Tuesday, June 8, 2010

et justice pour tous...

Maybe you know this, maybe you don't. Of the many (always slightly askew) hats I've worn in the near-decade since I finished my undergrad, the one I posed in the most was that of DJ and promoter. I started on this route with a little party-that-could in Sarasota called DIRT. I was learned in the art of party-making by my gay husband/guru/BBFFE) (best best friend forevah-evah) Maynard Del Mar*. We created a dance party scene out of thin air in a town best known for the wealth of its retirees and preponderance of meth heads.

So, a love affair began between me and dance music, and one of the first acts we deemed worthy of unconditional love was Justice.

Skip ahead 3 years and many dance parties later. When Justice booked a show at Firestone in the spring of 2008 (this through the genius of Mike Feinberg and Paul Geller), I was the first to claim the interview at a REAX writers' meeting. Thus ensued a wild goose chase to get a hold of the dynamic French duo.

My dearest friend, and editor at the time, Michael Spadoni, assisted my efforts in pinning down an interview time. Justice was in Japan at the time, and the time difference, plus numerous scheduling conflicts and technical issues proved a nearly insurmountable task when trying to do the interview. It had to be done after one of their shows - late night in Japan meant like 5:30 in the morning here. And for me to record the conversation - and work out a way to phone Japan - I had to do it at the REAX office. After several botched early morning attempts, we finally got Gaspard on the phone.

The interview was short, sweet and kind of weird - to alleviate the awkwardness of Gaspard's broken english I attempted to conduct some of the interview in French. Needless to say, that didn't help much- my schooled French, while nearly fluent, proved useless when discussing hipsters and electropunk and WMC. Not quite the same as ordering a croque monsieur or asking for l'additon, s'il vous plait!

Despite all the hiccups, though, the interview resulted in an article I consider a personal favorite.

JUSTICE: Interview with Gaspard Augé
Originally published in REAX Magazine, February 2008

Parisian DJ-duo Justice, comprised of Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé, emerged brightly from a somewhat floundering post-Daft Punk French electro scene in 2003 with the release of their remix of Simian’s banger, “We Are Your Friends.” The reimagined track, which struck a chord at dance parties around the world, along with heavy branding and support from label Ed Banger Records thrust Justice into the kind of sudden popularity that was never quite realized for DJ-cum-electro act predecessors like MSTRKRFT or DFA. But somehow, between the accessibility of their original work and the hype surrounding their DJ gigs, the pair found their niche. Before long, “We Are Your Friends” was being heard everywhere from Frisco Disco to Forever 21 and leaks from their highly-anticipated album, †, ruled the blogs for most of late 2006 and 2007. By the time the record dropped in June, the distorted electro of tracks like “Phantom” and disco-pop sweetness of single "D.A.N.C.E." was providing an ubiquitous soundtrack for the hipster lifestyle across the states.

Justice is presently in Japan, finishing up a major city tour before heading to Europe, and then back to the U.S. for a MySpace Tour they will headline this spring. We caught up with the guys after a show in Tokyo, which went well despite some minor technical difficulties.

“We had a great response from the audience. It was a little stressful because we are using new equipment, but in general people were happy… good times,” explains Gaspard, in heavily-accented English, over a hum of French voices in the background.

A salient feature of Justice’s appeal is truly their accessibility, and their desire to please all of the people all of the time. As Gaspard says, they make people happy, and that’s what’s most important to them. It’s hard to party all the time, especially on the International tour circuit, but the boys accept the responsibility, regardless the cost.

“It’s important for us to get in the party mood; it’s great to have a good connection with and reception from the audience. It’s a kind of weird situation. It’s pretty difficult when you have to party every night, and you are touring. But you really just have to find the right alcohol level in your blood, and everything is alright.”

It’s not all about the party though. Justice is on a mission. The curious religious allusions in the group's iconography as well as the name itself, “Justice” (pronounced joooooosteeeese if you’re savvy and/or French), are often speculated upon, but never really explained. In reality, it’s not so mysterious; Gaspard was more than happy to delve into the origins of the project.

“The name Justice came from a dream we had in 2003,” Gaspard tells me quite matter-of-factly. “We only chose that because we were asked to spread the word around the world. We are really only tools to spread this message of justice.”

That actual message, however, is undefined, although the cross on the album cover and apparent religious subtext of song titles like "Waters of Nazareth" have given rise to rumors concerning the band’s own religious beliefs. Are these two party boys on a mission from above? There has been no definitive answer to the question of whether or not they are in fact a “Christian” band (or DJ duo), but they are not ashamed to admit that their art does serve a Higher Power, be that peace and love, justice for all, or God himself.

Speaking of a Higher Power, MySpace, the divine ruler of the Internet and time-wasting preadolescents through retirees, is the latest industry to jump on the Justice bandwagon. The social networking website has now decided to get into the business of promotion, due in part to the wild success of its “Secret Shows” that have been popping up around the country over the past couple of years. The first MySpace Music Tour is currently making the rounds, headlined by Young Love; Justice will take the helm for installment number two. So, why take their indie cred and throw it to the wolves?

“We are not as big in the U.S. yet, and we really need their support, so it’s a great way to have exposure!” Simple enough. The two are candid about the phenomenon that is Justice, and they credit their popularity to the exact activity that critics tag as their downfall - throwing a great party.

“To have a good party, it is important to us to have a varied audience at our shows, from the techno freaks to the 14 year old girls, and it’s important for us to touch a very wide spectrum of people,” explains Gaspard. Their music is accessible to both the electronic music aficionado, and the aforementioned 14 year old girl for whom Madonna and Michael Jackson are golden oldies. “We’ve never really been into dance music, or electronic music until recently. It’s something we discovered very late. We try to incorporate all of our influences into our music.”

The aforementioned critics are mostly comprised of those Gaspard-described “techno freaks,” and if they’ve had reason to complain about Justice’s true techno cred before, they will have double when the duo headlines the 10th anniversary of the Ultra Music Festival at this spring’s Winter Music Conference right alongside such time-tested electronic hard-hitters as Underworld, Tiesto, Carl Cox and Paul Van Dyke. But are they intimidated?

Apparently not. “We really don’t get how famous those people are, because we’ve never listened to dance music. It’s weird for us, and people are always criticizing us for it. The techno freaks fault us for being 'the newcomer' and not knowing the rules.”

Thus far, not following the rules has truly swung the pendulum in Justice's favor. Future plans include furthering the marriage of hard electro and pop, and taking a shot at production.
"We are really interested in producing some mainstream pop acts.” Gaspard reveals no names, but Justice is on a mission. If it’s to save American pop music, who are we to stand in the way? Et Justice pour tous…


*- Maynard is also due credit for the Polaroids appearing in this post - these were taken during BeccaMay's legendary appearance at the 2007 Winter Music Conference in Miami. More about that soon, obviously.

good at faking it....

So, here's the deal. I've done quite a bit of writing in the past 1/2 decade, much of it about music, and most
of it currently lost to the fickle whims of the reaxmusic.com website. As I've got at least one foot planted firmly outside the door of Tampa, heading off to make an honest woman of myself, I've decided I'd quite like to have a record of all the words I spewed while laying waste(d?) to this fair town.

In my brief spell as a Tampon, I've had the opportunity, because of REAX Magazine and a handful of souls that have kept that name around the past 4 years, to interview some cool people. I've also done stupid and funny things that might find their way into the narrative at times... but only, of course, as segues to the next meaningful encounter (cough cough gag.)

In plain English: I'm gonna post a bunch of interviews I did with bands. and possibly annotate them.

I'll start off with one of the most amusing interviews I've ever done, speaking with possibly the largest ego I've ever encountered.

In October of 2007, for the monthly installment of my short-lived blog Confessions of a REAX Groupie, I interviewed Jesse Keeler, the better half of MSTRKRFT, a DJ outfit that I'd been enamored of ever since its strategically hyped birth from the ashes of Death From Above 1979.

(Originally published in REAX Magazine, October 2007)

If you havent heard of MSTRKRFT, chances are you have heard of Death From Above 1979, a Toronto band that won the hipster cred contest in 2002 and spearheaded this whole electro-punk remix phenomenon that rules the roost today at your fave local indie dance night. Founder Jesse Keeler broke up the band in a blaze of drama, if not glory, in 2005 and MSTRKRFT, a DJ/producing super-duo is what happened next. I had the pleasure of a little one-on-one with Jesse, just off the plane from Australia and still jet-lagged and confused. He had some interesting things to say, and being such a pop culture icon, I thought for this months Confessions, I'd put the words in his mouth, so to speak.

Playing live music vs. DJ-ing:
I’ve never been interested in playing live, not even when I was doing it. It’s not really that important to me. I think that it should be such a small part of music. I know there are people that would disagree with me, but I’ve never seen, nor could I see, any of my favorite musicians play live anyway. The idea that Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire is awesome, you know, Wow, you just did something no one’s ever done before, and that’s pretty fucking cool. But, the reality of the live show is that fucking ungrateful shit heads booed at him when he didn’t smash his guitar afterwards.

On music journalism:
I actually don’t think that anyone should ever review live shows, you know, should even have the option of judging it. In that alone, I don’t think it should exist. No one ever asked Picasso, Hey you did this awesome painting, can you come paint one in front of an audience.

On MSTRKRFTs fans:
We are like a band. Kids come out to see us. They are crowd-surfing, moshing, really going crazy. I like to think that for some of these kids that we’re part of the reason they got into dance music.

I often see kids on blogs talking about new MSTRKRFT and they say stuff like, Well, it’s good, obviously. I don’t mind being known as the remix kings, well, because 99.9 of the time, our remix has been better than the original.

On their favorite city to play:
My favorite city to play now is Stockholm. It’s just off the fucking hook over there. They went crazier for MSTRKRFT than anyone has ever done for a punk band. I felt like we were fucking Minor Threat.

On the future of dance music:
We just toured for two weeks with Justice and Digitalism, and I kept thinking, Wow, all we need is Simian Mobile Disco, Boyz Noize, and maybe three other people, and if the plane went down, there goes the music. We were hanging in Paris, and Alex from Boyz Noize said, Wow, if this building collapses, modern dance music will die.

On what the hell happened with Death From Above 1979:
I wasn’t happy playing in Death From Above. I liked writing music. I didn’t like who I was… writing music. I didn’t like the way it came out. It was too much of a compromise between my head and the record.

When I DJ, I get to play completed music, and make it into more than what it was when I finished it. I’m also part of what’s happening in the room. People are dancing and I’m dancing too. They aren’t just coming to see me replicate something… we are creating something new right there. For me, there’s no compromise in it for me. And as far as someone that cares about what I’m making, I feel way better represented.

Next up, either an un-published interview with Dean Wareham, a completely fictitious conversation with Kim from the Presets, or a recount of driving Crystal Castles to WMC and being late for soundcheck....