The Beats & Breaks Interview
Beats & Breaks
chats to F Communications Net-loving psychedeliasmith Basil ..."Juantrip":

Juantrip is not like other French musicians. He doesn't make filtered disco-house, or kitsch easy listening lounge music. He doesn't drive around L.A and London with an orange sock puppet listening to analogue techno.
In fact, he doesn't even make dance music at all.
Not in the literal sense of the word, at least.

No, Juantrip is not like the others.

While they are out making some of the coolest (and cheesiest) house tunes around, he is sat at home listening to old Beatles records, working on his Web site and surfing the Internet.

"To me, the Net is a huge stream of energy around the world that represnts the creation energy, controlled by consciousness.," says the 30 year-old Parisian. "We are all consciousness and we are all points of this web. We are all looking for the centre point, the centre dot. Maybe it is a vortex."

He chuckles to himself and expands on his new found theory. "There are so many sex sites, that maybe the site we are looking for is a sex site, maybe the centre dot is a sex site. All these sex sites, they invade your computer and when they do that I have to turn it off and just go 'eugh'".

Though there are some things Mr. Trip' doesn't like about the Web, he still embraces it. He has spent a lot of time on his bizarre but brilliant web site, and over the summer of 1999, he decided to release his debut album, Balmy Under The Stormy, on the Net at the exact moment of the total eclipse. To celebrate the occasion, he gave away 2000 free pairs of eclipse visors, via the NME web site.

Unfortunately, not that many people took up his offer, and he ended up with a huge pile of the buggers in his front room.

"We used the eclipse visors a lot," he reveals. "I gave them to my friends. It was quite funny ­ every one of us had these glasses with Balmy Under The Stormy written on them, and at the total ecllipse moment we had a storm!. It was exactly two minutes long and then it stopped. How could that happen - it is not possible."

"Maybe it is is a sign. Yes! I think it is a good sign!"

Such strange things have a habit of happening to Basil. As a child, he lived with his parents in a hippy commune. As a teen he roamed the streets of Paris as a red-haired punk. Then, on the eve of his 20th birthday, he went on a four-day acid trip with some friends. They experienced a communal hallucination that involved the Fool on the Hill appearing and telling the young Basil that his name was Juantrip.

Basil himself is reluctant to recount this tale. "It was a long time ago," he says. "It was like religious, what happened to me. Maybe I stick too much to this story, to this thing. It's like there is a secret door somewhere, deep into our souls, that when you open it you discover the real truth to why we are on earth."

He pauses, thinking. "It is the same question everyone is asking themselves - why are we here, what do we mean on earth? Do we mean something? Do we mean to be working, creating things? Creation is what it is all about. With my own experiments me and my friends were going through creation and it opened such a cosmic door, about how we were made and why we were there, what the trip was about, but with only concepts, flashes. It is very difficult to write it down with words. It is like explaining what the Titanic is to someone who has never seen or heard of a boat."

This period of intense LSD experimentation has made it into his music in a big way. One listen to Balmy Under The Stormy will confirm this.

"It's a weird record. It is not like dance music or powerful dub music. It is not like that, it is quite different." He's right, you know. Balmy Under The Stormy is unlike anything else you'll hear this year, a heady mix of late sixties psychedelia, nineties downtempo dance music and noodly ambience. Some parts of the record sound like fellow French visionaries Air after a particularly lucid LCD trip, while others are perfect Starman-era Bowie.

All very odd. Why this is being released on Garnier's F Communications print, a label famed for its deep house and techno output, is a mystery. In fact, Basil doesn't like F Communications at all. Although he was once a committed French techno freak, he has very little positive to say about the label that did much to establish the genre in France.

"I'm not a very big fan of what is on the F Comm label," he admits. "I think that most of their recirds sound like demos. They are unfinished. It is house music, but I have many house music records here which are excellent that I am at pains to compare with what F Comm release and what I have from Detroit. These are records which are really deep, not deep house but deep in the meaning - but deep in the groove. What F Comm releases is not this deep. It is not my thing - it was my thing at one point but my rave and techno steps are a little bit in my past. I'm not living in the past. I do not believe there is a past and a future. I believe there is good music and bad music..."

Indeed. Basil's music is pretty good, though it may take your average dance music obsessive (that'll be us then, Ed) quite a while to get used to. It is much more varied and richly textured than a lot of stuff being released at the moment. It is also, dare we say it, "progressive". A little bit, well, experimental.

For his next album, Basil is going to try something a little different. "Where as this album was songs, you know, the next album may not be songs. I have done that now. I am working on a lot of concepts. It may just be noises. I love noises even if it is not a new concept for me."

Interview: Matt Annis
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