Bambounou’s 4:50 Minutes Walk to Excellence

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In a time where techno music gets increasingly disposable there are still artists who can impress by pushing things forward. The French producer Bambounou pledges to treat his music as an art.

4:50 minutes. That’s the time it takes Bambounou to walk from his home in Paris to his studio where he refines electronic dance music. Besides blending techno, house, African percussion and psychedelica from Monday to Thursday he is a member of the infamous 50 Weapons (R.I.P.) posse, plays DJ sets in front of ARTE cameras and does not make a big deal out of it. Despite his success and importance as I’d almost say one of the most innovative techno artists around, Bambounou is a genuine person and still seems to remain very humble about his work.

In September I invited him to my club series Tiefentanz in Vienna to get a glimpse of his current sound. We met at the beautiful Hotel am Brillantengrund and dug deeper into his musical background, talked about the French electronic music scene and even got a bit political about the strange world we live in today.

Laurent Garnier once said you are the hope of French techno. What do you have to say about that?

Wow. I’ve heard that already. Of course I’m honoured a guy like that giving me such a huge compliment. But I’m not very pretentious about that. I’m not thinking that I’m gonna be the next big techno guy. Of course I’m very glad that he said that and I’m gonna work hard for making good music and keeping up the values within the electronic music scene but I don’t think there is someone better than the other. Everything is subjective.

You are mostly described as techno artist. But you seem to have an affection to classic house music. ‘Excluding Natalia’ on Centrum could be a Kerri Chandler track. The whole ‘Feel Like This / Onto This’ EP sounds like a tribute to early house music. How did this genre influence you?

I’m influenced by lot of different genres. Not only techno or house. People who describe me as a techno artist just try to give me a label. But whenever I produce a track or do a DJ set I never think about doing a techno or a house set. I’m doing pretty much everything I want. But obviously house had a huge influence on my work. Just like techno. I was also influenced by the UK scene. The early dubstep stuff and everything from there had a big influence on me. I love a lot of music. But you know that’s my problem. I love too many things. I’m listening to a lot of stuff and try to blend everything in and then put it out.

Speaking of the UK scene. Your early productions like ‘Deepstaria’, ‘Nights’ or ‘Brawl’ have this strong UK Bass/Techno influence. Do you feel connected to the UK scene?

I don’t have an intense connection to UK producers which is a little bit strange given the similarity of the sounds. In France there isn’t a big movement like in Germany where techno is considered big or like in the UK where Dubstep, UK Garage or Drum ’n‘ Bass is dominant. I think in France we like to take everything from everywhere to make our own sound out of it. There are no defined genres. It might sound like UK Bass or whatever but it stands for itself. There are loads of interesting labels and people who are doing weird hybrid techno and house music. There is a really cool label from Lyon called Brothers From Different Mothers which is still very small but one of the best labels in France right now. Then there’s another cool techno label called CLFT Militia and there are many more small labels which are doing a great job.

How was it to be part of the 50 Weapons family?

I was a little bit scared. Because Shed was there and he is one of my favourite artists. It definitely made me think differently. I was able to release something on a different label that I would never think of before. It totally changed my way of producing and improved my sound. I was very free to do anything I want to experiment with. The Modeselektor guys are great and really nice. They really help you. They’ve been in the game for a very long time and they know how to do it. I learned a lot of them. 50 Weapons was a way for them to show that they are still techno and not just concentrating on their Monkeytown sound.

Contemporary French music is especially known for its early Electro and French House scene. There were these important acts such as Justice, Mr. Oizo, DJ Mehdi and certainly peaked with Daft Punk’s huge commercial success. Do you think electronic music in France will experience a similar international response in the near future again?

No, not really. Even though Daft Punk and Ed Banger were being independent at first they decided to get kind of commercial. The underground producers in Paris for example don’t want to get commercial. No one is there for the fame or the money. It’s just about releasing and putting out some good music. I’m not saying Ed Banger was there for the money. They obviously had some love for the music. But it was a different time. With the internet record sales don’t mean anything anymore. When Daft Punk released an album it meant something to sell a lot of records. If you do a record label now you won’t sell much. It’s just there to show what you can do. At the end people can listen to your stuff on Youtube or download it.

If you did a release with a completely different style of music, what would it sound like? What did you always want to do but never had the chance to?

That’s an interesting question I’ve never thought about that. I guess I would do some live stuff. Probably Funk, Black Metal oder Speed Metal. But I can’t play guitar for shit. With electronic music it’s different. I’m not saying I’m such a good producer I could do anything but with a little bit of work I can manage to produce pretty much anything I want.

Historically French people seem to have a rebellious mind. Does that affect you? Is the electronic scene in France political?

Rap music in France has always been political which is good. But electronic music doesn’t have to be political. It just has a simple and true message. It’s about dancing and feeling yourself. I think I stand more for that rather than claiming something. It’s about being confident in what you do, being happy and enjoying the moment.

Of course there is a lot of shit happening in the banlieue for example but it’s not as bad as the media is trying to make you believe. There is not some kind of war climate going on in Paris. It’s really chill. There are a lot of things to improve and to change obviously.

It’s not that I’m not caring what’s happening but I think the world is full of shit. In hard times people try to close up instead of opening themselves. I think that’s very sad. Rap music in that case can be effective as a political message. Electronic music is different because it’s more about opening yourself to other people.

Text by Kasun Jayatilaka
Photos by Dominik Geiger