Back to the Future: A backyard studio preserved in musical history
Modern music production relies heavily on computers, but Edouard Ratiarson wants to change that. His backyard music studio is filled with vintage recording equipment—analog components from the 20th century that help him create contemporary sounds.
As we sit down Ratiarson is excited to share with me a quote from a sound engineering handbook: “In audio we are concerned with both the audio and the response. The wind sends a wave traveling through a field of grain and each head of grain vibrates back and forth on its stem.”
“That image is very strong,” says Ratiarson. “We can't see it but it happens all the time and it effects our psyche. It’s powerful and really the reason for my pursuit of it.
Q: When did music start to talk to you?
A: Oh wow, it had a lot to do with the immigrant story and moving around the world. I was born in Madagascar and then moved to France, Quebec and Ontario and finally settled in Toronto. The music on the radio was my constant friend while I traveled. I went from enjoying the pop music of my era to wanting to DJ. I DJ’d throughout university and then wanted to produce music.
Did you start with vintage analog equipment?
No, it started with electronic music, but then I really started to like acoustic music and getting deep into the sound and capturing it in an organic format. Our ears, brains and bodies—we are analog machines. The first generations of recordings were analog and they were infinitely better.
You have a collection of both odd and unique instruments—when did you start acquiring them?
I’ve been collecting for 20 years. While the music industry is trying to keep up with technology, I'm trying to curate the best of that old stuff.
Where did this passion for analog come from?
This whole sonic aesthetic of my production was inspired by Henry Hirsch. He’s best known as Lenny Kravitz's collaborator and producer. In the late ’80s and ’90s, when people were obsessed with futuristic type music, he said “let’s stop and appreciate the great and timeless stuff that happened in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Over the last 10 years I’ve been working with him so I can learn more about this great technology, which is very difficult to master compared to computers. I’ve applied those skills to local musicians get a different sound and a great recording compared to what they'd do at home. [Ratiarson has worked with Nefe and Timber Timbre.]
There’s a younger generation of people who have an appreciation for what I'm doing. They understand this analog technology.
Who in music is exciting you right now?
I'm a bit of a contradiction. I have this love for old technology and for some of the new generation of rap music — XXXTentacion, Young Thug and Jaden Smith, although I may not agree with their sound choices or their aesthetic. I can’t deny there is a Post Malone, new writing pattern that combines Drake and both singing and rapping in an innovative way that hasn't been done before. So, I'm excited to learn about this and then fuse it with my sound.
How is music part of your family?
Music was a part of their first day on earth for both of my children. The first thing I did was take them from the hospital to the piano so their first experience in their home was listening to piano notes. I believe music has had a great impact on their neural development because their first experience was this organized sound experience and not chaos. And now they can sing, they take music lessons and write songs.
Favourite album of all time?
Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson.
“The music business needs reinvention. Quincy Jones said, ‘music and water will be the last things to leave the planet.’ I agree with that, but the business of music that allowed all this great music to flourish in the past has disintegrated, so it’s in a constant need of reinvention.”
I’m sure your children have their own musical tastes. Who have they introduced you to?
Oh my daughter loves ‘Havana’ and through that song I heard Young Thug do the bridge — the rap part. it’s brilliant, it opened up that world of melody work to me.
Lynda Felton is an award winning prop stylist and content producer. Lynda also works as a decorator, writer, and florist. Photography by Donna Griffith