The French are coming

By BEN WESTHOFF  |  March 10, 2008

If there’s a thread running through the Ed Banger roster, it’s Winter’s penchant for sugary pop with a violent undercurrent. The result is electronic music with a rockist bent. And you can expect Ed Rec Vol. 3, which is due later this spring, to broaden the label’s appeal among folks who don’t consider themselves techno fans — much in the way that the big-beat sounds of Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers reached out beyond the club crowd to a more mainstream audience.

That will no doubt further infuriate the label’s detractors. In the Village Voice’s recent Pazz and Jop music poll, for example, Stylus magazine co-founder Todd Burns took to task music critics (that would include this one) who voted for Justice on their 2007 ballots, saying we surely failed to explore the vast landscape of superior electronic acts and should be ashamed of ourselves. “You know the guy that I’m talking about: the one who doesn’t normally like dance music all that much, but heard this one record that transcended all those terrible clichés,” he wrote, describing the Justice sound as “ ‘Daft Punk 2.0’ — i.e., harder, faster, stronger, and rarely better.” Idolator’s Jess Harvell rebutted: “His dance-centric essay . . . is an object lesson in how not to turn people on to the unfamiliar, mostly by spending a few hundred words telling them why they suck for liking records with things like hooks.” He added, “I’m wary of passing judgment on a band’s fans as getting down in the ‘wrong’ way. If they’re dancin,’ they’re dancin.’ ”

Winter says he hasn’t read Burns’s essay, but he makes this statement about his artists — and about French electronic music in general: “We are not scared of mixing all the codes and all the references, from rock and roll, electro, and hip-hop. In German electro, they take it really seriously; electronic music has to be dark and cold. But in France, electronic music can be funny, a joke, and can be funky.”

In other words, the Ed Banger æsthetic has been taken to task for being, of all things, accessible. But Winter isn’t backing down. Just now he’s focused on breaking Ed Banger’s lesser-known artists, who include the French-language hip-hop-flavored group DSL, with their new Invaders, and Uffie, who’s slated to release her solo debut this year. He also anticipates breakout success for DJs Mr. Flash and SebastiAn. Indeed, he’s been so busy developing and promoting other acts that he’s hardly had time to work on his own music

The MySpace tour is geared toward Ed Banger’s more established artists, a reflection of Winter’s sober business mentality. After all, landing that tour is nothing short of a coup for a label the size of Ed Banger, particularly when you consider the ever-growing clout of MySpace in the music world. Instead of going after a long-established, name-brand act like Foo Fighters, MySpace seems to have bought into the idea that teaming with a hip label like Ed Banger will reinforce the site’s cutting-edge status. And like MySpace, Winter’s company is a self-taught success in the ways of viral marketing. “We’ve been on MySpace since 2005, which was a bit earlier than the rest of the European people. We’ve been active, so they were happy to work with a group that knows the MySpace code and everything.”

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