Gilb’r: The Ransom Note Mix


Where to begin with Versatile? An institution, a label, a pioneering force, the French imprint has become a staple of electronic music for decades. This year was in fact the 20th anniversary of the label, which was founded by Gilb'R back in 1996. Across this period Versatile has released music by some of the most influential artists of a generation: Pepe Bradock, I:Cube, Joakim and many more have all appeared throughout the label's history. 

In the present day Gilb'R remains as relevant a musician as ever. Having previously operated under the alias of Cheek and as one half of the duo Chateau Flight he is as experienced behind the labyrinth of machines as he is in label management and selection. In recent years he has appeared more prominently under his own name having appeared as part of the Acid Arab series, Sex Tags and of course on his own label. As a selector there are few who can rival his capabilities behind the turntables, he has many years of influence and experience to draw upon, of course. 

Listen to his mix and read the interview below: 

Please introduce yourself. Who are you, where are you and what are you?

Gilbert Cohen, aka Gilb'R, a weird name I got in the 90's. I'm french and I am now living in Amsterdam. I've been running my label, Versatile records for 20 years now. In the last two years we have released a lot of music considering that there aren't many artists on the label. We are like a crew, a family (even if in the beginning, I didn't like that term). However, many of our artists have been around for a long time so I feel that we can now call Versatile a family, I:Cube, Zombie Zombie, Etienne Jaumet for example.  Dj Sotofett is also part of the family even though he runs his own family business.

What does your music sound like? 

Proteiform, generous, versatile, trippy, joyous…

What was the original inspiration behind Versatile as a label?

I was working at Radio Nova when I started the label in 1996. It was run by Jean-François Bizot, who was an eccentric, rich, liberal man, a true music lover and a great human being. He was also a major figure in the underground French press, carrying the mythical title ActuelI. I arrived from Nice, thirsty for music and he opened my mind. He encouraged me to be what I wanted to be. He was my mentor alongside Loik Dury, the station programmer at the time.

To cut it short: I liked funky music and they showed me what the Funk was (which, for me, can take many forms). So starting my label was a direct result of what i'd been exposed to at the radio at that time. The first demo that I received was a tape from I:Cube. That tape totally crystalised the spirit of the label. And 20 years later it still does.

Has this inspiration changed over time?

It just evolved. The same desire is there today, to surprise and to be true. This might be one of the reasons why we have been running for so long without becoming retro or nostalgic.

Of which release are you most proud to have put out?

Not an easy question, each release has personal history and i'm proud of all of them. I have a particular affection for the 100th record that we just released, John Cravache's "Cités nomades". It literally took me 20 years to get it released. It's very special to me, so special that not many people seem to get it. Less than 300 copies have sold up until now. I had to persude a promo agency to work on it and there was very little feedback from the journalists. It's what I call a timeless record, it could have been released 30 years before. Plus it's sung in french in a almost theatrical style.

How would you describe the trends in nightlife across france?

Get high, get fucked up and shout some weird animal sounds.

Where was the mix recorded?

In Amsterdam, courtesy of Red Light radio, where I have my monthly dj show. It's definitly part of my Amsterdam family. They run a great radio station and host great events. Big up to Hugo and Orpheu who are lovely people.

What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?

Through speakers or good headphones.

What should we be wearing?

I'm not that directive: anything or nothing.

What would be your dream setting to record a mix: Location, system, format?

I don't have such requirements. Simply a good sound system, 2 turntables and 2 cdj's. I don't care about the location, the actual location is the music itself. I never plan my mixes in detail. I just go with a bunch of records i'd like to play and assemble them together in a manner which sounds coherent to me. It's very based on the mood. I also like when it's techically skilled.

Which track in the mix is your current favourite?

Having a large catalogue allows me to rediscover some old gems. At the moment I often play Quixote. Before I started to dance the Chateau Flight dub which starts at 1h12 in this mix.

What’s your favourite recorded mix of all time?

Anything by Vladimir Ivkovic or Ron Hardy.

If you could go back to back with any DJ from throughout history, who would it be and why?

It's a bit of a cliché to say but playing back to back is really like a conversation, other wise it doesn't work. It would be I:Cube, as Chateau Flight we had some amazing moments, and when you know each other on a human level it's even better.

I love to play with Young Marco.We played at Lente Cabinet a few years ago, a really epic set, maybe one of my best back to back moments.It went almost paganistic! I've been playing quite a lot with Sotofett, which is again great and very different from the previous two. 

What was your first DJ set up at home and what is it now?

I started with a tape machine, listening to the radio and pressing rec-pause/rec-play. Now it's two mk2's with an E+S mixer.

What’s more important, the track you start on or the track you end on?

Definitly the track you start with. It's really all about setting up the mood for the rest of the set. Usually, when people don"t react well to it, i'm left thinking that i'm gonna' have a hard time…

What were the first and last records you bought?

The first was probably some french top 50 song. When I was a child I used to spend all my Wednesdays with my grandfather and he would buy me a 7 inch of my choice every week that I could play on their little turntable.The latest is Hamou Cheheb which I haven't received yet.

If this mix was an edible thing, what would it taste like?


If it was an animal what would it be?


One record in your collection that is impossible to mix into anything?

Music is just sounds and frequencies.

Anything else we need to discuss?

There is so much stuff we would could discuss but I would rather enter other territorries beyond music…

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