After years DJing in southern France, Sly, Zé Mateo and High Ku decided to start their own label, Chinese Man Records in 2004. Many things have changed in the music industry since then, but these guys seem to remain the same: living a quiet life in Marseille and taking their time to do things their own way. Don’t be fooled by this calm appearance though, their bass-charged tunes are taking them on a worldwide tour with a non-stop schedule in 2018. We caught up with the guys behind the label and homonymous band, discussing music production equipment, Marseille’s hot spots and exciting future plans…
When did you start making/ producing your own music and what was it like to begin with?
We started to produce music in 2004, we used to be DJs and we wanted to produce our own vinyls so we created our label Chinese Man Records in 2005. In the beginning we just had turntables, a computer and some vinyls, so our first records were made exclusively with samples.
What equipment do you use now?
We still use a lot of samples in our compositions but we also use different analog keyboards like Moog or Rhodes, and of course our turntables. Besides that, we work mainly on Ableton Live. The big difference for Shikantaza is that we invited a lot of musicians and worked with them on the arrangements of the tracks. We travelled to India to work with sitar, violin and flute players and we also worked with a string quartet from Corsica on a few tracks.
Your first records weren’t exposed to social media or music streaming platforms but directly distributed on vinyl to both DJs and audience, how has the process of conceiving a record changed since 2004 for you in that aspect?
Even if the industry changed a lot, we didn’t change so much our composition and production process. For example, when we produced Shikantaza we were thinking about the vinyl version. Even if we know that streaming became important in terms of revenues, the vinyl stays our reference format. Anyway, we have always been totally connected with the Internet even if we keep vinyl as our reference format. Our first tracks were on Myspace and that’s how they became popular at the beginning!
What are the top things you’d suggest music fans visiting Marseille should go and see/do/eat/drink?
If you need a good record shop you should go to Galette, great selection and nice team! For a restaurant you could try Le parpaing qui flotte, good food and great cocktails. Then you must have a drink at the Longchamp Palace, it’s a great bar to have a great party. And if you’re not tired try Le Cabaret Aléatoire, you should find a good DJ or a good live.
Who’s your biggest local musical influence, past and/or present?
Marseille has not so many famous bands, one of them “IAM” is not a big influence for us but we used to listen to them a lot before creating Chinese Man and they might have influenced our attitude: take your time, don’t take things too seriously and keep it simple.
Does living in Marseille influence the music you make?
Marseille is a very chill city and I think you can feel this influence by the way our label has been running for more than ten years now. We really take time to do our things and we don’t put too much pressure on us, it would be more difficult for us to be so relaxed if our label was based in Paris, I think.
You’ve toured to many different places such as India and Hong Kong, is there still a place where you’d like to perform that you haven’t yet?
We never went to Australia or New Zealand, they seem to be good places for our next trip!
What are the plans for Chinese Man on 2018 ?
We have a big tour planned: UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Spain and around ten locations in the US. Then we’ll be back in France for summer festivals!
Meanwhile, we also look closely to Chinese Man Records’ artists productions. Recently the label released the first album by Taiwan MC, a series of mini EP by Scratch Bandits Crew, the first EP of Youthstar and Baja Frecuencia, the last signature on Chinese Man Records. Chinese Man might also come back in 2018 with some new productions and remixes but it’s too soon to talk about it 🙂
Can you send us a photo of the view from your window?
(Portrait by Leo Berne)