House.
Making house and techno was always lingering in the back of my mind. At the end of 2019 I just decided to delve into it.
I taught myself Ableton live, bought my first analog synthesizer and quickly I was just hooked by these new tools. First I just did some experiments and I made some tunes in different styles of electronic music.
And at the end of 2021 I remixed some of these tunes. Then I selected four of them and these songs constitute my first EP.
On this first EP, ‘Ballroom’ was the last tune I worked on. I was listening at that time to some neo disco house tunes and wanted to create a new one based on that. I also wanted to have something more ambient. So I tried to blend these two constraints and that tune is just the result of that process.
‘Strange Jazz’ is mostly based on a modern jazz piano line. I wanted to blend it with a saturated electric guitar riff. I also listened to some very mainstream EDM hits and paid attention to their overall song structures. I applied some of these very classic structures to that tune.
I tried to make it very simple and easy to listen to.
For ‘Jambalaya’ I started with a strong bass line which is keen to some Reggae/Caribbean bass. I added a jazzy piano riff and some string orchestra track.
I think this is so far my favourite song and the one which is most representative of the kind of music I want to create.
‘Twilight’ is a tune which is more ambient and chilly. I started by using a lush pad and incorporated some congas. For the middle song I made a solo on a synthesizer with a guitar arena lead guitar sound. I was very influenced by Dam Funk who makes a lot of solos on his keytar on his tunes.
Please tell us about your normal working process in the studio? Do you first look for samples that inspire you and create a track around them? Or do you create the bassline, percussion and the groove first and then add the characteristic elements?
I usually start by creating a bassline or a chord progression with some groove first and then add rhythmic elements. I flesh out the song with other instruments and add vocal samples later.
I tend to play live on a keyboard or synthesizer along with a drum machine and if there’s something interesting going on I record the chords, riff.
I make a quick prototype of the song before deciding if it can lead to a real tune.
Which musicians did you listen to when you were growing up? Who influenced you the most?
When I was 15 I listened to hard rock and heavy metal bands. I listened at that time to Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani. That’s why I picked the electric guitar as my instrument.
I started listening to some jazz fusion around 18. I listened a lot to Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Miles Davis in his electric period, Herbie Hancock and Dave Holland.
Then I switched gradually to modern Jazz, E.S.T, Bugge Wesseltoft’s New Conception of Jazz, Medeski Martin & Wood which are all blending contemporary jazz with funk and electronic music.
I also listened to a lot of techno, big beat, Drum N Bass at that time, The Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin, The Prodigy, Goldie, Roni Size.
More recently I was very influenced by Dam Funk, Shinichi Osawa (Mondo Grosso), Kolsch, Baltra, Yaeji.
It’s really hard for me to pinpoint one single musician who influenced me the most. There are several artists who influenced me a lot and I think those I cited before are my principal sources of inspiration.
Tell us a bit about your time in LA at Los Angeles Colleges of Music. How many years did you spend at this school? Tell us a bit about your experience and some of your fellow pupils?
I studied Guitar Performance at LACM one year from mid 2010 to mid 2011.
At that time, the focus was to prepare the students to the real expectations of studio and touring instrumentalists.
For instance in the guitar department, each student was playing with a real experimented rhythm session (bass player and drummer) two or three times a week!
Thanks to that I became a more solid and versatile player.
That was really special, amazing and the school had a huge reputation because of that. They stopped doing that later on. The school became much bigger and couldn’t organize those type of settings anymore.
My fellow pupils came from different parts of the world (Europe, Asia, South America). I am still in touch with some of them.
Some became studio or touring players, others created their own band, some other became producers for local pop stars. We all had very different paths after school.
Why did you decide to get into electronic music? What struggles / successes did you experience at the beginning of your career?
During four years from 2015 to 2018 I focused on mastering classic jazz tunes.
I practised by playing live every week in jam sessions in Paris first and later in Berlin in 2018.
I noticed that in that context the main goal was to emulate the playing of the greats. Personally at one point during this period I didn’t enjoy myself playing the electric guitar anymore. I wanted to create my own sound and my own musical vision of what’s going on right now. I wanted to do something radically different from what I was doing at that time.
I remembered then that I listened to other styles of music and as I said before, making house and techno music was always a project I haven’t realised yet. So I decided to get into electronic music and I am trying to create my own personal take of groove and electronic music.
As I am starting my career as an electronic musician, it’s difficult for me to tell what are my struggles / successes. I have so much to learn not only technically but culturally too: I am listening to classic house or techno or other genres to really learn what has been done before.
It’s exactly what I did when I was studying jazz. So I guess that would be my first struggle!
THE RAY OF HOPE
Tell us about your home city Paris? After the pandemic has ended we are guessing that the nightlife is back and thriving again? Tell us about your favourite music spots in Paris?
Yes the nightlife is definitely back again.
Paris is well known for its classic and posh clubs but there are some lesser known places worth discovering. There are also interesting spots in the suburbs, in Montreuil, Pantin, Bobigny just to pick a few cities.
For house/techno I like to go to Badaboum, Djoon, T7, Rex.
For jazz/funk I like to go to New Morning, Sunside/Sunset, Baiser Salé.
Also are there any other French or foreign up and coming musicians whose music you enjoy a lot and would recommend us to listen to?
Yes, I’m currently listening to Liam de Bruin, a producer from Melbourne.
There’s also Space Ghost from Oakland who’s better known.
Love X Stereo is an electro duo from Seoul, who have been there for a while and deserve better recognition.
If you had to use a phrase to sum up your philosophy of life (please, not Live, Laugh, Love), what would it be?
Just keep living day by day!
Support Kubu on Bandcamp: https://kubu.bandcamp.com/releases
Add Kubu to your playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5VNcEvBlcwNztC5zuZrJEU
Or on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/kubumuzic
Or connect with him on Instagram and feel the groove: https://www.instagram.com/kubumuzic/