Q&A: Ghislain Poirier

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After remixing everyone from British ragamuffin Lady Sovereign to micro-minimalist Pole, Ghislain Poirier has proven that his subsonic riddims offer much more bounce than your everyday bassline blog suspects. Whether it’s his acclaimed sets at Montreal’s “Bridge Burner” parties or his recently released album, No Ground Under, Poirier constantly proves there is no limit to his post-grime, hip-hop paradigm. XLR8R recently caught up with the French-Canadian revolutionary to uncover the secrets behind his proto hip-hop production history.

XLR8R: How did you initially start producing music?

Ghislain Poirier: As an early teenager, I listened to a lot of hip-hop. At age 15, I heard techno on the radio in Montreal. I was like, ‘Bang! Okay, I got the rhythm, but this is twisted.’ I still listened to hip-hop, but slowly I integrated the roots of each genre [into what would eventually become my own production]. I dug old dub stuff, soul, funk, and, at some point, I decided to do radio, too. A couple years after that, I felt like I wanted to do music–I was interviewing artists, working with a computer, and the program was able to create music, so I decided to leave the radio and produce, writing as much as I was able to. I released my first album in 2001.

When you left radio, did you have another day job or simply dive into music full-time?

To be honest, I never worked full-time for anybody. I never wanted to and never did. I was working in record stores and concentrating on production, shows, managing my own thing. It’s not even a question now. You’re a journalist, and I’m a musician.

You’ve obviously worked with a lot of musicians and MCs. How did you link up with folks on No Ground Under?

Face-T and I had a radio-host friend in common. He was a very social person and he knew we should meet each other. I owe him a lot. Face-T and I went to a couple of reggae concerts, I gave him some beats, and we decided we should work together. We were both so busy, it took us two years before we really recorded, but it was worth it.

Ambiteux from France I discovered on MySpace. Abdominal, I had no idea he was from Toronto because I heard him in a DJ format, but I’m there often so we linked up. Omnikrom, it’s our sixth collaboration and it was natural, while Nik Myo is a friend of Face-T and Abdelhak Rahal is a violinist for DJ /rupture and improvised over my files.

In a perfect world, who would you like to collaborate with?

I really like Dizzee Rascal. I’m fascinated by his skills, voice, and tone. I like Roots Manuva too. He is one of my earliest influences; he pushed me to do music.

I like doing production alone. I like controlling my side of things. I like doing the rhythm and structure of the song, and when people give me good elements on the melodic side, I’m usually happy with it.

As a DJ or producer, would you consider yourself a purist?

Well, I use CDs when I DJ, so no. I’m comfortable with CDs. When I’m DJing, my main focus is selection. It’s not about the technical side. It’s about following the crowd and giving them a surprise. You [could] be the most technically skilled [DJ] in the world, but with a poor selection, you’re simply not a good DJ.

No Ground Under is out now on Ninja Tune.

Listen to "Blazin'" feat. Face-T.