Interview: Mathieu Carsique aka Cool Tiger
(Images courtesy of Lauren Commens)
The tiger is an animal that can be both cuddly and vicious in equal measure, so if nothing else, Cool Tiger is an alias for emerging French producer, Mathieu Carsique. The owner of the Junction label has been responsible for a number of well-received EPs, chiefly through his own label.
Most recently, he’s turned his attention to a new sub-label, Junction White, that strips matters back to more techno-focused areas. With Cool Tiger’s EP about to drop over the next while, we thought it a good time to put some Q’s to the main man. Here’s what went down …
Let’s start by talking a bit about the label. At what stage in your musical development were you at when you decided to start Junction Records?
I started producing electronic music ten years ago and experimented with different genres. It’s only 4 years ago that I released a first EP on digital label NoRobot Music. After this, I co-founded the collective of musicians and visual artists Merci Jitter, released a couple of EPs there, then decided to step back to focus on more personal work. I locked myself in the studio and two years ago I finally felt that I was happy and in control of my music. This is such a rewarding feeling, particularly when it comes after all those years of work! At that time, I felt that my sound was “between House and Techno” and did not fit with a lot of existing labels. Plus, several friends of mine such as M&C and Kiyo were making punchy, groovy music that I could relate to. I just felt that it was the right time to start this label, a platform for forward-thinking music blurring the lines between the genres.
Bigger labels getting very specialized, refusing tracks which don’t perfectly fit with their expectations, taking the least risks possible not signing new artists, and the realization that whether you publish your music yourself or through a bigger label, you’re not going to make a living out of it anyway.
Do you think it’s a necessity for an artist to have a label these days?
I think there’s no right or wrong way to publish your music. However, the multiplication of small labels over the past 5 years boils down to a few reasons: the hype of electronic music, the democratization of home-studios, the oversaturated music market, the bigger labels getting very specialized, refusing tracks which don’t perfectly fit with their expectations, taking the least risks possible not signing new artists, and the realization that whether you publish your music yourself or through a bigger label, you’re not going to make a living out of it anyway, so why not do everything by yourself?
What have you found the biggest challenge to running a label so far?
To be honest, I thought it would be harder to set everything up. We did face several challenges but this is part of the learning process, and part of the fun as well! On the technical side, we took some time to find a good mastering engineer, but now we are set. On the business side, I learned a lot about the distribution chain and how much your distributor drives the sales of your release. And of course, the fact that you just can’t make profits with your sales in this industry!
Did you anticipate these challenges?
I did anticipate the financial aspect of the business. For the rest, it’s just part of the adventure and I take them as they are coming to me, day by day and by surprise.
Your latest release as Cool Tiger, JCW001, will be out on your new sub-label, Junction White. Can you explain the difference between the two labels?
Junction White is focused on rawer, club-centred music. The idea is to be able to make and release music in a faster way, with fewer constraints for the artists. The records will be sold as White Labels only.
On the contrary, “normal” Junction Records EP answers more precise artistic visions sublimated by the artworks of our A&R Lucie Corbasson and are often the result of several back-and-forths with the artists over longer periods of time. There is this sense of freedom and urge to release music in Junction White which is very different from the other Junction Records EPs.
When you’re in the studio, do you know when you’re going to be making music for one label or the other? Or do you generally just jam and see where it takes you?
When I step into the studio to start a track I can quickly tell whether I’d want it on Junction Records or Junction White; my creative process differs for both. I tend to theorize more for Junction Records, start with the ideas and sounds in my head, then try to make them alive; whereas all Junction White tracks were made from multiple jam recordings that I edited, then picking up the ones which have a consistent sound. It’s actually the exact opposite process: top-down VS bottom-up approach!
We’ve heard the record has been winning some nice support already. How important is it for you to gain approval from other DJs? Is it a sign Cool Tiger is doing alright, you think?
I’d like to say that I’m blind to (positive and negative) critics, but I’m really not! And when people like Truncate drop a nice message and play your EP, you can only feel grateful and energized.
But, overall, it’s very hard to predict people’s reaction to any artistic work, and the best thing you can do is to stay humble, stay focused and keep on working the way that makes you feel great.
On that note, if you could work alongside any producer, who would it be and why?
When I collaborate, I like when the people are in the same room, creating together, not sharing stems online for example. That’s an issue because producers tend to be control freaks willing to take care of every step and because production work is not linear and can take such a long time! I’ve never really managed to work this way with producer friends. However, I feel that working with musicians and writers outside of the techno world is much more rewarding and foster creativity much more. I’ve always been inspired by Animal Collective for example, how they use creative arrangement structures, how they add organic elements to their tracks. Their music is tribal but never boring!
Your sound tends to be quite techno inclined. What is it about harder sounds that so appeal to you?
I try to blend several genres together, warmth and power at once. I’ve been listening and playing a lot of techno lately, but still, I come more from the disco and house side of music, which – I hope – can be spotted in the tracks I produce. I am also influenced by the dusty drum production of old hip-hop tracks.
And tell us a bit about your alias, Cool Tiger – how did that come about?
Cool Tiger is my main alias and the one I’ve used for ten years already. I’m not so sure anymore if this comes from Hobbes of Calvin&Hobbes, We Tiger of Animal Collective, a random word generator or a bit of everything.
What keeps you busy aside from music?
Making great smoothies takes up a substantial part of my free time.
What’s next up for you that you’re really excited about?
Lots of things are going to happen in 2018 … We have a crazy techno-bass-weird music EP from a UK producer coming up on Junction Records, I really can’t wait to put it out! I am also working on a European tour in support of this Junction White release. My friend and colleague Luc, who is working more on the organizational part of the label (also performing as Visceral Visions), just moved to Berlin, which is very exciting and will likely lead to new opportunities there. Finally, I’m planning this year’s label anniversary in March – last year was a 14 hours-long party in Paris, I wonder where this will lead us in 2018.
Cool Tiger’s JCTW001 is out soon on Junction Records.