One day my dad told me that there were some people in the world who had never listened to music. Ever. He told me that when I was quite young, and I remember feeling really upset,” says Brodinski, leaning in, quizzical expression on his face. “Since that day I’ve played music all the time. That’s my life.”
Since emerging back in 2007 with his breakout track ‘Bad Runner’ Louis Rogé, aka Brodinski, hasn’t stopped grafting. Born in Reims, 80 miles north-east of Paris, he was brought up with the idea that a passion for music is one of the strongest bonds you can form. The 27-year-old still speaks to his parents every day, wherever he is in the world. His brother Tom travels the world with him, sharing every experience. His mother, an educational psychologist, and his engineer father, have supported his musical path from the start.
Louis began listening to techno at the age of 14, and the internet not only sped up his musical education, it opened his eyes to a new world– one that he would immerse himself in. Records by Ben Sims, Drexciya and later 2004’s ‘Kompakt 100’ compilation were the gateway, electronic music from Paris, London and Berlin became points of research, and before long he started making excursions to the clubs where his new heroes were playing. “I was the kid going to see them play at 15. I kept going when nobody else my age was. People were like, ‘what the fuck is he doing?'” he recalls grinning.
From going to raves with his friends and experiencing the music first-hand, artists like Pedro ‘Busy P’ Winter, 2ManyDJs, Tiga and Ivan Smagghe gradually became mentors and acquaintances instead of poster boys and idols.
“We met Louis in his home town, Reims, during an Ed Banger party we had in a pizzeria,” remembers Pedro. “Louis was there in the crowd, screaming and dancing his ass off. We came back to Reims for a bigger Ed Banger event where we invited Erol Alkan. This time Louis was backstage, part of the crew. The kid had good taste. He was young fresh and new. He was smiling, he always looked happy.” Louis’ drive to go out raving and his hunger to consume as much music as possible were insatiable. Despite studying communications at university, everything else took a back seat. “I was DJing every Friday, every Saturday while I was at school. Then I started sending out mixes and making music with Yuksek. That was the start of it all,” he recalls.
“When I met him he was really young and he had a big smile and huge energy,” says Yuksek. “It was fun to work with him. The music we did together was really different from what I was doing by myself, and even though he wasn’t a musician and didn’t touch the gears he knew exactly where he wanted to go.”
Louis followed up his networking and partying by sending out a few mix CDs to figures like Busy P (Winter still has a copy of one from 2007 in the Ed Banger offices) – and before long Brodinski (he assumed his grandmother’s maiden name for his productions and DJing) was no longer just the kid who danced at the raves – he became the one conducting them.
But while Brodinski the artist started out making and DJing electro, it was the influence of another compatriot that would supply the second, crucial element that informs his sound today. Louis’ love for hip hop began to form when he met blogger Guillaume Berg. “I wasn’t really into it to start with,” admits Louis; “I was into my techno. DJ Mehdi and G Berg opened my mind to it, and Pedro too,” he says. They started talking online in 2006, and when they met in 2008, a friendship formed that would prove pivotal. Berg now helps run Bromance on a day-to-day basis, both managing the A&R with Manu Barron and advising on a creative level.
Through Pedro, Brodinski would also meet DJ Mehdi, influential producer and key part of the Ed Banger crew, who would become his best friend – and the person who perhaps shaped Brodinski, artist and man, more than anyone else. Mehdi passed away in 2011 and his untimely death sent shockwaves through the electronic world – but Louis says that his values stay with him.
“Mehdi, Pedro and So Me gave me the experience of people living and working together as a family,” he says, pausing frequently, and clearly still emotional.
“I’m doing this for him. I’m proud that people are following what we do and that I’m able to help people I love. That’s what he taught me.”
If the Ed Banger crew, Yuksek and Guillaume were all instrumental in welcoming Louis into the French electronic music clan, since 2011 he has worked hard on starting his own branch of the family tree, under the umbrella of his Bromance label. Tonight the Parisian label is making its last stop on the ‘Homieland’ Tour of 2014 at Paradiso, a 19th century Amsterdam church turned music venue, and the crew are in high spirits. They’re celebrating the release of a 20-track compilation which encompasses the full roster and features a truck-load of contributions from their high-profile friends.
Louis started Bromance in 2011 with his manager Manu Barron, and in its relatively short life-span it’s gone from fledgling Parisian label to a worldwide presence. In three years there have been releases from friends like Kaytranada, Danny Brown and Jacques Lu Cont among the regulars, with new artists like Illangelo and Ateph Elidja starting their career on the label too. The family vibe that Brodinski fosters is evident in the way the crew roll together. They laugh, joke, hug and come across as a group of mates doing the best thing in the world: playing music and travelling the world.
But the bond between this multicultural group of artists goes deeper than that. “It’s been really interesting, given recent events [the January terrorist attacks in Paris], to see the city rise in such a close-knit, very tough way,” says Louisahhh!!!.
“And that Parisian essence is a really important part of Bromance that we don’t often acknowledge. It’s no surprise to me that there’s an overflowing silent vigil and that people are holding up signs saying ‘Not Afraid’. It’s beautiful, and so exemplary of this kind of very tight-knit and very French vibe that I feel really grateful to be a part of.”
In Paradiso, DJ Slow and Canblaster warm things up with a mixture of glitzy electro and serene half-time cuts as the early birds trickle into the majestic main room. The party is warming up above, but downstairs in the green room, through the thick haze of smoke, the rest of the crew are there in full force.
The Club Cheval unit minus Canblaster; turquoise-haired Panteros666, Sam Tiba and Myd, (who’s sporting some 70s-style sunglasses and a well-kept beard) are laughing and joking amongst themselves. Also in the room is the mysterious GENER8ION, whose 2014 release ‘The New International Sound’ and rumours of a forthcoming project with MIA have only added to the Bromance buzz.
In the room just next door is a piano which several people try their hand at over the course of the night. Gesaffelstein, characteristically clad in a leather waistcoat, black shirt and black scarf, plays soft lullabies that stand out against the dull thud of the bass from above. One of Louis’ strongest bonds is with Gesaffelstein. His mysterious character (he declined to be interviewed for this piece) and shadowy stage persona is the yin to Louis’ vibrant and warm yang, and this is what makes their bond so strong. “We are not the same in many ways and that’s what’s cool,” says Louis. “He’s one of my best friends. I’m really happy if I helped him.”
When it’s time for his set Brodinski squeezes through Paradiso’s crowd, dressed in a short-sleeved black shirt that shows off his inked skin and tall frame, parting the waves of dancers as he makes his way to the decks. The club is pitch black, at Gesaffelstein’s earlier request, and the only flickers of light come from camera flashes on the front row.
As Gesa plays his last track, Louis grabs his arm and raises it to the audience. The lights flash back on and the 19th century building seems to be rocking on its foundations to the cheering and flailing from the crowd. Now the club comes to life. Strobes reflect off the chandeliers above and crazed spectators on the balcony look like they’re swinging from the rafters. The breakneck pace that Gesa has set is ably followed by Brodinski who offers up more hurtling techno for the first quarter. He winds and rolls his shoulders as he teases the filters and flicks the jog-wheels back and forth.
Further in, the gear changes as he demonstrates the other side of the Brodinski coin, and his love for hip hop comes to the fore. Seamlessly combining furious techno with hip hop and half-time cruisers is a Brodinski speciality. It’s also the backbone and ethos behind. his new album, epitomized when Louisahhh!!!’s haunting lyrics echo across the room, ramping up the atmosphere even further.
The track is ‘Need For Speed’ and it’s taken from Brodinski’s debut album ‘Brava’ (‘courageous’ in Portuguese). The long player has been his main focus for the last year and a half, and it’s the most polished and finely-tuned music we’ve heard from him yet. It was the success of Gesa’s major label debut in 2013, and the pair’s time working with Kayne West earlier that year, that spurred Louis on to make the transition from DJ to album artist.
“The experience I had in the studio with Kanye was the best of my whole life,” he says. “He opened my mind to something different, and he’s easily the most interesting person I’ve ever worked with. Just the way he works – I just wanted to work like that. I learned a lot from him about being in the studio.”
After the Yeezy seed was planted, ‘Brava’ became more than just a background idea or a future aspiration. “‘Yeezus’ opened the door for people in rap and techno music to do something different. I’m lucky to have been a part of it,” says Louis.
He set about enlisting a team to help him create his vision. Unlike many in dance music who depend on uncredited ‘ghost producers’ to create their music, Louis is transparent about his role in the creative process. As a producer who’s always worked with others and created music based around the exchange of ideas, he takes the role of artistic director: someone who knows exactly what he wants and enlists people to help him translate what’s in his mind into music.
I would tell people how I wanted things to sound. I’m not making music by myself, I never have and I don’t want to. I’m not going to lie about it – though a lot of people do,” says Louis. Interestingly, his sound has remained consistent in every project, despite producing with Yuksek, Guillaume from The Shoes and the Club Cheval crew.
A tight-knit production team was formed for the album, most notably Myd, the easiest member of Club Cheval to work with, according to Brodinski, and DJ Kore, the executive producer who’s worked on over 30 gold disc records in France, including projects with rappers Rick Ross and French Montana. From there it was a case of uniting his two musical loves, techno and hip hop – and combining the two in a way that was as flawless as in his DJ sets. ‘Brava’ features 14 collaborations, and the majority of them consist of a selection of the most exciting, hyped and talented rappers the USA has to offer.
In selecting lyricists, Brodinski travelled across America, to New York, Atlanta, Washington, Miami and LA. Peewee Longway, Chill Will, Bricc Baby Shitro, Bloody Jay and the hotly tipped I LOVE MAKONNEN all feature. It’s as much a hip hop album as it is a dance record, and Louis makes no apology for that:
“I don’t even want to talk about style of music any more. I don’t want to put a sticker on it telling people what they’re listening to, because everything is influenced by everything. I belong to those two worlds and I don’t want to have to choose
between them,” he says.
But it’s not only Brodinski’s finely tuned sound that’s got people’s attention, and nor is it the chopping of genres and speeds. In Amsterdam his fluidity on deck combined with his good looks has the female population of Paradiso going weak at the knees – or rather, clambering around the raised booth and bellowing “Brodi! Brodi!” throughout his set. Oblivious to this siege, soon the entire Bromance team are assembled behind him in the booth. Gesa rubs his back as he drops another bomb, newly recruited trap-man Ateph Elijda throws his arms up wildly and Louisa smiles and sways as the pressure is applied.
The album sounds like nothing else out at the moment. It’s a brave step – but there’s a sense that, backed up as he is by family and friends, Brodinski is capable of anything.
“At the end of it all you ask, how many people did you help in your life? How people did you involve in what made you happy? It’s never about business for me and I hope it will never be,” he says.
Stardom or not, Louis ‘Brodinski’ Rogé is doing things his own way, keeping it in the family. It’s an ethos that should keep this Bromance going for many years yet.
Brodinski’s debut album ‘Brava’ is out now on Bromance/Parlophone/Warner