Interview: Apollonia - XLR8R

Interview: Apollonia

With 'Tour á Tour' remixes on the way, the French threesome continue the push towards dancefloor domination.
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This past November, Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorom and Shonky—collectively, the record-spinning, music-making, label-running, three-headed beast known as Apollonia—were in New York City to play at the U.S. edition of the Time Warp festival, It was just a week or so after the Paris terrorist attacks, and as one might expect, the deadly events were weighing heavily on the partners, who all have called the City of Lights home. (Ghenacia is still based there; Shonky and Soundorom are now mainly working out of Berlin.)

"Everything happened right in my neighborhood," Ghenacia, who formerly ran the Freak n' Chic label and serves as something like the unofficial spokesman for the trio, says. XLR8R is sitting with the trio at their Brooklyn hotel, the three wearing different colored t-shirts—one blue, one red and one white, à la the French flag. "The café that I go to eat at everyday was one of the places that had a bombing," he continues. "A waitress who we know is between life and death right now. The Bataclan…we used to play there. There were a lot of people from the music industry there. We all know people who lost somebody. If you look at what we are wearing, this is for support, for solidarity, for our values. This is something that could have happened to us, and it definitely touches us, and we are really affected by it. We were all the target—but we will stand up and do what we do, which is playing music—and we will keep playing music."

Photo: Kevin Lake

Photo: Kevin Lake

True to his word, Apollonia's set that night showed that the three were weren't going to let the attacks slow them down. It may not have been the most sonically subtle session that fans have ever hear the three play—the festival's massive, hangar-like setting wasn't exactly conducive to nuance—but it was a hard-charging and undeniably fun tech-house-heavy set, full of both melodic flourishes and percussive pump. Ghenacia, Soundorom and Shonky, more than anything, came off as determined, as though nothing was going to hold them back—which is actually something you could say about everything they've done since releasing their well-received debut album, Tour á Tour, which came out on Apollonia's eponymous label in autumn of 2014. Just recently, in the midst of an ever-busy gigging schedule, the team has developed and released an Apollonia app, and announced the imminent release of a slew of remixes from Tour á Tour, with a diverse crop of producers—established figures like Charles Webster, Jovann, Thomas Melchior (under his Melchior Productions alias). Mike Shannon and the Martinez Brothers, alongside relative new-jacks Edward, Hold Youth and Terence :Terry—taking the reins. In short, it looks like this could be Apollonia's year—but to hear them tell it, it’s been a steady, never-ending slog, really, ever since Ghenacia, Soundorom and Shonky started working together in 2012.

You've developed and released an Apollonia app, you're about to release of a slew of remixes from Tour á Tour, and your schedule of dates never seems to let up. Is Apollonia planning to take over clubland in 2016?
Dan Ghenacia: Actually, I would say the heaviest time was actually last year. We did a proper tour, which was 60 gigs in five months, on five different continents. That was a lot, for real. Now, it actually seems a bit more human. [laughs] But, really, we've been going at it since we began.

Dyed Soundorom: You just get used to it, really. But especially this time of year, when you are touring, you do have to bring a lot of clothes, because the temperature differences can be quite big. You have to bring a small jacket and a big jacket. But really, it’s exciting. We love it.

Shonky: More than anything, Apollonia is the result of a long friendship. And it’s been a dream come true to travel together and play together, and just do all this together. We are living the dream, really.

Apps—not very many electronic-music producers have one, outside of the big-name EDM artists. What made you decide to develop one for yourselves?
Ghenacia: Well, it's true—the app is not really underground at all, I don’t think.[laughs] But I think it’s a pretty cool way for people to follow us, and it’s a way for us to give people some tips, send them some mixes and lots of stuff. If you like to know what we like to eat, we can let you know!

Shonky: If we like a restaurant or something, we can put the restaurant on the application. Besides just the music, it’s a good way to show people how we are living. But the music is the main thing, of course.

Ghenacia: And we are always working to make it better.

Your Tour á Tour remixes are about to come out. For the original album, you had a pair of fellow Frenchmen, Phillipe Zdar and Alexkid, helping out on mixing duties. What was it like to work with a couple of guys who are probably are heroes of yours?
Ghenacia: It was amazing. I’ve actually known Phillipe Zdar for many years, and he’s always pushed me as a DJ and in the studio. I can remember playing together with him, I think it was in Manchester, around six or seven years ago. After the party, we were drunk at the airport. I was saying something like, “I’m just a DJ—I don’t think it’s really necessary to produce so much.” And he said something like, “You have to do it. And when you do your first album, I will come and help with some tracks.”

Soundorom: Of course, people say things when they are drunk.

Ghenacia: But when I reminded him, he said, “Of course I remember!” At that point, he was in the middle of his own album and was really busy, but he took the time to listen to the music we had been working on and said, “The song’s are already pretty good. It’s not gonna take too much time. Come in with the boys in two weeks.”

Shonky: We couldn’t believe he was going to do it.

Ghenacia: But he did it, and he took care of half of the album pretty quickly. And it was pretty much the same with Alex for the other half. Just to be working with them at all was a great experience.

It paid off: Tour á Tour is certainly a great-sounding album.
Ghenacia: Well, maybe you can thank them for that! [laughs]

The remixes sound great, too. You’ve individually all done plenty of remixes in the past, and you’ve all been remixed by others—but do you find it at all difficult to take these songs that you’ve put your heart and soul into, and hand them off to someone else?
Shonky: Not at all. The producers who did these remixes are all people we like a lot, so it was the opposite, really—we were excited to see what they would do.

Soundorom: Of course, there is a little bit of wondering, “What is it going to sound like?” But we trusted all of theses guys; they were already friends, or people who we really respected. The only thing we wanted was that they would do something totally different from the original—and that’s what they did.

Ghenacia: We also wanted to get a good mix of the old school and the new school.

You do have a good mix of veterans and relative newcomers, with people like Charles Webster, Jovann and Mike Shannon representing the former.
Ghenacia:
And Thomas Melchior, who is one of our producer mentors. We tried to get a wide range of people, to mirror the idea of the label.

Shonky: We really just wanted to be able to release some good music.

Was there anybody you tried to get but couldn’t?
Ghenacia: No, but there was one guy—I will not say who—who was going to do a remix, but came back to us and said, “I’m sorry—I have no inspiration. I am completely empty.” And that happens sometimes; it’s natural. When you produce a lot of music, sometimes it just runs out. But he was really sad! [laughs]

How are you releasing these remixes?
Ghenacia: It’s going to be released as three EPs. We didn’t want to release it as a full package, just because of the way the market is at the moment. We’re looking at is a month’s worth of music, and it’s better to release it in three parts. It’s more efficient for the DJs, in a way. And it’s not a proper album anyway, so there was no real need to release it as if it was one.

You three have been friends for years, and have been working together for a while now. Do you ever get tired of each other? Do you ever need breaks?
Soundorom: For three guys traveling together like we do, it seems to work. It’s really easy for us to be doing this.

Ghenacia: We don’t have fights, we still support each other…there’s never anything like, “Oh, fuck, I have to work with them again?” That doesn’t happen. But we all have our own life. Like, I’ve been working a lot in the studio with Chris Carrier, and doing stuff like that helps me get into a different mindset. And then when I’m back with the boys, I’m happy.

Photo: Tasya Menaker

Photo: Tasya Menaker

Shonky: The funny thing is that, when you are working alone, you realize that you are actually missing your partners. It’s important that we do work apart—we do need that—but it’s always cool to get back together again.

Soundorom: It’s still fun to travel and DJ on my own—but you miss all that stuff on the side that happens. It’s more relaxed when we are together.

Ghenacia: Way more relaxed. For example, I was a few minutes late for this interview, right? Well, I was still in bed—but I knew it was fine because these guys were going to already be here with you. If I was on my own, I’d be panicking. [laughs]

When you guys play together, how does it work?
Ghenacia: There is always one thing we do. First I play a record, then it’s Shonky, then it’s Dyed.

Soundorom: And that is the only rule.

Ghenacia: But it is a very important rule. We don’t always keep going in that order, but we like to start our sets in a super-precise way.

Shonky: It is a way for us to be disciplined.

Ghenacia: Yes, that’s it. After I play the first record, the others know to be ready: “Okay, it’s time to go.”

Soundorom: But we never prepare anything. We never sit in a room and compare records. I never know what they have in their bags; they don’t know what I have in my back. We have no clue, and that’s the idea.

Ghenacia: We need to always be surprising each other. Otherwise it would get boring, hearing the same records all the time. There’s a kind of…I don’t want to say it’s a competition, but the more we surprise each other, the more we respect each other.

So you are playing for each other as much as you are for the crowd.
Ghenacia: Yeah, but the crowd…they love to look at us! [laughs]

Top photo: Flavien Prioreau

Tour á Tour The Remixesare scheduled for release on Apollonia Music and K7! on March 18, April 19 and April 29. In addition, Apollonia will present their one-vinyl each, back-to-back concept set at SXMusic Festival on the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean. Set to take place between March 9-13, SXMusic Festival will see performances from Jamie Jones, Dubfire, DJ Tennis, Lee Burridge, AdriatiqueThugfucker, Blond:ish, and more at the forest retreats, beaches, and coves scattered throughout the tropical island.

Learn more about SXMusic Festival by visiting its website here.

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Updated calendar:

FR 11|03 Apollonia @ Blackmarket | New york city (us)

SA 12|03 Apollonia @ SXMusic Festival | St Martin 

TH 17|03 Marco Carola & Apollonia @ Space | Miami (us)

SA 19|03 Apollonia @ Carl Cox Stage, Ultra | Miami (us)

SA 19|03 Apollonia @ Barbate beach Club | Punta Cana (do)