It's easily Eeprom's definitive statement to date—even if that message can be difficult to figure out, especially coming from an artist pegged as the go-to guy for sinister, peak-time anthems as dark as the inside of a sooty stovepipe.
"It was all planned for a long time to do this," Eeprom says by phone from London, his home for the past two-and-a-half years. "I don't see the album as a change, but more as coming back to my own roots." In the late '90s and early '00s, Eeprom played in a punk-inspired band called Dust Art. Over the course of their career, they gradually began incorporating electronic instrumentation and veering closer to something like progressive rock, managing to record an album before the usual strain took its usual toll, and the band broke up. While some of his band members "kind of flipped out" at the enormity of the task of recording an album, says Eeprom, he found himself drawn to the back-end mysteries of the process: mixing, engineering, production. "I started to get my hands dirty with that," he says, realizing, "I was the only one that had the key to making my band's albums sounded the way I wanted. I had a very precise idea in my mind." And so he did the only logical thing: he got a job in a recording studio and began learning his craft. But he also did an illogical thing: while he was learning to mic kick drums and nestle an electric guitar perfectly in the mix, he also began producing his own eccentric brand of dance music.
Even if you've never heard a lick of his music, you can get some sense for Eeprom's character from his track titles, which range from the almost farcically dramatic ("Wings of Death," "Venom Dance") to the wittily decadent ("Confessions of an English Opium Eater") to the ingeniously dumb ("Ableton & Screaming"). Things started, though, in 2005 with the release of his first two EPs, Prohibition and Retronica de Reve. A steady stream of singles continued in 2006, including "Wings of Death." Only the second release on Agoria's Infiné label, it got an unusual boost by being promoted alongside Infiné's first release, the classical pianist Francesco Tristano's fluid interpretation of Derrick May's "Strings of Life," which came backed with remixes from Kiki and Apparat. (The fact that Eeprom chose the title "Wings of Death" as the companion to "Strings of Life" offers still more evidence of his cheerful irreverence.)
"Agoria had met Danton in France and started playing his tracks," recalls Julien Gagnebien, Infiné's label manager. "We pushed him to use the guitar more, which was part of his own background, and move away from his previous, very 'electro' productions."
Still more singles followed in 2007: "Ableton & Screaming" for Williams' Love Triangle Music, "All I Can Say" (Freak n' Chic), "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" (Infiné), "Highlight the Damage Done" (Backroom Dandy), "One Thing Leads to Another" (Tsuba) and finally, "These Eyes"/"Strictly Erotics," the first release on Eeprom's own Fondation label. Across them, a distinct sound was emerging, one that merged the garish synths of French electro with the hypnotic drum-machine grooves of Minus-style minimal. Eeprom's penchant for long, swooping glissandi fit perfectly with the peak-hour moods of the time; his signature flourish was an eerie wild-pitch that threaded his singles and sets like a live electric wire, the warped tones eerily simulating the nausea of coming up on ecstasy.
Perhaps the strange, unsettling qualities of Eeprom's music of the time reflect the fact that he himself felt out of place among his new peers. "Because I don't come from a DJ culture, I thought I had no legitimacy in that scene," he says. "I was doing it for fun, for myself. I wasn't thinking of going further from that. But to my surprise, it interested people in the electro scene and the scene in Berlin, and I grew more confident. I always find it difficult to enter into the scene, because it's something like a chapel protected by people that know better than you if you can get in or not. It was always a bit oppressive. I never knew if I was in or not, because people didn't know where to put me. Is it minimal, is it electro, is it rock, is it weird? Yes, it's weird."
is it weird? Yes, it's weird."
The weirdness coalesced into a newly definitive form in 2008, when Matt Edwards, AKA Radio Slave, tapped Eeprom to remix "Grindhouse." "I was a huge fan of 'One Thing Leads to Another,' which was the standout track for me at WMC in 2007," says Edwards. "Danton's vocals and the production really stood out, and then we were lucky enough to be on the same bill at the Rex club. We stayed in touch, and I'd just made the 'Grindhouse' track and thought that it would be a great touch to ask Danton to remix it and add vocals."
Eeprom complied. "I came up with the weird vocals that I like, like early Detroit or early Garnier, just for kicks. And I really thought that Matt would be mad at me, that he'd think it went too far. I gave him a listen and said, 'If you don't like it, I can throw it away...'" He needn't have worried. It's fair to say that his mixture of queasy oscillations and percussive pummeling beat Radio Slave at his own game, and his pitched-down vocals struck a chord with Dubfire, who included them in his own "Planet Terror" edit of the track; the latter went on to be one of 2008's biggest anthems. (Number two on RA's top 100 charted tracks of the year, in fact.)
"I could have been trapped in that," says Eeprom, reflecting on a moment in the spotlight that saw his bookings suddenly multiplying. "Of course I'd have had to do more 'Grindhouse'-type things. I guess I didn't take it as a recipe for success; I didn't go bananas and do it over and over again—that's a good way to bore people. That's the reason I waited that long to put together the album. I took some time to think, 'What would be a good way to write an interesting electronic music album?' Most of them lack consistency. Very few electronic music albums I find relevant. I'm thinking about things like Dopplereffekt's Gesamtkuntzwerk—there are very few albums I could name as good, proper electronic music albums. Most of them are collections of dance tracks or EPs. I didn't want to fall into that trap."
Recording Yes Is More took the better part of a year, and its shifting moods—alternating between moody, rock-based songs with vocals and more technoid bursts of controlled mania—reflect the balance, or imbalance, perhaps, between touring and countryside retreat.
"It's a home-made studio affair," says Eeprom. "I used a couple of places to record the album. First, I used a really nice studio in the south of France, a very peaceful place with cherry trees outside. I ate the fruit between takes. There were a lot of little animals running around. A nice place, not like some basement in the city. That was for the initial part; roughly 60% of the album was done there. Then I created a recording studio in London, with the idea of finishing recording the album here and getting a bit of the atmosphere of London, as I had just moved at the time."
"I thought I would shape it into the emotions you can have throughout a day," he continues, "because in a single day, you can have a realm of emotions according to who you meet, what happens, what you learn, you know? I needed variety. My days can be a bit chaotic, and I wanted to translate that to a musical shape. You know, some 20 years ago, Primal Scream, they were avant-garde, right, they predicted that nowadays, all albums would be some sort of patchwork of different styles, a bit like iPod playlists, you know? I thought, people are not that stupid, thank you, they can take the fact you want to have a poppy danceable number, then a really strong techno number after that. That's something you can do with your iTunes in a party, why not do it at the core of the album itself?"
Aside from those two collaborations, Eeprom played virtually everything on the record. "To tell you the truth," he says, "it's been quite a lonely affair. I need to be in a quiet environment to be able to create. So I played most of the instruments myself, one by one. I only have two hands and two feet… I like to think I can play all instruments badly."
Despite the album's far-reaching forays, Eeprom hasn't abandoned club music. In addition to his blistering live sets, he's also taken up DJing in the last few years. "It's quite recent," he admits. "I'm not coming from a DJ background. I didn't know what to think about DJing for a long time, I thought it was just playing other people's music." But he began seeing it as a way to "tell a story," not unlike the tall tales he proposes on record.
As for his style, he says, "It depends. I like quirky, sexy house things; of course it's always going to be a bit dark, I don't know why. I don't even think about it. I just want to play dark stuff. But the DJing allows me to play lighter things as well in between, in a more fun, housey way. I also go for classic Detroit. The main goal is to keep the people busy and for them not to lose attention. I always like the way [Andrew] Weatherall spins, the way you never think it's stuck in one style of song, when he mixes. He always seems to go between styles, to snake around them. I like this philosophy. But I can play anywhere between 118 and 132 BPM, to make it a bit extreme. Four-to-the-floor techno, house, vocal stuff… People are usually quite surprised because they expect something darker and more electro-ish, more aggro. I'm not here to shock people, I might have done that when I was younger, but with age I've changed a bit, I just want to go along, take people by the hands and make them dance until the end of the night."
And the top hat? Eeprom laughs. "I wanted to distance myself from the 'cool DJ' style. It's such a cliché. If you're going to be onstage, let's a put a bit of attention on the way you dress. I went for the opposite: suits. In that sense, it was a bit of rock attitude for the techno people and club people. But it was quickly accepted. At first, it was like, 'Oh my God, who does he think he is?' They quickly understood it was just for kicks. I try to fuck around with styles."
But he doesn't wear it any more. "If you want to know," he confesses, "I forgot it at the Panorama Bar after a very intense night. The staff, they knew that I'd forgotten my hat, but instead of giving it back, they just put it in their office, writing "Danton" and the date that I had left it. It's just on the shelf in the office. When I came back to play again I saw it and said, 'Hey, that's my hat!' They said, 'Yeah, we know.' Never asked if I wanted it back. It's kind of a trophy for them."
"It's true that at some point, I became the top-hat guy. It was convenient," he admits. "It shows from a distance. It was a little trick to spice things up. But I don't want to get stuck with a particular image. I try to move when people are going to put me in a category, it's something I've been doing from the very start. All my records are different; I don't want to be stuck in a category. The same goes for my style: I experiment with things." With Yes Is More, Eeprom has pretty much guaranteed that no one will be categorizing him for a while. The hat may be gone, but the madness remains. The rabbit hole beckons.