For many of you, Danton Eeprom will forever be known for his vocal collaboration with Radio Slave on 2008 techno piledriver ‘Grindhouse’. In fact, the Marseille-born producer has so much more to his game. Starting life in rock bands, Danton took the unorthodox route to house and techno, trying his hand at various sounds and styles, all the while engendering a restless, exploratory attitude within himself. Never one to rest on his laurels, MEOKO caught up with Danton at his London base ahead of the release of his sophomore LP, keen to mull over some of the finer details of his wayward existence
Hi Danton, thanks for talking to us. You’ve had a versatile, varied career to date. Where are you now in your musical endeavours? What’s exciting you sonically at the moment?
Hello there, MEOKO! Thank you for having me and congrats on your website, I really like the articles and content that you host. Where am I now? That’s a tough one but I’ll try to pinpoint my location the best I can. One of the key aspects of my musical path was to make the switch from working in other people’s studios to running my own place, which I had to build from scratch here in London. I needed the freedom that only a bespoke setup would give me to keep pushing the boundaries of what I can do. Now I’m free to experiment with 4-to-the-floor music as I always have, and also try my hand at the trademark crossover sound of London with British musicians and singers, notably with my Leave The Boy side-project. Now with the right tools, I can afford to try my hand at lots of different genres, and hopefully lend my services as a producer for other acts.
Tell us about your formative music years in France. It would appear you didn’t just have the customary introduction to US house and techno and go from there…
My involvement in house and techno production wasn’t what you could call a straight-forward affair. It came through a series of twists, turns, and backflips, starting with 7 years in a rock band learning the tricks of the trade and stage experience. Somewhere along the line I got into a fairly new movement at the time, namely the rave scene, so my first electronic music experience was an open-air, middle of nowhere, sunrise and all smiles one. Then gradually with a healthy dose of Laurent Garnier, DFA and regular trips to Berlin mingling with the EBM scene, I became a creature of the night, but one with a reasonable knowledge of what else was out there music-wise. I’ve also spent four years with a high-flying sound engineer honing studio skills, gaining invaluable experience for my day-to-day work. Living this many lives, I thought, would help me avoid being “just another cool kid who spins records in a club”.
How big an influence were the rock-crossover styles of Andrew Weatherall and Ivan Smagghe on you growing up? What else of this nature was going on in France at the time?
To be honest I came across their music pretty late along the line, which didn’t prevent me from enjoying every bit of it and made me feel less of a loner with my taste for the uncanny and sort of filthy, sexy beats. In France I would say the gay and lesbian scene brought a lot to the table, whether in Paris with the late Pulp nightclub or in my hometown Marseille, where they were amongst the first to entrust me with the sound system at some of the wildest and most fun parties I came across. So they were definitely five years ahead of their time, as Primal Scream would put it.
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French house music in particular is going through a real vibrant spell at the minute. When you revisit Paris, does the scene feel a lot more open and more accepting than when you were coming up?
There is something of this nature in the air indeed. When talking with fellow DJs and producers about playing in certain places in Paris and in France, we used to agree on the fact that more often than not, we had to “play safe” in order to make it through the night and avoid being booed or emptying the dance-floor altogether. This is a bygone era – for the most part… There’s also a broader offering in terms of styles of club music you can encounter on any given weekend, and they all seem to do well for themselves regardless of how many parties there are on the same weekend. So I guess things are getting better, not yet “Berlin-better” but everyone is a winner. There are also a few pitfalls to this craze of course. I’ve noticed an increasing number of self-appointed promoters and DJs who care more about getting their Sandro outfits and their cutesy ‘fashion n’ roll’ haircuts right than they do about paying attention to small details such as, er, the music… I guess every time a movement becomes fashionable, an army of poseurs jump on the train for all the wrong reasons. It must be a necessary evil. Not that I care much about these types.
You take pride in your restless musical spirit, never resting on your laurels. How exactly does one go about that? When you start to feel too comfortable within the context of a certain sound or style do you just move on and try something else?
I wouldn’t say I take pride in it. It is something I sometimes wish I didn’t have altogether. I often come across producers and artists who hit gold with a certain formula, and then simply decide to use said formula ad nauseam to create a seemingly endless string of copycat releases, which they justify by calling it their trademark sound. Sorry but I call it lazy. I’m scared of hearing someone say one day “Oh this is Danton’s new record, but once you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all”. What I really want to hear is something along the lines of: “I wonder what he came up with this time”. I’m aware it is not helping my cause at times, but there’s so much to explore and to play with, it’s just too tempting. I’ll give you an example: was trying my hand at sleazy, tongue-in-cheek RnB on my upcoming LP a good idea, when I know jack s**t about this style? Well I’m not quite sure, we’ll see in a couple months, but probably not. But God was it a FUN thing to do! I’ll do it again in a heartbeat. As you can see, it’s kind of hopeless.
Did you move to London for musical reasons? What is about the city that inspires you?
I moved to London to put myself over the edge, no net, no strings attached. To start all over again from scratch to see if I still had it. I moved to London because everyone and their moms was moving to Berlin. I moved to London for fear I’d get too comfortable. I moved to London because I knew London likes a Brit, and I’d have to work ten times harder to get accepted. I moved to London to inject some London into my music. I moved to London to face my fears. I moved to London to feel alive.
Picture credit: Resident Advisor
Where are we at with Fondation Records? I see you’re playing a label showcase in Paris on the 8th March but then we haven’t seen a release in two and a half years…
I had to take a break from Fondation because I didn’t like where it was headed. It started to feel like just another one of the gazillion labels there are out there. Playing the promo game, the “feedback / supported by” masquerade, having to release anything and everything at a frantic pace just to stay in the news… that sort of thing was getting a bit much. I was under the impression the main reason for the “mp3 revolution” was the fact people got sick of fat cats, major companies and all the intermediaries who drove the cost of buying records to nonsensical heights while driving the quality down, with artists and indie labels struggling to get the lowliest cut. Fast-forward a few years, and even in underground electronic music, money talks. Money buys you PR, it buys you ad space, which in turn buys you press coverage. Coverage you cannot afford to do without if you want to stand a chance in a sea of mediocre offerings. It all started to feel so very wrong to me. I needed to step back and have a real think about it. All the while Fondation wasn’t dead, it was just on life support. Then a few months ago I met my new collaborator Andreas Tome, who understood my frustration and wasn’t scared to try and do things differently. We quickly decided on a set of rules and got to it again. We got in touch with the artists we like and admire, and surprisingly enough a lot of them agreed to entrust us with their music. We now have a series of exciting releases ready to roll, and a new tool track series called ‘BeatPorn’. So technically, it hasn’t been two and a half years since the last release, as we discreetly released the first BeatPorn instalment at the end of last year on Beatport, under ‘Fondation Digitale’. Next in line is a truly beautiful EP by Marc Ashken, a person so vibrant and so bright in his darkness, he’ll never cease to amaze me. This is due next week. And no, there was not much in the way of advance copies or PR bragging. So yes, Fondation is back on its feet, it may not look much for now as it’s just the two of us doing everything from a shed. But if any of you fellow MEOKO readers, graphic designers, web experts, fashion designers and music geeks of the free world feel like being part of it, we’d be happy to get a few more souls on board!
Living in the UK, you must be aware of Radio 4’s Desert Island discs programme. If you had to choose three records from your own back catalogue to take away with you and listen to eternally, which would they be?
Well as far as albums are concerned, it’s fairly easy as I’ve only released one. So ‘Yes Is More’, because it has got ‘Vivid Love’ on it, and its slow pace and ethereal atmosphere would make for a great soundtrack to the blue horizon. Then I’d go for ‘Wings Of Death’, again for the sort of dreamy landscape thing it’s got going on, only with beats this time. And finally ‘Face Control’, for when I will unearth a crate of Rum left by pirates years and years ago, and decide to get naked and dance around the bonfire all night.
You’re a big fan of American novels. What one book would you recommend and why?
American literature is a constant source of inspiration for me. I’ve recently started to read some of my favourite ones again, and right now I’m thinking ‘Survivor’ by Chuck Palahniuk is up there with the best. Why? Simply because its pages are numbered the other way round, in the style of a countdown. So you start reading page 341 and the story ends up on page 1. Seriously how cool is that.
Finally, what’s the next big project for Danton Eeprom? In what direction are you heading?
Having a normal life. Just kidding. Right now I’m all about the release of my new LP ‘All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go’ on Infiné in a couple months. I’m going to keep working on my new live performance to come up with something completely new and hopefully with good mindfuck potential for when I get back on tour. I’m going to keep Fondation running and get it up to speed. It may sound like I’m headed for more of the same really, but I don’t care because it has never felt so right.
By Carlos Hawthorn
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