They’re a band with so much appeal that they could stop making music right now, and tour off the back off their brief back catalogue for the next 25 years. French duo Justice managed to throw off the shackles of a niche scene, conquering mainstream airwaves and a crazy amount of nightclub playlists – all this within the space of three releases. Now as they gear up to begin the new album cycle once more for their forthcoming live album Access All Arenas, it’s impossible to say what they will conquer next. Music Feeds spoke to Xavier de Rosnay to get the skinny.
Access All Arenas marks the second live release from the outfit following 2008’s popular Across the Universe. To kick things off we got to chatting about why Justice decided to take the live album route again so soon. “It’s just that when we tour, we play this music that is quite different from what we release on our studio albums,” De Rosnay began. “Two times so far, we’ve toured in 2008 and 2012, and we thought that the music was cool. It would be a shame not to give the possibility for people to have it and listen to it – for people who didn’t get to the show, and those who did can have a souvenir… You know, we also wanted to take the opportunity to release a physical record and a physical vinyl, because we don’t really know, when we make our next record, if these will still exist. I hope they do but we don’t know, so we just take things as they come. It’s going to be released on a limited-edition CD and limited vinyl, screen-printed. It’s very cool.”
It doesn’t seem as though the idea for the album was far off when they went out on tour in support of 2011’s Audio, Video, Disco, which raises questions about when the live album starts taking shape; whether it’s conceived as far back as their studio time, or if it’s a decision made after having totally dominated a show. “It’s when we start playing the shows,” he explains. “The music we make in the studio for albums is not really “dancey”, it’s not meant to be dancey. The studio albums we make are just meant to be listened to at home, in your car, you know what I mean? The live music is totally different.”
But that’s not to say that no planning went into it. “The process started 4 months before the show. It took 4 months just to get everything ready, then maybe 5 or 6 months of touring and recording the gigs. At the end, we thought ‘OK, these sound good,’ but we didn’t think of releasing it. By the end of last summer we thought, ‘OK, maybe we should do this.’ We wanted to have it printed and to remember it.”
Justice became so eager to release these recordings that they were undeterred by the fact they had already released a live album so recently, finding inspiration in an unlikely place. “The second live album doesn’t happen a lot…but, you know, when we were young we used to listen to Kiss, and Kiss were releasing Alive Part 1, 2 and 3. They were releasing all these live albums and that was great for the fans. It’s not like a proper release – it’s more something between us and the fans.”
If you put all your time into rehearsing the tracks to be performed, there isn’t too much room to make way for variation. How much allowance did they give themselves on stage to cut sick and improvise? “All the room in the world. We went in with as much direction as possible but usually it takes, like, I don’t know, 10 or 20 tries before you find a good way to do it. Something we try is with D.A.N.C.E, we’ll play it with only a piano. We did it on the first tour but it took us a few tries before we got it. We try everything we can until we see it work.
“Once we find a way we like it, we tend to stick to it, for two reasons. The first reason is that… I think there are two ways of thinking of a live show. There’s one school that says, ‘OK, I’m going to make a different show every night and improvise and try and make it as challenging as I can for myself’, and the other is, ‘I’m going to try and do the best every night because I’m playing in front of different people every night and have to give the best every night.’ And this is what we try to do. Unfortunately we don’t manage to get it all the time, though.
“The second reason? None of our lights are programmed to the music. There is nothing timecoded or anything. Everything is triggered by hand so our light engineer has to know what we’re going to do so he can trigger the lights and everything. So before the show, when we want to change something, we will tell him so he would know what we were doing it. Everything tends to be planned…but within all of that we have room to improvise.”
And how much room is left for error? “Sometimes we will just fuck up. Yeah… There might be 3 or 4 of them on the record, uh, but the thing is the songs were recorded from a lot of different shows and there isn’t one that is exactly what we wanted it to be. Because you’ll always hear some mistakes. I’m sure it’s not so important, I’m sure we will be the only ones to notice them. At some point you just have to let it go, they are just mistakes – not proper fuck-ups.”
On that topic, the group were most recently in town for Parklife 2012 for a DJ set. Those in attendance might remember the flare that went off during the set. Turns out Xavier remembers also. “Ah, you mean the hooligans! Yes, I remember! Our first reaction is to be a bit scared, because sometimes we witness accidents from the stage. When we were playing in New York we saw a guy falling from the second story balcony at a venue. When we know everything is OK – and so far we’ve been very lucky – then we realise it’s just not a good live show without a fight! The guy in New York fell very far but apparently got up 5 seconds later doing the devil horns.”
As our time drew to a close, we attempted to put Xavier to the coals regarding new material from Justice, but the man would not break. “We know pretty much what we want to do for the next album. A year ago we started to talk about making new music again and we had the same idea of the direction we wanted to go, which is great. But right now we’re not in a hurry – we’re going to take our time and wait for our new studio to be built, so when it’s ready we will start quietly and slowly.”
Justice’s new live album ‘Access All Arenas’ is out tomorrow, Friday, 10th May.