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  • Interview: Justice

    Wed, 02 Apr 2008 15:49:29

    Through a plume of cigarette smoke, one half of Justice, Xavier de Rosnay, exhales and muses, "This venue looks like Indiana Jones. I feel like we're playing Disneyland. It's cool, though." He's dead-on with the Indiana Jones reference. The Mayan in downtown Los Angeles looks exactly like the Temple of Doom with its tiki paneling and odd shape. Xavier pulls the shade down on the tour bus's window, and big surprise, lights another cigarette. At this point, his more reserved counterpart, and the other half of Justice, Gaspard Auge, jokes, "We're going to try really hard to find some humans to sacrifice and take their hearts" [laughs]. They won't have to look too hard for hipsters to sacrifice, because four hours before doors at the venue open, there's already a gaggle of tight jean-wearing, clove smoking 20-somethings lined up at the front entrance to the venue.

    Justice have attained the certifiable status of electronica titans. They are the MySpace generation's compliment to Daft Punk. After making a big splash at Coachella 2007, Justice have caught everyone's attention primarily, because they aren't just sterile techno machines. Their bombastic stage show channels Iron Maiden more than it does DJ music. From the giant fluorescent cross to the stacks of Marshall amps, Justice are about as metal as it gets.

    Despite their immense popularity and the success of their debut, Cross, Justice are a couple of pretty regular dudes from France. They do dig Iron Maiden as well as '80s flicks. Really, they just want to put on a good show. Xavier and Gaspard spent some time with ARTISTdirect before wowing the sold out crowd. They also smoked a few cigarettes, just a few though.

    Given your huge L.A. following, do you feel like L.A. has given you a lot of love?

    Xavier: Yeah definitely, but we're also giving love to L.A. This is a city that we love to hang around in. Every time we come to the U.S., L.A. is the city that we spend the most time in. We play tonight, and then we're going to stay here six days. We always try to spend at least one week here, because we love this city, and we have loads of friends here. There is always something crazy or cool happening every time. We definitely love it.

    There' always something going on in this town. A good time will always find you whether you're in the market for one or not.

    Xavier: It sticks with you. French people make up a lot of things about America, and L.A.'s definitely like the ultimate "American" city. It's exactly how we imagined it when we were kids, and it's pretty cool. We love it.

    Gaspard: Especially for us French people, it's like being in a movie, because we always watched movies and '80s series growing up. It's all coming true in one city.

    It reminds you of Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon.

    Xavier: [Laughs] Eddie Murphy could be right outside the window driving by, and it would be normal.

    Coachella last year was also really important to Justice. What was that like?

    Xavier: It was cool, and it's still one of our best gig memories. Even though it was our first concert ever, because we used to DJ only. That was the first time we were doing a live show. Essentially, we weren't prepared to do it. We didn't rehearse. Maybe two days before, we practiced in Palm Springs. We went on stage to play this concert, and nobody knew most of the songs, because the album wasn't out yet. We didn't know how to use the equipment, which made things stressful. On the set, we had tons of Post-its that said what does what [laughs]. For sure now, if you listen to the Coachella live show, it's not that good, but the atmosphere and response we got from the crowd were really cool. Then after that concert, we felt really relieved. That was definitely one of our best memories ever.

    Gaspard: It was important for us to break in the U.S. with that definitely.

    Cross is so epic that it almost feels like a heavy metal record. It's got a much bigger vibe than the average electronic album.

    Xavier: That's cool! In spirit, I think so. It's cool that you say that, because there's a big misunderstanding. It's not a big deal. People see us as a techno band that sounds like metal. For us, I think we're just a disco band that looks like metal or feels like metal. We don't really feel that. As you said, I think the rock n' roll thing or metal thing is more a part of the vibe. That's what we like in metal—that epic-ness. It's a really nerdy and epic feeling. It's a feeling of being invincible and fighting.

    It's more Manowar than it is Pantera.

    Gaspard: [Laughs] Exactly.

    Xavier: We also called the last song "One Minute to Midnight" after Iron Maiden's "Two Minutes to Midnight."

    Justice could also play with metal bands. Do you think you have a certain adaptability live?

    Gaspard: It's true. The very cool thing about the crowd we have in the U.S. is they are very diverse. It really goes from the 18-year-old girl to some old metal guy.

    Xavier: At festivals, sometimes we'll play the rock stage, sometimes we'll play the electronic stage. That's a good thing. It was not meant to be on purpose. Maybe it's just because pop music for us goes from Snoop Dogg to Metallica and Pantera. We love rock and roll, hip hop and folk, even though what we do doesn't necessarily sound like all of those. I guess we do have an adaptability on stage. I think the more you are into music, the less difference you see between the styles. You know the differences, but it's all the same. When you are a kid and you start listening to music, you just listen to one type of music. However, when you get older you find more types of music. In countries like America or England, people are much more open-minded than in Germany where there isn't such a big musical culture.

    Where do the songs start for you guys?

    Xavier: We write everything with a piano always. Then once it sounds good with a piano, we produce everything. When you write songs with a simple thing like a keyboard, you don't have the production to entertain you. So it has to sound exciting with just one sound, and you have to have a lot of changes in just one track. Then you can add bigger beats, harmonies, layers and high hat. That's why it sounds like it does.

    Did you have one concept in mind for the whole album?

    Xavier: Definitely, each song on the album is a gap between the previous track and the next one. They were all made like this. For example, "New Jack" is a gap between "D.A.N.C.E." and "Phantom." We knew what the song at the beginning would be and the end would be. We made "Genesis" as a beginning and "One Minute to Midnight" as an ending song. The second track comes into "Genesis" with the same sounds as "Genesis," but then it goes into something different.

    It was important for the sounds to connect.

    Gaspard: Yeah, definitely we needed to do that.

    Xavier: With electronic music, you don't have to make albums. We could've made EPs for the rest of our career, and maybe that would've been cool. It's really hard to figure out how to start an electronic music album. Electronic music is really cool to DJ, because you're just mixing it and you can play one minute of each song only. However, on an album, that becomes boring really fast. When we started this album, it was important for us to have an idea for the whole album and not to just lose ourselves in it. That was our biggest fear. We didn't want to make something that was too long, boring and abstract that only producers could listen to. That's why we made all of these efforts to make something that is listenable.

    How'd "The Party" with Uffie come about? That definitely changes up the album.

    Gaspard: It was just because we wanted to feature some of our friends.

    Xavier: We knew Uffie, because she was DJ Feadz' girlfriend. We knew her before she started to sing. When we first heard her singing, we were obsessed with making her a pop song, because Feadz and Mr. Oizo were making her rap songs. They were playing more with grooves and stuff like that. So we wanted to make her first mellow song. For two years we were thinking of that. Then when we were about to work with her, we wanted her to write lyrics that sounded like a night with Paris Hilton in the clubs. They would be really silly lyrics covered with music that is kind of melancholic and smooth. That way it would make the lyrics sound really sad actually. Depending on the music you put behind this, it could be a really silly, teenager party song. However, it's kind of somber. We thought it would be cool to twist Uffie's character a bit. So in the end, it sounds like an after-party song. It's like we're thinking of her alone in a messed up hotel room….

    Gaspard: With needle holes in her arms [laughs].

    Do you think Justice represents film scores in a way?

    Xavier: Electronic music is instrumental most of the time, so you don't have lyrics or any narration. To organize all the songs like a soundtrack allows you to bring back narration when you don't have any. To do it this way can bring images to you without having lyrics.

    You can listen to Cross in the club or on headphones. It's got that range.

    Xavier: Thank you, it's cool. That was on purpose. This album was made for home listening more than the club. Most of the songs on this album aren't really dance-y. Now, you can play it in the clubs, because people know it enough that they're happy to listen to it. When we play live shows, we play simpler, one-way versions of the tracks. At home it's more a record. The main thing is that most of the tracks are impossible to perform live unless you just press play. The work we did in the studio for this album is a really complicated collage of things. We have all of the elements from the album, beats, bass lines and everything, and we can put everything together so it matches. We find the best sequencing for the lights and everything like that.

    Has the stage show evolved?

    Gaspard: It definitely does. Like "D.A.N.C.E." doesn't change music-wise, but since we've toured in 2008, we've changed the way we make music on stage to make it sound different. We try to improve the way we play music on stage to make it sound bigger—more living and breathing. We bring the show to life more.

    It seems like you become larger-than-life characters on stage. Would you say that's the persona you adopt when performing?

    Xavier: You think so? Maybe because we're drunk, I don't know [laughs]. We still feel really shy, and it could've been cool for us to have characters, but we know our limits as frontmen. If you say so it's cool! We never see us on stage and we always avoid watching videos after. One thing that's really sure is that it's really natural, and we are still really shy [laughs].

    —Rick Florino

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