An intimate conversation with Xavier De Rosnay, the more prominent voice of the French Electro House Duo
“It’s symbolic of the coming together of people and the power that religion has over them.”
A 7 PM phone call to West-London puts me in a long distance uninterrupted forty-five minute conversation with Xavier, one half of Grammy Award winning Electro House Duo, Justice. They debuted on Ed Banger Records in 2007 releasing the smash hit D.A.N.C.E. EP that played non-stop on MTV and Trace music channels throughout that year.
But since 2009 they have been signed to Elektra Records, from where we can expect their latest album Civilization to be released. Xavier’s thick French accent takes my South African ears a few moments to get used to as we introduce ourselves with the help of a few polite exchanges. His professional and humble approach to the chat sets a tone for what is destined to be a comfortable and enjoyable interview, this despite having spent all day fielding questions from various media around the globe. I perk up as I picture him chilling on the couch in the condo he shares with his friend and DJ partner, Gaspard Auge.
The duo have captured adoring fans and audiences the world over with sold out global concert tours and chart topping hits and remixes. They scooped the Grammy Award for ‘Best Remixed Recording’ of MGMT’s Electric Feel in 2009 and have since remixed tracks for pop stars and other world renowned producers and DJs, such as Lenny Kravitz, Britney Spears, NERD, Fatboy Slim and Daft Punk, to name a few.
Their symbol is a cross that glows bright and strong front centre at every performance, where the party and DJ setup takes the form of what seems to be more like a cult Rock concert. My first question to Xavier as we casually saunter into light chatter is … ‘Why the cross and what exactly is the symbolism behind it?’
“It’s symbolic of the coming together of people and the power that religion has over them,” he says. “The cross is a symbol used by powerful people to bring others together like the Pope for example. But this is neither. We are not trying to say we are Christian because we are open and appeal to fans of all races and religion. We just understood the power of the symbol of the cross and how it works. Music can, and does have the same power over people that religion does.”
Do I detect a sense of subtle domination here? Or… it could just be the perfect a-political scheme to get and grab indie, hipster dance loving young people’s attention. Either way, kudos to them for thinking of it first. People are in two places about what their sound originally started out as and what it seems to be growing into. A popular fan description of the Justice sound is – ‘Grimy, bass slapping Electro with a heavy metal influence that boasts cut up bass lines along with compressed and distorted synths.’ Other descriptions are ones of ‘good old fashion House music’ thanks to hits like DVNO and D.A.N.C.E.
Considering the various opinions from fans I am curious as to how else he would categorize their sound.
Xavier pauses for a while as if pondering this thoughtfully, “We never actually felt like we were making House music. We are doing the same sounds as before with small differences. We weren’t trying to make dance music… [He drags the word music out as he says it] because we have never really been interested in dance. It’s all the same thing with parts of it changing. I guess people hear what they hear and then interpret that, seeing their own version.”
Their latest album Civilization has a few strong influences of what is predominantly categorized as ‘Rock Metal influenced Electro.’ This gives it more of an album feel and from what I understand he insists that they simply take the production as it comes and make whatever they feel is good. As artists grow and progress into the sort of music they enjoy making this is a common occurrence, it seems. No need to fret, they will continue bringing the hits we love.
I ask him if they were nervous at all when putting the new album together and of what fans may expect this time around.
“No way! We were not nervous at all. I think nobody really knows what to expect and that is great as it makes the anticipation more intense,” he laughs. “I know that nobody has made a sound like ours and it’s original to us. If you like it, you like it and if you don’t that’s also cool too,” De Rosnay adds emphatically.
There has been some well documented controversy around fans accusing them of faking ‘Live Sets’. Their response to this is that a picture was taken of them during a DJ tour in 2008. The snapshot saw Gaspard DJ-ing with an unplugged Akai MPD24. They insist that the equipment was unplugged very briefly before being re-attached. [Believe that if you like, Ed].
These two Euro, Alternative Pseudo-Punk, Leather jacket donned, cigarette smoking French boys have been delivering their distinct brand of Electronic music to major festivals all over the world for the last five years. They have graced stages at festivals like Coachella – USA, Sonar – Barcelona, Niigata – Japan and the ‘I LOVE TECHNO Fest’ in Belgium amongst tons of others.
In closing I let him know that they have loads of fans over here. Will we be seeing them anytime soon, I prod?
“Well, right now it’s very competitive to get a tour in South Africa because of so many different artists being booked and going at the same time. And this is of course because of the World Cup last year that got your country more attention. But if we could we, we would definitely love to,” he says stuttering his words in that typical thick French accent.
They would love to. What does this mean for the fans in SA? Perhaps we could start a petition campaign by going in and grabbing his management’s attention!
But for now, we can look forward to their latest and unpredictable new album release Civilization and wet our palettes on just that.