Q+A: 5 minutes with Rose Noir

A naturally creative spirit, producer Rose Noir has honed his talent over the years and recently directed his craftsmanship towards creating an EP of the highest standard. Titled Bloom and released under Halfeti Records, the 6-track project is a lush work of art, a vivid stroke of genius. Each beat feels intentional, occupying its own special place in the composition. 

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Though the EP is steeped in retro Jazz-funk influences–Isaac Hayes for example–Noir seeks to step out of his zone and into the territory of Hip Hop majors like Madlib. With an eye toward the future, he plans to produce beat tapes that fit in that pocket. These are only some facts about Rose Noir. We asked him a few in-depth questions to find out more.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

The idea that I’m here to create appeals to me, and I enjoy expressing myself through various mediums, like playing instruments, writing music, painting, drawing, DJing, skating, and everything else I’ve done in my life. The purpose of art is to express oneself and unite people.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

During the first lockdown in 2020, I was a little short of inspiration. The tools and instruments were all there, but I had no musical direction. A sort of revelation happened to me one night, and I heard a melody in my sleep that I liked so much I did everything I could to not forget it. Using my phone, I recorded a voice recording and quickly went to the studio to try writing the song. I had never done anything like it before. It was more organic and completely new for me, both in terms of execution and recording. It wasn’t a dream anymore; the song had really materialized after a few hours in the studio. The project really started out as a dream. It wasn’t planned in any way; it was completely organic and natural. No plans in the studio, just a few ideas, like writing an imaginative soundtrack from a ‘70s movie, or a beat that Quasimoto could rap over.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

No collaborations yet, but there will be some in the future with musicians and vocalists.

What’s on your current playlist?

Brian Bennett, Alessandro Alessandroni, Soul Media, Idris Muhammad, Giuliano Sorgini, Puccio Roelens, Marc Moulin, Placebo, Madlib, Jaydee, Andy Bey, Alan Parker, Serge Gainsbourg, Azymuth, Arthur Verocai, David Axelrod, Lalo Schifrin, Dorothy Ashby, Cortex, Stringtronics, Sven Wunder, BADBADNOTGOOD, Surprise Chef, etc…

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I haven’t done any shows as Rose Noir yet.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

Among the main goals of this project is to let anyone, musician or not, think that the music was recorded by a 1970s band. It’s been amazing to watch their reactions when I tell them that sometimes no instrument was played live and everything was done in a box. Because I have never learned music theory, I am limited in what I can do when it comes to recording and playing live on instruments. While I know how to play drums and keys, the good thing is I have no rules. My technique is more about learning how to make the music sound vintage, which is a challenge nowadays when music producers want a very clean and pristine sound. In general, I prefer to avoid sounding like everyone else.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

I don’t want to spend all of my time in the studio. My process is to go in over three to six months and let the music flow naturally. I am never satisfied with the vibe of the music when I force it. To get ideas flowing, I’d go early, drink some coffee, and listen to some music. The ideas would come to me naturally. It is usually my practice to start with melodies and then build the rest around them, recording different instruments, percussion and sounds.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

Since both my brothers were DJs, I have always been surrounded by music, vinyl records, and DJs. My first exposure to playing instruments was in my friend’s garage when I was a child, and I enjoyed playing guitar and drums for fun. As I got into being a DJ myself, I was fascinated more by the technical side of things than by pleasing a crowd and making people dance. When I went to Paris in ‘95/’96 and asked for scratch mixtapes, the seller handed me DJ Qbert’s “Demolition Pumpkin Squeeze Musik.” It was so different from the music I used to listen to back then. This was what I wanted to do, and I wanted to be the best. I became a two-time world champion DJ five years later. The rest of my life has been spent making music under various aliases.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

I haven’t any done shows yet as Rose Noir

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Inspiration comes from everywhere, everyday life, food, nature, the internet, colors, feelings, picture, magazines, a movie soundtrack. I’m also buying a lot of vinyls. There’s something special about digging records to find samples, or just to get inspired.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

After acquiring some amazing gear over the years, I am now trying to keep my sound cohesive with my vision by keeping only the essentials. Here are some of my favorites:

– Rhodes Mark II (I sometimes use Spectrasonics’s Keyscape, which is an amazing alternative).

– DSI Prophet 6.

– Behringer Poly-D (which is based on Moog’s MiniMoog Model D).

– Solina String Ensemble (which might be my favorite piece of gear, going through an Electro Harmonix Bad Stone phase shifter pedal).

– Roland TD27-KV eDrum (coupled with XLN’s Addictive Drums 2 & Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 3. It’s like having 50 different drums sets at home).

– Fairfield Circuitry guitar pedals

– Lots of percussions, chimes, congas, etc…

– A Roland SP404.

– MacBook Pro M1 Plus.

– UAD Apollo 8x.

Any side projects you’re working on?

I’m still working on 2 other aliases, but I’d like to focus on Rose Noir as my main project.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Rose Noir is a two-part project. The first part is Jazz-funk, while the second part is instrumental beats a la Madlib or Jaydee. On my debut EP, Bloom, I showcased how I would imagine a ‘70s movie soundtrack mixed with space funk and obscure library music. The second project is set to be a mixtape of 6 to 8 beats that will be funky and bouncy. I have already written the music for the third and fourth EPs, but they won’t be released for a while.

Famous last words?

Stay hydrated and be creative!

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Image credit: Diane Sagnier