Thibaut Berland , known by his stage name Breakbot, is a French producer and a DJ who has been signed with Ed Banger Records since May 2009.
He studied at Supinfocom, a computer graphics university. He co-directed one short film Overtime with Oury Atlan and Damien Ferrié. The short won the Ottawa International Animation Festival award for “Best Graduate Film” in 2005 and the Internationales Trickfilmfestival Stuttgart “Young Animation Award” in 2006. Thibaut Berland also prepared advertisements and videos.
Breakbot is most recognized for his remixes. His reworkings of songs by artists including Röyksopp, Digitalism, and Chromeo are among his most popular. The music video of “Baby I’m Yours” featuring Irfane was directed by Irina Dakeva and became a summer hit MTV Pulse, France. The music video was nominated for “Best budget pop/dance/urban video” and “Best animation in a video” during the UK Music Video Awards on October 12, 2010.
I’ve always been curious… where did your name, “Breakbot,” come from?
Well it just came from Thibaut Berland, my name. You take the first word, “Thia-baut,” and the end sort of sounds like “bot,” like a robot, and then “break” of course is like the breakbeat in music when the drums kick in and do something interesting. I just like those two combinations together.
I’ve noticed that you’re rockin’ a pretty healthy beard. Do you have any tips out there for how to cultivate and groom a beast like that?
Well … no, not really. You just sort of let it grow, then trim it here and there. Eventually you become a hippie like me.
Were you ever uncomfortable with the idea of having to come up with a persona or gimmick as a DJ?
Well yeah, I’m pretty shy. I didn’t really want to be recognized in the streets or anything like that. That’s why in some of my music videos or album covers it’s not me, but drawings or audience members, or other images not focused on me.
What drew you to reviving the disco sound?
Well, I was born in 1981, a time when disco was sort of fading away and other genres were picking up parts of its sound to make it their own. I wouldn’t say that there was a moment I fell in love with disco or anything like that … rather, I think it’s just the music I listened to, so there was no moment when it clicked. I was raised on the sort of music I like to incorporate in my own music.
Your album has such as beautifully rich, retro sound infused with modern production techniques. Is there anything you could tell us about how you made it sound so fresh and clean?
It’s just the way artists produced back in the day, they used to have to record everything in the studio and they didn’t have so many takes so they had to do their best. Sometimes it wasn’t perfect, but they had to make it this way because they had just one week and it had to be done. When you work on a computer, you can work and rework forever. So it’s not the same process, everything is clean. There’s no background sounds, no grain or anything. So sometimes, you have to do things to add these things to make it sound more grainy.
In making many of the songs for the album, I understand you wanted to pick male voices with high voices in your music. Could you explain the reason why?
Well, it comes from the fact that I love Prince, the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson and wanted to achieve something like this. I’ve been a fan of vocal harmonies forever, that’s what I love in the Beach Boys and Prince so I’m very picky when it comes to backing vocals. I would pitch notes just to have the right chord that I want. But more technically, when you have a big funky bass line, it’s good to have a high pitched voice to mix with it. When you have a strong bass, I have a feeling that a high pitched voice goes well with that so the frequencies mix together.
Are there any artists from the Funk, Soul, R&B or disco genres that you would cite as a source of influence other than the obvious Prince or Michael Jackson?
Man, there’s so many. I’m influenced by a lot of artists like the Doobie Brothers, Beach Boys, the Beatles, the list goes on. I was also very influenced by the French electronic scene that was happening in the 1990s like Alex Gopher, Etienne De Crecy (Super Discount), Air, Daft Punk. Later on it was Surkin, Justice and all these artists. There’s so many things I like, it’s hard to say there was any one influence.
I read that your long-term goals is to one day produce a musical – or something that combines elements of music and film. A lot of your songs involve an element of storytelling already, are there any ideas you’d want to explore through that medium?
Nothing yet, but it would pretty much be influenced by American musical history. I love Westside Story, Singing in the Rain or The Phantom of the Paradise. Or even a lot of disco classics, they are all good musicals.
‘Baby I’m yours’ went on to be nominated for the Best pop/dance/urban video and ‘Best Animation’ awards at the UK Music Video Awards; did the reception of the single exceed your initial expectations?
Yeah of course, not because of this animation, but we didn’t expect this song to be as big. When we go to the live shows, we have people who knew the lyrics by heart and it was on a few American TV shows, a few movies in France and a few commercials in France as well. So yeah, I didn’t expect to get this far with the track but I’m pretty happy with it.