After making music for more than a decade, French but currently Berlin-based David Letellier aka Kangding Ray launched his own label ara. Monument had a chat with the Letellier about the label and the his creative processes.

Hi David, and thank you taking time for this interview. How has the year 2019 started for you?

2019 is a transition year for me. For now, I haven’t played as much as last year, but I’m preparing a great summer festival tour with Neon Chambers, with a massive Hardware Live set.

I’m also developing a lot of new project, I just launched my new label ara, released a new EP, and I’m now mixing what will become my most solid techno release to date – this will happen at the end of the year.

In parallel, we are preparing to tour SKALAR, a light and sound installation we did last year in Kraftwerk Berlin with Christopher Bauder. Some new presentations will happen later this year, and also next year somewhere in the world.

Indeed, this year is the year of your first own label ara. After years and years of releasing music, why now was the time for the label?

Better late than never I guess, but it’s only now that I feel I have the maturity to build something significant. I released my first album 13 years ago on Raster-Noton, and I have evolved from experimental ambient music in art contexts to playing dark, hypnotic techno DJ-sets in clubs like Berghain. I felt that I could now have a different impact on the scene, and that I should support younger, emerging artists.

Ara is described to offer “a platform for artists with unique sonic identities that seek to induce deep emotion through sound, but won’t follow any prescribed sonic path”. If I got it right, the label wont have a signature sound, but instead offers approaches on the more emotional parts of electronic music? Why did you choose the more emotional approach for your own label?

I wanted to curate my label in a way that represents me the most : I am interested in a lot of different types of music, but at the same time I evolve mostly around the dance music realm. So ara will be like that, centered on the club, but looking towards different horizons.

The common denominator will be emotions in a broad sense : I just want to distance the label sound from any sterile, simplified, prefabricated or testosterone-based approach of club music. It doesn’t mean that music has to be necessary soft or soothing : on the contrary, strong emotions can be beautifully violent as well.

When listening to ara’s debut EP, your Predawn Qualia, I definitely feel a lighter approach as for example your latest album HYPER OPAL MANTIS on Stroboscopic Artefacts, not to mention the heavy darkness of your older “hit track” Amber Decay. Did you feel you would like to take more “lighter” approach on your own productions, and wanted to create a platform also for that?

Emotional doesn’t necessary mean “light” at all to me, emotions can be nice and soft, but they can also be dark and impactful at times. I just want the music to convey something real and intense, something that captures a feeling which goes deeper into your skin, something real and not superficial.

Which came first, Predawn Qualia EP or ara? Why?

Ara, because ideas come first, and the music then follows.

The press release states that the ara releases are produced with patience. How was the process of making the debut EP, and did you lose your patience at any point? 

I’m a very slow producer. There are different types of producers out there, some of them will make a track in one go, as a jam in a couple of hours day and they won’t come back to it. I’m more like a carpenter, carving wood with patience until I find the essence of it.

Could you describe your song-writing process?

It will most of the time start with pure sound exploration on the different instruments, machines and modular systems I have around in the studio. It’s done first with no particular goal in mind, then some elements might crystallise into something worth keeping, and later become the material to create a track.

I’ll tend to work on a piece, let it sit for a couple of days or weeks, then go back to it and do another version, then let it settle again and take out some parts, and later try to go further. I’m not necessarily adding things, as the process is actually often mainly subtractive. Sometimes I’ll just go back to the first original version after months of interrupted work, but I had to go through that whole process to find the depth which will make the track feel completed to me.

The following ara releases will feature Adiel, Refracted, Hydrangea and Voiski. How and why did you choose these artists to release with you? What can we expect?

I chose them because they all have very distinctive sound signatures, a real artistic approach, and their music move me.

Before, you have released all your music exclusively on Raster-Noton and Stroboscopic Artefacts. Could you describe your relation with these two labels? Is the collaboration still strong?

My relation is great with both these labels. I will make a track for Stroboscopic Artefacts for their 10 Years compilation, and Raster-Noton is now split in two distinct entities, Raster Media and Noton. I still work with raster but in a different way: I co-conceived the collective art installation “White Circle” and the “Raster Labor” which we presented at CTM Festival this year.

We know that ara is going to treat us with more great music in the future. How does the future look to you?

On a personal level, my near future looks pretty bright and creative, I have lots of projects in motion, for the new label and Neon Chambers, and i’m preparing a massive EP for the end of the year on a great label which i have never released on before.

I am more worried for the long term, and for the future generations, as it seems they will inherit massive challenges that we had seen coming and had the power to stop, but we didn’t do anything because we were too busy tweeting, instagraming, and competing against each other.