Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday 11/25 6:15pm

Thanksgiving in Paris: it's techno-riffic!
After leaving Oui FM, with my self-esteem in tatters after my dismal failure of an interview, DJ Zebra and I headed off to St. Germain to check on Adrian and Mysterious D. D had been feeling a bit under the weather, and when we arrived at DJ Comar's pad where they are staying, she was cloistered in the bedroom like a plague victim. Adrian said, "She wants fries. Fritas? Fritties? What is it again?" So we went out to the streets of Paris in search of fried potatoes and also train tickets for A & D to get to Amsterdam. The TV crew was again tailing us, and there's nothing more awkward than having someone you don't know film your most mundane activities. We're just walking down the street here, what am I supposed to do, dance? So, I did some hot disco ;moves which seemed to impress not only the TV crew but also the students of the Sorbonne who were strolling the neighborhood, I'm assuming in anticipation of seeing some American DJ make an ass of himself.
Dinner that night brought my first authentic French experience: a small bistro with the menu on a chalkboard, packed to the gills with people at 9:45pm. Somehow I managed to get peer pressured into duck foie gras, which I've never eaten before, and I wouldn't exactly say I'm sorry I did, but I'm going to be honest and say it's doubtful I will again, although these savory buttery sauteed apples with it were spectacular, and my choice of a Pinot Noir, based only on it being the only type of wine I actually recognized on the menu, turned out to be correct and impressed the waitress greatly. Who knew.
Unfortunately, the theme of the trip is starting to be not having enough time for anything, and before we could get to dessert or anything, it was time to run off to the France Radio and Television building for my interview on Laurent Lavige's "Ondes de Choc" ("Shockwaves") new music show. An exciting drive ensued across Paris and I managed to see Norte Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, lit up and blinking again, all whiz by in a blur. As we round the corner to the Radio and TV building, lo and behold, it's Adrian and a newly recovered Mysterious D along with Comar; and along with the TV crew, we suddenly have what I believe is called a "posse."
I was really nervous, after such an embarassing performance at OUI FM, about my ability to deal with this interview -- I really wanted to try and say some of my littel pre-planned French phrases, but my lesson from OUI was that you had to understand what the hell the question was for the answers to be any good. Zebra assured me he'd help, but my heart was still thumping as we passed through security in the mirrored lobby of the building. France Inter, for the uninitiated, is kind of like Radio 1 mixed with KCRW and NPR; it's one of the 6 or 7 radio stations under the umbrella of state-supported Radio France, apparently news and information oriented during the day, and with new music shows from 9pm to midnight only; of which Mr. Lavige's is apparently one of the most respected. They broadcast to all of France, and I suppose unsurprisingly, their studios made LIVE 105's look like college radio, with 4 producers in a giant state-of-the-art production room and Laurent holding court in the conference-room style mic studio. A bit intimidating to say the least. We sat down with the host and his first, intellectual-seeming rock critic guest, who were seriously discussing Nick Drake and playing the Beck song from the Eternal sunshine soundtrack. At this point I'm like shitting my pants; what have I gotten myself into? It's like Bart Simpson guesting on Washington Week in Review. So it was all the more amazing to have the interview go well. Mr. Lavige was very understanding and let me kjnow the questions in advance, he also phrased them very simply and spoke very slowly so I'd understand, and when I stumbled dyslexically over the word "chanson" he laughed it off and encouraged me to go on. They played "Boulevard" and then came back to the studio, where he read an e-mail that had just come in saying "thank you for playing that bootleg, it was very well arranged," the rock critic says "the songs are much better when they're played together" (which I'm going to take as a high compliment) and Mr Lavige himself was extraordinarily kind and complimentary. He then surprised all of us (Zebra had warned me it would be a very short 1-song appearance) by asking to play another track, choosing "Novocaine Rhapsody" off the Dean Gray album, which he said was "very beautiful," and then we got to discuss that little project a bit as well. So while my French was rusty and full of holes, I basically managed to follow along; and more importantly, I was overwhelmed by their apparent treatment of me as a legitimate artist, which I don't even really consider myself, and by their clearly genuine appreciation for my work. It's kind of cheesy but a very surprising and fulfilling moment. I had mentioned that my family might be listening on the internet (I have yet to find out if they successfully navigated the France Inter website, and moreover, whether they were able to sit through the first 40 minutes of the show before I came on), and Laurent even gave them a little shout-out. Hope somebody heard it.
So what better way to celebrate than with some thumping techno? We caught one of the last subway trains at about 1am and made our way to the Rex nightclub, a kind of alternative/art/techno club that had just recently hosted Adam Freeland. Last night was a blast, with the DJ playing a load of tracks I play on Subsonic that I always wish I could hear out in a club but no, San Francisco has to be all cheesy house music or Drum & Bass, so it was a great pleasure to hear tracks like Vitalic's "My Friend Dario," Tiga's "You Gonna Want Me," Kraftwerk's "Aerodynamic" remix; etc. Every once in a while, 5 girls dressed in matching red and white flight attendant outfits would slink out onto the dance floor and perform choreographed moves; the drinks flowed like, um, drinks; and Deidre proved herself fully recovered by running ecstatically back to the dancefloor for every new song -- all of us, French bootleg posse or American Bootie DJs, being similarly impressed by the tunes. The party raged until 3:30am and then, after being up over 20 straight hours, it was time to go to bed.
Today, Adrian and D were apparently off to Amsterdam -- without our cell phones it's hard to stay in touch, so I hope that's going okay for them. I did a whirlwind tour of the Champs Elysses, the Marais, and Printemps where I got this great orange soap that Zebra has. Plus I got my first Croque Monsieur which was a significant goal on this trip. In two hours, we head again to Oui FM where I will try to redeem myself on the Zebramix -- I've put together a Party Ben Greatest Hits half-hour set, and we'll be doing a little chit chat as well, all this streamed online at www.ouifm.fr at 8pm (11am Pacific, 1pm Central). We'll see if I can keep it real en francais. Then later tonight to Le Trabendo, a rather large, usually-live-band-type venue, for a party thrown by a safe sex and anti-drug organization, which has me a little nervous, but is a good cause, and so hopefully I can find some records they like. We'll see.

2 comments:

Sarita said...

Hey just a note from an American who lives in France and caught you on "Ondes" (one of my favorite shows here). Being American and experienced with uncomfortable moments trying to speak French - I think you did great. I didn't hear your OUI performance but you sounded comfortable on "Ondes" and it was great to hear the bootleg!

Thanks!

Ella Veen said...

Dear Ben,
just wanted to thank you for one of the greatest evenings I´ve had this year. I was at the "Bootleg" Party at ZinZin and cannot remember the last time I´ve danced that much ........
Concerning the french keyboard: Yes, its majorly retarded; I`m an exchange student in Paris and haven´t found one single Parisian who could explain me the concept of this thing!!!!