Throughout all boroughs of the city that never sleeps, music has always been an intricate part of the culture, nightlife, and the vibe of a neighborhood. As an urban melting pot of the world, these streets play host to a new level of coexisting that makes the passion and brotherhood of New York magical at a minimum. Parisian transplants Awhad and Armand are the latest to leave their mark on this hallowed ground. Dubbed ‘Transmissions’, the two aim to pay hommage but innovate through minimal-framed house and techno music.
In a conflicted climate of lossy sounds and shabby delivery, Transmissions evolves from a deeper appreciation of dance quality. Blending the spirit of New York nightlife with homegrown artists adopting emerging sounds, this event series, and label is a melting pot of underground culture. Getting their feet wet at Brooklyn club nights and local wax shops, the two have embraced and contributed to the art of analog even through the rapidly changing landscape of BK. Staying true to music-driven club culture, Transmissions plans to keep NY a destination for techno and breeding ground for gritty artistry. See what they had to say.
You’re both are Parisians in Brooklyn, give us a quick overview of your introduction to music and journey to today.
Awhad: As a kid with parents that were fervent music appreciators, I had records from all genres playing whenever I was home. I can also remember my uncle who listened a lot to Radio Nova, a French station airing all kinds of non mainstream music: world, experimental, jazz… At that time, I would say that I had already developed a particular interest for music and at the age of 14, I started playing the bass guitar to join a jazz/funk band later on. That’s where I developed a sense for the groove that I still continue to cure as of today by listening to a lot of different genres and inspirations, whether it’s jazz, classical, hip hop or ambient…
Besides, being a long time geek, I’ve always been into music gear and hardware and I think it’s what naturally drove me towards electronic music. I was nothing but amazed by the infinite ways of composing, of creating and treating sounds or frequencies. It all appeared to me as an endless source of fascination, source I had to dive into at all costs. That’s when I began producing weird stuff on Ableton, right before getting into DJing.
Living in Paris, I felt extremely lucky as there clearly was (and still is) a huge interest for the underground electronic music, with many artists and collectives who pushed the scene to where it is now. In such context, I had the chance to discover a lot, dance to and learn from artists that still inspire me as of today, experience clubs and parties like Rex Club, Katapult, Concrete… If most of this helped defining the vibe I was at the same time looking and aiming for, I keep refining and extending the search with all the new influences I’m getting here in NYC.
I’ve now been djing for the past 6 years, with a focus set on vinyl over the last 3 years and to be honest, I don’t see any picture in which I would stop. Digging and playing music became an addiction that, I feel, won’t ever be fulfilled. It takes 100% of my free time when it’s not busy with producing or partying and I reached the point where spinning on a daily basis became mandatory to my happiness.
Armand: Well, I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. I started very early with the violin and piano, the latter becoming my main instrument. Conservatory in Paris soon followed. Growing up, I was listening to everything I could lay my hands on, and going to concerts every time I could. I would also spend hours on the piano every day, and it became my way to express my emotions, where I would take refuge on the worst days (and still do!).
Besides the classical word, I was drawn to rock, jazz, especially to the experimental side with guys like Nine Inch Nails, Jan Jelinek… This had me take up drums for a while in junior high as well, and opening a new side to music, more intuitive, improvisational.
From that time I became fascinated by electronic music. It is still in its very infancy, compared to the time we spent developing mere physical instruments and compositions. There’s still so much experimenting to be done, and I guess my background in sciences had a part in my interest too. So when I moved to NYC, I took up djing as my new instrument, and began digging deeper into production.
What first attracted you to the creative atmosphere in Brooklyn? What do you think makes NYC’s underground music scene unique?
Armand: When I moved to NYC, I ended up with no instruments, no means to play music, with at the same time all this music around me. It really felt weird, I would spend empty days idling around… So I got some Technics and a Xone, which would keep me busy for days (they still do too!), while roaming through Brooklyn’s underground.
I guess the rest followed quite naturally. Brooklyn has this New York ultra-inclusive nature, which to me is so important to a party, while being big enough so that quality can be found in a very wide range of music. Of course, there’s no substitute to the periodic trip to Romania or Berlin, but to me it’s a blessing I can go in a day from the Met to a modular concert to that nondescript warehouse.
Awhad: When I moved from Paris to NY in November 2016, I got the opportunity to bring all of my gear and records. Naturally, I had a few mixtapes in stock to promote myself here as I really wanted to play around to get a taste of the local scene. I was lucky enough to meet the relevant people on what I’d call a short timeline. The first person that I met was Marite from the RA+RE crew thanks to a Discogs sale! I was looking for insights on the scene and we immediatly got along. She also throws parties with her collective Off The Record and I was booked at one of their parties in March, which was a total blast. I also met the infamous David Paglia, a legendary Brooklyn DJ, at a house party that I threw at my place. From there, everything went kinda fast, especially with the Brooklyn underground scene not being that big.
Talking about the scene, what I love the most about it is, I think, its raw character. Coming from Paris, the warehouse parties I went to were really the firsts and the feeling was unprecedented. I’d say that in comparison with Paris and more generally Europe, the interest for the minimal house genre is still developing and I feel like it is a really good thing: not only there’s still a lot of room for development, it also gives you the opportunity to see artists in a much more intimate setup. Fortunately, NY is well taken care of with the likes of ReSolute just to name one, whether it is a rooftop after party with Barac or a daytime event with Rhadoo playing in a private mansion…
And I gotta say that the Brooklyn scene itself is really great. It’s filled with passionate and dedicated people that are really striving to turn this scene into an even better one. It really feels great to meet and evolve with people sharing the same passion as you, everyone that I met so far was welcoming, friendly and would made you feel like we’re all part of the same picture.
So you both have made rounds in the local circuit, what was the spark behind Transmissions?
Armand: We met around the end of last year, when Awhad moved to NYC. We have complementing backgrounds, and our conceptions of what we want to do in music are so similar… which is basically the best you can hope for. We also strive to bring something different to New Yorkers, the sound we play and love still has a lot of room to grow here. We discussed a project for a while, and began building our home studio together in April to make that a reality.
Can you describe the type of lineups and sounds that will define the experience of Transmissions? What makes it unique?
Awhad: We want Transmissions to evolve as we do. Our aim is to bring new finds, discoveries that we feel should be shared with everyone, so bringing up genres would be very limiting. If our lineups will probably be club oriented to begin with, we still want to make it more than a strict club affair. This will go through bringing artists that are as known if not more for their live performances than for their DJ sets. Though we do lean towards minimal house in our sets these days, our influences are numerous and always expanding. But one thing’s for sure is that we’re not on to exclude any genre from our line-ups, and we like to think that our passion for music will help us provide everyone with the best possible experience.
We really have a holistic approach to the party as a product of Transmissions, thus we’re to hold most of our events at unconventional venues rather than usual clubs. We’re committed to raw aesthetics, we believe it gets you away from your everyday life and mundane appearances, to focus on people, music, the actual moment. We will be throwing the Transmissions launch party on October 6 with a couple special guests at a very amazing and intimate spot we are setting up for the occasion. More details will be communicated soon so we encourage everyone to stay tuned, see http://transmissionsny.com
What impact do you hope to make on underground music in NYC?
Armand: First of all sharing this music that moves us so much is what’s driving through all that work. We believe NYC’s scene could really benefit from more exposure to minimal house/techno and all the connected stuff popping out around the world, and we hope to play our part in this. Though Transmissions is a very new project, we’re actually seeing a lot of interest. On September 16, we’re taking over the outdoor stage of a big party at The Paper Box in Brooklyn with our friends from Off The Record. As just said, we also have our very own party on October 6 in Brooklyn, and curating the night of November 30 at TBA Brooklyn, a great hub of the Brooklyn scene. This is only the beginning!
Any studio plans for either of you in the future?
Armand: Yeah, Transmissions has always been about getting into the studio too. For now we’re building it at home, machine by machine, kind of throwing all our budget in it, and working on them in the meanwhile. But I’m not sure how long we will be able to keep it home, my room already looks like a studio with a bed! I just got my first modular synth setup, and Awhad too. It is an incredible thing, and I’ve been working on this for several months already. We really believe in the jam thing in the studio. I think it’s a great way to create quality music, but it has to come from intuition developed through years of work. With a modular synth, you have this incredible level of control with this physicality I need. By choosing the limitations of your own instrument, you end up imposing them to yourself, and I believe that’s a necessary thing to develop a technique. Enjoyable, too. And there’s endless experimentation, I don’t think I will ever get to the bottom of it. Actually it doesn’t have one, which is exactly what I’m after.
Awhad: I’ve been jamming over the past few years on Ableton but I’ve never really released stuff. Now that I finally have a place to call home, we’re building our studio and we’re really excited about it. We’ve got a lot of ideas in mind and it’s probably gonna take a bit before getting where we really wanna be with all these new machines. But we’ve both got handful backgrounds and there’s nothing than we love more than jamming. All of this is really promising 🙂
You both frequent the decks at your local shop, Halcyon. How much does vinyl and the culture behind pressing records influence you both as artists?
Armand: Indeed, we have a strong vinyl culture here at Transmissions. And we really like the fact that Halcyon organizes these vinyl only online streams, allowing artists to showcase themselves, it really brings something. These days we love to play vinyl only. Like lots of artists in our genre I think, we believe the medium is an important part of the underground culture. It helps to keep a committed public for your releases, hence more artistic freedom, more diversity, and keeps things as less commercial as possible.
There’s also something in the vinyl aesthetic that really fits us. For us, a live performance is rooted in the risk the artist takes, that’s what makes the connection with the public. It may change in the future, but today it’s one of our ways to share risk-taking with our public. And vinyl’s organic sound, the imperfections it creates… being kind of a perfectionist I feel it tells everyone listening to focus on the experience and not technicalities, which is what a party is all about.
After many years behind the decks, how do you keep your DJ crate fresh? Where do you find most of the tracks that you play often in a set?
Awhad: One of the main parts of being a DJ is to keep the bag fresh, whether it’s filled with new or old releases. When you play vinyl only, digging is a continuous and time-consuming process. You gotta think smart when bagging for a gig and I like that idea. But even with vinyls, you can get bored pretty quick at a track, so records come and go thanks to platforms like Discogs or online retailers.
Back in Paris, we had multiple shops, Techno Import, Syncrophone, and now Yoyaku, just to name a few, which all are gold mines. If the European stuff that I usually dig takes a little bit more time to arrive in the shops here, I’m getting to see more and more of these! I really enjoy digging there too because of all of the influence broadening, getting hands on records that I wouldnt normally run into. I always end up finding stuff at Halcyon or A1 Records, whether it’s new or old. Also wanna shout out to my mate Eric at A1 and Academy, another Discogs user that I met and that I ended inviting along with Marite to a showcase I did at Halcyon back in May.
What crews/labels do you think are really on point these days, NYC, Paris, wherever?
Awhad: I feel very lucky to live in a period that I consider to be extremely fruitful musically speaking. With what’s currently happening on the other side of the pond, not only with this very strong Eastern trend but also with all of the input coming from France, and Europe in general, I feel blessed. I truly dig labels like Amphia, Meander, Understand, and a lot of similar underground labels, whether they’re Romanian, French, English…
Back in Paris, parties, collectives and/or labels like Concrete, Katapult, 75021 and Yoyaku brought a renewal that really pushed the scene to where it is now. When I first arrived to NY, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t find a similar vibe but on my first weekend, I was already dancing to Praslesh at a ReSolute party. Now you also have two new parties arising from the split of Blkmarket, and as mentioned before, there are a few smaller guys like Outwatch or Off The Record that we really like and that are bringing really cool artists.
Sound systems, what’s your weapon of choice? Any ideas for what will power Tranmissions?
Armand: This is highly situation-specific, but we’re working with the best local sound guys so that people can enjoy the music’s intricacies in full resolution. The system is important, but what are often really more are the tuning, the layout, the room and how it is treated. Which can make it quite hard to find the right spot in the city! But if there’s something we can say, we will never compromise on sound quality.
As you evolve the brand as an event and collective, what do you hope will be the natural progression of Transmissions?
Awhad: We want it to be a place for friends where they feel they can express themselves, whether it’s in the studio, in a booth or on the dancefloor. When the time is right and that we feel that our input would bring something new, we will launch our label, the natural continuation to our journey. For now, we want to focus on the magic that’s gonna happen in the studio, we’re not in a hurry to release stuff, at all. And at the same time, sharing our passion for this music through our parties.