Published Aug 12, 2012As a teenager, what did you do with your summers? Most likely you got a lousy job, went to stereotypical red cup parties and tried with varying success to chase a love interest despite your acne.
Pint-sized Calgarian Jean-Sebastien Audet is not your average teen. At the tender age of 16, he spends his summer vacations ― and much of the school year ― holed away in his parent's basement, obsessively recording music. So far, he's captured a total of 358 songs, most of them being featured in his off-kilter post-punk group Faux Fur, the bizarre pop of You Are Minez, the art-damaged solo work of Darren Wantz or under his equally impressive rap alter-ego Zouk Fuck. All of it runs the gamut from interesting enough to absolutely revelatory.
"My friends actually get mad," Audet admits. "I'm sure it's annoying. I always blow them off to record alone in my basement. The other day I just finished a new song and my parents were pissed ― I wasn't coming up for supper and I was still playing drums at, like, 9 o'clock."
Now that the temperatures have risen, the youngster is quite literally living in his studio, sleeping on the pull-out couch across from his recording equipment. The set-up is pretty straightforward: about three years ago, Audet's dad bought some insulation and soundproofed their unfinished basement in a Northwest Calgary duplex.
From there, Audet's craving to capture his every riff started with a Fostex X55 four-track recorder, given to him by Lab Coast mastermind and Samantha Savage-Smith collaborator Chris Dadge. "The four-track was kind of fucked and it played at a really fast speed," Audet says. "Also, in part with it being really old and dysfunctional, any time I recorded something and it had a mistake I had to start over because I couldn't overdub. I couldn't erase anything, so I had to buy dozens and dozens of tapes at a time because I'd go through an entire tape trying to get one song perfect."
Soon enough, the ailing machine finally stopped working. "I couldn't record anything for about a month and it was hell." From there, the singer-songwriter upgraded to a Tascam 424 MKIII and a Portastudio 414 MKII, the latter of which he prefers for drums due to its responsive pre-amp.
While he's definitely got an affinity for old world analog recording units, Audet is no gearhead. In fact, he's only gotten this far because of his independent intuitions. "I've never read a manual to any of my machines," he admits. "That's just the most boring shit, I hate reading about machines. So I've kind of gone through the pain of a month without really know how to use the four-track and eventually figuring it out."
Once he's arrived at an analog sound he's happy with, Audet will usually mix down the instrumentals onto one track with the vocals on the other, then put them into his computer for some last minute tweaking. For some material, however, there's one additional step: "I have a Sony three head TC-630 D reel-to-reel that I use if I want a warbly sound. All of the Darren Wantz stuff was recorded on the four track, then run through the reel-to-reel onto another tape, then put into my computer. It sounds super full when I transfer onto it."
Audet knows he's not exactly doing things the "right" way, but he's the first to admit that he works best on tape. "Even if I knew how to use digital equipment it would still be lo-fi. But to be able to record something shittily with a digital interface and then make it sound good takes a lot more skill than with tape. If you're just recording something that you don't want to be super polished, you can just get it done in one shot on tape and still make it sound pretty good."
That's not to say Audet never uses computers. With Zouk Fuck, his tongue-in-cheek rap persona that rivals Odd Future in lovable deliquency, he'll record a beat in Garageband, bounce it to Audacity and slow it down. Then, he delivers his raps directly into the internal mic of his Macbook.
This is probably a cringe-worthy idea to those of you who have spent a lifetime mastering the art of sound recording, but as any of Audet's releases attest, it's working. Besides, he's got an entire lifetime ahead of him to master the art of audio capture.