As chart-topping EDMers continue to gain clout with major labels, doors are opening for global stars still looking to break through in America. Enter Para One -- the brainchild of French DJ Jean-Baptiste de Laubier. When to making music, the 35-year old de Laubier is nothing new, as he's been working in electronic music and hip-hop beats since the '90s. But as a fresh, new signee of Atlantic's dance imprint Big Beat, his upcoming record has a chance to connect with Americans like he's never done before.
Need a sample? Check out "You Too," the big ol' banger of a lead single from Para One's new album "Club," due out July 15. A proto-version of the cut existed on Para One's last album (2012's "Passion") but de Laubier decided to up the ante for the aptly-titled "Club." Version 2.0 sounds like it's just taken a dose of a little something to get it ready for the dancefloor and it emerges even stronger:
But there's more to Para One than EDM. de Laubier has been experimenting with hip-hop and dance music long before the two genres became common companions on the Hot 100. Billboard spoke with the DJ about this merger, his favorites rappers, his take on American crowds and much more.
What made you want to sign with Big Beat and put out your new album with them?
Well, the sad thing with the previous album, "Passion," was that we didn’t have a proper deal in the U.S., and it worked very well in France. We were really happy with the release here but we kind of rushed it a bit and we couldn’t do it properly outside France, especially in the U.S. So this time we took the time to sit down with people and understand who would be interested in this music] and Big Beat was really into it, so I guess it was the right choice for us.
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How is promoting the album in France and America different?
It is way easier for me in France because it is my own country. Also, people are really used to the dance music and its various forms and we had a big phenomenon in the 90s with the French house scene. It’s kind of easy -- “Okay, this guy is somehow connected to this scene.” I also come from a hip-hop background and in France, the mix between hip-hop and house has been around for like 10 years, so it is something that is really easy to explain. But, in the U.S., it's a lot tougher and the challenge is interesting. I think it’s exciting now that people are discovering the dance music in the U.S. more and more on a broader scale now, so it’s an exciting place to explore.
In the world of dance music, what role do you think the album format plays these days?
Well, that’s a tough question actually. It’s true that now people can focus on EPs and stuff. Maybe I’m old school, but I still like the format of the album personally. When I want to express myself through music, I always think of an album. I don’t know why. I mean it’s pretty difficult to think of a single, just one song that will express everything you have to say in specific moments, where an album is more a collection.
You remixed your old track “You” and made it “You Too” on the album -- what were you looking to accomplish there?
Actually, I was about to go on tour when I started doing those alternate versions and I figured I should transform my tunes into something you can listen to collectively. “Passion” was more of a mixtape you do for someone; it was like a musical self-portrait that I did myself, to define my music to someone else. It was meant to be listened to at home, with your friends, or just alone. “Club” is definitely made for crowds, for people gathering and partying, so it’s a matter of scale. Like “You” -- you can dance to it in your bedroom, but “You Too” is definitely made for a bigger place. So, you strip your track to the bone and then you add some new elements to make it happen in a different context. “You Too” is definitely that… It’s the same song but it’s really so different, arrangement-wise, because it’s made for people to throw their arms in the air together, not just dancing in their kitchen.
For “Club” you also remixed “When The Night.” What made you want to revisit that one?
“When The Night” is closer to the original one, but I wanted to have the building sound. I love it when the beat is kind of slow like that, so it’s really sexy. But it was a very complex song in the first place and it could get in the way, so I wanted to make it much more simple, so that it could have more impact. I thought it mixed very well with the vocals, so I tried it when I was working on my live show and my DJ set. I was doing edits for that purpose and I felt that track needed some dirt.
What rappers are you into right now? Who would you love to have appear on one of your records?
Wow, a lot of them. I still love hip-hop. It’s actually the music I listen to the most. I think the South thing -- I’ve been fascinated with it for years now. It’s so creative. I was so happy to play there last summer because of the energy you can feel in the crowd -- they know all the tracks. I don’t know if I can actually name one specific rapper, you know? I have my friend, Joke. He’s a French rapper and he did a track with Pusha T, I really love Pusha T. I think he’s my age, so maybe that’s a generation thing. Gucci Mane fascinates me the most because of his incredible versatility.
You said you were doing shows in America, in the South?
Yeah, last summer I toured a bit in the U.S. I go there regularly, every time I have the chance to play cities where hip-hop is really rooted, like Atlanta or Houston -- it’s always a pleasure for me because I can show how I can lead hip-hop to dance music and how logical it is to me. And it’s logical to the crowd too, which is really exciting for me. Every city has its own vibe.
How would you compare the vibe of playing to an American crowd versus a French one?
That’s the good thing about America. Music that I’ve been listening to all my life came from America. It is great to come back to it. Obviously it’s not the same crowds. They are younger than me and didn’t grow up on the same stuff as me, but the background is key. People keep blaming EDM for changing electronic music and turning it into a commercial festival but I don’t see it that way. I think it’s interesting that the American crowds discover electronic music because I think it’s always good when things happen on that scale. It will definitely create an underground scene as well that could be very interesting in the next few years.
Are you planning to tour America this year?
Probably before the end of the year. Actually, I spoke to the agent a few days ago.