We took ten minutes to find out more from Debruit about getting groovy in the sea, record hoarding in rural France and performing to Slipknot fans in Texas.
Bleak and grey though London’s weather seems to insist on remaining as we advance slowly into spring London based, Brittany born producer Xavier Thomas, otherwise known as Débruit, is bringing summer to Shoreditch early with a live set at the Book Club this Thursday. Blending West African rhythms, archive samples and disparate synths Thomas’ trademark Afro-funk is as flamboyant as it is diverse. With a brand new album forthcoming in June amongst other projects, we took ten minutes to find out more about getting groovy in the sea, record hoarding in rural France and performing to a group of Slipknot fans in Houston, Texas.
You’ve previously talked about reclaiming the word ‘groovy’. Aside from making music, what makes you feel ‘groovy’?
I like untrendy, forgotten words. It’s funny as it used to mean cool and it is totally uncool now. I like interesting oppositions in general. Also what else could you say when a beat grooves? Aside from music, I feel groovy when I’m in the sea (in fact, everything to do with the sea). Photography makes me feel groovy and art in general. Good food. Playing games too; I can be competitive at playing the silliest thing like basketball.
Do you think of your music as world music? Which countries do you find most inspiring? Any places you’re still dying to visit?
In Africa you can speak in terms of country but if it’s ancient, the music still exists in a pre-boundaries era. I like Yoruba music, old music from the Azawagh, West African poly-rhythmic patterns in general. But nowadays the places I’d like to go to are unfortunately a bit dangerous, like north of Mali or Niger. Syria too and Nigeria. On the less dangerous side, Benin, Lebanon, Brazil…
What kind of music did you grow up with? Was there a particular gig or moment where you realised that made you realise you wanted to make music?
I grew up on all kinds of music. I remember falling in love with the track La Bamba at a young age, the funny thing is that it was one of these cassette tapes where they cover songs so it can be sold for cheap, so it wasn’t even the original. I remember hearing cassettes from Kenya and Morocco too. African music always had a place in the charts in France, like Khaled or Mory Kante going to number one. The music from Brittany where I’m from is also in the ‘world’ music section in record shops so maybe that is an explanation. Then I was really into lo-fi, noisy music and post rock. Music wasn’t available where I’m from so when someone would bring a record back, me and my friends would listen to it religiously. We then bought some instruments, we didn’t even know how to set up the drum set, where to put the elements but that’s how we started. From the first time I heard 3 instruments playing together (especially because of the lack of ability), I was hooked.
Are you working on any new music at the moment?
Yes I am, I have an album ready which will come out in June. It’s African cold wave in a way, a bridge between ancient Africa, early German electronic music and 80’s NYC. Also I’m going to Istanbul for a residency to make another album this year in collaboration with some 70’s legends and new talents of the city. It’ll be about Istanbul. I’ll be collaborating with some really talented artists in London too. Oh and I’ll be launching something even bigger which can’t be revealed yet.
You’ve previously done a lot of work with archive sounds and clips. What is it about music of the past that intrigues you?
I think the root of every genre of music is interesting, it always has the strongest energy. I’m intrigued by the genuine approach and energy of music, making music as an enjoyment in itself or to tell a story. Music that moves you, with a higher purpose than selling. Music that can put you in a trance, that makes you feel something.
Where are your favourite places to hang out in London?
Definitely not on diverted buses! I like the museums very much or a few lively parks of east London like Clissold Park and Hackney Marshes. And venues like Café Oto and Passing Clouds.
Most bizarre gig you’ve played?
In a ranch outside Houston, Texas in front of some kids dressed like Slipknot fans, dancing really strangely. I met the promoter really briefly because he had to go and fix his fire canon that blew 5 meters flames up in the air. I understand, life has its priorities…
Any tracks that you can’t help but listen to on repeat at the moment?
A few records by Gary Bartz NTU Troop like Celestial Blues.
Debruit will play live at The Book Club, London on Thursday 2nd April .
Words: Thomas Curry