Bambounou is undoubtedly one of the most well liked characters across the entire spectrum of electronic music. He has finally returned to the fore with his first EP in three years that dropped at the tail end of May and has more material on the way that will land on fledgling label ‘Lavibe’. Bambounou is back on the tip of everyone’s tongue, so it was only just for us to pick up the phone and give him a call, as he took a quick break from a stressful schedule to give us his take on everything from France to fashion.
Having obviously been avid followers of his colourful social media accounts we thought that given that it’s Men’s Fashion week in Paris, there’d be no one better in the business to talk style with than the Paris-based fashion icon himself. It turned out that we probably should stick to being a music magazine.
“I’m personally not really into fashion.”
Having kicked off the interview with full intentions to have rival content to Vogue for one of the busiest weeks of the clothing calendar, it turns out that we may have called the wrong person.
“Whenever I DJ I always dress the same. I have three pairs of pants and I always wear a white t-shirt, so I have like my uniform when I’m DJing, it’s faster when I’m packing!”, The 50Weapons-signee says, his grin pervading through the phoneline, “I couldn’t care how people dress, even if they’re DJs; it’s about whether they play good music. I just dress this way because it’s convenient for me. For example, I have three gigs this weekend and I just took 4 white t-shirts [laughs]. I know how I’m going to dress and I don’t need to think about it.”
With that abrupt start, I took my pen and scribbled out the remaining queries regarding what was hot approaching the summer season (This wasn’t a real question, in case you really think we went that far), attention swung from Paris fashion week, to the French nation’s admirable contribution to electronic music as a whole and whether growing up as an individual within the country had any effect on his maturation as an electronic artist.
“That’s a tricky question, for example in England there’s a huge radio culture; soundsystems coming from Jamaica and you have loads of stuff coming together. In Germany, there’s the history of the second world war and with the wall being destroyed there was loads of cultural liberation; they rediscovered everything exciting around that time. In France it was a little bit different because we’re in the middle.
“Obviously, there has been loads of social liberation [In France], but it’s more so the fact that we’re in the middle, we absorb everything. The biggest name that came out of France is Daft Punk, the biggest name in French House, and it’s basically filter disco on Chicago house beats.
“I don’t think I’m more [artistically] influenced because I’m living in France rather than if I was living in Ireland for example, but it’s an interesting one.”
Despite it being a relatively sunny day, I questioned whether Ireland’s incessant rain would have actually had an inspiring touch but Bambounou was quick to point out that he has an amicable relationship with the island, having been twice when he was younger as a foreign exchange student. Having played host to a French student some years ago in the isolated surroundings of Conemara, both the producer and I questioned for a minute whether we had actually crossed paths.
With that absurd tangent out of the way, it was time to pleasantly take on the question of house vs techno. Despite appearing alongside FJAAK, Truncate and Shed on Boiler Room Bambounou’s sound has never really been fully fledged techno, yet it’s still a far cry from being 100% house either. Laughing at the mention of this, he assures that it’s something he’s aware of.
“When they ask me where I’d play in Berghain, I say I’d stay on the stairs because it’s in the middle! I love music, I think producing music helped me understand it more so I’m not trying to close myself to it even more. I’m trying to discover everything I can possibly do sonically and emotionally.
“Everyone can do the music thing nowadays, if you have a laptop you can download whatever software and try and experiment. Sometimes some good stuff comes out, most of the time some really bad stuff comes out!
“There’s a lot of cool new stuff coming out. People have always been doing music but this new stuff, you can actually learn from it and I think most of the people that’re really reviving the 90s are trying to pay tribute to the people that started doing electronic music.”
Having spent the first half of our chat joking and laughing, he had quickly and seamlessly weaved himself quite seriously into an in-depth analysis of how music is made and how we’re consuming it. Then again, despite being relatively young, he has two albums under his belt on the now-defunct German label 50Weapons; two collections of work that aren’t just an extended collection of club hits, but pieces of work that go from A to B. Despite his accomplished work in the field of LPs, it isn’t something that interests him a huge amount going forward.
“I think that albums are obsolete. The format isn’t appropriate anymore. Everything happens very quickly, whether you have Spotify or Apple Music you can listen to music very quickly, consume it and then throw it away. It’s the same with albums unfortunately, but maybe it’s for the better. I don’t think I’m going to do another album, I’m going to do something maybe more approachable, not in terms of the music but the way you consume it. I’m still going to do 12 minute long tracks [Laughs]. With an EP it’s an easier to tell a short story whereas with an album it takes time and energy.
“I was obviously very happy when 50Weapons asked me to do albums on the label because it was a good exercise and something I hadn’t done before and I’m still very happy with the albums when I listen back to them.”
His relationship with 50Weapons was definitely an entirely positive one; the perfect home for his brand of techno that kind of but not entirely sounded like house. Having taken such an extended break from production since the label folded, it was worth asking whether it was coincidence or a case of feeling like there was nowhere to go for his unique sound.
“When the label ended, I didn’t release anything for quite a long time. I wasn’t less creative, I was just more critical of my work. I make loads of tracks that I think are OK and I play them in clubs. I put fake names on them, the stupidest names on them [Laughs]. I did like 5 or 6 tracks with some of the stupidest melodies I could think of but still maintained a kind of 90s synth vibe. I thought it was funny for some reason I don’t know!” He says, laughing inquisitively at his own act of self-deprecation. After being briefly sidetracked trying to think of aliases he had used in the past (That still exist on Soundcloud today), he gets back to what led to his hiatus from releasing music;
“Before I used to make music with more of a hip hop approach; sampling everything and tweaking the sound to get it to where you wanted it to go. I wanted to get a little bit more ‘extreme’ so I said I wasn’t going to sample anymore. I worked a lot on sound synthesis, which is really interesting and it made me discover a new range of possibilities to do music with.”
Before we got too in depth on what equipment he was using, we quickly flipped the script back in Vogue-direction, this time questioning whether DJs take themselves too seriously. Bambounou’s Instagram is a good place to go if you’re looking for obscure pictures of cranes (Yes, you read that correctly) or even more unpredictable pictures of his latest hairstyle.
“As a producer I think that’s the paradox. You don’t need other people to make the music, but you need other people for it to survive, so sometimes you have to take it seriously when you’re working.”
“In the end, we just make people dance, we’re not doctors, Floating Points is a doctor though!”
Laughing hysterically, his good natured approach is as clear as day. While his music will most definitely continue to be some of the most obscure and well thought out pieces of electronic sound floating about in the world, he isn’t going to back it up with a stone faced personality, despite the fact that you might find one of them near the stairs in Berghain too.
Photo Credits: Nicolas Olier
Bambounou’s latest EP, ‘Parametr Parkusja’ just dropped via Don’t DJ’s ‘DISK’ imprint, you can purchase it on vinyl or digitally here.