While Kavinsky’s first three EP’s proved him a burgeoning name in French electro, the release of his debut album Outrun almost feels overdue. This might have something to do with the use of his single ‘Nightcall’ as the title track for last year’s smash hit neo-crime film Drive, leading to over thirty-million YouTube views and international fame. ‘Nightcall’, produced by Guy-Manuel of Daft Punk, features on Outrun, along with Kavinsky’s latest single release ‘Protovision’. Before the album’s UK release in February, I travelled to Paris to talk to Kavinsky about the album, zombies, stealing Mobb Deep CDs, and 80s nostalgia.
Like his friends and contemporaries, Mr. Oizo and Busy P, Kavinsky operates under a pseudonym, “My real name is Vincent Belorgey” he tells me, “but I can’t call myself that, can I? It makes me sound like a piano prodigy. I came up with Kavinsky when I was very drunk at a party. It fits what I’m doing well I think, it’s more like a rapper’s name.” I wonder whether Vincent was drunk when he came up with the backstory too, the idea that Kavinsky mysteriously disappeared after crashing his Ferrari Testarossa in 1986, only to return as an electronica-making zombie twenty years later. “I need to imagine something to make music”, he explains, “I can’t make music from nothing and so I created a lie to work with.”
The only evidence of zombification I get when meeting Kavinsky at the Hotel Amour in Paris last week is his French easygoingness. In fact, I’ve rarely felt more distinctly English (aka highly strung), than sitting across from Kavinsky, attempting an interview, while he concentrates on his whiskey, takes elongated pauses and accidentally falls back into French. You can tell that the guy’s still press-shy, explaining that he’s happier interviewing in English because he’s less likely to say the wrong thing. I think that Vincent is perhaps too genuine and grounded to play the publicity game, let alone convincingly play the baseball jacket-wearing, Ferrari-driving superstar. Case in point; he distractedly checks his phone; texts from Brodinski, SebastiAn and Mum.
Fellow producer-come-DJ SebastiAn produced Outrun, and features on a catchy track called ‘Odd Look’, for which he provides uniquely androgynous guest vocals. “We like to call this sound the travesty of being so drunk that you don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” Kavinsky jokes. While CSS front woman Lovefoxxx’s soft nonchalant sound carries the chorus of ‘Nightcall’, coming in at track 8, the album brings with it several other collaborative gems. I ask how Havoc of Mobb Deep ended up contributing. “Mobb Deep are my biggest rap influence, theirs was the first CD I stole from the store. Only Havoc was available because Prodigy was in jail, but I’m lucky to have just one of them. Their music has always spoken to me, so I didn’t want to use some rappers I see in magazines now, I wanted to be real and use these guys in my heart.”
Kavinsky cites films like Beverly Hills Cop and Risky Business as influences. Also harking back to videogames, TV cop shows like Miami Vice and the films of Dario Argento, two observations are often made about Kavinsky’s dirty electronica; it’s damn 80s and it sounds like a soundtrack. “Sure, I take my influences from old movies”, he concedes, “Everyone says, “That guy is stuck in the past!”” (It’s true, people do say that) but Kavinsky defends himself, “I don’t sit around missing things from older times, I’m just from the 80s and so my influences come from that period. That is what is in my veins. That is what I like. Anyway, my music would be very bad if I was a big fan of Titanic.”
Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ couldn’t have been a sexier match for the title song of Nicolas Winding Refn’s blockbuster movie Drive last year, yet I question whether associations with the film can run too deep, be hard to shake. “No. It was a huge opportunity for me. It’s better than being on a commercial for Coca Cola, and it has been very worthwhile. I’m a fan of the film, so I cannot be happier for people to discover my music this way.” After watching Kavinsky’s latest video for Outrun’s ‘Protovision’, which could be a scene lifted straight from Drive, it’s clear that the artist is not concerned with distancing himself any time soon. In fact, the track ‘Odd Look’ is being used in a forthcoming French BMW advert (only just “steering clear” of Coca Cola?).
Apt then, that Kavinsky’s album playback was held in the Parisian Ferrari Showroom. Merely a precursor to album launch parties in Paris, London and New York, the playback party impresses – there’s an intimate mix of annoyingly chic French people and familiar hairy faces from their music scene, including Chromeo, Justice’s Gaspard and Sebastian Tellier. The French EDM community is a “small circle”, as Kavinsky puts it. I wondered whether being part of the “core group” inspires creativity, as well as, more practically, facilitating opportunities to work together? “Pedro [Winter, head of Ed Banger] makes it all happen, like SebastiAn’s 2007 remix of ‘Testarossa Autodrive’ - that was the best! You know Grand Theft Auto 4? It was used on that.” Kavinsky is the most animated he’s been all interview, so I take this opportunity to ask him whether it was Xavier from Justice that secretly remixed ‘Nightcall’ under the fake name Dustin NGuyen. “Fine, yes!” he sighs.
And does Kavinsky enjoy making remixes? He shrugs, “I’ve only done one remix in my whole life” (that’ll be the whiskey). “No”, I remind him, “you’ve done two, SebastiAn’s ‘Embody’ and Sebastian Tellier’s ‘Roche’”. “Oh YES”, he says smiling, “There are two reasons to remix a track, you either love it and want to make it bigger, or you’re pissing on it. A lot of people don’t give a shit about what they remix – they just take the money – but I’ll only do it if I like the original and it feels right.” It’s pretty clear that Kavinsky does just about everything the right way (except maybe stealing CDs, a habit I hope he’s grown out of), so I ask when the time is right to start mixing live. “We are starting a new chapter in playing live later this year. Enough of the digi-sets, I want to play live to be more involved.” I ask what else is planned for the future. Kavinsky is vague, “I’ve got a lot of dreams and wishes, like anybody else, but I don’t ask for anything, I keep it cool”. Too cool if you ask me… bloody French.
Kavinksy’s debut album Outrun will be out 25 February. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up.
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