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29.12.2018 | Words by: Angelina Nikolayeva

“After I went to that party I was almost seduced so to speak, not only by the music but the community behind it, the lights, the atmosphere” – shared François X on his first club experience in his interview for Still in Belgrade. While still working in finance, François Xavier-Zoumenou soon became a regular visitor of one of the city’s flagship record stores, where he met Cyril aka DJ Deep, who immediately saw the potential in François’ music and encouraged him to finish some of his tracks for his label Deeply Rooted; the result was his debut EP Future Roots Vol 3 , which saw the light of day in 2009. Having formed another enduring relationship with Heartbeat (HBT), François has been helping to define French capital’s scene by bringing artists such as Abdullah Rashim and Shifted, and hosting live sets from Sandwell District (Function & Regis) and Surgeon in Paris for the first time with their DEMENT3D parties. Later, the imprint has become first home for such avant-garde projects as Polar Inertia, Hiss:1292 (François X & Opuswerk), and DSCRD, which have debuted and evolved hand-in-hand with the label since its inception in 2011. Today, its wide portfolio includes releases such as Valentino Mora’s hypnotic Slow Hyper Controlled Motion and Ligovskoï’s ambient Mana remixed by the likes of Abdulla Rashim and Peder Mannerfelt. The experimentation-driven and slightly left-of-center mentality of DEMENT3D is also reflected in François’s collaborative work with his fellow Concrete resident Antigone - We Move As One EP- and more recently, in his own debut LP Irregular Passion.

Straight after his landing in Amsterdam, François joined me in Café DS to talk about his early involvement with the Parisian clubbing scene, his development as a DJ and plans for launching a new label.

Q: I read an article on Mixmag about the rise of illegal raves in Paris. What do you think about the scene there today?

A: Illegal? Nothing is illegal in Paris. There were a few parties a couple of years ago, but they were shut down by the police. The warehouse scene is pretty big since young kids prefer to move away from the clubs, and party in suburbs of Paris, in larger spaces with more freedom. About 6 years ago, Resident Advisor was filming Real Scenes and they asked me: “How is the scene in Paris?”. I said that for me Paris in not a scene, it’s just a place where you have good parties; clubbing is rather a trend. We have a lot of events, clubs, promoters and people who like the music, but not so many producers or forward-thinking initiatives. We are missing places like CBGB and Paradise Garage in New York or De School here in Amsterdam, which would provide this cultural space for gathering and sharing ideas, developing arts and educating on music.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your first club experience? 

A: I was about 15 years old and played tennis on a competition level. Once, after our training session, the guys – who were 25 on average – went to Le Queen. This club had been famous for decades; it was a proper huge club from the 90’s – black box, loud sound. One thing that struck me instantly was not the music itself, but the volume of the sound, the bass – it was so physical. I think Armand van Helden was playing that night.

Q: Your roots lay in house music, and you often mention that you used to buy records of many different genres. How has your focus shifted towards techno?

A: It was a natural process. I grew up listening to American dance music: house from Chicago, New York and Detroit. At one point it got a bit boring – too cheesy and with too much vocals in it. At the same time, there was this trend when all the scenes were converging into one unique sound. A good example would be Innervisions: their productions combined house and tech features like Âme’s Rej, which became a classic. Meanwhile, Kerri Chandler released two EP’s on Deeply Rooted: Six Pianos and Back to the Raw. The sound was becoming harder in terms of texture and minimal was fading out. Artists like Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock stepped into the game as well, setting up the trend, which influenced me a lot. 

Q: How long did it take until you started to collect records and bought your first turntables?

A: I grew up in the end of the 90’s, when the underground community wasn’t that big in Paris. The scene was a mix of fashion people, freaks, music lovers and posh people. I was amazed by this whole movement: it was a very small and close community who often hung out in the same spots. One of them was café Le Trésor, where we could end up with 200 people sometimes. We went to clubs with groups as big as 70 people and stayed from the opening time until the end. It was easy to reach good spots, and I was regularly checking out shops to get flyers for the next weekend. I was literally sabotaging my tennis career those two years, whilst my passion for clubbing grew bigger. It wasn’t as much about music as about being around those people, being part of a family. Playing records came naturally: I already had a huge collection of vinyl from my father. When I was 17, I bought my own turntables.

Q: When did you start taking the music seriously?

A: Never. If I take it seriously as a job, it becomes something functional and loses all the joy. 

Q: You used to work in the field of finance back in the days. What was the point when you decided to pursue the DJ career?

A: I just moved back to Paris after breaking up my relationship and was unemployed. Working in finance can be pretty tough and getting a job in that field isn’t easy. I wasn’t mentally ready for that and I felt like music could be something I could do for living. I already had my residence in Concrete back then, so I just decided to invest a bit more time in music and see where things would go.

Q: Do you think your financial background had an influence on your approach to music?

A: I think I gained some discipline and learned how to manage my career from it. However, when it comes to producing, it’s something I do instinctively, driven by my feelings and emotions.

Q: Dement3d was first initiated by Julien (HBT) as a party series. How did you end up launching the label together?

A: Everyone in the clubbing scene knew each other, so this is how I met Julien as well. He had been doing his Dement3d parties for a bit more than a year then and asked me to join him to develop a more serious business. We threw a lot of events between 2008 and 2012, inviting artists like Marcel Dettmann and Joy Orbison for the first time to the French capital. We never really felt like promoters though, that just wasn’t us. At the same time, we were surrounded by a lot of talented artists, so launching the label seemed like a logical step. 

Q: Prolonged residences often give a DJ a lot of room for experimenting. How do you think you have evolved over the years of your residence in Concrete?

A: I’d say there are two things that shaped my style: warm-ups for Parisian parties and the residency in Concrete. Opening slots teach you how to be humble - you have to respect the other DJ. You set up the vibe, the place is getting packed and then you erase yourself. At Concrete, my sets lasted minimum 4 hours. This experience taught me how to handle the dance floor and meander between styles without losing the crowd. 
Q: With the new year approaching, what was your favorite moment of 2018?

A: I released my album Irregular Passion and did a tour from January till May, which encouraged me to go back to my roots and experience this feeling I had when I just started playing. The album wasn’t just techno-oriented and I was booked in clubs where I was expected to play a wider range of music. The techno scene felt cold and industrial while my background is groovy and warm, so I felt like I lost that sensual vibe, which I managed to retrieve with my tour.
Q: What can we expect from you in the upcoming year?

A: I’m setting up a side label of Dement3d - Dement3d XXX. It will be my personal project with an EP from Opuswerk and remixes of Irregular Passion by the artists like Valentino Mora, Regis, Donato Dozzy, Bjarki, Bambounou and many more. There will be a Various Artists release featuring local producers as well. 

Q: What will be the sound of this new label?

A: Can be anything: from house to techno but might be even reggae at some point. 

François X will be playing in our basment tonight alongside Joey Anderson. Tickets are available here and at the door. 
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