Ratus — you’re a DJ, composer, YouTuber…
What led you down this path?
I’ve been involved with music since I was 14. In the early days I was playing quite a bit of guitar, just totally self-taught — I played in some rock bands, and stuff like that… But at one point I discovered the “free party” scene, and from there I learned about computer-assisted music and DJing.
When I was 17 I started using FL Studio a bit more seriously — before that, I was just using it to make drum loops that I played guitar over — and bought myself a Hercules DJControl MP3 and VirtualDJ.
I bought two vinyl turntables and a bunch of records when I was 18, and that led me to make a lot of decisions that ended up changing my life.
When I was 19 I put out a track on vinyl for the first time and, without really giving it too much thought, left where I grew up in northern France and decided to move to Toulouse — because at the time, there were some amazing opportunities there when it came to electronic music.
We created a collective with a bunch of local friends and started organizing quite a few free parties, and put on our own nights at clubs and bars in Toulouse.
Apart from that, I was getting more and more invitations to play at all kinds of different parties and events, and put out new tracks on vinyl.
I ended up becoming an independent music teacher out of necessity — I taught computer-assisted music and DJing — but on a personal level I found it really hard to take money from young people, who often didn’t have a lot of it to spare. So I said to myself, “Why don’t you take that YouTube channel you’ve been messing around with for years to put out your own music, and start using it to make videos tutorials giving people free tips instead?!” So I fired up my software and my webcam, quickly shot a little video and just put it out there to see what would happen. It was really that simple!
I actually started creating and posting all types of different content on my YouTube channel: stories where I talked about the history of certain styles of music, or musical artists… I also test out hardware, do music challenges, and do live shoots where I compose and share my tips with viewers. Sometimes I’ll listen to compositions by my subscribers with friends of mine who are also composers: we give my subscribers advice and ideas about how they can get even better!
For a while now I’ve been working with a non-governmental organization in Toulouse on videos that focus on risk reduction at music events, and advice for event organizers. I feel it’s a super-important mission, given the negative image that people might have of underground culture — I think that this type of approach can really help to educate people and change their minds!
By now I’ve played throughout France and in some neighboring countries, and have put out a bit more than 70 videos. I’ve also released four albums, ten EPs, plus a bunch of tracks on vinyl and different compilations. I’m finally really doing what I’m passionate about!
Do you have other talents as well?
Hmmmm… that’s hard to say. If I told you that I can cook really well and love video games, would those be considered talents? [Laughs]
What was the main encounter that really made an impression on you, or inspired you in your life as a DJ?
Obviously, meeting Guigoo motivated me the most in my life as an artist and DJ.
Guigoo is a Hardtek artist who’s been doing this for more than 20 years, and he owns the label Undergroundtekno, which is currently producing my music. He had faith in me right away from the first time I met him, and he’s always been a real class act.
I’ve been listening to Guigoo since I first started out, and working with him now is really an honor and a total pleasure.
What’s your favorite style of music?
Really, I listen to everything and mostly I just go by feel. But if I had to choose one style… I’d say Hardtek in all its forms, whether that’s tribal or ultra-melodic. That’s the music I compose the most and that I listen to most as well.
What’s your best memory of a DJ night, and why?
Without a doubt, my first big show!
It was February 4, 2012 exactly — I was 21 years old and there was a huge hardcore night at the Inox Club in Toulouse with big French and European artists, for the launch of the new album by the group Micropoint.
There were absolutely no plans for me to play there, but a few months beforehand I’d met a guy who worked for the label organizing the event.
Two weeks before the show he called me up and said, “The person who was supposed to do the warm-up can’t make it — do you think you might be able to play instead?” So there I was after two weeks of intense stress and the lack of sleep that goes along with it, in a massive club with my crate of records.
The club was empty when I started my set — I was just totally focused on my mixing, because there was no way I was going to risk messing even the slightest thing up. About half an hour or 45 minutes later I finally looked up and saw that the club was jam-packed: people were jumping around everywhere, yelling, and everyone was having the time of their lives.
I was afraid and happy at the same time — it was super weird, but I managed to stay focused until the end of the set. When I was done, I got offstage and there were all my friends who’d come to see me — they were just jumping on top of me!
That moment when you feel something’s happening, that you’re actually achieving a dream… it’s a crazy feeling, impossible to really describe. I just broke down and started crying tears of joy, I’m telling you! And for a few minutes, at that!
You live in Toulouse: can you recommend some good places to go out and party?
Places not so much, but there are great teams to follow in clubs and bars… Yeah, there are a few that I could mention!
In Toulouse there’s Anomalik, the Sagouins Crew, Karnage, Rêve Party, Regarts…
There’s tons of others as well if you don’t mind traveling a bit further afield or if you’re into the free party scene — but I’m not going to name everyone right now, or else we’ll be here for hours! [Laughs]
What advice would you give people who are just getting started with mixing?
Work — keep on working all the time, and don’t stop. Record yourself as much as possible, and go back and listen to how you sound: be your own critic.
Be creative and open-minded. Try different things out, but don’t skip any of the steps in the learning process.
Also, don’t listen to people who want to try to force you to use this or that particular mixing platform, telling you that it’ll make you look more “legit” — whatever that means — as a DJ. Listen to what you want to do, and ignore the rest.
To make progress, you shouldn’t hesitate to use all of the different tools available — and learn how to use them in the best ways possible. It’s so easy to just go online and find great tutorials on pretty much anything you want to learn about!
Keep in mind that you’ll never stop learning… not even after 10 or 20 years 🙂
What advice would you give people thinking about pursuing DJing as a professional career?
Don’t do it for the recognition, or because “it’s cool” — and make sure not to sacrifice everything for it.
If you’re a student: keep on studying. Things can come crashing down overnight, and you’ll definitely be happy to have other options in life if the DJing doesn’t work out the way that you’d like.
If you have a job: keep it. But when your DJing career is making you more money than your “real” job, maybe then you can consider quitting. Really give it a lot of thought first, though!
It’s an incredibly tough and very challenging industry to be in, full of disappointments. But apart from that you’ll have amazing encounters that’ll change your life, and the way you look at things, forever — that’s for sure!
Do you have some projects going that are particularly important to you?
For a while now I’ve been thinking about making a documentary, maybe 60 to 90 minutes long, about the French underground — the illegal scene.
I’d like to finish up the prep work before the end of the year, but it’s a really huge job — and since I’m the only one working on it, it’s pretty complicated. I’m starting to learn about how to access financial aid and grants… and why not get some crowd-funding going as well?!
I’ve also got a bunch of ideas for upcoming albums that I’d like to do! The first would be to put out an album that mixes metal with electronic music — getting back to my first loves — where I could sing, play guitar, and all that. The next two will be much more conceptual… but I won’t say any more about them for now. Follow me on social media to stay in the loop! 😉
What would be your dream as a DJ/composer?
My dream right now would be to do a tour of Japan — I’ve been fascinated by the country since I was just a kid, and I’d love to finally get over there with my turntables!
Another thing is that I love playing my music at “geek” and video game conventions, trade shows, places like that… in France or the USA. At those types of events you always hear all kinds of music like rock, electro, trap and so on — and it’d be a blast to bring my music to the locals! [Laughs]
Be sure to follow me on social media — including my YouTube channel, of course!
"Be creative and open-minded. Try different things out, but don’t skip any of the steps in the learning process." Ratus