Interview: Diamond Rings

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When Diamond Rings agreed to do an interview with me the morning of his show in Montréal, I was happy to learn that fame had not gone to his head. Despite being tired from his arrival (and having been delayed at the border), Jon O’Regan took the time to explain the focus of his new album Free Dimensional and his aspirations, not just as an artist, but a performer.

It’s 11:14 a.m. and in one minute, all the back-and-forth emails and mental preparation was going to come down to him picking up the phone. Before his second LP, O’Regan was an up-and-comer from Toronto whose last appearance in Montréal left his audience dazed about his look and sexuality. Overcoming Crohn’s disease gave him a new outlook on life when approaching his second album. “I just want people to be themselves when they listen to this album. My hopes are to inspire others to be themselves.”

Free Dimensional, the follow-up to his 2010 debut Special Affections, is an eclectic mix of pop and electro, with a touch of alternative rock; debuting the song “Just Like Me” to audiences on the Late Show with David Letterman and CBC’s Studio Q. Much like his lyrics and performances, O’Regan exudes confidence on stage. He attributes his new found success to the control in his work and himself. Unlike, his first album that was more emotional and computerized. “The second album doesn’t focus on one specific genre, but a range which is why it’s called Free Dimensional. It’s meant to be a fun way to explore different genres.”

Although you can find him on YouTube with a guitar in hand, don’t expect an acoustic album anytime soon. “I really want to focus on the sound and my dancing; I’m currently taking dance lessons to improve the choreography.” If you watch videos like “Wait and See” from Special Affections and “Just Like Me,” the choreography is not Diamond Rings strong suit, but it serves its entertainment purposes. “Instruments do play a key role and I am focusing on the production. All of these elements are what is going to help me as an artist.”

Inspired by the 80’s and 90’s fashion and music scene, O’Regan reveals who he would collaborate with if he ever had a chance. “I was really into C+C Music Factory and 2 Unlimited, I would really be down to do a collaboration if I had to choose.” Prominent artists amongst the house scene that defined the 90’s inspired this boy from Toronto to make a revival through his fluorescent leggings and acid wash denims. However, don’t let the fashion in his videos fool you, because on stage he is by-product of the London punk street fashion glamorized for the audience.

By the end of the conversation I asked him one last question: Where would your dream concert be? “I’d have to say the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto; it was one of my first concerts where I saw Weezer play.” We laughed as he went on to describe the outdoor scenery and vibe of the crowd at that concert, which is a charismatic energy he brings to every one of his concerts. Thanks to Magali Ould at Secret City Records and Blue Skies Turned Black for making this interview possible.

This interview was conducted by and published with the consent of collaborator Alyssa Boicel, a Montreal-based Californian who stalks electro and dance artist as a profession.

Interview: Yuksek

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Exclusive Interview by Alyssa Boicel with Yuksek at Club Lambi last month on November 9th, 2012.

Summer felt like a dream as rain poured Thursday night, but in spite of the temperature dropping, no condition stopped the sounds of electro beating at Club Lambi. Promoter Jon Weisz of Indie Montreal provided the entertainment with Yuksek and Cherry Cola. Arriving around midnight, his pulsating electro beats kept everyone moving on the dance floor. You didn’t have to be a fan of his music to appreciate his ability to introduce pure electro with mainstream classics, which hypnotized the audience. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Pierre-Alexandre Busson, aka. Yuksek, to discuss his transition to North America and his views of its electro scene as compared to Europe.

Already well-known as an electronic artist, DJ, remixer and producer in his native Reims (France), Pierre still stays true to his roots of piano, infusing classical training with electro pop hits like “Always on the Run” and “Extraball” featuring Amanda Blank. It’s his collaborations that really put him on the map, forming separate projects with long-time friends Brodinski, from The Krays, and ex-Aeroplane member Stephen Fasano, the second half of Peter & the Magician. Humble about his accomplishments, his popular remixes like Amanda Blank’s “Shame on Me,” Oh Land's “Son of a Gun,” and Chromeo's “Bonafide Lovin” play the airwaves of radio stations across Europe, and North America, and have become standard playlists at popular retail chains; even making its way onto the hit videogame soundtrack FIFA 09. His remixes are not just restricted to the pop and electro genre, as he experiments remixing hip-hop artists like De La Soul and Ghostface Killah.

Despite being a francophone artist, all the songs on his debut and second LP are written and sung fluently in English. “It’s not a question of marketing or business; it’s just the way I can write music easily without thinking that what I’m saying is stupid.” For him, writing in English is not a gimmick, but rather a more liberal way of expressing himself. When songs like “Tonight” and “On a Train” played during his set, the mostly francophone audience were mouthing the lyrics “Take my hand” in unison.

With a good turnout waiting outside, Yuksek reflects on his first tour of North America. “It’s back to normal now, but a few years ago, it was a bit difficult for America. Now I can come and make 10 shows, but I still play in smaller venues.” Although he is grateful to be booked for shows in Miami, New York City, and Los Angeles, as well as his two recent shows in Quebec, Pierre still struggles for more appearances. His reasoning has to do with the recent releases of his albums Living on the Edge and Away from the Sea in North America. It will be almost 10 years since the debut of his first album, but even his emergence in popularity still doesn’t compare to his status in Europe. “I’m like a new artist for America—things are going—but it’s not the same career that I have in France or Asia.”

Giving new meaning to the word “underground,” Pierre has reinvented himself as an up-and-coming artist North America. The same can be said of his appearances in Central and South America, where visits to countries like Mexico or Brazil are met with fewer bookings. “They’re all cool countries, but it’s sometimes a bit difficult to build a proper tour in South America. It’s not all the time clubs or concert halls, it’s more parties or festivals.” Nevertheless, there is a growing fan base of electronic music down south, which does not cancel out the possibility of a cross-country tour.

As he was preparing to begin his set, he ended on a note of gratitude for his parents having him learn the piano at age six. “I feel lucky having doing (sic) this, I really enjoy that. I still love playing piano and listening to classical music. Most of my friends don’t have this background and just did everything by themselves… it’s not necessary to have this background, but I really appreciate it.”

Despite a few technical difficulties during his set, the performance captivated the dancing crowd as he paid homage to the disco classic “Everybody Dance” from Chic. Club Lambi was the place to be; thanks to Indie Montreal for bringing the powerhouse Yuksek and DJ Cherry Cola to perform.

Listen to the entire interview here.

This interview was conducted by and published with the consent of collaborator Alyssa Boicel, a Montreal-based Californian who stalks electro and dance artist as a profession.