Born Sebastian Akchoté of Bosnian-Serb heritage in Boulogne, a town in Northern France, SebastiAn found his way to the Paris headquarters of Ed Banger by making a random cold call to its office. He quickly made a name for himself via his remixes of Daft Punk, Uffie and Cut Copy, but did not cultivate his image in the same manner as some of his cohorts.
Touring with Daft Punk in 2007, SebastiAn maintained a low profile within the raucous, vodka-Red Bull-infused new face of "French Touch," spearheaded by label mates Justice. He waited until 2009 to make his live debut, while releasing four EP's and two remix compilations, in the interim.
Though the Ed Banger sound was gradually supplanted by disco beards and bass wobble, SebastiAn has returned to dance floors with an eclectic new album, 'Total,' which features appearances by M.I.A. and Mayer Hawthorne and a remix by DJ Premier. Spinner sat down with the soft-spoken French producer, who appears engaged in an open-mouthed kiss with himself on the cover of the album, to talk about his hip-hop roots, heavy-metal influences and inevitable comparisons to Justice.
Tell us a little bit about 'Total'
About the picture on the cover?
Sure, we can start there.
It's a joke about the artist in general, about the rapport they have with their ego, and it's a joke by me -- but not about me. The artist, most of the time, [they] want to kiss themselves. I also wanted to change a little from the general Ed Banger style we had, which was always full of colors and everything. That's all.
I really don't know. I think the gays are happy. The trannies, they don't know, and the women who are gay like it. I don't know. I'm not gay, by the way. I don't know what people think about it.
Once you realize it's you kissing yourself ...
Yeah, because I'm also one of the artists who is alone. Most of the big electronic bands are two guys, like Daft Punk or Justice or whatever, so I played with these things. I'm alone, but separated in two different parts of what I love, so I'm not just one, even when I'm alone.
You started out producing hip-hop, right?
Well, in fact, not exactly. I have a brother who is like 15 years older than me, and he was into jazz and experimental stuff, and he brought me in a lot of places with some strange music or strange stuff, everywhere in Paris. So I started with experimental music, and when I was maybe 14 or 15, I produced kind of hip-hop for some friends, because people like DJ Premier, Missy Elliott, Timbaland or Pete Rock were very exciting for a young guy.
You must have been excited to get a DJ Premier remix for 'Embody.'
Yeah, because he was one of my biggest references, as a producer. Premier, the first time I heard a little bit of Gang Starr or Notorious B.I.G., that was really incredible, the way he was producing. So I was very excited, yeah. And we also did a release party with him, so I met him, and it was a big thing to me. The guy was very, very nice.
It seems like on this album you're also influenced by industrial and heavy metal.
People are saying this thing a lot, but in fact, I never really listened to metal or this kind of thing. It was just interesting to jump into, because I don't know very well the story of this kind of music. I know a little about rock or punk style, but metal or all of this stuff, I know nothing about it.
What are you most influenced by now then?
There is a lot of stuff from the experimental to the classical. From Alan Vega, Captain Beefheart to Gang Starr, Missy Elliot, to Carmen McRae, Jaco Pastorius or Count Basie or whoever, to Prince, Donnie Hathaway, Wild Cherry. There's a lot of things. Lightning Bolt. It's a big mashup in my head with all the things. There is no one thing.
The Mayer Hawthorne song on your album sounded influenced by Prince.
A lot, yes. It's kind of contemporary. When I met Mayer Hawthorne, the thing was not to try to make the same track, of course, but it was just about trying to create the same ambience of the Prince influences I had.
How do you feel about when people compare you to Justice or Daft Punk?
I don't know, because I started at the same time as Justice. Compare? I don't know what I should think. Yeah, it's the same register of music, if I can say it like this. It's the same way to see the music, maybe what the Germans call the "French Touch." I don't know if it exists, for real. For me, the "French Touch" is more like Daft Punk, but I don't see exactly what is French in it. Maybe, because I am coming from France, I couldn't say. It's maybe easier to ask the people than to me.
It's just interesting because Pedro [Winter] said that you created the Ed Banger sound.
Pedro said this?
Yeah, in the press release.
With the two first EPs I made, maybe it was more constrictive for this newer generation of "French Touch," but in fact I never really saw it. I [started] with Justice, because I was producing kind of the same way and we started with the label at the same time, but I don't know. If Pedro says this, maybe it's true. I really didn't know anybody at this label before I arrived into it. Some people on the label grew up together, like Justice, [video director] So-Me and Pedro Winter. They are more together. I'm not, like, rejected, but I arrived and we started to make the label all together.
How did you meet them?
By chance. One of the guys which was in the hip-hop band I was working with found the address of the Ed Banger office in the newspaper. I called the office -- I don't know why, really, because I had no connections. Pedro said, "Yes, come to the office. I'm trying to find some new artists." I came and he signed me the week after.
How did your music change from hip-hop then?
I already had made a lot of different styles, but it was one of the styles I loved to do. It was kind of a translation of what I felt about hip-hop stuff, for example. [The] 'Ross Ross Ross' [EP] was kind of a translation of the way DJ Premier cuts up all the songs, cutting all these things, like a translation for metal or translation for R&B. It's always like, I'm starting with an idea of the style and I translate the thing into not club but into a new style.
The album does seem to represent that.
That's why it's called 'Total,' because I took all the different styles I did, since I'm on the label to now, and I put it on the album. That's why there's skits on the album, like very short songs. It was a way to remember the old hip-hop albums -- you always had skits everywhere, and it was the same principle.
Download SebastiAn Songs | Buy SebastiAn Albums