Nestled somewhere among the Haussmanian facades of Paris lies a chic, ‘70s sci-fi oasis, and it’s making a lot of noise.
As one half of Grammy-winning electronic duo Justice, Gaspard Augé has proven himself an arbiter of cutting edge sound. Whether merging the worlds of metal, hip-hop and disco with his partner Xavier de Rosnay; scoring soundtracks for films and fashion shows, or cooking up his own surrealist fantasy in the form of debut solo album Escapades, Augé infuses his productions with a signature sense of maximalism, theatricality and wonder.
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In order to craft such fully-formed universes of sound, Augé surrounds himself with a collection of striking objects, ergonomic designs and inspiring artwork. His studio is a veritable wonderland of retro-future style.
Of course, we had to see it.
“There's something in the '70s design that is much more playful and fun to be around,” Augé says, “almost like some kind of playground.”
Peering behind brown-tinted aviators, curly brown hair, a beard and a mustache, Augé’s appearance matches his surroundings. Our tour begins in a particularly eye-catching corner strewn with white angular electronics. Framed by two bubbly white and black chairs, the space looks like a left-over Kubrick set.
“At some point I really got obsessed with old, white plastic, so I collected all these” he says. He grabs one of the spheres and lifts its top to reveal a small screen. “This is a video sphere, a T.V., some kind of basic space-age icon. Actually, I got it fixed so I could play Pong on it or something like that. That was the plan, but I have to find an old Pong as well.”
He shows us eight-track players and radio tuners, round speakers, weird clocks and white noise generators that look like guitar effects pedals. They all have names like Weltron and Electrahome. He says he finds most of them online or in “weird shops,” sometimes when he’s on tour.
“I'm always trying to find them at a decent price,” he says. “I'm always looking for street stores and record shops; antiques, but most of the time it's just more frustrating, because I can't take everything back home in a suitcase.”
Across from the “stupid white stuff” collection sits a bookshelf filled with pop cultural wonders. A glass bust of Beethoven presides over books on the Beatles, Wings and The Beach Boys. He pulls out a highly-stylized copy of 1984’s The Michael Jackson Story by Nelson George, then gets excited about a comic by Philippe Druillet, the French comic artist behind ‘70s sci-fi and horror series Métal hurlant, or “screaming metal.”
“This is my disco section,” he says, pulling out another book titled Area with a blue pill wedged into the thick cover. “It was a crazy club in New York. I never heard about it, and what I love about this book is the one blue pill, which used to be an invitation they were sending people. You had to put the pill in water, and then it would dissolve and unwrap some kind of plastic thing.”
Robots are another heavy motif. There’s a friendly retro robot sitting on a window sill and a knee-high servant robot perched on a ledge. Fans may recognize the latter from its appearance in Justice’s “Fire” music video (which also happened to star Susan Sarandon). There’s a framed picture of the Wabot-2, China’s keyboard playing robot from the early ‘80s. Coolest of all is his collection of sexy robot pieces by Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama.
“He's been at it for almost 40 years, and now he's finally getting famous,” he says. “He's still going, and it's kind of fun, because before it was really some kind of geeky stuff. Now he's working for George Lucas and everybody else.”
One of the wildest and most noticeable parts of the room though, nestled among Augé’s array of synthesizers, is a striking, guitar-shaped structure that juts right out of the wall. It, too, is made of white plastic, floating like some kind of teleportation portal. In fact, it’s an old phone booth from a Paris Metro Station, totally transformed with a roaring panther telephone.
“I found this phone and I got it transformed, because it's not supposed to have lights in the eyes,” he says, flashing the panther’s glowing eyes on and off. “I got it transformed so I can record vocals on the phone, so now it's a mic. I got it from a friend who has an antique shop in Paris. It had been there for 10 years, and obviously nobody was crazy enough to buy it, so finally he gave it to me for a birthday.”
The Yamaha CP-70 traveling grand piano is another gift from a friend. One of the first tour-ready pianos to hit the market, the vintage instrument seems laughably large compared to the tight synths we see on stages today, but it was a favorite of Elton John’s in the ‘70s.
Every inch of the musical space is filled with nostalgic gear, inspiring art and whimsical touches. From the Casio KX-101 ghetto blaster and keyboard hybrid, to the Japanese seeing-eye robot in the corner, and the original collage that became British hard rock band Toe Fat’s debut studio album cover (a surprise find from a sale of MoTown’s archives), every piece of odd-ball art comes with a story.
“It's important for me to create some kind of nest, and this fascination for Utopias and space-age everything, it definitely resonates with the record,” he says. Indeed, his Escapades LP, out now on Ed Banger Records and Because Music, was entirely inspired by the album art and sci-fi soundtracks of this stylish era. It’s mostly instrumental, capturing the cinematic grandeur of daydream fantasies.
“Round shapes and stuff like this, I guess it's just a very comforting and inspiring space for me,” Augé continues. “Probably some people would find it absolutely horrifying, mostly because plastic actually is never really comfy. These weird chairs, they are not comfy at all, but it's really hard for me to get rid of them. I always was obsessed with '70s and space-age stuff since I was 20. I stopped collecting, and now I'm trying to get rid of stuff because obviously it's too much, but I'm not really the Marie Kondo type.”