August in Montreal is one of my favorite times of the year. From Osheaga to ÎleSoniq, the city comes to life with good electronic music. I made a new discovery in Montreal this year, and his name is Julien Collet, aka Hools. Julien’s overcome all odds to be where he is today—let his insight serve as inspiration.
If you could sit across from sixteen-year-old Julien right now, with all the current knowledge of music you have, what advice would you give your younger self?
Well, at sixteen years old I was in a hospital bed paralyzed from the chin down due to a spinal cord injury. I’d probably tell myself to keep fighting. Music-wise, I would definitely insist on keeping my mind wide open to all types of music exploration and stick to my gut when it comes to creation.
Tell us about yourself. What makes you stand out?
I’de define myself more as an entertainer than a DJ. Not because I consider myself a bad DJ; what stands out in my performances is how I can move people through music as well as my energy on stage. I’m expressive. When I feel the beat, I make you hop in the groove boat with me.
Why did you start DJing and producing?
I started DJing because a couple of friends from my hometown and I were listening to the same electronic music—Justice, all the ED Banger crew, Midnight Juggernauts, RATATAT, MSTRKRFT—and we thought, “Hey! We should share our appreciation for that type of music with our friends from college and give DJing a shot.” A guy from TRH Bar (formerly known as Saphir) came to see us and grabbed me to hold a weekly there with him. From then on it went uphill, and I decided to organically switch from hard electro and dubstep to UK house. I’ve made some mashups, edits, and unreleased productions that need tweaking, so I’d call myself more a DJ than a producer. For now.
What software did you start out on?
The legendary Virtual DJ was my first digital companion. I played my very first gig with a mouse, can you believe that? I learned the basics of production on Fruity Loops and now I’m on Logic and Traktor Pro 2 for DJing.
If you were a new producer today, with no music knowledge or following, outline your schedule and tools you would use in your first year to have the biggest impact on the music industry.
I think one essential thing to keep in mind in the industry these days is that everything changes or evolves so quickly. Versatility has became a necessary asset. It doesn’t mean that you need to produce glitch hop and minimal tech under the same alias, but I would definitely open myself to all sorts of sounds and get accustomed to many subgenres that inspire me. My good friend Frederik (the infamous Snails) has showed me how to take a business-minded approach; invest money (or time and effort in this example) to finally gain some in return. I would work on four solid singles that preferably include signature sounds and I would release them once a month, jointly with a big opening or headline I would be booked for. Hard work in the studio and actually showing up at events to do PR are key actions in my opinion.
Take us through your creative process. Do you have any rituals?
Just like a comedian or any creative mind, I keep my senses sharp and take notes of any ideas I have on the spot. I mix harmonically so I love to refer one song that I hear to another that would fit really well. That’s where my mashups come from. When it comes to completely original creations, it’s more about being patient enough to play with sounds and play the keyboard until you actually catch something that turns you on. As of official rituals, I just like to keep my sessions very clean and my studio setup in a specific way.
What’s your favorite sample pack? Do you synthesize your own sounds?
Samplephonics and Primeloops are always very helpful, but when it comes to samples, I like to tweak mine a lot and export them so I can use them for other tracks. I’m unfortunately not at the point where I synthesize my own sound, but hey, the best is yet to come.
Do you need to be in the studio to produce?
I have a home studio, but it’s not padded or anything. I just play around and when it’s ready to go out I ship it to my friend Tim at Cult Nation to polish it up and make it sound full.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Guys like Daniel Fernandes, Deniz Kabu, ZHU, Hotel Garuda, Thee Cool Cats are constantly impressing and inspiring me with their original sound.
What have been your top three musical accomplishments?
I’m proud of my monthly at Newspeak. Playing for a festival in Miami last May is one too. And finally I think that just getting my name out there to be seen by the members of CUFF Records is a nice step forward for me.
What genres define you?
I won’t start on the “what, you call this deep house?” debate, but I would definitely say I’m in the house vibes and more along the UK, gangster, tropical and jacking subgenres.
What are your favorite plugins to use?
Camel Audio makes sick plugins. Also check out Sugar Bytes Tornado, Gold Baby Tape, and the FabFilter family.
Do you have any advice on promoting music?
I won’t elaborate much on this one since there are so many aspects that can help with promoting your music, but I’d say the most important one is other artists’ cred. Getting shouted out is the best thing that can happen for you.
What producers have impressed you the most in the last year?
Diplo, hands down. I wonder where he finds sleep between the management of his label, Major Lazer, Jack Ü, and all his other collaborations. He has built a fantastic machine and he’s changing the flavour of electronic music in a wonderful way.
What’s your favorite set you’ve ever played?
It was before I created my project Hools. It was at Place Jacques Cartier in the Old Port of Montreal and I played for the 2014 NYE event. There were 30,000 people… all on fire, even with the 25 degrees under 0 (-13ºF) that night. Some dudes were dancing shirtless in front of me. The energy that such a huge amount of people give you is absolutely out of this world. I need to experience this again in my life.
Keep up with Hools here. Photography by Dominique Lachance.