Dance music was always about having fun. It’s an ethos that has not escaped Cesar Merveille, the Paris-born enchanter whose ascent through the ranks of house and techno has been powered by an irrepressible joie de vivre, matched only by a desire to be challenged by everything he does. Encouraged by creative freedom during his formative years, Cesar learnt to listen to his instincts and keep a healthy dose of soul in everything he turned his hand to.
The following years, spent immersed in London’s underground, soon found Cesar holding residencies for such fabled parties as Lo-Kee and the T-Bar. It was his later partnership with Cadenza that propelled really Cesar to the world stage, providing a platform for his music to reach a broad audience and enabling him to command dancefloors big and small the world over. Such exposure has also given rise to new artistic ventures, most notably working with long-time friend Ryan Crosson on the “DRM” project. The full-length album from the pair came to light on Visionquest, providing space for them to explore textures and moods unconstrained by the dancefloor’s demands.
From his current base in Berlin, Cesar has embraced the natural workflow of hardware production, immersing himself in a studio powered by machines and intuition. His new label Roche Madame is a product of this, channeling the creative energy of musical allies to give rise to new collaborations. Inspired by a secret family location off the coast of Brittany, the label is both a tribute to his roots and a celebration of the here and now, a moment that Cesar is forever living in. Constantly feeding off his environment, Cesar’s unbridled energy finds him operating both as a world-class DJ, and as an artist embracing innovation whilst committed to his grounding principle of music as pleasure.
How did you got involved in electronic music and why keep doing it after so much time?
I discovered electronic music via my friends from Circus Company in early 2000. I was more into hip-hop and not that much into house and techno at the time. I became fascinated by extremely minimal music like Ultrakurt, Telegraph, Perlon, Dan Bell, Ricardo, etc. My taste has constantly evolved and I have a variety of projects and styles that keep my interest in music fresh. If I was to get bored with it I would do something else (but I don’t see that happening soon, haha)”
Can you talk a bit about your first release?
My first release was in 2003 under the name 16 on Circus Company VA 005, alongside Cabanne, Mosa, and Dave Aju. My friend Kean had given me Propellerheads Reason and Digital Performer. We sampled some bits and pieces from A Tribe Called Quest, went to their studio, added some MS-20 and a Virus bass sound. He was basically showing me how to use all the software and hardware and called me a few days later saying “I have good news and bad news: Good news is we are going to release the track but the bad news is that we have to finish it this week!
What are your main influences regarding your approach to music production? Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! It could be from music from friends, or from non-electronic music that I collect. When I travel I listen to non-techno stuff like jazz, classical, ambient or experimental and I keep notes of sounds or different ways of composing and arranging. If I get stuck I will listen to anything for a while and look for something that speaks to me
Tell me about your sound. How would you describe it best?
A constant work in progress, I try to evolve, not getting stuck repeating the same tricks. It’s a lot about jamming on a few tracks, keeping the good ones as opposed to trying to make the perfect track each time. I also explore a lot of different styles. I’m just finishing an album with Ryan Crosson that’s all modular alongside recorded musicians, no kicks something, it was meant to be something more adventurous and musical.
What’s been your biggest moment in electronic music to date?
I guess it was my 29th birthday party back in London. We organised it with Lo-Kee and a lot of friends happened to be in the UK so we had a crazy line up with Shaun Reeves, Maayan Nidam, Ryan Crosson, Dyed Soundorom, dOP playing live, Craig Richards b2b Seth troxler (the first time they met i belive) and Wolf and Lamb! All long time friends or soon to be close friends for those who met each other then.
It was so hot and sweaty you couldn’t even light a cigarette but it didn’t matter because the vibe, the musical journey and the friends gathered made this day and night party ultra-special.
What’s your ultimate goal as a DJ and producer?
Just keep on challenging myself and the people around me, whilst having as much fun as possible.
Where is your favorite place to play music and why? Do you prefer large crowds and festivals or a more intimate and cozy atmosphere?
I love both intimate crowds and big clubs but I think it’s about finding the balance. CDV would be one my favorite place in the world, the sound is only good in the booth and tiny dancefloor but the proximity and level of music that people expect are amazing. The bigger the event the more the quality of music seems to degenerate, but it’s also fun to play in front of a huge crowd. It’s a different kind of energy and I collect music for both situations so it’s nice to have the opportunity to try it where it fits.
What are the most important things that you care about before a gig?
First and foremost my music! I make a playlist for each show because it’s important that I can find the right track at the right moment. It’s not prepared at all but organized.
If I can, sleep, haha! I didn’t care much for it before but sometimes 4h of sleep can be a savior and improve your mood and set, especially as you get closer to 40.
Logistics must be properly taken care of. That’s a must when I travel a lot. Online check-in, all the contacts, and info I need. It’s really a pain to arrive somewhere having had problems on the road that could have been avoided.
I also like to have books and albums of non-techno music.
How about your label Roche Madame. Can you tell us a bit about it?
I started Roche Madame last year with my long-time friend Thomas Goetz. We are three releases in, all music under C.S.R so far, one being a collaboration with Masomenos (as Sam O’Sommen)
It’s a family affair, we don’t use P&D in order to be as independent as possible, releasing only what we like. The distribution is handled by Off The Grid, run by a friend who I have known for over 10 years.
What plans do you have regarding the label in the near-future?
Over the years the way that I produced music evolved and I wanted to reflect that through this label. I also wanted to start supporting younger artists and friends through a fresh project. In addition to Roche Madame, I also started 2 sub-labels, Roche Noire and Roche Edits.