Tuesday, 13 August 2013

TEA with François X

Once upon a time the only name that instantly came to mind when talking about French techno was Dj Deep. And although that may still be the case, there’s now a long list of other names that follow. One of those names is François-Xavier Zoumenou, a Parisian producer commonly known as François X that’s leading an awakened French techno scene. A Dj Deep protégé himself, Francois X runs Dement3d, a party-turned-vinyl imprint set up with friend and progenitor Heartbeat in 2011 to support his fellow French and Parisian artists.

So far the Dement3d roster includes four-piece electronic band DSCRD, shadowy duo Polar Inertia and the recently unveiled Hiss : 1292 collaboration François X does with Swiss act Opuswerk. Not surprisingly Francois X’s career began on Dj Deep’s Deeply Rooted House - now known as Deeply Rooted - back in 2009 with the aptly titled debut EP Future Roots Vol3. He then followed this up with two equally impressive 12"s for the label, with his most recent, The Countdown, reigning in a remix from Marcel Dettmann.

Speaking with François X over email after he supplied us with a star-studded podcast, the Frenchman promises new EPs, while sharing an anecdote of being with Dj Deep at the Centre Pompidou, taking on electro house at Paris Social Club, talk of a new ambient act called Ligovskoï and a rare tea that’s only found in the south of France.

Hi François. First of all thank you for the mix. How and where was it recorded?

Hi. The mix was recorded in at home with a bit of vinyl on some SL-1200MK2s and some digital files using a USB on some CDJ 2000s. It was recorded during a Sunday afternoon after a heavy lunch.

What was for lunch?

A beautiful epaule d’agneau aux frutis confits

Is this podcast representative of your DJ sets?

I usually tend to do long mixes, sometimes that’s a weakness of mine; trying to blend tracks too much which can have me lose the energy of an aggressive mix. I come from a house background in terms of DJing, specifically the mid ‘90s era - the Vega Morales era - where each track was built like a song. You had to mix them very smoothly, knowing when the bass started, the breaks, it was definitely a challenge. Applying this style of mixing to techno is an interesting way of revealing the best parts of the music and sometimes it creates new tracks, because sometimes you mix a beat for three or four minutes with just a kick and a hi-hat. But you have to be careful, as I said, to not lose the energy of the music.

All of your releases as François X have come through Deeply Rooted House. How did you hook up with the label?

The label is now called Deeply Rooted, which is Dj Deep‘s label, one of my closest friends. We met at the end of the ‘90s, when even then he was a French electronic music pioneer, a real leader. I was a young and naive boy trying to gain some experience in electronic music and I met him during my regular visits to record stores. The label (Deeply Rooted House) didn’t exist at that time, hanging out a record stores was just a way of learning - and I can tell you that having a guy like Cyril (Dj Deep) around could be pretty intimidating, but it was definitely the best way to learn. He is a very honest and passionate person that’s dedicated his life to music.

Years later he started Deeply Rooted House, but at that time I wasn’t producing, I was DJing a bit while I was finishing my studies. It took me a long time to get my hands dirty, but Cyril encouraged me to finish tracks and offered me the chance to release my first EP on Deeply Rooted. To be honest, this was very kind of him, because I don’t think my release was at the level of the previous releases, in terms of quality, but I definitely jumped on board and here I am.

You have three releases on the label, are there plans for a fourth?

For sure. At the moment I have time to make music and I am preparing an EP for Deeply Rooted.

How important is Dj Deep to the French and Parisian music scene?

Very important. Like I said before, he was there when it started; I mean he was there for important times in the growth of contemporary electronic music. That makes him very important for the French. He’s a mentor for a lot of people. I actually have a story about the impact of his mentoring: One day we were at Beaubourg Museum and we stumbled across on one of his followers who told him that he has loads of Dj Deep radio shows from the early ‘90s on cassette. That’s the kind of thing you will experience hanging out with Cyril.

He did, and does so much. Like, before anybody else, he brought American DJs like Kerri Chandler to Paris, while fighting to book guys like Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock. He has a vision few people have, but as they say; he’s ‘no prophet in his own land’. He’s sometimes underrated and misunderstood because people today like to put things in boxes where they fit, but if you don't fit in one box, what happens? People get disorientated.

That is the case with Deep because he played techno, then house, then techno and so on, not because he was tripping, but because the scene and the music evolved in a cycle. He had that kind of intelligence to catch the best of each era. But guess what, he is still here, playing at Berghain, rocking Trouw or sharing the decks with me at Concrete dropping unreleased Jeff Mills tracks. In a time where you need to put out records to get booked, that’s quite an achievement. That makes him very important for us, he’s creating a legacy.

Your most recent production was a remix of Polar Inertia for Dement3d. Remixes from you seem to be rare. Do you enjoy remixing or is it something you avoid? 

For me it’s fine to remix other people’s tracks, it’s just I don’t have the chance to do it that often. The remix for Polar Inertia is a like a family affair. They are my friends, so it was natural for me to do a remix for them. Although I have done a remix for a new label called Ressort Imprint scheduled for September.

How are things going over at your label Dement3d?

I’ve been running Dement3d with my friend Heartbeat for two years now. At the beginning it was more-or-less a kind of hub for our friends DSCRD and Polar Inertia, a place where they could have their first releases. But now we are in phase two and it's time for us to represent and make music for the label. So I did an EP as Hiss : 1292, a collaboration with Opuswerk. I have also just finished an EP as François X  which will be ready in October or November. There are plenty of other projects to come too.

This label is a strong project and we’re willing to develop every aspect of it so we’re not stuck in one style. People to tend to forget our roots and with the Polar Inertia Remixes EP and now this new Hiss : 1292 project, it’s clear that we are now open to do more ‘danceable projects’ and not only focus on experimental stuff. I mean it’s important that people understand our vision, which is music, good music; not trends or intellectual hype. We started the label with a strong visual aesthetic, people responded well to that, but it’s not everything. 

In Paris, which is our primary audience, the younger generation is trying so desperately to link any form of techno to any form of contemporary art. They are so attracted to these new codes: black and white arty pictures - tracks that aren’t so danceable: dark music. Sometimes they forget what it’s all about; house, techno and the club.

You could say that we are a part of that foolishness, but now it's time to get back to our roots. We will always put a lot of effort into our cover art, to discover and push new artists, and develop strong projects outside the regular boundaries of techno. But it is very important for us not to be pinned to any one corner or stuck in a single style. 

What is the story behind Dement3d? How did the label begin?

Dement3d is the story of two close friends who share the same ethos, same music taste and the same philosophy. I met Julien (Heartbeat), my label partner during our formatives years, about 10 years ago. We were part of a strong house community in Paris. He launched Dement3d as a local party around 2005-2006. The party grew and we felt it was quite important, so at one point Julien wanted to do something; turn the party into something more professional, like a label, and he asked me to join him. We started a new version of his party and we tested ourselves by playing all night long to see if we truly shared the same vision, and we did. It was a key moment in seeing what Dement3d is today.

We began to book international DJs in bigger clubs like Djoon and then we got ourselves a night at the (Paris) Social Club. If you really knew Paris at the time, throwing techno parties at the Social Club was like a putsch, the club was famous for hosting the French touch of electro-banging parties. And there we were, two guys booking the techno mafia. I mean when I look at the lines ups we had it’s quite impressive, we had some big names; Dettmann, Sandwell District, Surgeon, Planetary Assaults System, Shifted. This all happened in 2009. 

Around the end of 2010 our inspirations changed and we put an end to our parties and started thinking about something new. That was around the time where we started to hang out with DSCRD and Polar Inertia. We were amazed by their music and the idea of a label became all the more obvious. The label’s intention at first was to push new artists, especially Parisian acts.

Our vision was to embrace all of our roots and inspirations in the one place, that’s why some people were a bit shocked when we released more four-four orientated EPs, because people were used to - I don’t know why - but something more, arty maybe... But let's be honest, we aren’t really releasing avant garde music, there’s no masterpiece in our discography just yet, so why pretend? For me it’s cool if one record is very experimental and the other is very classic, with no other intentions than destroying dancefloors. We aren’t elitists and we don’t want to be.

Could tell us a little bit about your relationship with Polar Inertia?

Polar Inertia is a French duo. They are very secretive so I’ll keep it brief. We met them three years ago through friends and we started to work with them. They made quite an impact with their debut EP (Indirect Light) and it help set up the label internationally. We have a close relationship, we always try to push them because they have so much potential.

And your Hiss : 1292 just debuted on the label. 

Yes, it’s me and my friend Hendrik, who produces as Opuswerk. The collaboration started in Geneva where he lives and I relocated there myself. It is a new thing for me to collaborate with someone - and especially with Hendrik - because our music is made with analogue gear, which I don’t use for my solo project. It was quite an experience. I learned a lot about programming synths and it’s helped me improve technically. The results have been great; we have so much fun jamming in studio, even his newborn girl reacts to the music. This a long term collaboration for me and we have a lot music in the pipeline.

There’s been no original François X material since 2011. What has that alias been up to?

Resting on a desert island. But no, more seriously, I have a regular job which takes up most of my time and I didn't have the energy to produce more music. Sometimes you don't feel anything; just a lack of inspiration. So why bother people with randomness and emptiness. That’s what I think. I prefer to stay silent when I don't have anything relevant to say. Things are less hectic now though, so I have plenty of time to get back on track.

What are you working on at the moment?

Like I said before, I’m running Dement3D; I have an EP scheduled for October on the label. I have another on Deeply Rooted to be released god knows when. But more importantly I need to improve my day-to-day production skills. It's very important you do that today because there are so many good producers out there. I hope 2014 will be a busy and inspiring year.

What's next for Dement3d?

We have lot music to come. First up is a new maxi from the DSCRD crew. It’s very experimental and personal as usual - then my first solo EP for the label - and something from a new ambient act called Ligovskoï, some new Polar Inertia and many other things.

The French scene seems to be very healthy at the moment, how does it feel to be part of it?

I'm proud to be a part of it, it’s refreshing and inspiring. But I don't take it for granted because what I call a scene is not what’s happening in Paris. For me a scene is a place where the emulation of people creates new art and in our case, music. At the moment the French scene that you are talking about is a bunch of dope crews throwing great parties. So you could say the clubbing scene is alive, yes, but a scene, not yet. The club scene in France is on fire, you have a lot of young and small crews who put a lot of effort to get things done, it’s ridiculous. In Paris we are very lucky to have a crew like Concrete who have achieved so much. Their parties are the best at the moment and have incredible line ups. And even though they have their critics inside of Paris, they’re doing a tremendous job.

Why is the French scene doing so well at the moment do you think?

After the darkness there is light. That’s exactly what’s happening in Paris right now. Nowadays people are more united. The music styles are narrowing toward a centre point. It was not the case 10-to-15 years ago. The crowd was not ready to mix. I remember going to house parties and not getting on with other crews who shared the same taste just because they weren’t part of my crew. Today the music we like is a federation of people from all sorts of horizons, it’s a good combination.

I like it, it's refreshing and I think this one of the key reasons for the French rebirth. The crowd is getting younger; it’s a new generation with more energy. We are becoming more professional in a way too, promoters are more devoted to the music, and maybe the mainstream system is becoming boring for the youngsters who are looking for authenticity. Those factors create a good combination and take our music to a higher level. A level well deserved.

And finally, do you have a favourite tea?

It’s a rare tea you can only find in the south of France. It’s made of red dry fruits.

Do you know what it’s called?

I'm still looking for it. 


Pic Credits: Matthieu Cannavo

François X Facebook
François X Website


01. Function - Gradient Intro [Ostgut Ton]
02. Adriana Lopez -  Acta [Modularz]
03. Kalon - Man Is The Superior Animal [Sandwell District]
04. Ben Klock - Gloaming [Ostgut Ton]
05. James Ruskin - Massk [Blueprint]
06. Headless Horseman - Graveyard (Perc Remix) [Headless Horseman]
07. Truncate - Ratio 2 [Truncate]
08. Planetary Assault Systems - Black Tea [Ostgut Ton]
09. Insync & Mysteron - Trackdown [Plink Plonk]
10. Shifted - Trouble [Mote-Evolver]
11. Regis - Untitled [Downwards]
12. Joe Cocherell - Commerce Above All Else [Frozen Border]
13. Clouds - Chained To A Dead Camel [Overlee Assembly]
14. Andrea Belluzzi - Dream (Trip Version) [Par Recordings]
15. Lewis Fautzi & Nuklear Default - Turn [Soma]
16. Drumcell  -  Disturbance (Pfirter Remix II) [CLR]
17. Shifted - Sektor D [Avian]
18. Truncate - Focus V2 [Truncate]
19. Marcel Dettmann - Range [Ostgut Ton]
20. Carl Craig - A Wonderful Life (version) [Planet E]

TEA Podcast: François X Duration: 1:05:36

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