Recently we were fortunate enough to touch base with a true master of his craft, Pheek, a soul who has dedicated his life to the game, striving to increasingly elevate his productions, and never shies away from experimenting with new genres and atmospheres. His Archipel Musique label has become a staple label for dedicated taste makers over the it’s multiple decade spanning life, and continues to push otherworldly and eclectic sounds on a frequent basis. Over the coming period we can expect some fresh produce from the Montreal based artist, including a forthcoming album on Maher Daniel’s The Other Side, collaborating with fellow producer, Kike Mayor. Amongst all of this, he is also offering his knowledge and years of experience with his Mixing and Mastering services – Here is what went down when we caught up with him…

– Hi Pheek, how are you?

In general, minus all the challenges we can imagine, I’m good.

-Thank you very much for sharing your space and time with us. Being able to tell stories and learn more about people so passionate and dedicated to music is something that moves and inspires us a lot.

You are an artist who has been in this musical universe for several years, more than 20 if my calculations are correct … We would like to know: how was your artistic awakening?

This is not an answer that I can easily share. I think as an artist, this is sort of a day to day questionnement and since I work with a lot of musicians through my work and label, I notice that people get really lost as to what makes it certain. I mean, you might work on music one day, feel absolutely stuck and face your own vulnerability. Part of me sees that people are all artists if they can take a moment to look into it. While I started exploring music production in 1990, somehow I have been feeling like I didn’t really take time to really look at it properly. There’s sort of an internal story I was telling myself that I am an artist for multiple reasons, but I could say that I felt like one when I had a sense of purpose in what I do. That was sort of recently, when I started my studio as a full time job in 2015. Then again, many people who are completely disconnected with the art consider themselves as an artist but in my case, there was always a heavy dose of uncertainty. Perhaps this is something I face daily as my mood can switch from full confidence to frustration.

-Could you identify what was the experience you had in which you knew with certainty that this was your path, your life mission?

It’s mostly due to the equation: What I love doing, what I do well, what do people appreciate from me. If you find what unites these 3 fields, you found your mission. In my case, I have a gift at teaching and helping so there’s some sort of mission through what I do. I also spend a lot of time thinking about how my music is perceived and how I can be more than background music in one’s life.

-You have a very personal sound, we can clearly appreciate when a piece is made by you. Tell us, how are your creative processes, what elements do you currently use?

I see my music projects as bonsai trees. I start with ideas, sometimes very little and separate them into particule buckets. Starting a song from the start to finish is not an approach that works well for me (and many others actually) so I let my ideas rest for a while and will reopen them weeks later, trim parts, add layers, then rest for a few more weeks. They evolve very slowly which is important to me. Eventually, on a day where everything seems aligned, I can finish an entire album in an afternoon – so I can be connected to the storyline, express it with a unifying emotion. Sort of like recording all the vocals from the same studio to have a coherent aesthetic. I don’t like “compilation” albums. I’m more after emotion and risk taking, embracing imperfection as a perfection in itself.

-How do you develop your projects and how do you merge this with the rest of your activities?

I work a lot with my clients but when I have a glimpse of inspiration, while working, I stop everything and will make room to record what’s happening. This can happen at any time given and since creativity is not something I control or can invoke, I grasp part of it when it comes. Sort of like a bird visiting, I’ll take a few pictures. Note: my new studio is situated in the woods and nature inspires me a lot.

-What can you tell us about the beginning of your career in your hometown, what was the biggest challenge or habit you had to learn to be who you are today?

Dealing with limitations was the hardest thing of all. In the end of the 90’s, you really needed to improvise with whatever you had. Not only softwares were limited, but technology in general. But that was extremely useful for today’s situation where things are extremely easy compared to then. Montreal had a very unique scene and people. It was basically a core community I was hanging out with which consisted of people who went to raves then were interested in more sophisticated music and atmosphere. The artists were very open and since we had no internet like today, there was an incredible sense of help among everyone. Many people who came from elsewhere were always flabbergasted by the quality of the community. Also as how people would attend events because they wanted to be part of something.

-What do you think about the scene in Canada?

I can’t really comment about it. I hardly can keep up with Montreal so I’d feel limited to talk about the rest of the country. All I know is related to multiple scenes co-existing. People are in general very open and friendly.

-It is evident that you have a profound connection with music and sound,you have several branches covered in an exceptional way. You are sound engineers and you carry AudioServices.Studio a hub for your mastering and mixing services. Tell us, what inspired you to venture down this path and to materialize it in this way.

I guess survival would be the core of the site’s beginning. I was working at LANDR in 2015 when my contract was abruptly terminated. I was the sole provider for the family and we were facing big challenges. It became clear that I had to jump into what I knew best and make it happen. The time I spent at LANDR was very interesting as to how a startup works. I learned a lot from that and mixed with my early Netlabel philosophy, I started my studio as a full time job.

-You have a label, Archipel Musique, with many years of experience, both in digital and analog format. We would like to know: How was it born?

2004, as a Netlabel. 

-What kind of activities do you carry out?

At the moment we’re only doing digital but have some vinyl ideas simmering. I see my label has a last resort for my friends to be able to release their music, as well as mine. Without any compromises too. I want to keep it simple.

-What expectations did you have when you started it and what future news can you tell us?

Running a label is a pretty frustrating experience. You always think you finally nail down a way to do it right and then everything goes to shit. Then when you’re on the verge of closing it, some unexpected success comes out of nowhere. I swear that it’s not for the weak of heart and in hindsight, I would say it is a pure exercise of patience, acceptance and dedication. I made many great friends and made many people happy with it, which is beyond what I ever expected but somehow, it feels like enough as well.

-We know that you are about to release a new album on Maher Daniel’s The Other Side, alongside Kike Mayor. What inspired you to start this project?

Kike has been a client since I started my services around 2016. For him, as he said, it was a game changer in his career and because of his dedication and enthusiasm, we naturally developed a beautiful, brother-like, friendship. We have complementary music styles and since I tend to do a bit less dancefloor related music, he is the one pushing me to go there, which is much needed. Plus he is constantly inspiring me to appreciate what we do, a quality that I always want from collaborators.

-What excited you the most during the creative process?

The idea came from Maher when he heard Kike and I play live at SXM Festival where he invited us to play. It was improvised completely but he loved it. That, in itself, was the most exciting part. When we returned home, the pandemic was in full effect and making the album was sort of “WTF is going on and where are we going with this?” That is thrilling in a way because in the previous albums I did, I was very focused, knew what the album was going to be, where it would land, format, release date, etc. But during the pandemic, it felt more like a practice of self-care, hope building.

-What learning do you feel you got from this experience?

I had just received my analog board (AM1 by Zahl) and I had to learn as I go. It was very stressful and beautiful all at once.

-Diving a bit more … What aspects do you feel you have improved as artists during this period of social isolation?

Everything. I worked like crazy and have improved on all fronts, like ever before. From mixing, building studio, business making, production, teaching, connecting… I swear, it was the most self-teaching experience I could ever dream of.

-What is your perspective on the current scene?

Honestly, I find it confusing. I remember during the pandemic, people were saying, “nothing will be the same after the pandemic.” But here we are, with everything reopening and the same lineups are quickly taking over where they left off. Not much recognition for local artists either… In a way, I’m just happy that things are working again but on the other side, I wish there would have been the “big reset” all the conspiracy people were predicting. I don’t see that happening and it’s a lost chance for the industry to change what wasn’t working. I’m relating to the distance stars and middle range DJs’ salaries, artists touring intensively, lack of self care, majority of men in the industry as well as white male takeover. There are too many things that are not in our blindspot anymore and to overlook is making everyone complicit of toxic situations.

Perhaps change will come in other ways.

-It has been a pleasure, thank you very much again for opening with us and our readers. Any message or special words to close this note?

I appreciate you giving me space to share. I hope we can exchange again.


Photo Credits: Michel St-Jean

Words by Pilar Molinero


More Pheek: FacebookSoundcloud/ RA / Bandcamp / Spotify

More Archipel Musique: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud / Bandcamp

More MEOKO: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud