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Interview with Popof: “I couldn’t care less about trends; I make music according to my mood and experiences”

We talked to the French artist about the scene in his native Paris, the confinement in France, his most recent releases, and his optimism for the short-term future

Popof is one of the most optimistic artists we have heard from so far since the coronavirus paralyzed the club scene worldwide. Born, raised and based in Paris, Popof told us on Wednesday 17 June that for them, “in France, the lockdown has been lifted more than two weeks ago, restaurants have reopened and there are talks about reopening theatres, so I’m quite optimistic things will resume soon on our scene”. For now, French clubs, as in the rest of Europe, are finalizing the details to open with capacity and mobility restrictions in their interior space. And Popof is ready to get back in the game. We are talking about one of the icons of the most minimalistic big-room techno sound of the classic European underground scene. He has remixed to Depeche Mode, Hot Chip, The Chemical Brothers, Moby, Booka Shade, Tiga, Maetrik, Martin Solveig and many more. He runs his own label Form Music, where he is about to release a new EP by the legendary Julian Jeweil that includes a remix of his own. Where he has already released a few days ago is on Sola, Solardo’s label. We are talking about the Open Head EP, which consists of a track of the same name and another one called “RTB”. He has also recently remixed Abstraal and Teenage Mutants. More than a decade of making everyone dance is not enough for the Frenchman to take a break in the middle of a pandemic.

Xceed-Interview-Artist-Popof
Image: © Juliette Leigniel

Alex is…

I am a guy who was born and raised in Paris, where I still live today. I like good food and good wine.

And Popof is…

I am a dj and producer who likes to rock the dancefloor and try new things.

Why Popof?

It goes back to when I was in high school. I have a Bulgarian surname, so my classmates used to call me “Popof”, which is French slang for “Russian”. They didn’t really know the difference between Bulgaria and Russia… (laughs)

Xceed-Andorra-Hibernation-Popof
Image: © Hibernation

Last time I saw you playing was in Andorra’s Hibernation Festival. Such a special gig for you, I guess…

It was! I was playing alongside Claptone, Andres Campo and Bon Entendeur, and I remember the festival vibe was superb. It was a bit cold outside but very hot under that marquee! I had a really good time.

From that day, I remember your set as a journey based mainly on big-room techno music, with a considerably minimalistic bassline that embraced the audience during the whole mix. What is your approach to electronic music?

I am very eclectic. I come from a very musical background, with strong jazz, rock and hip-hop influences while growing up, and so I really try to avoid being pigeonholed. I like to try new stuff and I am not held back by genres or tags. I have released many different things, from hardcore techno to minimal to house music to tech-house to acid so… In short, my approach would be to remain open-minded and curious.

In one of your last works, your remix of Abstraal’s and Teenage Mutants’ “Broken Smiles”, we can enjoy some trance synths.

There was a time when I composed a few tracks that were leaning towards the neo-trance genre, but I don’t think that has played a decisive or important role in my career. I enjoy trance sounds but, when it comes to the “Broken Smiles” remix, I simply used the original melodies. That’s all.

Apart from that remix, you have been quite busy during the lockdown. Now, you are releasing a two-original EP on Sola Records and a remix for Julian Jeweil’s new EP on Form. Was it all begun and finished under lockdown, or are they older projects?

Indeed, I was very busy during the lockdown! My label Form Music and Clubbing TV organized two livestreams to raise funds for Music Against Covid-19, and our livestream was crossposted by big cable TV networks, clubs, and festivals, so I am very proud. My releases were all more or less completed before the lockdown, but I have been working on new material at the same time, so there will be ‘covid-19 music’ being released at some point.

Are you specially looking forward to any of them, or to any special future project?

My Sola release is exciting, because I made the tracks last year and submitted them specifically to Sola knowing it would be a perfect match. As for my remix for Julian, it is going to be on my own label, for a dear friend of mine. I have also got two other releases planned for this fall, on CR2 Records and Desert Hearts so… very busy times ahead!

We are seeing a boom in the most accelerated and rave-like genres, such as acid techno, industrial and trance itself in the recent years. Does that affect your work in any way (both producing and deejaying?

That is true. I think it is perhaps tied to a global 90s revival trend. Today’s kids never had the chance to witness the early days of rave music and are therefore discovering/rediscovering the music from back then. Honestly, I think it is very cool, but I could not care less about trends. I like making music according to my mood of the moment, what I have been experiencing, not according to what’s trendy.

It has been already 3 months with the industry totally frozen. How do you feel regarding all this issue? Is there space for optimism?

For us, in France, lockdown has been lifted more than two weeks ago, restaurants have reopened and there’s talks about reopening theatres, so I’m quite optimistic things will resume this fall. But it is certainly not the case for my beloved South American continent or the USA, where the pandemic is still raging. We will need to be patient and cautious. I truly hope the industry and the clubs will quickly resume their activity. We all miss it.

You are from Paris. How do you see the things there? Some clubs like Concrete already closed last year, and now this coronavirus problem strikes the industry hard.

I think the Parisian scene has been doing quite well these days. Before the coronavirus pandemic, many collectives had been created, that were organizing events in unusual places or outside classic settings – such as warehouses or outdoors. New talents and new crowds were emerging, and it was such a breath of fresh air I must say. In fact, I think there is less distance between the people organizing these events and the crowd itself, so this makes partying much more friendly, intimate, ideal.

ARTIST: POPOF

(Cover Image: © Juliette Leigniel)

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