Thursday, December 11, 2008

jacques renault interview

Jacques Renault - "Disco Galaxie"

Jacques Renault has already received accolades from Paper Magazine and the like and he works on numerous fronts, be it his own name, as Runaway, or with the DFA's Justin Miller as a tag-team DJ duo. His most recent edit appeared on the RVNG label and it was one of my favorites of the year. Over a slice at Marlowe and Sons, we talked about WMBX, Ian Svenonious, and of course, disco.

I played violin up through high school (before switching to viola). I didn’t get into the Velvet Underground until college. I played Carnegie Hall my senior year in high school, the All-American Orchestra. And at DePaul, I don’t want to be a professional classical musician. I did very well. I’ve always been interested in other stuff. I was really into DC hardcore stuff. I grew up in Maryland. So I was in love with that stuff. I played trumpet.

Did you play in punk bands, too?

I tried to do everything. you dabble in everything and in the end, you’re left hanging. All those stupid string and horn stabs, now I can record all that stuff.

A one-man disco band?

Exactly, layering strings and horns.

So you dropped out of music school. What prompted your change of heart?

Before I went to Chicago, I started going to this DC party called Cold Rice, the Make-Up's night, Ian Svenonious. I was hearing drum’n’bass, soul, and reggae, in the same night. After dabbling in so many things, I realized I could do this on my own. I got into the idea of DJing. Went to Art Institute and got into Sound Engineering class with David Grubbs. We’re doing tape loops. Nothing was Pro-Tools, I learned everything on samplers and tape blocks. The Pro-Tools was hard to wrap my head around. I just kept on DJing.

What did you start spinning?

I started doing soul and d’n’b and dancehall. There was a great night, Deadly Dragon Soundsystem, that’s here now. I bought house but didn’t get it, but I realized they were sampling disco.

What inspired you about disco? How did you move beyond your pre-conceived notions of it?

Hearing the hooks and stuff. Sampling of course was of interest to me. that producers were using these smalls bits for new things…Material, Metro Area, Danny Wang was a good example. I liked that stuff. The dirtiness of it. It’s similar to punk. Simonetti’s a punk kid, Love Fingers, we’re all old punk guys. How is it we’re all into disco ten years later? There’s still this…it’s limited, you can’t find it, there’s still the pleasure of finding that awesome record. Using it and being able to do something with it.

Does the stigma factor in?

Yeah. Maybe because we’re older too?

Is there a record geek aspect to the revival?

Definitely. There’s always been a little competition about who has what. The whole vinyl thing is important to disco. Oh, mine’s in mint condition. It’s like baseball cards. It’s ridiculous. There’s that geekiness, that’s maybe why. There’s that appreciation. You’re gonna go see Harvey DJ and you know he has it. It’s really amazing that someone has given that to music. Todd Terje did that same thing. He’ll make a comment about a record and suddenly (it goes up). Its interesting how many people pay attention to these things. It’s admirable how the network now works, a global network. Just how many people know my mixes or know what’s going on in New York.

Obviously disco came up in this gay Latino culture. but now it’s in indie rock. how do you feel about that shift?

It’s along the lines of people that admire that era. Mancuso’s still the guy. There’s a lot of respect for the actual sound quality. Maybe that’s part of the geekiness? How and why does it sound amazing? There’s so much attention to the mastering.

The warmth gets me. German techno isn’t moving me lately, it’s more clinical.

A lot of techno is so clean. It isn’t dirty enough. I like a lot of the sampling.

How did you learn about edits and their history?

I started listening to house and picked up re-edits, didn’t know what I was getting. I came out real backwards. I’ll just do this for fun. I only played vinyl. I had records I liked but I hated that one part so I made edits or extended certain things. I did Martin Circus that was too long and cheesy. I just took instrumentals and just played over them, Juno basslines over drum tracks. It was loose, which I liked. I tried to make edits that weren’t so recognizable. Trying to do something a little more unique that maybe more head-y people would recognize but I tried to make it my own.

Do you do edits that people know where they recognize what’s being done to it? Or is the mystery part of it?

There is a fine line. You shouldn’t be doing things that…there’s this unspoken ‘you shouldn’t repress something” that…there’s a want and desire for certain things, but maybe you shouldn’t do those. I feel like…I wouldn’t say something but it’s a bummer when something is a gem and doesn’t need to be edited. If you have a record that doesn’t need to be edited, then it shouldn’t be edited. There’s so much value to having that original. There’s an edit of Billy Ocean’s “One of Them Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)” but it doesn’t need it. or these Black Cock bootlegs (out now). There’s a lot of pride in having these. There’s a secretiveness, not wanting to share the music. But in this day and age…if someone asks me what I played, I tell them. there are people (and I respect the protectiveness).

If you wanted to hear certain edits, you had to go see that guy DJ to hear it.

It’s special who I give my edits to. A lot of people just post their edits online. I share with friends.

What do you look for in editing a song? what appeals to you about a song?

If there’s anything that appeals to me about a song…I’ll listen to a stack of records, if there’s something that catches my attention. I love the challenge of it. The fun for me is looking for anything that I can use, even beyond the break. I have a stack of records just to sample and edit. Half the time it doesn’t work.

Is it more a tool or a stand-alone work?

Half and half. There’s things that I strictly sample and build upon, to where you don’t even hear the record anymore. Or there’s a vocal hook that I restructure to make a new song. “Bad Skinned” was a record I found nothing about online. It’s not anywhere. I kept digging, nothing. It’s just some Eastern European band with all these weird effects. I only used an 1/8th of the track. It’s the worst song I ever heard, but the loops I made were amazing. It has the worst changes and I just cut and pasted different parts and made effects. Emphasized certain sounds.

Where does the edit go from here? Is it a calling card for other things, a springboard for your own productions?

Edits are a great output for showing a side of your creativity. Everything I’m doing (remixes, original music). With every edit, it’s an ode to the artist. You admire this piece of work so much you want to make it even better. It’s exciting that people are excited about edits and I hope it makes people pay attention. I hope people see my other work as well.