It’s freezing cold out there, to the point of cruelty. But such are these pale January mornings in Paris that reckon everything and offer nothing but some undeduced embarrassment of empty, muttering streets. I can picture it clearly, the evil Kavinsky, the collar of his greatcoat turned up, waiting for me at the end of a long, cold line of darkness. Only a slight pane of hard air separates us, a window glass, a reflection. And what then is that? Merely another surface across which one madman compels another. Just as he can’t let me stay curled up in bed, in the irradiating warmth of this northern beauty prudishly asleep by my side, I can’t let Kavinsky disappear, unencountered, another entity amid daylight.
“Where are you going? It’s still so early.” The girl rolls over, buries herself further into her repose. The bed creaks with comfort. I pull up my slacks.
“I’m going out, baby.”
A man like Kavisnky is not just simply met. He operates through people, points of contact. So I first have to meet Vincent Belorgey, Kavinsky’s handler, on the corner of the Rue Duperré. Belorgey’s breath hangs in the air like a punching bag as he assesses the scene. He tells me he likes “the morning, when old people are blocking the groceries.” We lean into our cigarettes for warmth. “You should have met the other the other guy, he’s nastier.”
Who’s he talking about? It doesn’t matter. A few seconds later, we are rushing into the fleecy atmosphere of Le Carmen—the last gem of Pigalle’s nights—to make a rendezvous with the mysterious man behind Nightcall (the EP the world discovered through Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and its majestic opening scene). We walk deep into the silent tomb, air loaded with all the excesses of the night’s previous party. It feels as though the ghosts of invisible liquids ooze on the floor, the walls, along your spine. “Dude, it smells like fox in here...”
Le Carmen is a strange place to meet at such an hour, particularly as Kavinsky isn’t one of those basement-genius teens popping up as need arises, claiming to shake the foundations of society with an errant keyboard shriek. “For seven years my EPs were released on a really narrow scale,” he says straight off after Belorgey introduces us. Kavinsky doesn’t waste time. Belorgey retreats into the shadows like it were a stage direction. Exit ghost.
“I could have done that all my life. A DJ-set is nothing particularly heroic, you get to a town, have a nap, have a drink with your friends and fun with the kids.” Kavinsky pauses. “Well, when you play at 5AM in Spain or Russia, sometimes it’s pretty tough to stay focused.”
Sure, sometimes the rave gets on top of you. But Kavinsky stands just as tall, fresh and focused with his newest album Outrun (Casablanca Records, released on February 25th) as he did on the tracks on the Drive soundtrack that brought him to the world stage. “I’m not a young bull anymore,” he continues. “But I can regurgitate all these atmospheres, these nights with the head on the bar. You can always talk about the BEFORE, the AFTER but it is mostly the DURING which counts...”
For almost a decade this silver-haired devil has fashioned creativity out of confusion, turning distress signals into something like a rallying cry for accidents and invisible crime. Of course there are people coming and going. Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr. Oizo) gave Kavinsky his first drum machine; Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo produced the Nightcall EP in 2010; and the talented SebastiAn really comes to the fore on the new Outrun album. And there is good reason for such love from his peers, namely the brusque authenticity of his approach. “I don’t make an album to make up some weird mystical disguise with flying birds.” Kavinsky is nearly whispering, lazily lighting another cigarette. “I’ve never dreamt of blowing Ryan Gosling either...” No, he merely enjoys driving powerful cars at night, drunk with the sonic grooviness of an old 8-bit synthesizer, the galactic ecstasy of digital compression. Nothing more to say, and fuck the music catechism apostles and cyber-nihilist crackheads.
“Cheap is fine. I’ve always crapped on the superfluous. I just hate it when I’m told, ‘it’s well-done’ or ‘it’s beautiful’. Beautiful is boring—even to say to a girl. It’s just gross, moreover you look like a fucking dullard.”
And so it is, as we slowly topple in a world made of desirable labels and refined obsolescence, we need our heroes, our Celine-esque outsiders more than ever. And let’s face it, there is something dystopic in Kavinsky’s music, as if French spaceships had got across the universe and brought us the material patterns of post-modernity. No robots or algorithms, just bare flesh wrapped in a leather jumpsuit and death around the corner.
I’m considering all these things in the darkness of the club when the man in the outdated NFL teddy dispatches his last sermon, apropos of nothing. Kavinsky snorts: “Fuck them with their I-love-sunny-Sundays-playlists, I’m not making the soundtrack for you to wash the dishes or clean up your piddling mess to...” Rather Kavinsky’s music is here to save us from a stifling flawlessness. His is an honest, impaired, imperfect humanity as bitter as my dampening coffee.
In Paris, the interview is now over, and the shade in front of me is hungry. “Dude, this lentil and celery salad is just dope, I could eat it for hours,” he says, and I hold my breath to this glimpse of a comfortable redemption. “But you know what? I’m gonna have a whiskey first.” A happiness I share in, forgetting there’s a girl waiting for me back at my flat, and it’s freezing cold out there, between all the places I still have to go.
Written by: Theo Jourdain
Photographed by: Louis Canadas