Bambounou Discusses His Skrillex Remix and New LP
Paris’s 50Weapons gun and former Slices star Bambounou discusses how to flirt with the mainstream without worrying about “authenticity” in an interview with EB contributor Peter Adkins.
Jeremy Guindo is a born and bred Parisian, but his music gives little indication as to his origins. His productions imprint elements of bass music with sample-heavy, loopy house and techno, which places him at the forefront of a generation of UK-inspired French trailblazers like his close friend French Fries. This “hybrid-techno” sound, as Guindo calls it, defined his debut album, Orbiting, which appeared on Modeselektor’s 50Weapons label in 2012. Its recently released successor, Centrum, exhibited a more terse and introspective strand to his sonic identity, offering darker shades to the all-out house jams that continue to characterize his 12″ releases. With the presses still warm and his first major US tour on the near horizon, we coaxed the producer out of the studio to chat about Paris and musical authenticity.
On the notes for Centrum you mention that the album emerged while you were reading Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel Dune and watching movies by manga artist and filmmaker Katsuhiro Otomo. How did you translate these influences into the LP?
I think there’s a huge correlation between techno and science fiction in that both are trying to escape something by looking into the future. Those guys from Detroit [who pioneered techno] had lives that were quite hard, and techno was a way of trying to imagine what was going to happen next, a way of escaping from the present moment. It was a way of seeing what was going to be around the corner. For me, reading loads of science fiction and watching lots of sci-fi movies had a straight link to my music in that I was looking into the future. I think that’s different in house music, which is much more about being in the present moment and celebrating things that are happening now.
So with Centrum you were constructing a futurist idea as a means of escaping from the present moment?
Exactly, yeah. When I produce music I’m always expressing what I’m feeling at that moment, but it’s unconscious.
What were you looking to escape when you were writing the album?
The album was informed by the general mood I was in. I used to live in a social apartment with my mum in the 13th District and [when I wrote the album] I was thinking about how more people are going to have to live in cities in the future. I asked myself what we’re going to do as human beings when we all have to live in huge cities.
Do you see a city like Paris changing for the better?
I’m quite optimistic; I don’t think cities are going to be a problem in the immediate future. Right now, I think that architects are answering new needs and I’m really optimistic about the next few years. In 100 years, though, it’s going to be fucked up.
So, on one level, Centrum is a projection of Paris in a hundred years?
Maybe not Paris, but some kind of metropolis.
What was it like growing up in the 13th District?
Basically, the 13th District is Chinatown, so I’ve always been around people from different backgrounds and spent time learning about Asian culture. People tend to hate the 13th District, as they think it’s quite ugly because the area is half [tower] blocks and half really nice buildings, and pretty much nothing really ever happens there. It’s my favorite district, but it is a bit of a ghetto.
Were there opportunities for making music as you grew up?
Not at all. I lived with my mum and she would listen to French singers, but it was not a musical upbringing. I had to give myself my own musical education through the Internet. Because it was all self-taught I can’t play any instruments apart from drums a little bit, and now I’m trying to learn the piano through playing my synthesizers—but I can’t read notation. I don’t think it has held me back; in fact, I really like the fact that I can’t play instruments because it means I have a totally different approach. Also, because I’m not a musician I don’t wait for their respect towards the music I make. My job is to make people dance.
A lot of producers feel quite antagonistic about being excluded from the idea of musicianship.
I’m a producer. I know how to make a kick drum sound.
You rose to prominence alongside French Fries. Is it true that you guys originally met through skating?
When we were 13 years old we would both skate in the 13th District, and that’s how we got to know each other. Then we were sent to different schools, and didn’t see each other for a long while. It was only much later when I was [on a night] out that I met him again, and from there we started to chill again. It was around the time that I had just started out making music on Fruityloops and Valentino [Canzani, aka French Fries] had already started producing in his father’s studio, and we basically just started making music together every day. He was already a DJ, so he introduced me to that too. It was really innocent and easy; I’d hear a sample and decide, “I’m going to make a track with that.” I made tracks so much faster than I do now. I take more time and think about things a bit more.
The records that you and other artists on the ClekClekBoom label have released drew influence from British dance music. Were you consciously rebelling against perceived notions of what French house music should sound like?
No. When I started getting into dance music, I was listening to more UK music than French music so that influence was and is still present in what I do. Do you think that I don’t have a French sound?
Not in the way that someone like Cassius or Apollonia might be said to have a French sound.
I don’t like to be categorized. If people say I’m doing something I always think that it’s bullshit. I’m just making music.
Do you identify as a Parisian artist or is that another categorization you’re not comfortable with?
I identify more as a French producer than as a Parisian one, because Paris is really small.
Authenticity is a perennially controversial topic in dance music. Since you’re often working with sounds that originated in Britain and elsewhere, I was wondering if the question of authenticity is something that you think about when you’re making music?
Do you think I make authentic music?
I do, but I also think that, if I was making something that drew on foreign traditions, questions to do with authenticity would cross my mind.
I never think about genres of music, nor do I ever aim to sound like a specific producer, so it isn’t really something that I feel I should have to think about. I just want to make something that sounds good to me. I never think about how what I make might be received or categorized.
When you first rose to prominence you were associated with ClekClekBoom, so I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about how and why you ended up signing to 50Weapons?
I was at a certain point in my career where I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Gernot [Bronsert] and [Sebastian] Szary [of Modeslektor] loved my track “Alpha” so they invited me to play at the launch party for Addison Groove’s album, which they had put out on 50Weapons. At the dinner before the party—out of nowhere—they asked me to make an album for the label. I didn’t know what to say, as I was thinking, “Why would I make an album for you? I don’t know you.” So I said no. Then, three days later, I emailed them and said, “I’ll obviously make an album for you.”
Another debate around authenticity is the never-ending argument about the mainstream and the underground. Your remix of Dog Blood’s track “Chella Ride” turned an EDM track into a wonderfully hypnotic house jam. Did you have any apprehensions attaching your name to something associated with Skrillex and Boys Noize?
When I get an opportunity to do something with people in the mainstream I always try to go for it and aim to make something more hardcore than I usually would. That way, if people love it and it becomes mainstream I’ll have still remained true to myself. I like to be challenged. For example, when I remixed Dog Blood, I thought I would see how people would react if I did a remix that was true to my sound. The fans reacted by saying, “It’s the same loop over and over,” and that the intro is too long, but I found it a really interesting experience. I’m not scared of things like that. If more people listen to my music and I become mainstream, it’ll be because people are listening to my style of music. I’m not going to change what I’m doing.
Interview and words by Peter Adkins.
Published March 17, 2015.