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France’s Hardrock Striker on Joy Division, Daft Punk & David Guetta :: Skrufff.com

Reported by Trackitdown TID on October 27, 2005

Though his best-known production remains his top 5 UK 2001 dance remake of Eddie Grant’s reggae anthem Electric Avenue, Joseph ‘Hardrocker’ Bendavid remains firmly focused on the underground, both as a DJ and via his upcoming label Skylax.

Run under the motto ‘Music for Dancers, Music as an Alternative!’ the label specialises in re-releasing original obscure dance classics with fresh remixes included, so far putting out Jungle Wonz (remixed by Danny Krivit), Denise Motto’s house anthem IMNXTC (with an Optimo remix) and Mr Fingers’ Stars (reworked by Kiki). Skylax’s latest release Control is even more unusual, featuring original unreleased Joy Division lyrics placed over fresh music (and remixed by hot New York producers In Flagranti)

“I used some lyrics that Ian Curtis wrote back in the day which were never released as a song and with my Skylax partner created some new music to accompany them,” says Joseph.

“What we’ve tried to do with the music is create this kind of new-wave 80’s feeling melted with modern production and we’ve tried to sum the story of Manchester by starting electro, going acid then ending up baggy. I love Manchester

The Paris based Frenchman also aligns himself firmly with the singular DIY ethic that’s driven so much music from Manchester, with a typically Gallic philosophical approach.

“To sell records is important, if there is no cash left, you cannot do anything but there are reasonable ways to do it,” says Joseph.

I used to be the head of Parisonic Records/ Square Roots and their motto was ‘Stay Underground, It Pays’ and that’s exactly what my job is today; I am trying to feed the underground with very cool records that DJs can keep. If you consider it like this the dance music can be an art form.”

However, he’s equally insistent that his business mode looks beyond France.

“The way I am doing business  and managing my own life is with a state of mind  that’s 80% American. My family used to speak English at home so I’ve always felt really connected to that world maybe even more than the French one,” he insists.

“Here in France, there are too much barriers to do everything, to do music you really need to have balls. I really like the way people enjoy music in UK, they go to the pub, drink beers and listen to music constantly, everywhere. It looks like Heaven to me.”

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Control uses unreleased lyrics by Joy Division singer Ian Curtis: how did you come across them initially?

Hardrock Striker: “Basically, I’ve always been a huge Joy Division fan and have loads of their records including all their original recordings but also bootlegs. I wanted to do something different for Skylax and I started pondering the fact that those guys in many ways were the true originators of dance music because of the way they built their tracks; and also because Ian Curtis was always interested in merging electronic music with rock. So initially I considered doing a pure re-issue but thought that wouldn’t be so good because so many people know all their songs, plus it’s very hard to get the rights so I decided to do something much more original.”

Skrufff: The press release highlights the fact that the lyrics are about ‘hell, isolation, alienation and obsession’: what is it about these topics that interest you?

Hardrock Striker: “These are human feelings so they interest me because as a songwriter too I really like to explore other people’s subconscious and analyse their lyrics. Ian Curtis was a fantastic lyricist because he really tells a story, there are no obvious choruses but every time his lyrics work. I think he had this power because he was writing about his own life and his reality, even if at the time people thought these were just lyrics.”

Skrufff: What’s your connection with In Flagranti?

Hardrock Striker: “I really like Sasha from the band, he’s one of the coolest guy in this business, I haven’t known him for so long but we instantly connected when we met as he’s also big music lover and a crate digger. I knew of his label Codex for quite a long time and I always thought those guys were ahead of their time, they were doing punk / funk without calling it that or marketing it that way. So we’ve swapped some remixes.”

Skrufff: You use English words for your band name and song titles: how much are you aiming at  audiences outside France?

Hardrock Striker: “I live in France but part of my family lives in America, in New York and Boston and I used to go there as a child, my business is also based over there and I still visit regularly, say five times a year or more, particularly to LA. I am connected with all those guys from Wax, Doc Martin ad Future House, all of whom are doing some very good work to promote and push electronic music through the US. My production partner Peter Black, with whom I did the remake of Eddy Grant’d “Electric Avenue” in 2001, which charted #5 in UK charts, also takes care of stuff for me there, when I’m away and that’s why I do everything in English. And being honest, the best music always came out of England and America, as a child I was always looking for the originals rather than listening to some guy singing in French trying to sound like the Stones. That’s crap.” 

Skrufff: Skylax’s motto is “Music for Dancers, Music as an Alternative!”: how important is commercial crossover success?

Hardrock Striker: “To sell records is important, if there is no cash left, you cannot do anything but they are reasonable ways to do it. I used to be the head of Parisonic Records/ Square Roots and their motto was ‘Stay Underground, It Pays’ and that’s exactly what my job is today; I am trying to feed the underground with very cool records that DJs can keep. If you consider it like this the dance music can be an art form. I also think as Hardrock Striker, we have some potential for massive success, we already have some good tracks and I’m preparing an album which should be ready in five to six months. We’re also making an instrumental version because our philosophy is to always make extended and dub versions with remixes as DJ tools. I’ve had lots of good feedback to Control from many top DJs though interestingly a lot see my style as italo-disco whereas to me it’s got an electro, disco-not-disco vibe.”

Skrufff: You’ve been DJing for ten years, how did you start?

Hardrock Striker: “Like everybody I started DJing at a friend’s birthday  party and when I saw the crowd’s reaction I remember thinking ‘This is it, this is what I want to do’. Then, I started to play here and there in Paris and the US at clubs and sometimes at private parties and at the same time started making records and production, so my agenda became packed, rather than me chasing gigs too much. Nowadays, I play more and more because you cannot stay away from the people for too long, you need to get the reactions of the crowd, that gives you some indication about what’s happening in the scene. I feel like my hands start burning when I haven’t DJed for a week.”

Skrufff: Lots of French producers prospered in the mid 90s with Daft Punk style filtered disco –house: did you dabble in that style or move in those circles?

Hardrock Striker: “I was never into it at all though I respect Daft Punk because they opened doors and they were really original at that time. When you hear Da Funk you can clearly understand that those are rock guys trying to do dance music, their early music sounds as everybody knows, so much like Moroder but it is still good today and that proves their talent I guess. 90% of dance music doesn’t last, it’s just tracks. I also respect Bob Sinclar too. Many people accuse him of just being a money maker but with this filter effect in the production he really created something that totally belongs to him. I prefer not to remember the others.”

But then you also had Motorbass who did the Pansoul album and The Micronauts who did the remix of Underworld’s “Bruce Lee”. They all used lots of different monickers which is why everybody thought there was a big scene in France, when in reality I think there was maybe 10 people involved. Air are my absolute favourites, they were lumped into that category but they are 100% different- their music is like classical music and people will still be listening to it in 20 years time.”

Skrufff: Have you ever considered relocating outside France?

 Hardrock Striker: “I used to go to LA regularly but I really love London. The UK is great because there are so many clubs and British people always seems to be in need of novelty, they want to hear something new every day.I mean music is really part of their life, in their blood, can you imagine an English guy living without owning any piece of music ? Impossible, while in France this is the normality.”

 Skrufff: Have you ever met David Guetta?

Hardrock Striker: “Yes I met him before all this crazy success he had, I remember I was in the studio with him while he was working on “Love don’t let me go”, he did two versions, a funky/ garage and a new-wave one, and I can still remember him looking at me, asking me which one I preferred, I told him the new-wave one of course.”

Skrufff: Seems like there’s loads of great music is coming out of France again, what’s you assessment of the scene?

Hardrock Striker: “I think we have a very good scene maybe one of the best in the world from Tekel to Black Strobe, who were the first to bring back this new-wave / electro-punk groove (though now, it looks like they moved to new-beat). There’s Play-Paul too and we have many great DJs here, from Ivan Smagghe, Chloé, Jennifer, Jef K, Dan Ghenacia, Djulz. I was managing some stuff for them before. This scene is still growing everyday, you have many newcomers with very good ideas but I think that if you speak about electro and minimal techno, that what’s ruling here today.”

Hardrock Striker: Control is out now on Skylax Records.

Joseph DJs play each month at the Milliardaire and La Fleche D'or in Paris and also tours Asia in December and Brazil in January. For more information on Skylax and Hardrock Striker, email him at contact@skylaxrecords.com 

Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)