From Daft Punk to David Guetta, there's no denying that the French have dominated global dance music since the '90s. But aside from the aforementioned commercial stars, Paris is also home to a rich underground house music scene.
Take Franck Roger. Inspired by the enduring Chicago house legacy, the prolific DJ-producer and Real Tone Records boss has put out some of the finest international deep house cuts of the past 15 years. It follows that he's also a world-class selector who summons the diehard house heads without fail wherever he throws down.
Get a dose of proper French-flavored jacking beats courtesy of Franck Roger at Do Not Sit on the Furniture on Saturday. But first, find out what he had to tell Crossfade about the French touch, Real Tone Records, and getting back to his vinyl-slinging roots with a brand new label.
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Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music? Were you exposed to much of it while growing up in Paris?
Franck Roger: To live and grow up in Paris helps a lot to get into any kind of underground music scene -- depending which one you're into, of course. Back in the '90s, we had the Rex Club, which I used to go to, along with Le Queen. As a youngster, I used to go there very early, just to make sure they let me get in. I started to be in clubs every weekend, learn and see how the DJs used to play music: technically, the feelings, the karma behind the decks. Back in the day, you really had to know exactly every second of the tracks you would play, cause of no loops, no Serato or Traktor to help you to put two tracks together. That's how I learned -- the vinyl rules with two MK2s -- and it was great.
France didn't export much internationally popular music in past decades. But that changed with electronic dance music in the '90s -- from Daft Punk and "French touch", to the dance pop of Bob Sinclar and David Guetta, and underground house artists like yourself. Why do you think France excels so much at electronic dance music, while it hasn't in other styles of music like rock?
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I'm pretty sure some underground rock groups from France exported themselves, but in an underground way. Regarding electronic music, we have this culture since the early '90s for sure. We grow up with this US influence: Daft Punk with some famous Chicago producers, Bob Sinclar with some NYC artists too -- we always have some models that we really cherish. Same for me. Electronic music became famous for us way before we called it electronic. We used to be good disco producers, very interested also in New Wave music, which was very popular in Europe. Maybe it's a mix between all of this that make us curious these days, and so prolific.
What does French touch mean to you? Do you think France has made a unique mark on house music?
Yeah, back in the '90s it was called the French touch. Today, we still got our sound, with Daft Punk's new album, etc. We still are, and always will be, in the music scene. I don't think we still got a typical French sound -- I think every French producer now, I mean big names, just wanna make music featuring famous singers, becoming more popular, getting into the stage of big US producers. I will not be surprised if I see a collaboration between Rihanna and Guetta. Today, electronic music is everywhere, even in hip hop and R&B. It's even hard to describe what is what today -- hip hop made with 909 drum machines, etc. No rules make music so interesting theses days.
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At 38, you're a generation ahead of the younger crop of dance music artists coming up right now. What are your thoughts on the evolution of dance music in the last two decades and the scene today?
Technically, we went very far in production and DJing. It's crazy to see what you can do with a laptop only, or with a small box in the DJ booth, what you can do behind the decks. I come from the roots of both things. There are some good things and bad too -- evolution and experimentation always gives us good things and bad. Depends on your background, how you're gonna use them. Best is to be sincere to yourself and make the best music you can do. After all, if you're happy with it...
Did you have a concept or grand vision in mind for Real Tone Records when you set out to launch the label? What is your criteria for selecting artists and records to release? Are there any specific sonic ingredients you are looking for?
Not really. Signing new producers and interesting ones are the priority first. Known or unknown producers are not a criteria of selection -- music has to hit our soul first. This is what we did with many producers in the past, and this is also the role of a label: to put new artist in the spotlight.
What can fans expect from you next on the production front? Any forthcoming new projects or releases we can look forward to?
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I'm really focusing on my new imprint, Home Invasion, which is a vinyl-only label -- far away from the big MP3 websites which got too much music, so many genres that we don't even catch what is what, and where do we go. I'm going back to my first love: a unique piece of vinyl, this time stamped one by one, pressed in a limited quantity, with stronger music that can be sometimes deep, techno, acid house. I just wanna make what makes me happy and not be stuck in a box. I still wanna surprise the music lovers after 15 years of productions.
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Franck Roger. With Nikki V and Sean Levisman. Saturday, November 15. Do Not Sit on the Furniture, 423 16th St., Miami Beach. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-450-3809 or visit facebook.com/DoNotSit.