Following the release of new album Flashmob, French electro megastar Vitalic about music, venues and pills with Jake O’Brien Sitting down to interview Vitalic is like taking an Arts course: surprisingly easy and somewhat conceited. That being said, Pascal Arbez is fantastically laid back himself, and devoid of any snide connotations that tend to go alongside acts of such notoriety. Furthermore, this middle-aged electro prince retains an oddly humbling sense of self worth and identity. The proof of this harebrained theory rests in how Arbez differentiates between his first and second albums: “OK Cowboy was a bit darker and it was mainly rock influenced, and Flashmob is a bit more funny, sunny, mostly disco influenced.”
It must be remembered that, while he might sound simple and perhaps minimalist, Arvez is crossing a language barrier, and some of his linguistic nuances might be getting lost in translation. Nevertheless, Pascal notes the contrasts between both his musical endeavours, stating that the first record was following a certain minimalist rock sound savagely mirroring the guitar work of Iggy and the Stooges. “For this second opus I prefer to have something more, more… meaningful, including many different things… like the video and all that.”
From here on, otwo’s interview becomes a scheduled discussion of the idiosyncrasies involved in the world of popular dance music, bounced off the brain of Vitalic. It is therefore important, apparently, that we know that Vitalic’s “tastes evolve and it would be a bit wrong to say this is rock or disco, or it’s punk, or it’s techno or whatever. I change it every time so I would like the people to consider it just electronic dance music.” Yes – that statement sure as hell makes this interview easier(!). No snide identity connotations here: just the subtle ones.
Alas, otwo’s impression changes once again. Arbez’s influential musical tastes combine the ludicrous nuances of “smaller disco acts you wouldn’t know” with the high-end commercial brand of Black Eyed Peas and MGMT. It soon becomes evident that Arbez is setting up a binary through which he makes his particular style of music. He obnoxiously juxtaposes aristocratic musical arrogance with main-line banality, to curiously define his aural identity. Hence, Pascal Arbez does not find solace within the middle ground; in fact, it is in his truancy from this locale that he discovers what is ‘cool’: “Provided it’s cool, I don’t really care…”
However, what is ‘cool’ to this scoundrel are the Celts. “Ireland and Scotland are really well known on the continent to be crazy places about music and about partying… [playing UCD last September] was crazy because we don’t have that in France… such a line up; a first class festival in a university doesn’t exist in France, so it was the first time I would see that and it was amazing.”
Following his thoughts on playing live, Arbez debates the concrete presence of the drug culture in the world of dance music. “It’s something about really partying. It’s not like taking drugs for the week… so it’s difficult to have an opinion about that.” Nonetheless, true colours are revealed; “I love to play for people on Ecstasy!”
So what have we learnt here? That performers such as Vitalic are indeed horrendously complicated? That their tastes swing like a pendulum on amphetamines? Or that characters such as Pascal Arbez are betwixt and between an audience’s preconceptions of fame and success? Not only that, but they are damned comfortable in being set aloof from the middle. In all fairness, the middle is where we, the public, reside. On either side of us are the ostentatiously popular acts of contemporary culture and the more subversive elements of the arts. Yet, on some craning arc between the two and over our heads lies the face behind the equipment: Pascal Arbez. Vitalic.
Vitalic plays The Adademy on the last day of term, Friday 27th November. Tickets €33.60