Arnaud Rebotini about his up-to-date pandemic inspired audio-visual project “This is a Quarantine”, electro revival, his experience as a movie composer, plans for the new album and much more
Arnaud Rebotini is a large figure in a literal and metaphorical sense. This charismatic two-meter tall giant with the most convincing moustache and untypical for the electronic music world look with a very grotesque americano kind of style with a strong reference to Martin Skorsese’s characters, is responsible for the Paris-based band Black Strobe. Having underground techno roots, Black Strobe debuted at the end of the ‘90s with the emerging at that time acid-techno sound, later in 2000’s they became one of the main players on the rapidly forming electro-clash scene and got big recognition and success with such all-time gems which perfectly represents electroclash as a musical genre like “Italian Fireflies” and “Me and Madonna”.
When one of the band co-founders Ivan Smagghe departed from the project and all the control buttons were left to Arnaud Rebotini, Black Strobe recorded their first studio album “Burn Your Own Church” which showed their transformation from a dance electronic music project into a powerful rock band.
In this rock incarnation Black Strobe releases two more great albums and is having big commercial success with their song “I’m a Man” in the soundtrack of Guy Ritchie movie “RocknRolla” and Quentin Tarantino “Django Unchained” and songs “Shining Bright Star” and “Boogie in Zero Gravity” in top video games – “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Grand Theft Auto V”.
In the last five years, Arnaud Rebotini put on a hold his Black Strobe affair and has concentrated on a solo career with releasing his music that stands on the crossover of EBM, electro and techno and playing it live. Arnaud Rebotini live shows are definitely must-see experiences—being a big admirer and collector of vintage synthesizers, which can be an educational guide into the history of electronic music, he demonstrates them on stage. As well Arnaud grotesque and colourful image—always flawless suits, greased ‘50s style hair and the most cinematographic moustache in the hall techno business always add retro-futuristic flair to the performance.
We were lucky enough to catch Arnaud Rebotini in his studio in Paris spending his time fruitfully during lockdown, working on a pandemic inspired conceptual series “This is a Quarantine”. Arnaud told us about his recent experience as a movie composer, situationist approach in his quarantine dedicated audio-visual series, plans for the new album and other interesting things.
Interview: Dmitry Tolkunov
Hi Arnaud! Seems that you were spending your time during the quarantine days usefully, by releasing every week a new track and a video inspired by the strange surroundings that we are living in at the moment. Can you please tell a bit about this audio-visual series that you’re working on?
Yes, the hall project is called “This is a Quarantine” and within it I release each week a new track and a video. It is an artistic reflection of the quarantine reality that we’re leaving in and the main themes that we hear about it in the news. I pick up some themes and respond to them. For example, the track and video “Masquerade” that came out yesterday is about how masks became a common thing and a fashion item in the new pandemic reality. I want to keep the link with the audience through up-to-date theme.
Think in a way this immediate reflection of the up-to-date themes shows “This is a Quarantine” as a situationist project?
Yes, but situationism is a big and wide thing. If to talk about my way of doing—I never go too dark, too politically serious and emotional in my expressions. For me, these approaches are vulgar. I always keep a sense of humour in showing this crisis. For example, in “Chloroquine” I showed politicians pretending to be big specialists in pandemic and fighting and arguing about new medicine as they know something when even the best specialists know nothing.
In “Digital Lockdown” I showed different vintage equipment like a videophone, which meant to be a future technology that never happened.
All “This is a Quarantine” videos are done in a recognizable retro-futuristic style, with using a lot of old documentaries. Who provided all this content and who made these videos?
This project is my collaboration with INA which is the French National TV and Radio Archive. They provided the video material and did all the visuals for the tracks. And this videos with old computers and documentaries from the ‘50s and ‘60s perfectly delivers this retro-futuristic vibe and gives an ability to show nowadays crises through old images.
This retro-futuristic vibe is not only in “This is a Quarantine” videos but in the music as well, which is done in a common electro style using a lot of vintage synthesizers. Don’t you have a feeling that this electro style that you always admired is coming back now to electronic music like a new, big trend?
Yes, it is in the air. A lot of good new electro and EBM music is released. And I feel comfortable doing music on the crossover of EMM, electro and techno. And this kind of sound is very suitable for “This is a Quarantine”.
Do you think coming back of the rough, analogue EBM and in some ways cold and dark electro sound reflects the rough and dark surroundings of our time?
I am not sure about it, maybe there is such a thing. But it is always this kind of way with musical trends. Something new appears, then something comes back. We are always in this cycle process.
Over the last few years you were active in composing soundtracks for movies. One of them—“120 BPM”—got high-profile awards at the Cannes Grand Prix and Cesar Awards for best soundtrack. Do you have some plans for continuing to work as a movie composer?
I made “120 BPM” with the same cast and with the same director Robin Campillo with whom I made my first soundtrack for the movie “Eastern Boys” just a few years before. For me, it’s important to have a right connection and understanding with the director and to like the script. I’m fussy about the movies and do soundtracks only if I feel like it and refuse offers that I don’t like. The commercial part is not so important for me.
The success of “120 BPM” is certainly a good point and gave me a lot of public recognition as a movie composer and made me known and famous not only in the electronic music world. It made me more interested in movie composing and continued with a soundtrack for my third movie “Curiosa”, which I’ve made last year. As for now I don’t have any confirmed plans for new movie soundtracks because of the current situation and as I’m mostly now busy with “This is a Quarantine” and finishing the new album.
Can you reveal some plans for the new album?
I was planning to release it soon, but due to the situation I think it will be postponed. It will have less electronic and club sound that usually my music has and will more closely resemble the music that I do for the movies—with a lot of acoustic instruments, orchestral arrangements and combining them with the electronic sound.
Seems that this combining electronic and acoustic sound is a common approach for you now. In this line you have successfully played live with an orchestra for the soundtrack for “120 BPM”. Any plans for adopting the soundtrack for your last movie “Curiosa” for a live show too?
Don’t think I will do a special live show with the “Curiosa” soundtrack. But I might play a couple of tracks from it with an orchestra and a few from “120 BPM” as well on the live show for the presentation of the new album. But now as you see it’s hard to say when we will be able to make it happen.
Besides releasing your own music, you are known for an impressive number of remixes and also as a producer who helped to get start the careers of such interesting artists as Yan Wagner and Cabaret Contemprian. Any interesting plans in this field?
As for now, I don’t have any plans for producing other artists. Since a lot of people collaborated on “This is a Quarantine” doing four to five remixes on my track on a weekly basis. I will have to give them a pay back soon with my remixes on their music to such guys as The Hacker, Fabrizio Rat, Raffaele Attanasio, Leonie Pernet and many others.
Do you have any thoughts about putting Black Strobe back to live or maybe for some other rock projects in the future?
I was thinking about Black Strobe revival, and I think that we will do it, but not in the near future. But as you see in these circumstances we are having now, it is hard to plan something.
How do you spend most of these quarantine days, besides working on music?
I can’t say that things changed much for me because of the pandemic. I dedicate most of my time to music, I wake up in the morning and go to a studio, which is close to the place I live and work all day on the tracks for “This is a Quarantine” and on finishing the new album. And this is my usual way of living; the only difference is that there are no gigs on the weekend.
What are your feelings about this pandemic situation?
I don’t know what to say as I have really never faced such situations before and hope that this is the last time, it is very weird and I wish it will get back to normal live soon and artists will be able to go on tours with their gigs.
Arnaud, we certainly share the same wish with you and thank you very much for an interesting talk.