Name: Polo & Pan
Members: Paul Armand-Delille, Alexandre Grynszpan
Interviewee: Paul Armand-Delille aka Polo
Current release: Polo & Pan's Magic Remix EP is out via Ekleroshok.
If you enjoyed this interview with Polo & Pan and would like to explore their work in more depth, visit their official website. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
What was your first studio like?
It was a bedroom studio in 2000. I was using the software Ejay, on a PC tower with a 100 Mb hard drive. (laughs)
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I was very influenced by the album Moon Safari by Air when I started, so from the beginning I knew I wanted analog gear and to do real recordings … It took me a long time to make the collection I have now.
[Read our Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air interview]
I started by buying good microphones and preamps. I did a lot of sampling of percutions, mallets, shakers that I then set into samplers to get digital precision and control on this analog material.
My first real good synth was a Juno 106 that I paid 500 Euros for 15 years ago. I still use it a lot. Since then I have also acquired a minimoog model-D, a Juno 60, a Jupiter 4, a DX7, an Emulator II, a Korg MS-20 and many more. I also got a lot of electric pianos: Fender Rhodes, Solinas, Crumar Strings, Farfisa. I am currently sampling all of them so we can take our own bank of samples on the road and create with analog material even out of the studio. I always travel with a mic also.
Recording in tape has also been a big part of my recent experimentation. trying to improve the sounds of vocal or guitar recordings for example on “Feel Good” or “Ani Kuni”.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
We try to make our own sounds as much as possible. We also have some favorite presets for our plug-ins. We tend to hold on to a sound and re-use it when we find something that rings true.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
Both are good, the studio is amazing to go into more depth and create great sounds, achieve high level recordings and for mixing tracks. The road is great because with the laptop, choices are limited.
Also, we tend to have a more technical approach to creation, going down the rabbit hole of Ableton’s endless production possibilities.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customized devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
In terms of controllers we are big fans of the Akai interfaces. We are currently looking into MPE controllers but haven’t really made the jump yet. Our controllers are most useful and optimized for our live performances.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
It’s everything to us. When I first understood, in the early 2000s, that I could make music with my computer, I felt a deep thrill. Like I had found the best life hack ever. (laughs)
Recently I created a new arpeggiator midi device for Ableton. The idea stemmed from our live performances. Basically, this arpeggiator is always in tune with the current midi grid and can be fed any kind of sound or sample. This idea that came from the live show is now being used in our next productions, like our remix of Acid Arab that will come out soon.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
As I mentioned before, the archive is really about creating a giant sound bank and also being able to easily access sounds that were previously used in former tracks.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
We think about this a lot. Building our music like a movie with a good plot and then a big surprise that subverts your expectations. I think the surprise element comes from the human part of creativity, your capability of imaging precisely what is expected and then making the right choice to take the audience somewhere else.
Technology can be in service of this. But the concept of surprise is human.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
From the beginning our music came from a common culture, many discussions and our idea of building ‘a world’ with strong images and references to music that had touched us.
We love the idea of free creation and jamming in the studio. But in our duo, this was not the starting point.
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
For me it’s super important, I really want to bring my touch at every level and am eager to learn all the parts of the process. With experience though I have learned to let go of a lot of the process in service of making better music.
For example, mixing is an art of its own, that I can never master as well as Stan Neff (our amazing mixer on the LP tracks). I am also happy to have session musicians come into the studio to replay guitar or Rhodes piano demos to make them sound better.
It’s important to keep the big picture in mind and just try to make the best music possible.