Richard Buskin meets Justice’s Xavier de Rosnay to discover the full story behind the creation of the duo’s 2007 breakthrough single.
Justice, comprising the Parisian production/performance duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, have earned widespread acclaim for their electronic blend of rock, dance, disco and funk. Heavily sliced-and-diced samples, wildly compressed beats and an underground production ethic led Rolling Stone magazine to aptly describe the pair’s output as ‘new-jacques swing’.
Justice’s profile skyrocketed following the June 2007 release of debut album †, a few weeks after ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ had been issued. During the next few months, other artists’ cover versions and remixes – both official and unofficial – surfaced before ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ was finally released as a single in the UK that November, at which point the MP3 and accompanying video exploded across the internet.
That video – with its hipster-appeal graphics – became a music TV phenomenon, playing a key role in the rise of so-called EDM in the US, and transitioning Justice and many other dance acts from the underground club scene into the pop mainstream.
Both members of Justice are self-confessed Michael Jackson fans. In 2012, Xavier de Rosnay described the creation of the track that they dedicated to the King of Pop and which contains lyrical references to his album Music And Me, his songs ‘P. Y. T. (Pretty Young Thing)’, ‘Black Or White’, ‘Whatever Happens’ and ‘Workin’ Day and Night’, as well as The Jackson 5’s ‘ABC’.
A disco opera
“Asking people for 45 minutes of their attention when listening to a record is a big demand, so when we make an album we start with a plan regarding all of the phases it should go through,” de Rosnay explained. “Then we write the songs to fit that plan. Instrumental music can quickly become boring – even to us as the music makers – so our main objective is to entertain ourselves throughout the more than one year that we spend in the studio, as well as to entertain the people who we want to spend 45 or 50 minutes listening to our record.
“In the case of our first album, we intended to make a disco opera. Disco blends elements of classical and baroque music with danceable rhythms – it blends the sophisticated and the fun with a straightforward beat, and the 12 tracks on Cross all have elements of this. The shape changes from track to track, but they’re all variations on the same theme.
“After writing the material, we’d constantly make adjustments so that, even if there were huge stylistic gaps between the individual tracks, everything still flowed.
We intended to make a disco opera, blending elements of classical and baroque music with danceable rhythms.
“When we started the album, we already had three tracks that we wanted to put on the record: ‘Waters Of Nazareth’, ‘One Minute To Midnight’ and ‘Let There Be Light’. We knew that ‘Waters of Nazareth’ was a touchstone of the record because it had been released as our first single in 2005 and some people clearly liked it. We also knew it should be one of the last tracks on the album because it would be hard to top its energy and violence. At the same time, ‘One Minute To Midnight’ would be the final track because it was like the end credit for a movie such as Escape From New York, whereas ‘Let There Be Light’ had a recognisable beat that would make it a good second track. It ends with a smooth part that would serve as a good transition to something more pop-oriented like ‘D.A.N.C.E.’