of Judge Gaspard Augé: “Justin Bieber’s album is a very conscious scam” | Music
IThis is what every musician dreams of: after 15 years of fame, fortune and headlining in festivals, you put your group on the back burner and prepare a solo record. You shoot daring videos in the mountains, travel through cinematic history for visual motifs, and distill a lifetime of sonic influences into a comprehensive statement. And then you find yourself in a legal battle with Justin Bieber.
“That’s how the world works today, and it’s a bit sad,” sighs Gaspard Augé, half of the Parisian electronic giants Justice, alongside Xavier de Rosnay. Augé had blocked the entirety of 2021 to release and promote his debut album Escapades, which is out now, but found himself in the midst of a trademark feud surrounding Bieber’s recent album Justice.
The megastar’s new album cover art and affiliated merchandise uses a design that Augé and De Rosnay claim illegally violates their own logo, which is the word Justice with the letter T designed as a cross. Bieber’s management team denied these allegations; Augé remains frustrated. “Although Bieber is from Canada, his actions match this mindset of American hegemony: ‘Well, it’s just a small group from France, I’m sure we can take their name, no one is ‘will care…’ “
It is unfair for a group like Justice to spend their creative energies in this way. Resembling the Hells Angels but making hits indebted to the Jacksons, the duo struck the heart of 2000s club music like a fireball. Alongside their contemporaries SebastiAn, Vitalic, Mr Oizo and all those who gravitated around the French label Ed Banger (a house, and rightly so, for headbangers), they were without subtlety in their quest to give rave music a rock’n’roll hit.
The duo hooked casual listeners with DANCE’s pop fantasia, before sparking outrage by portraying wanton madness through the suburbs in their video for Stress. Their 2007 debut album was loaded with sacrilegious scorchers named Genesis, Waters of Nazareth, and Let There Be Light. On stage, they converted the infidels with shock, awe and a stack of Marshall amps.
Lying at his home in Paris, Augé is surrounded by Justice’s pair of Grammy Awards – a sweet flex of pedigree. “Coming from the success of a previous project is a bit crippling at first,” he proclaims in his underground rumble of voice. “It might be worse than starting from scratch, because people expect you to be pretty good. But it’s fun to put yourself in the shoes of a new character.
Escapades is not a total makeover. Augé always relies on the galloping pace and the musculature of the best Justice material, but composes cheerfulness. The album, full of ostentatious drum fills, earworm synth melodies, and decadent Italo-disco beat, retains enough drama to captivate mass audiences. So much so that his first single, Force Majeure, was chosen by the BBC to make the soundtrack for his entire Euro 2020 coverage, giving Augé a level of exposure that even DANCE – which has recorded New Year’s celebrations at the Arc de Triomphe in 2019 – could match. Having your new material as a preface, 11.6 million people watching Yorkshire Pirlo dominate Croatia is “a big accident,” he laughs. “I will say: it seems to me that the UK has better musical tastes. You picked someone from France for the Euros soundtrack, didn’t you? It is refined.
Escapades’ music recalls the future of the space age imagined on the covers of jazz fusion records, but it is also a love letter to classical Europe. Augé was inspired by French and Italian film music. He avoids everything too overworked, favoring instead brighter compositions evoking Francis Lai, Alain Goraguer and Giorgio Moroder.
The production is enveloped in a dreamlike haze, a deliberate choice of Augé, who wakes up in the night and breaks a record for capturing “everything my subconscious threw in my face”. He finished the album before the pandemic, bouncing ideas off his creative partners, engineer Michael Declerck and composer Victor Le Masne. They worked at Motorbass, the studio space designed by Philippe Zdar – Augé’s friend and leader of the 90s house duo Cassius – who died in an accident two summers ago, and to whom Escapades is dedicated. Wasn’t that difficult? ” Actually no. In a way, being in Philippe’s working environment was a continuation of his earthly existence.
Augé spent confinement imagining an eye-catching campaign to complete his record. The album cover is among the best of the year. With a huge tuning fork cutting through the steppe, he could pass for an update on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, without a miniature Gaspard bouncing around in burgundy pants and a shaggy coat. Taken with an assortment of winter promotional photos, this isn’t particularly a seasonal fare. “It’s the problem of shooting videos in December and releasing them in June,” he says. “Unfortunately, I didn’t think about packing my bikini.”
The theme of iconography brings us back to the Bieber debacle. I told Augé that Justice himself reused pop culture references quite generously. Their signature neon cross was itself a riff on the light-based cruciforms made by Alan Vega from Suicide. In general, where is the line between inspiration and flight?
“Obviously, we don’t own the word ‘righteousness’ and we don’t own the cross. But [Bieber’s] Management first made contact to ask where our logo came from, so it’s not an unfortunate coincidence. For me, this is a very conscious scam. And that is where the problem lies.
Augé begins to take an interest in the state of modern music. “I feel that the emotional spectrum of pop today has narrowed,” he continues. “As Justice we prefer maximalist music, but we manage to do something a little over the top in a sincere way. Some say that Abba is cheesy, but they were also very sincere about the emotions they were trying to convey. Music today has a calculated cool factor, all that ego and postures, which take up too much space for me.
But wasn’t that also part of the raison d’être of Justice? Chain smoking in leather jackets was their way of making their presence felt. Augé thought for a moment. “Yes, that makes sense. We came dressed as 70s bikers to fight against the norm. We loved the attitude of rock concerts, so why create a weird anonymous character just to go on stage and DJ? It was ridiculous. We had nothing to hide. And besides, does he wink, helmets and masks? It had been done.
Right before Escapades’ announcement, he had the Daft Punk split on top of everything else. The reputation of Augé and De Rosnay as heirs presumptive to Daft Punk has always weighed heavily. How did he react to the news? “It was a surprise to me, like everyone else,” he says. “I think it was a noble gesture to leave the stage like that, leaving in their prime rather than giving in to pressure or money. Hats off to them. “
Augé confides that Justice is already making his fourth album. But for now, he’s focused on Escapades, an album that seems completely out of step with contemporary electronic trends but will easily fill the market void of 2021, ringing in the ears of millions of people every day across the country. Don’t believe us? Turn on the euros and discover Force Majeure by Gaspard Augé if you have the chance. The sound of summer.