Video by : Nadia Calabrese Photographer
Interview by: Emily Tailor.
This past week Rhythm Is Rhythm had the opportunity to meet Francois Lebaron, one of the co-creators of aimexperience.com. Over some finely aged cider and beers our team chatted with the Montreal music icon. We picked his brain about what it means to be part of this great city’s underground music scene as well as discussed his festival, plans for the future and found out some pretty interesting facts. To close out the evening we jammed out as Francois recorded a live set for this Saturday’s RIR radio show www.rhythmisrhythm.com/listen.
Needless to say it was quite the enjoyable night and we would be remised to not share what we learned from speaking with Francois, with you. Let us suggest you break open a cold one and put on an archived RIR set soundcloud.com/rhythm-is-rhythm (for background noise) as you enjoy the following interview.
RIR: What was a defining moment in your life as an artist?
Francois: There is one great moment. It was around 2005. I was a young resident at Stereo, Montreal. My night had been going a year or maybe it was six months. It was December 31st.
RIR: New Years!
Francois: Yes. I was doing the after party at Stereo Bar from 7am to 3am… you know, on January 1st. We arrived at 7am; I was already partying with some of my friends. Suddenly the manger came up to me and said, “Oscar G, is done playing upstairs. It’s packed. You are the only resident DJ in the place that can do it.” So I said, “all-right.” There were like 1,000 people in the place… it was around 8am. I went upstairs and got the place upside down until 2am. After that I went downstairs and played until 3am. So, that right there… those two days… that was like, “this is good”.
RIR: Would you call this moment a glimpse of your possible future in the music industry? Did this give you even more drive?
Francois: Yeah I think when you believe in something you will be at the right place in the right moment. You need to believe in it deeply.
RIR: What took you from being a resident DJ at Stereo to throwing Montreal’s newest musical movement, AIM?
Francois: Well, today I am no longer a resident. But, before I was a DJ at stereo I used to produce raves in the 1990’s… pretty big raves, 2,000 people raves in 96’, 97’, 98’, 99’. I have always produced parties and shows. After that I started a record label. For a little while I quit producing shows and put time into my first label. But, I saw the scene growing. Which made me realize there was something missing in Quebec… a real, good festival. One where the music doesn’t stop for 32 hours, non-stop party like in Europe… a legal one. So I asked an ex-owner of Club People in Montreal if he wanted to start something and he said, “yes”.
RIR: What are some of the challenges of throwing a large-scale festival?
Francois: There are so many challenges. Obviously the budget is something very important we have to deal with along with the line-up and dealing with agencies too. Agencies are hell 100%. But, we work with them the best we can. On top of this, we want to bring in an educational element. We have a workshop and art insulation. We want people to experience something else other than being on the dance floor fucked up. Instead they can be on site, meet people, see art insulation and learn about Ableton and instruments.
RIR: Forced to be engaged.
Francois: Exactly that, as much as possible.
RIR: How do you find working with the laws of Quebec?
Francois: You know what, this has been my business for the last 20 years, dealing with the laws. I arrived at a point where I learned the tricks to be able to do this legally. There is a way of doing it, there is a way of selling it, there is a way of explaining the project in a different way than we are doing a rave. We are not doing a rave; we are throwing a festival where we bring the kids to learn. Focusing on interesting technological things, arts and we raise money for different organizations… we give small amounts to help young people on the street learn a musical instrument for example.
RIR: Cool. You are giving kids a talent that they are going to use in the future.
Francois: Exactly. So all of these things help us convince the police and the mayor to bring this festival further. We are opening the minds of people.
RIR: So are there different booths and stages along with areas designated for educational purposes?
Francois: Well there are actually three stages. Two main. This year we have the AIM stage, the Moog Audio stage and the Multi Culti stage. The Multi Culti stage is actually my favorite one. Thomas Von Party, Tiga’s brother, hosts it. His label is called Multi Culti. It’s kind of slow, slow deep house and psychological music. It’s very, very interesting. It will be super cool. Then we have an area specialized for workshop and people that sell things and do massages. There will be a 360-degree visual experience.
RIR: So you are working with local vendors and business, what about any clubs?
Francois: Yeah, well the official after party is at Stereo Bar.
RIR: What is the future for AIM? Where do you see it in the next 10 years going?
Francois: Well, we want to bring it to a point where people are very engaged and involved in the experience. For next year, we want to ask people to propose projects. Proposed projects will be presented on site at the festival… a bit like Burning Man. We want to encourage people to feel involved and have more fun. We want people to open their mind and not just focus on the line-up. It’s not about the line-up; it’s about the experience.
RIR: It is about a whole… everyone contributes to the experience and being able to take something from this makes it that much more moving.
Francois: Yes exactly. It is about the music but more… Trust the promoter, the concept, come and build something. Do something. Bring your friends and try to help the experience to be bigger.
RIR: So, in the next couple of years you really want to engage the community?
Francois: Yes, 100%. Last year, we had an artist call irregular from Montreal. He is a visual artist. He built a huge interactive piece of art, which was made of LED panels. When you touched it, the light changed and there was a sound that came with it. Everything you did made something change visually and sonically. It was very interesting. This year he is doing something else again. So, yes… we are trying to bring this kind of artist.
RIR: What made you choose your site and venue?
Francois: Well, at first we almost signed a deal with the Mirabel Airport. Now it is destroyed but then it was closed. It was supposed to be on the tarmac. Just before we signed, the mayor of Montreal decided that it was going to be closed and destroyed. So, we had to chose another site. That’s when my partner said, “You know when I was younger I went with my girl on a site to play. It’s a huge playground. Come, I’m going to show you.” Well, when I arrived on that site and saw all the huge concrete forms I knew this was it. When you are on site you feel something. There is energy there. When I arrived there the first time, I got goose bumps.
RIR: So you knew right away this site was it.
Francois: YES! Well actually we are planning to different concerts there. We can have 80.000 people on that site. It’s huge. Next year we are already planning for a country rock concert. We just want to explore the site as much as possible.
RIR: Wow, sounds like the venue opened up a lot of doors for you. With that being said, do you have any thoughts to leave the reader with?
Francois: Well actually, I wanted to mention something… it’s about AIM’s tickets. It may seem weird, but because we are a festival that is going non-stop people can’t just buy tickets for Saturday. We don’t stop and that means that a ticket for just Saturday would make no sense. When you buy a ticket, it is for the whole trip because festivalgoers don’t have to leave.
RIR: This is part of what makes AIM individual.
Francois: Yes, this and the education and the camping.
AIM festival kicks off this Friday, July 15th 2016 and runs until Sunday July 17th. Visit the link to get your tickets. aimexperience.com