The entire rock 'n' roll aesthetic has long weighed heavy on the minds of today's electronic dance-music producers. Ever since acts like Underworld, Daft Punk and The Prodigy made a mainstream splash with their electronic-rock live shows, fans have been waiting rather impatiently for the “next one.” While heavy-hitting trance artists still try to position their new recordings toward the hipster and rock crowds, their music is unquestionably missing that balls-to-the wall, Jack Daniels-fueled rock 'n' roll vibe. Stepping in to do what many other artists have not done — uniting the worlds of extreme rock and dance — is Arnaud Rebotini, the man behind France's Black Strobe.
When conceiving the debut Black Strobe artist album, Burn Your Own Church (Playlouder, 2007), Rebotini had a few thoughts in mind. From the onset, he knew the album needed to be created with a live show in mind; one of the first things he did was to recruit session musicians for the recording, and the project went from a producer's pet to a full-on band endeavor. For the album's inspiration, Rebotini combined his fondness for Norwegian death metal (best exemplified on the dark opening track “Brenn Di Ega Kjerke,” Norwegian for “Burn Your Own Church”), rhythm & blues (showcased on a cover of Bo Diddley's “I'm a Man”), classical music and My Bloody Valentine's 1991 album, Loveless.
For an artist who has made a career out of remixing and rearranging other artists' work (the best of which is found on A Remix Selection [Playlouder, 2006]), Burn Your Own Church became a beast to tame from the beginning. “This whole process was extremely difficult,” Rebotini says. “It takes like two days or a week to complete a remix, but to create an original track is much harder. I also grew tired of making music strictly for the dancefloor, and I had enough with the clubby electro stuff. I wanted this to be original and to do something larger, ranging in sound from downtempo to hard stuff. So, in a sense, we really had to work to discover a new sound all over again.”
Fortunately for Rebotini, he went in search of the new Black Strobe sound with some of the best help in the business. He was able to recruit both famed producer Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Maximo Park and The Futureheads) and mixer extraordinaire Alan Moulder (U2, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails) to work on the album.
Before meeting with these producers, Rebotini sketched out simple ideas using several TC|Works Mercury-1 soft synths and Apple Logic and brought them (along with his band) to Epworth's Eastcote Studios for three weeks of recording sessions. “I was really impressed because [Epworth] really understood what we were doing,” Rebotini says. “The way he made the drums and guitar sound was amazing, and he has a very nervous production style. He has this garage and lo-fi aesthetic, and he's not too big on stereo. It was quite nice to have him at my right side because he helped me to sound really nervous and lo-fi but really modern at the same time. Paul worked perfectly with Alan, who also has a really trashy sound.”
The final piece of Black Strobe, “the band,” is the live show. Unlike many other “live” electronic acts that run their shows primarily off of computers, Rebotini claims the computer will be used only for the synth parts. The remainder of the show is performed much like a proper band, including live drums, bass, guitar and with Rebotini performing the vocals. The result is an act that looks and sounds like a rock band. That being said, it's still up in the air as to whether North American audiences will even get to see the show. “In the U.S., it's hard to find proper venues outside of a club, and since our stuff is quite rock, we usually need a DJ following us,” Rebotini says. “The show is quite successful in Europe, and if you have a good live show, you can get offered more money to come. Hopefully that will also be the case when it comes time for a U.S. tour.”