Source : DJ Broadcast

Apollonia: The Three Musketeers

Thursday 12 December, 2013.

Image: Jimmy Mould. Text: Dan Cole.

APOLLONIA: THE THREE MUSKETEERS

Apollonia are the undisputed French house supergroup. They are the three musketeers of the French party scene, currently lumbered up in Berlin making preparations for the next European conquest. Individually they are Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorom and Shonky and each member of the group is an established and profound artist with echelons of integrity in their own right. DJB, discovering that their new studio was located in the same area code as their Berlin headquarters, decided to knock on their door.

The act’s name is derived from Prince’s love interest in Purple Rain. In the film she heads up a band called Apollonia 6, and interestingly enough when looking on discogs, the French collective have been filed under Apollonia (5). Close enough to real thing it seems. The Prince reference also relates to the act’s general musical direction, a nod if you will to the Minneapolis Sound; « a mix of white soul and black music, » Soundorom recounts to Resident Advisor in a prior interview.

« …It’s worked well so far, I mean there haven’t been any fights or anything… »

One might ask that with all this creative talent, why form a DJ collective at all? You only have to spend five minutes with these lighthearted Parisians to figure it out. It’s as if there was a hive-mind mentality connecting them. They agree on almost everything and, during the interview, are finishing each other’s sentences. A style that is reciprocated in their DJ sets, where each one moulds their own character into the melting-pot of sound with each record played. It’s a characteristic that embodies their intimacy and shared passion for deep, vocal, grooves. « It’s worked well so far, » Soundorom jokes, « I mean there haven’t been any fights or anything. »

Although the trio have been playing back-to-back in various guises over the past few years, it had never been officiated as a ‘thing’ until Apollonia was born last year. The concept is quite simple – they turn up, play one record each in a back-to-back free for all for over five hours. Simple but effective, as their DC-10 parties in Ibiza this summer won several accolades, Resident Advisor even declared that they “went down in many peoples’ books as one of the parties of the summer. »

 

The Apollonia Album

The trio are now working on a new album, penned in for next summer. The studio is holed up in a room above Shonky’s Berlin apartment. As I enter the dwellings, the three DJs are hanging around after returning from a weekend in New York where it just so happened to be Ghenacia’s birthday. There are 12″s strewn all over the place and a general, manly clutter that one might expect. Even though they don’t all live together, you can just depict a scenario where Ghenacia, Soundoroom and Shonky are all milling around the one apartment, in a sort of up-market version of The Young Ones, in which they get up to all kinds of general mishaps.

This fantasy I’d strewn up couldn’t be further from the truth. Upon entering the studio it became apparent that they’re all taking this new record very seriously. « We’ll be here from Monday till Thursday and basically from 2 o’clock in the afternoon unit 2 o’clock at night. There will be no social life for us for six months. » Ghenacia starts with.

« …People think when you move to Berlin you’re going to be partying all the time, but for us, every weekend we are away… »

 

The trio are lead by Dan Ghenacia, and rightly so. He started it all. Having spent some time in the west coast of America, he began transplanting a dubby, deep house sound to the streets of Paris. The rest, as they say is history. The opening of Traffic Records through to the infamous late night sessions on the Batofar. As his name began to grow, Ghenacia eventually went over to Ibiza where he started working for Soundorom, who at the time was as a promoter. This was the beginning of their working relationship.
« We had this opportunity as I had the studio set up here already, » Shonky chimes in. He and Soundrom had moved to Berlin a while ago, separately. « I wanted to try something different and get new inspiration and Berlin was perfect for this moment. »

Soundorom comes across as being the quieter of the three. In an interview situation you never know if this is because of nerves – or perhaps it had been a long weekend. « People think when you move to Berlin you’re going to be partying all the time, » he adds. « But for us, every weekend we are away. If we still have energy we can have a drink at Panorama Bar when we come back on Sunday. »

This lead to one inevitable conclusion, Ghenacia had to abandon his Parisian lifestyle, up-shop, pack his bags and move to Berlin. « It was not my first choice, » he honestly states. The conversation takes us inevitably onto the poor quality of food served up in Berlin restaurants and the Siberian winters everyone endures for five months of the year. That however seems to be an element that will prove beneficial to the compositional process. « You feel really quiet here, » Shonky explains, « and this can really help in the creativity. »

The Apollonia camaraderie is carried through to the studio, each harnessing a special recording-super power. « When we work in the studio it comes naturally, » Shonky describes. « We like a lot of different stuff and we just go with the flow. We come here together, and we all jam. Dan knows the machinedrum really well. We all know how to use the mpc2000 and we all know how to use the synths. We just weren’t aware we could do all that at the same time. »

 

Apollonia The Label

And there’s the label. Like the Phoenix from the flames, Apollonia rose to take the place of Ghenacia’s previous imprint, Freak n’ Chic. Disputes at a business level reportedly brought the label to a close at the peak of it’s popularity. It seemed almost a blessing for the French cohort, who collectively established the new label to take it’s place. This time things were going to be different. « We have the experience from running a label with Freak n’ Chic  in which we put out something every three weeks  » Ghenacia divulges, « and Im not interested in this anymore. » Rule number 1. « there is no release schedule. »

The trio’s taste, although centred around that smooth, flowing deep flavour, varies to incorporate all types of contemporary styles. « We have a certain taste and the label is going to be a window of what we are, » Ghenacia explains. « We can’t do interviews every weekend to explain our style. You need to just give people the music. » The label, although mainly a home to the trio’s productions, has also been a home to some of the scene’s more classical, influential artists. Earlier this year they released a new collaborative project by Chris Carrier and Hector Moralez.

They also began re-pressing old favourites, including gems by Point G and Callisto, with an old Kerri Chandler 12″ resurfacing early 2014. « Point G we released last year, meant a lot to us, » Shonky explains. « Its not that these tracks belong to us, we just want people to understand who we are and where we’re coming from. These classics are the good ones. »

As always with the trio, there is a symbiosis that exists between them which is incorporated into the a&r process. « We all have to be agreed on the track that we want to release. We won’t release something if he doesn’t like it, » Soundorom says, pointing at Shonky.

« Which means it can take a bit more time. » His colleague acknowledges and laughs nervously. « The process is there, but there’s a lot of quality control in what we do. »

 

…And the Music

Those who’ve been following the Parisian DJ’s career will know how they vehemently support vinyl. It was almost impossible not to quiz them about their favourite jaunts for record shopping, before being kicked out onto the icy, German kerb. « Personally my favourite is Syncrophone, » Ghenacia states, about the acclaimed Parisian hotspot. « It’s easy for me if I don’t have time go, I can just send someone and they know what I want. »

« There is Halycon in Brooklyn and Gramaphone in Chicago is a good one. Here in Berlin you have Spacehall, Hardwax, Loft and this new one, Bass Cadet Records in Neukölln – I recommend this to everybody. »

« There are a lot of record shops here. And they’re all doing good…. »

« It’s really impressive there are all these record stores in Berlin, » Soundorom chimes in from the corner of they studio. « I live in Mitte and there I have Melting Point, Oye Records and Rotation – there are a lot of record shops here. And they’re all doing good. »

« And we also do Decks. I have to say personally, I like to listen to it on my speakers, » says Shonky. And this is where the trio disagree on something for the first time in the interview, and who knows, the first time ever?

« No. Personally I can’t do it, » interrupts Ghenacia. « My habits are too used to going record shopping. Its very difficult for me to buy music online. » It was almost so smooth sailing. It’s hard to imagine that their differences in record shopping habits will cause any long-term rifts. As I bound out on back into the German streets, I am reassured that there are three Frenchmen busying away at the top of the building, forging a collective sound of soulful, music being made out of love for the music and a general appreciation of each other (but not Decks, clearly.)

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– photo credit: Linda Bujoli, stlyled and dressed by Carhartt