Having previously spotlighted artists such as Ellie Goulding, Disclosure and Azari & III, Dallas-based, Toronto-born, Leon Oziel decided to brave the music world alone just over a year ago when he set up French Express, a label named after his blog dedicated to providing a platform for newly emerging DJs and producers.
Disco never dies, but the crowd pleasing nu-disco sound of the past three years has officially been silenced as 2011's balls dropped
Slowly but surely fencing off a space for itself within the filter funkin’, Daft Punkin’, Lifelike’in’ camp, French Express currently boasts the likes of Moon Boots, Erkka and Chris Malinchak on its books, with Leon himself operating under his alias Perseus. Continuing to release a diverse mix of tracks, with everything from exotic house to fidgety dance to old school disco popping up here and there, we caught up with Mr Oziel to find out more about how he got started, what’s new for 2012, and about just how nerve-rackingly good his artists are.
Dazed Digital: What prompted you to start French Express? Is there a particular niche you wanted to fill? A particular gap you wanted to plug?
Leon Oziel: Back in '08, I was scouting/reviewing tunes for the wavemaker of music discovery blogs at the time, Discodust, as well as my own blog French Express. After noticing the talent we've uncovered and plugged (like the once undiscovered Azari & III, Ellie Goulding, Disclosure, and others) get scooped up off our plate by A&R and label managers, I started to realise what was going on.
DD: What do you listen out for when searching for new artists, and how do you go about finding them?
Leon Oziel: Originality and fearlessness... stuff that presses the limits. If I feel nervous listening to it for the first time, as if there were a risk involved in liking it, then I know it's a sign. Duping the current trend can only garner a short ride in the slipstream, at best. As far as finding them, all the talent I work closely with (Chris Malinchak, Jonas Rathsman, Moon Boots, etc) have been close friends who trust the palate and perfectionism I've been cursed with!
DD: What are you listening to at the moment?
Leon Oziel: Hated it a year ago, but I'm in love with a lot of the melodic bass-driven vibes coming out of the United Kingdom and elsewhere. It's a regeneration of everything there is to like about house-y garage. This, coupled with the R&B revival, is something to ravingly enjoy before every acapella is used up. Disco never dies, but the crowd pleasing nu disco sound of the past three years has officially been silenced as 2011's balls dropped.
DD: What were the best bits of 2011 for you?
Leon Oziel: 2011 escaped fast. But most memorable moments were probably scooping up records I knew would become future favorites, a slew of Mark Ronson shout-outs * (I never fanboy over anything), establishing new friendships with amazing people I've yet to meet, and some other meaningful life experiences.
DD: What have you got to look forward to in 2012?
Leon Oziel: A healthy amount of sensual, non-degrading, dark & rhythmic house music. Stuff with meaning, the kind you can really connect to. For the first time in electronic dance music history, all the barriers have been broken down leaving the playing field leveled. The amount of cross-pollination going on between sub-genres right now is mad (progressive house, disco house, miami house, UK-garage, etc).
This year is the first time you can ever witness something like The Magician playing a Hot Creations joint, or Madonna picking up Azari & III as tour support. And it goes without mentioning, there are bold plans soon to unfold for French Express and its musical crusade, and I hope to continue walking the tightrope personally with my alias Perseus. It's a very healthy time for music.