Louisa Pillot, more commonly know under her LouisaHHH!!! moniker, and I sat down in the famous Roosevelt Hotel to talk before her performance at Hard Summer Music Festival on August 2nd. Under the gloomy light of the supposedly haunted hotel, I got to learn more about the coolest girl in French dance music.
Kristi Shinfuku: Hey LouisaHHH!!!, The first time I heard you was with Senor Stereo, and it's a totally different sound than what you've got today. I was wondering how you've gotten from there, to where you are now?
LOUISAHHH!!!: That's an interesting question because I don't get asked that a lot. I think there was somewhere in that timeframe over the last decade I've been DJ-ing and making music, I realized that, especially because I focused on DJ-ing I felt like a DJ's DJ and it's my favorite thing to do even though I like the other things too, if I played it, it was mine. If I play it kind of authentically and have an affinity for a track and I'm feeling it a lot then I can own it and work it into a set… that is me. So I feel like I've been able to in that way cross genres and to evolve tastes and there is no wrong move. When I was with Gina Turner we were playing a lot of minimal techno and even big room house.
KS: That's a big difference.
LH!: Yeah! But I think it worked for us at the time, and when I first first started DJ-ing I was really into Soulwax and Tiga and like kind of darker dance rock. It was what was happening in New York at that moment, and I'm actually returning to a lot of those places. It's one of the reasons why Maelstrom and I connect actually, because he plays a lot of tracks that I was playing back then… it was like you're the only one I've ever heard play like this… and then working with Danny Daze and having that moment in deep house was new… deep house meaning not deep house, but that slow techno we know now as deep house.
KS: Yeah, it's all confusing!
LH!: Yeah! and the kind of genre-ification of what exactly is what with Beatport genres, if you will… I combated that by playing all vinyl for almost three years because I could no longer make choices musically. It was very helpful to be like, "am I willing to spend 22 dollars?" and then carry it around like a turtle or some shit… so that was helpful to learn to be discerning again. And by the point, that's kind of the moment I joined Bromance as a crew, and now touring a lot, I no longer play all vinyl. But I was able to use that.
KS: So right as you were joining Bromance, you were still playing vinyl?
LH!: Yeah, but then I realized it was really unrealistic for a working DJ- your records get beat up, it costs so much, records are heavy! It costs a lot to fly, and if you lose them you are so fucked. Now I use USB sticks, which are easy and cheap, but it taught me to try to keep this idea of "would you buy this. Would you actually buy this."
And I think that a common thread of all the Bromance artist is darkness. No matter what genre we're doing, there's a tough, darker feel. I like balancing that with my own femininity… I try to play beautifully and emotional. Feelings to hit the dancefloor. That's how we do… but right now all I wanna play is juke, so I don't know what that is [laughs]. :
KS: I also wanted to ask you about what the process in making songs with Maelstrom is like? I guess "daily routine" isn't the right word, but something like that?
LH!: We work in spurts… he's an unreal gift in my world and such a heavy influence on my sound because of our work together, but also his integrity as an artist and as a man is impressive, and I feel like our creative connection has a lot to do with the person I see him as in and out of the studio. He has a wife and kids and I see him being an amazing father and husband and it helps me trust him as a creative partner.
So all that being said, the actual process will be us sending ideas back and forth, [and] references back and forth. We email quite a lot, whether or not we're working on something specific. He lives in Nantes, which is about an hour and a half outside of Paris, so I'll go there, when timing allows, for a week at a time, and we'll do 9-5 studio days. It's like techno boot camp. I'll like wake up at 6 and go run, and he'll get his kids ready and off to school, and then we'll go to the studio and we will like, pause for lunch and for the kids, and then run off back to the studio, and then I'll take a nap, and then he like reads a book, and then we'll make dinner and then start over the next day at 6. I really like that rhythm… it's like, so normal but it seems to work with us, and then we'll part ways and work on stuff separately and build ideas and then go back at it. But for me personally he'll send me stuff and I write everyday anyways, I'll kind of see if whatever I'm working on works with his, or I'll send him references. :
EM: So you're always writing?
LH!: Yeah, I've got a rigid spiritual practice in the morning, that's part of it. And it's a little bit uncanny, no matter how much you discipline yourself you can't quantify when the mood strikes. There's that story of Tom Waits driving in the car and not having paper or pencil and just being like "CAN YOU WAIT UNTIL I'M NOT FUCKING DRIVING" and now the beauty of the iPhone is having voice memo. Yeah, I think it's important to keep your knives sharp and your tools ready.
KS: I know you're really into fitness, how do you balance that with your work and tour schedule?
LH!: I mean, because I'm clean and sober like that's a way, kind of my medication and dedication is intense physical activity. Sometimes that leads to stress on my part because I'm a little rigid or obsessive. But that works in my favor because it's happening, I'll be doing burpies in my living room and like everyone'll be like "what, you'll get lost! We're in Australia!" and I'll be telling them, "I'll be fine" They speak English here!" and then take off down the road. So the balance is hard, but it's also where I listen to promos, it's where like I do a lot of singing and writing when I'm running. It's tricky and often inconvenient and it causes a lot of stress in my life because I'm like "I must do this!" but you know, I'm also not recovering from drinking so that's cool. I'm sore from the plane, but that's about it.
KS: I wanted to go back a bit, you lived in LA and worked with Gina Turner right? Do you see a difference in the LA dance scene since you've left?
LH!: Oh wow, hmm. I don't know if it's a difference in the dance scene or if it's just moving in a different pace than what I'm working at. It's hard to make it not doing EDM in America. Really really hard. And I didn't know how hard it was until I left America, and then was like oh my god, wait, you can make a living doing what you love, and there is a market in all the cities with kids who are educated about the music you are doing and showing up and paying for it and they are stoked. Whereas in LA… it's really hard… Although, it is hard anywhere [else in the US]. Here and New York, and I guess San Francisco, Miami, Washington… Denver has a really great dance scene.
Since I've left I've seen, sorta cool house like Tiger and Woods, like there is a warehouse scene for that. I know Cooper Saver is doing a lot of that stuff. I'm excited by what Pipes is doing… I don't know, it's hard though because it's such a big city there isn't a huge community… it takes a great amount of effort to interact with other artists in a non- club environment, where everyone is sort of about their own shit anyway. So… it's tough man…:
People leave because they can't survive here. It's hard, but it's… hard fact. I wish it was different. I don't know how to amend that either. :
KS: At least on the plus side, when you do have a Bromance night here, it's a huge deal.
LH!: Yeah! And that's amazing that there is a market for that. I also think that Gary (Destructo) has done sort of an amazing job in creating Hard and really cultivating that diverse group of acts. And the guys who had [Voyeur] in San Diego, they did a nice job cultivating that for not necessarily mainstream electronic artists, and people respond!
There's a hole in the market, so step yo shit up LA! Pay us, pay your artists. That's what it comes down to. :
KS: So what about playing something like HARD?
LH!: We'll see, I'm always stoked to play HARD. Let me see I think this is… well, I played my first one with Gina, and then Hard Haunted also with Gina, and then Holy Ship!, so this will be my fourth HARD event. They've always been super fun because it's a bit like summer camp, where it's like a DJ summit. All your friends, no matter what genre are there,and you get to hang out. It's a good climate for American dance music and a good temperature taker as well. It's interesting because I'm not sure what kind of crowd is going to show up. It's a really broad variety, like I'm playing before Juan Maclean, which is rad. I mean, there are so many artists on the lineup, but then I'm like "this is a rave." To be clear, we're going to a rave. So… how does one kind of balance between the daytime kind of house music vibe and then how do I bring what I do to that context. We'll see… that plus EDM. I'm like I don't know what to do here! But I think it's exciting, it's sold out. It's a huge event, there's going to be so many friends. Should be fun.
KS: Going back to your production and DJ-ing, in the past you've said you weren't quite ready for a live singing show…
LH!: Hmm. That's changed. We were just having a meeting with management about what our goals were for the year, [and] the goals for me personally were for creating a live vocal element into work, and I'm excited about that and 'singing' singing more on tracks, that takes some more courage than just techno talking.
EM: I noticed in your mixes that you had bits and pieces of one song go through the mix, and that was awesome.
LH!: Using beatapellas, which are very useful tools! So yeah there's that along that line, but also Freeka tet, my friend who's is like the most fantastic person in the world, is helping me and also, this is sort of chapter 2, Maelstrom and I doing a 'live' live making music on site, not just pressing buttons and getting pyrotechnics, but like something along the lines of Simian Mobile Disco or Moderat, and I'm hoping that things move in a way that this becomes possible, financially and in terms of production. That seems like the next exciting thing to tackle.
EM: Wow, that sounds so cool. I guess to kind of go along with that, who are some of the people you've been listening to lately?
LH!: RP Boo. I'm obsessed with RP Boo. Chicago footwork guy… for whatever reason it's the most exciting thing, I don't know why, I think since Rashad died, I started looking into what was going on with DJ Rashad, and then looking into old Teklife stuff and Hyperdub. I think the attitude is really good. I pitch everything down 20% because it's usually at like 160 so trying to play it at a manageable techno pace.
I'm having a really nice time re-discovering this and also newer stuff like the new Brodinski album, which I'm really excited about. I know it seems cheesy to say like, "well the boss!" but it's really awesome and the team working on it is fucking rad and there's a lot of cool cameos in there. Hmm what else… Oh! This is weird, but TV on the Radio. I missed out on the first wave and I'm going back and saying "this is the best songwriting I've ever heard!" so it's part of the singing thing. What can I sing to in the car? This is what I miss most about LA, singing in the car. Singing at other drivers. "I'm singing at you!!!":
KS: [laughing] So my final question is, what advice would you give anyone out there trying to make it [in this music world]?
LH!: It's interesting, I just came back form a lunch where the great epiphany, interesting enough this epiphany has been coming up in a lot of creative dialogue I've had over the last week, in like three different countries, with a bunch of different people… it's like, whatever you love most, work your fucking ass off at it, and love your work, and also do it with your best friends. Talk about it. Keep each other inspired. Why not have a life where you can do what you want and do what you love most with your best friends. There is no reason why it can't work for you. Pour your heart into it, and it'll take sacrifice, and it'll take hard work, feeling like you're missing out. Years of frustration where it feels like it's not happening, it is happening. It will come… don't give up!