Paris producer Maison Blanche draws for Rave-O-Lution 309 drums on new EP, ‘Food For Soul’

The Morocco-born house producer talks us through the two-room concept in his suburban studio and how he uses his beloved Quasimidi Rave-O-Lution 309 drum machine.

Maison Blanche in his studio

Maison Blanche in his studio

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Maison Blanche is seductively smooth when it comes to house music. In his past catalogue of tracks, there are transformed disco samples, noodles of funky bass guitar and warm, jazzy keys all adeptly put together – all to make the listener dance.

We speak to Maison Blanche about his Paris-based studio based in the suburbs. He tells us all about the thought behind the studio’s two rooms, and tells us about how he layers drums with those of his go-to 1996-released Quasimidi Rave-O-Lution 309 drum machine.

What do you love about the Paris house scene and sound?

What I particularly appreciate is the diversity of the Parisian scene and sound. There’s a mix between talented young producers and seasoned artists who never stop surprising us with their music.

Are you more hardware-based or software-based when it comes to music production?

To be honest, I have always been more inclined towards software with various plugins, but over the past three years, hardware has become a more significant part of my world. This shift is particularly evident with the acquisition of certain machines, such as my Quasimidi Rave-O-Lution 309.

Maison Blanche using the Rave-O-Lution 309
Maison Blanche using the Rave-O-Lution 309

Tell us a bit about your studio/creative space.

My current studio is located in the suburbs of Paris. It’s a studio I recently began sharing with two other artists I particularly appreciate, Cosmonection and Herson. Together, we redesigned two spaces in our studio to fully fuel our creativity – the Gear Room and the Instrument Room. The Gear Room allows us to centralise the synths and drum machines.

For the second room, we have an acoustic room with guitars, bass, percussion and a mic for vocal recording. The room has an excellent sound so we use it for that. However, everything is modular, we can move machines from one room to another, to work on a live performance for example.

What atmosphere do you try to create in the studio?

We wanted to create an intimate and minimalist atmosphere that allows us to easily express our desires of the moment. All elements of the studio are closely placed from the main desk, where everything is controlled. All we have to do is produce. We’ve also decorated the studios with our personal belongings which makes us feel at home.

Maison Blanche’s studio
Maison Blanche’s studio

Which DAW do you use?

I’ve been using Ableton Live since I started production. I’m comfortable with this DAW, I think it’s easier to handle than other DAWs.

What is your favourite piece of gear?

My favourite gear is my Rave-O-Lution 309. It’s a powerful groove machine created in 1996 by Quasimidi. I often use it when I want some drums that sound raw! You can also use it for Analog Emulation Synthesis (A.E.S). This allows for the analogue oscillators to be physically modelled. So we have basses, leads and more general synth sounds via different presets which are all adjustable.

Maison Blanche’s mixing desk in his studio
Maison Blanche’s mixing desk in his studio

What about plugins – any essential plugins you can’t live without?

My two favourite plugins are the Korg M1 for the instrument part and the XLN Audio RC-20 retro colour for the mixing part. The Korg M1 is a virtual keyboard with all the presets from the original M1 released by Korg. I could buy the hardware synth but it would take up too much space in the studio rack. The XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color is a VST that emulates different equipment/effects such as a 12-bit sampler or a sound ripped from a vinyl. I use it regularly to change the way certain instruments sound. I never work without these two pieces of software these days.

What synth or effect can be heard the most on your new release?

The synth you hear the most in my productions is the Korg M1 – I add it practically everywhere thanks to its many different presets. It was used a lot in the 1990s/2000s, and it has a sound that’s close to the result I want to obtain.

Is there live instrumentation on this? It sounds so organic, human and funky. Tell us a bit about this process, specifically with the track, You’re Gonna Like It.

I really like mixing live organic instruments and analogue synths in my tracks. For You’re Gonna Like It, I worked on a groovy bass and a funky organ, and then I added some percussion like shakers and claps. My guitarist friend, Jim Prunier, added his final touch with a guitar solo in the break of the song which reinforces this organic and funky side.

Maison Blanche’s synth rack in his studio
Maison Blanche’s synth rack in his studio

Dexter On The Dancefloor is a smasher! Tell us about how you built around the sample here.

My friend and producer Cywil sent me this groovy but very slow track from 1979.

I love French touch and house from the 2000s, so I made that crazy disco loop sound with a ‘French’ vibe. I added some drums from the Rave-O-Lution and the Behringer RD-9, stuffed it with pads and synths from the Behringer Deepmind, for example, and finished it with a groovy bassline from the Minimoog Model D. I wanted to keep this track simple so the disco loop remains in the foreground.

What’s been the biggest investment in your studio?

The biggest investment in my last studio was this big mixer from Behringer – the Eurodesk SX3242FX, but it wasn’t worth it at all lol. I bought it because we wanted to integrate all the instrument tracks onto a single mixing desk. Unfortunately, it takes up a lot of space and now that I’ve changed studios, it’s no longer of much use to me.

What is next on your shopping list studio-wise and why?

I would love to find a LinnDrum LM2 in good condition but it’s so expensive! It would fit perfectly with the tracks I make.

What is your dream piece of gear and why?

It may be cliché but a Roland TR-909 is truly the dream because of the history of house music, but also because I’ve been always using samples/clones of the classic one.

Rave-O-lution 309 in Maison Blanche’s studio
Rave-O-lution 309 in Maison Blanche’s studio

If you were left on a desert island, what one item would you take with you to make music with forever?

I think I will take a Darbouka, a traditional percussion instrument from North Africa/Middle East. Because of my Moroccan roots, this is the first instrument I thought about. But to be honest, I really don’t know how to play it but I guess I will have all the time to master this instrument.

How did you go about getting the acoustics right in the studio?

We had some knowledge about the acoustics of a room. In my old studios, nothing was perfect but we managed to reach an interesting result. Currently, our studio is in the basement, with various sound-absorbing foams on the walls, the speakers placed in a certain way as well as the equipment allowing us to obtain the best result.

What is your top piece of production advice?

Keep it simple. As long as you do some quality things, there’s no need to add 15 layers of percussion or three layers of synths in your mix to sound good.

What is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out building a studio?

I think it’s the same advice as before, you have to keep it simple, no need to buy 20 machines at the beginning if you don’t or hardly use them. Master the DAW first, buy good quality speakers (no need to buy very expensive speakers for that) and a USB audio interface to start properly. Then add the machine(s) that suit you the most to finally improve your studio.

You can hear more of Maison Blanche’s music via his Bandcamp.

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