If all that you needed to know about  producer Mohkom Singh Bhangal – a.k.a. Money Musik – could be compressed into one stat, it’s this one: Bhangal estimates that in 2020 alone, he composed more than 1,000 beats.

“I’m up to around 460 this year,” the human beat machine explains from the Los Angeles abode of Navraj Singh Goraya – better known as Nav – where Bhangal is currently living. “It takes me 30 minutes to make a beat.”

Currently, the artist who hears most of his creations first is Nav, who’s factored in 15.3 million records sold as an artist, and another 3.7 million as a producer. He scored his first two Billboard chart-topping albums with Money Musik working the boards: 2019’s Bad Habits and 2020’s Good Intentions.

Bad Habits was a great moment,” Bhangal recalls. “This was the first album I’d ever been on that’s a major album. I worked on 14 songs on that, and it went to No. 1 – it was definitely a confidence booster.”

It’s also something of a Cinderella story, because when Bhangal was a 15-year-old teenager, and his interest in producing and making beats was in its infancy, who did he text for advice? Nav.

“Back then he had 500 followers, and he posted videos of his beats,” Bhangal recalls. “And I thought, ‘I want to learn how to do that.’” So he messaged Nav and inquired about what he would need to do in order to establish himself as a producer. “Nav told me, “FL Studio, Logic Pro, get some speakers. Just the basic stuff.

“After that conversation, I went the next day with my mom to Long & McQuade and – because I was already working a day job – I bought $2,000 worth of equipment: a computer, some speakers, a MIDI keyboard, stuff like that. And I’ve been grinding ever since.”

That was the only contact he had with Nav, and over the next three years, Money Musik  worked with local Toronto artists K. Money, Pressa, WhyG, Casper TNG, and LB Spiffy, growing his  street cred. Sometime before he worked on the 88Glam track “I’m Fresh” featuring Nav, the two proudly Brown musicians re-connected, and Bhangal ended up secretly working on Bad Habits. “I didn’t post anything about it, so no one knew,” he admits.

Today, the two are fast friends – and Money Musik insists that that’s as strong a reason as any why their partnership works so well. “I’m living at his house right now,” says Bhangal, who’s also worked with KILLY, and recently produced the entire AP Dhillon and Gurinder Gill album Not By Chance. “Over the years, we’ve been building the connection, staying in the studio,” he says. “We just built up the team, making it more like a family, and not just strictly work.”

Breaking down the essence of the collaborative relationship, Money Musik is currently filling Nav’s home with the sounds of beats. “I’m always making beats at the house,” he says. “I make beats every single day, so I have beats stacked up. So either I’ll go to the studio and play some beats, and if he likes them, he might tell the engineer to ‘load this one up,’ and he’ll freestyle, punching-in [his vocals] line-by-line.

“But he makes beats as well – so sometimes he’ll play some melodies, and I’ll do the drums. Usually, when we’re in the studio, we’ll start from scratch. But there’s been times when I’ve played a beat and he’ll just go on it straight from then, depending on the vibe.” If Nav rejects them, Bhangal exports them to other artists.

Still employing FL Studio 11, Bhangal says the biggest challenge for him is arranging the beat: “You don’t want too much going on in the beat, where the artist can’t rap on it;  you still need space where the artist can go,” he says. “You don’t want it to be cluttered.”

Bhangal is also focused on expanding his palate. “I’d like to go more dark, more epic,” he explains. “For me, I’d love to make dark, classical [music], some strings, pianos, flutes – using real instruments, for sure.  You feel the emotion in it as well. At the end of the day, it’s about the emotion and how it makes you feel. If it brings emotion to me and I feel it, then for sure I like it.”

At the moment, Money Musik is working on his own Spotify playlist, and says he’s looking forward to the day he finally lands a Top 10 song on the Billboard Hot 100. And he’s willing to wait. “It all comes with time, and whenever it comes, it’ll be a blessing,” he says. “I’m just taking it step-by-step.”

The year 1970 was a year of mourning: The Beatles became the first band in the young history of rock ’n’ roll to officially announce their split. But then, 1970 was also a windfall: each of the quartet’s members released brilliant, innovative, ambitious, and/or touching solo albums – Paul McCartney’s McCartney, John Lennon’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Ringo Starr’s Sentimental Journey – and all of them had the same palpable exhilaration of freedom that comes from being deprived of it for a long time. The Beatles broke free from expectations and their past.


Photo: Guillaume Plourde

“There’s something powerful in their emancipation and how they allowed themselves to do something on their own terms,” says Étienne Côté, alias LUMIÈRE, who also recently gave himself the right to do something by himself after years in the band Canailles: an album, A.M.I.E.S.A.M.O.U.R.

Born in Sainte-Antoine-de-Tilly, on the south shore of Québec City, Côté was introduced to music by spending hours alone at his grandmother’s piano, when he’d visit her on weekends. At the age of 18, he played drums in a Jimi Hendrix cover band, and later began studying classical percussion at Université de Montréal. He never finished his studies, however. Why?

Because in 2014, his friend Antoine Tardif invited him to come aboard the hullabaloo-esque caravan that was Canailles (the demise of which we were recently informed). When we evoke, in passing, our affection for the oblique power-pop trio Polipe, of which Antoine was once a member, Côté becomes animated: “Polipe was very important to me!” he says. “They were major influences. When I was 16, they were 18, 19, and when they came back to Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, they invited us to their jam sessions.”

Despite his multiple experiences, and the many instruments he masters, Côté took a long time to allow himself to write his own songs. “J’me fais pas assez confiance/ La beauté est partout/ J’me compare trop/ Tout le monde est meilleur que moi/ À mes yeux/ Tout le monde est meilleur que moi,” (“I’m not confident enough/ Beauty is everywhere/ I compare myself too much/ Everyone is better than me/ In my mind/ Everyone is better than me”) he sings on “FREUD.EST.MORT,” a groovy self-flagellation session carried by a heavily George Harrison-style sitar riff. As a matter of fact, A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R is reminiscent of All Things Must Pass as much as it is of the ramshackle beauty of McCartney’s Ram.

“That’s very typical of me,” says Côté about his pernicious propensity to compare himself to others. “I waited this long to write my first song [in 2016] because I was afraid, no doubt about it. I was afraid it wouldn’t be good enough. I’m super-demanding. I’ve always wanted to, but it was like I felt it was never the right time. I wanted to really like my first song.”

And A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R offers many a good song, to say the least. A concept album set in 1971, this lysergic, naïve epic, straddling the line between love and friendship, features one LUMIÈRE and his companion CRISTALE (Naomie de Lorimier, also known as N NAO). They meet Briquette (Daphnée Brissette, with whom Côté played in Canailles, and who still plays in Bon Enfant), who slips LSD-injected candies on their tongues, so their hearts and imaginations are upended, for better and worse.

Proudly nostalgic for the 1970s, an era he obviously didn’t live through, Côté borrows sounds from the beginning of this pivotal decade – but also a certain ideal, as evidenced by the words with which he has labelled his project. “I find that ‘lumière’ (‘light’) fits quite well with what I’m trying to convey in my songs,” he says. “It’s something I have a hard time achieving in my life. It’s not easy, on a daily basis, to be a luminous person. It’s like an ideal that I have, to have joy in living, a good mood, a transparency, to be able to be honest. That, to me, is what light is.”

A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R is also the third album to be released in 2021 that was produced by Alexandre Martel, after Alex Burger’s Sweet Montérégie, and Cantalou by Thierry Larose. It’s was during an Anatole (Martel’s glam-rock project) concert that Côté met him… and stole a tarot card. “Alex was selling some really nice, screen-printed tarot decks at his merch table,” says Côté. “I didn’t know what they were at the time, I thought they were promotional cards. So I took one.”

He later realized that he had mismatched a deck. “I realized that I had left with the hangman card, which is now my favorite card,” he says, “because there’s an ambiguity in it. The point of view of the hanged man allows him to see the world upside down,” a bit like an artist. Étienne Côté waited until the end of A​.​M​.​I​.​E​.​S​.​A​.​M​.​O​.​U​.​R’s recording sessions to admit his petty crime to his colleague, out of fear of ruining their relationship. The memory now makes him giggle. “I don’t know why I was so afraid; it went well, in the end,” he says. A true friend is a friend that can forgive.

David Lafleche had been gestating his Americana album for awhile. Country-tinged folk, cleverly crafted, introspective songs, reminiscient of James Taylor or Jack Johnson. It’s a project that was in no rush. His project. His nine songs.

The album is called Everyday Son.

“It’s a gentle portrait of my life, an album about my family,” says Lafleche. “I decided to quit the world of television last fall. I don’t want to work like a madman and then dress up before going onstage. It’s all very well to work at the MELS (studio) 16 hours a day for something that no longer exists the next day, but after all these years, I feel like I’ve come full circle.”

Lafeleche is the musical director at the ADISQ Gala, musical director for several years at La Voix and Bons baisers de France, composer of the soundtrack to the movie Starbuck. His hectic and high-profile life, which he shares with Marie-Mai, had become exhausting.

“My TV job was a lot of things, not just music director or conductor,” he says. “At 49, I felt like re-inventing myself and jumping into the unknown. I’ll still take on the occasional contract for TV work.

“What I found hard was to prioritize myself. Caring for myself. Not just for one day,” says the man, also the father of a four-year-old girl. “I don’t have a songwriting muscle that I can just flex, and out comes a song! I had to find out what my voice is, what my style is, what I want and have to say. It took awhile, and wasn’t easy to give myself the space and time to do all that.”

Co-produced with Connor Seidel, who has notably worked with Matt Holubowski, Everyday Son was born in Nashville. Lafleche had made a few pilgrimages to Music City before, but this time he was reunited with an old friend he met at the Berklee College of Music when he was 18, drummer Fred Eltringham.

“We were reunited by chance, 25 years later, on the set of La Voix!” says Lafleche. “He was playing with Sheryl Crow. It was like being reunited with your best friend. Then two years ago he was named the best drummer in Nashville!”

Banjo, violin, standup bass, pedal steel guitar; Lafleche surrounded himself with seasoned luminaries of their instruments. “I recorded my record with strangers who have an unbelievable track record,” he says. “I had so much respect and admiration for them that I just let them do their thing. I was in the middle and just played my songs.”

He used only one guitar for the album, his beloved 1946 00-18 Martin. “Had it been just me in my studio having fun with my electrics, the album would’ve been entirely different,” says Lafleche. “My love of music starts with an instrument that vibrates. I would finger-pick and ideas would emerge.

“I’m constantly recording 20-second snippets of melodies on my phone. For example, sitting on my stoop watching a loon will make me feel an emotion which I translate into music and save for later. I then drew on all those ideas during my five-week stay in Nashville.

“We had to deliver, and I’m good in that kind of situation, that’s my strength in the TV world. When I flew back to Montréal, all the instrumentals were recorded. The only thing left to do were the voice tracks and that’s where Connor [Seidel] came in.”

Listen to “Training Wheels,” and the resonance of the purring guitar. Gentleness all around. Or “Counting Lights,”  where David tells us about driving back and forth on highway 15, the melody caressed by Russ Pahl’s pedal steel guitar. “We Collided,” a Jack Johnson-esque ballad, certainly isn’t out of place in this Americana bouquet.

“My partner Charles-Émile Beaudin, who did the recording on site for these sessions, just had to lift the faders, there’s never anything in the way of anything else, that’s how I work,” Lafleche explains, about the sonic clarity of Everyday Son. “Joe Costa put all his skills into the final mix of the album.”

Marie-Mai co-wrote eight of the nine songs, and she sings on one of them, giving the lion’s share of the vocals to Julie Da Silva, the guitarist’s inseparable backing singer from La Voix. On “Better Run,” our diva duets with her lover. “My challenge right now is to remember my lyrics,” says Lafleche. “Marie-Mai will listen to a song once and be able to sing the whole thing back to you!”

But the real crush on this accomplished record, beyond these brilliantly constructed and lovingly concocted songs, is his voice. It’s unbelievably efficient, poised, and never fake. It’s a genuine leather voice. You don’t just hear it, you feel it.