BitterCaress – Groove Podcast 370

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Photo: Press (BitterCaress)

Everything Camille Bernard does is imbued with a sense of community. Having only fairly recently picked up DJing, the Montréal-based French DJ has close ties to the Canadian city’s OCTOV collective, but in recent times has focused her efforts on a personal enterprise that is at the same time a communal one: Her Mixing For A Cause podcast provides an international platform for DJs to raise awareness about social and political topics. Currently focusing on the label MFC Records, which has grown out of it in the meanwhile, BitterCaress has even more plans for bringing people together. This is also what her contribution to our Groove podcast should be capable of accomplishing with ease: These 51 minutes of high-energy techno will make you want to go out and hug some strangers in a sweaty basement.

You have received classical training on the piano when growing up in France, and fell in love with techno once you moved to Montréal almost a decade ago. What was the initial spark that ignited your passion for electronic dance music?

I think, at first, it was more about the community than for the music. I finally found a place where I was being myself, where I wasn’t feeling judged, and I could express myself freely. That’s definitely what I loved in the first place when I first hit an electronic music dancefloor. The love for this type of music came quickly after and never ceased to grow!

As a DJ, you have made your debut in 2018. What led to you stepping up to the decks?

I met a super nice group of friends in 2017, we were always hanging out and going to raves and techno events every weekend. I started to mix in 2018 in one of this friends’ cellar. We were often doing after parties at hers—love you Nath—and she already had tonnes of old machines, old CDJs, old mixers and I got curious about everything since I have a musical background. She has definitely pushed me to try mixing. She even found my first Xone, the 22, a soundcard and I bought Traktor. That’s basically how it all started, in her cellar, then in my bedroom—like most of the DJs, right? At that time, I was spending hours discovering new music on SoundCloud, YouTube and Bandcamp. I was looking for the sound I heard on dancefloors during weekends, searching for the samples that made me dance so hard the day before, this one noise that drove me crazy because it was so good … I am a big raver at heart and discovered electronic music on dancefloors, so as a DJ I want to share my love for this music and make people dance.

You are a member of Montréal’s OCTOV collective which puts an emphasis on a holistic clubbing experience. How did you get on board with OCTOV and what exactly is your role there?

That has been one hell of a long ride now! I joined OCTOV at the end of 2017. I had been attending their events for quite some time and after the event of November 2017, I decided I wanted to be a part of what they were creating and help the Montréal techno scene as well. I sent a nice cover letter written with all the passion I had and got to meet OCTOV’s founders, Max and Bere, to discuss my potential implication within the team. We got on really well and here I arrived, in December 2017, to help them with their partnerships and their communication. I tried to develop the “safer space” aspect of the collective by collaborating with PLURI and GRIP for the events we organised. For those who are not familiar with these two Montréal-based organizations, PLURI aims to reduce the risk of harassment on dancefloors and GRIP aims to empower individuals who use drugs by encouraging informed decision-making and safer drug use practices. After more than a year and a half with OCTOV, I made the decision to leave the team because I no longer had as much time as before to devote to the project. As I finished my studies at the end of 2018 and started working full time at the beginning of 2019, I had to make a choice and I wanted above all to bring my musical project to life. I played my first gig in early July 2019. OCTOV—with whom I had remained extremely close—had offered me to be part of the line-up for a small outdoor event in Montréal. I had a lot of fun; it was a great event, and I was finally able to get out of my room and play in front of an audience! In March 2020, you know the deal … I continued to record mixes and OCTOV offered me to become a resident in May 2020. I am no longer involved at all in the organisation of their events, but I play for some of them to represent the collective. We started having monthly meetings between the OCTOV administrators and the residents—Omar Hamdi, Dopamyne, KORVN and I—in order to strengthen the ties of the team and continue to feed the OCTOV project. I like this idea and I can’t wait to see what we will be able to get out of it.

Besides that, you also run the MFC Records label launched in early 2021. Described as a “fundraising label,” MFC donates its proceeds to different humanitarian causes. What was your motivation to start MFC?

I wanted to bring a musical project to life in 2019, and so I thought I would record a first set and post it on SoundCloud. That’s how I started my Mixing For a Cause series. I sent it to a few friends, posted it on Facebook and the few people who listened to it liked it. By starting to mix, I also wanted to be able to express my opinion on various current issues that affect us from near and far. I sincerely believe that through art and specifically music, we can aspire to build a better world, make our audience think about certain important social issues and thus contribute to changing mentalities. Combining my passion for music with social issues is not trivial for me. The techno community has anti-oppression values at heart and advocates open-mindedness and respect. I know that some are critical about mixing music with politics and instead encourage the neutrality of the techno scene. But for me, the dancefloor is also a place to send messages. I aspire to that with my Mixing For a Cause series. Even if I know that my vision remains very idealistic and candid, I sincerely aspire to be able to make people reflect about important issues, if not to change mentalities. After creating this series and inviting like-minded artists to record a mix, I created MFC Records at the end of 2020. The idea was the same idea as with the mixes, I wanted to go further in my awareness-raising approach and raise funds for organisations that advocate for causes that matter to me and the artists who release on the label. This fundraising project has also been established as a way to support newcomers, fresh talents and established artists from all over the world.

The fourth MFC Records is due to be released later this month. What can you already tell us about the record?

I am really proud of this fourth record that will be out on March 29. It is an EP by KORVN, one of OCTOV’s resident DJ, called Tidal Waves. My friend KORVN is a very talented artist from France, based in Montréal. The EP is composed of two original tracks produced by him, a collaboration between KORVN and URUBU, and two remixes by AISHA and Lifka. I played AISHA’s remix in my Groove mix , by the way. As you can see, one of the goals of MFC Records is to build connections between Montréal and the European techno scene. We are happy to have two remixes from two very talented up and coming European artists! With this EP, KORVN aims to raise awareness about climate emergency. In line with this cause supported, we choose to give the profits of the release to the David Suzuki Foundation that empowers people to act in their communities on the environmental challenges we collectively face. Also, we are throwing a release party on April 21st and AISHA will be making her Canadian debut with us. 1 CAD per ticket will go to the foundation. Please, be our guests, come party with us!

The Mixing For a Cause sets are also generally accompanied by a statement of the DJ highlighting social justice and political issues such as the gender pay gap, police brutality, or the Iranian revolution. How do you go about programming the series?

With this series, I want to give the floor to some artists I admire and respect a lot. I believe everyone has ideas, a voice, opinions they want to fight for, so that’s why I developed the mixing series by inviting other artists. I am following lots of different artists, smaller local ones as well as bigger international ones. I want MFC to be open for everyone who have a word to say. I would say that half of the DJs on MFC I’ve been contacted, and the other half asked to publish a podcast for the series because they wanted to advocate for a particular topic. All the artists that have released a mix are quite unique and I am so glad to find so much diversity in the causes chosen as well as the styles mixed. For now, I am not taking any submissions nor contacting DJs because I need to rethink the whole format. The podcast has been on-going since May 2019, I want to revamp a bit this project and give it a new momentum. There are still two to go, the last mix will be out in May.

Despite your background—you have studied at a conservatory in Paris—you have not yet debuted as a producer. What role does making music play in your life right now?

I just want to clarify my musical background. My parents were absolutely found of music. My mom is a big Motown, soul, blues, jazz fan and my dad was more into classical music. I grew up with very diverse influences. When I was three years old, I started learning music theory and I’ve been playing the piano at home. When I reached the right age, I went to the conservatory in Paris after school. There, I had very rigorous theorical classes where I learnt music theory, learned how to sing, and continued playing the piano. When I moved to Montréal for my studies, I stopped for a few years. Now, I finally have a piano at home in Montréal, I am so grateful! Also, another thing I wanted to clarify is the difference between DJs and producers because I think that often people mix up the two. One is basically mixing tracks together and the other one is creating new music. So obviously you need producers to have DJs and you need DJs to play your productions. The two jobs are linked, for sure. However, you can be one and not the other and it’s okay. Some DJs have been touring their whole career without releasing music and they are spectacular! Mama Snake, SPFDJ, Dr. Rubinstein, to name only a few. All these artists are “only” DJs and not producers, for now, and there are truly talented and that doesn’t make them less worthy of being known and make a career as a DJ. Finally, to answer your question, making electronic music is something I’m learning at the moment. The music theory I learned when I was a child and a teenager is pretty different from learning how a DAW works, or sound design, etc. During the pandemic I opened Ableton here and there but I felt I didn’t have the tools to create what I had in mind. I left it aside; I didn’t have the mental space to take the leap. In October 2022, just after my European tour, I started to take Ableton lessons with a wonderful teacher to really learn it. I am very academic, very methodical and I like someone to teach me and then try it myself. That’s how I operate. For now, there is still a long way to go and I’m definitely not ready to release music yet. I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment and I’m happy to learn something new, enjoying each step of the process, I am not in a hurry.

What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?

I wanted to record something a bit different than the harder mixes I have been doing lately. I believe I am a versatile DJ and can easily adapt to different settings even though I have a sweet spot for peak time sets and closings. I love lots of different types of techno: from rawer industrial sounds to trance, my spectrum of taste is quite large, and I love to mix them in a set. For this one, I wanted to record a set that could be easily listen to at home, but you could also imagine this one as a sweaty closing in a foggy warehouse in the early morning. It’s a highly energetic one, trancy, with lots of acid lines, inspired by one of my latest gigs, which I played in Copenhagen. I have definitely been inspired by the scene over there and I cannot wait to play there again. To sum it up: 50 minutes, 19 tracks, three decks, a Xone mixer and an inspired BitterCaress for this Groove mix!

What are your plans for the future?

In 2023, I will go on another European tour and am working on it at the moment. I have already confirmed several very exciting dates. I’ll also be throwing my own MFC Records events with my wonderful partner, Ali. He is helping me a lot with this. I am going to organise a party in April for the release party of Tidal Waves. Then, in May with an international headliner I really love and then two others in October and November. All these headliners are going to be premieres in Montréal and I’m really excited for it. Obviously, I’m also going to keep learning new stuff on Ableton. Try hard, make mistakes because everyone does. And I’ll continue to DJ because that’s what I love the most and I’m truly happy with this job! A more long-term goal would be to go back to Europe. After almost 10 years in Montréal, I really feel the need to come back to my roots, live closer to my family and start a new chapter. Try to get more gigs. In North America, it’s kind of tricky when you’re part of the techno scene. It’s hard to tour as it’s expensive. Going back to Europe, I really want to get the chance to play more and see if I can make it work out as a full-time job there. I am not being delusional, moving out there won’t get me more gigs in a snap, I know I will have to continue working hard. I would still have a full-time regular job like I have in Montréal and try to play every weekend, see if I can make it work. I trust myself with this musical journey and I really cannot wait to see what the future holds for me

Stream: BitterCaress – Groove Podcast 370

01. Anfisa Letyago – Haze (David Löhlein Remix)
02. Mac Declos – Glitching & Bubbling
03. MZA – Red Run [unreleased]
04. ABSL & Anetha – Boa Dormant
05. Omformer – 13th
06. $LEAZY – Leave You In My Dust
07. Inside Blur – Behind The Curtain (ABEM Remix)
08. DJ TOOL – Psionic Blast
09. BASHKKA – DeFol
10. Ezy – Freedom Rabbit
11. SAMOH – Broken World
12. Frank Heise – Abort To Orbit
13. Red Scan – Storm
14. KORVN – I’m Dying (AISHA Remix)
15. MZA – U bet I do [unreleased]
16. TAAHLIAH – Bodies (ft. Lucas Eck)
17. VEL – As Purple As The Sahara
18. Paul Copping – X-Cite
19. Sleep Mode – Universe

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