Photo: Suzanne Strong
As a controllerist Laura Escudé (aka Alluxe) has been in charge of the music programming for some of the biggest tours of the past decade (The Weeknd, Bon Iver, Drake, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), including every Kanye West tour since 2009. Escude is not just an A-list technician, but a talented artist in her own right.
A classically trained violinist, she can be heard on Mr. West’s and Jay-Z’s “Watch the Throne,” has remixed hits by M83, owns a live production company (Electronic Creatives) and pulled triple duty on Miguel’s Wild Heart tour as the opening act, backing band performer and handled the controller duties.
Now, as Alluxe, she’s ready to step out from behind the stage curtain with a new E.P., Contrast, coming out on Oct. 28. I chatted with Alluxe on the phone about exactly what a controllerist does, what she’s learned from working with superstars and her new single, “U + 1,” which Crave is exclusively premiering.
Crave: Tell us in layman’s terms what a Controllerist does exactly?
Alluxe: A controllerist comes from the ‘turntablist,’ in that they used records to manipulate sounds. When the Digital Age came people started using Ableton Live (a software music sequencer) and MIDI controllers much like a turntable. A controllerist makes effects and sound tricks that a turntablist would, but with their own set of tools.
How did a classically trained musician get into such a tech-heavy role?
I never really considered myself a technical person. I didn’t work a lot with computers growing up. Then, something clicked and I fell in love with it when I was in college. I started playing violin for DJs and producers. I started to teach myself. Looking over people’s shoulders and took it from there.
What you have learned as an artist from being on-stage with these superstars?
Working with people you pick up all kinds of aspects of people’s personalities. The way they move on-stage. Nothing is ever said, but it’s inferred. And it goes both ways.
What’s the meaning behind Alluxe? It’s an interesting alias that sounds familiar, but is mysterious.
Alluxe is something I made up when I was searching for a way to define me as an artist. ‘Allure’ and ‘luxurious’ are two words I’m very fond of.
Okay, that makes sense. Your music sounds very lush and extravagant.
Most of my music is based in melodies because of my orchestral background and playing violin. I love to put those lush and gorgeous sounds to harsh minor electronic sounds.
I gravitated towards “U + I” because I love that it’s a dance song, but it’s not one-dimensional. There’s an ethereal, dreamy quality to it that’s both moody and exuberant. Can you talk about the process behind it?
I started with the vocals and built the synth sound around that. I work with a lot of vocalists, but for this one I used my own. I was in this space of feeling lonely at the time. I had been out on the road for the past five years… even though you’re surrounded by people all the time it can be lonely. I really didn’t intend it to be a dance tune. It kind of just ended up that way.
As someone who is the definition of a musical multi-hyphenate what do you get the most enjoyment from?
Performing. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I really come alive on-stage. It’s my way of expressing myself to people. That’s when I really light up.
Working with the likes of so many superstars. What do they all have in common?
They’re so passionate about their art. There’s no compromises. They won’t let you sleep until it sounds exactly what their vision of it is. I respect that because I’m the same way myself. When I was making my EP there was a couple things I wanted to change that the mixer said were very small and I still wanted to change them. It was so minute that most people wouldn’t hear it, but I did so we changed it.
You’ve worked with Kanye for a long time on multiple projects. He’s been portrayed in the media and by himself in so many ways. Tell us something about him that we don’t know?
I really can’t talk about that.
I had to try.
For more sights, sounds and info on Alluxe go here.