Tchami On Creating His Debut Album: "It's Really A Matter Of Exploration"

Martin Joseph Léonard Bresso, better known by his stage name Tchami, came into widespread recognition after releasing a remix of Go Deep by Janet Jackson, and has since completed several supporting tours with fellow electronic artists such as Skrillex, Diplo, and DJ Snake. Regarded as a true pioneer of the future house genre, Tchami first started using the term as a tag on his SoundCloud posts - something that the music industry simply couldn’t ignore. Here, the French record producer and DJ discusses how his spectacular debut album, Year Zero - released via his own label Confession - came together.

What have you been doing to keep yourself busy and productive this last year?

T: Well this year has been one of a kind. I undoubtedly spent more time in my studio making music. Sure, the first weeks were tough with all the uncertainty around Covid-19, plus my tour was cut in half. I’ve been working on the ‘Elevation Tour’ quite a bit since it was supposed to introduce my first album Year Zero to my fans. The album was supposed to air before summer 2020 but we decided to push it back to get a little more perspective on what was going on in the world and in what context it would land. I’m still very happy with the way it came out. Like every album or piece of music, it’s a product of its time and it only makes sense to experience it at its given moment.

Had these songs been in the pipeline for a while or were they created during the pandemic?

T: I never believed that I could do an album to begin with. Then a few years into this Tchami project, I realised that I had a lot of demos on my computer. When I start a track, it can end in a totally different ballpark - both genre and BPM wise. I also realised that I could expand my sonic horizon only if I did a longer project that would allow myself into certain musical digressions. I decided to run with it and it was super exciting to have that challenge to complete.

What kind of approach did you take from a writing, production and recording standpoint?

T: It’s really a matter of exploration. There is a direction so to speak, but I never try to place too many guidelines. For a song to be special and unique, I think it comes with a sense of freedom in the first place. I learned a lot about songwriting and how every songwriter has their own style of coming up with words and melodies. Most of my life, I have been the guy in the corner that makes the beats and wasn’t involved much in the writing process, so it was a breath of fresh air for me.

Like every album or piece of music, it’s a product of its time and it only makes sense to experience it at its given moment.

There’s some real summery dance tracks on Year Zero as well as some more mellow vibes. Tell us about the crossover appeal on the album.

T: I always lived in between genres and I wanted my first album to represent that. I had to find the right balance between what would maybe be perceived as a musical caprice and the more regular sound people are accustomed to with me. That being said, it wasn’t easy to combine everything in one sole project. I enjoy very functional records made specifically for clubs as much as I like a good song with verses and choruses, so when album time came I couldn’t just do one of the two. It had to be a blend.

How did the collaboration with Gunna on your track Praise first come about?

T: I had this demo that I was working on, and I wanted to add a vocal to it to make it more interesting. I didn’t have the drop yet so it was mostly the breakdown by itself. When my friend told me that he could have Gunna listen to the record and maybe do something, I was like ‘yes sure, I’m very curious to see what he can do’. Although I knew we do different styles of music, I really like and respect the fact that he was interested in working on something unusual for him. It took him no time to nail it.

Can you tell us about your production/mixing setup?

T: I run a hybrid setup, meaning that I do a lot in Ableton already then take it outside the box with effects, compressors, EQs and converters. On the plugin side, I enjoy all the FabFilters, DMG Limitless, KClip, VSC-3, Acustica Purple3, Diva. On the hardware side, I use a Fatso on certain things, and I also have a pair of Distressors that are very useful tools for tracking or resampling. My take on processing is that I go for clean and transparent unless I want something with a certain character that I know I can get with this specific plugin or piece of hardware.

What else have you got planned for this year?

T: Making more music for sure, but I would also like to do a follow up on the Confessions interviews. I did the first one in French with Vald a year ago and I think it’s time to do another one. This is meant to be a qualitative thing more than quantitative so I take my time. Other than that, I would like to learn drums. This one has been on my list for a long time. Piano is more my thing but I’d like to learn another instrument. I think it is a great skill to have. Overall the people that enjoy and look forward to hearing my music can expect a lot more. I am having fun in the studio these days and the studio is definitely my happy place.

Photos: Anthony Ghnassia