AURA Interview Series: Allen Aucoin
Sensible Reason took a minute to catch up with Allen Aucoin fresh off the Disco Biscuits’ Bisco Inferno. Allen opened up about the future of DrFameus, the possibility of adding other musicians, the upcoming AURA Music & Arts Festival, and playing drums with Sam Altman.
It’s been a big year for you. Besides playing with the Disco Biscuits, you’ve been playing as DrFameus for some time now and are for sure picking up steam. How does it feel to have recognition from DrFameus fans and not just Biscuits fans?
Making music and then watching poeple dance to it is an amazing experience. When you look out and theres a crowd dancing and having fun it is extremely inspiring. When people tell me they like a certain DrFameus track or show, I get that feeling you get on a badass roller-coaster. It hits me real close to home right in the heart.
Do you have any plans for the future? Will you be producing more of your own music, playing with other musicians, or just staying steady on course?
Well the plan is to burn up the road just as much as last year. 2012 was an amazing year for DrFameus. I played pretty close to 100 shows (95 I think) with DrFameus and met a whole bunch of wonderful people . This year I’ll be featuring more musicians and hopefully adding DRIZNO full time. (Nudge nudge to DRIZNO.) He’s been on several shows and I always love performing and working with Ed.
Could you tell us about your creative process for writing the music that you drum to? Did you have a background in electronically generated music before your solo project or is this something you are learning as you go?
Well, it’s a little bit of both. I’m definitely learning as I go. I think it’s that way with everything. No matter how much you know about a particular subject you can always learn something different and new. There are so many producers out there today and everybody is doing something different so there is always something to learn.
I started working with electronic music by taking some classes while I was at Berklee and working in the MP&E labs with Pro Tools, Reason, and Cubase. I moved back to GA and started to play in a band called Skydog. In 1999 I added a couple triggers to the kit. Then 2000 I picked up a SPD20 for edrums, and a MC-808ex for producing, FX, looping and sampling. That’s when I started dreaming of being a DJ/producer. I wrote for a few years on the edrums then met Eduardo Pesante (DRIZNO). DRIZNO enlightened me with his turntable skills, showed me Ableton and Fruity Loops. I’ve never seen anyone do to a computer with what he can do with FL. He’s a genius. After I met Ed in ’03 or ’04 we started throwing loops back and forth and working on a DJ/drum duo called EDvsAL. When I joined the Disco Biscuits in 2005 I learned Digital Performer, then we moved to Logic, and for the past few years Ableton has been my favorite.
My creative process resembles the behavior of a vampire or hermit. I usually start with a melody or drum groove that’s stuck in my head. I’ll get that into the computer by either recording the drums or a lot of the times I’m on the road, so I’m using the laptop computer keyboard. After I get something I like I go back and take stuff out. I’ll bounce it off of Ed and a couple other friends for a bit. Then I’ll make some changes. To me it seems like it will never be perfect. There’s a lot to get right and I want to nail it. Finally I get to a point where I’m happy with the track and I add it to the show, see how it feels, what people think and then take it back to the dungeon for another edit.
I write a lot of stuff by myself but I’m always trying to work very closely with DRIZNO. He’s co-written a few tracks as well as written some tracks. I’ve also co-written some of the tracks with Mike Desmond (guitar) and Aaron Goldberg (bass). I went to school with Aaron and Mike and they are phenomenal musicians. I was in Skydog Gypsy with Aaron and when we write we always gravitate towards the funk. Haha.
Our audiofiles and music producers will want to know, what program do you use to write the accompaniment?
And what do you like about it as opposed to other programs?
I think Ableton is fast. You can get an idea out and sounding decent pretty quickly. I fell in love with Ableton‘s live qualities first before it’s production qualities. The MC-808 was cool but not so user friendly when you’re performing live while playing drums. I could get it all done with Ableton very quickly and easily. After having Ableton for a while I got comfortable producing with it and now I use it in the studio. I go back to the other programs when I’m looking for a sound or want to keep them on the brain.
We were thrilled to catch your set at last years Aura Music and Arts Festival. It ended up being some of the best video footage we recorded. Can you tell us your favorite part about last year’s festival?
The DrFameus set was at 4am or 4:30am, something like that. You never know about the 4/5am slot at a festival. You would think its a sure-fire bet all of the time but sometimes people actually go to sleep. Not the case with Aura: everybody was rowdy and ready to go! They were also soggy. Little did we know it had been raining on Aura for quite some time. It had only let up for maybe an hour or so by the time we arrived but we couldn’t tell at all. People were having a great time. I remember, when we were setting up, the camera guys wanted me to strap a GoPro to my chest. My first thought was “What? Nah-uh. No thanks!”– haha! Luckily the camera crew talked me into it. I’m really grateful to have that amazing footage. It’s cool to see a video from my viewpoint. See the drums shaking and cymbals bending, the crowd shaking and bodies bending. The Aura crowd was awesome and I’m glad we got that experience on a video. The whole experience was fun. DRIZNO was there and a friend of ours from way back, Chase Nichols, sat-in on guitar and completely shredded it on a couple of songs.
This year, Aura is moving from the secluded Forever Florida to the one and only Spirit of the Suwanee. Whats your favorite aspect of playing this legendary venue?
That place is beautiful. All the trees and fields there are picture perfect. I love the vibe, too. It’s also closer to Birmingham so I was really happy when I found out Aura was going to be at Suwannee.
Since we’re on the topic of venues, what is your favorite venue to perform at and why?
This is one of my favorite questions. Fortuntely and thankfully I’ve gotten to play some pretty amazing places. I can’t narrow it down. I’ll give you a quick five. 1- Red Rocks: that one should be at the top of everyone’s list. 2- The Gorge: this place is breathtaking. 3- Lakewood Amphitheatre in ATL: that’s the venue I used to go to see concerts growing up and also where I dreamed of playing when I was first starting out. 4- Camp Bisco: every crowd at Camp is awesome. The size, the energy, the excitement and the love are unmatched. But the crowds that come to the DrF sets are hardcore. (Usually because the sets are either at 6am or 12pm which are both early/late sets to try and catch at Camp Bisco). 5- Fuji Rock: the mountains, the people, and the experience are all amazing.
What is the strangest place you have ever performed?
Well, hmmm… There’s been a lot of strange ones actually. A few I probably shouldn’t admit to, haha. I’ve played a few places in the backwoods that claim to be “churches” and everybody is bouncing or floating around on something and you stay away from the “holy water:– If you know what I mean. There was a yoga class at Carribean Holidaze where Sammy and I played congas and bongos. That one was different.
While on tour, you get to interact with a lot of other artists. What’s are some of the strangest things you have seen other artists put in their riders?
Strange things on riders…. hmmm… Have you seen the Disco Biscuits’s rider?! I almost want to attach it for you, you’d get some laughs. Hang on a minute let me find it… Nah, I can’t do it man. Next question. haha
Besides Aura, without giving too much away, what event are you most looking forward to playing in 2013?
I’m very excited about hitting the road with a few different bands this year. We just finished up some plans with Dopapod. We’re gong to be doing multiple shows and that means there will be lots of jams and collaborations. Add some new flavors to the mix and I get to play drums with super talented musicians. That’s always fun. I’m also hoping for some more shows with LTJ Bukem. LTJ has always been completely awesome and inspiring for me.
Thank you very much for the interview. Hope to see you at Aura or at a DrFameus show real soon!