It’s been five years since Chateau Flight‘s, consisting out of famous French producers Nicolas Chaix and Gilbert Cohen alias I:Cube and Gilb’R, last EP was released. Now the duo is back with a new five tracker that goes by the name of ‘Dam House EP’ and depicts Nicolas’ and Gilbert’s five day lasting production session at Redlight Records in Gilbert’s new hometown Amsterdam. Whether you look at Chateau Flight as a duo or the two masterminds behind it individually, in the history of (electronic) music you must have come across either one of the names, for a good reason. Having released genre-defining tracks such as ‘Cosmic Race’ or remixing icons like Serge Gainsbourg and Daft Punk, it is to note that Nicolas and Gilbert contributed their parts to go down in history. Despite their succes, despite of running one of the most prominent labels, Versatile Records, both have remained grounded and always put music first instead of catching attention on detours. However, Chateau Flight produced not only a new five tracker that deserves a high-five but Gilbert also spent something like five minutes with Torture the Artist to answer the more than five questions.
It was just a matter of time and that time has come finally.
Torture the Artist: Hello Gilbert, tell us something about your day.
Gilbert: Just waking up after a canicular night here in Amsterdam, waiting to see what good things will happen today.
Torture the Artist: ‘Dam House EP’ is the first music from Chateau Flight after five years. Why did you put the project on hold for such a long time?
Gilbert: We’ve been collaborating for many years; Nicolas and me toured quite a lot. At some point (5 years ago) in a kind of natural process, Nicolas wanted to focus on his own material exclusively. I also moved to Amsterdam 3.5 years ago and Nico moved to Italy for a year. So this plus that…But we never considered our collaborations as finished. It was just a matter of time and that time has come finally. It also allowed me to focus more on my own things, in terms of DJing and production.
We both brought what we experienced music wise for the past 5 years.
Torture the Artist: What was your common desire when going back to the studio as Chateau Flight?
Gilbert: I think it never really disappeared and it’s just great when you don’t rush things and that they happen in a natural way. I’ve been trying to bring Nicolas over for some time. Not only to do music, but just to show him where I was living and to hang out with my Amsterdam cats. But it finally turned into 5 days of production in my small studio here. It’s probably the record we made the fastest, without even struggling. It’s a wonderful feeling to witness that even after a long period of not sharing a studio space (which is quite an intimate space) the connection was intact and even stronger as we both brought what we experienced music wise for the past 5 years.
We even ended at Garage Noord the last night. That was blast!
They left the shop open one night just for us and we were able to sample anything we wanted.
Torture the Artist: How difficult was it to produce music together and get into a certain routine after all these years?
Gilbert: It was actually quite simple ‘cause in Chateau Flight we don’t have a routine. We jam a lot, we let things emerge. Inspiration could be from a sample or anything else. Having my studio above the wonderful Redlight Records store is also super inspiring, that’s why we dedicated the record to it and especially to James and Abel. They were, I think, also super excited that we were producing there and they left the shop open one night just for us and we were able to sample anything we wanted. So we took a pile of records, collected samples and started from there. Those 5 tracks are quite different from each others and we all made them in 5 days, including the structure. Only the mix has been done by Nicolas afterwards. Sometimes, we would take a break from work and bring a small demo to play to our friends in the shop. Just a perfect way to make music indeed.
That’s why I’m so slow…in the studio, I’m like a crazy atom.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of a routine, what is a typical day of Chateau Flight in the studio like? E.g. what’s everyone’s task when producing a track or do the ideas develop from a common jam-session?
Gilbert: As said above, there is no routine. Only sounds inspire us. Usually we listen to records of which we don’t know what will come and we just take the bits we like. Then we jam them. We always do that. I wish sometimes those hours of jamming we had over the years would have been recorded.
During the making of a track or a remix we go through a lot of different phases to reach the final version, each very different from each others in terms of tempo, mood etc. But for this ‘Dam House EP’, no. It just appeared very clearly and very quickly. Nicolas is generally seated at the computer. I personally can jam forever, Nicolas is often the one that says stop and fixes our ideas into an arrangement. After 5 years I am stunned by the level of concentration he has. Sometimes I would talk, driven by enthusiasm, but he would not even answer me! I think it’s one of the secretsof music: concentration (that’s why I’m so slow…in the studio, I’m like a crazy atom).
Torture the Artist: Altogether you produced five tracks within five days after five years. Besides having a preference for the number ‘5’, why did you limit the amount of tracks to a certain amount of time or was it just a coincidence?
Gilbert: It was a total coincidence that it happened that way. We’ve never produced so fast and achieved so much at the same time. The tracks are very different from one another without,I hope, being incoherent. The number 5 seems to be the key number for this session.
A good idea always evolves by itself.
Torture the Artist: The five tracks cover certain musical influences, e.g. ‘Sargan’ is probably the most techno-ish take, while ‘Lo’ has kind of a downtempo vibe and ‘Crazy (Dam House Remix)’ can be classified as the most housy track. Does the EP represent Chateau Flight’s versatility and maybe a reflection of your own musical past in the present?
Gilbert: As a matter of fact we never sit down and say ‘well, let’s do a House track or a Techno track’, we try to let it go and when we feel something is there, then we dig it. We leave the ego at the door, always, and it’s so pleasant. A good idea always evolves by itself. I think in more than 20 years of collaboration we’ve never had to argue or impose each others ideas.
Torture the Artist: What was a memorable moment when producing the EP together?
Gilbert: The ambient version of ‘Crazy’. We like to work on a mixing desk with live synths running. I personally do my music like this as it’s hard for me to be seated in front of a computer for hours.
So for this one was made as a live mix on the board, sending fx, modulating synths, switching octaves etc…it was late night and the glasses of the windows were vibrating with the bass. While I was doing this Nicolas picked a hip hop accapella from a record, plugged it in a Boss delay and added some pieces. That version was a total live recording but Nicolas kept the recording and literally copied it (mistakes included) to be able to work each sounds afterwards to have a bigger sound.
Torture the Artist: Aside from very few EPs you mostly released on your own label Versatile Records. Is this fact connected to the musical freedom your own label gives you as an artist and why did you decide to release your ‘Baroque EP’ on Innervisions back in 2006 for example?
Gilbert: For a very simple reason: Dixon was the first person to have invited us to play in Germany a long time ago. We also became good friend with Franck from Âme so that was more a friendship thing and well; after all those years we are still friends. Innervisons invited me to play for their party in Marrakesh a few months backs. And even though music wise we took different paths, our friendship remains. We also released ‘La Pregunta’ on Permanent Vacation. Originally it had been a remix for a John Talabot track but it was musically too far away from the original version so we released it under our name.
We made that remix without even talking to each other.
Torture the Artist: What circumstances led to founding Chateau Flight and how did you meet?
Gilbert: I met Nicolas in 1996, the year I founded the label. I was working at Radio Nova in Paris at the time and was about to do a label with them, but it never happened so I did it on my own. I already received a tape from Nicolas and well, it was exactly what I had in mind for the label: versatile. Let’s say from downtempo to Trance even. In terms of Chateau Flight, I got offered to remix Pierre Henry and I knew Nicolas was a big fan. I proposed him to join. I remember we made that remix without even talking to each other. That’s how it started.
Here I’ve met people to share that thing not as House heads or Techno dictators, just as music lovers.
Torture the Artist: You have been a scene’s mainstay for more than two decades and worked with dozens of artists. What events, cooperations or works changed the course of your musical career?
Gilbert: I have to say being in Amsterdam for more than 3 years has changed it a lot for me. In Paris we were pretty isolated doing our thing. Being here exposed me to an incredible amount of new/old music, in all ways. I always loved music as a whole (not in terms of genre) and here I’ve met people to share that thing not as House heads or Techno dictators, just as music lovers. And we all exchange music together, which should be normal I think, but this didn’t happen in Paris. Having the record shop and sharing a space with them had completely changed my game. Having the Red Light radio 2 meters from there also. Orpheu, Hugo, James, Tako, Marco, Satoshi, Suzanne Kraft, Jonny Nash, Steele Bonus, Olf, Jorn, crew, Dekmantel crew and more: these are my crew and the countless times we shared some beers and music at the shop is a total bliss and a constant source of inspiration for me. My DJ bag has changed a lot since I’ve been here.
Torture the Artist: And what do you miss most about Paris?
Gilbert: The food, most definitely, my close Parisian friends and my family. For the rest, surprisingly I don’t miss it. Even if I left Amsterdam, I wouldn’t go back to Paris I don’t think. I feel very good as an immigrant here I have to say.
I arrived in the eye of the musical cyclone in France.
Torture the Artist: In 1996 you founded Versatile Records. How was this idea born and how has your vision of running the label changed over the past 22 years?
Gilbert: The idea is in the name; it came from my radio Nova days. They exposed me to so much musical things: they made my head explode. I was young, coming from Nice and I arrived in the eye of the musical cyclone in France. I started to work there with an amount of freedom that probably will never exist anymore (that’s why I will always be my own boss since). I had the key of the radio and sometimes, at night, we would come to take over the airwaves. It’s a sensation of freedom that walks with me all the time. The same day I could meet Jon Hassel and record a dj mix with Boyz 2 Men jaming on top of my records. I wish I kept those recording.
Also a key thing is to have mentors and I was lucky to have Loik Dury and the incredible (R.I.P.) Jean-François Bizot. And then talking about running the label – it comes all from there, from that spirit. So I hope it reflects this.
Torture the Artist: How much idealistic potential do you have to have to run a label these days?
Gilbert: If you are not idealist, you should not run a label. I think our music could speak to a wider audience but it has not happened for a reason and I do not mean to chase these reasons – at least not anymore.
Torture the Artist: Where do you ultimately want to take the label and what have you planned for the future of it?
Gilbert: 2018 has been a crazy year for the label in its existence; we’ve never released so much music. Maybe a bit too much (we will slow down in 2019). Ultimately, I would like to have steady sales and reach more people. The funny thing is, people that go to clubs now and buy music, some of them were not even born when I started the label, some of them I could be their father when I play for them at parties. And being here after all those years is a big satisfaction for me. Also being here not as nostalgic with an old audience. I have a son of 21 years and I often thought that the first time he comes to one of my gigs I should seriously think about if I should continue playing or not. But then he came and I liked it. He came with me this summer to Monticule festival and sat with me while I was playing an ambient set at night, outdoor, and I have to say that simple thing is a great source of happiness to me. ‘Cause he now gets what I am trying to do even though when he was younger he used to laugh at me and said I would play weird music at home – he called it the matrix style. Now I am awaiting my 14 year old daughter to be on my guest list, too.
Work to go to the end of an idea, and be open towards luck.
Torture the Artist: What’s the piece of advice you’d give to your children?
Gilbert: Work to go to the end of an idea, and be open towards luck.
Torture the Artist: What’s an artist whose music you would love to release on Versatile Records?
Gilbert: John FM, John T Gast, Shackelton, Davy Kehoe. I’ve also had this idea of making a between I:Cube and Pepe Bradock. Who knows?
Torture the Artist: What would be a musical extravagance you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?
Gilbert: Having my favorite artists to stay in a amazing studio in the woods. An experienced sound engineer that works quick, and assistants (2 max). The studio would be open 24/7, you could record from everywhere you wanted, from the rooms to the kitchen, including the outside. Free drugs. No hard booze, just the best wine. All types of instruments would be there but not accessible constantly. You would have to order the day before what you would like to jam on the day after. I would bring a chef to cook amazing food. A cinema with super big screen and surround sound, outdoors. Every participant would name a movie that would be randomly chosen. For the hour of the screening I don’t know.
Of course, everything would be recorded and a set up in each room would allow the participants to access all the recording and make versions on the spot. And the last night, we would throw a massive party. Each person could bring one guest only. I like intimacy.
Torture the Artist: What’s the music that would get this exclusive party started?
Gilbert: Some heavy drone mixed with nature sounds.
Torture the Artist: What music do you usually listen to in your downtime?
Gilbert: Love songs, soul music, emotional stuff. When I’m down I go to the bottom of it with no shame. I know after a while, when it’s expressed, it will get better.
I’m touched by things very often.
Torture the Artist: What was the last thing that deeply touched you?
Gilbert: I’m touched by things very often. Unfortunately I’ve had to face some neuronal diseases from close people lately. So to witness a brain and a soul falling apart was something very touching. It’s strange because it’s like a new personality is developing. The words put together don’t make sense; you have to, like a boat in a sea, let yourself go with the waves without opposing any force against.
Torture the Artist: What super power do you wish you had?
Gilbert: I would like to fly.
Chateau Flight’s ‘Dam House EP‘ is released September 7th, 2018 on Versatile Records.
Interview by Holger Breuer