Interview Kevin Ho
The sole non-bro of the Bro(dinski)-headed French label Bromance Records, France-based NYC-born Louisa Pillot is given an epithet that comes naturally with being surrounded by men; she is the First Lady of Bromance. It helps that she is one of the few women to make a name for herself in techno – a genre fuelled by backalley testosterone and scummy, insconspicuous machismo. On her own, Pillot is already potent with beats informed by the dimly-lit dingy basements of Detroit and Berlin, with label compadre Maelstrom, her tunes are touched with some Parisian debauched glamour. All with sweeping vocals (her own) to counteract the grit. JUICE managed to speak with techno’s Khaleesi on the importance of being a woman among women, incorportating juke into techno sets, and French culture vis-à-vis American culture.
One nickname that they call you is the ‘First Lady of Bromance [Records]’…
Khaleesi, I prefer (laughs).
Before we get to Game of Thrones, growing up, were you always hanging out with more boys than girls?
That’s an interesting question because I’m a DJ – there’s always more boys around in that kind of work side of things. But it’s been really important to me to learn how to be a woman among women. It’s easy to like slip into this “I’m a tomboy,” mean girls kind of vibe, or just like, “I’m one of the guys!” That’s not very attractive and I don’t think that’s very inclusive, so I think it’s really important to cultivate relationships with women whom I respect and admire, who I feel like are strong peers, which can be challenging in nightlife because there’s a lot… I’m observing myself a lot and something I’m trying to work on is a lot of judgment in a lot of women, it comes kind of naturally and I don’t wanna be that, you know? I don’t want to be hyper-critical of other women because there’s like two girls in a room full of ten guys. That’s not the person I wanna be. I think growing up, I ran with a crew of rad strong girls because I grew up riding horses, a bunch of tough little girls, crazy ponies (laughs) and that was really cool, and now I’m part of a thing called VOLTWOMEN, the goal is to elevate women’s running. So, it’s like a global running crew that’s inspiring other women to try harder, just do it if you will, because we’re Nike-affiliated (laughs).
So now talking about Khaleesi, how important is Game of Thrones to you?
Well, that’s kind of a joke. One of the other crew members, Guillaume Berg of Bromance, we call him the White Walker because he’s the only blonde person in France. And so I love this ‘Mother of Dragons’ thing from Game of Thrones… it started out as a Twitter joke of like, “What if I refer to my crew as my dragons?” So, I’d ask, “Where are my dragons?!” (Laughs) It’s just like so silly, such an absurd thing. And now I’m reading Game of Thrones, because I haven’t read any before, it was all of them in a row, so that’s like 7,000 pages and I’m like half way through it? No, 30%, and that gives me about 400 days of reading left. But, I do appreciate a good young adult fantasy novel or television show (laughs).
Do you have like DJ buddies gained from all the touring and festivals?
Actually, speaking of DJ friends, who was that… Adam Freeland? One of the first festivals that I ever played with Gina Turner in Mexico, like we met him because he went through a wall (laughs), like he just came into the dressing room and did a summersault, so we were like, “Who’s that? Oh, it’s Adam Freeland.” But he’s great though, love that guy. It is an amazing global friendship community that is like such a blessing, it’s like basically summer camp with all your friends from all around the world year round. It’s really nice to tour. This is my first time in Asia and I’ve been to Australia a few times, so it’s nice to be on a boat with people I haven’t met or met briefly, just to get to know them because we’re trapped on a ship. Jillionaire is an old good friend – this kind of thing is like Internet the Movie, like you get to see a lot of people that you normally just bump into on social network, in the ether of the internet, and have a lot of experience with them via that platform. Actually, I went to the first Holy Ship and I was really afraid about it, I was like, “That sounds really gnarly (laughs)”, but it ended up being like, I’m having a friendship hangover from that. You’d be like (mock tearing up), “I wish I could stay here with all of my friends all the time.” [It’s the Ship] is a similar experience. It’s been really nice, this is a little bit more space and a little bit more laidback and less American (laughs).
Holy Ship! was completely different in vibe…
Yeah, there was just like mayhem constantly. There was not a moment when it was not totally insane. There was a guy who dressed like a hamburger, he brought his own equipment and set up in the cafeteria, “Oh, DJ Hamburger is playing all the time!” (Laughs). So, it’s that kind of energy and this is like much more mellow, and people are like here to be on vacation and not just rave. So, that’s cool.
There was an interview where you mentioned that you really dug Hyperdub and fell in love with juke recently. How do you find juke as a genre and why do you sometimes incorporate it into your techno sets now?
I have to incorporate [juke] into the techno sets because I feel almost like a poser playing juke [exclusively]. I’m just a big fan. I feel like it’s such good energy and such interesting music that if I pitch it down 20%, it works in my set, you know? But that could be super weird because when a snare hits, it’s like in a weird place. But, I don’t know. Culturally, I think it’s a really cool movement that came from a community of dancers. Especially in Chicago, as an underground thing, it’s getting kids off the street, like by learning how to do footwork. It’s so interesting and inspiring. I don’t know, I get really bummed from the fact that I didn’t get to meet Rashad. He was working with friends of mine, like Jimmy Edgar and DJ Slow. I feel like it’s some of the most exciting things I’ve heard in a while, so if I could appropriate it into a techno set, it’s like an in-joke for myself, it makes me super happy. Just don’t play juke at a festival, people don’t follow, they’re just like (mimics juke sound). People are like, “Why are you making that noise?!” People get traumatised because the sound is much more clubby, it’s not for a big stage, but if it’s in the right moment, it’s such a cool tool. So loopy and kinda has like hip hop and rap samples, I find it a useful tool. It’s nice to pay homage.
What else are you working right now?
Right now, Maelstrom and I finished four tracks, one of which is ‘Protection’, coming out on the new Homieland compilation, that I’m very proud of. I’m kinda in this direction… because our work is kinda autonomous, he has his work and I have my work and we have our work together. We’ve decided to kind of create a home for that because it feels like it’s moving away from the more Bromance sound and into something of its own realm. So, we’re actually trying to create a home for that, we’re trying to start a label. We just had our first sort of announcement meeting, talking to the people with the ‘power’ in our lives (laughs) to make it happen. So, it looks like it’s gonna happen, our focus is on that. I’ve just finished a mixtape of all original stuff, just to have like a closing of a chapter. Because when I did the first one, that was kind of like my introduction to Bromance and what I’ve done since then I just kind of encapsulated that, and now it’s time for a third solo EP and I’m working on that right now. It feels like there’s some pressure but it’s good pressure.
Is the label gonna be just for the stuff you’re doing for Maelstrom?
No, I think we’re gonna get people who don’t traditionally make techno. For example, Juan MacLean or even maybe some juke artistes; using the idea of techno as a seed and asking them to do their take on that while also maintaining an affiliation with what they are doing. And to have old heads from different scenes, new guys with fresh stuff we’re excited about – just giving them a chance to present that. So, it’s a little bit more like we wanna do a research and development chapter of Bromance, tentatively we’re calling it Brave.
Would you regard yourself as essentially French? Because you’re living there and you’re hanging out with the Bromance team.
No, I mean that’s always flattering when people think I’m French, which is a lot, especially when my grasp on the language is limited, like I’m still learning. I’ve only been living there for three years. Speaking French is hard (laughs) but I think it’s gonna be a while before I regard myself as French. I’m grateful to be a part of that culture, to have this idea of having quality over quantity which is very un-American. Now, the idea is shaping my life and my work but also like it’s too soon so far, but I’m grateful to be there, to be able to kinda like piggy-back the culture.
And about being American, how do you say French culture differs compared to American culture?
I don’t think it’s better but it’s definitely different and musically, it’s definitely where I need to be right now. America has EDM, like its own universe that has nothing to do with what I do, you know? But it’s flattering to get booked for their festivals like HARD or get to play alongside those acts who are friends. I’m not mad at Skrillex, I’m not mad at A-Trak, I’m not mad at Aoki, they do what they do so that we can have an underground. I feel like it’s almost impossible to make a living in the underground in America, so I’m grateful that France is having me so that I can do my job and people understand what I’m trying to do and pay me for it, which is cool too (laughs).
Bromance #19: ‘Friction’ EP is out now via Bromance Records.