I recently did some research in what I call my laboratory. In other words the place where are stored my documents such as pics and interviews which I recorded on tapes back then. But also magazines I used to write for. This being how I came to have a listen to a conv I managed to have with famous DJ/producer François K. A man speaking of whom no feature had been done about him on these shores as of yet. And although it’s dating from what could seem like the Middle Age to many of you, I decided to give it a go. As what we get from it still sounds timeless almost 20 years after. Just like most of the music he’s been producing or remixing since his early days as a matter of fact…
I remember how I got impressed at the perspective of meeting a man whose name (in long) – François K (evorkian) – is synonymous with Disco gems which he mixed back in the day for record labels such as Prelude Records and Salsoul. A man whose name brings us back to the golden age of DJing. Eventually playing the drums at the club where the late Walter Gibbons was spinning. When not with Larry Levan, soon before his death. But also standing as the only one ever officially appointed by Kraftwerk to remix their repertoire. Thus standing as a sign of an undeniable versatility from his early days…
François K and I first met like back in 1996 during the Winter Music Conference in Miami where he was DJing. Embodying what appeared to as say the missing link between Disco and House Music. If not further, as he showed it years after when venturing into spacey Future Dub vibes. This would be the first in a series of regular meetings we had each time I managed to come to the Big Apple. Either at his office, or at the club – Body & Soul – where he was sharing the mixing duties along with Joe Claussell and Danny Krivit. Enlightening the Sundays of music lovers who were getting there the way others would go to the church at morning time.
The least I could say about your blends behind the decks is something like expect the unexpected!
“If thinking of those countless one-dimensional tunes one can hear here or there, I guess you can forget about it, as far as I’m concerned! I suppose I’ve simply managed to be more selective along with time. Not to mention the experience I had at Body & Soul along with Danny and Joe. With the three of us building a strong data base where we could grab the music we play in accordance with our to our respective sensibilities. There are tunes of course I would play for a mainstream crowd, but this is not what I’m into.
I wanna play music for people who love it and like to dance as opposed to simply come to be seen at a specific event. I wanna play music for people who want to gather around quality vibes.
I’ve got enough of those things sounding like endless intros…”
Should a piece of music you play suggest you images?
“Not necessarily. It’s more a matter of contrasts, movement and evolution. A set is a trip whereas things are expressed. A piece of music doesn’t necessarily have to stand on its own there. But more be a part of a story that is told.”
One word about the yearly Winter Music Conference…
“I never expected to be doin’ business there. For that, better go to MIDEM back then. The WMC for me is more synonymous with sun and the pool where I like to go with my people. Most of the times when I happened to attend to parties there, it felt like so the same uninspiring thing unfortunately. And I would say this has a lot to do with the fragmentation of music. It’s a little bit like people you would hear in Paris saying things like: “You Know, I only do things in the 13 th District”. Or Me, “I only play Hip-Hop or I only play House. I only do this, I only do that!” Just like horses only able to see in front of them because of their eyes covered with blinkers…
I’m not even sure if it has something to do with the DJ’s themselves. It could be coming from people who don’t want to hear diverse things in clubs. That said, I’m not criticizing. I just keep on doin’ my thing and done…
We started Body & Soul back then with the aim to be able to play everything that comes to mind in front of people sharing this state of mind. Anything could happen!”
What do you see as different since your first remixes for Prelude or Salsoul? The production itself, the fact that there are way less musicians and more people using machines?
“The first thing coming to my mind would be the lack of ideas. I guess I’ve had the time to think about it along all these years. I tend to figure there were people back in the day who had like a rich vocabulary with thousands of words which helped them to talk precisely to each other. Meanwhile you would see now a majority people like stammering, repeating the same word a 100 times because of a vocabulary almost reduced to zero.
One would play real solos back in the day as opposed to nowadays with people playing 45 times the same note of a solo. Maybe because the ones who come up with pieces of music simply don’t have the necessary intelligence to create. And if not the intelligence, the desire, the will.
Like it or not, Nowadays’s musical culture was born from mediocrity. With the arrival of people considered as heroes although owing everything to their machines. It’s as if Jazz musicians all of a sudden decided to limit themselves to two single notes!
Don’t get me wrong as there are still talents here or there. But the vast majority of the releases are boring. And when we say boring, we’re still cool…
I’ve been venturing into electronic music and could notice interesting sides from repetitivity at times. But whenever you repeat yourself just because there’s nothing else you can do, it’s really where it hurts. No wonder why people don’t buy music anymore!”
Which is quite sad, even though not surprising at the end…
“There’s always been mediocre music around, but also quality a little bit from everywhere, although you have to search for it. Also let’s not forget that, due to the production costs back then, people had to get into a studio with a canvas, a song. Meanwhile anybody can put out a track today, saying “Alright, I’m responsible for this and a friend of mine said to me it was off the hook, so I’m gonna release it and we’ll sell 50 copies!!!” As as a DJ myself, I’ve got to listen to everything in order to make myself an idea as to what’s good or not…”
How about Internet…
“A bit early to say for the time being (This conversation dating from 1996, as a reminder!). Although no doubt as to how it will change a lot of things once its capacities will allow people to have a high speed connection and buy music…”
Which is synonymous with the death of the vinyl as a medium…
“I’m not sure. It’s too early to say that the vinyl record is dead. I mean if ever an archeologist decided to come to my place to sort of make an inventory of what I have from CD’s to DAT’s, the real to real tapes and whatsoever, the only thing that would still be alive in a 1,000 years time is the vinyl record. I think it’s way too early to pretend that the vinyl record is over, coz’ it has that physical thing. That tactile thing that people love…”
I was more thinking in terms of objects in general…
“Internet will be of help for isolated people without a doubt. This said, it will never replace the finished product…”
François K with Joe Claussell and Danny Krivit – Body & Soul 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Body & Soul)
François K with Joe Claussell and Danny Krivit – 15 Years Of Body & Soul (Body & Soul)
François K – Choice – A Collection Of Classics (Azuli)
François K – Essential Mix (London Records)
François K – Deep & Sexy (Wave Music)
François K – Renaissance: The Masters Series Part 19 (Renaissance)
Interview: François K