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Last year saw The Hacker & Gesaffelstein’s ZONE Records release acclaimed EPs from stalwarts including Arnaud Rebotini, Remote and Djedjotronic.

Picking up the baton in 2014 is rising star Maelstom, who looks to continue the label’s fine form with his latest EP ‘Discord‘. Hailing from an ancient French harbour city, Nantes, Maelstrom was brought up on a strict diet of Techno-filled warehouses and it clearly shows in his productions.

His latest trifecta showcases his ability to craft anything from gut-busting warehouse techno to pulsating apocalyptic acid. ‘Discord‘ is almost certainly going to cement Maelstrom’s position as one of Europe’s leading underground producers.

We managed to grabbed ten minutes with Joan-Mael Péneau last week to pick his brains about where he takes his inspiration from, his thoughts on the current renaissance in French electronic music, what he would be doing if he wasn’t making music and what his parents think of his music.

HBF: Tell us your name and where are you from?

My name is Joan-Maël Péneau, and I’m from Nantes, France.

Your new EP is almost certainly some of the darkest electronic music we’ve heard this year, where do you take your inspiration from?

I started going to raves every weekend when I was about 15 or 16. At that time, I used to be into german and french hardcore techno, which wasn’t necessarily fast, but had a dark and industrial esthetic. Records from Manu Le Malin, Thorgull, PCP, Panacea, or Cold Rush. I also listened to a lot of the music WARP, Rephlex, or Planet MU were releasing, early Autechre, Aphex Twin of course, that kind of stuff. I guess my music takes its roots in these periods, but the other aspect that’s quite essential to my sound is the surroundings I grew up in. Nantes used to be an industrial hub, with shipyards, electric plants and warehouses everywhere. When all the companies started to move overseas or close in the 80s, most of the city was left abandoned, and that was our playground as teenagers: rusty warehouses by the river, decaying plants, blockhaus from the second world war. We used to spend all weekends in these areas, breaking in, just hanging around, or later trying to find nice spots to set up an illegal rave. When I’m producing in the studio, most often, my mind is still there, that’s where I think my music should be played ideally.

HBF: Who’s been the biggest influence on your music?

Definitely Autechre, even if my sound is much more dance floor orientated. I tend to go back to their music quite often. Their creativity in textures, patterns, and arrangements has had a great impact on my productions. I discovered the Detroit scene a bit later, but Juan Atkins is also someone I revere as an artist, specially his works as Model 500

HBF: There seems to be a bit of a renaissance in French club music – with Gesaffelstein, Surkin, Brodinski and yourself – do you think it’s a good time to be French and making electronic music?

The great thing about it is that we’re all pushing a different sound, and there’s a broader sonic palette than there used to be. We’ve had the “french touch” where most of it was house and disco influenced, then the Intitubes / Ed Banger golden days where the focus was on crushy, distorted, chopped up sounds, but I’d say these days the french scene is healthier. From Clekclekboom to Zone, Bromance to Sound Pellegrino or even In Paradisum, there’s a wide range of different artists with different visions and esthetics, and the medias aren’t trying to pigeonhole a “french sound” anymore. It’s great to be a part of it, also because everyone is genuinely supportive, and there’s no competition. You’ll see Teki Latex and Orgasmic at a Zone night where Dopplereffekt and The Hacker are playing, or Laurent Garnier playing with French Fries and Bambounou at a CCB night. It’s a great time for music really.

HBF: Now that you’ve dispatched several well-received EPs, are you considering making an album?

I’ve just started thinking about it, so probably not before next year.

HBF: It seems that a darker, grittier sound is now emerging out of France at the moment, do you think this is a reaction to the more commercial dance emanating out the US?

No. Although it’s getting more attention at the moment, there’s always been a darker techno/electro scene in France, Germany, even in the UK. I think people like Gesaffelstein in France or Perc in the UK helped with introducing that kind of music to a wider, and younger audience. We’re not as much exposed to the commercial dance side of things as in the US, the only times we get to hear about it is when there’s someone writing about it in the medias, but I can’t think of a single club night with that kind of sound happening in France at the moment, and most of the bigger festivals won’t have that kind of headliners either.

HBF: What’s next for Maelstrom?

First, the release of my Zone EP early February, then I have a collaboration EP with Louisahhh!!! on Bromance in March, I also finished a couple of remixes to be released in the next few months. We’re going to Australia for 8 shows with Louisahhh!!! in February, then Asia in March, and then working on more Zone label nights in Europe.

HBF: If your studio was on fire and you could go back in and save one thing what would it be and why?

My Elektron Analog 4. It’s my weapon of choice these days, fully analog with digital controls and modulations, the most incredible step sequencer, there’s nothing you can’t do with it. I think I could write a whole track with just this instrument. Very much looking forward to trying their new ‘analog rytm’ drum machine by the way !

HBF: If you weren’t making electronic music what do think you’d be doing instead?

Probably something related to books and litterature, I’m a crime fiction addict, and I’m obsessed with reading, so It would have been my second choice I guess.

HBF: Tell us about the Nous Sommes 2014 show, will it be going international?

We’d love to but there’s so many artists involved and it’s not easy to get everyone available at the same time. Hopefully we’ll take it world wide !

HBF: What do your parents think of your music?

They’ve never been big music lovers, but they’re both working in the creative industry so they understand the process.

Maelstrom’s ‘Dischord‘ EP is out February 24.

ZONE Records: www.zone-music.fr 
ZONE Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/ZONE/222770611121258 
Maelstrom: www.facebook.com/maelstrom.fr

Andrew Rafter

Andrew Rafter is the editor and founder of Harder Blogger Faster.