The year was 2003. Daft Punk was between albums, 2000’s timeless classic Discovery and 2005’s contentiously ahead of its time Human After All. As the elusive French duo’s manager, Pedro Winters found himself blissfully bored.
“I had a bit of time off,” Winters recalls. “You know, when you’re working so close with a band like that, when they are in the studio, there is not much to do. So, I think I felt I needed to create something myself.”
Winters was a face of the French Touch movement, and as Daft Punk’s manager, his fame reached beyond. As he mused on where to put this aimless potential, an experimental producer named Mr. Flash approached. He said he had some interesting, hip-hop-infused electronic beats, and he wanted Winters to manage him too.
“I had enough with Daft Punk, and at the same time, I was managing DJ Mehdi,” Winters remembers. “I said to this guy, ‘No, I don’t want to be your manager, but let me see your music.’ I liked it, and I said out of nowhere, ‘OK, I want to release this.’”
He named his label after his management company, Headbanger, itself an homage to MTV’s late-’80s metal-centric show Headbangers Ball and Winters’ own skateboard-punk past. He called it Ed Banger — “like if Ed Banger was a person, like Edward Banger.” He released Mr. Flash’s spacey, DJ Shadow-esque tune “Radar Rider,” and it titillated the Parisian crowd to see this French Touch ambassador move outside of disco grooves.
That was Ed Banger Rec 001. A few weeks later, he met a couple long-haired kids with a remix of a Simian song. Justice‘s “We Are Your Friends” was pressed as Ed Rec 002.
“That put all the lights on the label, because the song was a pretty big one — and very quick,” he says. “So, we continued the journey.”
Today, Ed Banger celebrates its 100th release with a very special compilation, quite directly titled Ed Rec 100.
Like any loving father asked to choose his favorite child, Winters couldn’t decide which artist to honor with the milestone. Instead, he asked all Ed Banger’s artists and closest friends to submit a new original, so fans get 17 fresh cuts from, among others, SebastiAn, Mr. Oizo, Breakbot, Boston Bun, a Boys Noize remix of Justice and, of course, Winters’ own musical moniker, Busy P.
“I think what we managed to do with this compilation is make a little photograph of where we are at the moment,” Winters says. “All the artists are on the label, and some are friends. Some extra guests are friends of the label, but this is like a time piece, or time capsule.”
It’s been a wild 15 years. Winters and his crazy, surrealist, jokester Ed Banger family have been credited by some of the biggest names in dance as direct inspirations.
“Yesterday, I was with Skrillex,” he says, fresh from Coachella weekend 1, where Justice played less than 24 hours before. “I have a lot of respect for what those guys are doing here in the U.S., but it’s amazing the love and attention they are giving us. When he is telling me, ‘Oh, Pedro, you are everything. You started it all.’ I am not taking credit for it, but it’s good for the heart. Skrillex or DJ Snake, when you look at what they are doing today. We don’t play stadiums. We play The Roxy [in Los Angeles] or stuff like that, but we’re still connected in a way, and I’m glad all the work we’ve been doing for 14 years is paying off. [Being at Justice’s set], looking at Pharrell, Frank Ocean, DJ Snake and all of them came to me and said, ‘OK, that was something.’”
Winters tries not to get caught up in the head rush. “I’m never very comfortable when people are telling me, ‘Oh, Pedro, everything you touch turns into gold,’” he says. “I’m glad you’re saying that, but that’s not real life. In real life, I release a lot of records that no one cares about. … My goal has never been to make hits or be No. 1. It’s been 14 years, and again, Coachella is a good example, because we are talking about that yesterday with Justice and Breakbot. We had a good time enjoying ourselves in our house by the pool. All I’m doing is for that, to be able to take my 15 friends, rent a house, buy the biggest guacamole, and see my friends killing it at Coachella.”
Whether they’re hits or misses, every track Winters has released is a song he loves. He understands that his reputation is built on trust, trust with the listeners, trust with his artists and trust in himself. If he can’t get behind it 100 percent, how could he expect anyone else to? And if the artist isn’t behind it fully, why bother pushing? Maybe that’s why Ed Banger has released on average seven records a year.
“All I am is the guy who is putting the seed in the Earth,” he says. “The taste of the fruit, [the artists] are responsible for that. It’s exciting that after 14 years we are still excited by this, by the adventure. The compilation we are releasing, we hope has this taste of ‘Oh, hey, we are all still together.'”
Of course, one very important man does not appear on the compilation.
“It was hard when we lost DJ Mehdi,” Winters says. Mehdi was more than just an artist and collaborator. Mehdi was Winters’ best friend. He died in a freak accident back in 2011 when he fell through a skylight. “I know he is looking up there, seeing all the family getting together, and it’s very important … I manage to bring people around me and allow them to make their music and build their career and grow up. That’s the only thing that matters to me. My main goal is to write the first lines of their history together.
His own track “Genie” with frequent Ed Banger collaborator Mayor Hawthorne is making a good showing on Parisian radio.
“I still prefer to be the fan,” Winters says. “Being surrounded by so much talented people, I need to be good. My work is just to be good enough for those people. So it’s like, motivation.”
It’s an instant hook built around a retro synth melody, a glasses-at-night beat, and a great sing-along performance from Hawthorne. It really just might be the most accessible song on the LP.
“This is the first time I am making a proper song,” he says. “Usually I am making more club tracks. I have been following (Mayor Hawthorne) since the beginning when he was releasing stuff on Stones Throw. I love him. He’s really talented. He did some tracks with Sebastian and Boston Bun, and I think he’s doing for all of us something completely different, and it’s a brilliant thing. I like also we managed to do a love song in a funny way, spreading love is something I like.”
“Genie” served as the compilation’s lead single, but now, fans can hear Ed Rec 100 in all its full, varied, sometimes hilarious glory. It opens like most Ed Banger compilations do, with an intro produced by wild man Mr. Oizo. Phra, of Crookers‘ fame, listing the artists who follow, then ripping a mean Italian rap.
It’s followed directly by a tune from Sebastian, his first work since appearing on Frank Ocean’s Blonde as the disgruntled Frenchman on “Facebook Story,” and his first real tune since 2011’s Total. It’s a sexy, synthy song called “So Huge,” and the only lyrics are, well, “huge vagina.” Going for a radio-friendly hit, he was not.
“With Ed Banger, people always mix image and music, and I’m glad there is also this sense of humor,” he says. “We are doing stuff for real and seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously, and I think that’s coming from my Beastie Boys influence. I’ve been a big fan of what the Beastie Boys have been doing, and also it’s coming from the skateboarding culture I’m coming from too. I think not taking yourself too seriously helps you to keep your feet on Earth.”
There’s also a new Breakbot song Winters hopes will be “the perfect song for summer.” Boys Noize goes hard and dark on Justice’s “Randy,” the only official remix that will be released for Woman. Things move from funky to increasingly strange. OG Ed Banger Krazy Baldhead is dark and gritty on the mechanical “Corridors,” and resident surrealist Mr. Oizo returns with “All Dry,” a laugh at his last album All Wet and glitchy groove of seismic proportions.
Riton serves industrial techno-funk on “Temporary Secretary.” Para One rides a vintage synth dreamwave on “Opium,” and newcomers 10lec6 (pronounced dyslexics) introduces their live band ghetto-house sound on “What Dat Azz Do.”
“They’re a punk rock band from Paris and they integrate an African singer, which makes a crazy culture,” Winters says, “a kind of world music with a punk rock vibe.”
The compilation closes with a sweet piano melody from So Me and The Music Man. It’s called “Conclusion,” but it’s hardly the end.
Ed Banger has many plans for 2017. 10lec6 are set to release their debut album around October. Winters is happy to report that Sebastian is “stuck in the studio night and day” working on his next album, which is “pretty well advanced.” Oh, and Justice is planning its stops for an official world tour — church setup included.
“We are really down to earth about the musical cycle,” Winters says. “This huge EDM American thing took a lot of space. [At Coachella] I felt the love, and I felt the comments from people. I think we can come back with our French sound and make people dance again. I know we are a bit responsible for the mosh pit when Justice came with “Waters of Nazareth,” but it was like funky mosh pit, and I think EDM took it a bit in a weird way. Yesterday, people were dancing. I think we’re gonna bring back the funk. That’s the most important thing in music.”