Justice’s Xavier de Rosnay on ‘Woman Worldwide,’ DJ sets and playing New Year’s Eve in Aspen (Podcast)
IF YOU GO …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Dec. 30 & 31
How much: Dec. 30 sold out; Dec. 31 $300-$695
Tickets: Belly Up box office
More info: The New Year’s Eve show is billed as a “Masquerade Ball” and masks are encouraged.
What do you do at the end of a year when you release a definitive career-encompassing album, launch one of the most popular EDM tours of the summer and get nominated for a Best Dance Album Grammy at the onset of winter?
If you’re Justice in 2018, the genre-defining and -defying French DJ duo, you come to Aspen for New Year’s Eve.
The band is in town for a two-night run at Belly Up Aspen with a sold-out Dec. 30 show and a masquerade-themed New Year’s Eve DJ set.
Justice is best-known for working on a massive canvas. They play arenas. They headline the biggest festivals in the world to literally some of the largest concert crowds ever assembled, with numbers topping 100,000.
The pair almost never gets to play a space as intimate as Belly Up for a crowd limited to under 500. That, Justice’s Xavier de Rosnay said, is what drew the EDM giants here for New Year’s and a rare DJ set.
“That’s one of the reasons why we decided to go and play there,” de Rosnay said in a recent phone interview from Paris. “When we DJ — and we don’t DJ a lot — the smallness of a club can sometimes be amazing. … We play a different kind of music in smaller spaces.”
It’s the duo’s first time in Aspen. Their hotly anticipated Belly Up shows come amid a downright astounding two-week run of world-class electronic shows at the Galena Street club that’s included superstars like NGHTMRE, Dillion Francis and Cedric Gervais and continues with performances by Diplo (Dec. 29), Emancipator (Jan. 1), Above & Beyond (Jan. 2) and Steve Aoki (Jan. 5).
The Grammy-nominated “Woman Worldwide,” released in August, offers a snapshot of Justice’s best and latest live interpretations of the their original tracks — a definitive statement about the Justice sound in 2018. It reaches back to the duo’s monumental self-titled 2007 debut, covers the scope of its discography and includes pristine live-created versions of their biggest hits like the club perennial “D.A.N.C.E.” and head-banging harder tracks like “Stress.” They stopped touring on the material in early November and are ready to let it keep evolving.
“If we were doing ‘Woman Worldwide’ right now it would be different,” de Rosnay explained. “Every time you play live you find new ways of doing things, ways that things can be improved. When we get used to things we change them. (‘Woman Worldwide’) captured the best things we could do at the moment. But these things are meant to be changed.”
Playing a New Year’s Eve show is a completely different job than the kinds of concerts captured on that record, de Rosnay said. The New Year’s crowd in Aspen is probably not going to be their most hardcore fans. It’s not a night for artistic experimentation, not the time to premiere new tracks or dust off deep cuts. It’s about providing a soundtrack for a party.
“I just speak for myself, but if I go out on New Year’s Eve I want to hear classics. I want to hear pop music, I want to hear music I can dance to with my girlfriend,” de Rosnay said. “So we’re going to play music that makes girls want to dance, so that the boys join them.”
So, yes, expect to hear the duo spin their most party-friendly tracks like “Love S.O.S.,” “Waters of Nazareth” and “D.A.N.C.E.” But also prepare to hear a mix of new pop hits — de Rosnay said they’ve particularly been loving Ariana Grande’s latest record — and a genre-hopping mix from Justice’s notoriously wide-reaching crate-diving tastes: plucking from throwback disco and funk, prog rock and metal and psychadelia, along with favorite tracks from fellow EDM producers.
“I find that pop music, when it’s really good, it’s really inspiring,” de Rosnay said.
Since the beginning, Justice’s dramatic stage imagery and graphic design has been as much a part of the duo’s identity as the music. The name is always written in its distinctly painted font and always printed with letters placed symmetrically around a crucifix “T” at the center. For years, that crucifix was also a signature part of the stage show, along with meticulous lighting schemes. In recent years, though, de Rosnay and his creative partner Gaspard Augé have moved toward a more elegant stage setup, using monochromatic lights and a spartan stage set-up that places them standing across from one another at a custom DJ setup (rather than behind the standard console).
They haven’t much used the typical EDM video screen visuals, never went in for flame-throwers and pyrotechnics and fireworks.
“We’ve never been big fans of video screens,” de Rosnay explained. “We prefer when it’s more minimal, with a bit more muscle.”
In the studio from the start 15 years ago, Justice’s sonic palette on original tracks has included a miraculously cohesive mix of hard-charging heavy metal-influenced compositions and infectious disco and funk-oriented dance tracks. But the duo has grown increasingly interested in capturing live interpretations on records rather than studio-perfected ones. They released live albums in 2008, 2013 and 2018 that infuse a vibrant humanity into their well-established sound.
“The ingredients have always been the same, but maybe the way we use them and the way we digest them and the way we regenerate them is different,” de Rosnay explained.
As for their offstage plans in Aspen, don’t expect to see Justice on the hill. The Frenchmen skied often as kids, but have given it up in adulthood. Still, de Rosnay said, they love the mountains.
“Now, when I go back to ski it’s too much for me,” he said. “What I like about being in the mountains is eating fondue and walking in the snow.”
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