The same ingredients that construct music also construct linguistics in everyday speech; pitch, rhythm, and tempo. The column Universal Language was first inspired by a deep appreciation of music that speaks on emotional levels. The concept blossomed into a practice of collecting thoughts from musicians about how the music culture and scene in their country may impact their sound and artist persona. Sometimes, listeners may misinterpret cultural differences and miss concepts that are beyond an individual’s awareness. The intention of this column is to bridge that gap by sharing artists’ insights.
To kick off this project, Nicolas de Ferran and Antoine F. Martin, based in Paris, France and better known as ANKO happily boarded the journey of ‘Universal Language’. Nicolas and Antonie started their career together writing and producing music for primetime TV shows and documentaries in France. The duo came together to birth their creative brainchild ‘ANKO’ to begin sharing an original, personal song sculpting.
In March 2018, ANKO released their first EP titled Waved. This five-track release offers various sound textures that unfold eargasmic sensations. Synthesized electronic sounds are coherently blended with raw acoustic instrumentation, allowing us to travel a wide spectrum of emotions through the duo’s music. Projecting light to heavy and soft to powerful within their music, Nicolas and Antoine are true audiophiles who understand sound engineering and composition. We were honored to share notable words them.
The Rust: You two started working together as songwriters and producers for primetime TV and documentaries in France. What are the notable differences in approaching sound design as work versus a personal project?
Nicolas de Ferran: Both are very interesting, and even though we have more freedom when working on personal projects, we still need to create under some kind of constraints that we set for ourselves. We need to match a style, a structure... I think that constraints are good for creativity. So in a way, the process of composing and producing music for ourselves or for someone else (TV, etc.) is kind of similar! The real difference is that you have more room to express yourself when you do a personal project.
Antoine Félix Martin: It's true, to work under constraints or search for a musical direction as a band is pretty similar. Even though the goal is different, in both cases you need to adapt to the project's aesthetics and be at the service of the music. You can say that ANKO is kind of a "auto-commission" haha!
The Rust: The music of France reflects a diverse array of styles. What it’s like to be musicians/producers in France working with the musical style and direction ANKO has taken?
Nicolas: I think we are very lucky in France to be surrounded by a bunch of amazing artists. Our musical style is pretty roots when you think about it: we play everything ourselves or record additional musicians that bring their own personality to the project. It's nice to be surrounded by so many influences.
Antoine: Yes, there's a lot of good musicians from every horizon here, we're lucky to live in a capital for that. It's easy to connect to a lot of people. We've got everything we need to make good records in every style, so no excuses!
The Rust: Are there particular styles/soundscapes you guys are interested in exploring musically, other than your current direction?
Nicolas: Yes, we would like to explore even more acoustic textures. In "Waved" there are a lot of beatmaking and synths and even though we like it and are proud of what we produced, we'd like to dive more in the acoustic realm. I studied classical and jazz for years and Antoine has been working as a sound-engineer with some of the greatest jazz musicians in France so we feel very comfortable working with acoustic elements.
Antoine: Exactly, we'd like to take a little break from the computer on which we spend too much time and come back to a more acoustic sounds for the next release. As we were saying above, we've got tons of excellent musicians here, it'd be a shame to not take advantage of it.
The Rust: Can you elaborate on the music scene and culture in your country? What kind of characteristics are found in the scene that are unique to France? Are there any recurring events or collective movements that congregate the community?
Nicolas: I think we are lucky in France to have a big heritage that influenced the music industry worldwide, from classical composers to electronic musicians. And you can feel that music is an art that takes a huge place in the everyday life of French people and on a larger scale as well: recently we have the Philharmonie de Paris which opened and this is one of the most acoustically amazing concert halls I've ever been to. Jazz clubs are going strong, there's a lot of festivals all year long, orchestras are getting more and more attention... I think it's a good country to live in to be a musician.
Antoine: Yeah, no doubt. The French mentality has a tendency to think that "the grass is always greener elsewhere" but in reality we all agree on the fact that it's an amazing place for artists.
The Rust: Could you speak on the relationship between the two of you? What clicks between you two, and what caused you to pursue an original project as a team?
Nicolas: We originally started as a composer/sound-engineer duo in the TV field. We really liked to work together and we realized that we had a lot in common and one day we decided to create ANKO because we both wanted to do a trip-hop project for a long time. I guess I'm more on the composition side for this project, I come to the studio with ideas, sketches or even fully composed tracks and we work together on it. Antoine is more focused on the production side of things, which a huge part of what makes this music good. The composition alone is definitely not enough. But we both equally make decisions on anything. It's a real collaboration, we work together closely on every aspect of our music.
Antoine: Nicolas has said it all!
The Rust: Can you walk us through ANKO’s workflow? What are some of individual roles you guys take under the project? What digital tools are used in the process of executing ANKO music?
Nicolas: As I said above, I usually wear the composer's hat. I come to Antoine's studio with my ideas and we work together on them. Sometimes I take what we did together back in my own studio to do some additional strings or brass arrangements. I also do all the scores/parts when we need to record musicians.
Antoine: For this first EP our main DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) was Pro Tools. We sketch, record, produce and mix with it. For beats and synths, I use Ableton Live in parallel which is more powerful to create loops. I do all the beats myself with an Akai MPD to obtain a more natural result.
The Rust: I noticed that you utilize a combination of hardware instruments in conjunction with conventional production methods. Could you share the process of capturing audio from organic instruments? Do you collaborate with other musicians during the process?
Nicolas: We absolutely do! "Waved" features a bunch of super talented musicians!
Antoine: Hell yeah! They come to Krispy Records —my own studio— and we give them directives on what we want. But we like to let them bring their own view to the music. We value greatly their input and that's why we like to collaborate with other musicians. They bring their own musicality to the project and it makes the music even richer. For "Waved" we recorded strings, brass, woodwinds, percussions, drums, electric bass, double-bass, acoustic guitars...
The Rust: ANKO’s first EP ‘Waved’ was released on May, what are some concepts behind the EP?
Nicolas: It was a bit experimental because it was our first release. We wanted to create a sound that was powerful and soft/chill at the same time and explore our influences whether they are jazz, classical music or electronic music. What was important for us was to have a consistent and homogenous music, we wanted the EP to feel like a whole, not just a simple train of tracks. Also we wanted to avoid using samples as much as possible.
Antoine : Yeah Nico, you said it great dude!
The Rust: What are your collective visions for the future of the ANKO project? Do you have any plans for live performances in the future?
Nicolas: Yes! We are starting to work on a new release, maybe a full album. We don't know when it'll be finished though because we are both very busy with our careers besides ANKO, but now that we have already one EP under our belt the process will hopefully be faster! We don't have any live performances planned for now, ANKO is a studio project. But we're not against the idea! We'll see what the future holds for us!
Antoine : Of course, we got tons of plans! It's just the beginning so stay tuned!
We thank ANKO for opening up their world to help us understand the visions behind their musical playground . All the songs featured on Waved were executed, produced, recorded and mixed in Krispy Records Studio. The studio is also open for up-and coming-musicians in Paris to get some professional aid from the duo themselves. It’s apparent that ANKO is a group worth knowing and staying connected to. If you appreciate music that holds extraordinary life forces by channeling a full-spectrum of sounds that your ears can grasp, stay chooned to ANKO.