Although Lyon is regarded as the culinary capital of the world, despite its size and rich history, the city of over a million inhabitants situated between the Rhone and Saone rivers ekes out a shadowy existence in the everyday cultural life of the French. After Paris and Marseille, there isn’t much room to shine. Apparently. Yet it is the city’s alternative, underground dance music scene that has been making its mark for some time now: This is due not only to perhaps the most beautiful club in France, Le Sucre in the city’s harbour, which is regarded as the Robert Johnson of France, but also to artists like Sacha Mambo of Macadam Mambo, the community radio station LYL and the Brothers From Different Mothers label, which got its start here. In one way or another connected with or involved in all of these creative hubs, as one says today: Guillaume Lespinasse, better known as Jonquera.
La Croix Des Cros
The Pilotwings, the duo that Lespinasse and Louis de la Gorce form together, first appeared on the screen and as a track in the club in 2014. The two childhood friends (»Our parents were friends before we were born«) were traded strictly under the table at first, but soon became a dance floor insider tip with their slightly raunchy, wise break house numbers. Here’s a little anecdote: At the beginning 2016, I had the pleasure of welcoming The Pilotwings when I booked them to play at a club in Cologne. The two of them, still very young and wet behind the ears, didn’t speak a word of English, let alone German. But they took a bilingual friend with them in the car on the trip from Lyon to Cologne. Both seemed intimidated by the club, the communication barrier and their first appearance outside of France, but this evaporated the moment Lespinasse and De la Gorce stepped up to the turntables. All of a sudden, they were transformed two confident DJs who cultivated a rough and very fast techno style with a certain buzz to it.
»Occasionally I try my hand at a fully-improvised live set, which always ends up in free jazz: which is very satisfying for me as the maker, but perhaps more boring for the listener.«
This is still an apt description of Lespinasse today, as our meeting at the Weekender Festival in St. Vith, East Belgium, proved once again. Now fluent in English (he’s been touring a lot in the last few years), he’s a reserved fellow who weighs his answers carefully and certainly doesn’t want a ruckus. He has ventured to take a different musical direction with his solo alias – away from the dance floor and closer to the type of line-up typical for smaller boutique festivals like Weekender.
Ancient curses and always something new
This goes back to his youth, when he learnt to play the drums and formed a piano and drums duo with a friend, playing both jazz and The Prodigy. Daring to try something new, experiment and defy expectations – these are vectors that can still be found in Lespinasse’s music today. This, he tells us, also threatens to get out of hand: »Occasionally I try my hand at a fully-improvised live set, which always ends up in free jazz. It’s very satisfying for me as the maker, but perhaps more boring for the listener. I call this kind of situation »hostage-taking« – my last drone performance was so packed that it was impossible to escape. The profound looks of distress in the eyes of the audience members is what he remembers most, he says. More often than not he opts for an approach that is based on the songs he has already released, but still leaves room for spontaneous creation.
At the Weekender Festival you can see this twice: Once solo as Jonquera, where he sends dub walls through a cinema room, but combines them with something as outlandish as Animal Collective folk guitars, which in the combo even develops a touch of Björk. As the Duo Adiciatz, which he founded with his partner Manon Nogier: Fascinating pop songs with medieval undertones – like bagpipe drones – sung in the ancient southern French language of Occitan, which at times seems to evoke ancient curses. Although the songs are whispered more than uttered as a curse.
These are the new chords that Guillaume Lespinasse is striking: a little more reserved, refined, more balanced. But don’t worry, in his interview he reveals that there will be music of a more raucous nature in the near future. The Pilotwings and the chaos trio J-Zbel are waiting in the wings with new releases, and the BFDM label will also be back with a bang.