The music scene of France is renowned for its eclecticism, especially since the country is an immense melting pot made up of diverse cultures from across the globe. When we speak about record labels that fully embrace this essence of eclecticism, Roche Musique is a key figure in that discussion as they are forging an exotic sound that is paradoxically familiar by virtue of the 'French Touch' influence.
Steered by his scorching passion for music, Cezaire (aka Jean Janin) started Roche in 2012 after a laborious stint as a writer, DJ, and promoter. "I wanted to know the people, to discover their universe, I wanted to have a contribution, not just going to clubs and getting loose", he states. It's been 8 years since its formation and Roche boasts an impeccable roster that has grown with the label such as FKJ, Darius, Kartell, Crayon - and of course, Cezaire.
Apart from being recognized as the founder, Cezaire brings audiences into his own sonic world through producing tracks that are garnished with lush atmospheric textures and laced with an array of influences including funk and hip hop. In this interview, Cezaire opens up about his upbringing, the inspiration behind Roche Musique, and much more.
You've mentioned before that ever since you were young, you knew that you wanted to be involved in music one way or another. In which ways did your environment and upbringing influence your passion for music?
My parents were a big part of it, even if none of my parents were musicians or involved in the industry, they always help me. My father was a big Opera listener, and also he loved jazz, a group like Pat Metheny group was his favorite. I used to listen to his album while I was painting or drawing stuff. My parents were also really supportive of my passions, and they would do everything to help my passions. Also, my father was a computer scientist so we were lucky to have a computer in 1990 and an internet connection, this, I think, played a big role in the creation and development of Roche Musique.
Aside from my parents, I played basketball. I would play like every day, trying to compete against the best players around. So this passion brought me into Streetball, whenever I would go, I would try to find a court, and usually, people were playing some music on their ghetto blasters, that's how I discovered Hip Hop. I remember that there were those mixtapes called And1 who mixed dirty footage of players from NYC coupled with some classic tunes. It really changed a lot for me.
Something tells me that you were the kind of kid who got in trouble for sneaking out and going to parties. Did you have the luxury of a family supporting your music endeavors or were they initially concerned about your decision?
My parents were the best when it was about my tastes or my ambitions. They would follow me if I felt the need, I think this is really clever and open-minded too. They had a lot of confidence in me. That why I was not afraid to launch my label and decided to leave from a complicated passion at the time.
At an early age, my father used to love some of the albums I was bringing home, for him Chronicle 2001 from Dr Dre is a classic. I think this was important too.
What was the music landscape like in France during your early days as a DJ, writer, and promoter?
At the time I was mostly listening to Hip Hop because of my Hip Hop way of life haha, a friend of mine in high school introduced me to a little collective called Bouleàfacette in 2006 in my hometown (Tours), they were mainly into electronic music and they wanted me to write about other stuff. But they helped me discover another world. I discovered clubbing in Paris. If I remember 'French Touch' was kind of over, Minimal was all over the place, nothing really exciting at the time, clubs were closing. That's when a club opened its doors in 2008, it was called Social Club, you could find every genre of music, it was perfect for me and helped me discover so much music. And I think it's when the music scene in Paris really shifted and my passion for it.
I'm curious as to what inspired you to start Roche Musique? And can you describe some of the challenges you faced in the time of the label's genesis?
Just being a customer in the club and in music, in general, wasn't enough for me, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to know the people, to discover their universe, I wanted to have a contribution, not just going to clubs and getting loose.
So I decided to study in Paris, with the goal to find a way to work in this industry, it took time and lots of little jobs to find out that the label was my thing. I've been an intern as a sound engineer also as a promoter, it was pretty hard because Paris was so expensive and I had to work my ass off to pay my rent. I also worked in the film industry I was driving a truck to bring the decor on set, tried so many things during this period, to be honest this helped me evolve as an adult and to be ready for Roche. I keep a great memory of this period, even if I was broke.
What was the process like finding the artists that you wanted to have on your roster?
The process was easy... So I have some people around me, we love the same kind of music, we are from the same generation and we understand each other. We also have respect for one another and we know we will do the best to make things happen and last but not least we are talented. Let's do this. It's now or never hahah.
I preferred working with people with the same vibe. That why we are like family.
Your pro's and cons of being a label manager?
I did the first years of Roche, now Thibault Dury is taking care of it. In my opinion, this is a rare post in the music industry where you can reach every part of it. There are no cons to doing an essential job.
After having your hands involved in various aspects of the music industry, you started creating your own music. What does the act of music production give you that DJing or even writing can't?
It's really hard to explain, it feels like a big challenge to learn how to make a tracks, theres so many aspect of it. Learning an instrument, chords, harmony, using a DAW, mixing a track, sound design. I think I found something that can follow me till the end and i will never reach my best. I love that.
The lush atmospheric textures intertwined with the frequent Funk and Soul influence is certainly one of the most recognizable characteristics in your music. In which ways is your sound a reflection of the way you think and your personality?
In my opinion the music I produce is a reflection of a lots of things. First of all my past, this is the nostalgic part, then the climate I'm in, could be something like being confined, or just coming back from a trip, also what I'm listening too at the moment. If i have an obsession with something it will change my way of producing and I will want to integrate some of it in my music.
In your recent EP, there's a track titled 'Beyonce' and it's among the only tracks in your catalog where you use your own voice for the vocals. What's been holding you back in the past?
Yes there's also "Je plane". I didn't wanted to sing, but know I feel that I have some stuff to say. Not a lot of people know, but my first My-Space was full of my raps, I was writing a lot. I don't know why but it vanished, and now it's coming back.
There's a video where you're briefly talking about Prince and his greatness. What is it about him that speaks to you so much?
I think I always have been fascinated by masters (not 'genius' I hate this word). And Prince is one for sure, he made so many tracks mastered so many instruments, it's fascinating. Read the book Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions and you'll see what I mean ;)
What are some of the habits that you've adopted which have helped you the most in your path?
I remember when I was a kid, I had so many rituals... Like preparing my clothes the night before, taking a shower in the morning etc. Stopped after leaving my parents' house. And now I'm back with some. I exercise every day, after that, I take a shower and practice for one hour on my piano. Work on production and I go to the office. Sometimes I go to the studio before going back home. I try to have a routine that helps me think best, you feel way better because every day you have a goal. And I needed that since I stopped playing basketball. I wanted to be a better player so bad, everything was around that.
The city of Paris has quite a reputation for being anti-social/rude/cold. What do you say to people who really believe this?
When you're a tourist in Paris yes it's rude. But every city can be like that especially if you come as a tourist because people want some of your money, you're going to the worst restaurant etc. To be honest, any Parisian will tell you, we never go to tourist places because they suck. So my recommendation is come hang out with us and I'll show you ;)
How has the impact of COVID 19 impacted some of your plans for Roche Musique?
Roche Musique is still the same, I think we are pretty lucky with the model we have. The streaming is our luck!
So… 1) An artist/band you would have a D.M.C (Deep Meaningful Conversion). 2) An artist/band you’d love to party with. 3) Artist/band you would like to be within the studio for a week.
2) Snoop Dogg in the 90's for the party man for sure he knew a lot of cools cats and he was the best.
3) A lot!! But Dr dre maybe