Despite of their French band name, Rue Oberkampf is a German formation set up in 2016. The trio started to release digital singles inspired by minimal electronics and composed with analogue gear. They next released the EP “Waveclash” (2018) on No Emb Blanc and the single “Sans Toi” (2019) on Circonstances Aggravantes. The debut album “Christophe-Philippe” was released by the end of 2019 on Young and Cold Records. It’s a truly masterpiece mixing minimal EBM together with electro-wave. I talked about the debut opus with the three band members. (Picture credits by KEYI Studio)
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: First of all there’s this intriguing band name, but also the title of the album and the nickname of your singer (Julia De Jouy), both inspired by the French naturalized German industrialist Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf. The idea for this name must have been during a trip in Paris, but what is it really all about and what do you know about the industrialist Oberkampf?
Julia: When I was a child, I used to go to Paris with my mom to visit my family. Being raised bilingual, I was disturbed by the name of this metro station called Oberkampf. The ‘Germanish’ word it sounded hard to me, but since I was in France, I didn’t understand the deeper meaning. When we were looking for a band name I remembered this weird name and street ‘Rue Oberkampf’. So it’s a combination of personal history, the German- French sounding name which is a bit provocative in German, but comes from a very admired and social personality in France: Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf.
He was a German cloth manufacturer who moved to France in the eighteenth century and created a very specific type of cloth, called toile de Jouy. My grandmother was a tailor and she used that material as well -so here’s my perfect pseudonym.
Q: Next there’s your music, but how did you get in touch with each other and what were the initial purposes and ideas about sound creation and music?
Damien: Each one of us had been playing around with analogue- or digital instruments for quite a while. We all knew each other since the early 2000s but we only had the idea to work on music together around 2016.
Michael: First, it was just all about having fun, but then we created this cover of Absolute Body Control’s “Melting Away“ (“Le Train”) and we definitely wanted to publish it. We posted a video and a few days later, Dirk Ivens shared it on his Facebook account – that was probably our point of no return…
Q: You music sounds inspired by vintage electronics composed with good-old analogue gear. How does your home studio(s) look like and is there a particular procedure in the writing of the songs? What’s the input of each member and is there someone taking the final decisions?
Damien: Our music definitely is inspired by vintage electronics and analogue gear! Most of the time, we’re working in my home studio in Passau. It’s not huge, but there’s place for my analogue gear like a Korg MS20, an Arp Odyssey, my Waldorf Pulse 2 and Micro Q, several analogue effects and my favorite one, a DSI Pro-2. The most important ‘gear’ are my two cats – the most analogue step sequencers we have.
Julia: We’re very lucky to have 3 places for music production. Like Damien said we have his home studio, a little home studio in Munich and the absolutely amazing Young and Cold Records studio in Augsburg with all those synths, a great mixing console and vocal booth. And of course, the lovely Young and Cold Team with Daniel Hallhuber and Marcel Leidenroth.
Michael: Usually, we start with a synth sequence. One of us, mostly Damien, creates a very first idea and then we iterate it together or one by one. We all work in the same amount on the whole production but sure, everyone has his/her ‘specialities’. Damien is very good in tweaking our synths’ knobs to the right sounds and creates awesome sequences. Julia is the queen of effect automation and drops…
Julia: …and Michael is great in building the right track structure and snappy drums.
Q: I think you were active as DJ’s before setting up Rue Oberkampf. What did you learn out of your DJ activities to compose your own music? And what’s your perception of DJ’s in the contemporary electro-underground scene?
Michael: That’s right, we’ve had several DJ projects by ourselves or also together -mostly in the dark underground. For my part, I also had my own Soul and Mod event in early 2000. As a DJ, I sure get my energy and motivation from the crowd on the dancefloor.
Julia: As a DJ in this scene (at least in southern Germany), you have to know your crowd very well and learn to predict which songs will work. You have to be able to do a right mix for all the lovers of those different sub-genres -at least if you’re interested in a full dancefloor. The less ‘gothy’ the crowd is, though, the less do people only dance to songs they know -that’s my experience.
Damien: When we’re producing new tracks, we automatically think about how ‘danceable’ a song is. Both because we love to dance and based on our experience as DJs.
Q: I noticed you’ve already (self)released several clips. What fascinates you in this universe? What’s the impact of clips today and what do you try to expose throughout the content?
Julia: For us, Rue Oberkampf always has been a multimodal experience. First of all, sure, there’s the music, but also the visuals/lights and the bass/percussion that goes through your whole body. I feel a very strong need to frame our tracks and songs into a visual body. By our light pyramid (live) and videos, we want to create a holistic experience of Rue Oberkampf. In addition, the video clips underline the meaning or general topic of the lyrics. We also get others’ view on our music by collaborating with other (video-)artists, which is really special for us (see “Es Versucht“, “Le Soir Bleu“ and “Tokyo“).
Michael: You also asked about the impact of the clips: even if the golden era of MTV is over, we realized that our tracks with video are spreading waaay better than those without. We hope that we’ll have enough time to create videos for everything we produced one day…
Q: Because of the Covid 19 pandemic all concerts and festivals have been cancelled/postponed, which I think must be really frustrating –and especially for a ‘new’ formation, when you’ve your first album out. What’s your feeling about the whole thing? What have you been doing during the lockdown and what brings the future?
Michael: On the one hand side, yes, it is quite frustrating, especially since this year would have been our first ‘international’ year. We were booked for shows in London, Leiria, Moscow and many others. You could say, that 2020 could have been ‘our year’! So sure, for our band live, this period is really depressing. But on the other side, there’s simply so many more important aspects now -health, having a great supporting network, a job etc.
Damien: We’re all pretty forward looking, so we try to make the best out of it and take some more time for working on new stuff, doing some interesting cooperations for which we would not have had the time in the ‘other’ 2020.