CLERMONT-Ferrand in the Auvergne region of France, where the dance duo Justice are playing, is famous for the surrounding volcanoes called the Chaine des Puys.
I know this because I’ve got time to call up and read the city’s Wikipedia page while I wait to discover which of the pair is going to speak to me.
A very nice but increasingly exasperated middleman called Sebastian thinks it will be Xavier de Rosnay, the Justice member in the biker’s jacket, impossibly skinny jeans and non-ironic heavy metal T-shirt who doesn’t sport the comedy handlebar moustache. Then I’m told – non, non – it will be Gaspard Augé, Monsieur Moustache, instead.
I’m pleased about this because I’m keen to find out if Augé, 32, is still married to the fan he met in Las Vegas, because as anyone who’s seen the DVD of their hilariously grim 2008 road trip across America will remember, the bride isn’t glimpsed again after the drunken ceremony at the wedding chapel. But – non, non – Augé’s English isn’t as good as de Rosnay’s so it falls to the latter.
Any disappointment I might feel quickly vanishes. De Rosnay, 29, is charm personified. À propos of nothing very much, he announces: “I have to tell you that my favourite dish – well, one of them for sure – is haggeese.” Currently living in London, he says it’s usually hard to find there, although recently he’s been lucky. I tell him this was probably some Burns Night leftovers; he doesn’t know the Bard but promises to seek out his work.
Justice are the dance act who’re not afraid to rock. As I say, those T-shirts aren’t worn tongue-in-cheek (Augé chose a Def Leppard one for his Nevada nuptials). So are they frustrated rockers and would they give up the electro masquerade tomorrow if some hairy-bottomed axe-grinders agreed to take them on? “Ha ha, that’s a little bit funny,” says de Rosnay. “But non. Rockers, pah. They lose their teeth too young, you know.”
Nevertheless, the rock influence is there and it’s growing. If you only know Justice for the Michael Jackson tribute hit D.A.N.C.E., you’re probably a bit baffled, but elsewhere on the debut album named after an untypeable symbol but generally referred to as Cross, there were some pretty fearsome guitars. Last autumn’s follow-up Audio, Video, Disco – which Justice are touring round the world in a show coming to RockNess – features more of the heavy stuff but also soft rock and, most interestingly, prog rock.
“We love ELO and Supertramp, and 10cc are one of the most clever bands ever,” says de Rosnay. That explains some of the soft influences on the album, but it’s the echoes of progressive bands from the 1970s, the classical flourishes of Focus and Rick Wakeman, Yes’s keyboard wizard, which really stand out. Daft Punk – and Justice are sometimes described as their heirs apparent – have shown their proggy side, and another dance act, Sweden’s Lindstrom, is the leading exponent of prog-disco. But maybe de Rosnay and his equally louche buddy – super tramps both – are the ones to make the genre something it’s never been: sexy.
“You know that fantastique riff at the beginning of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man?” asks de Rosnay. (Your correspondent may have heard it once or twice in the last 42 years) “I wanted it to be the touchstone for this album even though Gaspard hates it; he thinks it’s too jazz-rock. Maybe the truth about us and prog is that we never really listened to it when we were younger because it’s complicated; really we like music to be simple.
“But when I first met Gaspard I loved him right away because he told me he used to want to be in the Buggles, and that was me also. They were really pop but also really conceptual. And you know, of course, that the Buggles joined Yes for a while, so maybe that’s our connection with prog.
“The imagery of prog because of Roger Dean [Yes sleeve artist] is a little bit Dungeons & Dragons and really amazing. But you know, the thing that’s really the best about it is the freedom. You can have three tunes in one song; incredible time changes. The horizons of prog you cannot see, just like a Dean painting.”
De Rosnay and Augé – who have backgrounds in graphic design, met at a party in Paris in 2003 and got their big break with a remix of an indie track by the now-defunct Simian, We Are Your Friends – are very into their freedoms, judging by that tour documentary. Pillow fights with groupies, jacuzzi parties with groupies and the time-honoured breast-autographing sessions – maybe such malarkey is de rigueur for any randy musicians on the road, but few would have the cockiness to leave the footage unedited. “We just wanted it to be like our lives as Justice and not to have a problem showing stuff that looks a bit pathetic,” explains de Rosnay.
Another duo almost steals the film: the God-fearing bus driver with the basso profundo he hopes is low enough to get him into the Guinness Book Of Records, and the tour manager with the gun fetish who gets everyone arrested in Denver. Almost steals it, but not quite…
“We’re not great producers or great musicians or great songwriters.” Justice often say this about themselves, but they must be doing something right because their music is terrific fun and their shows often thrilling. “We cannot play like those prog guys, non,” says de Rosnay. “But, through computers, music has become a great democracy and everyone can do it, even us. We don’t set limits on ourselves and what we do is always really faithful to the idée.”
Now he must get ready for a show in the shadow of volcanoes, which is destined for a festival in the Highlands.
“Of course I believe in Nessie,” he says, adding that neither he nor his sidekick has any plans to get married by the lochside. “But, you know, we don’t set limits…” «
Justice play RockNess on 8 June
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east