With a new EP out on his brand new label, we spoke with Parisian disco don Art of Tones
Ludovic Llorca’s production career began with a series of jazz-flavoured late 90s singles, followed by the release of his downtempo debut album Newcomer on F Communication in 2001, its smokey, sample-based grooves and jazz leanings drawing inevitable comparisons with fellow Frenchman St Germain’s classic Tourist.
In the mid-2000s, Llorca put out a pair of deep house EPs on 2020Vision, kicking off his new pseudonym Art Of Tones, which concentrates more on deep house and disco. Since then he’s released his music on Lazy Days, DFTD, Local Talk, House of Disco, We Play House, Room With A View, Glitterbox and more.
He's a producer who quickly gained a reputation for quality and not quantity, the kind of artist who makes every release count. And now, 25 years into his production career, Ludovic is launching his new label Palp, a name which has two meanings in French: one is to feel, and there other is to make a quick buck.
The label's just opened its account with a funky disco/house EP that comes with a Scruscru remix. We took the opportunity to have a quick natter with Ludovic about his background, his new label project and nailing that unique Art Of Tones sound…
So starting at the beginning, tell us how you ended up as a house producer – what was your musical journey?
“My parents were listening to a lot of soul, funk and disco, but I started listening and then composing 8-bit music with a Commodore 64. I grew up with hip-hop until I met a friend (David Duriez) in 1991 who introduced me to house and techno, and then Chicago and New York house music. MAW and Deep Dish were my models back then, mostly because of the funky beats and the jazz-influenced chords that sounded so mysterious to me.
“After a couple of EP’s here and there, I got signed to Laurent Garnier’s label in 1997 and released Newcomer in 2001 that became, to my surprise, a best-seller in Europe. After years of touring with musicians, I decided I would start from scratch with a new project. That's how this Art Of Tones project was born.”
After so many years in the business, you’ve just launched your label Palp. Why now?
“I've spent the last 30 years composing music, trying to get rid of everything standing between music-making and me. I've always said I would never run a label because it’s too much paperwork and too far from the artistic side of music. But the truth is because the music industry has changed I've been thinking about it for the past three or four years.
"Back in the day, music producers needed labels and distributors to release their music to the world. Now, with the streaming platforms and online shops like Bandcamp, it’s obvious the link between artist and audience is getting tighter. It doesn't mean we don't need labels and distributors anymore, it means it's easier to do it and reach people's hearts.
"Running a label is very challenging, I've been releasing albums, sometimes selling a lot of records, I've been making EPs, remixes, producing and mixing for other artists. What was left to do?”
What are the advantages of running your own label?
“One of the main reasons is that you can do everything the way you wanna do it. If you feel your latest track deserves a music video or a bigger promo campaign, there’s nobody and nothing standing between you and the energy you wanna put in releasing your music.
“I’m a bit of a control freak, I want to be able to choose the graphic designer, the video director etc. When releasing on someone else’s label, the music you’ve spent so much time polishing is released and the following week there’s another artist’s EP out on the label. It is very frustrating.”And are there disadvantages?
“Paperwork, emails, so many things you should have on your mind besides making music. Yikes! You gotta be organised, which I am not. And the money you put in the release, promo etc. You’re not even sure to get it back. But I think it's worth doing it.”
What do you hope to achieve with Palp?
“I want to give people a beautiful thing - that 'thing' being digital or physical (with vinyl). I want them to feel that there was time and attention put into the little details, the artwork, the sound, the mixing and the mastering, everything that makes a record something more than just music – something major labels don’t even bother doing now.
“I don’t want to release a new EP every two weeks, people should feel that you care about it. I will firstly release my own music on Palp, but I've already received great demos and EP’s for the label, so I've got a great bunch of releases ready.”
Moving on to the new EP, it’s sounding great, tell us a little bit about it…
“I’m so happy and excited it’s out! I've been keeping All Night on my hard drive for a while now – the track was ready when the pandemic started. I really like this one because it hits this exact spot where I wanna go, that makes me feel like dancing, right between house and disco music.
“I actually sent it to Kapote because we had been speaking about an Art Of Tones EP on Toytonics, and I love his label. Then the pandemic happened, and I got a bit down and demotivated… why bother making and releasing dance music when bars and clubs are closed? I gave up on music-making for a while. Then I thought that, if I was going to do it, I would do it on my own, and this track was perfect for a label launch.
“As for Brotherhood, I've always seen it as an 'intro" track and it showcases another part of my music, something more musical I guess. I didn’t study music at school but I love composing strings arrangements, and this one was a bit special to me, with a darker mood. It’s an obvious tribute (to say the least) to Marvin Gaye, but it’s got this Moodymann or The Revenge feel, like a desperate, modern, hypnotising version of What’s Going On.”
“When the EP was ready, I thought it would be fair to the listeners to have someone else with me on this first release. I've been playing a lot of Scruscru’s music recently, so I contacted him and asked for a remix, which he kindly accepted. I love his take on All Night.”
Your tunes are often extremely funky, halfway between house and disco – how do you describe your sound?
“It’s always hard to describe your own work, it is something so subjective. 'Wood' and 'warm' are the first words crossing my mind when speaking about my own music! I guess there's also a melancholic side to it. I'm trying to be a one-man-band, with my computer as my only instrument. I want to compose the drum part, the strings part, the bass and guitar part – that's what is exciting to me! In a way, I guess my music sounds a bit 'live' or 'acoustic'.”
Re: being a one-man band, I read an interview on Traxsource a few years ago when you discussed your studio – it was all software-based, with your only hardware a small Mackie desk and a turntable for sampling. Is this still the case?
“Kind of. I bought a Pro 6 but I sold it as I wasn’t using it that much. My music doesn’t sound that electronic! I also bought a Moog Minitaur and a Behringer Model D that I'm still using. I have a Neve summing mixer, I think the best buy I've made for years. It helps give depth and width to my mixes.”
Tell us something about Art of Tones that you’ve never told anyone else?
“Friends make fun of this moniker by replacing the last word with anything that works in context. If I make a silly joke, I’m Art Of Jokes, whenever I cook tuna I’m Art Of Tuna and so on!”
Is there a question that you never get asked that you’d like to answer? What is it, and what’s the answer?
“Will there be any Art Of Tones live act? And the answer is, I would love to do it but haven’t found the time so far. And I guess the upcoming months will be very busy taking care of the label, but hopefully I will start working on it in 2022!”
And finally, tell us about your plans for the coming year?
“Obviously, a lot of new Art Of Tones EPs coming up on Palp, and there should be a South American DJ tour in November, I haven’t travelled so far for a while now! I'm also recording a session with some jazz musicians in Paris for a French label called Frappé, that's exciting too!”
Words: Harold Heath
The All Night Brotherhood EP is out now on Palp