Sebastian has followed such an impressive path that it's hard to believe that he's only now releasing his long-awaited debut album. But the facts are clear: after several EPs (H.A.L, Smoking Kills, Ross Ross Ross, Motor), a record compiling his many remixes for Daft Punk, Kelis and the Kills among others (Sebastian Remixes) and a co production of the soundtrack for the film Steak with Sebastien Tellier and Mr Oizo, in which he also played one of the leading roles. Ever elusive, he unveiled yet another side of his creativity in composing a philharmonic score for Notre Jour Viendra, Romain Gavras' first film. One of the creators, along with Justice, of the Ed Banger sound, he is without a doubt the label's most unusual figure. An iconoclast maverick he readily defies the rules to deliver a dirty and violent kind of techno that coughs and spits; music to his image: human and visceral. Super prolific and constantly effervescent this musician has managed, in the space of a few years, to redefine electronic music and is ready to astound everyone once again with TOTAL, a definitive and meteoric first album. We met-up with the artist:
How did you start making music?
Sebastian: I grew-up surrounded with music. My brother Noël Akchoté (a famous jazzman) took me with him to listen to very different things from an early age. I started making music very naturally. By the age of 14, I was twiddling all sorts of things on my computer. The home studio culture was appearing and, with my limited means, I managed to start working.
You started doing rap, was hip hop always an influence?
I don't know about always, but yes, among other things. Through a friend, I started working with a group called Cercle Vicieux, a crew close to the collective "La Cliqua". I did several instrumental tracks for them, but apart from a few compilations, nothing ever came out of it. The first proper record I ever worked on was Jean-Louis Costes' Nik Ta Race. My brother and his partner had set-up the label Rectangle and had the idea of making a rap record with Jean-Louis. Quite a funny idea when you know the guy's style. They asked me to lend them a hand, since I was in that circle. I ended up producing the record with Costes, when one year before I was the label's errand boy. It was fun mixing the two universes, something powerful and twisted on one side and rap on the other particularly at a time when rap was starting to become a bit tame.
You've always had one foot in the underground.
The notion of 'underground' doesn't really mean anything anymore, but it's true that throughout my childhood, I had an unquenchable thirst for artistic discoveries. Noël sometimes took me with him and from a very early age I came across some emblematic figures whose importance I only realise today. From the Straub to Alan Vega, Topor and John B. Root, my teenage years were peppered with incredible and peculiar encounters. I was incredibly lucky to meet these people, even though in my eyes they were deeply human people above being great artists.
How did you meet Pedro Winter?
In 2005, I still had one foot in rap but at the same time I was very impressed by Daft Punk and the relaxed approach they seemed to have to music. I heard that Pedro (who managed them) had set up his own record label and I went to see him with quite an eclectic demo. He called me a few days later saying he wasn't interested in my rap tracks, but he was very impressed with my production work. I signed with Ed Banger a few days later.
You're hard to classify, your style fills the gap between underground and mainstream.
That's because there is no gap for me. The gap doesn't come from me, it often comes from other people. I don't see or create those labels, that's not how I see things. It seems natural to me to go from one thing to another. In the end, the only difference is the size of the venue. In the universe in which I grew up, the question of difference between the 'genres' doesn't exist.
Why did you choose this record cover?
I rarely do things for a specific reason: for a start, the idea of a double kissing itself represents my vision of the artistic posture; it's a type of serious joke on the relationship that an artist has with his ego. Also, my first covers were a tracing of my face, so I wanted to follow that idea with a photograph while adding something new. When you play a game, you should play it all the way or not at all. So, for instance, even if you don't like your face you should embrace it, emphasise it, even! The choice of black and white is to break with the often very colourful graphics of techno. The cover signed by Mondino symbolises the total desire of the creator, the absolute ego of the artist who kisses and devours himself.
While your personal touch, your style, is clearly felt throughout this album, it seems much more poppy than your previous work.
I wanted to avoid the same banging formula that I've been using for 4 years. I wanted to try something new, like pop. I don't see albums as the result of a sum of work that would completely define me, but rather like one more project among others that I want to carry out. Like many artists, I identify this work with a "period". In a year or two, I'll probably be doing something different, trying different styles. I don't have ONE particular line of inspiration. I also feel that these tracks were made according to the software that I had access to and with a desire to reproduce current trends and flavours more than the genuine desire of a musician. So I don't think it was a conscious decision to make something softer. The creative process can be complex, I never really know why I come up with certain tracks. Maybe I wanted to make a record for the girls to dance to.