Mike Stanton goes stargazing with the producer, DJ and promoter to journey through the cosmos of his most recent release, joining the dots between constellations of influences along the way.
I’ve been aware of JACQUES MALCHANCE and Upitup Records for a few years now. It’s nearly impossible to be part of the fabric of the electronic music scene in Liverpool without crossing paths with the Upitup boys, Jacques and Paolo Elmo. I, like many others, have enjoyed nights as guests of these chaps and their merry band.
Jacques Malchance is a musical polymath; adept in so many different disciplines it seems almost unfair. He is a classically trained pianist, an electronic producer, a DJ, a radio show host, label owner, promoter. He’s an all-round lovely guy, too.
Having relocated from his home city of Rome to a pre-capital of culture Liverpool in 2005, the intention was to stay a year and take a music diploma at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Fifteen years later and he is still here, has settled down and is the proud father of two children.
In that time Jacques’ musical pedigree has risen, having performed with amazing artists such as Broadcast, James Taylor Quartet, Manu Delago, Luke Vibert and Mark Pritchard. Having co-founded Upitup back in Italy in 2003 with fellow electronic producer Isocore (Paolo), he has been recording and releasing music steadily while hosting events, DJing and broadcasting on Liverpool’s independent radio station, Melodic Distraction.
As the current environment dictates, we meet virtually through Zoom to talk about his latest haul of creative projects. After a brief round of hellos, how you doings and messing with settings, we’re ready.
Jacques is very demonstrative, he talks quickly and enthusiastically, gesticulating and punctuating his answers with airy flourishes. His huge mane of hair has been chopped back, but the beard and his twinkling eyes are still in evidence. There are tangents and asides throughout the interview punctuated by Jacques’ infectious laugh and hugely engaging character. It is impossible not to be charmed by this most companionable of men. The hour we chat for flies by.
Jacques has fully integrated into the Liverpool culture and is now a bone fide adopted Scouser, very much one of our own; transitioning from the man who arrived on these shores as a green 20-year-old looking for adventure. “My mum actually encouraged me [to come to Liverpool],” he says, thinking back to his days in Italy over 15 years ago. “She found this course [at LIPA]. I didn’t know anything about Liverpool, you know, like no contact whatsoever and my mum thought this might be an exciting thing.”
Jacques is honest in outlining that he didn’t see himself sticking around on the Mersey shores for the length of time he has. But there was a subtle magnetism that drew him and so many adopted Scousers to the city: “It’s one of those places,” he points out, “I’m not the only one because I’ve met so many people that come for what they think is a short amount of time. I don’t know,” he pauses and ponders with an abstract expression, “It has got that weird time bubble, kind of warp thing. [Time] flies. It doesn’t stop. That’s the thing, it actually speeds up.”
In Liverpool, the majority of Jacques’ projects gravitate towards the electronic, club scene. But there is a subtle underlayer of classical composition that forms the basis of his musical exploration. Growing up, Jacques absorbed the music his parents listened to. “Erik Satie, for sure, was one of the best ones because I remember hearing Trois Gymnopédies like, really young,” he recalls. “Still today, it’s an incredible piece of music, pioneering in so many ways. I went on to do recitals of Satie and similar stuff.”
Along with a solid basis of passion and poise delivered by Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, it was as a teenager where the most discernible influences of Jacques productions took root. It was hearing Squarepusher that flicked on a light in Jacques’ head. “A brother of a friend of mine played us it,” he explains. “Before I even heard Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin, I heard Tundra on Feed Me Weird Things by Squarepusher. This changed everything. It was an instant [moment] of ‘whoa’.”
As Jacques eludes to, Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy was an essential record and made a strong impression. “I saw the video late at night on MTV. Again, massively mind blown, like instantly.”
Expanding his horizons followed. Having been grounded in rock it was only natural he would seek out harder and harder music, getting into bands like Korn and Slipknot and exploring the early 2000s phenomenon nu metal. However, through Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, beats held a particular fascination, something Jacques would carry with him throughout his musical career. “[On Come To Daddy] the beats were just more than a nu metal band could do. It felt like the sound was massive,” Jacques recounts. “I’ve always been in bands, I’ve always liked bands, you know, but there was definitely this kind of love for electronic music that was so different. That was my first introduction to it.”
His musical tastes took time to flourish, firstly absorbing, as Jacques puts it, “golden-era” (mid 90s) Warp Records and Rephlex Records, discovering Autechre, Boards of Canada, Cylob and Bogdan Raczynski. “I wasn’t into house and techno at all growing up, so yeah, that type of electronic music,” he adds. The urge to move beyond standard 120 bpm-like rhythms was obviously strong. “It kind of felt like four-four at the time to me was cheating,” he considers. “Now, I tend to do mostly, well not four-four, but you know, straight beat kind of stuff.” As time went on, he discovered the joys of late 80s techno, electro and acid house. “It still blows my mind,” he says passionately. “Most acid stuff I like is from 1988. It still seems like I can’t really beat that kind of rawness and mad riffs.”
As a DJ, Jacques is a true musical democrat, playing a wide range of genres including techno, electro, acid, disco, funk, jungle and music from beyond westernised genres; he recently performed a set for Liverpool Arab Arts Festival. Experience of putting on the now famous Upitup nights around the city has honed Jacques’ instincts for what works, which combinations engage and how artists and DJs can create a night. “Upitup nights, you know, have always been quite varied, I think in terms of line-up, there’s always been room for quite experimental, kind of odd, really non-danceable stuff,” he explains. “But that’s also part of what we’ve always really loved. If I have a really long DJ set it will never be the same type of music,” he continues “My favourite type of night will start with ambient and downtempo chill and then it picks up a bit and becomes banging electro, techno and acid working its way up to jungle and then end with a bang, sort of really heavy like gabber and breakcore. I mean that, for me, is the ideal club night. That’s what keeps me interested and on the dancefloor all the time.”
His latest release is Arpeologie, a beautiful and melodic trip through ambient techno. Think Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and you get the idea. The music spirals throughout cascading waves of deep-groove-filled journeys. I had a brilliant theory that it was titled Arpeologie because ARP synths were used throughout, but it turns out I was wrong. “It was mainly because there are a lot of arpeggiators in it, no ARPs were used,” he says, bringing an end to my assumptions. “All of the sounds are hardware with sequencers, but kind of limited in a way, that’s the thing with hardware, it’s like a limitation that you set yourself [to work with].”
Recorded and mastered in his home studio, Arpeologie sounds lush with enough movement, patterns, textures and depth to fill your head with all those lovely endorphin-lit pulses. However, despite its release in May, the recordings are as much as 10 years old. So how has it only just been released? Jacques takes up the story.
“I was supporting Legowelt and he came up after me afterwards to say how much he liked the set,” he outlines. Legowelt asked Jacques to record an album for his label at the time, Strange Life Records, a small independent. “It was cool, he was putting out amazing stuff, especially at that time. There was Polysick, and DMX Krew. It was a really nice label.”
After being set the task and deadline, the label then sadly folded. “That was obviously a bit of a blow,” Jacques concedes. “He was cool about it, saying, ‘I’m really sorry. I really love the album. I really like it. Please send it to other labels and, you know, good luck.’ And that’s how it became this wait.”
Labels were showing the love but nothing came of it. “They were always like, ‘I really like it, but I’m not sure if it fits the label’, so that’s been the story of it for years. It became this long journey. Finally, I was like, ‘No, fuck it’, I’m going to put it out on vinyl under Upitup later in the autumn.”
The advent of Bandcamp Friday in May prompted Jacques to release Arpeologie as a digital-only download with the intention of a proper vinyl release later in the year. The reaction so far has taken him by surprise, both in its number of plays and the generosity of those purchasing it for higher than normal fees via pay-what-you-feel. It’s well worth the adulation it’s receiving in pockets of the internet.
Along with the release of the record, things remain busy and exciting for Jacques. Juggling so many different projects and interests must be exhausting but he seems happy and focused. His and Paolo’s Melodic Distraction show broadcasts every month featuring Upitup acts plus a selection of the best music in the area. These guys really know their stuff and the love just pours out of the speakers.
Once the current crisis has passed and we all return to some form of normality, live performance can return and these nights can once again grace Liverpool. It’s with great hope that I’ll bump into Jacques or Paolo and experience another one of their magical nights. Maybe, somewhere down the line he’ll even achieve his dream of bringing Aphex Twin to Liverpool to play at Upitup. It’s a dream he views as “complicated”, not to mention finically challenging. “But you never know,” he teasingly adds, leaving us with a slither of hope – the kind that would pull us through the long months ahead with no events on the horizon.
Yet, even without the events, Jacques and his productions continue to embody the spirit and drive of Liverpool, contributing to the rich cultural heritage of this great city. It’s fair to say Jacques Malchance and Upitup will be remembered for years to come. And those nights with him behind the decks will resonate with ageing ravers and keep us all warm in our twilight years.
Arpeologie is available now via Upitup records.
Special thanks to Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre for providing access for photography. For information on the centre’s work and rates for day visits and overnight stays for artistic projects and development please visit bidstonobservatory.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org