An altar on a raised platform, a luminous cross, a spacious hall with a grand ceiling, shuddering with the ominous wailing of classical organ and hundreds of devout worshippers, hollering in tongues as they consume cleansing wines and rejoice in the unwavering power of… dance music?
This is what Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay see when they look at a nightclub. The French duo, who go by the suitably weighty moniker Justice, have a style steeped in Christian imagery that highlights the blasphemous idolism of the DJ world with what might be backhanded critique or religious fervor, depending on how seriously you take it. Augé equates “the energy that can exist in the club with some kind of mass,” by way of explanation.
Whether you take the image in earnest or as a gimmick, Justice have certainly amassed a sizeable congregation since they released their first remix, ‘We are Your Friends’ on Ed Banger Records in 2003. While the track gained them some attention, the two slowly emerged from relative obscurity until the release of their vicious anthem, ‘Waters of Nazareth’, in 2005, all the while compiling a catalogue of remixes for high-profile acts such as Britney Spears, Daft Punk, Soulwax and Franz Ferdinand.
“If we think we can bring something to a particular track, we do it,” Augé tells me of Justice’s remixes. “In general, they’re pieces with vocals, because that permits us to completely change our mindsets (about the tracks) and find new harmonies and arrangements. It’s a mental exercise that’s very fun to do.” In doing so, Justice have carved out an unmistakable sonic signature of discombobulated vocals, rattling, onerous dance beats and brutally distorted melodies produced by synthesizers that sound as though they were martyred just to emit one last growling roar for Justice’s cause. All that is juxtaposed by lullaby piano interludes and the imposing church organ sound which markedly distinguishes the songs from standard party fare.
“In the beginning we used lots of analog synthesizers and machines, but now it’s all done on computer,” continued Augé, who calmly hinted at a new direction more than once over the course of our interview. “For the new album, anyway, it’s only computer. The ‘Phantom’ track we did is the closest thing to what we were doing with ‘Waters of Nazareth’. It’s a very distorted piece. It’s the most violent part of the album. The rest is more pop and disco.”
That’s not the only thing that’s changing for Justice. Since the last time I saw them here in Montreal, along with a crowd of perhaps seventy-five people, Justice have begun to garner their share of attention from major media, including in their reception of the MTV European Music Award for ‘We are your Friends’ in the category ‘Best Video of 2006’. It was at that ceremony that hip hop artist, Kanye West, would make a spectacle of Justice’s video by storming the stage and throwing a tantrum over having lost the award.
“I think Kanye had drunk a bit and he did it to amuse himself. He didn’t really seem angry. He was just full of the fact that his video was super expensive and ours cost nothing to make. It’s funny, because we were totally unheard of and we could have just taken the prize and no one would have seen it. But because he made a scene, it sort of became the highlight of the ceremony. So thanks Kanye!”