Justice’s co-founder keeps things suitably epic with his solo debut...
*Gaspard Augé* has always done things on his own terms.
One half of legendary French electro outfit *Justice*, alongside Xavier De Rosnay, the duo have spent the best part of the past two decades crafting some of dance music’s most distinctive and downright intoxicating anthems.
Following several years of intensive touring and recording with Justice, Augé’s latest endeavour sees him venturing out on his own. But make no mistake - this is no introspective solo record. While Escapades has much in common with Justice’s DNA, this is very much its own distinctive blast of electronic maximalism.
Recorded in Paris across two studios, including Motorbass, the brainchild of Augé’s friend and collaborator, *the late, great Philippe Zdar*, the album was recorded over the course of a brisk two-month period – a stark contrast to Justice’s often lengthy productions. The end result is a debut quite unlike anything else released this year.
Clash recently caught up with the man himself to discuss the album, his wide-ranging influences, what plans might be afoot for Justice and that bizarre turn of events earlier this year that led to the duo filing a cease-and-desist against Justin Bieber.
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*It’s no secret that you prefer to make larger than life music. 'Escapades' is certainly no exception. What is it that draws you to these big, bold soundscapes?*
I guess mostly because I’m not too keen on self-indulgent music… I'm just talking about the lyrical content… It's definitely not about saying that one type of music is better than the other. It's just that it's not my personality to talk about my inner feelings or to talk about daily life, or whatever. And to me, the music I’m trying to do is potentially something that is just greater than real life, you know?
I don't know much about classical music, but it's been a kind of huge influence from what I know and what my idea is of classical music - just to try to elevate the soul a bit, just to give you some kind of mental stimulation, and to potentially make you experience emotions that you wouldn't in real life. There’s something a bit like an out of body experience.
*Why a solo record and why now?*
I guess the main thing was to break this four-year pattern that we have with Justice. We spend a year and a half in the studio and then we spend six to eight months working on the live shows. And then we spend more or less a year and a half touring.
So far it’s served us well, but yeah, just the fact that in the end, you're spending four years with the same music. Obviously it’s a different experience and we're always giving the live version a different form from the records, but in the end you're a bit stuck with your twelve tracks for a long period of time. I guess what I wanted to do was to make more music, and not especially spend too much time on it, just to keep it fresh and exciting.
*How did it compare to working on a Justice project?*
We worked in a very different way this time around. I worked with Victor le Masne and Michael Declerck, two very good friends of mine… Compared to the Justice process where we can always amend things and rework and spend a lot of time on everything because we're working at home and there's no time limit, when we're in a real studio, like Motorbass, we just had to make more radical decisions. We couldn't really mess around. And I guess it's a good way, at least for me, to work in some kind of emergency, Just because it's a bit more challenging.
Also you're more focused and you have to get what needs to be done. For example, we needed to do three tracks in three days. We had to leave the studio with something that was pretty finished. It was a different process in that aspect.
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*I understand elements of the record were inspired by library music. There's a real sense with this record that it feels like a soundtrack to an imaginary film.*
Whether it’s soundtracks or library music, it's made to serve a purpose… There is a part of it that is functional and most of the time when I talk about functional music, I’m always thinking about club music, but this time around it serves the purpose of emotion. It has to be very clear… I guess when directors look through library music to illustrate their images, if they need something very sad, it’s very sad. If they need something very epic, it’s over the top epic. And I guess this is what I like and also what we like in Justice is to never be in the middle of the road in terms of emotion.
*Film has obviously influenced you guys a lot over the years – the distinctive Tenbrae sample on 'Phantom' first springs to mind. How important a role has film played in influencing your sound?*
It's funny, because most of the soundtracks I love, I’ve not seen the movie. And I guess it's the same principle with movie posters or record covers. Most of the time, I’m way more excited by the fantasy of what the movie could be just looking at the poster, or what the music could sound like when you look at the record cover.
I guess there is something that really fascinates me in the sci-fi imagery from the sixties, seventies and eighties… To be fair, most of these movies are not very good, but I really love that potential movie that you’re making in your head when you first see a movie poster. I guess there is something very utopic in all the music and design of that era that speaks to me. There's something very innocent and genuine about this kind of possibility that life could be better elsewhere in space.
And I guess this kind of hopeful era got kind of destroyed with punk music. I really love punk music for what it brought to the table and obviously, people were burning disco records for a reason, but punk also brought cynicism into music. And I guess what I like about everything that happened before is this kind of innocence and naivety.
*Stark iconography has played a big part in your identity as Justice. Can you expand on the visual elements that make up 'Escapades' in terms of its overall aesthetic?*
To me, it always goes hand in hand with the music. Also, it's important for me to bring something that will create some kind of visual atmosphere around the record and to orientate the perception of the music… I was thinking about this the other day, how all these ambient Japanese records that are in some ways interesting, but most of the time if you take a great looking cover, the fact that it was made in Japan, the fact that it was made with this synthesizer or whatever, if you take it out of context, then it's just some music you will hear in a massage parlour, you know? And I guess it's always important to put some elements of stimulation for people's imagination.
But also this is why I never explain too much about the music or the titles… Everything has to have a very open meaning. This is why there are no lyrics either - without language or without lyrics, they will be able to put more of themselves in to the music… Everybody has a completely different experience and it's very subjective. I guess this is what’s interesting - this gap between what you think you've done when you're doing a record and how people will interpret it.
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*This is going back a few years now, but you worked with your friend Mr. Oizo on his film Rubber, which was absolutely nuts. What's it like working with Quentin [Dupieux]? He's got a reputation as something of an auteur, much like yourself. What's he like to work with?*
Yeah, I mean, the great thing about Quentin, working with him, we definitely have the same sense of humour and we’re not taking ourselves too seriously. And I guess there's always this element of playfulness that is very important.
But the Rubber soundtrack was made a bit in a hurry, so we didn't spend too much time on it, just because that's the way he works in general. He really loves to stay in that state of emergency and to never lose the pleasure of the first draft and the first idea. And so this is why the Rubber soundtrack is what it is, but I think it really fits the movie and this kind of weird barrage of midi music fits this weird movie.
*I understand you recorded a large portion of the record at Enterprise using a synth that Yes used. You also recorded at Motorbass, the late, great Philippe Zdar’s studio. How important was it for him to be a part of this record?*
Yeah, because Victor and I have worked with Zdar a few times and he was also a very close friend… I mean for us it was just natural to go there and to keep his studio alive. Also, it happens that it’s one of the best studios in France, but the studio was really his baby. He spent so much time collecting the best gear, the best synthesizers and it goes even further. Because he was a huge fan of design, he was always looking for the best lamps, the best chairs. He was really honing every detail and so it's a wonderful place to work in. I guess we were a bit like kids in a toy shop, just trying everything that was possible.
And I guess, yeah, it was the best way to pay some kind of homage to Philippe because he was always he was he was always there with us in the studio in some way like, just with pictures of him. The thing was with Philippe, everybody that worked with him really loved the experience, because he was definitely a larger than life character… It was never gloomy or sad. It was just very joyful and definitely a good way to continue what he has done with this studio.
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*You’ve been affiliated with Ed Banger Records for many years now. From the outside looking in, the label has always seemed like one big family. How important has that support network been to you over the course of your career?*
I guess it's true that we are in a very lucky position because we have the freedom of being in a very smaller label with the means of a major and structure like Because [Ed Banger’s distributor]. And I'm really not saying it to big up my record label or whatever, but it's true. Nobody ever questioned this record, and they were all very supportive. And I guess it's definitely rare - putting out an instrumental record in 2021. I mean, to me, it completely makes sense and I don't find it weird at all. But from a record label point of view, it means you won't be played on radio, and you're cutting yourself from a few medias.
But then, I think this record is somehow easy to access, you know? It's not easy listening, but it's just something that is universal. It's melodies you can sing along to. I don’t know if I succeeded in doing that, but I tried to make it not abstract, not too experimental, not too off putting - just because it’s the music that I like and I guess everyone likes a melody or a mood that provides simple emotions.
*You guys had a really weird start to the year with the whole Justin Bieber thing where he appeared to have stolen the Justice logo. Can I ask what’s going on there?*
Yeah, it’s still in the process. So we don't really know how it's gonna end up. But I mean, it's just a bit funny how really big artists think they can steal stuff. And in some ways, like, why would they care, because they can just get away with it, you know? So I guess it's just a matter of temper and a way of seeing things.
*It's a weird one. I hope it pans out well for you guys. Finally, I understand you’ve been back in the studio with Xavier again recently. 'Woman Worldwide' felt like a defining statement for Justice. What's next for you guys?*
We’re working on the next record. I guess we never really stopped making music, even when I was doing my own record. We worked on various projects and I guess some of them will be released. Some of them won’t. But I guess it was very challenging and interesting to work on some other stuff than making an album. It really got us out of our comfort zone and I guess that was for the best.
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'Escapades' is out now.
Words: *Paul Weedon* // *@TwoTafKap*
Justice’s co-founder keeps things suitably epic with his solo debut...