Back in October I had the pleasure of kicking it with the Soul Clap guys, Eli and Charles, in Paris on the day of the release of their self-titled album Soul Clap. We chopped it up about the album’s recording sessions down at George Clinton’s studio in Florida, favourite French records and artists like Daft Punk and Air, and personal music memories that influenced their creative direction. The interview was conducted at the Hotel Amour in Pigalle (one of my favourite local spots), in the comfort of the most pimped out hotel room I’ve ever set foot in – the entire ceiling was covered in motorised disco balls (see the picture above)!
Check out the full Wax Poetics feature with the video for their single “Synthesiser Girlfriend” here.
I had a great time chatting to Eli and Charles, such nice dudes. Afterwards we rolled to their show at Nuit Fauves, a neat club on the River Seine, and my buddy DJ/producer Jamurai from London happened to be in Paris and came through. All round good vibes and memories!
Peep the interview below…
Tell me about the recording sessions for Soul Clap. What was the atmosphere like?
Eli (a.k.a. Elyte): The original recording session was down there [at George Clinton’s studio] in Tallahassee, Florida. We went down there not expecting anything, at the very least we would get to see the vaults of all the tapes of a lot of the P-Funk stuff, and just maybe we could meet George Clinton. So we just went in there and got loose and started jamming the two of us, and getting to know the musicians down there. Then all of a sudden George showed up and said “bust the studio,” and we just carried on working on music. We got the hang out with him there and played him a bunch of stuff.
Charles: Obviously leading up to that P-Funk had been a big influence for us. We played him a piece of music we had already worked on using Ableton that was little samples of Funkadelic songs, lots and lots of samples. His ears really perked up then because he could hear the original ideas re-contextualised. I think that showed him that we weren’t just a couple of chumps [both laugh]; that we knew the music.
Do you feel like you learned a lot working with him? If so was there anything in particular?
C: We learned a tremendous amount working with George Clinton. Just the inspiration and confidence of having a titan like him say “hey, that’s cool what you guys are doing.” And I noticed being around him that he really responds well to people who are confident in themselves and have their own thing going on. I think that’s a beautiful thing to put forward.
E: Also the way he works in the studio was almost like how a producer works on a computer. You see how the recording process used to be, having to pull all these musicians together to play the parts that were in his head and guiding it to become a piece of music. It’s much easier now where you can do all those parts separately, but that’s still how he thinks. He teaches each person what he’s hearing and then records, so that was really a learning process seeing how he works.
I interviewed Shock G 3 years ago, and he described it like there was before working with George, and after working with George, that his life was better after. I’m just curious if that’s a common experience? [All laugh]
C: I think Shock G said it right. I can totally understand that. It’s like there was an unknown, but now there’s an experience and a known, and we’re carrying it forward. So that’s a beautiful thing, and why the album is so magical. You get a sense that we’ve accomplished what we set out to try to create musically. That’s why this is a self-titled album. In many ways a new beginning I think.
E: All those years finally paid off.
Do you find you go through phases where you get a little obsessed with certain types of music or certain artists?
E: Definitely. I would say right now, hip-hop is finally exciting again. It’s been super exciting for me, starting with Kendrick’s album [To Pimp A Butterfly]. Plus that whole explosion of exciting jazz and funk coming from L.A.. Kaytranada, he’s working with this guy Mick Jenkins, then Chance the Rapper is doing all this exciting stuff too. It feels like hip-hop is in an exciting musical place again. The first time since I was a kid, which is so cool.
C: I’ve been listening to a wide variety of things, but I guess artists that jump out are Little Dragon, Death Grips, and we saw Herbie Hancock in concert a few weeks ago.
E: We’ve been listening to all the Herbie Hancock we can.
Do you ever notice a difference in the different cities you play, in that the crowd has a different feel? Or does it tend to be a similar vibe at most of your parties?
E: I think our parties bring an eclectic crowd to them because we play a range of music, but we’re based in dance music and house music. There’s a big difference from the U.S. to Europe, and the the U.K. to Europe is another thing. We’ve been touring for 6 or 7 years, so you really get to know a country. We always try to bring a general funkiness to the equation, which I don’t think necessarily always happens at a lot of these dance clubs. So that brings us a universal family of freaks.
C: I like that [both laugh].
Being that we’re here in Paris, do you have any favourite French records, producers, or artists?
C: We’re Serge Gainsbourg fans.
E: Daft Punk, obviously. Homework is one of the best albums ever. Charlotte Gainsbourg too had some really awesome stuff. I recently found out Tony Allen played on a couple of her albums, which is amazing. I think he lives here now, so he’s done a lot of work with French musicians including Charlotte Gainsbourg. Also gotta shout out Air, so good, and I.Q., one of our favourite house producers.
C: Breakbot too.
E: Phil Weeks. Another great house producer from here.
C: Just going back to Daft Punk, all the amazing French stuff, that really left an impact on us as disco house ravers in the nineties.
Did you ever listen to an African disco guy from the seventies called Jo Bisso? He did a lot of stuff here in Paris. The record label was Disques Espérance. A friend gave me a record of his and I’m trying to find out more about him. It’s very cool, definitely worth checking out.
C: Sounds really familiar.
E: You know what deserves a shout out is this compilation series called Source Lab, which was actually one of the first house CDs I ever bought. I had been into acid jazz and kind of stumbled upon it, and it was just really dope french house, trip-hop, and acid jazz. The house music jumped out at me.
C: How did we forget? Dimitri from Paris!
E: Oh the best!
E: Definitely the king of the edits.
Do you remember what the first records that you bought were?
E: My dad’s really into jazz so I started going with him to a place called Stereo Jack’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I’m from. I started buying stuff that I was into, that was when I got really into John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. But soon after that I found hip-hop and started buying hip-hop records, then house and jungle.
C: First record that I owned? Jeez that’s a tough question. It was probably digging in a used record shop, but I can’t really remember. I do remember it was drum & bass and jungle that pulled me in the electronic direction. I was listening to LTJ Bukem and Goldie in my headphones in high school and going to the record store. A guy named Francis Englehardt, who many people probably know from Dope Jams in New York, I remember he gave me a bunch of Ganga Kru records, so like DJ Hype and DJ Zinc. Those were some of the first records I clearly remember. Plus walking into Satellite Records. That’s sort of before I even realised I was into house music.
E: I actually really clearly remember going to a record fair, when I realised I wanted to buy records, and bought a record by a group called Krush – I thought it was DJ Krush – but it was actually some electro stuff…
C: Was it breakdance music?
E: Yeah [grinning]. And I didn’t really get it at the time, but I still have the record. I will always keep that one. [laughs]
It’s funny when you talk about DJ Hype and all the drum & bass – it takes me back – you know how when you are a teenager and music just makes you feel really cool? I went through a break-beat / drum & bass phase. [all laugh]
C: Yes! Still does today. There were a couple of kids in high-school that were older than me that were definitely junglists, I just remember them outside smoking cigarettes with big caffeine pants on. I was like “what’s going on? These guys are cool as hell!”
That inspired you?
C: Yeah. In America we had jungle sky, liquid sky, and DJ Soul Slinger. That was really cool music, to this day still, This Is Jungle Sky, Volume 2.
That’s cool. I find it can be hit and miss when you go back and return to music, sometimes it really was as good as you thought it was, and sometimes it’s not. So it’s nice when you can say: “this really was quality.”
C: Yeah. That stuff was the most futuristic, forward-thinking music.
Anything else you want to say about your new record?
C: Should probably mention crewlove.us – our collaborative crew website. We have a subscription based service where people can go and get all of the music, there are lots of perks there for members.
E: Crew love is true love.