Apollonia Knows How Good They Are, They Just Won’t Tell You
Chatting with the Parisian Princes about the West Coast sound of the ‘90s, playing back-to-back, French high fashion and more on the Enter.Miami Terrace.
They don't come much cooler than Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorom and Olivier "Shonky" Decreux, the trio otherwise collectively known as Apollonia. And it's that effortless French kind of cool too, you know, the kind that you and I could only wish to possess. A cool no doubt honed on the famed Paris afterhours scene where they initially came together well over a decade ago. These underground Parisian kings are known for their signature deep house-techno hybrid and Prince-inspired marathon showcases. Be it as a team or as individuals, they'll tell you themselves, the difference is often insignificant. They share one mind and one set of ears.
It's already been a long day trying to catch up with the three for a quick chat before Dan and Dyed's back-to-back Circoloco session. The result: a dead cell phone battery. Strike one. Strike two comes at the Ice Palace entrance hours later for Richie Hawtin's Enter.Miami event. But with my obsessive-compulsive necessity to have myself listed for all-access on as many events as possible, it has almost blown up in my face. According to security, I've trolled the guest list and they were reluctant to confirm me—another dipshit rookie move.
At that point, it was either third strike and I'm out, or the third time proving a charm. With 40 minutes until our meeting, an impenetrable line to enter the Terrace doesn't look promising. But upon realizing that I'm now media and toting a VIP wristband, I happily bolt beyond the masses and am escorted in where I belong. And that's right on stage to watch Dan, Dyed and Shonky effortlessly hold the Terrace garden down in the palm of their hands.
Upon wrapping up duties on the decks, we share a cigarette or five. I allow Dan to polish off my typically overpriced drink, and I embark on one of the more memorable conversations of the week.
THUMP: Before we get rolling, I wanted to let you know that we actually share a French background. Paris is obviously where you boys come from. It's also where I spent a lot of time growing up. My mother runs Hermès in Canada for the last 25 years, you know Hermès?
Dan Ghenacia: So let me tell you a short story. When I was doing my after party in '98 at Le Batofar, there was this one guy and we were constantly blowing his mind. He was always dancing. He was working at Hermès, always bringing us some cashmere and silk.
I think that dude's actually running the company now.
DG: [Laughs] For years we called him "Hermès."
That makes me "Hermès Numéro Deux," oui?
DG: Yes. Hermès Two.
Why don't you tell me about your country in your own words and we'll let it flow from there.
DG: At the moment, we're going to be honest with you; we haven't been back to Paris for about two or three years. Dyed and Shonky are living in Berlin and we are working on our album, so I had to move to Berlin too. Personally I cannot tell you what is going on back home.
Understood, although I was referring more to your past. Growing up in France and what it means to you, artistically and musically.
DG: Well for us, Paris is where we met 15 years ago at my after party. You know, it was a strong country with Daft Punk and all the "French touch." But that was not our thing. We were into deep house and we've been building our music since many, many years ago. This is what we still do today.
Shonky: Honestly the biggest influence we have is California, America. The West Coast sound of the '90s.
How long have you been playing in America?
DG: Not too long, but I lived in California in '96 for just six months and I did my first gig ever in San Diego in a club called The Flame. My mentor in music was named DJ Mark E. Quark. He was the first guy I heard playing everything from minimal techno to garage, mixing them. That ended up being what I started doing, and Shonky and Dyed, they were following me in that direction and now they're really, really good in that style.
No shit, I'd say all three of you are really, really great in that style. So listen, I have a very simple question as a fan.
Dyed Soundorom:Tell us!
Do you guys know just how good you are?
S: [To Dyed] How good we are.
Yeah. I ask you as a fan. Do you know?
DG: You know what? If I can give you my advice, if you are a fan of an artist... never meet them.
DS: Exactly, yeah.
DG: You're going to be disappointed.
That remains to be seen. But answer the question, do you guys know—
DG: [To Dyed and Shonky] Don't answer! We don't answer.
Fair enough. So I will answer the question for you.
DS: Okay, let's hear!
You're out there and you're playing back-to-back. But it's more record-for-record and you have a packed Terrace popping for every single one of them. And it's not the big drops they are cheering for, it's the way you're mixing. The way you're building a rhythm. If you won't admit just how good you are, then that reaction must tell you, no?
DG: You know why this is the reaction? There are two schools. There is the school of our host and someone we respect a lot who manages this all-digital thing, Richie Hawtin, playing loops. But our thing is just playing tracks, as soon as we play the track, it's maybe not as consistent as the loop thing, but we have to play like, "Okay, we are three and we have a certain ego, so we want to sound like one artist." But of course we all want to make sure that when we play the record, people will still say, "Oh, he plays good!"
Then mission accomplished. How do you get to this place though? Where you sound like one artist while still retaining your own distinct, separate entities?
S: We get into the mood after the first hour. This back-to-back is not like one of us plays and the others don't give a shit. We build it.
DG: You know, back-to-back between two DJs is always about whose got the biggest cock. But us? Imagine the three of us wanting to be a nice pussy.
DS: [Laughs] Mon dieu!
DG: It's for VICE Magazine. We can let it go.
You certainly can, no holds barred. And you're right, what I love about the way you guys play is that it's about a unified groove and melody.
DS: It is. We are just trying to surprise each other all the time. The thing is it's not a competition between us. In a way, we are just fitting each other. It's just about sharing, you know?
S: Sharing and trying to build a story.
DS: There is no ego. Again, we are just fitting each other.
I always have to ask this with musicians at your level. Do you find you've started to play for each other? The crowd is nice and all, but at this point are you trying to impress one another and your peers more than anyone?
S: We just want to love what we play. We love to share what we play, and we love to see that the people in front of us love what we play too. There is no compromise. It's not like if we're going to play a different type of music as an opener or for an after party. It's all about the music that we love.
Then how do you guys like to play in Ibiza?
DS: [Laughs] Naked!
DG: Ibiza? Next question.
S: So what else do you want to know?
DS: Who's got the biggest cock?
[Laughs] Wrong magazine. But on the topic of Ibiza, my hands-down favorite session from last summer was Dyed going back-to-back with Jamie Jones at the Paradise Boiler Room. You three are so used to playing together, how do you like having to play with someone else?
DS: You know, honestly, we've realized to make sure not to play with anybody else. Three people is enough.
In your case, it really is the magic number. I'll just make sure not to tell Jamie that.
DG: No no, you can tell that even to Jamie, he's a good friend.
DS: He will love it.
Then allow me to say merci, merci, merci and bonsoir.
DG: Merci mon ami.
S: Merci à vous!
Actually, fuck that, I have one last question. Can we get a picture?
D and S: Of course!
DS: Easy question.
Thanks, mes amis. I'll make sure some new Hermès is sent your way.