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.
Doc Daneeka and Benjamin Damage are two British producers who have linked up with Berlin based Modeselektor to release their album THEY! Live on the duo’s 50Weapons label. Daneeka is also the man behind the cult-club label 50 Yen but we were first introduced to both producers at our Electronic Beats Modeselektor editorial take-over party. We were so impressed with the duo’s twitchy ghetto-funk and deep space-rave that we were compelled to invite them for an Electronic Beats on Air Live Radio Session which you can listen to this Thursday. In the meantime enjoy a frank and honest interview with the the pair talking about making music, finding inspiration and working in Berlin.
What is it like where you come from in Wales? What music did you listen to when you were growing up?
Doc Daneeka The scene we came through wasn’t like a real regimented scene. Stuff like punk was really strong round our way and so we were kind of always involved in going out to DIY punk shows in old spaces or in some weird clubs and warehouse sort of things. It’s a really vibrant scene for that but it was very open minded as well. It’s not like we’ve come from a very regimented scene.
What do you think of the current state of the Electronic Music scene?
DD Electronic music now I think, is at it’s best and most creative point for as long as I can remember. And I think it seems to have got more global. It’s these pockets of people so I think “the scene” is kind of a strange idea I suppose, but there seems to be a collective of artists that you kind of associate with and you’ve grown to know and stuff like that.
How would you describe your music?
DD We sort of instantly felt a need to try and distance ourselves from being like a UK funky artist. It just feels like you can approach it in a more broad sense these days and just be a house producer. Even though it’s quite different, you can take influences from everywhere like dubstep or whatever. But you know it’s just got… at the end of the day its all house, you know? It’s like kind of all house, all techno or something like that!
Are you trying to capture a certain period of time in your music?
DD In a sense we’re not really thinking of it in terms of times. Speaking for myself I never grew up listening to house. So it’s not like I’m making it retrospectively. I think you could see it like that. That it could be like a bunch of people listening to old classic house and being like “oh we can make it like that”. But I think it’s just a generation of people making house for the first time. I think like a lot of people are discovering house and techno. I mean I certainly am. I’ve never really listened to techno at all and I think now we’re sort of, roughly speaking, making a techno album.
Benjamin Damage It comes from a different angle because we weren’t growing up with techno, so its not ingrained in the same way. We have a different take on it. So hopefully it comes across as quiet different from what has been around.
Did recording in Berlin influence your album THEY! Live?
DD When we’ve been here doing the album it felt very natural. We haven’t felt like “this is what the scene is maybe we should make a track similar or different from that” it’s just what’s felt right at the time. I think that’s what you have to do. If you try to copy anything it just comes out less than the original. What is the point in making something which is like something else but not as good? It just has no reason to exist. So we’ve just gone into the studio and done what’s felt right, well for me anyway. That’s how I approached it.
How do you stay inspired?
DD There has been so much electronic music and people today are still using 808s and 909s from so long ago. Sometimes you think “well maybe everything has been done” but I think if you’ve got an enthusiasm and you actually just enjoy it you will come up with something fresh. I think being happy with it is the main thing. If you can feel natural when you create something.
Where do you get your samples for your productions from?
DD We kind of make our own samples by making the stabs. Actually a lot of the stabs are played in because we try to recreate the old sound of the sample’s chord but make it different, so it’s new. It’s not just sampling some old record, it’s trying to get new sounds which has always been one of my things. I’m trying to make new sounds which I haven’t heard before.
How did you hook up with Modeselektor?
BD It’s been really interesting how 50Weapons / Monkey Town approached us. They encouraged the idea of us being out here for a concentrated period of time. So that’s been really interesting. Instead of having an open ended thing it was like “you give me the demos whenever you finish and when it’s finished it’s finished.” It was like, “You two, you come out here you live here for two or three months and you write and album for that time.” I think that’s really cool because you end up with a representation of a concentrated period of time… you just have to do it. And whatever the variants, sounds and styles that you use, it ends up sounding very much like from that era. And thats the one thing we are really happy with. It just feels like incredibly representative of this time even if you just look back in a couple of years it would be like “yeah during that time…” It just feels so intense and that’s been really cool.
So, let’s talk last night: We had the Modeselektor takeover of Electronicbeats.net all day with Gernot and Szary sharing their current musical favourites and artists, the best ‘Ost’ dishes, their mastering studio, the greatest music videos and the alphabet according to Modeselektor. The office day finally culminated into a 150 minute guerilla office party action: We had beer, a sound system, a strobe light, guests were arriving and Modeselektor, Shed, Phon.o, Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka literally took down the wallpaper in the end. But first things first:
Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka started the night with a back 2 back dj set. The two UK producers, now based in Berlin and part of Modeselektor’s 50Weapons record label family, were playing a bouncing set ranging from techno to house to UK funky and garage. Next up was Shitkatapult and Monkeytown regular Phon.o with one of his live sets – catch a glimpse of his prodcution skills with his latest mix for Electronic Beats Radio.
During his set the room temperature was already close to the boiling point, but that was nothing compared to what should be coming: When Shed finally took over he increased the room temperature to the max with his happy hardcore set – what a killer!! In the meantime Szary and friends started tearing down the wallpapers and adding a custom made gaffer tape Monkeytown monkey to the Electronic Beats conference room wall.
And then there was the Modeselektor dj set: they brought their own killer tracks (‘Evil Twin’, ‘Monkeyflip’, ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘War Cry’, ‘Blue Clouds’) as well as those of own projects or befriended artists (Moderat’s ‘New Error’, ‘Das Geheimnis’ by Siriusmo among others). There was bass and acid music madness, there was live gaffer tape painting, strobe light craze, a champagne shower and lots of beer, smokes and dancoing people.
In short: we had so much fun! And then there were the 3766 UStream viewers: thanks to everyone of you for tuning in last night and once again: apologies for the low video qualitym – we now know how much bandwith we need for our next Electronic Beats office party to deliver you a non-pixeled video stream. And: we’ll let you know about publishing the night’s recordings asap.