Five Minutes at Primavera Sound: Fort Romeau Talks Barcelona, Robert Johnson, and His Plans for an LP
- Words: Glenn Jackson
Over the weekend, XLR8R made the trip to Barcelona for Primavera Sound, an indie-leaning festival which had nonetheless compiled an impressive roster of electronic talents for the 2014 edition of the annual event—most of which who took to the decks attached to a custom sound system specially put together for Primavera by British speaker designers Bowers & Wilkins. (Our full review of the festival can be read here.) On the festival's opening night, budding London DJ/producer Fort Romeau laid down an exceptional set in the Bowers & Wilkins + Boiler Room tent, but before then, we convinced the Ghostly affiliate to sit down for a quick chat, during which he discussed why it pays to take risks as a DJ, his recent EP for the live at Robert Johnson label, and the complications he's currently facing in crafting his debut LP.
XLR8R: Have you played in Barcelona before?
Fort Romeau: Yeah, I played at the Nitsa club in Barcelona late last year. It's such a great club—it's kind of like an old theater, just a really nice space. That's how I got acquainted with the Nitsa guys, who then invited me to come out and play their night here at Primavera.
You'll be DJing tonight, but have you done a live set before or thought about putting one together?
In the future I'd like to do some live sets, but it's just one of those things that unless it's done in the right way, it's just DJing with a few more pieces of gear. I just don't see it conceptually being different enough, and I just haven't had the impetus or the time to really put something together that I think will be worthwhile.
You recently put out a somewhat under-the-radar EP with Live at Robert Johnson. How did that come about?
My agent is good friends with the Robert Johnson guys, so I actually met them through him. Eventually, one of the guys who runs the label side of things just hit me up out of the blue and asked if I wanted to put something together for the label, so I said, "Of course, you don't even have to ask!" I had these three tracks that I had already finished, and they seemed like they would be a good fit, so I sent those over and he emailed me back just a few minutes later and was like "Yep," and that was it. [laughs] It was very quick and easy.
Do you have any specific plans to release more new material this year?
Well, I've done a few remixes, one for Jacques Greene that just recently went up, and there are some more on the way. I was hoping to maybe finish an LP and have it out by the end of the year, but it's looking more likely that it will have to come out next year. So, I'll probably have another one or two 12"s out before the end of the year. There's nothing too concrete at the moment though.
In terms of the LP, do you have a specific concept in mind or an idea of what you would like it to sound like?
Yeah, this is actually one of the reasons it has taken so long to do. I think it's widely understood that dance-oriented artists traditionally can become stuck when it comes to long-players; there's the age-old choice between making a collection of club tracks that is essentially a compilation but which you call an "album," or deciding to try go down a certain conceptual path for 10 songs to see what happens. I'm more inclined to find a kind of conceptual and sonic framework for the album that lets it sit as its own body of work. It's just really a case of me trying to find out what the themes are that I'd want to play with for a long-player, because I'm just not that interested in putting together 10 DJ/club-type tracks for an album.
So you are at the point now where you are kind of experimenting and waiting to find a sound or a theme that you think can work for as a whole LP, then you can start working towards that goal?
That's right. I have some ideas about what kind of palettes I want to work with, but for me, the essential thing that interests me is the sound of the human voice. Even in tracks that seem predominantly instrumental, I always will derive at least 20 or 30 percent of the sounds from a vocal sound of some sort. I just find that if I don't have that small snippet of the human voice, it feels like something is missing. It's not like I need that in other people's music, but for the music I make, that element—whether it's a short phrase or a chopped-up thing—needs to be there. It's getting that human, organic sound into the context of the track that interests me.
Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to playing tonight on the custom soundsystem, or anything different you'd like to try in this festival environment?
There are a few little cheeky ones I'm going to play that will either sink or fly, so I'll be interested to see how those go down. A few Italo-type things that may or may not work, but it sounds so good in there, I think playing them on vinyl will really help those tracks shine.
Do you find it fun or nerve-racking to play those sorts of songs that are personal favorites to you, but that you are really not sure how they will go over with a particular crowd?
Yeah, it's part of the fun. There are tracks that I love to play which are a bit weird or whatever, and one night everyone will think it's the craziest, coolest track they've ever heard, then the next night people will be like, "What on earth are you doing? You idiot, go home!" [laughs] But you do have to take those risks. It's easy to fall into the trap of keeping your sets homogenized because it's almost failsafe, but I think you have to put your own personality into it. Even if it doesn't work, I always enjoy it, and that's really the best you can do.
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