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Beyond the Booth is a feature dedicated to the hidden side of artists that exists outside electronic music— a side rarely discussed with those outside their immediate circle. We venture “beyond the booth,” so to speak, and dive into their deepest passions that tie into their unique personalities. After some self-introspection, each participant then returns to the booth, providing an exclusive mix for the Dancing Astronaut audience.
The aughts were a time ruled by originality and experimentalism across dance music. It was a time after dance music’s first commercial boom, where the resulting vacuum left behind the “bubble burst” was filled by bedroom producers fusing sounds of older times together, and blogs becoming the dominating force of media around the scene and also the unofficial A&Rs of the era.
During this “Blog House Era,” one particular strain of dance music erupted out of the blogs and into the stratosphere of the mainstream. This was French house/electro, whose gritty, funk-and-disco-infused sounds and emphasis on feeling live and organic catalyzed an entire indie movement around it. With foundations laid by Daft Punk in the late 90s and early aughts, labels like Ed Banger and acts like Justice helped make their country’s unique brand of a music a global sensation.
Breakbot‘s rise came toward the end of this era, but it didn’t take long for this artist to reach the top and remain a stalwart in forward-thinking dance music from there on out. Getting his start in 2007, he was quickly taken into the Ed Banger family, winning the public over with his breakout remix to Justice’s “Let There Be Light,” and other singles like “Make You Mine” and “Baby I’m Yours.” By the time his critically-acclaimed debut album, By Your Side, was released in 2012, he’d already began intertwining his artistry with that of his protégé and vocalist, Irfane. Their official joint LP Still Waters came to fruition in 2016, and along with it that the lovable character Breakazoid was born.
This brings us to the duo’s most recent EP: Another You. Assisted in part by vocalist Delafleur this time around, the EP is set in Breakbot’s signature formula of nostalgia-laced electro and promotes nothing but smiles when listening to its infectious vocals and guitar riffs. The Breakazoid story line continues as well, leaving fans already keen on hearing about his next set of adventures.
How does Breakbot get inspiration for such quirky animated characters, though? It turns out the producer’s passion for art expands far beyond the auditory realm and into the visual. For one, he originally specialized in 3D art and design in school, before switching lanes to music. Secondly, he actually has a deep passion for animé and manga. His aesthetic and eclecticism suddenly make sense. We were able to pick his brain on all things Japanese-art-related, from how he fell in love with this type of art, to his current recommendations.
When did you first begin getting into Manga/Anime, and what draws you to this type of graphic novel/animation in particular? Is it the story lines, the illustration styles, etc?
As many French people of my generation, I remember a lot of old different Japanese animated tv shows. They were imported by Dorothee, very famous in the 80’s and 90’s. She presented a kid’s show based mostly on anime. Some of it, like Hokuto no Ken was not always aimed for kids though. City Hunter, Saint Seya, Dragon Ball, Cobra, Captain Harlock, Go Nagai, were among my favorite things to watch.
Did you ever read Inuyasha or Fushigi Yugi as a kid? On that note, which were your favorite manga series in general when starting out, and which are your favorites now?
I did not, but I loved most of Rumiko Takahashi’s work, especially Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2. This last one was among my favorite when I started reading mangas, with Dragon Ball of course. Now I love the works of Naoki Urasawa, Katsuhiro Otomo, Tsukasa Hojo, and of course Osamu Tezuka, which was a very prolific author, and many more.
Which is your preferred subgenre of manga/anime to read/watch?
I don’t have any! I like good stories that are cleverly told. I am also quite sensitive to design and animation. I tend to regret the fact that 2D animation is only colored through computer. I love the fact that every frame of a cartoon used to be painted on a celluloid before the nineties.
Who is your favorite illustrator in terms of technicality, design, etc (doesn’t have to be tied to your favorite series)?
If we stick to the Manga/Anime conversation, it has to be Katsuhiro Otomo. He released two wonderful art books named called Kaba 1 & 2 dedicated to his illustrations, poster designs and various artworks. He’s such a genius, like a Japanese version of Moebius.
Of all the series of manga that you’ve seen adapted to anime, which has been the best adaptation in your eyes and why?
Akira is definitely the best in my eyes. Of course, the story differs from the manga, there’s no way you can fit more than 2000 pages in a movie. It shocked me the first time I saw it, and it still has the same effect. It is as beautiful as it is weird. It is one of these rare timeless movies that will always be relevant and modern.
What is your favorite anime? Any other recommendations of what to watch for those interested in it?
It’s hard to choose, if I had to pick one outside the Ghibli filmography, I’d choose Perfect Blue by Satoshi Kon. It’s a very dark film about a Japanese idol who is slowly but surely losing her mind. Satoshi Kon(who sadly died too young), also directed an animated series called Paranoia Agent, that I highly suggest watching. My other recommendations include Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki by Mamoru Hosada. It’s a beautiful film about a mother raising two children who become wolves from time to time. This young talented director also made a very cool film called Summer Wars. Cowboy Bebop is a classic show that is one of my favorite of all time, and it’s currently available on Netflix! And if you’re a Miyazaki fan and you haven’t seen the series Future Boy Conan and Sherlock Hound, they’re definitely worth watching.
What is the most peculiar manga series you’ve ever read, or anime you’ve ever watched, in your opinion? Why is that, and how did you come across this series?
I came across an anthology of the works of Maki Sasaki, and it is one of the weirdest manga authors I read. He published mainly little stories that seem to be drawn on acid. He reminds me of Robert Crumb in a way. Another peculiar manga I read recently is Pluto by Naoki Urasawa, another author I really admire. It is a free adaptation of Testuwan Atomo, or Astro le petit robot in French. Naoki revisited the Tezuka classic robot story and took it to another level. A must-read for those who love to see robots cry. (by the same author I also recommend 20th century boys and Monster). In a completely different style but still very peculiar, the works of Hideshi Hino are quite bizarre. They’re an interesting gate to the yokai culture.
Where do you source your anime/manga from? Are there shops around where you live, do you travel to Japan, order online…?
There are manga everywhere in France, I think we are the biggest consumers after Japan!
Have you ever considered doing a Porter Robinson Worlds-type show where you’re incorporating anime into your visuals and such? Is that something you’d ever look into for the future?
Not really, but I definitely want to do more animated videos in the future! Like the one Olivier Lescot just directed for Another You. I would really love to work with a Japanese animation studio.
Let’s pivot back into the booth — starting with the intriguing storyline of Breakazoid. Did you make that up yourself, or was it a joint effort with yourself, Lescot, and Ruckazoid?
I came up with the basic idea of the Breakazoid character being a mix between Ruckazoid and me, but Olivier designed it and directed the whole video. I try to be as much involved in the process as I can.
What can we expect to hear on the whole of Another You EP? Did you try out any new/interesting production techniques, gear, etc when writing it?
There are two original tracks apart from Another You and two remixes. One by Yuksek and the other one by me. I am really happy about the whole EP !
Finally, tell us what’s in store for Breakbot through the rest of 2018!
I’m finishing a remix for Parcels and a new mixtape. I will work hard on some new Breakbot music and collaborate more with other artists, like I did with Yuksek for example on this new EP. I have a few gigs that I really look forward to in USA in October. And a perfect trip to the festival ‘Your Paradise’ in the Fiji Islands to end the year!
Photo credit: Breakbot’s Team