I call up Julien Briffaz of French group Bot’Ox on a dull grey Thursday afternoon. But there’s been some bad news: his bandmate Benjamin Boguet has broken his arm in a bicycle accident. Terrifying news for anyone, but as a DJ, just before the promotional tour of your debut record? It could be disastrous. Luckily, Julien laughs it off “besides that, all’s fine!” and says he always tried to look on the bright side. Turns out their manager, Benoit, did the same thing too recently, but it doesn’t phase Julien. With a classically French deadpan “I myself walk”, the interview begins.
PlanetNotion: How did you meet Benjamin and start making music as Bot’Ox?
Julien Briffaz: We were studio mates, sharing a place in Paris where there were seven artists’ studios. Both of us had one and we met there, just joking around and then we got to know each other better. I saw that he had loads of records and knowledge about music, which sparked conversations, and we realized we had a lot of visions in common.
PN: What was the concept behind Babylon By Car – it all seems to be based on cars?
JB: Yeah, the car is a strong element in our visuals. Cars are a strong symbol of the modern era, and so we try and play with this to see what kind of beauty we can make with it. It might change for the next album, but it works great for now. It’s not, however, a reaction against the car: they are a symbol of the industrial era, which is, in a sense coming to an end, as is society as we know it. We see our music as a soundtrack for the future; a meeting between analogue and digital, which shows where our music is going for the next few years.
PN: What car do you have?
JB: Ha, actually neither of us drive and we don’t even particularly like cars!
PN: Given the nature of the record, it must be somewhat amusing being the soundtrack to a Peugeot commercial then?
JB: Being in a nationally-transmitted ad has been instrumental for us: giving us TV, radio, MySpace hits and other opportunities that wouldn’t have happened has the ad not featured our music. It’s been great timing for the release of the album too! Seriously though, if you want to make a living from your music it’s the only way. Selling records is over, and we are not well-known enough to sell out gigs, so licensing is the best way.
PN: What music are you listening to at the moment?
JB: Myself and Benjamin are massive collectors of vinyl, and we’ve been digitising everything to make a big sampler. We listen to loads of music, it’s very important to us is to listen to a lot of different things. Benjamin is obsessed, and every day he makes me listen to thousands of records, and it can make your head explode, but we are consuming a lot of music. It’s mainly old stuff, but we are interested by modern artists too.
PN: How’d you split the work between the two of you?
JB: When we work on music, I used to be, and still am a drummer, so I’m kind of allergic to technical stuff! I do parts of it, making the studio work well and dealing with the beats, while Benjamin is more into the melody, but of course we do everything together.
PN: You’re both heavily involved with the electronic scene (based in Paris Republique district) too, right?
JB: Benjamin’s label sees him working with loads of electronic artists, like Azari, and Yuksek, but he runs the label solo. We do share a studio with Para One, and everyone lives nearby so we are in the studio six days out of seven usually!
PN: How has the electronic music scene in Paris changed in the time since you’ve been involved with it?
JB: Ed Banger is much heavier now than a few years ago, but in fact I am happy about the French scene, there’s lot of stuff going on. I’m not really into the Ed Banger sound; they are friends of ours, but it’s just not our type of sound. We don’t want to be purely electronic music, and we’re open to other scenes. We’re more like an indie band really, there’s five of us on stage, and we try to do the album live without too many samples or synths. We don’t want to be pigeonholed as electronic musicians.
PN: Do you prefer live mixing and performing or being in the studio?
JB: For me, the studio by far. I don’t like to travel that much, it’s exhausting to tour, and I like my life to be really quiet. My ideal would be going to the studio from 10-8, and then back to my place.
PN: Is there anyone that you’d like to work with in future?
JB: We worked with Judy for this record; we were fans before, and it worked out fantastically with the album. We prefer to work with our close friends, the guys we want to work with are the guys we see every day. For me making music is all about working with your friends, so for me if you have to spend 10 hours in a room it has to be with someone you like. It is a job, but I try to have the most fun possible!
PN: What’s next – is there a possibility of you guys coming to the UK?
JB: Yeah, we’d love to but we’re waiting for a good opportunity. Gigging in the UK is hard; in France you get quite well-paid for your gigs, but if we toured in the UK then we’d almost certainly lose money! We’re basically waiting for the album to be released and get some credibility before it happens. It’s a big cultural difference between the UK and France, but we’re just trying to get ourselves better known, and work on promoting the album.
Interview by Seb Law