A conversation with Umwelt about his new album ‘Dead Eyes Society’ on Monnom Black

Founder of Rave or Die and of the New Flesh Recordings imprint Umwelt boasts a formidable back-catalogue containing some of the most respected techno to date. Dubbed as one of the most prolific French techno DJ’s to come out of the country, the Lyon-based producer continues to spearhead the underground electronic music scene with his stripped-back, yet melancholic tracks.

Most notably, the French artist dropped his hotly-anticipated new album Dead Eyes Society on Dax J’s very own Monnom Black imprint. The culmination of thirty years of artistic refinement, this album is influenced by late 90;s and early 00’s techno contrasted with an avant-garde approach to recording and sound design — packed full of beautiful grooves and techno melodies. We caught up with Umwelt about his latest release and today’s French techno scene.

“In 2020 when lockdown started, a lot of people declared they want to change the situation and the world after the pandemic — I thought that something different could happen but unfortunately I get the felling that nothing has changed.”

How’s things? What have you been getting up to recently? 

The last few months months I’ve been playing gigs and working on my new live set, and also finishing my music productions in time for the next projects. Now I’m taking a summer break with only a few gigs booked in and some studio time. So I’ll be back with a new and fresh inspiration in September! 

You’ve been a key player within the French techno scene for many years, how  much has the French techno scene developed over the years and what’s the current situation looking like? 

Many musical waves have emerged in France since the early 90s, it started with techno & rave sound, hardcore & frenchcore, house, French Touch and also electro clash. In 2022 French scene seems always prolific but it’s actually hard to say if there are new styles emerging from France. The scene is now super big and difficult to follow, but the techno scene, generally speaking, has been invaded by mainstream tendencies. We can compare its situation to the rap and hip hop scenes that were attacked by the  mainstream genres from end 90’s- early 00’s. 

Can you recommend a few emerging French artists who we should be keeping an eye on this year and next? 

JKS, Mayeul, Ekors, NZM 99, Voltaire, Unklevon and KYLN … 

On 22nd July you’re set to release your brand new album “Dead Eyes Society”. What’s the meaning behind the name? 

It’s about the system and the society blinded by a lot of politics, governments and mainstream medias. I’m always convinced we can leave the world with greater value for people later on. In 2020 when lockdown started, a lot of people declared they want to change the situation and the world after the pandemic — I thought that something different could happen but unfortunately I get the felling that nothing has changed. 

Can you tell us more about the inspiration/s behind this record and how would  you describe it to someone who hasn’t listened to it yet? 

It’s a 4×4 beat techno with dystopian melody. Maybe we can call it ‘space techno’. I try to bring both energy and melodic atmosphere to the dancefloor. 

What was the general creative and production process behind this particular  record? 

I love working on EPs or LPs for labels with a big identity and Monnom Black is the perfect inspiration for me. I play a lot of stuff from this label, then when Dax J asked if I  would like to compose some tracks for his label, I immediately started working on them, trying to stick to the identity of  the label whilst also keeping mine. In the end Dax J asked me for an album.

If you had to choose just three tracks from the LP to play live, which would they  be and why? 

Of course I love all the tracks! But I would choose “Dead Eyes Society”, probably my favourite track because it’s a good combination of techno and electro. This is closely followed by “Generation One” because it’s probably the most anthemic with melodic themes, and then “Conversation in Dark Waters” for its movie atmosphere. 

The new release comes on Dax J’s esteemed label Monnom Black. How did your relationship with Dax come about and why Monnom Black for this release? 

When Dax J contacted me, I was honoured because to me he is an artist who I respect a lot and it is the same for his label. We met in Madrid to speak about the project and since started working on the tracks for just over two months. 

You run your own labels Rave or Die and New Flesh Records — what do you look for in an artist and their music? 

I always search for an artist with a strong musical identity, particularly on New Flesh and Flesh Or Die. On rave Or Die, I invite artists I love in order for them to express their rave touches. 

For someone who’s looking to start their own label, what advice would you give them? 

It depends on what you expect to get out of a label but for me it’s important to do that with a passion. release the music you love, be patient and don’t take notice of current fashion as you need to develop your own identity.

Growing up, who were your main influences both musically and non-musical? 

My principal Rave influence from the 90’s is between Belgium Scene like BWP experiment & reload, techno sound from Luke Slater and Jeff Mills, and also a big part of New York techno sounds like Direct Drive , Adam X, Jimmy Crash, Lenny D. For non-musical influences I found lot of inspiration from dystopian or sci-fi movies like  Cronenberg for example.

Where can we catch you over the coming months? Do you have any exciting  plans? 

This summer, as I’m taking a break, you can find me in Berlin for Libertine Records. Then from September, a few festival and parties.

Top 5 tracks we should check out right now? 

Ekors – Devil’s Bush

Dagga – Floor Seats 

Gesloten Cirkel – Pkbday 

Issu – Oscillate 

Dahryl – Recovery (Ghost in the Machine Remix)

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