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Justice: “†” marks the spot

French techno duo’s debut


13/06/2007 - 

Justice’s debut album “”, awaited like the proverbial Messiah on the French electro scene, lines up a bevy of dancefloor hits and 80s-influenced pop. The Parisian duo Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé, who could well be the offspring of Daft Punk, are renowned for getting international clubbers grooving to their remix of Simian’s We Are Your Friends and their Waters of Nazareth EP. RFI Musique hooks up with the iconoclastic double act.

RFI Musique: What sort of musical background do you come from? Rock? Techno?
Xavier: I’d say generally speaking, pop. But there’s a bit of rock and hip hop going on, too… We’re into things like Snoop Dogg, Metallica, Public Enemy and Prodigy.

Gaspard: Personally, the thing that triggered everything off for me was Nirvana’s Nevermind. But I couldn’t really say why! I guess everyone was just listening to that at the time, me included. The first electro album I ever listened to was Daft Punk’s Homework.

Apparently, during your school-days both of you were involved in rock bands…
Xavier: Those were brief episodes in our early career! No-one in the band I was in could speak a word of English, but we did these covers of Californian rock songs, totally saccharine stuff…

Gaspard: I think our involvement in bands was on the same level with other hobbies at the time. We often preferred to sit in front of our Playstations all day instead!

Would you say this early experience influenced the music you make today in any way?
Xavier: You know, we don’t actually like the same things at all. Rather than being a part of our musical baggage, I’d say it made us realise what we didn’t want to do musically, the stuff we didn’t want to touch.

Your first single - which, incidentally, it’s impossible to get your hands on these days - was a cover of those one-hit wonders from the 80s, The Buggles...
Xavier: I have to admit, we don’t really want people getting their hands on that one! The record was fun to do, but we’re not so proud of it now. Let’s just say, its absence is no great loss to music history…

Gaspard: We were totally fascinated by The Buggles’ first album. It’s full of stuff we like - there’s a bit of electro, a bit of pop, a bit of classical going on there… We like the way they operated too, as an autonomous duo…

Talking of famous double acts, I notice you share Daft Punk’s manager, Pedro Winter. Did you choose him because he’s good at launching new trends?
Xavier: It’s not a communications strategy, it’s more a question of mixing the right ingredients. You know, Pedro only signs artists he likes on his label Ed Banger. The other thing is he comes up with good ideas and he’s very smart. Everything operates through a network, through hooking up with the right people and engineering encounters that turn out to be more or less decisive… Although having said that the network doesn’t always operate perfectly at times!

The interesting thing about Justice is that you’re both graphic designers and image seems to play an important role in your communications strategy. Why did you choose a cross as your symbol? And what’s this slogan  "Separated at birth… reunited for revenge?" 
Gaspard: We gave ‘carte blanche’ to the label’s graphics guy So Me. We weren’t involved in that side of things at all. And that meant we were able to keep a distance on things and concentrate on the music.

Xavier: The cross thing? God only knows! It was an idea all three of us came up with. As for the slogan, we needed something to put on our page on MySpace. It actually comes from the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Double Impact! I think it makes everything a lot more fun giving out a minimum of information about yourself. People start wondering whether you’re twins or Christians or gay! (Laughs)

Musically speaking, do you feel closer to the German artist DJ Hell or Erol Alkan from the U.K.?
Gaspard: Erol Alkan, definitely!

Xavier: DJ Hell signed our Simian remix on International Deejay Gigolo* a year after its initial release, bang in the middle of the electro-clash boom. His label’s got cult status so that opened a lot of doors for us. We ended up playing in all these clubs abroad, DJ-ing every week in a different venue. But at the end of the day we don’t really sound like anything else that’s been released on Gigolo.

Were you ever tempted to make a whole lot of hits and then put them together as an album? How did you go about working on “=”?
Xavier: You mean a string of hits like the seven hit singles on Thriller, yeah why not! But don’t get us wrong, our album’s not just about dance tracks. It also features stuff you can listen to at home.

In February 2006, we locked ourselves away in a basement in Paris and we spent a year in this mini-studio preparing the album on our own. Pedro and So Me would drop by every now and then and give us a bit of advice. The main worry we had about things was that we’d make something too complicated, too weird - or too boring!

There seems to be an obvious similarity between your music and Daft Punk’s. How do you react to that?
Xavier: I think that’s basically a bit of a jump cut invented by journalists! OK, so we play techno, there’s two of us and we share the same manager, but the similarities end there. Having said that, however, Daft Punk are obviously part of what we listen to.

Would you say that the Justice sound could be described as free of complexes and musical hang-ups? Are the underground and street cred important to you?
Xavier: I’d say our music is instant. There’s a lightness of touch. It‘s something you can laugh or cry to. It’s music that plays on very simple strings. We make music people can have fun to. As for the underground, that’s the last thing we’re interested in. Right now, we’re looking to break out of the underground as fast as we can, in fact! It’s not our culture at all. But at the end of the day you have to realise you’re always someone’s whore!…

* after Vitalic, Miss Kittin and David Carretta

Justice "†" (Ed Banger/Because) 2007

International tour dates include:
15 June: Sonar Festival, Barcelona (Spain)
23 June: Frankfurt (Germany)
14 July: Dour Festival (Belgium)
17 July : London (U.K.)

Nicolas  Dambre

Translation : Julie  Street