The confusing transition from nu rave to progressive rock


By Carolina Velasco

“Horsepower”, the opener of Justice's new album, starts to play and one immediately asks oneself if they got the wrong record. It sounds epic and yes, it's vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd. But no, nobody shouts anything about teachers and kids that need to be left alone. Instead, the French duo's trademark guitars and dirty synths come in. But the influence from prog-rock and eighties music is there: this is Justice alright, but it's not the Justice of “ D.A.N.C.E.”. Not even remotely. If you're looking for a similar dance floor bomb, you'd better look elsewhere, because the closest thing to that is the single, “Civilization”. The rest of the album is a collection of broken beats, unusual melodies ( “Canon (Prime)” sounds like medieval music), risky style exercises and even a tribute to Brian May. “Audio, Video, Disco” (Ed Banger-Warner, 2011) won't only surprise the twosome's fan base, it's a real challenge for Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé themselves, who admit they still don't know how they're going to do this live.

On the other side of the line is the somewhat shy, serene and stuttering voice that doesn't sound like the image that exists of Gaspard. He speaks with a distinct French accent, talks about “musique” and pronounces “Justice” like “yusteece”. He sometimes says “oui” instead of “yes” and he's very friendly, unlike the image one could have of him based on the press photos, on which he looks like a lout Terry Richardson fan. Aware of the fact that it's not exactly an easy album, he confesses that with “Audio, Video, Disco” they wanted to avoid the “electro” label and that they don't mind that their music is used in Adidas ad, if that will attract a wider audience. Prog-electro for the masses? Time will tell.

Although you’ve been doing many things during these years it has taken you a lot of time to publish the follow up to “Cross”. Did you feel pressure after the success of your debut?

No, not really, because we toured for one year and a half and then we have been working on many things like [the documentary] “A Cross The Universe”, so we didn’t really have much time to think of the album.

For this album you have built your own studio. What did you need that you couldn’t find in other studios? Have you also mixed and produced the album yourselves?

Yes, yes, we wanted to have our studio in France so we chose a room with all the equipment we needed. It’s in a basement, it’s not like a professional studio; but then we have built everything by ourselves. For us it was easier than making the “Cross” record, because when we did that one we really didn’t know how things worked so it was a bit more painful. But with this one it was easier because the process was different. We were writing the music and then we played the instruments and recorded them. It was quicker, because we also wanted to have a full sound, to bring back some air and to fill the room with music. So it has been a bit different this time.

In the album there are some references to prog-rock music like Pink Floyd. Was it intentional, like a tribute or a reinvention?

No, we really don’t like prog-rock, but we like the idea of prog-rock and the instrumental music and some of the epic feeling it has. Everybody says that it sounds prog-rock, but for us it’s like pop music and there’s nothing like an 8 minute track, except for the last one (“Audio, Video, Disco”). For us is more like pop music. We have just used some ideas from prog-rock music, but it’s not something really new and it’s not like a tribute.

Actually the first feeling I had when I listened to “Audio, Video, Disco” is that it’s more epic than “Cross”, which was more hedonistic...

For this record we said we would use other samples like the sound of the ocean or things like that because we wanted to reflect the day. The other record, “Cross”, was a reflection of the night and the new one is like the sun and the daylight. So it’s more open and quieter in a way.

And how will you melt on tour this album with the other?

I don’t know, because for us it’s the continuation of the “Cross” record, but I also see that some music is more straight-forward and we have to make sure that it’s not a big change. But I don’t know... it could be possible to use a band but it’s not something we really like doing. We have to mix the new songs with the other music... I still don’t know, I’m not sure.

Your videos are a very important part of your music, and the one for the new album, “Civilization”, reminds me of “Planet Of The Apes” and even “Hello America” by J. G. Ballard. Were there any references you were working with?

Not really. We had some ideas but it was Edouard Salier [the director] who came with the final art and we liked the structures that blew away and we thought that it fit with the music. But we didn’t have in mind “Planet Of The Apes”, although we can see that some things are similar.

With “Cross” you did the video with Roman Gavras for “Stress” that turned out to be very controversial. Did you make it as a political statement?

No, for us it was nothing political. We just wanted a video that fit the track, and it’s a high and violent track, and we also wanted to use the aesthetics of hip hop and the violence of hip hop. I think if a hip hop band from New York had made it no one would have talked about it, but with us it was different.

To me, it reminds me a bit of that film, “La Haine”...

Ah, yes!

Justice is not only the music, but also the aesthetic: the videos, the artwork, the huge cross... What can we expect for “Audio, Video, Disco”?

Well, we’ll keep the cross for the record cover but in a new way. Less dark and more pastoral in a way. The artwork is like a link between the night and the day, so the cross will be like the dawn and there will also be light.

The beginning of “Parade” sounds a bit like Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Tribute or coincidence?

It’s not a tribute, it’s a very simple beat that sounds a bit like Queen, but it was something we wanted to do. There’s another track,“Brainvision”, which is a tribute to Brian May, because he is someone we both like.

Are you afraid of your audience’s reaction towards this album? If people are expecting another “D.A.N.C.E.” they might be surprised when they listen to “Audio, Video, Disco”.

Well, not really because on the “Cross” record all the tracks were very different to “D.A.N.C.E.”, which is a song that begins with kids and although it’s our most famous song it’s not like the rest of the record. The rest of the tracks on “Cross” are not really dance floor friendly. We really don’t care much about if it’s radio friendly or not. So we will see.

Usually trends in electronic music change faster than in rock. Are you looking for a balance between both styles?

For us it is a tricky thing, because we want to have the emotion of rock music and we try to bring back some of that emotion to electronic music. But I guess that the tag doesn’t matter: it doesn’t matter if it’s electronic or if it’s rock, for us it is about a good song or not, and we don’t care if they call us electro or whatever. There are many labels, and there is always a new fad.

Are you tired of being constantly compared to Daft Punk?

No. I understand that we’re both French and a duo and there are some common points. And there are not so many things going on in France.

During the time between “Cross” and “Audio, Video, Disco” you have composed music for Dior (“Planisphere”) and your music has been used in an Adidas commercial. Usually bands are very aware of brands using their music for ads. Obviously is not your case...

For Dior it was something we wrote for the presentation of the brand and we had to do something unique. It was fun. With the Adidas spot it was a favour for Romain Gavras: he was directing the ad and wanted to use our music, and he’s a friend of ours. But we really don’t care much about fashion. For us is a good thing to be in the clip, because more people will listen to our music and you can reach a much wider audience with a commercial.

You have also done a lot of remixes of other artist’s music. Is there anyone else you’d like to remix or work with?

Now we don’t make so many remixes, but we did it when we liked an artist or it was one of our idols. We just thought that it would fun to have our names together in the credits. It is fun.

Will you go on tour before the album is released or right after that?

We’ll be touring all over Europe at the end of the year. One of the most popular names in dance music, Justice, renounce their past on “Audio, Video, Disco”. Their second album takes them out of the clubs and into big stadiums, with a unique and bright revision of progressive rock, as if they were the new Queen.

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