Reno EDM : Punktematrix – Throwback
Real Name: Darren Paul Archambault
Hometown: Torrance, CA
Profession: phone slave, producer, musician, DJ
Hobbies: music, art, film, photography, my bicycle.
Affiliations: Wellrested Entertainment, Core Elements, Collective Records, Majestic Media
How were you introduced to Electronic Dance Music? What do you credit as your inspiration or motivation to become a DJ?
I was introduced to EDM back in high school when the Prodigy were all over MTV. This was when MTV still bothered showing music videos before their interest waned in favor of Guidos and recklessly ignorant teen mothers. My motivation to become a DJ was just seeing DJs in general growing up. My first record was a two record set called “Rap Attack” when I was five years old. My step-father saw it on TV and decided he had to order it for me. It came with a piece of cardboard for break dancing and a book on how to do it. This was 1985 so movies about B-Boy culture were coming out like “Beat Street,” and “Breakin’” which featured DJing. My step-father would watch them and I would sit intently interested in all the subway graffiti and DJing break dancing stuff. It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I finally turned what was a big curiosity into something I could actually do thanks to meeting the right people, and just jumping in head first.
If you had one wish to be granted, what would your wish be?
Honestly I just want to make a comfortable living doing what I love. I don’t really care about being filthy rich, but to be able to say that this is my job, to travel the world and play music for people, and not have to work a regular 9-5 grind would be nice.
How did you come up with the name Punktematrix? Is Punktematrix the only moniker you use or have used?
My first music project ever was called, “Gutter Homicide Squad” and it was where I thought I was making amazing digital hardcore like Atari Teenage Riot was. Turns out I had no clue what I was doing when I was 20 years old. Then I started making industrial music under the moniker “Lowlife Suicide” which was later changed to “Sick Machine.” I still hadn’t the slightest clue in what I was doing as far as production value, but I was intent on making really dark and powerful music.
After a while I wanted to expand my palate and because I liked all kinds of electronic music I started another short lived project called “Jerko and the Rave Kids” which was full of anti-drug themes, especially ecstasy, and full of jabs at “e-tards.” This was all when I was still living at home, working for my parents. When I moved out and on my own I was still doing the “Sick Machine” thing, but I had started a new project called Dot Matrix which was my way of getting into genres like Trance and Drum & Bass. All of my music up to this point I would upload to mp3.com, which back in those days was THE site to show your music off to the world.
After they closed down I ended up moving to soundclick.com which is still around, and when I got there the name “Dot Matrix” was already taken. I had no clue as to what I was going to do. After thinking hard for a few minutes with the Jeopardy theme playing in the background, I decided to go on babelfish and translate it to German, thus my current name Punktematrix. It wasn’t much longer after that I started getting heavy into IDM music like Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. I had decided that was the direction I needed to go with my music so I did producing two albums, “Perfect Shapes” and “soundscapes” which I am still proud of today. Fast forward to the whole DJ thing.
Once I started DJing I had no idea what to call myself, so I ended up with this name. This time I was super influenced by Drum & Bass and had just started hearing Dubstep and was falling in love with it. So I decided thats what I needed to play. Recently to differentiate my old IDM style from what I produce to play out, I created a project called, “Tyoax Pass” in order to keep them seperated. Tyoax Pass has some newer productions like the older IDM music I made. Did you follow that?
Writing your own biography (obviously in the third person), how would you best describe your performance style?
I’m terrible at writing my own biography. What do you say about yourself without sounding conceited? I’m always afraid I’ll come off as a cocky, or a douche. I’m just too shy and reserved to do it. If I could say one thing about my performance style though, I’m energetic, and I don’t take myself too seriously. When I do have to promote my own music out there, I usually end up poking a little fun at myself, saying obviously cocky things in a humorous way. But I really have a hard time trying to get people to listen to my music
Do you think it’s important for a Dj to be the fist pumpin’, deck humpin’ throw your hands up in the air and make some F**kin noise type? In your opinion does the crowd even care or is there a fair and balanced approach to it?
There’s a difference between making a crowd dance, and making a crowd go nuts. The former means you are successful, the latter means you will be remembered. Fist pumping? No. I don’t like to do that kind of thing. I like to dance and go crazy to whatever I’m playing out, be it my own tunes, or other tunes I’ve collected. Certain songs have parts where I can’t help but spazz around head banging and going nuts, jumping around. In sending out that kind of energy to the audience, I find I get the same energy in return. Keep in mind there is a skill to this. You can’t just jump around going crazy to a song that doesn’t call for it. People will think you’re insane, or mentally handicapped, or Andy Kaufman. (You know people still think he’s alive.) I’ve learned in practice how to play things that will bring the crowd’s energy level up and down. There’s a good balance when you play a few really hyper and energetic tunes, then mellow it out a little or let there be a spot where there’s a quiet breakdown. When you do the quiet breakdown part just right, the audience cheers for you.
The thing I can’t stand are the DJs who seem to be hypnotized by their laptop screens. That’s one thing I always make sure I do not do, is stare at my laptop. I use it to glance at for a few seconds to either pick a tune or make sure I’m on point, but I do the majority of my beat matching by ear. Once I have a tune matched and ready to go I start to mix it in and I make sure to pay attention to the crowd. Once that new tune is about ready to drop I start to bring the other one down and when the new one drops I send that energy out to the audience. Look at the crowd, give them that look on you face like, “This next one is going to be GOOD!”
I just really like crowd interaction because it goes beyond just playing music, but having fun together.
How long have you been producing your own music now? What was it that provoked your interest in music production?
I was in high school recording tapes on a karaoke machine using my Casio keyboard for drums and my Stratocaster guitar. I was recording some punk rock songs at the time, then later I bought a couple of cassettes from the grocery store and decided I was going make some epic two cassette album of material that would show the world my emotions and how I felt. That lasted all of a week I think before I got bored.
After high school I got a new computer from my dad as a graduation gift. I graduated in 1998, so this was around the time when computer music software was becoming more mainstream, but it was still all sample based. Mixman DJ was the first thing I ever used, and it was terrible. The GUI was two turntables that you loaded samples into one of six lights on each deck then hit record and turned the lights on and off. Soon after I found Cool Edit Pro, which is now Adobe Audition, and I started recording my super awesome Digital Hardcore tunes I mentioned earlier. At that time my idea of production was “Hey I can’t hear this part of the song. OK I’ll just turn it up.” “Hey now I can’t hear that part. OK I’ll just turn it up.” No clue about redlining, or ceilings, or anything. Then around version 2, I got into using FL studio which I still use today. Back in the day you didn’t really have very much in the way of good tutorials to show you how to use these things or do production in general. Nowdays Youtube is full of videos that teach you how to do it. I like to watch all the videos I can to get some ideas and take it from there. Not having this kind of help back then, and being mostly a recluse with not much in the way of friends and always staying home, it wasn’t until probably last year that I actually got a really firm grasp on production and how to make things sound really good. I’m still always learning, and I think in music you will never stop learning. Once you stop, you’re done and should just give up.
Have you always been playing your current style or did you start in a different genre? How did you evolve into the sound you are creating and performing now?
I started off with Drum & Bass and Dubstep, and I still currently spin them whenever I can, however I live in Reno, NV so as of lately there hasn’t been much in the way of events or places I can go to play that all the time. This isn’t really a city that has that kind of electronic music scene like LA, or New York, or Chicago. My current gig is playing Electro House and top 40 Electro Remixes. I have to say that at first I was against it but I got lucky and I’ve been able to find remixes from artists that I like so I’m happy with what I’m playing. I also do a gig every Wednesday at 1up where I play whatever I feel like, which usually ends up being Indie-Dance and Nu-Disco.
Do you mainly focus on making original music or remixes? Are you mainly stuck to one genre or are you working on others as well? Is there a benefit either way in your opinion?
I like to do original music and sometimes remixes. Remixes are fun and a good challenge. Remixes also get a lot of attention because if you take someone else’s song and add a different flavor to it, and it’s done right, people will love it. A good example is the “Together” remix I did by Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso. That’s a big house tune, and to turn it into something else and make it just as epic was a challenge for me, one that paid off and made me feel good when people liked it. It made me feel even more special when I Googled my DJ name out of curiosity and found that remix all over the internet being shared.
I mainly stick to Drum & Bass and Dubstep, but I have another project called “Frequinox” that I use to produce House music, Indie-Dance, and Nu-Disco.
Was it beneficial to learn the art of mixing and beat matching before moving into music production? If one of your friends approached you about learning both playing and producing what would be your advice?
I was learning production before I learned to DJ, and I learned how to play music in general growing up, so when I started DJing I had a grasp on music already, but it took some time and a lot of practice for me to grasp how to bring in songs. If you don’t bring on songs right, your set loses its momentum fast. Beat matching was easy to learn on a controller because you have a computer there to show you, “Yeah you’re on point.” or “No you’re not.”
When I tried to do just vinyl and by ear for the first time I got it down pretty solid, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you how. I was at my friend Andrew “Trox” Troxel’s house on his turntables, and I turned to him wide eyed and said, “That was my first time doing that.” to which he returned a wide eyed stare.
But after that I really had a difficult time trying to just do it by ear. Thinking it was just kind of a luck thing, I didn’t think I’d ever get it, but then one day it just kinda hit me. I was practicing, and I realized where I had been going wrong. Now beat matching by ear is like a second nature to me, and I’m proud to be able to do it, because a lot of DJs nowdays don’t even bother because they have a screen to stare at. For me, learning to do it by ear shows a dedication, and that you really take this seriously and you’re not just grabbing a controller and a laptop to hurry up and become a super famous awesome DJ.
It took me a lot of practice in my bedroom before I was even close to what I considered good.
Without getting into too much detail could you explain your production method from beginning to end? Is there a certain piece of hardware or software that you favor over others?
I open up FL studio. I have a pre-made production template that I made in order to be able to spend more time on the music an less time on making it sound right. It’s all set and ready to go to where I have to make minimal adjustments to the sound. I have my M-Audio Axiom keyboard controller which I use to record my notes, and I just go from there. There’s not much to it, other than screwing around with different VST synthesizers to get different sounds, or trying out things I learned from Youtube videos.
Do you play mostly or completely your own music? How do you decide what to play and when, while performing live? Is it pre-planned or crowd driven?
I play my own music when I can, but lately as I mentioned before I end up just playing Top 40 remixes and Electro. Sometimes I have my own remixes I can throw in. My style has definitely become crowd driven. I play what the crowd I’m in front of wants to hear. If they want to hear Dubstep, I will throw down my own tunes all night. If they want to hear top 40 I will play remixes so they can hear lyrics they know. I’ve learned that you can be the best DJ in the world, but if the crowd you’re in front of doesn’t want to hear what you’re playing, then they will straight up leave and you’ll be playing to no one. A club owner is not going to have you back to play to an empty dance floor. It’s not about you, it’s about the audience, and if you find an audience that has the same taste you do then it’s great, if those types of gigs aren’t available where you are, then adapt or die off. It’s a sad reality, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still have a blast with it. It also allows you to sneak in music you like to where eventually the audience now has the same taste you do.
My goal is to start playing out of town more to get gigs where I travel and play my own music.
What would you say is your most notable accomplishment as a Dj/Producer?
After two misfires, finally being on a record label. The first two labels that wanted to put out my music totally forgot about me then I never heard from them again. I ended up on Collective Records this year and have two songs out on Beatport and an upcoming EP.
My other, and probably most sacred accomplishment though is both times I’ve played at Stilldream. Gamma puts on one hell of an event, and it isn’t your typical “Hey check out all these DJs!” show like EDC or Ultra. It’s beyond that. Don’t get me wrong, I love EDC and Ultra, but Stilldream just has this element to it where you want to party all night, but you’re also at one with nature and each other. He also makes sure to have some amazing live art around.
With 2012 wrapping up do you have anything coming up before the New Year? How’s 2013 looking? Any releases, gigs or collaborations we should know about?
I play at least twice a month at Tonic Lounge, so if you want to come out and have a good time be sure to check out the Santa Crawl on the 15th then our end of the world party on the 21st I have an EP called “Destroy Something Beautiful” coming out sometime in December as well on Beatport so be sure to check it out.
If you had to choose one track as a favorite, whether it be one of yours or someone else’s, what would you choose?
That’s tough. There’s a lot of good music out there in multiple genres. My favorites change constantly. I will say though that recently one of my favorite tunes has been the “Black Van” remix of “Without Lies” by “Aeroplane” which features Sky Fererria on vocals. It’s pretty much the epitome of a sexy tune without being nasty. Something about her voice, and also the effects thrown over it at certain parts of the song.
Currently what is your biggest influence in music?
I get influenced by two things. One is just straight up emotion. Whatever I’m feeling at the time. I put out a lot of music back in the day which came from me being depressed, and needing a creative outlet to release what I was feeling. If I’m feeling rather energetic I will make a really good energetic tune, or something funny.
The other thing that influences me is movies and TV. I try not to take my music too seriously and a line in a TV show or Movie will pop into my head and I’ll tell myself, “That would make a great song!” and so I find a sample of the line I’m looking for and use it. I think a sense of humor in music, especially dance music is a great thing.
Anyone you would like to suggest musically that has recently captured your interest? Maybe give a shout out to?
As far as music production goes I’ve been recently into a guy from Sweden who goes by, “Mitch Murder.” He makes all of this really good retro 80s music. He’s an amazing example of production because he doesn’t use the actual hardware synths from the era, but programs VSTs to get that sound. You’d never know the difference.
Locally I’d love to give a shout out to a couple of people. I think Boggan has come a long way in production and has really put in the effort and it shows. A lot of people learn a little bit then just stay at that level, ending up doing the same thing over and over each time, but I’ve noticed Boggan has been consistently improving. I’m proud of that kid.
And finally I want to give a shout out to Trox, because he’s really a hidden gem within the community here. He moved to Truckee from LA years ago, and kind of calmed down on DJing and producing, but recently he’s gotten back into making tunes, and he’s a super talented producer. He’s also extremely humble, and is good at keeping me in check when I get a little cocky. It’s good because he came from a scene where he was with a lot of heavy hitters in Drum & Bass, and he could easily have and deserve an ego, but instead he’d rather be humble, and it’s inspiring being around him.
It seems Electronic Dance Music in Reno has moved out of the “Rave” and into the club. What are your thoughts on that? Good…Bad… Are there still warehouse “underground” events? Is there a need for them or does it even matter anymore given the club acceptance to EDM?
There’s good and bad to both. The good about the club scene is you don’t have to worry about walking around staring at a bunch of reckless kids on drugs. However the bad thing about the club scene is that tastes change and clubs come and go.
The good thing about the rave scene was you could mass a large group of people together and have a great time. The bad thing about it was all the reckless people, kids and adults alike. Plus there was an oversaturation here that kind of killed it off. Once you’re doing three or four raves a month nobody has anything to look forward to anymore, and suddenly they get bored with it. That kind of thing works in a place like LA, because it’s so big but in a smaller city not so much, because your audience isn’t so diverse.
I gotta tell you though, I could go for a good warehouse party right about now.
In your opinion what would you say is the best and worst thing about being a dj?
The best thing about being a DJ is just being up there and making people dance and have a good time, and being up there having a blast yourself. The worst thing about being a DJ is that EVERYBODY IS A DJ NOW.
What are your thoughts on file sharing websites, record pools and blogs vs. file purchasing websites?
I think blogs are great. It’s a way for up and comers to get noticed and veteran producers to stay out there. It’s also a good way to get remixes that you can’t find for purchase. Everyone uses file sharing websites, we’re all guilty at one time or another, but I have no problem with paying a reasonable price for a song if it’s by an artist I like. The sad reality though is that artists don’t always make very much money on songs, especially if they are on a major label. That’s why they tour so much, because their money comes from ticket sales and merchandise. Any way you can support an artist though, DO IT.
Out of all the types of events you have played, which type is your favorite and why?
It will always be Stilldream, because the vibe there is second to none.
Other than your day job what do you think you would be doing with your time if didn’t go the route of Dj/Producer?
I’d probably be in a band, which is still something I want to do. If not that, then I’d be sitting around on the internet.
What are you doing when you’re not out playing or working on music?
I like to watch movies, and take photography, or ride my bike when it’s not flat. I also like to go on adventures with my friends. I haven’t done that as much lately. Just to hop in Steven’s Subaru Forester and go somewhere.
Any suggestions for other artists or promoters, either up and coming or just in general?
Keep your sense of humor, and learn to take criticism, with a grain of salt, but still take it.
Anything you would like to add or get off your chest?
I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has ever supported me in any way, and especially John “Ctrl Alt Delete” Wood, Roy Lindaur, Nicole Martinelli, Michael Rivera, Steven “Quad Double Oh!” McDaniel, Dave“Ruckus” Masterson, Kevin “Psilogod” Kolstad, Marcus Lee “Game Genie,” James Boggan, Andrew, “Trox” Troxel, Dylan “Wubber Stumpper” Bloomfield, Adam Glass, Jack Yellowhair, Andrew “AFS” Snow and Paul ‘Gamma” Plescov. Without any of you I wouldn’t be where I am today. You’re all amazing.