Mr. Oizo, aka Quentin Dupieux
For fans of electronic music who came of age in the late ’90s, Mr. Oizo (aka Quentin Dupieux) first appeared on the radar via a curious clip that received heavy rotation on music video stations at a time when Britney and the Backstreet Boys ruled the airwaves. The video for Oizo’s debut single, “Flat Beat,” featured a mischievous lil’ critter named Flat Eric headbanging and merrymaking to a squelchy, bass-heavy thump that seemed out of step with the break-beat and hip hop-influenced electronic music that dominated that era.
The critter in question began life as the star of a popular Levi’s jeans TV advertisement directed and scored by the young French talent who was quickly making his first forays into the world of filmmaking and music production. The obsessive melody quickly gained a life of its own. In short order, Oizo was signed to a record label and “Flat Beat” got a proper record release. It went on to sell millions of copies, and charted across Europe. However, many saw it as a novelty single, and subsequent albums failed to connect with critics and listeners.
Oizo stuck to his guns and his music eventually found a natural home when he was signed to famed French label Ed Banger Records in the mid-aughts. The glitchy, abrasive beats he’d been making for a number of years matched the sound and style of up-and-coming label mates such as Justice and SebastiAn. Together, they formed the core of the “French Touch 2.0” sound that exploded in popularity and gained traction with new fans around the world.
Flash forward to 2013 and Mr. Oizo is now an accomplished musician, DJ and director with a number of albums, EPs and feature films under his belt. He has created an absurdist universe where Flat Eric can have his eyeball sliced open (see the cover of 2008’s Lambs Anger album which features the poor puppet in an re-creation of the infamous opening scene of the surrealist cult classic, Un Chien Andalou) or an inanimate rubber tire can come to life, harnesses telekinetic powers and makes people’s heads explode (see 2010 breakthrough feature film and Fantasia film festival favourite, Rubber). This year will see the release of two new films, Wrong Cops and Réalité, as well as a soundtrack album.
In advance of his upcoming DJ gig at the SAT, we exchanged emails in what I had hoped would be an illuminating interview. The end result was something more akin to a tossed-off Twitter exchange. But knowing Oizo and his penchant for finding the ridiculous in the everyday, it’s possible that his responses were a form of performance art and a logical extension of his creative oeuvre.
Michael Sallot: I was familiar with your music long before I had seen any of your films, but I feel that they work well together because they both have a certain amount of humour and a surreal quality to them. What came first for you, directing film or making music?
Mr. Oizo: I THINK BOTH CAME TOGETHER IN SAME TIME. I STARTED DIRECTING END ’90S, SAME PERIOD I PRODUCED MY FIRST TRACKS.
MS: A lot of your music has been featured on the soundtrack to your films. Do you find yourself making music specifically for cinema, or are they separate in your mind?
MO: IT COMES FROM THE SAME MIND, NOT IN THE SAME TIME. MY NEW MOVIE SERIES WRONG COPS IS THE PERFECT COMBINATION OF THESE 2 WORLDS. CHECK IT OUT.
MS: What do you enjoy about making music and DJing that you don’t get from filmmaking?
MO: FILMMAKING :))
MS: Do you have any music releases in the works?
MO: YES, WRONG COPS SOUNDTRACKS ALBUM WILL BE OUT BEFORE SUMMER 2013.
MS: Ed Banger records is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. What has it been like to be a part of that journey?
MO: I DO THE EDREC X AT HARD L.A IN AUGUST (HARDFEST) AND SOME OTHERS IN SEPT. IN BERLIN. VERY EXCITED AND PROUD BE PART OF IT.
MS: You worked with Marilyn Manson on Wrong Cops. He hasn’t appeared in many films and is not really known as an actor. How did that come about? Did you write that role with him specifically in mind?
MO: I MET HIM NEAR MY NEIGHBOURHOOD IN L.A., WE BECOME FRIENDS. I JUST ASKED IF HE WAS UP FOR IT AND HE SAID YES — EASYGOING.
MS: Is there anyone else that you would really like to work with in the future, musically or cinematically?
MO: I WOULD LOVE TO WORK WITH MORE AMERICANS ACTORS. THEY ARE SO PROFESSIONAL AND PRECISE IN THE JOB.
MS: I have read that you recently finished shooting a new film, Réalité. What can you tell me about it?
MO: IT’S A SCRIPT I HAD FOR MANY YEARS, WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SHOOTED IN FRANCE BUT FINALLY WE DID IT IN L.A. IN OCT. 2012 WITH A FRENCH MASTER ALAIN CHABAT.
MS: As I mentioned before, your films have a strong surreal element and absurd humour to them. What has been your most absurd experience making films in America?
MO: NO ABSURD MAKING MOVIES IN L.A., BEST PLACE ON EARTH TO MAKE MOVIES, A DREAM CAME TRUE.
MS: You filmed your first major film, Steak, in Quebec. What do you recall of that experience and would you ever shoot another film here?
MO: EXCELLENT EXPERIENCE, I LOVED IT, I WILL BE BACK FOR SURE.
MS: What’s Flat Eric doing these days?
MO: HE IS HAVING A SPA WHILE WE TALK. ■
Mr. Oizo DJs alongside locals A-Rock and Cherry Cola at the SAT (1201 St-Laurent) on Friday, March 15, 10 p.m., $35