Earlier this year, Canadian producer Rene Lavice landed his first track with the legendary Ram Records as part of the label’s Dimensions series. A short spell later, Lavice added a solo release to Ram’s formidable catalog, with his fresh new sound (best heard on the EP’s lead track, “Dank“) swiftly climbing into Beatport’s drum & bass Top 100 chart.
With that in mind, we thought it was high time to check in with the Toronto-based artist to learn more about him and hear what he has in store for the future.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Where did you grow up, and where are you based now?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada and right now I’m basically living between Toronto and London.
What were your first musical obsessions?
Banging wooden spoons on an upside-down bucket.
How did you get started producing?
It stemmed from a lot of different things. I used to use my dad’s Walkman to record song ideas I would try to write for various bands that I had started with friends. Later on, I got into turntablism and hip-hop, and would find ways to make my own scratch beats. At a certain point, I just fell into producing because it was something expressive that I could get lost in all on my own.
Is there any specific track that has production that amazes you?
There are hundreds, to be honest. I should write a novel about it. For now I’ll just say Dillinja’s “Baby Your.” Tunes like that give me a feeling in my chest that I can’t describe; live or die, in that moment I’m alive.
Was there a point during your producing where you realized that you had settled on your own particular sound and style?
I think it was around the time “Headlock” really blew up that it hit home. I didn’t realize it until other people started telling me, but there are certain things I do with bass and a quirkiness to other elements of my tracks that people seem to really pick up on.
Where would you say the main influences in your current productions stem from?
That’s a hard question for me because I listen to such a melting pot of sounds. There’s been a heavy influence from ’90s boom-bap-style hip-hop beats on my sound. Producers like DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, Dilla, and Alchemist; all people with an aggressive sound that’s still got soul. I like things that come from the heart but still bump on the dancefloor. Sometimes it’s a bit of a balancing act.
Did you have any mentors when you were starting out producing?
No, not really. None of my friends were into this stuff. My friends were always kind of like, “What the fuck is this guy doing?” or acting like I was the butt of some joke, frankly. They just couldn’t relate to it. Later on, I met more established producers like Gremlinz, and we got on really well. I had already been producing for a few years at that point, but it was still great to collaborate on stuff and swap techniques and ideas.
How do you explain your music to your family members?
My family likes my music, actually, so I don’t need to explain much. When they first found out about it, I had to tell them about the sub-bass and that it was technically dance music, but then they just asked me, “So why isn’t stuff like this on the CBC?” and I didn’t have an answer for that.
When you DJ live, what kind of setup do you use? How would you describe your sets?
Right now I use Serato and CDJs (sometimes vinyl when the tables are actually functional). I’d describe my sets as a showcase of my own music along with a mix of music that’s influential to me, or more catered to a certain event. I need to feel like I’m creating something live in front of people so I always roll with two or three times more music than I need, and try to improvise a lot of the mixes. Sometimes it totally backfires, though, but a lot of the time you end up with really special moments that you couldn’t have pre-planned. It’s about showcasing my productions and still vibing off the energy of the crowd, basically.
How did you get your first signing?
I was sending things out to labels for a while and getting no response, but then at random I sent a few tunes to this new Canadian podcast called CCDNB. DJ Kapulet, the guy running the podcast, really liked my stuff and started a label called Stride where he released a few of my tunes. It was a great little no-bullshit way to get some tunes out there, and that podcast was great publicity for a lot of Canadian talent. For that reason I hope he starts it up again and does another episode!
Are you the type of musician who knows what kind of track you want to write before you sit down to make it, or do you create music more from a process of experimentation, trial, and error?
There is a little of both involved. Most of the pre-planning is just notes on a napkin or something like that. Some ideas I’ve had while daydreaming, then later I’ll be in the studio and just be recording things, pulling them apart, and resampling them, and everything will fall into place. Sometimes I’ll be experimenting with new sounds and then I’ll walk away from it for a day before going back to it with something I thought of while on the bus. You need both a concept as well as new exciting sounds to use, so quite often the two can play off each other to make a fully formed track.
When you sit down to make a track, what’s the first thing you typically do? How long does a track typically take you to make?
First, I turn off AIM, Skype, email, and the phone. For me, making tracks can take anywhere from one day to five years—it depends on what I’m trying to achieve. If there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on, it usually decides when it’s done on its own.
Where do you record?
The main place I record is my home studio in Toronto. Sometimes I’ll write things on my laptop while on the plane or a train, or even just in my brain just to stay sane.
Do you currently have a favorite piece of gear or software?
Probably my Zoom H4n field recorder. I record sounds with it all over the place. There are always those moments when I’ll be walking around in a city and hear something beeping or some mechanical noise and think, “Oh, that would be a cool addition,” and so I’ll record it. I probably only use about two percent of all the stuff I record, but it’s fun to do.
Is there any gear that you don’t currently have but have been obsessed with owning?
An Akai reel-to-reel tape machine thingy.
Are you a morning person or night owl?
Depends on how many deadlines I have. Has NASA made progress on the 36-hour day yet?
What’s the latest trend in electronic music that you’ve noticed taking shape?
In general, I’ve noticed that people like taking genres that have already existed for 10-plus years, giving them a new name like “trap,” and blowing it up as a totally new thing. Is trap not just clubby Southern hip-hop, or am I totally out to lunch? Either way, it’s cool though, because I like it, so call it whatever you want. Trap on, my fellow trappers.
When you’re not listening to electronic music, what do you listen to?
Today, it’s Erik Satie and Debussy.
When you’re not making or playing music, what’s your preferred pastime?
Going for pho with friends, or skateboarding.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing with your life?
I would have been a lawyer.