“However intellectual I may seem, it’s all bullshit. The music is just to make people dance”
Bon Voyage Organisation is the brainchild of Paris-based producer and bassist Adrien Durand. Blending the flair for disco and pop which his countrymen are famed for with influences from Hong Kong, Africa and beyond, Durand and his dynamic band of international musicians have created a distinctive sound which defies genre. The release of the projects’ first LP ‘Jungle? Quelle Jungle?’ earlier this year brought acclaim from French and global critics. Ahead of their headline Oui Love show, we spoke to Adrien about travelling through music, his diverse range of inspirations and the importance of dancing.
How did Bon Voyage Organisation start?
The project comes from the fact that I’m a producer firstly, so I produce a lot of records for other artists. I spend a lot of time in the studio meeting studio musicians and I’m a studio musician myself. At one point I just wanted to make the most of the situation, I wanted to put all these musicians that I was seeing everyday in different situations, and make something that’s less ‘pop’ or less directly understandable, make riskier music. Basically there’s a group of 15-20 people that have been in and out of the band. For this tour we have an ‘A-Team’ of 7 people, and 2 or 3 substitutes, because everybody’s doing a lot of other tours at the same time.
When you were producing, did you gravitate towards world music or music from any particular place?
What really interests me actually is rhythm, and I feel there’s a lack of sophistication with the use of rhythm right now in music, but there are a lot of interesting percussion players and rhythms in Caribbean music and African music and so on, so that’s how it came to be a bit ‘worldly’. But it’s also because I’m really interested in place and space. Music can be a way of painting pictures of places that don’t or do exist, and it can help you travel.
How much does travel influence the music you make?
It depends, but I don’t think inspiration is really linked to travel for me. I read a lot, and I listen to a lot of music. I can easily imagine myself somewhere else or project myself in another place. I’m not an ethnographer, I’m not going to Africa and studying rhythms over there like Peter Gabriel; I’m faking it you know! That’s basically rock and roll – it’s about making people believe that I know things which I don’t really know.
Is there a particular culture or place that’s had the biggest influence on the project?
It’s sad to say, but anywhere other than France! I think we’re in a very bad shape creatively. Culturally I’ve been really blown away by China, At first it was Hong Kong that caught my eye, but I went to the middle of China. The only thing you can see there are some very bad hotels, some very bad pop stars, but I got interested in Chinese traditional music and opera. I can’t say its an inspiration but it’s something I’m very interested in.
Your sound has been so influenced by Hong Kong pop – are there any particular records you recommend?
There are the usual 3 main people, they’re actors who were also singers in Hong Kong, that were really at the heart of what people call the ‘Cantopop’ movement – Alan Tam, Leslie Cheung and then the last one is Anita Mui – she’s my favourite.
How did you find these records?
I’ve always been interested in all kinds of music, and finding new music. At one point when I was 21 or 22 I made a wrong trip, I had a pretty good knowledge of soul music and jazz, that’s what I was really interested in, so I started thinking about listening to, I don’t know, Polish jazz, or Czechoslovakian pop, and from then on I came to China, but Chinese records were really hard to find, and there’s so little on the internet – it’s all written in Chinese, so before Google Translate was invented, information was scarce. That interest came from Japanese music, because of a band called Yellow Magic Orchestra – all of those bands were also obsessed with China. We think it’s Japanese music, but for them it was fake Chinese music, and I found that really interesting.
When it comes to finding musicians and collaborators, how do you go about it? Did you set out to get an international band?
Firstly I’m looking for musicians that can work for very scarce money that can be involved in a complicated and sophisticated project – that asks for musicianship and dedication. But strangely, yeah we have ended up as a very international band, we have someone from Cuba, two Colombians, our drummer is American, and we’ve got a singer from Congo. It happened without me really intending it.
How do you go about translating the sound of BVO into a live show?
Now it’s been a long time that I’ve been doing in this project, so for everybody that’s new and or not involved in the band there’s already so much to listen to, on records and live recordings. The language comes a lot by chance – there’s no real effort to ask for somebody to play this or that, now it comes to people pretty easily when they join the band. It developed really naturally along the years, from playing really basic ethnic disco stuff and then introducing other rhythms, like guitar playing – being influenced by Congolese guitar or something. We didn’t ever have a brainstorm in a meeting room and say ‘yeah let’s do something diverse now’ it happened organically.
Where do you like to play?
We play a lot in Belgium and the Netherlands. The people there are really open minded and they really love music. It’s not always easy to travel because we’re a big band and it gets expensive but we toured in China two years ago, which was incredible, it was completely crazy. It’s weird because we were playing our Chinese influenced music to real Chinese people, but they actually enjoyed it a lot, some of them were really touched by the fact that we were trying to mimic or re-appropriate some of their cultural habits in terms of scale and the way they play music, so that was really interesting and it was just crazy to think I made this record so inspired by that place, and it resulted in me playing there, it made the process really rewarding.
Did you record it all in France?
Yes we did actually. We used a studio called La Frette – the same place where Arctic Monkeys recorded their last record. I’ve been using that studio for years, and everything I do I do over there. We don’t use any computers, there’s nothing that is computer generated, it’s all on vintage kit or vintage tapes or whatever, and that’s another reason why it’s hard to travel, because we’re basically travelling with a small studio with us! But that’s the fun part of it, it’s a crusade!
Your music pulls together so many references – what records would you recommend that have really influenced you?
There’s so many things! Anybody who hasn’t should listen to the Talking Heads, they’re a great band who managed to do World music without any hint of appropriation. I also love the third and fourth Peter Gabriel records, PG3 and PG4, for me that really opened a window. I won’t ever do music that sounds like that, but he really had a vision. I listen to a lot of Congolese music and Haitian music, anything Haitian or Congolese from the 70s is good. One Congolese singer I really like is Tabu Ley Rochereau. I love Kraftwerk, and I love Chic, and I guess if you put them all together, somehow you end up at BVO. It’s basically dance floor music. However intellectual I may seem, it’s all bullshit. The music is just to make people dance, and maybe in a more sophisticated way than some other things, but it all comes to drum and bass. The goal is to get people dancing.