In the aftermath of Philippe Zdar’s tragic and untimely death, there has been an increased attention to the impact French touch had on electronic music. Based heavily on disco samples and finding roots in house, disco, soul and other genres, French touch brought a melodic sensibility to a section of dance music that often wasn’t there. Countless artists have been directly or indirectly influenced by French touch over the years, including Josh Legg, aka Goldroom. The LA-based DJ, producer and multi-instrumentalist brings that French influence into his music, whether it is producing or DJing.
Goldroom put out his debut album West of The West about three years ago in the fall of 2016 and since then his life has faced some serious upheaval. He broke his neck in 2017 in a bodysurfing accident in Mexico. He was forced to undergo serious surgery and was put on painkillers for months. The following six to 12 months were a moment of change for Legg. He got back on the road too quickly and went through a haze that was translated into his music. The songs he was writing before the accident “felt pretty irrelevant” as his life had been turned upside down. The subsequent songs felt much hazier and psychedelic, reflecting his physical and mental state at the time.
Around the same time, he started to fall in love with French touch again. It’s disco samples, the grooves and its ability to translate into clubs for DJ sets really revived his interest. He started to sample his own music and songs that were more upbeat and energetic started to form. Out of this came his new concept album Plunge /\ Surface, which features two different versions of the same song for 10 songs in total.
One of the tracks on the record is “I Can Feel It,” which is the sister version of the previously released “Do You Feel It Now?” It is the first song to be released from the LP where the other companion track has been released, which allows the listener to see how the songs are related. We are happy to premiere the “I Can Feel It” today from the Surface side of the album. It is more uptempo with a driving bassline and uses repeating vocal bits and guitar from “Do You Feel It Now” to help shape the song structure and the hook.
Plunge /\ Surface will be released on October 11 via Downtown Records.
In addition to the song, we chatted with Goldroom about the concept behind the album, the impact his injury had on it and falling in love with French touch again. This interview happened last Thursday, the day after the news of Zdar’s death broke, which made the chat about French touch all the more tragic and important.
How the album concept come together & why did you do a double album?
It kind of happened pretty naturally. The follow up to West of The West was something I had been writing for 18 months to two years. I was really searching for something that I would consider a new sound. Right smack in the middle of writing that, I broke my neck. That really threw everything in my life up in the air. A lot of the stuff I had been writing before that felt pretty irrelevant. I was prescribed a lot of painkillers and I got back on the road faster than I should have. It was a hazy six to twelve months of touring and slowly recovering and not really knowing how much I was going to continue my career because of the injury.
I was writing a lot and a lot the stuff felt pretty weird and psychedelic. A lot of that stuff became what Plunge was. It was going further and further away from dance music because of the state of mind I was in. Near the end of recording those songs, I started to fall in love with dance music all over again, primarily through the lens of French Touch and disco house and the concept of sample disco. It was exciting to se people DJing that style of music. It’s ironic talking today with Philippe Zdar dying – he was a huge early influence of mine and really got me into dance music. A lot of those French guys, whether it is Daft Punk, Alan Braxe or Fred Falke, they were the reason I got into dance music in the first place. About a year ago, I got really excited about that kind of music.
I have never really been into sampling because I like playing my own instruments. But it occurred to me that the best kind of sample for that type of music is nice, slow funky pop music, which is weird sounding filtered stuff and that is exactly what I realized I had made. I spent a couple of days in the studio sampling myself and turning it into stuff I could DJ. I really quickly fell in love with it and started to do that for a few weeks. Before I knew it, I had made three or four versions of the Plunge songs and got very excited about what that could mean. In some cases, I liked the new versions of the songs a lot more. All of this started to come together when I was finally feeling better about my neck.
I was starting to DJ more and really fell in love with it. I felt like they are two sides of the same coin. That got me really excited about the idea to pair songs and present them in an interesting fashion. I started to think about the Surface versions as the originals in some cases. With an original track, it is filter disco and French house stuff that no one considers a remix. Even though I was taking elements of the Plunge versions to make Surface, I didn’t really want to see them as remixes. It all of a sudden opened up this window for me when I realized I could DJ with this stuff and I wouldn’t be taking anybody else’s samples because I would be sampling myself. Then I got really excited about the idea of presenting it as a cohesive piece, sort of telling two sides of the same coin. It is really the story of the past couple years of my life, which is breaking everything down to the absolute bottom and then rebuilding it with the injury and the recovery.
I am sure the label is happy you sampled yourself and not other people.
Haha yeah that is why I usually don’t make that kind of music. I really enjoy playing my own instruments, but I also really like that style of music. It is really hard legally to do that. It was really interesting to sample myself and really fun. Bring able to incorporate that music into my DJ sets is exciting because for a couple of years most of the music I have been making as Goldroom doesn’t really fit for DJ sets in clubs.
How related are the companion tracks on Plunge /\ Surface?
I call them sister tracks. Every song on Plunge has a sister track on Surface. They are complete mirror images of each other. If people are careful to find out which tracks for which and why and what elements I used across tracks and what elements I didn’t use. That is exciting for me because in some cases the Surface version is coming out before the Plunge and vise versa. The release plan is not random, but it is not linear. Sometimes you hear the new version first and then the old version second. Hopefully this can subvert what people think is original music and what is a remix. It is all art so the definitions don’t really fit.
How did “I Can Feel It” fit into the album project?
What is really exciting about “I Can Feel It” is that it is the companion version to “Do You Feel it Now.” It is also the first song on the album where the companion song has already been released. So “Do You Feel It Now” is the first song from Plunge. So basically spent a few months writing this song with Alexa Lusader called “Do You Feel It Now.” We went through a few different iterations of the song. I think we made three different versions and finally landed on “Do You Feel it Now.” I had all of this amazing vocal work she had done, some of which I used in the original version.
I sat down one day and took the instrumental version of “Do You Feel It Now” and chopped it up into a sample pattern, which became the bed of which I made the track. Then I was able to back and pick through Alexa’s vocals from that session and find something that recontextualized it. I was in such a different headspace from when I was making the Surface version from the Plunge version. In my mind, I thought that the original song was pretty depressing, so what I wanted to do put a vibe on it. It is the same song and the same performance, but I wanted the new version to have the opposite feel. The original is called “Do You Feel It Now” and the Surface version is “I Can Feel It.”
It’s the flip tonally in that it is full of hope and promise, while the original is like everything is screwed up and I am going to embrace this crazy life. What I love to make songs like “I Can Feel It” because I can hone in a line or two lines that aren’t fully represented in the full version and I can grab them, turn them on their head and highlight them in a way to make you think about both versions differently.
Specifically for “I Can Feel It,” I was inspired by a lot of mellower dance music that has come out in the past handful of years. To me it isn’t exactly French touch, but guys like Alan Braxe and Daft Punk when they went into a more melodic space, downtempo tracks like “Something About Us.” That is an exciting lane to get into and isn’t something I get to do very often. This afforded me the opportunity to make something like 5am you are in your car after a really long night kind of basking in the glow of great the night was. You are driving home or on the beach and it is that kickback electronic vibe that I fell in love with and didn’t realize could exist in electronic music until I heard how some of the French guys were making it. “I Can Feel It” is one of my favorites on the album.