"I'm interested in any source of sound, other than what is too familiar," says Montreal-based soundsmith Marc Leclair, better known as Akufen. There's no question that the avoidance of all things familiar has informed Leclair's work, whether during his promising years as a visual artist or his long-time focus on the exploration of sound. A childhood spent "ripping my parents' record collection to shreds" via a double cassette deck and studying piano and guitar gave way to analog synths, a sequencer, and eventually Akufen's instrument of choice the sampler. Leclair is particularly fascinated with the radio, recording hours of random material each day and later incorporating hundreds of tiny snippets into his music. While many other electronic music producers have sampled from pop culture and the radio specifically, Akufen is in a league of his own, constructing with an assured sense of subtlety, poetry and musicality. His earlier EPs on Oral, Hautec, Trapez and Perlon hinted at what was to come, but Akufen's stunning My Way album on Germany's Force Inc. shows just what can be done with thousands of hours of source material, a computer, and one intensely creative mind.
"I go in and chop very much at random, so that the result is, even for myself, nothing that I can expect. I let the sequencer roll and I add the bits, one at a time, and see if it works. I think the first person that I have to surprise is me. I keep everything; everything is reusable in a different context. Although, one day I'd like to do pieces where no one sound comes back, not even twice. It's like building an Eiffel Tower out of matches."
It's clear that predictability is to be avoided for Leclair, a man who manages to balance serious and playful, abstract with downright danceable. He is also incredibly gifted at crafting killer grooves from his quirky sources, spending much time on doing so. "If it makes sense without the beat, then I'm on the right path; if it doesn't, I'll keep working on it," Akufen shares. "Eventually, I'd love to remove the percussion entirely and just have grooves made out of sounds. I think it's important to do. The public is too much a slave to the beat and eventually it would be nice to try and make people accept that it's possible to dance and have a good groove without it.
"If you don't take risks, you'll never have results, you will stay uneducated. To me, to really have the guts to explore, to go and try new things is to find answers to your personal questions."