BLACK STROBE: THE GIRL FROM THE BAYOU – VIDEO
It’s Friday, get down and possibly even boogie to this ridiculously catchy disco anthem from the legendary gay biker house merchant Arnaud Rebotini, aka Black Strobe. We spoke to the eclectic giant a while back and then left the full interview to fester for some reason, almost definitely because of our slacker belief system. Well it worked out, didn’t it? (As being chill is wont to do).
A decade before Justice’s debut album, Black Strobe were the original Parisian house headbangers. Without them, Gaspard and Xavier would probably be ripping on Daft Punk’s style, dressed as a pair of giant vibrators. Rooted in post-industrial EBM, Arnaud Rebotini and Ivan Smagghe formed Strobe in ‘97. Describing themselves as ‘frozen Balearic gay biker house’, they emerged from the dark, damp shadow cast by the glittery behemoth that was French touch, like escapees from Fritzl’s basement.
After Smagghe’s 2006 departure, towering Lemmy-alike, Arnaud, expanded Strobe into a four-piece live band and pursued his life-long rock and blues boner. This creative tangent alienated many of the Black Strobe faithful, while Pitchfork dismissed their album, Burn Your Own Church, as “bad metal” and likened it to a Belgian drag competition hosted by Trent Reznor, Danzig and Korn (kudos). With dance music starved of personality by faceless programming geeks, you could argue a little bad medicine’s just what the house doctor ordered – oh, and more handlebar moustaches.
JUKE talks metal, Napoleon and the steez-thieving Ed Banger Records with Arnaud Rebotini.
J: I heard you think Napoleon’s biggest mistake was selling Louisiana. Enlighten me?
[Laughs] It was a joke. But, I’m a big fan of music that comes from the South and maybe if Napoleon didn’t sell those states for practically nothing, the music story would’ve been different. I’ve always had a fascination with this area, with Louisiana and the Bayou and this music by people who were rejected and who were slaves. They hugely influenced mainstream music of the 20th century – and rock and roll and techno and whatever.
J: You used to be in a metal band didn’t you?
Yeah, it was a teenage band.
J: How did that come about?
My first band was really into that noise scene, stuff like The Jesus & Mary Chain, early Sonic Youth. After that, I met some guys who had a metal band and were looking for a singer. I was really involved in that and it was really fun. I always liked extreme music and you know when you’re a teenager and have this teenage anger, it’s really nice being in a metal band… it’s like doing sports haha. I still listen to stuff like Napalm Death for my own pleasure.
J: I hear you’re into black metal.
Yeah. I’m not really into pop music. I’m more into American styles of music like blues or country music. One of my favourite English bands is the Rolling Stones because they’re not English at all in a way. In pop, for me, the most acceptable is the Smiths or Dépêche Mode. I’ve always like the dark and extreme stuff in music and metal is great for that. But you can find that extreme stuff in electronic music, bands like Underground Resistance, or the second album of LFO is really extreme.
J: Disco and boogie have been quite big recently with labels like Hot Natured and Wolf + Lamb working with that sort of sound. Has that influenced the new album?
I really like those labels, when I’m Djing, I’m always starting with this sort of stuff. I like the idea of the boogie: boogie came from the blues in the American South. Disco and funk also have a style called boogie and I’m really obsessed with this kind of slow and intense and hot and sexy type of groove.
J: There was some harsh criticism about your change of direction for the Burn Your Own Church album. Some people weren’t happy about the whole rock vibe. Did that frustrate you?
Obviously the harsh criticism frustrates, but at the end of the day if that direction was so bad, why is ‘I’m a Man’[Strobe’s schaffel beat version of the Bo Diddley classic] a more popular song? When we play live, people are waiting for us to play it. So for me there’s two Black Strobe’s: the old one and the one after Burn Your Own Church. With the next album, I’ll try to connect them.
J: One thing I’ve always wanted to ask you, to me it looks like Justice is trying to steal your style with your whole metal image.
[Laughs] A lot of people say that. It’s probably true, with the metal and this kind of hard stuff, it was maybe a bit too early when we done that with Black Strobe and I don’t know, maybe they do the concept, but they’re able to do really more commercial music than me.
J: Have you ever bumped into them?
AR: We live pretty close in Paris, so I know them. But I didn’t know them before they became big.
J: You never asked them why they’re ripping your style?
[Laughs] No, no, I never asked them. Maybe… when I worked at Rough Trade, I was a record seller in the dance and electronic section and I always wore Slayer and Napalm Death t-shirts and Pedro [Winter, Ed Banger Records owner] was one of my clients… maybe the idea took ten years to get into his head.
J: Black Strobe has been described as ‘gay biker house’. Do you meet many fans that are gay bikers?
I have many fans who are gay.
J: But not just gay: gay BIKERS.
No, not gay bikers, no.