As a respected DJ and producer, Francois X has long sat at the forefront of the burgeoning Parisian techno movement. His relationship with the young Antonin Jeanson (a.k.a. Antigone), a fellow Concrete resident, is both long-standing and well-established, strengthened considerably by their work together within the French scene and through their back-to-back DJ sets. February 15, however, marked their new release, an eight-tracker entitled We Move As One, released via Francois X’s Dement3d imprint. The earliest sketches for the double EP can be traced back to early 2013 when the pair spent an evening jamming in the studio. The result of that night was “Hated SZ” (track four on the resultant release), and that was sufficient reason to warrant more exploration in the studio together.
There’s no denying that the release comes at an interesting time in both artists’ respective careers. Having put out a number of EPs through DJ Deep’s Deeply Rooted House imprint, 2014 saw Francois X's first solo EP on his own label—but there has been nothing presented since. In this sense, a collaborative record comes as something as a surprise. As for Antigone, the young French producer’s profile has grown considerably since his 2015 release of Cantor Dust, a much-acclaimed EP released via Kr!z’ Token label, and there is much excitement about what comes next.
The pair spoke with XLR8R during rare some down-time amid their busy touring commitments to explain more about the release, its impact on their working relationship, and their respective individual projects.
This collaborative project dates back to 2013. How did it originally come about?
Antigone: It was in the summer about four years ago. Basically, Dement3d had a studio outside of Paris and we just decided to make a track together. So we just started jamming around. It started off as just a friendship.
And that track you made was “Hated SZ,” from the EP?
Francois X: Yes—that was the first track that we made together. We made two different versions because we weren’t really happy with it. It was better when we took some elements out of it.
Was that one of the things that attracted you to working together that you wanted to push yourselves artistically?
Antigone: Not really. It was really natural. Something I like to do is just to work with friends. It has always been more about friendship—just playing around in the studio. In this sense, it was just a project that came to be. We never had to tell ourselves to focus on something. That is what was really nice about it.
Francois X: In Paris, all the guys from techno—and some house artists as well—are living in very close proximity. We all know each other very well. There are not so many of us, so it is very easy to meet make a track together. As Antonin said, it’s all been very natural.
Antigone: We first played together about seven years ago—then Concrete came along and we both became residents. This is how our collaboration began.We just linked up for a studio session one weekend and the rest is history.
So you never really had the intention of producing an EP?
Francois X: We never envisioned an EP, but by the time we had three of four tracks we know we wanted to pursue a collaborative release. We were having fun working together. At that point we decided to make it an EP—or a double EP—by finishing a few more tracks, and adding an intro and an outro.
Antigone: It was simply the case of being in the studio and working on material together, over and over again. At the beginning it was supposed to be a simple release—like four tracks, maximum. So we started to produce again recently and then with eight tracks we decided to do it as a double EP.
"For me, an album is a real project that requires focus from the beginning to the end. This EP was made very sporadically."
Were you reluctant to call it an album?
Antigone: Yes—it’s not an album at all. It’s supposed to be an encapsulation of what has been happening in the techno over the past four years. Over this time period, there has been a real revolution, from this “Berghain” techno and the more sophisticated techno, like Token, that seems so prominent today.
Francois X: For me, an album is a real project that requires focus from the beginning to the end. This EP was made very sporadically.
From a production standpoint, you’re known to be very different. Did this influence your roles in the studio?
Antigone: It’s difficult to say—but I think I was always more into the arrangement. I think you can always hear me underneath the track. But it was a very instinctive and natural process. Sometimes I did the melodies and François the written parts, but we didn’t define a particular set of patterns or rules.
Francois X: Antigone has the best feeling when it comes to the structure of the tracks and editing them.
Listening back now, can you see your individual footprints on the EP?
Francois X: Yes. Some tracks are very intricately produced, which is what Antigone is so good at—while others are more instinctive, which is how I operate in the studio. Those two styles are very well represented on the EP.
Antigone: Exactly. It’s funny because I am a real gear nerd. I can spend hours and hours on one melody, or one sound—I am kind of like a surgeon when it comes to that. Francois does not have this and he would have to calm me down and tell me that it’s okay—which was really cool for me. It was amazing to work in this way.
Francois X: I think there are a few tracks that are a good reflection of our different inspirations: “Pagan Woman,” “We Move As One” and “The Sorcerer.” The first one is more dark—it’s a real collaboration. The second one is very atmospheric. I think these are results of our collaboration. I think you could say that Antonin is more melodic and I am more melancholic. Also, “The Sorcerer” is good for this—it has the beautiful pads that Antigone is famous for, and it is always very moody, which is what I am good at creating.
Was it a natural decision to release it on Dement3d?
Antigone: If we were ever going to do anything, it was always going to be on Dement3d because its Francois’ label. It was natural. We already had a structure in place. We were not going to do it on Concrete or Construct because the sounds we were going for just seemed like they would fit better with Dement3d.
Is there a specific story about the EP’s name, We Move As One?
Antigone: Each of us has a different point of view of what the meaning behind this name actually is!
Francois X: We chose that track name as the title because we are two people, but the music speaks for itself alone. But it’s funny because, at Dement3d, we have an in-house communication guy and when I told him to write down the EP’s information, he explained it differently. He said that it is a reference to the movement in the Parisian scene, and even the techno scene as a whole. We are all working together to push this music further and further. It’s on a global scale.
Antigone: “We Move as One” equals “We Move Together.” With this double EP, it was our way of saying to everyone, “Lets stop for a moment and have fun all together.”
Antonin, it has been four years since you started up with this collaboration, and you are still relatively young and new the to techno scene. Did the relationship with Francois evolve a lot over that time as you developed artistically?
Antigone: For me, it's a bit personal. I know Francois has been in the scene for a long time, and working with him has made me a lot more relaxed. He has taught me to take time and be respectful as well. I have definitely learned a lot over the course of the relationship.
On the artistic side, I have kind of a “ futuristic techno” background influenced by most of the work of Inigo Kennedy on Asymmetric, or Luke Slater, and FX brought me the more Chicago influences, with artists like Blake Baxter and Ron Trent, or labels like G Strings.
Francois X: This could sound wrong, but when you are growing, when your craft is developing and you become recognized in the scene, colleagues and those that you work with become real friends—especially when you are doing something artistic instead of working in an office, for example. Antigone and I have developed this type of friendship—we share ideas and protect each other. We rely on each other and I think it’s very important in this type of world. Sometimes its the worst being on the road and being alone—sometimes it's cool to have a partner and to have the opportunity to come back from a gig and exchange our different visions of what happened and what is going to happen. That’s really valuable for us both.
Antigone: We both share this vision of techno music and about the techno scene nowadays. Sometimes we think the scene is going towards big-room techno and that it could be a good idea to focus on something else and be more open minded—maybe play some house music in our DJ sets. These are just some of the ideas that we have sometimes.
Antonin, your profile has grown considerably over the last 12 months, and you’re traveling more than ever before. How do you see yourself balancing production and your touring schedule? Do you anticipate that you’ll limit your touring to allow yourself more time in the studio?
Lately it's been quite something! I must say it is getting harder to find time in the studio. What usually happens is that I always try to work at least one day a week when I am on tour—and then every four months I will allow myself a break of two weeks to focus only on production.
You’ve just announced an upcoming release on Token, named Saudade. How did that release come about? And when were the tracks produced? What were your intentions behind the two-tracker?
When the request came up I was actually interested by exploring different types of music, try new gear and try different interactions between them. Finally, it ended with a two-track EP.
Sonically speaking, the release appears less melodic than much of your previous work. Is this a conscious decision, or just the natural evolution of you as an artist?
Lately I have really wanted to work more on textures and grooves. But I must say it was a very natural way of working. When I sit down in the studio I just like to be guided by the sound and my feelings of the moment.
Given the success of your Cantor Dust EP last year and your growing discography, it’s inevitable that expectation for your debut album is going to grow. From a production standpoint, do you feel ready for an album? When can we expect one?
This is something that has been going on my mind lately. I feel pretty prepared to work on on an album in fact. I've been currently putting some ideas on the side and I still don't know where I want to go with this album—but we are getting there.
Francois—your last solo stuff came out in 2014. Why the delay, and can we expect more soon?
Francois X: I was supposed to release some stuff on MDR—but it hasn’t yet materialized. I’ve got some other stuff scheduled for Dement3d soon. From now until the end of time I will only release solo stuff on Dement3d.
Do you intend to reduce your touring schedule to allow you to produce more?
Francois X: No—I don’t think touring really affects my production because I am a very slow producer. I am not like Antigone; he is more focused on the textures and the geeky stuff. I am more instinctive. I have to feel my music. I need to continually improve my tracks until am happy with the emotion in it. I actually think that touring helps me in the studio—it brings me perspective. It gives me stories and atmosphere and things to work off. Maybe next year I will have a different answer for you, but I can’t see it happening for now.
What are your intentions for the label? It started off as a hub for your friends to release music but it has grown into a respected platform that is now entirely different.
Francois X: We had a slow schedule in 2015, but this year will be massive. I don’t know why we slowed down things, but we have a new vision in mind now. We want to be a label in the true sense of the term. We want to share our vision about the music. We want to be a real label like Warp or Factory, which proposes a sound instead of just a style. We have a lot of stuff ready and we will see how everyone reacts.
"Perhaps this whole delay with my solo material is because I want to digest all my influences and make a good mixture of it and see what comes out."
But your next goal is solo material?
Francois X: Yes, that is correct. I did some remixes in 2015 but it’s a slow process for me. I don’t know whether it’s become I am just slow in the studio or because I want a deep reflection of my music, but I am definitely slow. That’s just how it is. But it’s important to note the last EP was that classical techno and house music, and the next one will be a new chapter of myself—not radically speaking, but a more personal vision of my music. I want to stick more to my interests and my roots—both in my DJ sets and in my productions. We are currently experiencing a new Berghain, Berlin-techno revival, but, like Antonin said, my background is more diverse and I was more into house before. Back in the day, I used to buy all my techno records along with house and disco music. Perhaps this whole delay with my solo material is because I want to digest all my influences and make a good mixture of it and see what comes out.
Do you feel as if you’ve digested it now? Do you feel ready now?
Francois X: I am not fully ready. I am still experimenting—I think I am still doing my sketches, and when this digestion process will be done I will focus on making an album. At the moment, I need to release two or three EPs to get all the pieces of the puzzle in order. Maybe that will happen next year.
"If you want to impose your style and impose your ideology, your ideas and your vision, its better when you have your own imprint."
Are some of these releases coming out on MDR?
Francois X: It’s difficult to say. The first EP will be the final part of my first chapter as an artist. It may be on MDR, but if not, it will be on Dement3d. I don’t think I can release anymore on different labels. I think when you have your own platform, you feel more confident and maybe more free. If you want to impose your style and impose your ideology, your ideas and your vision, its better when you have your own imprint. For me, its like you have your own imprint or you have to stick with one label.
You can make a legacy with your own label as well, can’t you?
Francois X: Definitely. If you make music on several different labels, your work will be diluted. When you are making all of your stuff on the same platform, it’s all laid out as a story. For me, as an artist, it’s very important that I can see a progression—and not just technically but the ideas and the evolution. If you stick on one label, you can clearly read that story.