Music interview: French house pioneer Alan Braxe prepares to head for Leeds

Alan Braxe. Picture: Laura Favali
Alan Braxe. Picture: Laura Favali
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Alan Braxe is one of the pioneers of French house music, who was one third of the production trio behind the multi-million selling Stardust hit Music Sounds Better With You. He’s gone on to found his own label, Vulture Music, and remix songs by the likes of Beyonce, Goldfrapp and Kylie Minogue.

On Friday he will DJ at Studio 24 in Leeds, in support of local charity Music and Arts Production and the Last Night a DJ Saved My Life Foundation.

You’re DJing at Studio 24 in Leeds soon. What attracted to you to this event and this city?

So first the city. Leeds is such a creative place... there always seems to be so much going on. With this event we also wanted to get away from the traditional DJ circuit and take the sound somewhere new. It’s a night for friends and locals, both behind the decks and in the crowd! I’m so excited to have local guys Sonic Sahara involved I think their sound and vibe is really cool. Plus the other DJs are really great both musically and as people. Have you seen the venue? It’s absolutely incredible! My dream space and I cannot wait for the night, it’s going to be really special.

Your first single, Vertigo, is now 20 years old. It became a big club hit thanks to the Virgo Mix by Thomas Bangalter, who you again worked with on Music Sounds Better With You. Do you look back on that era with fondness?

I don’t like to look back too much, but that I do feel nostalgic for that time for a couple of reasons. It was such a carefree time, making music and not questioning it and working outside of the establishment was just really fun. Also the way of producing music without a computer was just really exciting because we were much closer to the instruments and machines. Yes there were lots of limitations and less choice than now, but those limitations forced you to be very creative.

I like to improvise and match the mood of the night – I think that’s the best part of DJing – interacting with the crowd and living in the moment. An exact moment, in an exact place and at an exact time.

Alan Braxe

You went on to launch your own record label, Vulture Music, and created the hits Intro and Rubicon with Fred Falke. Did you have any particular aims for the label when it began?

Yes, of course. The main objective was to have the ability to produce and release the music with total freedom but with a complete focus on the craft. The plan was never to develop the label over time – it was all about getting the music out at just the right time, when it was relevant and made sense. The Vulture has been sleeping recently, but it’s not dead!

You have remixed tracks by the likes of Bjork, Britney Spears, Goldfrapp, Kylie Minogue, Beyonce and Jamiroquai. What do you look for in a song when you are approached by an artist or record company about the possibility of working on a remix?

The remix jobs I find the most interesting are the ones when the original material is a long way from dance music. That provides the creative challenge. For me the critical element is the original vocal – you have to do the vocal justice and you must use it in the remixed version. Remixes are a big thing for me and I’ve recently been asked to judge the B Side project, which connects new talent with original artists and the industry. There are some amazing judges on the panel so it’s a real honour.

You began DJ-ing with Kris Menace in 2006. Has your set constantly evolved over the years? And are there certain tunes that you know are guaranteed to get people dancing?

Yes – but my set is always evolving. Above all I like to be eclectic. Over the course of a two-hour set there has to be softer moments and harder moments and that has to evolve. I don’t prepare my sets. I like to improvise and match the mood of the night – I think that’s the best part of DJing – interacting with the crowd and living in the moment. An exact moment, in an exact place and at an exact time. By definition you can’t replicate that and it’s magical. There are some tracks that always make people dance, but there’s nothing worse than using them at the wrong time. It’s like forcing people to dance and it works for five or 10 minutes and then it falls down. I think the most important thing for a set is to build a story with different levels of intensity, explore tracks with the audience in real time and then hit them with a banger which brings it all together.

Are you working on new music of your own at the moment and, if so, how does it sound (in comparison to your older work) and can we look forward to hearing any tracks soon?

Watch this space! This is the most exciting thing for me at the moment. We’ve put together a new team and our main focus is to get some new Alan Braxe music out there. In terms of style it will be a departure from the French Touch Sound, and maybe more ‘electronic’. It will be uncompromising but still be cool, relevant and will hopefully eclipse what we’ve done before. There’s also a collaboration with DJ Falcon which I’m really excited about which will be dropping soon.

Alan Braxe and Sonic Sahara play at Studio 24 on Friday July 21. https://www.skiddle.com/whats-on/Leeds/Studio-24/Alan-Braxe-Studio-24/13003941/

For more on Alan Braxe visit https://alanbraxe.com

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