As Electric Rescue’s Skryptöm Records reached its 10th year as a label in 2017, the Waveform Transmitter‘s Paris correspondent, Léa Ben Saïd, speaks to Antoine Husson about the label’s Parisian roots, the impact of social media on music, and orchestral collaborations.
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to sit down with Antoine Husson, aka Electric Rescue, in the famous crèpe shop next to the iconic Rex Club. That night, his label, Skryptöm, celebrated its 10th year of existence in a place Antoine has called his home ever since he started raving and mixing in Paris in the early 90s. That night, Oscar Mulero was sharing the bill with him and Shekon, the youngest of the Skryptöm gang. A night of eclectic techno was ahead of us, with all the artists playing from all ends of the spectrum, showcasing their broad knowledge of the genre.
Skryptöm was established in Paris in the early 2000s and quickly became a label of reference for French techno. No room for one shot releases there, Antoine release music from artists he takes the time to know and develop. For him, muic is much more than music; it is the opportunity to gather and create a community around creativity and knowledge-sharing. After 30 years on the scene, Electric Rescue looks back on his roots and his experience.
Waveform: You started being part of the Parisian scene in the 1990s. How did you get yourself known? And how would you compare the period back then, to the scene today?
Electric Rescue: I started listening to this kind of music in 1988 and started going out in 1989. We were probably about 300 people listening to techno at the time in Paris, and maybe 500 in France, with about 50 DJs in total. Everyone knew each other and it was really an intimate experience. In 1990, I bought my first turntables and by 1992, it all exploded and we were thousands raving every weekend. But since I was part of the first wave, when everyone knew each other, and since music has always been in my life, I quickly started mixing and someone gave me a chance.
It was probably easier at the time to become a DJ because the contact was more direct and it felt more like a big family, but it was also more difficult because there was less material and substance. It was like being part of a friendship group, letting your mates know you started mixing, and you’d give your cassette to a couple of promoters. I first played at a rave in 1992, thanks to the manager of Jeff Mills, who gave me a chance. He was the precursor of many things in Paris at the time.
I was playing under my first alias, D’Jede, when Star Wars was really popular, and it made you think of futuristic music. During that time, there were loads of DJ names like Guillaume the Turtle, Jérome Pacman… So I was kind of drowned in the wave of stupid names. It is true that people in techno sometimes take themselves a bit too seriously and lack some humor, but that’s not always the case.
The Skryptöm family is constantly joking around; like in our Facebook group chat, there’s about 10 of us chatting all day and messing around. I feel like in techno, when you’re trying to be funny you’re quickly put aside so officially a lot of people stay serious. At the very beginning, it was more a lovey-dovey time, it was naive and magic at the same time, it was pretty cool. Today, people are more passionate and involved in music, more specialist, unlike in the 2000s where it was all a business focused on the image. Although, this kind of comes back with very marketed artists such as Charlotte de Witte or Amelie Lens.
Waveform: Since forever, for an artist, it looks like launching a label, alone or in collaboration with someone else, is the logical development of an artistic project. Yourself, before Skryptöm, you started Calme Records, and now you also run Möd3rn Records with your mates, in parallel to Skryptöm. What made you want to start releasing music that you picked?
Electric Rescue: There’s two ways of starting a label; there are the ones who REALLY start a label, and there are the ones who start a label to put themselves forward first; that’s what we call ‘real labels’ and ‘egolabels’. Skryptöm is a real label, I never created it to put myself forward. It is different with Möd3rn Records.
Möd3rn started out as some mates wanting to make some music, always working together but not all three of us at the same time, until we thought of it and gave it a go. It worked really well, we were doing a lot of improv, and then we decided to put this improv on an album. We didn’t really want to approach labels though, because it’s a long and complicated process, so we decided to found Möd3rn Records and that’s how it started. We never planned to launch a label at the beginning, it just came naturally. Möd3rn Records truly is a vanity label – a label dedicated to Möd3rn – but we would not use other artists to put ourselves forward. It is focused on our work.
My first label was Calme Records. I have always seen the work of labels that inspired me, and I’ve always had that spirit of gathering people, through organising raves in the 1990s, or discos in my building when I was a kid. I’ve always loved being with my mates and creating a group of artists working together, each with their own personality, and pushing each other to do their best. It is the kind of things that I have seen label like F Communications do, the second label of Laurent Garnier.
It was a real label, taking on artists from scratch, and supporting them in their development, putting them forward, making them tour, etc. That’s what I really liked, and that’s what I was trying to do at first with Calme Records but it didn’t really work. Skryptöm took a different turn though and it has become one of the references for techno in France. I really value the human side of things as well as the musical side.
Waveform: You often speak about those people who have welcomed you on the scene with open arms, and supported you all these years, and you refer to them as your family. Just like the Rex or Astropolis for example. I feel like Skryptöm is also a family of its own, especially with your residence at the Rex. How would you define the state of mind of your label, and the characteristics that make Skryptom, Skryptom? For example, to someone who has never heard of it before?
Electric Rescue: At Skryptöm we’re not a family because we’re relatives, but I wanted to create a collaboration, a partnership. It starts by the artist sending me a demo, and then we meet and we get to know each other. Musical and human need to be together for me, and that’s what I think makes Skryptöm different from the rest. It’s about the idea of creating a community, and few labels are doing that, which is sad. This is truly what I have been focusing on myself.
Recently I have been working on a project called Skryptöm Collective, in which I gather all the artists of the label for a week in studio, and at the end we organise a night during which all the artists have formed exclusive duos, trios, that they will never work as again. Groups that will be changed again at the next Skryptöm Collective. It’s about creating things that do not exist yet, and I want to have fun and create with them at the heart of the community we make ourselves. There has been labels like BPitch Control, Token, or Dystopian that have kind of the same spirit behind as well.
For these labels it’s a business, but you feel passion first and foremost in what they do. You really get that they want to create unique things, the same way I do. I’m sure that’s what the artists of Skyptöm get from me as well, and if they get it they stay. If they don’t, they leave, and that’s because they have a different philosophy, a different ways of seeing things. I think that’s what’s different about Skyptöm really; it’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different. We were born alone, we die alone, we live alone, so it’s great to be able to congregate and be part of a community.
Waveform: When we look at the scene throughout the years, we notice that many periods are associated to a particular type of sound. After being active for over a decade, have you noticed a change in the style of Skryptöm? And do you think it could change again with the resurgence of genres such as electro?
Electric Rescue: Yes definitely, there has been some sort of change in the music. Skryptöm was first created at the time of labels like Border Community or BPitch Control, so music was more soft, melodic and sensual. Even if I myself come more from the rave and industrial movements, like hard techno. Skryptöm arrived at a moment when there was loads of minimal about so it was quite similar to this and inspired from this, even though there was this kind of techno melancholy as well.
At the end of the 2000s, it drifted back to what I prefer originally, so more techno, since like 2010/2011. Today it’s really anchored in hard, original techno, usually with more substance and texture while keeping the melancholy side, sometimes emphasised. So yeah, there has been an evolution, and the music of Skryptöm used to be a bit more accessible.
The first record that came out we sold over 20,000 copies so that was huge. Today it’s impossible to reach a larger public. But I don’t care about that. And I hope it’s going to change again. I’ve been changing and evolving constantly for 28 years according to what I enjoy at the time. What is different truly feeds a genre. The culture of difference is very important, and that’s where techno comes from in the end. Closing yourself by being narrow-minded in your techno, is the beginning of death.
I’m really happy about the resurgence of electro, I love it. I’ve been making some of it in the studio and I’ve even been playing electro sets out. So it’s great to get back to that, and techno will gain from it as well. I mean in 2000 there was a form of electrotech that came across so that’s all good. However, it’s good not to be stuck in the past with old trends. For me, techno is and will stay the music of the future. Getting inspiration from the past is fine, but you need something more.
Waveform: I’ve noticed that among the thirty something releases of Skryptöm, the music is usually very similar in style, and produced by white males. I understand that you pick your releases according to the demos you are being sent, do women and persons of color not send you any demos, or is it an artistic choice?
Electric Rescue: Are you a feminist? (Laughter) Listen, I have two ears and that’s what I listen to music with. As soon as I like something, I get in touch with the artist, so if it’s a woman, it’s a woman, if it’s a man, it’s a man. Life and coincidences mean that so far, it’s only been men, and they’ve all been French! But I’ve never meant it particularly.
I listen to everything I’m being sent, but I don’t get many demos made by women. I do get more and more of them though, but it’s still a minority. I follow many women artists, but so far women have not really implicated themselves in music, but what makes me sad is really the way women are being used and instrumentalised. Nina Kraviz has sort of opened the field for this exploitation and this derive. But I’ve got no problem with artists like Ellen Allien or Paula Temple who have been around for years and make real music. I don’t think it’s an issue of not giving women a chance.
For example with K-Hand, she plays niche music and life opportunities have meant that promoters not been wanting to book her, but it’s not a gender issue. If she had made more hit music, she would have had the same success as Ellen Allien or Paula Temple. Why is Charlotte de Witte being booked and not K-Hand? Because Charlotte de Witte is being given music, and she’s pretty, and the background work that is being done around her is instrumentalising her. That’s where reside sthe machismo of the situation.
There’s an argument that says everyone should put women forward, but that’s only because it’s a selling point. It’s the same for men actually. People who do well these days are people like I Hate Models, covering his face with a bandanna, something that has already been done with Underground Resistance thirty years ago. And he doesn’t make anything particularly new. People like SNTS for example, dressing up with his black mask, and his monotonous industrial techno…It only works well because of his outfit on stage really. For me it’s not music, it’s just entertainment with a staged performance. Today we prioritise the visual side of things rather than the musical element, and that’s a problem.
Waveform: With the arrival of social media and technology, have you noticed a real change in the way of managing a label, but also of being an artist in general?
Electric Rescue: That has changed everything. Now we sell disks, it’s become easier and more accessible. Everyone can access music without necessarily paying for it, which for me is a good thing. It’s good to give accessibility to everyone, without needing to be rich, but being able to listen to everything.
The cons are that, for industry people, it’s harder to live off it, even without looking to make millions. Building a family means taking care of somewhere to live, eating, going on holiday as well, because even if we can think we’re always on holiday even on the job, it’s nice to disconnect. The cons are mostly for the pros rather than for the public actually. In the end, it’s good that it’s more free for the public, but it’s not good because people appreciate less things, and do not always realise the value of things. Everything has become more consumable and disposable. Nothing is precious anymore. It’s all intertwined though and the good brings about the bad.
Waveform: I’ve heard that you like playing in clubs under unknown aliases, and you also have a number of on-going projects, such as Electric Rescue, Möd3rn and Laval. According to you, what inherent differences are there between your aliases? And what do you gain from them?
Electric Rescue: I can’t really explain why I like having all those identities. I have the need to constantly create, I’m kind of an hyperactive when it comes to creation. Sometimes from one project to another there will be some similarities and I won’t be able to differentiate them really, but then I have projects like Recode which leans more towards electronica.
If they’re projects that are kind of like sub-projects of Electric Rescue, then I will make sure they are different from one another. If they are ‘submarine’ projects, it does not really matter whether they resemble or not and they might end up being quite similar. I want to give my new projects their own lives. I don’t want them to be influenced by my presence on the techno scene already, in good or in bad. I really want to see the reaction to my new work; who am I going to be able to reach?
I am lucky enough to have Electric Rescue that makes me a living daily, and everything else is just fun. If something works really well than there’s always a possibility that I will reorganize how I prioritise everything or I will rethink it’s life span. Maybe one day I’ll leave Electric Rescue to focus on something else, I have no idea. I don’t calculate what’s going to happen, I just let everything follow its course. But at the end of the day, it’s true that it’s a lot of fun to play around a bit, especially when you’re 45! (laughter) I’m so lucky to be able to do this still, same as Laurent(Garnier) who’s 52, or even Manu(Le Main) who’s 47. We are really lucky.
Waveform: This month, you will perform at the Philharmonic de Paris with Gaspard Claus, for a performance during which you will revisit Bach’s music. More and more techno artists collaborate with orchestras or classical music players to create a completely unique sound, including Jeff Mills. Have you ever imagined that one day you will play at the Philharmonic de Paris? Have you always been interested by classical music?
Electric Rescue: Not at all! I was never interested in classical music but I have always listened to it. I know nothing about it really, I do not know any references or anything. However, I have always been listening to it in my car, and I particularly like cello music.
This project came completely out of the blue two years ago now. People from Sourdoreille came to talk to me about it and they introduced me to Gaspard Claus then, the cello player. The cello is such an emotional instrument for me, as soon as he plays I want to cry. Every time we rehearse together, I cry ! (laughter).
I love the feeling of melancholy that the cello creates. I got along really well with Gaspard from the moment we met, he is a great guy. The fact that the project is about Bach did not mean anything much to me, I would have done it if it had been around someone’s else’s work as well! Even though I did know a lot of Bach’s work already, I got to discover so much more which I really enjoy, in spite of this grandiose feeling attached to it sometimes.
It was a really interesting collaboration because Gaspard and I had to create our own musical language to communicate since we had two completely different approaches to how to read music for example, in order to work together. What I liked about the project as well is that it was a way to ennoble techno for people who are not necessarily involved in the scene, and I serve the role of militant, pushing the sound towards people, trying to make them understand that techno is much more than they might think.
Waveform: Do you think this project will go further ?
Electric Rescue: Actually yes, this event is not even our first gig together as we had performed together for an emission before. That is when someone from the Philharmonie asked us to be part of this festival around Bach at the end of March. We also played at Saint Brieuc and at Valence before. And then we decided to make an album!
It is almost finished now, we have been trying to approach some labels to release it but there is nothing concrete yet. The music of the album is completely original, a true mix between his work as a classical instrumentalist, and the electronic music I make. There is not anything classical about it, it is quite broad musically speaking, with some very interesting electronica for example. Everything was so spontaneous in this collaboration because I had never expected to play with someone like Gaspard Claus, even less playing Bach, and even less making an album with him.
Waveform: As a DJ, producer, label head, promoter, and festival programmer, we could think you have had your hands on almost everything! Is there anything in the music and artistic industry that you would like to try to do? And then, is there anything you can tell us about your future projects?
Electric Rescue: The big 2018 project I have is Skryptöm Collective. I think it is quite an innovative project as I have never seen it done anywhere else. I am planning on organising two or three events like this a year maybe, not more, in different venues and cities. There’s already a second one planned at Caen in June, and the last one of the year will be at the Rex Club in December.
During this week we will take time to focus on composition in the studio, there will be masterclasses by different artists around different thematics, and we will have time to prepare for the night. At the very end, we will gather everything that was done in studio during the week, and make a disk out of it. It will come out on a new sub-label of Skryptöm called Skryptöm Collective. It will be an object of culture, transmission, creation, and representation, touching upon all the aspects of the scene, making a true global object. I’ve never seen that done in music before so Skryptöm might be able to bring something new to the table with that.
I’m also going to start a new label for myself which will be called Esquisse. The first release is ready and I am already working on the second, third, and fourth one. I am planning on releasing the first one in the spring. This label will be solely focusing on my music, as Electric Rescue, but also on my future collaborations. For example I have one coming up with Stanislav Tolkachev, one with Inigo Kennedy, one with Blue Hour… There’s also people like Shifted who have been eyeing the project and seem pretty interested. For me, this is more about taking my techno heroes and trying to collaborate and share with them. Sometimes it is quite ambitious, but other times it’s easier because it’s people I know well, such as Inigo Kennedy who is mate of mine.
There’s also the album with Gaspard of course that might come out… There’s a lot going on but it’s not always planned and it depends on who you meet and the opportunities you might have.
Skryptöm‘s latest release is Maxime Dangles Brumes EP. You can check it out, here. The Möd3rn Records imprint will be releasing their latest ‘Deuxième Monde EP’ on April 23rd, so keep your eyes peeled for a review of that, here on The Waveform Transmitter. For now, take a listen to our exclusive Electric Rescue Waveform Mix, below.