Mind-melting acid house beamed in from a bygone era
In the May issue of Dazed, we wrote about a mysterious techno release from France, claiming to be recorded in 1991 and only now being released on new French label Antinote. It turned out that Gwenael Jamois was behind it, a Paris-based rare record dealer and musician who I know from a few years back when he was working on the Black Devil Disco Club project – in which he tracked down the French library musician who had recorded the original 6-track cosmic disco EP back in 1978, but had no idea how influential it had gone on to be (BDDC has now gone on to pick up his recording and performance career where he left off 30 or so years later). Gwen messaged me: “What I've done for years is happening to me - a youngster has done the same thing with me... I got a 20-year-old techno record I made coming out next month... check it geezer... apparently I'm 20 years ahead - WTF... kisses...” We spoke on the phone but didn’t have much room in the magazine for the interview, so here’s a longer edit that should be of interest to fans of mind-melting acid house beamed in from a bygone era. And let’s face it, who isn’t?
Dazed Digital: So, how and when was this music made?
Gwen Jamois: I remember doing it vaguely in the winter of ‘91/’92, I don’t remember if it was before New Year or after, but I remember it was that winter. At the time I was doing some recording for Rephlex, kind of on a commission for Richard (Aphex Twin). But nothing ever came of that… and I never played those tracks to Richard, because I was kind of ashamed of them. Why? Because they were too obvious – too 4/4! Of course, recently I played them to him and he was like, ‘Oh, you should have played them to me, I would have put them out. You’re a twat! If it had come out 20 years ago, then your life would have been different.’
DD: How did it end up coming out now?
Gwen Jamois: A young guy I know in the area called Quentin Vandewalle, who goes under the name of Zaltan as a DJ – he is a very good DJ – had this dream of setting up a label and releasing vintage stuff, and we chat over a glass of wine and he found out I made stuff like this back in the day. And he hassled me, so it reminded me of going to see Bernard (Black Devil), and I was quite chuffed that a young chap was digging me out… but it turns out that because we get on so well, I’ve become a partner in the label and we are planning loads of different releases. More of my music from back in those days, some modern stuff and loads of other artists as well.
DD: Was your music released at all at the time?
Gwen Jamois: No, I never did anything with it whatsoever, I just played it to my mates, maybe.
DD: How was it stored?
Gwen Jamois: On cassette tape, and it was only through the hassle of this guy that while I was at my mother’s I found a bin-bag full of cassette tapes, and I started to go through it and I brought a few back – and that’s how I found those tracks.
DD: Tell us a bit more about this Rephlex connection?
Gwen Jamois: At the time, I was working as an engineer in a little reggae studio in Brixton, and basically using any dead time I was recording and working on the machines, which basically meant I never saw the light of day. At the time I really had no need to release music… and I made some stuff that I was happy with, and some that I wasn’t happy with, and the only person that pushed me was Richard. But nothing came of that, because the music I finally gave to him to release was just too experimental, and it was a pity that I just never played him any of these house tracks, because they would have come out!
DD: I suppose it’s not what Rephlex were doing in the early 90s …
Gwen Jamois: Yeah, exactly. I literally thought these tracks were too commercial. And I was proud to have been able to make commercial music, but not proud enough to have it released. And I felt a bit ashamed about it…
DD: It is funny to think there was a time when this sound would have been thought commercial, no? Because it sounds pretty non-commercial in 2012, don’t you think?
Gwen Jamois: Yeah.
DD: Or what was somehow considered “mainstream” was actually crazy banging underground warehouse party music…
Gwen Jamois: Exactly. And of course at the time, I was DJing a lot, DJing all of those south London rave parties like Spiral Tribe. And I love that kind of basement, dark vibe… like really dark, deep, house music and techno that makes you feel like you are fighting against robots on the dancefloor. That was the kind of thing I was really into DJjng and hearing… Hopefully, there will be more tracks like that, because I recorded more but… I just have to explore those cassette tapes!
DD: Have you not listened to them all yet, then?
Gwen Jamois: Oh no, there is a whole bin-bag full of them.
DD: What was your connection with Richard and Rephlex?
Gwen Jamois: I think Richard’s first DJing gig in London was booked by a friend of mine, and I was DJing there. And it was in a chill-out room with the Shamen in Brixton academy, and that was probably 91 or 90. He had just arrived from Cornwall, and Analogue Bubblebath had just come out that week, and we were so chuffed about it that we had found him and got him to come and DJ. I remember he played some – do you remember the Nardini records? Nino Nardini, a French electronic library musician – in 1991 he was DJing that at the Shamen, that was pretty damn fucking ahead! And we just became mates.
DD: So, you bonded over obscure French library music in a chill-out room at a Shamen gig in Brixton in the early 90s? (laughs)
Gwen Jamois: Yeah, that is right.
DD: And he has since played this IUEKE record out recently? That is a nice coming full-circle, then, somehow?
Gwen Jamois: Yeah, that is quite nice.
DD: Where did he play it, and how did you feel when you heard that?
Gwen Jamois: I was well chuffed because I’d sent him the track, and he’d told me off – ‘You’re stupid, you should have played them to me ages ago, etc’ – and then I received a link from him, which someone had recorded from a festival, and it was one of my tracks. It was played in Holland, I think, and I was like: ‘Wow, brilliant, thanks mate!’ And it has given it all a little push….
DD: Have you had a lot of interest?
Gwen Jamois: Everyone likes the fatness it’s got, and it is obviously mastered from cassette – and that is the only copy. It was edited on reel-to-reel, but that has long since disappeared or been recorded over. I am not that in touch with modern music, but that is obviously a sound that people are into at the moment – that big analogue sound. When we mastered it, loads of people from studios came in and were like: ‘What the fuck is this? How did you get this sound?’ And I was like, ‘Well, it is off this cassette tape.’ Obviously, I had some good equipment when I recorded it, nice compressors and so on, but there were no plug-ins, it was all hardware and drum machines… and that sound is obviously something people are attracted to now – the pure fatness of analogue sound and the roughness of cassette tape. People who are 25 today don’t really know it.