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“The diversity of the Berklee Valencia’s campus taught me to work with anyone, and adapt to any music genre.” - Johann Audiffren (M.M. ’17).
A drummer with a producer’s mind, Johann Audiffren currently works as project manager at the French record label Naïve, managing established and upcoming artists like Noa, Youssou Ndour, Salif Keita, Fred Nardin, Souad Massi, and Susheela Raman. He also juggles with time to continue his career as performer through two projects which started in Valencia, the band Atlas Leap, and an ongoing collaboration with Steve Umculo (M.M. ’17).
After you finished your undergraduate studies in France, why did you decide to apply to the Master in Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) in Berklee Valencia?
I had this dream of going to Berklee for a long time, as I felt the performance program was the summary of everything a musician must learn to succeed. Another big motivation was the fact that the program also trains you to become a producer, as these are skills any musician working in this industry must have and is not something they teach you in most schools.
What is the most important lesson you learnt at Berklee Valencia?
The diversity of the campus taught me to work with anyone, and adapt to any genre. It was very interesting to see so many artists working together to create something. This diversity has allowed me to work with different people and in any situation or scenario.
You’ve been working as project manager for Naïve Records since 2018. Can you describe your role?
Naïve is an independent record label, so I don’t have a fixed task but I manage every aspect of a project. This involves production, art direction, marketing, and promotion from the very beginning to the end.
Is there any project you would like to highlight?
I am very proud of working with artists like Youssou Ndour, Salif Keita or Soud Massi because it’s very inspiring to be close to them. It is equally interesting to be involved in small projects and to see them develop into a name or a brand. For instance, I am very proud of the work we have been doing with Fred Nardin, who is now amongst the top pianists in France.
You also play the drums. Are you currently performing?
Yes! Although now I have less time to focus on my personal drumming. I play for various people in Paris like Théo Maxyme, who does French ‘chanson’, and I also do recordings in the studio for artists I have met working in the industry.
I also continue with Atlas Leap, the band we co-founded with fellow classmate Manu Linois, M.M.’17. We have published two EPs, Movement and Overhead, and our third one will be out soon. We also recorded various videos and we are planning to tour around Europe, mainly France and Spain, as Manu is still based in Valencia. Aside from co-writing and performing, I also do all the post-production work for that project: editing, mixing, and mastering.
The third interesting project I’m involved in is with Steve Umculo M.M. ’17. Since we graduated, Steve has released an EP and 4 singles, the last one launched on March 6 called Lemonade Stand. I play the drums on all the songs and produced most of them. We have also played at some of South Africa’s most renowned music festivals such as Splashy Fen or Smoking Dragon. Steve recently signed a distribution deal with Believe and we’re planning on releasing his first full length album in 2021 while also planning a world tour.
Do you wish you had more time for your personal projects?
My work at Naïve it’s not a 9 to 5 job, so I can make up some time and sacrifice a little. My plan was never to be a musician in the sense of doing recordings and performing, I always wanted to be a producer, which is what I am now, producing my personal projects and for artists like Youssou Ndour, who inspired me since I was young.