"What do you mean by that?" asks Marciano. As Darsa's manager, he wants to ensure that his message is not misunderstood.
"I mean that I have my own imprint," Darsa says, with a sense of pride. "The way I eat, the way I think, the way I fuck, the way I grew up is not the same, so at a certain point, and we really had a discussion about this, we were focused on the idea of developing what we had in ourselves."
Jabre nods in agreement. The pair have shared many fruitful years in the studio, which eventually led to the Soha project that yielded many singles in the early '00s. Their solo careers, though, stretch out either side of this period. Their shared studio space was a purpose-built room that reflected a desire to shape their own sound with the best available tools at their disposal.
"We spent twelve years in this basement," Darsa says. "No natural light, in a smoky environment, with the sound treatment, it was very dense. I can tell you, after years we tried light therapy and we felt it. We fucking felt it because it was too much!"
Darsa's career has been one of myriad phases, projects and places. On Radio FG in Paris through the mid-'90s, he shared a pivotal afternoon slot, called A Deep Groove, with DJ Deep and Alex From Tokyo. The station itself had strong a heritage, emerging in the early '80s as an outpost for Paris's gay community, but evolved to reflect the emergence of electronic music.
Paris was locked into an exciting love affair with house music during the mid-'90s that would eventually become known as "the French touch." Among the key players at this time were Motorbass (also known as La Funk Mob and later Cassius), Dimitri From Paris, Trankilou (Pépé Bradock and Ark), Daft Punk, St. Germain and Château Flight. The latter duo, made up of Nicolas Chaix (I:Cube) and Gilbert Cohen (DJ Gilb'r), launched Versatile Records in 1996, and the label's second release, by Cohen under the Cheek moniker, gave Darsa his first big break—the DJ Gregory remix of "Venus (Sunshine People)". The fearless re-imaging of Brass Construction's funk classic "Happy People" was a masterstroke of party-starting sampling. It encapsulated the ethos of French house, with its love of classically rooted samples.
Considering the very separate paths these artists would eventually take, it's interesting to note how convivial the atmosphere was in Paris at the time. "Everyone got along," Darsa says, using a seminal release on Basenotic Records as an example. "Otherwise, you wouldn't see the Bakchich record, where there is Motorbass, Gregory, Ark. The guy who did it, Romain [Dupont], worked at BPM Records. This shop was really the heart of the underground music in Paris."
The burgeoning local talent would play side-by-side at Le Fumoir, a party put on by David Guetta and his wife, Cathy. However, it was a move to the predominantly gay nightspot Le Queen on the Champs-Elysses that created the focal point Gregory and his fellow artists needed.
"The Respect [Is Burning] parties at Queen," Darsa recalls. "This is really the first parties of what we called the French touch. It was three guys: Jerome Viger-Kohler, who worked at Radio FG; David Blot, who was working at Radio Nova; and Fred Agostini, who is taking care of the Wanderlust in Paris now."
The "Sunshine People" remix and an appearance as Cheesy D, on the aforementioned Bakchich EP#1, had got the ball rolling on Darsa's production career. But it was with the adoption of the Point G moniker that he started to shape the first of his cohesive identities.
"This project, Point G, it exists because of Alain, DJ Yellow," Darsa says. "He is the one who asked me for tracks for [Yellow's label] Yellow Productions." The tracks on The Raw EP shed the flamboyant musicality of Darsa's "Sunshine People" remix and instead focused on stripped-back drums, subby basslines and an abstract headspace, making for a more introverted dance floor experience.
"When I did 'Chicken Coma' [on the The Raw EP], I just had in mind 'The Bounce' by Masters At Work," Darsa admits. "I had an SP1200 [sampler and drum machine] and I was listening to Kenny Dope drums for hours and hours, night and day, and I wanted to do what my idea was of [the track]. But I was a beginner, so I didn't know how to do much, you know?"
Following the EP, Darsa moved to New York in 1998. Through a connection with Liquid Groove producer Mandrax, he was able to immerse himself in the scene there, hanging out in the studios in Tommy Rusto's Northcott Distribution operation and soaking up as much knowledge as he could. He put out a flurry of music around this time, from his first 12-inches as DJ Gregory, Pimp and Land, to the Headcore EP for Versatile, and a Point G follow-up on Basic Recordings. They all shared the same spirit of rock-solid, shuffling grooves and dark, trippy textures.
"Maybe if the mic was open when I was recording you could hear the lighter," Darsa says. "This is really music from a guy who is smoking hard weed. 'Underwater,' all those tracks, I was completely stoned."
The early Point G records made a small impact at the time, with DJs like Joe Claussell spinning 'Jean-Claude' at Body & Soul parties, but they largely went out with a minimum of fuss. He continued to focus on the DJ Gregory project, and eventually returned to Paris. However, those early releases spent the next ten years gaining an almost mythical status. The Freak n' Chic afterparties, led by Dan Ghenacia at the Batofar club/boat in Paris, were going wild to "Underwater." But it was only in the late '00s that Darsa fully realised the records' cult appeal.
"D'Julz was the first one," Darsa says. "When I was living in Amsterdam, he was in town, and he told me, 'you know that I'm playing your old track 'Chicken Coma' and it's a bomb? I would be very interested to re-release it.'"
The proposition from D'Julz was just the tip of the iceberg. "Month after month," Darsa says, "I start to get some messages on Facebook. 'Would it be possible to do something with 'Hands'?' 'By the way, what are you doing with 'Underwater'?' Like, what the fuck, man! For me those are my beginner's tracks, you know?"
Despite Darsa's scepticism, there was plenty of evidence that the records really mattered to people. "Underwater" was spotted in a live Sammy Dee and Zip mix from 2000, and the price of the EP it featured on, On The Raw Again, shot up on Discogs. "Last summer Dan [Ghenacia] and I met," Darsa says. "He told me, 'you know I'm going to start Apollonia Records and, because it is strong for us, I would like to reissue 'Underwater.' Can I do it?' And I was like, 'Yes OK!' What's very funny is that once people got to know that, I get a call, and though he doesn't give a shit, he's so sweet and so kind, D'Julz told me, 'Hey motherfucker! I was the first one!'"
While his early records would later take on a life of their own, at the turn of the millennium Darsa was busy forging a sonic identity, which meant moving away from the tracky tones of Point G and embracing a richer sonic palette. After returning to Paris in 2000, Darsa set up at the Yellow Productions offices while construction took place on the studio he and Julien would share. He worked opposite chart-topper Christophe Le Friant, better known as Bob Sinclar.
Darsa produced as a hired gun, making beats for Le Friant and other local producers, such as DJ Cam. Working in close proximity to Le Friant, the next of Darsa's major projects began after a single inspired studio session splayed out into Africanism, a sweeping project that brought together a range of producers working under the banner of the project title. They produced a staggering number of singles, as well as mixed compilations.
The project was initially steered by Darsa and Le Friant, with Jabre engineering the first releases. The Soha-produced "Les Enfants Du Bled" was a standout track on the first Africanism volume, and became one of Darsa and Jabre's most prominent releases. However, as Le Friant wanted to press on with the project, Darsa was reluctant to capitalise on the success of the first Africanism releases.
"At a certain point, Chris wanted to do Africanism Vol. II," Darsa says, "and I told him, 'You are going too fast, and the music you put out is too cheesy. This is not the idea that we started with, please don't go and do it.' He looked at me and said, 'whatever, whatever.' Africanism Vol. I we were around 350,000 sales. Vol. II it's 65,000 sales. So I told him, 'You see what I told you? Why did you do it? Why does it always have to be just the money and the machine, without the art or heart?'"
While Darsa's recording career has twisted and turned, as a DJ he's favoured consistency. He helmed the seminal Parisian party TGV from the mid-'90s to the late 00s. Short for Thanx God I'm A V.I.P (arguably a precursor to David Guetta's own party brand), the event was the brainchild of Sylvie Chateigner, a local who ran an ironically named high-end vintage clothes shop of the same name. Chateigner brought together a cosmopolitan blend of people in a 2000 capacity ballroom, with a cryptic door policy to rival Berghain's. She gave Darsa complete freedom to invite any guest he wished, or simply play all night, which he did on many occasions.
"I never played the game," Darsa says on the duality of DJing and producing. "The game is you make records one after the other, and you have a similar sound, which has always been my problem, so it's lucky certain people were more interested about the way I'm playing the music rather than a specific record."
In the here and now, Darsa's career is entering yet another phase. Following the reissue of "Underwater," Real Tone brought out an unreleased mix of "Chicken Coma," setting the stage for a return of Point G. Aside from an old archive of DATs, he's produced a staggering number of new productions that tap into the vein of heads-down, grooving club tracks.
At his apartment, Darsa takes us into his studio to check out some fresh material. The beats alone are fantastic, avoiding the over-familiar tropes of so much house music. However, it's the music's overall mood that elevates it to something special, as haunting strings blend with abstract tones that neatly follow on from the original Point G productions.
Darsa seems to have thrown himself into this new material with abandon, unconcerned where the music is heading and simply working on instinct—much as he did when first dabbling in production all those years ago. A live set is coming together, which will debut at Weather Festival in Paris in May, and from there neither he nor Lionel, who is helping guide the Point G relaunch, know what's next. Looking further ahead, Darsa says he will most likely return to his roots in art once his time in music is done.
"Hopefully I will finish with it. I think maybe when my acouphène [tinnitus] on the right will be too loud. To me, whatever you do, it's the same. You could be a banker, a painter, a writer. It's not what you do, it's the way you do it and what you have in your…" he thumps his chest. "I did in art exactly the same as I did in music, which means it's not about an amazing technique, it's not about crazy skills. It's about a different angle."