As we wrote about in a post a while back, one of of the true greats of French house, Lifelike, visited Stockholm a month ago. We took the chance to have an interview with him about his music and about barbecuing, censorship and bass playing. Here it goes:
Great gig Saturday night. How was your evening?
It was a great evening for me too, the audience was really enthusiastic and full of energy!
First thing first, could you tell us a little bit about your musical background? What music did you listen to when you were younger?
A lot of early 80's and late 70's pop productions like Cabaret Voltaire, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and all of that Manchester/Liverpool scene from that era. Everything that had synthesizers and drum machines and that didn’t sound commercial to my ears…
At the same time I discovered the whole funk/electro disco scene through a local DJ friend that had a funk radio show in my local town and was 300% into this sound. I liked all that right away too, as all those black musicians where using the exact same gear than their white, more melancholic colleagues from Manchester.
I love both side of that 80's period and wouldn’t be able to choose between funk/disco and electro. They all were composed by great musicians, black or white doesn’t matter to me.
What was the first record you ever bought?
I think it was a remix from Pet Shop Boys by Shep Pettibone, West End Girl extended or something like that. I spent all my money on records when I was a teenager!
In your set Saturday you played a lot of early French house classics like Daft Punk and Stardust, along with even earlier electro and new wave classics. What are your influences right now?
Well, my roots are definitely in that pop electro scene of the 80's, I can’t refer to any recent electronic band outside Daft Punk as an influence on my music. But if you ask me about pop music then yes, I’m influenced a lot by recent artists like Chromeo and Empire Of The Sun, The Presets, Midnight Juggernauts and this whole new scene coming from Australia. Those are the best bands I've heard in recent years really.
What do you listen to at home? Is it synth house 24/7 or do you listen to emocore at home to balance your diet?
Hmm, I don’t listen to that much house music to be honest. I don’t find anything interesting in it anymore. I have a big record collection, I still haven’t listened to all of it, I usually wake up and pick up an old record that I listen to through the day, it’s so relaxing.
We’ve read somewhere that you played the bass in a band in high school. Is that true?
Yes it's true, but I’m a pretty bad bass player nowadays, as I haven’t practised for years. I dropped it when I heard the first digital synthesizers in a music shop. It had the bass already sampled in it and sounded as good as the same real one... hmm well that’s what I thought, of course it sounded like crap at that time, ha-ha.
Fred Falke is a former bass player, your colleague Kris Menace played the bass on Jaunt’s Travelling EP. Is playing the bass a requirement for “French” house producers?
You’re totally right, there is a school for French house bass players in Paris. Just kidding... Well it’s probably a noticeably character of our sound, it’s a big part of the sound of the label Vulture and of course the productions from Daft Punk and Thomas Bangalter made heavy uses of bass lines. It’s certainly a trademark that we should have patented!
We’ve got the feeling that the likes of you, Falke, Menace, Jaunt and Charlie Fanclub are pals. Do you play football in the park and have barbecues every Sunday?
Not really, we're connected of course but we do not have such proximity. I’m closer friends with Alan (Braxe) than with Fred that I know a bit less. And we all are more or less aware of what the other ones are doing. There are other connections with Pedro Winter, who managed Daft Punk in the past, and his Ed Banger Label, as well as with Justice for example. It’s a scene that has his trademark I think. We’ve of course met many times but we’ve never talked about barbecues – maybe we should!
The French touch movement has a very distinct sound. How would you describe it?
That’s pretty difficult to answer... I think it’s a lot to do with disco music, it’s maybe more a sort of coolness in the way of producing the music. A sound that is quite rough, and in fact pretty much back to the roots of house music. I can’t tell exactly what it is, but it’s usually easy to tell the difference between an Eric Prydz production and a Thomas Bangalter production. The latter has a style that everybody would kill to have, it’s indescribable, and the former tries to get the same style as much as possible, but without the understanding that it’s not only the sound that matters, it’s the content too...
I'd say I agree with you on that one... You’re of course a very productive remixer. Which remix is your personal favourite?
I honestly can’t choose. I’ve done a lot these years, I would have to recheck them all. Maybe I would say it’s the on I made for Chromeo that I’m the most proud of.
Arguably your biggest hit so far is Discopolis from 2005, which you made with Kris Menace. You had some censorship problems with the video. Could you tell us about that?
Well those are the mysteries of Television censorship. We never understood why they censored that video while you can go on the same channel and watch RnB or hip-hop videos where guys are smacking some black women's asses for hours while your little 10-year old brother is eating his meal. It’s just bullshit generated by a handful of people who think that they know what people want to hear and see. In fact they are on the wrong way really, that’s why the alternative electronic club scene is so strong, people don’t want to hear the crap you find on big TV or radio channels, it’s a sign of good health of the youth isn’t it?
So you're as big a fan of the FCC as Jimmy Kimmel then? On another note, you released Sunset together with Yota in February, but before that it was a while since you made a release of your own. Are we going to have to wait until 2011 for your next EP?
Not at all, I've had around a release every year. I do a lot of remixes, DJ sets and other productions that keep me busy another good part of the year you know. In the end, believe me or not, I've only got little time for my own music. I could release more if i really wanted it, but I like the idea of releasing an EP once a year or so, it makes the thing more interesting.
Speaking of Yota, she’s a member of the new duo Frankfurt Express that you produce. We're all anxiously awaiting the EP. How’s the work coming along?
It's going well now, we're almost finished. It’s a difficult project, as the main composer works with very old machines, samplers etc. It’s more time consuming to produce and sync them all together in the end. But the result sounds fantastic to me, it's such a great sound so far. Yota's voice fits perfectly to his music. I’m very proud of the project.
You played a version of Frankfurt Express’ “Wake Up” that sounded like a Lifelike remix. Will it be included on a future Frankfurt Express release?
Yes, definitely, the remix is still unfinished as I was trying to adapt the track to a late dance floor crowd, but it sounded quite good to my ears at Debaser last night.
Yeah, we thought so too. What are the differences between making remixes, making your own music and producing others?
You take more risks when you make your own music, you put a lot more stress and pressure on yourself when the record is getting released than if you would have to remix another artist or if you're producing tracks.
Both sides are cool, remixing is a fantastic way to adapt your sound and music to an artist that could have a totally different sound. I like to imagine Moby having a drink in Miami in 1985, and try then to put the remix in this ambience for example.
With productions it’s a less selfish way of making music. You have to deal with other artists and you can’t have your will all the time, you have to compromise. At the same time, it’s a great job as you learn to work with other musicians and you're there to put your talent into their music, to help them to realize a project.
What’s more fun?
Remixing is definitely more fun.
You made music under the Ferris Bueller alias in your early years. None of us have heard anything of it? Tell us about that project.
Back in 1999 I was trying to do something totally 80's, the name of Ferris Bueller came naturally to me as I was a huge fan of this movie in my teenage years. It wasn’t a very successful release to be honest, the recording company at that time (Undercover Music) had enough of my delirious productions that used Linndrum drum machines and Roland synthesizers at a time where they told me that I had to filter disco to sell records. I was influenced a lot by Les Rythmes Digitales at that time. The records where produced on really cheap set-ups if I remember well. Yes, horrible set-ups back in the days, an absoulute hell to sync together!
OK, thanks for the interview. Good luck with everything and welcome back!.
Now listen to more assorted Lifelike...
Lifelike - The Cult (2002)
Lifelike - L.O.V.E. Is What You Need (2003)
Lifelike & Kris Menace - Discopolis (2005)
Lifelike - Running Out (2005)
Alyoa - It's Been Too Long (Lifelike Top Gun Remix) (2005)
Kris Menace Presents Stars on 33 - I Feel Music in Your Heart (Lifelike & Kris Menace Remix) (2006)
Chromeo - Needy Girl (Lifelike Remix) (2008) (Link fixed)
Killa Kela - Everyday (Lifelike Remix) (2009)
... and buy everything with Lifelike on Juno!