Habstrakt Talks His Latest Album, His Personal Journey and All Things ‘Heritage’ [Interview]
“I’m both excited and nervous and I haven’t felt like that for a project of mine in a long time.”
We recently reviewed the debut album from French producer/DJ Habstrakt, Heritage, here at Your EDM. The masterful and versatile work is clearly an early front runner for best albums of the year. We recently got the chance to sit down with Habstrakt, real name Adam Jouneau, for an extended interview. We went in depth into several topics from the production of Heritage, his journey from the villages of South France to world-class DJ/producer, French producer group chat, and the future of Habstrakt.
As Adam and I each logged onto Zoom and starting chatting, Adam pointed out to me his insane studio setup. A true tech whiz, I was stunned by the massive modulator behind him. If you’ve ever seen Justice live, it was like a smaller version of that. Here’s our full interview.
“That’s my big modulus synthesizer, that’s the system that I use to start most of my songs now. So, you’ve got a bunch of drum machines, synthesizers, effects, modulation, granular synths, there’s so much going on over there. It’s basically a big box where you can make an entire song from start to scratch. The synchronizer’s there so I just have to hit the big play button over there and something will start.”
Thanks, so much Adam, we appreciate you joining us. We’re really looking forward to the album. Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you originally got into music and what’s led us here to the precipice of the album release?
“Wow, it’s hard to answer that without going into very long, long stories. But, my name is Adam, I’m from the south of France, I’ve been making music sort of like my whole life. Music has always been something I’ve done, you know, I started when I was like 5-6 years old with guitar and synthesizers and everything. When I was a kid I would do a lot of circuit bending, messing around with the speakers, taking apart my dad’s radio and putting it back together to see if it still works, you know. I’ve always been kind of like that, so I can’t even really remember how I got into music, it’s just something that has always been with me.
Moving forward to 2017, I moved to Los Angeles where I decided to get serious with it. I think music had picked up for me, since the early 2010s, I was starting to play shows a lot, local shows in Europe and everything. And, then things got picked up in America for me, and that’s when things got really serious. I moved here and I decided to go full-time on the project, expend all of my energy and motivation into this. And here we are now, you know, a few years later, I felt finally ready for an album. I’ve always felt that was the next chapter of my life. And, I feel like everything I’ve done then, it kind of led me to this point today, where I’m sitting.”
Tell me what was the move like coming from Europe over to the States. What’s different, what’s similar, what adjustments did you have to make?
“A lot of things are different for me, I left all of my family and friends to come here, I had to kind of rebuild my whole life. I was 27 years old, so all of my friends I left behind, all of my family I left behind; I have three sisters, nephews, nieces and I’m very close to my family and I had to leave all that behind. So, the first change was definitely to learn to do, to get all that motivation, and feel those days being by myself here. America’s a vast place, there’s so many different parts of the country, and it’s really hard to define American culture. You can’t just use Los Angeles as an example, there’s so many cities and states, it’s really like 50 countries packed together.
The move I would say was a little overwhelming, and it was kind of tough for the first couple of years. I’m just really glad that I had the motivation, and I was really determined to keep working and to hustle. So, a lot of those moments where I was on my own, I put that energy and those emotions into music. So, that’s why I say that music’s always been there for me, and I’ll always try my best to be here for music in exchange.
Yeah, I feel like I’ve been blessed, I moved to America and I knew some people already and I was already respected by some people. And respect is an important thing to me, more than success or ambition or anything like that. So, a lot of doors would open easily for me, which was a big blessing. So, I had a very lucky experience, although sometimes a little lonely.”
Tell us what’s a day in the life like for you? What’s your daily routine and how do you get in the process of making a song?
“To answer, I’ll talk more about these days, because the place that I’m in right now, I’ve been in for a year-and-a-half. So, the place has kind of changed my whole routine, my whole setup. So, over here, I tend to wake up and either hit the gym or have some breakfast, one or the other first. Getting my day started, I go upstairs…I usually just work on music all day to be honest, sometimes I have lunch with my girlfriend, otherwise I’ll just keep launching throughout the entire day. The creative process is that I wouldn’t even touch a computer unless it’s for email, just work on the equipment behind, kind of stay away from the screen, you know. And kind of try and get the juices flowing, just listen to myself, like, what’s the mood today? What do I want to do?
And, I feel like the more I start my day by being on social media too much, being on the business side of the emails, I get lost a little bit, even a little anxious, as well. So, the normal day for me starts with a lot of self-care, like I said, working out, making myself a good breakfast, kind of cleaning up, making sure the living space is good, and that has an effect on the mental space. I go upstairs and work on the mental space and kind of decide what’s going to be the flow for the day…But, most of my days are spent at home, I don’t’ go out too much, I’ve really built myself a safe space here for me to evolve and be creative. It’s got everything that I need to take care of myself and to make sure that I’m always feeling good. That’s what I wanted to try to build for myself, so, a lot of my days are spent here in this little paradise that I built for me.
I feel like with Covid, a lot of people had the chance to start working from home, and I feel like a lot of people realized that home can be something other than just a bed and a place you go after work. I’ve seen that around me for a lot of my friends who don’t necessarily work in music, but what it feels like is they started to work from home and they realized, wow, I can improve my home to really make it a really cozy, like, safe space. I really like this trend now, that people are into decorating, and seeking comfort and seeking safety. Staying at home is not seen as a bad thing anymore.”
Tell us about any upcoming touring, are you going to be on the festival circuit this upcoming spring and summer?
“Yeah, so there’s a lot that I can’t really tell you about. I want to keep a few surprises. Right now I’m in the middle of the album tour, which I just did my first weekend in the US with Philadelphia and Minneapolis, which was incredible. The first leg of the album tour was in Europe, so in the last 20 days, I did about six or seven shows, which was huge to me. Being a French artist and moving to the US in 2017, I had so much work to focus on what was going on here, but, it was really healthy for me to play shows back in France. And, then Covid happened and everything, and you haven’t played a show in your own country in like 3-4 years.
So, it’s really hard to both communicate with the French crowd and the American crowd. Especially with the languages, the time zones, the culture’s different, the music they wanted is different. So, I had a lot of struggles with those two, back and forth. And, I feel like the shows I did the first week were incredible, the shows were sold out, packed, the energy was crazy, people knew the songs. And, it was such a crazy feeling to me to go back home and see people reacting that well to music. Realizing that all this time I was here, they were there, they actually kept listening to everything, they kept paying attention to everything I was doing. They stayed, they were true fans, and seeing that much support was incredible. So that was a great motivation to start the tour.
I feel so motivated, so inspired right now. I’m about to embark on so many shows, tomorrow I’m going to Hawaii. It was my birthday two days ago, so I’m thinking just a few days there to chill. I talk a lot about self care, wherever you can take a day off. So, a lot of the tour’s going to be like that, a lot of shows across North America until May and June. And then there’s a lot of stuff, I wish I could tell you. It’ll be my first time in South Korea in June which I’m looking forward to. I have another b2b with Joyryde, that’s in the books as well. We had a b2b in September and it was one of the most fun shows we’ve ever played, so we’ve been trying to play more b2bs…
And, then I’m working on a possible live show. I’m still working on the whole concept, but I’m trying to bring what you see behind me, the whole module and a real life interaction. And me, being a control freak, I kind of have to refrain from being like I want to control everything. Because, at first, my whole concept was me controlling the lights, the visuals, the smoke machine, and writing the music in real time in front of people, then I realized I don’t have six hands. Right now I’m in the conceptual phase of it, where I’m writing the schematic of what I want to do. I’m trying to foolproof the system, while debugging all the errors possible, anticipate all the errors possible. I’m in a pretty intense phase of R & D. I want to switch out from DJing; I love DJing, but I want to do a little more on stage. I’m having so much fun making this music in real time, I want to make this music on stage.”
Going back to France, there’s been a ton of French guys doing really well here in the United States, you’ve got the collab with Malaa that you just released. Tell us a little bit about that scene, give us an inside look, is there like a friendly competition going on?
“It’s really, really hard to describe the pride of being French, especially when you have such talented people in the present, but also in the past. You know, we all grew up with the same idols, Daft Punk, Justice, Vitalic, Etienne de Crecy. We all have those legends from the 90s that really pioneered the electronic music sound. At the same time for us growing up, you quickly realized that these were all a bunch of kids from one neighborhood in Paris and they were a very close circle. You wouldn’t be able to just show up and become friends with Justice at that time. The scene back then was a little private, a little closed.
So, a lot of us, like me, grew up in little towns in villages in the south and in the north, away from the capital. And I think the new generation, with the help of the internet and social media, we had the chance to be a lot more communicative with each other. Don’t take this the wrong way when I say that those guys were in a bubble, that was the era they were in. There was no social media, so, those guys, geographically if you were close you could be in that circle, if you weren’t there it was really hard to be a part of it…
So, we all communicate with each other, every French producer, from like the biggest, like DJ Snake, to the smallest, like this new kid on the block that just made a song that we all like. We all talk to each other, we all send each other music, we have a group chat with over a hundred people on Twitter. It goes beyond the scope of house music, right? So we have like dubstep and drum & bass too. So, the principle of the group chat, something I created like five years ago, it’s kind of like Fight Club, there’s rules. Rule number one, once you’re added to the group chat, you have to send your music. Rule number two, you have to share unreleased music. So, we’ll all share exclusive music with each other, we’ll give feedback to each other.
So, France is a small scene at the end of the day, we all know each other really well, we all help each other. We’re based on family values and respect, respect is very important to us. It’s something you give and something you hope to receive as well. We’re very blessed right now to have people like Snake, Tchami, Malaa, the leaders of the new wave French sound…we have this really small community, while at the same time being extremely critical. I think that’s where the French quality comes from, kind of a tough love, we’re really very critical and push ourselves very hard, to always strive to be better and always make progress.”
Tell us a little about the stuff you do outside of music, I’ve heard you’re quite a cook.
“I think a lot of people embellish me being a cook, just because I’m French and it’s very romantic. I personally think my girlfriend cooks way better than me and she’s from Sacramento. No, I do like to cook, I worked in restaurants for a very long time. I started working when I was 15 years old to put food on the table for myself and my family and everything, so I had to do a lot of jobs. So, I started doing construction sites during the day, restaurants during the night. I started by washing the dishes and then making my way up the ladder. So, I’ve had the chance to learn a lot of things without having to go through academy training for it. I’ve learned a lot about how a kitchen works, about how restaurants in general operate.
And, I kept that with me, in terms of the cooking mostly. So, there’s a lot of really traditional dishes I like to do. My mom is such a great cook, and she made us a bunch of the family recipe. So I have a lot of traditional recipes, like from my great-great-grandma, that I like to do, so cooking is a very important thing for me. The rest of the time, I’m a huge cinema fan, I love movies, I love soundtracks a lot, which is something you kind of hear in my music at times. So, you know, movies and art in general…there’s a place in LA we like called Alamo Drafthouse; you can actually eat while you’re watching a movie, combines two of my favorite things. I’m pretty simple, you know, I like to climb, I like to do workouts, I like to hike, and I like to spend time with my cats watching movies.”
What was your favorite most recent movie?
“Right now it’s a TV show I’m obsessed with, the first thing that comes to mind is a show called ‘Severance.’ Absolutely incredible, I’m a huge fan of science fiction, dystopian, hellscape. It has just completely occupied my whole mindspace. I don’t want to spoil anything, I can only recommend it. Movie, ‘The Menu’ was a good one.
Any words for the fans?
“I just want to give a big shout out to everyone that was involved in the making of this album, everyone that stayed by my side when I was sweating, crying, bleeding the whole last year making this. It’s been a really long year, I’m proud of myself for sticking it out and doing it and I’m especially happy and blessed to have the support of the fans and my friends, and to see everyone stay. I’m very excited to put the album out so I just hope people are going to enjoy it and are excited for what’s going to come next, because I’m already working on it.”
Check out Habstrakt’s new album Heritage, out now on Distorted Reality.
The Heritage Tour continues as well, cities and dates below.
April 14 – Phoenix, AZ
April 15 – San Francisco, CA
April 21 – Brooklyn, NY
April 22 – Atlanta, GA
April 23 – Dallas, TX
April 30 – Cancun, MX
May 5 – Portland, OR
May 6 – Salt Lake, UT
May 12 – Denver, CO
May 13 – Albuquerque, NM
May 28 – Tampa, FL
For more information visit www.heritage2023.com