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.

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