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A word about creativity, electronic music and inclusivity from the multifaceted figure.


How did growing up in Paris influence you in terms of creativity?

Growing up in Paris gave me a lot of opportunities in terms of education and influences. It’s a city that is super diverse, with a huge mix of people and cultures. Because of its colonial history, France is a melting pot of different nationalities who have migrated to the country, and Paris is filled with a range of communities. It was a rich experience for me to grow up in this environment.

In terms of style, Paris is famous for being one of the capitals of fashion, and art in general. The city itself is like a museum because we have a lot of ancient monuments and buildings, and I think growing up here gave me a lot of taste and insight into many subjects. The diversity of my childhood shaped me and made me unique, in a way, because I evolved in a variety of different social classes and atmospheres.


Studying finance meant that I also grew up in a business school environment but at the same time, I was going to clubs. The clubbing scene in Paris at the end of the 90s and beginning of the 2000s was different- the scene was smaller and more concentrated. I felt that the links between different creative worlds were closer, with fashion and music of all different genres overlapping. My parents were huge clubbers, I have memories of being looked after by older children when my parents were going clubbing - they were regulars at Le Palace, Paris’s Studio 54, frequented by people like Yves Saint Laurent and Grace Jones. I was surrounded by these vibrations and this shaped me. I was never home, and that was natural to me - going from school, to tennis, to a fashion show and then a club. I consider myself lucky, for me growing up in Paris was super cool.


You’re an artist of many other talents. You played tennis, you worked in finance, you explored house before choosing techno. What do freedom and fluidity mean to you?

For me, it isn’t about freedom - it's about impulse and feeling. As I’ve become older and looked back on my life, I’ve realised I moved in cycles. I have this strong curiosity inside me with many interests, so I always explored as many subjects as I could, and at some point I decided this is how I want to shape my persona. Life is like a daily apprenticeship. I’m following a process that feels right to me. It may appear random, but it’s guided by my interests and curiosity, so it feels completely natural.


I started in house music, as when I first started clubbing I was guided by the circles I was in and by the clubs I attended, places like Les Bains Douches. It was 2001 and the scene in France was more house-oriented, with people like DJ Gregory and DJ Deep. If we’re talking about my musical evolution, this was the start. It was house music, classic, Chicago, then it became more ‘techy’, as the scene developed from about 2006 into harder sounds. I became more aligned with music coming from the likes of Dixon and Innervisions.


I was going to record shops a lot at the time and then I heard one record - I remember thinking that it was a bit harder, but it was organic, it was cool… and it was Klockworks, the first awakening of Ben Klock. And now here I am. I don’t see it as a switch from one scene to another, I was riding a musical road and following the path that led me here.


Returning to the question, a lot of my closest crew were into fashion or were stylists, so it made sense for me to lean into this too and start a fashion brand. There’s an internal logic to my life, led by a desire to evolve, to be better, and not to repeat myself or get stuck.

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Do you feel you are able to combine certain things you learnt from your other ventures with your career in music?

Everything combined taught me a lot. Finance taught me to be rigorous, sports taught me how to handle my stress and work towards my goals. Fashion taught me how to dress and the basics of style - everything I need today as an artist.

Your music was selected for Balenciaga loops, and you had your own fashion brand. In what ways do music and fashion intersect in your life? Does one serve as a source of inspiration for the other?

I think it's more like a back-and-forth, a conversation between music and fashion, with one feeding into the other. Music is my primary practice but everything needs to have style, to be well-presented and showcased, and to have meaning. In fashion, a designer will create a collection with a theme and narrative in mind. When I do music, I do the same. 


I draw a lot of inspiration from the storytelling we see in fashion shows. At my label, XX LAB, everything has to be connected. For example, we’re releasing some t-shirts alongside an EP. The t-shirts gave me some ideas about how the music should sound and the music will also influence the way I present the t-shirts to the world. So these ideas are always communicating with each other. The back-and-forth is key.

How do you label yourself, are you comfortable being considered an electronic musician?

I see myself as a creative. You could say I’m an artist - yes, I’m an artist, but I think I’m multifaceted. I need to create, I love to create. If I’m not working on music I’m always drafting something, a sketch, a track idea. If I want to be labelled, I’m a creative person.


The industry has been going through a lot of changes, as the world is right now. How have you transformed with it as an artist?

Good question. I’m going to speak in terms of the changes we’ve felt with social media. Gen Z gave me the opportunity to really unlock my confidence, in terms of just doing what I want and not being shy about my knowledge. Before the social media explosion, you couldn’t be many things if you were not a specialist. Or rather, if you were not recognised as a specialist. So despite having a lot of skills I was afraid to put myself out there. For example, I was scared to show what I knew about fashion because I didn’t feel like an expert. 


I think in the past, the idea of ‘showing off’ had negative connotations and it was something that you weren’t supposed to do. You were supposed to lie low and play it cool. But showing off doesn’t have to be a bad thing - it can be a celebration, a way of showing who you are and sharing your knowledge.


Musically speaking, I was shy about going under the spotlight for the same reasons. Then at some point, I started seeing people who were less skilled, but more inclined to put themselves out there, get recognition. You can sit around and criticise them… but ultimately they’re doing something - and you’re not doing it. So you have two options: you can stay on the sofa and continue criticising or you can say okay I’m going to show people how this is done.


With the evolution of people’s mentalities, I feel like I’m allowed to try more things. You don’t always have to be perfect but you can still have many skills and show people that. Gen Z has the right tools to normalise having several skills - they can sing, they can produce music, they can design clothes. I gained the confidence to embrace myself and my capabilities, like, okay - it’s time to stand up and be seen.

So would you say the main thing holding you back before was judgement from other people? 

In a way, both my country and the company I kept made me feel blocked. The first point is that I came from a country where you are not supposed to shine and show off your ambition. France is very Catholic-minded in this way. Secondly, I came from a group of people in Paris where you had to know everything about electronic music, every DJ, and the entire history of house and techno by heart. If you didn’t know that - you weren’t allowed at the table.  And this environment also told you that there were already pioneers; huge figures and DJs from the 90s whose level it was almost impossible to reach.


These two points illustrate how it was difficult to be yourself because you were always weighed down by this mentality. I remember a phase where I would think twice before spinning a track in a club, considering what people would think if I selected this or that.

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I guess you felt too much external pressure to put your own desires first, since you had to factor in everyone else’s opinions before your own.

Exactly. Also inevitably, if you live in this environment, you begin to think like that! I would find myself judging people who were doing some supposedly ‘wrong’ action. Then when it was my turn to put some stuff on the table, I was so uncertain because of the pressure of telling myself that it needed to be perfect. However hard I was on other people, I was twice as harsh with myself. I was super blocked. And then at some point, I was like enough. Fuck this, let me do my thing.

Do you think the industry has changed for the worse or for the better since you’ve started playing?

I would never say it has got worse, but it is different. Electronic music has always had to fight for recognition and to be taken seriously as a genre of music and a cultural movement. Now, electronic music is finally a recognised professional industry, but being a professional industry means it's going to be competitive. It’s not a free utopia filled with beautiful people - it's now a huge business. A lot of people don’t like this word but it’s the truth, and I am super lucky to make enough money to live from my passion.


Social media has created more visible competition between artists, meaning artists need to be more creative and more unique. With easier access to certain tools you have way more artists, so the mediocrity level is higher, but there are still the same amount of good artists. A lot of people say that nowadays there are more bad artists than before and fewer great artists. I disagree. There are more mediocre artists but great artists are still everywhere. More people may be using certain technology but not everyone uses it in the same way. The people who know what they’re doing and excel at it are still here.

So do you think that ultimately, having more people DJ-ing is good for music?

To me, it doesn’t matter. The big DJs still have to deliver and push their level to the maximum every time they perform. It's still the same principle - the better you are, the more successful you will be. You still have to be at your top level if you want to be successful at something. The involvement of more people forces you to be at the top of your game. Personally, I don’t see this as bad.

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In recent years, we’ve seen many more artists be vocal about representation across all genres of dance music. Do you feel there is an underrepresentation of POC in techno and how has this affected you?

There are two ways of thinking about this topic. Firstly yes, for sure there are not many people of colour in the industry. Is it on purpose? I think it's more complicated than that.

We have to analyse the type of culture electronic music conveys and which type of people it is aimed at. For example in France, raving at the start was more of an expression of utopian freedom. It was more underground, with a ‘let’s stay together underground, being subversive’ mentality. Ten or fifteen years ago, techno was anti-capitalist, leftist, it wasn’t about looking up, it was about staying down and being low-key. 


I don’t want to generalise people of colour in France, but to explain my point - you feel attracted and influenced by music that is connected directly to your culture, where you can feel similarities. For example, if you live in the hood, you could be attracted more by soul music, or West and North African culture, it's more shiny, more sunny, it has more soul. You want to shine in a way… and electronic music is not giving voice to that feeling, especially in France. So you go to rap concerts and clubs. In general, in France, rap music speaks more to people of colour than electronic music does. It's a matter of culture. You don’t have to live in the hood to have problems with racism. I don’t want to put people of colour in a box. Not all black people live in the hood, not all electronic music is for rich people. Rap speaks to some people, electronic music speaks to others. Having said that, a lot of my friends of colour aren’t interested in coming to my parties -  they don’t care about the music as its harder to relate to it. 

Just because electronic music may want to speak to everyone, it doesn’t.

Yes. I think that the soul of electronic music - even though it was created by black people in the USA - has been moulded in a more European way. Unfortunately, this may not resonate with some people of colour.


If I want to be super harsh, the electronic scene nowadays has implemented a way of saying ‘no we are more aware of prejudice now’, by picking out black people and queer people. On one hand, this is a great thing in some ways, but I call it ‘vertical empathy’. The practice of always projecting an idea that certain groups of people will always need your help and with that definition will never be self sufficient.


On one side it's cool that people are more vocal about representation, but the music itself needs to be infused with this message in order to speak to more people of colour. You can be vocal about inclusivity as much as you want but the music needs to be inclusive too. It’s the same experience I have sometimes with clubs, when the atmosphere on the dance floor is so masculine, I cannot imagine many girls wanting to take part. More needs to be done, and not just token changes here and there. 

We’re huge admirers of your label, XX LAB. How important having creative ownership of your work for you?

My previous label, DEMENT3D, was associated with a friend of mine. I think creating XX LAB was a part of my transition to being able to do what I want and to be better able to showcase to people what I can do alone - it's my platform.

What are your future plans for XX LAB?

Lots of EPs, lots of releases. I’m also looking forward to launching my XX LAB ‘uniform’ line of clothing. We’re starting with t-shirts and then there will be more items so we can have a proper collection.

What is the driving force behind you creating your music?

It’s my life. Like I said, I am really curious and interested in a lot of stuff. I can drift on the internet for hours, read books, everything that is shaping my mood at the moment. I think I am influenced by everything - every moment, every street I walk down, every person I meet, each relationship… everything influences me in my music.

Are there any kind of collaborations you have in mind? Perhaps even outside of music?

Too many to name. At one point I would have said Kanye West but… I I think right now I would most like to explore collaborations with fashion designers and movie directors. 


02 XPULENT | FEATURE, FEB 13, 2023


Photographs by Sasha Borissova
Styled by Jorge Bachiller
Interview by Nadia Dayem
Edited by Ines Lefebvre du Prey
Creative Director: Maria Dyshkant
Creative Assistance: Naia Imaz and Rill Johanna
Shoot Location: London, UK

A Les Mirabilia Production

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