Stuart Price has taken a holiday; he isn’t producing pop stars anymore, and he has recovered his passion for DJing and dance music. Before his set at Sónar 2012, we spoke to him about fame, work, and the future of pop.
Stuart Price has been enjoying a long holiday for some time. It’s been thirteen years since he set aside his nickname Les Rythmes Digitales, although people all over the world are still dreaming of his return to that synth-pop discipline with breakbeats. After that, the Englishman began to use infinite pseudonyms to put out remixes, and even played around with guitars in the band Zoot Woman. But it wasn’t until 2005, when he was working as a producer on Madonna’s “Confessions On A Dance Floor” that his life took a radical turn. The totems of pop –from Kylie Minogue to The Killers– started to fight over him and for the first time, his name started to reach the masses hungry for nostalgic melodies (from the shadows, as it were). But that is all part of the past.
In 2012, Price has reclaimed Jacques Lu Cont, his alter ego in the booth, with two songs on his Soundcloud account. So, taking advantage of the occasion, we didn’t hesitate to contact him to try and get clarification on his plans for the future. But rather than clarifying it for us, he confused us even more. When asked straight-out whether he intended to resuscitate Les Rythmes Digitales, he sent us a lengthy but empty answer, playing dumb and leaving us none the wiser. There were some other questions that he answered similarly, which we haven’t included. We’ll spare you the “making of” for another time. So for now, don’t miss him at Sónar: this Friday, 15th June, closing the SónarPub stage at 06.00 am.
"I have a lot of pseudonyms because I like to constantly hide and have the music be a journey of discovery"
You recently made the decision to go back to the DJ booth again after some time away from it. Were you feeling nostalgic about DJing? What have you been missing all these years that you've mainly been producing for other people, remixing and touring?
It's about wanting to find something new. When I DJ I get ideas better than anywhere else. Maybe from the pressure to make something good or different. In the studio sometimes you can have too long to make something great. As a DJ you have to do it instantaneously!
For many years, you've used a long list of aliases for your productions: originally Jacques Lu Cont, and the Thin White Duke, Paper Faces, Man With Guitar... And then, when you did your stuff with Madonna, you were simply Stuart Price. Who exactly is Stuart Price, and what subtle differences or novelties are there when you use an alias?
It's a good question. I have a lot of pseudonyms because I like to constantly hide and have the music be a journey of discovery. When I produce records I feel the artist is the discovery and I help them, so it makes sense to use my most functional name!
Will you keep using side projects, or do you think it’s time to unify all your production under one name (or a couple of them)?
Always and forever! People often say it makes no sense.
Last February you posted two new tracks on SoundCloud, " Reload" and " Church". What are these tracks, exactly? Are they an announcement of a coming album by Jacques Lu Cont, or maybe old stuff that has found its way into the public domain?
They are new tracks, things I made just for DJ sets. No commercial releases, etc. I have more that are coming shortly and it's a nice process to have going with the DJ sets.
Besides that fact, what are the chances that you might release an EP, an album, a DJ-mix, any kind of major release, before the end of the year?
There are plans for a DJ mix, and more SoundCloud tracks this year.
2005 was a turning point in your career because of "Confessions". Before that, you were firmly established on the dance music circuit, but you weren't a worldwide star yet. After 2005, many things changed, especially when you started to work as a producer for bands like Scissor Sisters, The Killers, or artists like Kylie. Was it a major responsibility for you? (Because you almost stopped being part of the dance circuit).
It excites me to change direction suddenly - to bury inside the studio instead of DJing, and now vice versa. I am taking a 'holiday' from production to focus on new music and DJing.
Everyone tends to see the good parts of this kind of work, the glamour, the stardom, the Grammys and the red carpets, the money and the famous friends. What are the shadowy parts, that kind of stuff you'd like not to experience ever again?
I'd say to anyone that the important thing is to try to experience both - see the spectrum. In some ways it never gets better than being in a grubby van with your friends, and in some ways winning awards will be the height. Enjoying both those things is invaluable.
When working with a big name, how are the studio dynamics between you and the artist or the team that surrounds them? Do you feel like a true musical director, someone to be trusted, or is there a fight between the parts?
It is both! Although I am keen on making everyone feel they can make their best music. You create the environment and let that be the place you can make something. It's rarely a physical place, it's more psychological. It's not an area of expertise for me (psychology) but that's probably why I can act more instinctively there.
"I respect all those producers, their contribution to music is important"
If so, are you a tough fighter? Do you have arguments to make sure that your ideas prevail?
Of course - if you believe in something you should say so. But the important part is to make sure the music is talking, not the ego(s). The quietest voice in the room is often the one with the best ideas.
Many Madonna fans want us to ask you this: how's your relationship with her at the moment? Is there any chance you will go back to the studio for a future album or for musical direction on a tour?
Yes, it’s fine. We stay in touch as friends. We worked together a long time and that's a special thing.
Mainstream pop has been production-driven for many years and new artists have found their way to assist big stars with beats and tunes. Your ways were quite elegant, with a deep knowledge of 80s music, synthy and cool; but today, it seems that the most common pattern is the house vibe, trance riffs and noisy productions, like those on Dr. Luke and David Guetta (and The Bitters). Do you think you have a place in today's pop? Would it be comfortable for you to work under this paradigm?
I think if you question if you have a place in pop then the answer is no! Because you will be chasing a sound rather than creating it. That's why it's important to focus on something new and what you can try and create that inspires. I respect all those producers, their contribution to music is important.
What do you think of the pre-eminence of dance music over the whole spectrum of mainstream pop (including hip hop), especially in America? Is it actually good for dance music to go mainstream? Is that why you want to go underground again?
Yes, in a time of chaos there is no more exciting place to be! In some ways mainstream clubs are even more restrictive and formatted than pop radio, always a sign something new can happen! Music fans are discerning, they trust their ears and have the power because they vote with their attendance.