Bambounou: “I just put out weird music”

NSNS had an early bird conversation with Bambounou after his Mexico City gig.

The night is young. We all gather at Yu Yu club, a dozen of friends, led by Juan, the mastermind behind today’s party. Around 10 pm we are on our way to have dinner, packed like sardines in two cabs and very hungry. 

I officially meet Bambounou, who has just arrived in Mexico a couple of hours ago, in a seafood restaurant in La Roma, Mexico City.

“Hi, guys! I’m Jeremy, nice to meet you,” he exclaims. 

Dinner is a nice framework for social interaction. The conversation unfolds, powered by a fair amount of mezcal and excitement for today’s night.

Then, little by little, interaction slows down, people lower their voices and calm down the way you usually do after a good dinner, having a perfectly stilled hunger and thirst. 

It’s the moment when you know it’s time to move. 

On my way out I shake Jeremy’s hand and say something about seeing him later for the interview.

“Oh, we are doing an interview? Cool!” – he is smiling that big and warm everything-is-gonna-be-fine smile. 

I figure he isn’t really aware of our plan, but still is down for it even on such a short notice. 

This is the very moment you realize, that nothing will go as planned.

In fact It never does.

The only thing I know for sure is that the party is going to be amazing.

A couple of hours later I am happily jumping my worries away to Tomas Urquieta and Nico’s (aka White Visitation) b2b dj set when Bambounou appears.

He gets behind the decks, right where he was playing a year ago, a huge smile lighting up his face.

The place is packed, Bambounou is dancing to his euphoric fusion of different styles, the crowd is mirroring his moves.

And right when it is all supposed to be over, a tall guy approaches Jeremy. 

They laugh and hug, exchange a few words, then the guy, who turns out to be Simo Cell, takes his parka off and…they start playing b2b.

Quite a plot twist. For everyone. The crowd is raving. It becomes obvious that the party goes on.

I go upstairs to get some air.

On the door a group of young people is trying to convince the doorman to let them in. The guy on the door is charmingly repeating his mantra: “I am very sorry, but the club is closed now, the party is over, we can’t let more people in.”

Young people are getting really frustrated and impatient. 

“But we can hear the music!!!! There are people inside! Come on, please, let us in! We can pay, how much do you want?” – they are determined to make their way in whatever the cost.

The party could go on and on, but both Bambounou and Simo Cell had their flights early in the morning, so an hour later we are all in a cab, deadly tired but happy, on our way to the hotel, Jeremy,

Isaac, who is doing logistics for tonight, and I.

“Ok, so let’s start!” – Jeremy says cheerfully.

I am staring at him blankly, not even sure what to start with at 6 am after such a crazy night.

Noting my expression Jeremy chuckles: “Hahah!!! It’s a joke, it’s a joke don’t you worry”. 

Jeremy and Isaac are laughing. I give out a sigh of relief.

A couple of minutes is enough for Jeremy to pass his good mood to everyone and the conversation starts to flow.

We talk about music and Jeremy’s earlier gigs, about so-called “music business” and music journalism.

Jeremy embarks on a profound explanation of how things actually work: “Look, I’ll explain to you the way things work, and it’s neither good nor bad, it’s just the way it is now, not saying we shouldn’t try to change it….” 

At the hotel lobby we are folding ourselves into soft armchairs.

Our brooding on music and such continues for a while, then eventually I start recording.

P: So, how was today?

B: Really fun, really really fun, I was actually a bit tired because I arrived a couple of hours ago… 

P: Yeah, I know…

B: I slept for one hour, then I went to the dinner… You know, usually, when I am very tired I would just skip dinner, but Juan is my friend and I was like ok, I’m gonna go and have dinner with him. So I went to the dinner, then I came back to the hotel, slept for one more hour and then went to the club and now my flight is in a couple of hours so maybe I’m gonna sleep for twenty more minutes or something like that.

P: And Simo Cell appeared out of nowhere, and then, suddenly, the two of you are playing b2b, that was fun too! 

B: You know, Simo Cell is one of my really good friends, we actually did a remix EP together, it was a couple of tracks…So he told me three days ago something like “Hey, I saw you were gonna play in Mexico, I’m gonna be there as well!”. But I didn’t expect him to come over at all! It was such a nice surprise when he arrived! I said “Let’s drink some mezcal and maybe do a b2b!”. And that’s exactly what we did and it was really fun!

P: Do you like playing in Yu Yu?

B: Yes!! The first time I arrived Juan showed me everything and told me about his idea of opening the record shop there. I think it’s really important for Mexico to have this kind of place.

P: Yes, and I don’t think there are many places like this in the world…

B: Noo, there are not!

P: You know, you have lots of interviews and almost all of them include this question, what’s Paris electronic music scene/ nightlife is like? And you are saying it’s super cool. But there are no clubs! How is it cool then? And what’s left of Paris nightlife without Concrete, now that it’s going to be closed…

B: They already closed it.

P: Oh, ok, they already did…

(sad pause).

B: Well, Concrete was the only known meeting place. It was the only club where you knew that the line up was gonna be good, every line up. They were trying to provide the audience with good music. And you knew you were gonna meet some interesting people. Now they (Concrete team) opened a new club called Dehors Brute, which is nice but the sound is not as good as it was at Concrete. They do have good line-ups still, but it’s a little bit complicated. But, you know, what’s really interesting about Paris is that they do a lot of warehouse parties, some really good parties in the suburbs.

P: Ok so, it’s all happening in the suburbs.

B: It’s in the near suburbs, you can easily get there by metro. Concrete was convenient because it was  inside Paris, and Parisians are like “Oh, I live in Paris, I wanna go party only in the city, I don’t wanna go outside”. But in the last three or four years people started going more and more to these suburban parties and it’s great!

P: You play a lot with UK bass artists, I don’t want to stick to genres here…

B: Ahha… ahha? 

P: Bristol guys, Batu, Bruce. You play in the UK even more often than you do in France. Why this connection?

B: I think it goes deeper than that, there are people connected and there are two scenes connected. We appreciate each other’s music a lot and we get along well, the best example is Simo Cell, who is not making the UK bass kind of music, but he’s influenced by it, he’s doing his own stuff but…it’s a complicated question.

P: That’s exactly why I am asking, it’s very interesting!

B: I need to think about it! – he laughs.

P: And again, about the actual state of the scene, do you think the whole partying and clubbing thing, it’s losing its value…

B: Wait, wait, wait, what do you mean, I think that in your head you know what you wanna say but you are not saying it! Say it!

P: Well, the scene is oversaturated, the party is not special anymore. Sometimes, it’s just the same thing all over and over again.

B: Yeah! But what thing? – he asks with a sly grin.

P: The party…

B: But what kind of a party? – he stares at me for a moment, – I know what you wanna say, but I want you to say it.

P: Like the same big names warehouse kind of a party…

B: Yes! Ok, yes! Now you know what I wanna tell you… Right now it’s techno oriented, I like techno, I really like it, there are a lot of good artists doing it really well and they bring a lot of people to parties. I think it’s a good entry point for people who don’t know music to just get into it and discover new stuff and, just like we said before, people are getting bored. So when it comes to this, you just go and see something else. So, in a way, it’s good because it makes people go out there and look for something special, to discover new stuff. You know what I mean? I see it in a more optimistic way. It’s not just that people only go for big names, well, obviously, they do, but at some point they go looking for other kinds of parties.

P: What’s behind Bambounou the dj, what kind of a person is there under the moniker?

B: Ok, well, I’m a dad now, so I wake up at 8 am every day, then I take care of my daughter, then I go to do muay thai, then I go to the studio. That’s pretty much my life… And it’s amazing.

P: But what are your hopes, dreams?

B: My hopes… dreams…Oh, I don’t know, it’s really intense this question.

P: Well it’s all about a human, about a real person, you know…And behind every artist name there’s a person…

B: Yeah…I don’t know, I’m thinking about some stuff but I don’t want it to sound too cheesy! I guess It’s just like everyone to find your own way of feeling good…

P: What way?

B: Producing good music, being good to my friends and everyone around me and that’s it.

P: What was your happiest moment then, when you felt ok, now, I am satisfied, it was worth it?

B: I think I am always satisfied, the whole process, it’s quite a long run, it’s interesting. As a DJ, if you are being satisfied all the time, if you really enjoy going to gigs, if you enjoy being surrounded by people, if you enjoy playing… It’s not about just some moments, it’s about the whole stuff, you enjoy it all.

P: And most difficult moments in your career? Do you ever feel pressured to produce? Like, you know, if you don’t produce, you are not on the radar, then maybe you won’t get that many bookings and everything? Like people will forget about you?

B: I think I am being very lucky because, for example, I haven’t put out any records in three years and I was still touring. I toured a lot. I think I’m one of those lucky persons I still DJ with every weekend. Now I have bookings every weekend, sometimes three or four times a week and I just put out weird music, I don’t think I have to put out like the most amazing banger to tour but yes I know what you mean… About the pressure, about quantity over the quality, some DJs and producers are doing that just because they have to pay rent and stuff like that. And it’s understandable but just like I said I’m being very lucky, I don’t have to do it. I don’t feel pressured. But well, obviously when there’s an EP coming out I’m like oh, I need to do an EP but I don’t think of it in a way that I have to make a banger, be it for myself or for other people.

P: What are your fears?

B: No, I don’t have any fears!

P: That’s not true! Everyone does.

B: I’m not gonna tell you.

P:Ok, that’s a better answer, a more honest one. Do you have pets?

B: Yes, I have a cat, his name is Romeo and I’m gonna have another one. Two cats! So we gonna have two cats with my girlfriend and with the baby now, it’s gonna be really hectic,- he laughs again.

P: What are the most important things that you learned about life and that you would like to teach your child…

B: Naaah, not gonna talk about it!

P: Would you like your child to get into music?

B: Noo-no-no, I see what you are doing, you are a good journalist! 

P: Just trying to get to know you in 20 minutes! Also, I would like to know where your strength is coming from in the sense that you have never done anything… don’t wanna call it mainstream, but I think you never cared about what people might say about your music. I mean, say, you produced something, you get bad reviews, but you won’t change because of this, this is strength and it’s coming from somewhere. You know, a lot of musicians are suffering from this pressure, they have breakdowns or get lost on their career paths. Mental health issues in the music industry is quite a topic now…

B: I think I was lucky enough to be able to do what I want and people would still book me, it’s not that I would adapt obviously like, for example, tomorrow I’m playing at Circo Loco in Brooklyn and it’s much more house-y, so I’m gonna play my vision of house. I don’t know, it’s going too deep…

P: I’ve never read a deep interview with Bambounou, so…

B: I really can’t say about strength, because I had a big period of huge anxiety problems. I couldn’t do lines in airports and stuff like that, I was very stressed all the time. Maybe my strength comes from me saying to myself that I have to keep doing what I do, I think, may be, it’s good for me I just need to do something weird, I don’t see it as a burden, it’s not strength, I just need to do it, it’s like therapy, you know. I go to the studio and I am free to express myself the way I want and that’s it 

P: Do you think my view of music journalism and media in general is somewhat pessimistic?

B: At some point when a media becomes big it has to speak to a bigger audience, so it has to be direct and easy to understand. You are trying to catch the essence of an artist, of a person behind the name, which is really interesting. I don’t think it has to do with pessimism or optimism at all, it just has to do with a human behind the scenes. It’s very hedonistic what you are doing, it’s more about the people….

P: Hedonistic?

B: Nooo, in a good way! It’s interesting because sometimes people tend to see djs, musicians, as more than just ordinary people, because of everything they see on social media,  because they think they are always having a good time…

P: But It’s a false image…

B: It’s a part of the image, it’s not a true image though. If you go and reach out to the other side, I think it’s going to be great! 

The time is up. We thank each other for everything, now this night is officially history.

Written by Pat Aliyeva for NSNS

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