Latex & Music: Jack France Talks


New Romantic and industrial roots, Dave Clarke in guy-liner remixing Fischerspooner, Oliver Ho's excursions as Raudive, the mythical pagan rave leanings of Demdike Stare: UK techno has a history that's intertwined with the dark and gothic. Go to Kaos, once a niche fetish sex party at Limehouse's infamous Stunners, and you'll now hear the uncompromising grind of Paula Temple or Ancient Methods commanding the dancefloor at its new monthly venue, Islington's Electrowerkz. The same venue, home to the ever living Slimelight, a weekly goth club that has existed in various forms since the '80s, also houses Legion, another techno party awash with arcane references, fetish wear and EBM attitude.

One distinctive character in this world is Jack France. Dressed head to toe in tight black PVC with a mop of long curly hair, he looks like Edward Scissorhands gone full fetish, little hint on view of the man behind the mask. One of the resident DJs at Inferno, the brainchild of club kid Lewis G. Burton and DJ/producer Venice Calypso, a party which started at Dalston Superstore twelve months ago, his sets of merciless hard techno from the likes of Planetary Assault Systems are often accompanied by the bloodletting performances of House of Health.

Having previously only collaborated in the studio with Venice Calypso, France now has two two solo releases coming out. 'Function' (out this week via Calypso's FOF label) is a thumping beast filled with nails down the blackboard synth interjections, while his three track '2206' EPs ships out on vinyl next month.

We spoke to him about Dance Mania hook-ups, hanging out with Roman Abramovich and why nobody cared until he put on the mask…

Hi Jack. Which came first, the DJing or the latex?

It all came together at once. Things weren’t going too well. Homeless and friendless, I talked myself into being in an art show and doing some DJing after. With my last couple of hundred bucks, and armed with Princess Julia’s maxim of 'Get a look, get a life', I went all in and rolled up in latex.

Is it correct to say that the techno and fetish scenes have begun to merge in recent years, via clubs like Kaos or Inferno. What's the common link?

Well, in some sense it’s all about a frequency you surrender to. That's a very fetish idea. Maybe in an increasingly gender pluralist world the certainty of sub/dom is attractive. Thankfully, it’s more 90's goth then Ann Summers.

You actually performed at Torture Garden as part of S.A.D., which has been immortalised in an explicit video. Was that a one off are you involved with the band more fully?

I still cant believe I did that. You know hiding behind a DJ booth is one thing, but to be forced on stage to don an alt rocker trope was truly terrifying. When I hit the stage I found myself blinded and was met with a wall of feedback at the mic. The heavy lezzing down the front did help to round off the performance, so I can chalk that down as a win. I’ve been privileged to see S.A.D come together in the studio. They’re one of a handful of outfits that could bring back guitar music. They have the songs, the line-up is dope and the birds are gaggin' for it – always a good sign in that game. I've got a few riffs of my own now, but who knows? If nothing else, I’ll be backstage finger bangin' their groupies.

You first began DJing at Jim Warboy's SOS club back in 2010. Can you tell us about your involvement with the club? Who or what had inspired you to make this move?

If it wasn’t for Fayann Smith (aka K-Tron, DJ, vocalist and co-founder of nu-rave club All You Can Eat), he would’t have had anything to do with me. Despite winding him up on every possible front, he still stuck with it. The opportunity was largely gifted by my association with Smith, who thought I was a going to make it big in the fine art world. Working together with clubs like All You Can Eat, they had long since proven their belief that important things could happen in nightclubs, so the notion that I might understand this did count in my favour. I really was lucky as Warboy is always ahead of the curve. At that time the early SOS parties brought voguing in vogue again. It was really fresh and exposed me to select cuts of classic deep house and techno. It suited me as it was a real classy joint.

Your first release, 2013's 'Buck 4 Yo Dollar', was a collaboration with Venice Calypso. How did you two meet and come to work together? Was this your first taste of producing?

We share a studio in Limehouse and are thick as thieves. I guess it was fate that we met on a dancefloor. He came along at the right time as I’d completed the step of deconstructing myself fairly thoroughly and was looking to back that up with something substantive. He showed me how to do that with music. Prior to that, it was just blind luck that I’d been able to get something going. 

You have two solo releases coming out, the '2206' EP – which features three tracks 'Techno Cut'. 'House Cut' and 'Acid Work' – and 'Function', a thumping slab of panel-beating industrial techno. They're all raw, stripped down tools, as the names suggest. What reaction have you had from them so far? We've heard from Dance Mania legend Houz’Mon is a fan. Have you got to road-test them?

'Proven on the dancefloor!' What more can I say, other than playing out the music is like nothing else. You get an instant and instinctive reaction. When you're making music in a studio it’s from a different place, so it’s always exhilarating and a little bit terrifying playing stuff out, but you know it’s a rush when you see it’s bangin'. That can only be proven by random people sweating it out in darkened spaces. In the studio I’m safe, for now, but I’m doing an album next and working like that is forcing me to consider an audience, the listener. To deliver universal truths on a record ain't that easy. If it’s gonna be any good, there ain't no place to hide, this much I know.

I’m on the Skype with Houz’Mon and he's coming over from Chicago soon. I really want to get him into Curved Pusher in Hackney. They have a classic set-up there that he’d be at home with. You know, get it down, cut the record, all in a day, that would be dope. Otherwise I’ll be out in Chicago later in the year. Holy shit, Dance Mania! That sound and those records, it's a big part of why I’m doin' it. For me thats techno.

Can you tell us a bit more about Inferno. Who are some of the guests that you've had there?

It's been heaven and hell every other month for the last year. Lewis G. Burton and Venice Calypso married classic pop upstairs with dark relentless techno in the basement at Dalston Superstore. AZF and Size Pier came over from Paris, Coco Cole came down, Rodri from Hotbox did a few nights back to back with Venice, while I kick it off with Venus Ex Machina. We've had House Of Health putting on next level performances. Anyway, we're taking it a bit more select and underground so message me if you want come to the next one…

You were also involved in Soho's infamous The Box. Can you describe it for those who've never been there? What did you do there?

The end of Snoop Dogg’s blunt, that was notable, or that time Roman Abramovich grunted at me and I'm thinking, 'Dude, I'm Francis fucking Bacon.' It’s Alt Cabaret, kinda NYC in London as the main host is always American. The boss’s name is Hammerstein so you’d expect a show. For a moment it seemed decadent, like what a Freddie Mercury party might have been like. I was there to hustle but did feel part of Soho coming back after a bit of break; the dealers, paps, street people, they all had a 'Hey babes, where you been?' for me. That felt like 'a kind of magic', but mostly it was just bunch of pricks. One of the upsides of the lack of social mobility is you probably never get to meet them.

The name Jack France gives a nod to our nearest European neighbours. What's your prediction of what's going to happen now the country has narrowly voted for Brexit?

I’m thinking 'Is Spike Milligan programming this simulator?' I do get the sense that it’s a footnote and sideshow to unknown future events. Sadly, the 'will of the people' is in line with geo-political forecasts of increasing isolationism so it could work out or we could just as well be FUBAR, who knows? They bet the house on a game of bingo. On the flip side, the creation of culture is a proven defence against slavery so there’ll be plenty to do and lots to kick against I reckon.

You've played everywhere from squat raves to the fine art gatherings. What's the weirdest, wildest party that you've been to?

All fashion weeks, I'm always thinking 'Who are these fucking people?'

Do you ever wish, in the heat of a club (especially one called Inferno), that you'd just turned up in shorts and a t-shirt?

That's what the track Function is about. If you wanna know what it’s like to be me, that's it.

Check Jack's SoundCloud for more music HERE

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