The rise of main stage house and techno festivals has not affected Julien Veniel’s career one bit. When I sat down with D’Julz in January the word ´festival` didn’t come up once. In fact, we spent 45 minutes discussing club culture and how his Bass Culture label and the party has excelled over the last two decades within the walls of Rex Club, Paris.
“The key to longevity in this business is finding the right balance between roots and evolution,” Julien tells me. “It’s important to stay true to the musical identity of your label(s) but still search for new music and new talents who fit your evolving tastes.”
Bass Culture celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017, with six parties at Rex Club inviting special guests Dyed Soundorom, Seth Troxler, Derrick May, Lil Louis, Onur Ozer and DJ Skull. There was also an all-night set from the man himself. “My all night long set was a special one. It’s only the second time I have done this at Rex. I was so nervous nobody would turn up without a guest playing the party. Luckily they did and the night was a great success.”
Celebrating an anniversary can bring a certain nostalgia. It’s easy to get caught up in a trap and look backwards instead of forwards. Having done a lot of press in the last 12 months, Julien’s answers feel well practised. During our chat he veers passionately away from my questions and puts his own spin on things, twice stressing to me how he never wanted to be a full-time promoter as he was not made for it. “I have been very lucky that the team at Rex have never forced me into bookings I didn’t want to make,” he says. “There is trust on both sides. In the beginning, we made a deal that I would be resident DJ and Art Director. It’s all about bringing in the people I want there and hoping that it’s going to be a good crowd and a busy night.”
The key to longevity in this business is finding the right balance between roots and evolution. It’s important to stay true to the musical identity of your label(s) but still search for new music and new talents who fit your evolving tastes.
The Parisian crowd is something that we talk about a lot. Paris has never had the exposure of cities like London or Berlin. There was no summer of love that saw a boom in nightlife in the ‘80s or ‘90s. More commercial acts like Daft Punk, Bob Sinclair and Justice have been responsible for the worldwide French synth-pop sound but since this sound has crashed, more spotlight has been put on artists like Laurent Garnier, Apollonia (Dyed Soundorom, Dan Ghenacia and Shonky) and DJ Deep, who have kept the cities underground culture alive.
Although there are plenty of success stories from Paris, Berlin has always tempted creatives away from the city, providing a thriving nightlife, a higher standard of record stores and a cheaper cost of living. D’Julz is one that has stayed loyal to the city, playing a major part in Rex Club becoming the cornerstone of a culture that still remains underground within the city.
In 2011, Concrete emerged as another premier venue within the cities house and techno scene. More recently an emerging group of artists under the wing of Yoyaku have brought more life into the city, opening a record store alongside a label, booking agency and series of events. Concrete’s 24-hour licence and the quality of selections within Yoyaku’s record store are something that D’Julz welcomes. “It’s great for the city. Although it is becoming more difficult to book the names you want, competition and fresh ideas are good for everybody involved.”
Over the years, Bass Culture has developed a loyal crowd that trusts the ear of its founder. D’Julz is responsible for bringing artists like Raresh, Loco Dice, Luciano and Cassy to Rex Club club for the first time. It’s his thirst for finding new talent that keeps him going. Julien only books acts that he has seen play. He’s careful not to follow any trends online or book artists off a good mix or podcast.
The first Bass Culture party at Rex in 2018 saw Francesco del Garda booked alongside innovative live act Leo Pol. “It was a very good one. The party was busy with a very responsive crowd. As usual, Francesco killed it with his funky ravey groove. We finished the night with a B2B which was a first for us but not the last time for sure. Leo is quite possibly the most exciting new live act I’ve seen in a long time. He played a great set and carried on for an extra 30 minutes. I first saw him play live two years ago and at the time I didn’t know any of his music. I instantly loved his vibe. It’s rare to see such a young artist play with such strong personality. There is a lot of energy in what he does – he plays very fast but manages to bring through so many emotions through his sense of melody.”
Leo is quite possibly the most exciting new live act I’ve seen in a long time. I first saw him play live two years ago and at the time I didn’t know any of his music. I instantly loved his vibe. It’s rare to see such a young artist play with such strong personality.
As well as booking Leo for Rex Club, D’Julz tells me he has signed up the Frenchman for a four-track EP on Bass Culture. The EP titled ‘Dark Outside’ gets off to an energetic start with ‘Caliente’, combining a killer main riff, scintillating pads and steam-powered percussion. This is followed by ‘Fnc Burning’, which totally slips the script with its off-kilter rhythm and UK-influenced breakbeat-esque sound. On the B-side, ‘Dark Outside’ takes you back to the early days of post-electro Detroit when Juan Atkins was at his very best. The final track ‘Techyes No!’ is a dark, marauding stomper with plenty of atmosphere and spine-tingling strings. The whole EP shows the range that Leo can work. His love for machines is evident across the whole release.
With time running out I wanted to know what other clubs touch Julien’s heart. Alongside DC-10 in Ibiza where he regularly plays at Circoloco, he talks glowingly about Berlin’s Heidegluhen. “It’s different from any club in the world. I wish there were more clubs like this where the only focus is quality music and art. The crowd is the star, not the DJ. It has that early 90’s hedonistic vibe which I thought was gone from club culture. It’s colourful and full of positivity – it’s really hard to describe the feeling you get playing at this club without witnessing for yourself. I’m really grateful I get to play there so often…”
Catch D’Julz at 93 Feet East, London 7th July, Cocoon Ibiza at Pacha 18th July, Bass Culture @ Rex club, Paris 21st July and 30th July at Circoloco, DC-10.
Pre-order ‘Leo Pol – Dark Outside’ now on Deejay.de.