The French are coming

Justice and Busy P bring the Ed Banger sound to Boston
By BEN WESTHOFF  |  March 10, 2008


VIDEO: Justice, "D.A.N.C.E."

With Grammy nominations, the launch of an extensive North American tour sponsored by MySpace that comes to the Paradise this Saturday, and a bona fide backlash, Ed Banger Records has entered the second phase of its great American takeover. Headed by long-time Daft Punk manager Pedro Winter, the Parisian label is best known for blending techno and rock into a kind of metalitronica, and for the success of the French duo Justice, who embody that sound. Justice’s profile even got an inadvertent boost from Kanye West at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards when West jumped on stage and threw a temper tantrum after their video with Simian, “We Are Your Friends,” bested his “Touch the Sky.” He complained that his vid “cost a million dollars, Pamela Anderson was in it. I was jumping across canyons.”

Since then, however, Justice have exploded worldwide, having released their debut Cross album (Downtown/Ed Banger/Vice) to tremendous critical and popular crossover success, and Winter’s acts have left their musical and æsthetic imprint on US culture. For his recent “Good Life” video, West himself tapped Ed Banger resident artist So Me, and he also used a Daft Punk track for his song “Stronger.” “I think Kanye did an amazing track by sampling Daft Punk,” says Winter over the phone from Paris, in his thick French accent. And West’s Grammy Awards performance with the group? “With all the glowsticks and neon, it really looked like a Daft Punk show.”

Even the French are on board. Winter notes that though the press and the public in his homeland were slower to appreciate his label than were much of the world, they’ve now hopped onto the bandwagon: “They didn’t start it, but they are following it for sure.” He adds that his acts even receive tabloid mentions nowadays for their “trendy parties. . . . Now we are the most famous French label exporting French music.”

Having gotten married last year, Winter — who will be performing under his DJ name Busy P on the leg of the MySpace tour that hits the Paradise this Saturday with Justice playing a DJ set — has barely been able to see his wife, jet-setting from Iceland to Mexico to Coachella and back. (The MySpace line-up at larger venues includes the likes of Parisian boy/girl glam band Fancy, baile funk DJ Diplo, the electro duo Chromeo, and French hip-hop DJ Mehdi.) Winter says his acts have been followed everywhere by rabid fans of the label’s melody-focused electronic music, which borrows liberally from rock’s song structures and hops genres fluidly.

Founded by Winter in 2003, Ed Banger gained steam in 2006 with the release of veteran producer DJ Mehdi’s album Lucky Boy, a single called “Pop the Glock” from foul-mouthed American-born female rapper and singer Uffie, and the Kanye/Justice incident. A compilation of label material, Ed Rec Vol.1, also came out that year. Vol. II followed in early 2007: its short, sampler-and-synth songs encapsulate the label, blending ’80s Top 40, glammy hard rock, edgy hip-hop, and even trashy Europop. Mr. Flash’s “Eagle Eyez” evokes the retro flash of Miami Vice, whereas his “Disco Dynamite” takes its cues from Giorgio Morodor’s Donna Summer productions. DJ Mehdi, meanwhile, delivers sweaty interludes (“Stick It”) and hazy funk jams (“Lucky Girl”), and Justice’s “Phantom” is a slab of hard-driving electro with heavy-metal overtones. (Some have speculated that the cross on Justice’s album cover owes to their reverence for Master of Puppets–era Metallica.)

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