If you found yourself sitting across from Jonathan Doyon, also known as Eekkoo, you would realize his mastery of production and sound design within the first five minutes of conversation. His sound literacy and conciseness is as impressive as his production itself, lending in part to his history of teaching sound design since he first made his start in Montreal. I had the opportunity to dig deeper into the aural workings of Jonathan’s mind after his set at Output, spanning his career as a teacher and producer and shedding light upon his creative process. Eekkoo bestows insight characteristic to his productions—raw and subtle—that both awes and inspires.
If you could sit across from your eighteen-year-old self right now, with all of your current knowledge on producing and touring, what would you tell your younger self?
Do in the studio what you feel like playing in the club. It’s two different things, but trust me, do that. I’ve been producing music for fifteen years now.
What was the process like for you of going from producer to DJ?
In the studio it’s pretty much always the same vibe. But each crowd is different. And each club is different. Each sound system is different. So you always need to adapt if you want to be a good DJ. In the studio you’re usually all alone, by yourself, with your own thoughts. I started DJing seven years ago, so I had eight years of producing first. At this point in my career, I’d say that I’m 70% music producer, 30% DJ.
What was the most formative production learning process in your early career?
So I started in hip-hop, and things started moving quickly. In 2006 I discovered techno, and I knew right away that I needed to try it out. Dusty Kid, James Holden, and deadmau5 were some of my earliest inspirations. Even back in 2006 he was so pioneering. I was a bedroom producer for the first six years. I started out teaching sound design, inspired by movies. I loved Stimming. He’s a music producer with a very special touch. Joel’s a big fan, too. He’s German (as you can imagine). His real name is Martin Stimming. As for current music, Maceo Plex is without a doubt one of my biggest inspirations. When I’m not producing, I’m listening to Dr. Dre. Old school hip-hop. Pretty much always listening to hip-hop. I’m driven by the soul, the funk.
What software did you start out on?
Fruityloops. Now I’m on Ableton. Never dabbled in Logic… I know it’s a great DAW, but Ableton just flows so well for me. I’ve been using music software for years. I realized I needed a platform where I could produce and mix in it, and by mixing I mean DJing. Ableton was pretty heavy on the internet with ads and presence, and I remembered seeing a bunch of the techno guys doing promos with Ableton, so I thought there’d be something there for me.
Did you go to university?
No. I did a couple of weeks, but my career as a teacher become more important. I had my first job when I was sixteen. My first real job around nineteen—as a sound technician working at different events. I took an audio engineering class at a private school right after high school. I grew up in Rosemont.
What clubs are on your radar?
Output was one of them. Ibiza is up there. The likes of Amnesia and Space. DC10.
What’s your favorite set you’ve ever played?
I played one hell of a set at Audio in San Francisco. And in Montreal, at a festival called Igloofest last year. There’s some footage of it on my YouTube channel.
What was your first studio setup like?
I was twenty three. I was renting an apartment, and I knew… this is it. My first monitors were Mackie HR824s. First generation, that’s really important. It was manufactured in the states, but the second generation was made in China. Compressors… some distortion units. Now I’m about half and half analog and digital. I use Moog stuff all the time.
What have been your go-to VSTs?
Midi Monsters. Then later came Nexus. Spire. Sylenth. Some Native Instruments stuff, of course. Absynth.
Are you all self taught?
Pretty much. With tutorials of course, but it’s funny how much you can learn by just reading the manual. People tend to forget that. Just read the manual.
Do you have a go-to routine when you start a track?
Most of the time I start with a kick. Then I start designing a sound. And a melody. If it’s good enough, I’ll make a whole track from it.
How has your sound developed since you first started?
The more you produce on your computer, the more you have to fix with EQs, compressors, and the like. I’m a mix engineer. So with that in mind, when you produce a track, it helps you figure out what to do with the sound source to make it sound huge or professional. I would say designing the sound is one thing, but knowing how to treat the sound source is another.
What has the switch between virtual and analog been like for you?
Analog is better. But plugins are getting really good. It’s close enough to the real deal. We’re way ahead of where we were fifteen years ago. It’s still half and half, but there are amazing EQs, compressors, and soft synths like Omnisphere and Strobe. But there’s nothing like programming the sound on a Moog synthesizer.
What’s your producing schedule like?
I wake up. The first thing I have in my mind: produce music. I can start making techno at 9am. Until 5pm. Have dinner with my girlfriend, then go back to the studio.
I’m not a breakfast guy. I don’t really drink coffee. I’ll take a shower. Browse Beatport. Get inspired. Design a sound. Write the melody for it. If it’s good enough, I’ll make a whole track with it.
When did you first realize you could make music your life?
Seven years ago. I was getting pretty good. I was getting gigs. I was teaching. All of this was my life. I think I only sent one track to mau5trap. They were doing a mau5hax kind of thing, and one day Joel found my track. Even thinking back to 2006; I’m producing hip-hop. Discovering a guy like deadmau5, and five years after that being signed to his label… it’s a pretty big deal.
Once you’re on a label, everything is smooth and slow. So goddamn slow. Writing an email. Having to respond an hour later. No reply for a month. Then, “Yeah, we’ll sign this track.” Two months after that, “Hey, we’re about release a track, we’re about to send you a release date.”
If you were a new producer now, what first steps would you take?
Get yourself a bit of equipment. A sequencer if you’re using Ableton or FL. I would spend days on YouTube. If you have a specific sound in mind, once you find the right tutorial that teaches you how to do it… it feels so good. And read the fucking manual.
Many thanks to Jonathan and Michael at Upstream for making this discussion possible.