The French duo ride a wave of synths and hype
An irrational exuberance overcomes the dance media when something good comes out of Paris. A decade ago it was Daft Punk, and now it is Ed Banger Records the label run by longtime Daft Punk manager Pedro Winter and Justice. The pair, Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé, have released only a few singles and a handful of remixes, but their chaotic blend of square-edged synths and metalworthy riffs have sent dozens of scribes scurrying to find a new spin on the phrase "Paris is burning."
Perhaps it has something to do with that damn accent, those charming plosive Gallic exhalations. Just a few minutes into my phone interview with de Rosnay, I find myself eager to laugh at his jokes, despite the fact that it took me two months to set up this 15-minute interview slot and I was given barely 48 hours' notice when it was finally scheduled. De Rosnay has just returned from a series of DJ gigs in Australia, where his and Augé's sets bouncing classic Detroit techno by Inner City off distorted, dissonant disco by Germany's Smith 'n' Hack were received with enthusiastic and, to judge from the YouTube videos, astoundingly drunken acclaim.
De Rosnay seems quite pleased with his overseas fans, particularly given that until recently, Justice were largely unknown in Paris itself. "Since the beginning we have a larger audience outside of Paris than in Paris," he explains. "But it's always the same, because in Paris people as a rule don't like what comes from Paris until everybody around says, 'OK, it's cool you can like it.' The normal way in Paris is to let other people, like in the UK and Germany, like it, and then you can come back and play in Paris, and people are cool with you."
Justice laid the seeds for Parisian approval with their 2003 Justice vs. Simian rework "Never Be Alone," which flipped the original yowling punk vocals over a rubbery funk bass line and repetitive keys to infectious effect. The track initially appeared as the second release from Ed Banger and has continually been reborn, first for DJ Hell's International Deejay Gigolo label, then again last year for 10, a Virgin imprint. It also earned Justice the Video of the Year Award from MTV Europe, much to the dismay of Kanye West, who burst onstage during the presentation and expressed his shock at being denied proper respect. Waters of Nazareth was Justice's second official recording, and the Ed Bangerreleased 2005 EP of squalling synths and crashing drums has met a similar recycled fate, having just been rereleased stateside by Vice.
Along the way, the pair have produced a series of remixes for artists they admire, such as Fatboy Slim, Franz Ferdinand, and the French touch forebears themselves, Daft Punk. Justice's "Ruined by Justice" version of Franz Ferdinand's "The Fallen," which slings stuttered high hats and huge guitars against a ridiculously catchy vocoder loop, is typical of their particular stylistic pastiche, smearing electro, pop, and rock elements into head-banging dance music, and it's the climax of the recent Fabriclive 28: Evil Nine mix, which includes cuts from soul mates such as Digitalism and Simian Mobile Disco.
No remixes have emerged in the past year while Justice have been working on their full-length, due this June. The move points to a keen awareness of pop machinations that belies de Rosnay's affable, self-deprecating manner. "If we continued to do remixes while we were doing our album, it could have betrayed the vibe of the album, and it's better to keep it fresh and not release anything," he confides. "Plus, we are so slow doing music, if we kept doing remixes, our album would be released in 2012 or something!"
Justice may lead the Ed Banger charge, but behind them party artists such as DJ Medhi, with his simplistic keys, breakbeats, and grunts adding up to much more than their individual parts, and SebastiAn, whose clanging, heavy metal electro "Greel" is a highlight of the new Ed Rec Vol. 2 compilation. Both will appear alongside Justice at Mezzanine this week. Then there's Uffie, whose shockingly amateurish and foulmouthed rhymes frequently overpower stunningly schizophrenic production by her boyfriend, Feadz.
For their own part, Justice are thoroughly enjoying themselves and emphatically deny being over all the hoopla. As de Rosnay says, "We know this is a chance to get attention from some people. It would be quite unfair to get tired of it, as we just have two years in the music industry. If I'm tired now, I think I will have to kill myself in six months!" *
JUSTICE AND THE ED BANGER RECORDS TOUR
Sat/24, 10 p.m., $14
444 Jessie, SF