The Ed Banger family. Photo by Yulia Shadrinsky
By the time he began Ed Banger Records in 2003, Pedro Winter, aka Busy P, was already somewhat of a music industry veteran. While still a teenager in Paris in the early ’90s, he was putting on club nights featuring the city’s trendiest DJs. By the time he was 21, he was managing Daft Punk as they began their meteoric ascent to music fame and glory.
The dominant Parisian sound had been the filtered “French touch” house music of the ’90s, but when it came time to start his own label, Winter (who is himself a DJ and a producer) signed Mr. Flash and the late DJ Mehdi, both of whom came from a hip hop background. A chance meeting at a cheese fondue party led to him signing the two pop-obsessed guys who would become Justice, and the rest was history.
By the mid-aughts, the label was known for its unique brand of abrasive, distorted electro that occasionally veered into pop territory. In addition to the music they released, they influenced a whole new generation of fans, wannabe DJs and producers alike with their distinctive album covers, courtesy of in-house art director and illustrator So Me, and their raucous, musical genre-bending parties. I recall seeing the “Ed Rec Crüe” at their first ever appearance in Montreal for the MEG Festival in September of 2006. They played in the small, upstairs room at Metropolis to a rowdy and bewildered crowd who were amazed to hear that you could mix both Dipset and Aphex Twin records into a DJ set and somehow make it work. When Justice returned to play the main stage at Metropolis a year later, they sold out two shows, back to back and on the same night, no less.
From then on, you couldn’t open a magazine without seeing an Ed Banger artist. Yet, just as EDM really began to take off in North America, the label stepped back from the spotlight. DJ Mehdi tragically passed away in an accident in 2011, and for a time Winter was unsure of whether or not he wanted to continue the label. However, on the occasion of their tenth anniversary, the label seems to have returned to their roots by throwing a series of 10 label showcase parties worldwide while continuing to release music by label signees old and new, such as funk-pop producer Breakbot or ’90s house music revivalist Boston Bun.
Ahead of the tour’s sole Canadian date, I spoke with Winter over the phone from Ed Rec HQ in Paris.
Michael Sallot: What’s been your greatest memory over the last 10 years?
Busy P: It’s hard — we’ve had so many. With the dramatic accident of DJ Mehdi, I am proud that we released his last album, which was the first album on Ed Banger. If I had to choose one record, I would choose that one. That’s a special one for us. In terms of the music too, Mehdi was coming from more of a hip hop scene and him making a more up-tempo, electro album was something that fits perfectly with my vision of what music should be, truly.
MS: The popularity of Ed Banger Records reached its height just before dance music became really huge and mainstream in North America. Was it difficult to make a decision to follow a different path when people were offering you all sorts of crazy things?
PW: It was a real choice. At some point, I think it was coming from the art of the label and what we wanted to be. I didn’t want to follow this EDM trend and make more noise. When we arrived with Justice, SebastiAn and Mr. Oizo with that banging, noisey French sound, it was fresh and new. Then suddenly everybody was making [it] and it was crucial and important for us to be different. For example, Justice came up with a second album that was more influenced by contemporary electronic folk music instead of falling down the EDM volcano. My joy is to have a label where I am free to do what I want, not [to follow] any trend or [not only trying to] become number one. I think we did a good move by not going into stadiums or big crazy dance festivals with no heart. It’s good to reinvent yourself. Of course, my dream is to sell as much records as we can but I will not do it by killing the vibe of Ed Banger.
MS: You were there in the ’90s before the music industry completely changed with the Internet, and the way that the business of music shifted. Living through that transition period, do you feel like you are getting better at predicting where things are going?
PW: I would never complain that things are going faster and crazier. It’s true that it has completely changed. It’s good for things not to be stuck. It forces us to think about new ways to make music, promote music or give away music! Technology, and the Internet especially, put everybody on the same level. We have the same tools. It’s not because you have more fans on your Facebook page that you are going to sell or be better than someone else. It’s still the music that speaks. This is what we have been trying to do with Ed Banger for 10 years.
MS: Just for fun, I’m going to say the name of an Ed Banger artist and I’d like you to tell me the first thing that comes to your mind.
PW: Give it to me!
MS: Okay. Breakbot.
PW: New music for the woman.
PW: Probably the hottest Paris DJ.
MS: Boston Bun.
PW: My new boyfriend.
PW: (long pause) Probably the best piece of cheese I ever had in my life.
MS: And lastly, Mr. Oizo.
PW: An old drag queen that still makes me dream! ■
Busy P and Justice play DJ sets, with a live set by Breakbot, at Metropolis (59 Ste-Catherine E.) on Thursday, Oct. 31, 10 p.m., $69.50