Always looking to experiment through more impassioned expressions of electronica, Argentinian born producer/deejay Partenaire (born Axel Bray) builds upon his influences of the progressive underground world by incorporating his own stylish brand of progressive house together with sounds of deep lush techno. “I think it’s the place where smart electronica, sounds and the club meet”, he shared with me in our interview. This very influence has indeed “opened up a new world” for him as we continue the conversation.
Many musicians and producers I have spoken with have often shared with me how they dabbled in either piano and/or guitar lessons. Axel Bray joins the group. “I had some guitar and bass lessons when I was 15, for a year. But that never really took off… I think my heart wasn’t in it”, described Axel. Luckily for us, his love and passion for making his own music began on his 25th birthday. “My girlfriend at that moment gave me a micro Korg synth as a gift”, he shared and excitedly added, “That was it for me. I fell in love with possibility of making my own music”.
As we dived further into Axel’s earlier beginnings, he shared something very heartfelt. “My mom is deaf”, he said. Nonetheless while growing up, his home like most others, was filled with music. “My dad is big on music, like most people, but doesn’t play any instruments”… “So I didn’t grow up with instruments laying around or anything like that”, he said. However, it wasn’t until an 11 year old Axel started to take a liking to music. I believe most of us can relate when remembering our younger self as Axel said it best, “I [he] could lock myself in my room and actually have a say in the music that I would listen to”. There seemed to be a slight brother sister rivalry in the Bray household as Axel talked about how well his sister could sing. “She has always sang, since we were very young…so I was kind of ‘her thing’. I was jealous I guess. You know, to be that naturally talented”.
There’s no doubt Axel has been leaving his imprint in the electronic world. When he was around 22 years, he got into writing by starting his own music review blog. He explained to FRISKY News, “I would review music I liked”… “Only music I liked”. And continued by adding, “I just don’t see the point in writing about something that is shit… All that time, to create something negative…it’s fucked up and I just don’t see the point in it”. After the blog, Axel started writing for actual magazines, which he currently continues to do. And as Axel shared with me, “It used to be about music in general, and now I do it mostly for electronic music magazines”.
“Youniverse”, Patenaire’s new FRISKY show takes us on an otherworldly universal and ethereal journey. As he reflected in our interview, “In my mixes you can find anything”. And no doubt FRISKY listeners will think, as Axel said, “Whoa, how did we get here?”
It was a true fun treat getting to know Axel more as we discussed numerous facets of his career and personal journey.
First, I’d like to start out by saying “thank you” for taking time from your busy schedule to do this interview. Your music is a delight to listen to and I’m excited to be a part of your journey writing your story for your followers and Frisky listeners. Tell me about your upcoming show. And describe your thoughts about being part of the FRISKY family.
Thank you guys for having me over! To say I’m excited would be an understatement. FRISKY is absolutely huge. It’s where a lot of the artists I admire strut their stuff, and I really can’t believe it’s my turn to step up to the plate with ‘Youniverse’. The name comes from a track I released earlier this year, which is very important to me on a personal level. Some years ago, I was going thru a lot of changes in my life, and in the turmoil, I felt like I had found reasons to fall in love with myself once again. I had re-discovered the universe in me. And realized that, with patience, I would eventually find these little universes inside everyone and anyone I would encounter. The show is meant to be a journey where we can get in touch with our inner selves. Some episodes you’ll find me in a more ‘meditative’ state; in others, you’ll find me more energetic and uplifting… I’ll be exploring the corners of our universes, basically.
I see that as a deejay & producer, you seek to experiment more impassioned expressions of electronica, together with your own stylish blend of progressive house and techno. Kindly explain, what philosophies shape your creative musical mindset? What drives you to keep pushing the creative threshold and your approach when making new tracks?
When I DJ, or produce my own tracks, the main idea is to recreate a feeling, a state of mind. I don’t do things just because, don’t make or use tracks because they are ‘pretty’, or because they ‘work’ on the dance floor. I need to live life, kiss, run, laugh, dance, cry…and then come back, sit down, and reprocess all of that, to bottle it in 8 or 9 minutes (an hour if it’s a DJ mix). I know when I’m on the right track, because I get this feeling, like I am healing some part of me… exercising my soul, so to speak. I don’t tend to worry much thinking about whether something sounds ‘new’ or not; whether I wanna do a techno track, or just go deeper. I don’t question those things. I just express. We are never the same. Time passes for all of us, and we tend to see things in a different light. So even the same objects and feelings are somewhat ‘new’ in time. We don’t love the same exact way every time we fall in love, do we?
If I may say Axel, you have a very impressive CV. Your tracks have been featured on Hernan Cattaneo’s ‘Resident’; Aly & Fila’s ‘Future Sound Of Egypt’; Tripswitch’s ‘Harmonics’ and also have been supported by Nick Warren, Guy J, Eelke Kleijn, and Armin Van Buuren just to name a few. What has been your most memorable music project? How has that experience transpired/affected musical projects thereafter?
To this day, I think that the ‘Intertwine’ EP, for PHW Elements, has been the most significant one. The original transpires emotion, which was harnessed perfectly by Julian Rodriguez and Mønje (Sebastian Sellares) in their remixes. Sebastian’s remix was played by Hernan in Forja, OVO and Warung, and I took that as a new chapter. We grew to be close friends with Sebastian, and we even decided to try out some collabs, which ended up as our ‘Convergence’ EP on ‘onedotsixtwo’, which is probably our biggest release yet. These collaborations are the tracks I’m most proud of to this date. This EP is a reflection of our growth as producers this far, and it did shape a bit the sound for what was about to come.
Since we discussed a bit about your favorite projects, would you kindly share with me if there are any artists you’ve always wanted to collaborate with? Why?
Yes, there are. I love working with other people, because it throws me off from my comfort zone, and the results are usually, something I could have never achieved or imagine on my own. I have this thing for vocal tracks, but finding the right voice is really hard. I would love to have Paula OS on one of my tracks. And I’m really big on Juan Hansen as well. I must admit I also adore Name One, which I heard on Adriatique’s fantastic ‘Midnight Walking’. Working with his vocals would be amazing. If I’m just talking about producing a progressive ‘club’ track, working with Tripswitch or Desaturate would be a dream come true. Tripswitch has this knack for good taste, which is just impeccable. And Desaturate has this ability to manipulate raw energy and transform it into something beautiful, which just resonates deep in me. Guy J would be a given, of course.
What type of listeners do you believe you generally appeal to and/or would like to? How important is it for you to have listeners grasp the context within your music? And in what ways do you appeal to a broader audience not just in Argentina, but globally?
I think I tend to appeal to a more mature audience. My music and sets are not designed with a sole purpose. They are not just for the dance floor, or just for listening, just for this or that. I aim to make something unique, ever evolving. Something that one day might trigger this, and then trigger something else the next time we listen. I don’t mean to sound ‘snob-ish’, but I don’t think of it as just ‘club’ music. About how I approach audiences on a global level, I think I have been ridiculously lucky here. My grandad was British, so I’ve been taught how to speak and write in English since I was a baby, basically. And I did live in the US for quite a bit during my adolescence. So I think of myself as this breed of ‘global’ citizens, which is really common these days. I do 99% of my social media for Partenaire in English, which helps a lot; I do monthly Beatport Charts, which helps me connect with other artists, and labels which might have not heard of me before; and I am a music journalist as well (both in Spanish and English)… so that helps quite a bit.
Who, would you say, has been your musical influence(s)?
Like with most of my peers, I didn’t have that cool older brother that listened to electronica. That’s something that came later in life for me. I started out by listening to Nirvana, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead… bands like that. By the time I was 20, Radiohead was well into experimenting with electronica. And that’s where this adventure kinda started for me. Radiohead has to be the biggest one. Not because of the sound, but because listening to them, and watching them live, and in videos… it knocked down some preconceived notions about what could be achieved with these electronic instruments. In what will be forever fate to me, I must also add this short story. When I was like 15, I went to Tower Records, to pick up ‘Back In Black’ or something like that. And they had this ‘pick another record for 5$’ at the register, with a small selection. ‘Bossa & Stones’, or some shit like that. But, there was one that caught my eye. A yellow artwork cover. ‘Clubland – Vol.2’, mixed by Hernan Cattaneo. I had never gone clubbing before. So these sounds from the future blew me away. And I loved that the cds were long, and they were mixed. I only had to play press once, and the music play constantly, for hours. It was the perfect ‘background’ music for video games. Apparently, on a subconscious level, I was paying more attention to it than I initially thought.
How influenced, would you say, that you’ve been by the world of progressive underground sounds?
It definitely opened up a new world for me. I think it’s the place where smart electronica, sounds and the club meet. Something that you can listen to relaxing on a couch, but that you can dance to if you want to. It works in the morning, the afternoon… night time. Most of us progressive producers look to tell a story in every production, and without vocals or lyrics 99% of the time. Which I think makes it an even more universal thing. I think that’s a pretty cool thing.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge that you’ve encountered starting out in the electronic music world and when creating music?
I am self-taught. Didn’t have production classes, or go to school for it. So I’m used to looking stuff up whenever in doubt, or when I’ve hit a roadblock. So it definitely wasn’t learning how to do it. And, if you put your heart to it, in time, you’re bound to get better. I can guarantee you that. Effort is bound to compensate for talent. Probably the biggest challenge I’ve found in the electronic music world is learning to say ‘no’. Once the ball gets rolling, you want to take on every challenge, you want to take on every project. And it does end up taking a toll on you. Maybe stop, and think about not just today, but an overall career. I think that if you wanna be in this for the long run, you’ve got to find that balance. A sweet spot.
Over the course of your career, in what way would you say you’ve grown as an artist and as an electronic music producer?
I think by now, into my 4th year as a producer, I am able to say exactly what I want to say in my tracks. Music is a language that allows me to communicate what I cannot put into words. And just like with any language, the more words we learn and their correct use, enable us to convey a clearer, more accurate message. When the message is clear, that’s when we find our inner voice…our own trademark sound. I believe I have found myself, in that sense. And I better understand the dynamics of a club track, no doubt. I still have a lot to learn, but I think I have a clear idea of where I’m going.
You have a unique stage name – Partenaire – so happens that in French it actually means ‘partner’. Is there any special meaning behind it for you?
Like you said, it means just that. A partner. It’s a word that is specifically employed to refer to a partner, usually in an artistic activity, such as dancing. I’ve found that there is no ‘I’ without the listener. I do the music for myself, to heal, to express. But when I am done composing, that’s it for me…I have exorcised my demons, I’ve said what I wanted to say. That’s why I put the music out there, for others to relate to. To give it a new meaning, a broader purpose. That’s where the true magic happens. Same thing happens when I play live. If the club is empty, it just isn’t the same, right?
We have to talk about more your FRISKY show. Love the name by the way – YOUNIVERSE.
It’s like I said before… it’s a reflection of what I have found inside. In my mixes you can find anything, from ambient / downtempo, to deep, fast, driving techno. The idea is for the listener to go ‘whoa, how did we get here, when we were over there just a few minutes ago!?’ To show that these styles or genres are indeed extensions of one another. If you look up ‘YOUNIVERSE’, you’ll find it has this negative connotation. A selfish taint to it. But for me, it’s something else. It’s to acknowledge that there is a universe in each one of us. And there are certain universes I love getting lost in.
Out of curiosity, does your released track with same name YOUINVERSE give us a glimpse into the “universal” journey of your show here on FRISKY?
The track ‘Youniverse’, for my Auditen Music EP certainly represents the sounds you’ll find in my show. Jet-black grooves, where colorful sound imagery can contrast and glow even more. There is also an ethereal vibe to the track’s main line, like a cluster of stars. And that is something I really look for in my sound. It’s wide, cinematic. Something that is there, but you can’t be really sure about. So, ultimately, it can be whatever the listener wants it to be.
Any new projects/album releases that you’re currently working on you’d like to share with us? What lies ahead for Axel Bray or shall I say, Partenaire?
Currently, I am working on a pair of collaborations with a North American producer I really admire. Won’t say his name, because one can never really know what might happen, but I am really excited about what might come out of it. I also have some 3 EPs in, already signed and in line for the first half of the next year. But, I will be cutting down a bit on the release front in 2019. This year, I think I put out over 30 tracks with my name on them… whether originals, remixes I’ve done, or that have been done for my tracks. And that’s a lot. I’m proud of the year I’ve had, but I want to be able to select better what I put out. This year is probably going to be a more ‘quality over quantity’ thing. That’s not to say I haven’t privileged quality this far, but you catch my drift.
Everyone views “success” differently. In what way(s) does success mean to you?
I have found that, for me, success works in layers. Do I think being able to put out the music you like, having a show on a radio like FRISKY and have people respond to it is being successful? For sure. But I think then comes a new challenge, and so on. And being able to rise to those challenges that to me means success. I am one of those people that will put hurdles in front of themselves in order to get better and grow. So I am constantly looking out for a new challenge, a new opportunity. I do enjoy the moment. But when the time comes, I’ll seek out a new thrill. It’s in my nature I guess.
Adding to our previous discussion about success: Music in a sense always allows us to see endless possibilities and empowers our inner strengths. Describe to me, if you would please, what role in society, as a music artist, do you consider yourself having?
I consider myself to be an entertainer, foremost. I do the music for myself, but once it is out there, I owe myself to the people. But I think that if they follow me, it’s not because I give them what they want, but because they know they will learn something new about themselves in the process. So I do like to think that I am a part of something bigger that just art.
Before we end the interview, let’s have “fun question time”.
First, what do you like doing (for fun) the most when not working on music?
When I’m not working on music, I love playing video games to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a super social person. I love going out for beers with friends, clubbing, skating…but, now I am comfortable with myself (something that took me a while to learn, as I always wanted to be surrounded by people).
Is there anyone you’ve ever wanted to trade places with for a day?
If I could trade places for a day with anyone, I guess I would trade places with Richard D James (Aphex Twin), just because his personal life seems to be a mystery. And I would love to see what kind of gear he uses every day.
And finally, if you were a superhero, what would your superpowers be?
Teleportation would be amazing. Psychic abilities would be off the hook as well. Anything that might allow me to bend reality basically. Yes, I’m a mischievous one.
No doubt your evolution as a musician indeed carries on. Thank you, Axel, for taking time with me and FRISKY in sharing your thoughts. It’s been fun! Plus, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and better insight into your musical world. Therefore, before we conclude our interview, do you have any final thoughts?
Well, I had a lot of fun with you guys. It’s always a pleasure to share a bit of my backstory with whoever’s out there following. I can only thank you for taking the time to do this, and hope to catch everyone tuning in on Wednesday, December 5th for the first ‘Youniverse’ episode ever! Will have something extra special. By the way, I would like to thank all the producers and friends around the globe, for sending their tracks over, week in and week out, so that I can cherry pick from the best of the best! Big Love to everyone!
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