When Margaret Thatcher inadvertently spawned the European rave scene, first by closing the textile industry and freeing up warehouse spaces and later by illegalizing party music “characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats,” French proponents of the scene adopted their own spin on the style, incorporating the disco-funk influences that appealed to them. Even if you’ve never heard the term “French house”before, you’ve certainly danced to the music that bears its name, as some of France’s most prominent electronic musicians are responsible for it—perhaps you’re familiar with Laurent Garnier, Étienne de Crécy and a little group known as Daft Punk? And it’s from this dance music scene that Philippe Cerboneschi (aka Zdar) emerged.
Since he met Hubert Blanc-Francard (a.k.a Boombass) in 1988, the duo have released three albums as Cassius, stirring crowds around the world with the hit “I <3 U So.” Zdar has also lent his production chops to musicians like MC Solaar, Phoenix, The Rapture, and the Beastie Boys. More recently, he has mixed Lou Doillon‘s first solo album Places and produced Cat Power and Kindness’ latest records.
We caught up with Zdar over email to find out how he comes to work with such a wide variety of artists.
The Creators Project: You’ve worked with a ton of musicians across multiple musical genres. How do you pick the artists you want to collaborate with?
Philippe Zdar: Usually the artists make the first step. I’ve had many proposals lately and I’ve really had to make hard choices. My first instinct is to listen to the music they have done in the past or to check out their demos so I can see if I can bring something to their music. Then, I make sure they fully understand my work as a producer. But for the Beastie Boys, I agreed instantly because I was a great admirer of their work.
Kindness: “Cyan” from World, You Need A Change of Mind produced by Philippe Zdar.
What is your approach as a producer?
In my opinion, a producer is simply here to help artists to finish their records. Being a musician myself, I see how it can be difficult sometimes to know when a track is finally finished. I think that’s part of the producer’s role to decide. Sometimes being a producer is like being a director, but I tend to work with artists who know exactly what they want to do. They contact me with a very clear idea of the result they’re looking for, and I’m here to help them achieve their goal—that was the case for Phoenix, for example.
Are you planning to produce any other artists anytime soon?
No, actually. I’d like to take a little break from collaborations in order to write for myself. We’re planning to release a new album with Cassius.
Cat Power: “Cherokee”, from Sun produced by Philippe Zdar.
Learn More about the work of Philippe Zdar in our behind-the-scenes documentary above.