On working with Lana Del Rey and Gesaffelstein — and sharing a name with Avicii
Brodinski (Louis Rogé) has been bubbling up in the French electronic-music scene since 2007, and in the beginning, his career path seemed pretty typical. He remixed artists like Bonde Do Role, Tiga, and Bitchee Bitchee Ya Ya Ya (remember her?), and he turned up on buzzing labels like Kitsuné and Boysnoize. Early on, he remixed his friend DJ Mehdi for Ed Banger, and he recently returned to the label to rework Justice's "On 'n' On." But, even early on, there were signs that Brodinski didn't really fit the French electro mold. You can hear his intention to leap borders with a 2010 co-production with Mumdance called "Eurostarr": Named in homage to the train that connects France and the U.K., it has as much in common with the tribal, percussive sound of U.K. funky as it does classic French techno. His mix CDs, likewise, have been unusually promiscuous: His recent Fabriclive.60 shoehorns together stripped-down techno, throbbing bass music, and off-kilter deep house as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
Brodinski's open-minded approach has landed him on some rather disparate labels over the years — Switzerland's Mental Groove, Tiga's Turbo, Sinden's Grizzly, fluo-tinged bass deviants Night Slugs, even Green Velvet's Relief. Now, though, he is concentrating his efforts on Bromance, a label he co-founded with his manager, Manu Barron, partly as a platform to release the music of his friend Gesaffelstein (Mike Levy), a rising French producer with a dark, sumptuous take on techno. In keeping with the name, Bromance is all about keeping it in the family, with an emphasis on split releases and collaborations (like Gucci Vump, Brodinski's duo with the Shoes' Guillaume). And, despite the name, it's not just a dude thing: The Los Angeles singer Louisaaah recently represented the label with a mixtape for the Gotta Dance Dirty blog, and even Lana Del Rey turns up on two (authorized!) remixes by Brodinski and Gesaffelstein.
I spoke to Rogé last week shortly before he was about to leave Paris for his new temporary home of Los Angeles. He told me about having the Ed Banger crew as mentors, why eclecticism is the essence of the Parisian scene, and why L.A. can be a lonely place — and how he plans to use the power of Bromance to turn that around.
The press release for your Fabric mix last year said that you'd never bought a piece of vinyl in your life. Is that true?
Actually, yes, it's true. When I started listening to electronic music, and when I started to buy it, I was 15 or 16, so almost 10 years ago now. I was living in Reims, which is a really small city. I had no record dealer. No one was selling vinyl of electronic music. And the Internet came, and all those peer-to-peer websites, and I was downloading everything. I was discovering so much music on the Internet, you know? So it was really random at first. Listening to the first Kompakt compilation and at the same time listening to old Warp and Ninja Tune — everything at the same time, you know? I didn't pick one red line to look for music. I pretty much looked everywhere at the same time. The Internet helped me a lot for that.
After that, I began to mix with CDs, so I never had the chance to buy vinyl. Which is really weird, and today I really regret it. I would love to have had something like Rough Trade, where Ivan Smagghe was working in Paris: Going to a vinyl store where the record seller would give me his favorite of the week. I never had the chance to do it and I regret it, definitely.
Discovering everything at once, as you put it, must make your style slightly different from DJs who grew up in the vinyl era.
It's like, how can you take all of that as an inspiration? You know what I mean? I see so many people going in the club for like 10 years, and then starting to do music because they know exactly what they want to do. When I see Andrew Weatherall playing, I'm like, what the fuck? He's playing all those tracks that I don't know, and it's all vinyl. He's not doing the same thing as me. He's not the same kind of DJ as me. He's not even using the same stuff as me. For me, it's a totally different job, I think. You learn so much about music in such a little amount of time, because of the Internet. You're like, I need to show people what I heard in the last year, all the tracks I love. I want the people to know about that! This was the first idea of me being a DJ.
Were you still living in Reims when you started?
I was. This producer from Reims called Yuksek, he was organizing a festival and some parties, and he was also doing this festival called Electricity. He let me play at a party with Agoria and him and DJ Mehdi. We brought Ivan Smagghe, Chloé, Erol Arkan. Last year we invited Metronomy; we invited a lot of different kind of people, like the Shoes and Rocky. The festival is all about music in general. I started to play for it like six or seven years ago or something, and now I’m like part of the festival. The truth is, they gave me my first chance as a DJ.
When did you move to Paris?
I actually moved to Lille, in the north of France, for three years. It's been almost three years that I live in Paris, but for the three years before that I was studying communications in Lille. It was actually pretty weird, because I was touring every weekend and going to school during the week, and when I finished my study, I told my mom, "Maybe I can take a year off, and see if I can live from my passion." And I actually do. Since four years now, maybe five, I'm DJing all over and producing music and earning money from that, which is pretty amazing, I would say.
Your career doesn't seem typical for a French artist. You started out on Mental Groove and then recorded for Turbo, Southern Fried, Grizzly, and Night Slugs — Swiss, British, and Canadian labels. And yet not Ed Banger, for instance.
The thing with Ed Banger that I love and I will always respect is the fact that they have their own story. It's their own artists and their own sound. They mean so much for me in the electronic-music movement in France. The way they act, too: They're so nice, and they listen to what you say. They give you advice, and if they don't have it, they will help you to go to someone else to get the advice. They are never lying to you. It's all about energy, feeling, and vibe — it's more like, we want to release our friends, you know? They did so much for me at the beginning. I sent my first track to Pedro [Winter, a.k.a. Ed Banger boss Busy P], and he sent it to everyone: 2 Many DJs, Boys Noize, Tiga, all those guys. And I know all those guys today — pretty weird. Because it's the people I was listening to at home for a while.
I created my label last year, and it was inspired by the model of Ed Banger, the fact that they are all doing everything by themselves. They have someone for the artwork, someone for the videos, and they're all a crew. I say that with Bromance, that's also what I'm trying to do: Create a family of people that I love and people I can do music with for a while.
Tell me more about Bromance. It seems like a tight group.
I was always like, yeah, I'm looking for three or four artists that I can work on. So for two or three years, I was looking for artists that I will work with for a while. When Mike and me found each other — Mike is Gesaffelstein — I was already thinking about the label. So Manu [Barron, Brodinski's manager] and me created it in November 2011. It's only been nine months at the moment, and I see all the stuff happening and I'm really happy about it.
The first EP was me and Louisaaah, who's a singer from L.A., and who also sings on some Danny Daze tracks. She recently released a mixtape for Bromance with tracks she did with Trickski, Renaissance Man, Prince Club, and Sam Tiba from Club Cheval, too. I'm really happy about the idea of working with her. And the first release exploded. We had a lot of feedback on it. Still, today, we are playing the tracks when we DJ. Which for me is a really rare thing to do, because most of the time I'm pretty annoyed by a track that I have been playing for six months. But people are still waiting for it! Which is my first time to have this feeling. You know what I mean? To have people waiting for one of my tracks. I was more the kind of DJ who was not at all playing his tracks. It's still the way I love to do it, but now that people are here and want also to hear my track, it's a good step for me.
Louisaah is interesting, because she works with very different types of artists — from Danny Daze to Perc.
What I like about Louisaaah is that she's kind of like me. She likes working with friends. For example, I love working with Yuksek. I used to love working with DJ Mehdi. I love working with Mike, and they're all doing really different music. When I see Louisaaah working with Trickski, which is the kind of music I'm listening to at home, or with Danny Daze, who is a really good DJ, I think it's a really good way to appreciate her music. Don't respect the red line, just go all around and find people that you love, and collaborate with them. That's the only way you're going to do good music.
Your own DJ mixes are pretty diverse, as well. Your Fabric mix had Bicep, Axel Boman, T. Williams, Samuel L. Session, Instra:mental — a lot of things you might not typically hear together.
I did kind of the same with the Bugged Out! mix CD I did in 2009. It's music I love to play in clubs. For example, for Fabric, I wanted to put every track that gave me a good feeling in the club over the last year. I remember this Axel Boman track — I know that when I'm in the studio, if I do a track like that I'll be like, "Oh, I don't know if it fits," but when I listened to it for the first time, I remember thinking, the whole vibe around this track is perfect for me. I love also to put artists who I have been following for a while. Samuel L. Session, for example, everything that he's doing — techno is, for me, my real roots. I come from all those guys, like the old Paco Osuna stuff, Marco Carola, Ben Sims, Joris Voorn; all those old techno guys, like Surgeon, Deetron. When techno was 140 BPM, I was listening to that all the time. And now I'm seeing all those guys coming from 140 down to 126 and keeping the whole techno vibe. All those guys, they're still doing some of the best music around, so when I do a mix, I want to put those guys in the front.
I think a lot of Americans forget, or don't know, that France has such a strong techno history, that it's not all electro and house. Laurent Garnier, Agoria, Paul Ritch…
Exactly! Also people like Popof. We have a lot of techno DJs in France. That's what I like about France, the fact that Daft Punk is so big and became pop music, but also that all the electronic music behind it is different. It's just Daft Punk or not Daft Punk. The weird thing is that I love Daft Punk, but it never influenced me like techno influenced me. I talked a lot about that with Boys Noize, for example, because I think Daft Punk influenced him a lot, and he's German. And I'm French. And most of the things that influenced me when I was younger were German techno. It's a little bit of a paradox. [Laughs]
What are Parisian crowds like?
It's a really good crowd. The Parisian crowd is getting really good. Also for all those weird styles coming out. For example, if you do a party with Kingdom or the guys from Night Slugs, it's actually packed. And people are dancing to rap music and instrumental trap and techno and everything from every style. I think the Parisian crowd is one of the best for this kind of music. For techno, I think Rex is still a huge club for that. And now that Social Club exists, for me it's the perfect club, because I can play from techno to rap, and my own tracks, electro remixes, some old-school stuff too. When I see Gesaffelstein DJ, he's always playing all those old R&S records, like Capricorn or "Public Energy," old-school Speedy J and stuff, and people are really loving it. I think this is the real essence of Paris. It's such a small city. It's actually a big city, but for nightlife, it's a small city. And when I see people in the club, they're not coming because they know who's playing, they know it's going to be fun. And this is the real essence of music, I think.
Is Brodinski your real name?
It's the name of my grandmother. When I decided to take a name, I thought it was a really good one.
Do you run into trouble with having named your label Bromance, given that it's also in the title of an Avicii song?
I actually learned about the song after I created the label. I was pretty happy about it, bcause I'm sure we don't have the same definition of bromance. At a festival where he was playing, I saw a "Bromance" Avicii t-shirt. And I was like, "Ah… What can I do about that?" You know what? I don't really care. I'm sure Avicii's going to be in another world in two or three months. You know what I mean? It's just one of those really mainstream electronic projects, and we see those since awhile now. I think Avicii is not doing the same thing as I do.
They really are two different worlds.
Yeah, definitely! In France, we completely have that. For most people, even my parents, electronic music in France and dance music in general meant Bob Sinclar, Martin Solveig, and David Guetta. You know what I mean? Even if Justice became really big, and it was kind of a revolution, it was more of an international revolution than a French revolution. Dance music in general, on the radio and stuff, stays with those three producers. Especially David Guetta.
It's funny, just the other day I pulled out an old Africanism track. I had forgotten that Martin Solveig used to make really classic deep house.
And Bob Sinclar too! And it was amazing! The first Africanism CD was crazy. I remember — they were working with all those guys like Julian Jabre and DJ Gregory and all those guys from France, then they split and they all changed their mind. Maybe about money, Maybe about music. I will never know.
Are you still considering moving to Los Angeles? You had spoken about that before.
I actually moved in January. And I came back [to Paris] in mid-May for touring, and I'm going back in a week. Yeah, I actually moved, and I'm considering staying there for awhile and just going back and forth from Paris to L.A.
What can I say, L.A. is so different from Paris. The city's so big. I need a car, and I still don't have my license. Clubs are closing at 2 a.m., which is weird, but the food is good, and people are actually really happy about electronic music right now. The whole scene there is amazing, but it doesn't have the constant motivation that you have in Paris or London or even Berlin — the fact that you are always meeting people who work in the same kind of job as you, and you talk about work and you talk about music and you talk about the way you do your thing. In L.A., nobody talks with anybody. Everyone is working on his project, but they will never think about doing anything together. So when I arrived there, I was like, this is weird. In Paris, everybody knows each other. I can go and have a drink with Jackson, Para One, Surkin, and Pedro and the Justice guys, and Paul Ritch and Okain and all those guys, all together, you know? Which is something that I love. But in L.A., it's not like that at all. It's more like, if you do this, you stay with those guys, and if you do that, maybe you're going to stay by yourself. You never really communicate about your music and you never motivate each other, despite the fact that you're doing the same job. So when I arrived there I was, like, people need motivation too. And I think with Bromance, I actually do a good job getting people to stay all together and do music all together. It's like creating a crew of people working together.
How is to play in Los Angeles?
It depends. Los Angeles is a weird city. A bit like New York, you're playing for 15,000 people or 200 people. You have nothing in the middle. We did a show in January with Gesaffelstein for the Bromance Tour U.S.A., for the first EP: We did the Key Club in L.A., and we actually did, like, 700 people. It was crazy, it sold out beforehand. That's the first feeling I had about L.A. I was like, what? Are we doing a sold-out show in L.A.? Even if it was for 700 people, it means a lot to me. I was like, I'm going to stay there. We did two Bromance parties with MFG, which is a production company in L.A.; we did this party at this Mexican club La Cita, and the party was amazing. Crazy. Then we decided to organize a party in Coachella where we invited Nick Hook from Cubic Zirconia, Mike B, and we invited also Pedro, because it was his birthday. We did it in a ranch, and Snoop Dogg came — he was listening, to, like, techno music! I remember him trying to sing some lyrics on Ben Sims' track, or like old-school Speedy J, "Something for Your Mind" — when he spit, it was crazy. It's all this feeling that electronic music in general has become really big. I see that Snoop is working with Boys Noize, for example. It's such amazing news that people are actually listening to good electronic music, and just trying to do their stuff.
How did your Lana Del Rey remix come about?
I remember discovering Lana Del Rey when she had, like, 200 fans on Facebook. And I listened to this song, "Video Games," and I loved it. So I sent her a message on Facebook, and I was like, "Hey, I love your music, I'm going to share it a little bit, but I'm not a major record label. So I cannot do miracles for you. But I'm sure it's going to work, and I really love your music, and we need to work together." And she became amazingly big, like crazy. I know she was not taking care of everything for her project, so at some point I told her, "I want to do a remix, and I want to do it on my label. Because every time you do a single, you ask for like 40 remixes, and I don't want to do a remix for you and just to let it go, and nobody will listen to it." And she said yes. So we actually did it.
The version Gesaffelstein did of "Blue Jeans" became really big — also in France, for example. You can hear it even in fancy clubs and stuff like that. Which is pretty weird for me. But it's so melodic, and it gives another dimension to the track.
What's next for the label?
In August, we are releasing a collaboration between Evil Nine and Danny Brown, the rapper. The track is called "The Black Brad Pitt," and I love it. Evil Nine killed it. And Gesaffelstein's remix is like a rap remix. Then in September we're doing Jacques Lu Cont. He did a track for Bromance, and the B-side will be two young guys from my hometown, from Reims. They're called Monsieur Monsieur.
Like Mister Mister?
[Laughs.] It's like, "Monsieur, what?" It's a French name, so it's going to be really difficult. Then I'm working on a track right now with two different rappers from the U.S.A., and then we're going to work on the Bromance L.A. project, which is something I really look forward to. I love having plans. If you don't have any plans, at some point, you feel sick.