Though his best-known production remains his top 5 UK 2001 dance remake of Eddie Grants 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 Mottos house anthem IMNXTC (with an Optimo remix) and Mr Fingers Stars (reworked by Kiki). Skylaxs latest release Control is even more unusual, featuring original unreleased Joy Division lyrics placed over fresh music (and remixed by hot
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 weve tried to do with the music is create this kind of new-wave 80s feeling melted with modern production and weve tried to sum the story of Manchester by starting electro, going acid then ending up baggy. I love
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 thats 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, hes equally insistent that his business mode looks beyond
The way I am doing business and managing my own life is with a state of mind thats 80% American. My family used to speak English at home so Ive always felt really connected to that world maybe even more than the French one, he insists.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Control uses unreleased lyrics by Joy Division singer Ian Curtis: how did you come across them initially?
Hardrock Striker: Basically, Ive 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 wouldnt be so good because so many people know all their songs, plus its 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 peoples 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: Whats your connection with In Flagranti?
Hardrock Striker: I really like Sasha from the band, hes one of the coolest guy in this business, I havent known him for so long but we instantly connected when we met as hes 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 weve swapped some remixes.
Skrufff: You use English words for your band name and song titles: how much are you aiming at audiences outside
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
Skrufff: Skylaxs 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 thats 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 Im preparing an album which should be ready in five to six months. Were also making an instrumental version because our philosophy is to always make extended and dub versions with remixes as DJ tools. Ive had lots of good feedback to Control from many top DJs though interestingly a lot see my style as italo-disco whereas to me its got an electro, disco-not-disco vibe.
Skrufff: Youve been DJing for ten years, how did you start?
Hardrock Striker: Like everybody I started DJing at a friends birthday party and when I saw the crowds 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 whats happening in the scene. I feel like my hands start burning when I havent 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 doesnt last, its 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 Underworlds 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
Hardrock Striker: I used to go to LA regularly but I really love
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 dont 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 theres loads of great music is coming out of
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). Theres 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 whats 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
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)