Finally, Kavinsky has dropped his debut album. Mixmag headed to Paris to meet the Ferrari-loving Frenchman.
Words: Jeremy Abbott
Photos: Vincent Desailly
On a bitterly cold evening in Paris, a red carpet marks the entrance to one of the coolest parties in the city. Two girls dressed only in white cheer-leading skirts and red baseball jackets with a large capital K sewn on usher revellers inside a Ferrari dealership. The K stands for Kavinsky. Tonight is the launch party for his debut album.
The immaculate showroom where the playback is taking place is essentially every 14-year-old’s dream. The room’s corners are filled with arcade games, with partygoers sampling the rare delights of Street Fighter and Metal Slug X whilst sipping on Champagne. A smoking Ferrari Testarossa takes centre stage in a room that’s drenched in red and blue lighting.
The crowd are pretty sparkling too. France’s dance music royalty are in full effect. Busy P is chatting away, Gaspard from Justice is tucking into the macaroons and So Me and Surkin are pulling their best poses in front of the majestic Ferrari. The soundtrack to the event is Kavinsky’s long-anticipated debut album ‘Outrun’.
Named after the cult Sega arcade game, the album is a wall-shaking, glitzy synth odyssey that feels distinctly like a backing track to the coolest film you’ve never seen. “For me, the best compliment is when people say they’ve listened to the album and felt like they were watching a movie without actually seeing it – that it’s like listening to a soundtrack,” Kavinsky says.
At this point he notices someone recreating his trademark pose next to the Ferrari. He breaks off the conversation and runs over to them, screaming “What are you doing? That’s my car!” The party goes silent, the party-goer looks petrified… and then everyone relaxes when Kavinsky bursts into a fit of giggles and gives them a bear-hug.
Kavinsky is the alter ego of 37-year-old Vincent Belorgey. At well over six feet tall, with piercing brown eyes, arms covered in tattoos (the most prominent a portrait of his late friend DJ Mehdi) and a distinctly affable personality that he frequently expresses in hugs, wind-ups and laughter, he’s hard to miss.
“I’m never the guy who just sits in the corner and doesn’t say anything,” he tells us. “Everyone knows that when I walk into a room I’ll be shouting and joking, but I don’t hide it.”
Born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, he didn’t move out of the family home until he was 27. A brief stint as an actor taught him that he didn’t want to be told what to do. “I decided to make something that was just by me, rather than follow direction from someone else,” he says. Inspired by his friends in the music industry, particularly close pal Mr Oizo, at 30 he dropped his first EP, which featured ‘Testarossa Autodrive’ and ‘Transistor’. Skip forward seven years and four EPs later and finally his first album is about to drop. So why’d it take so long?
“I don’t know if it was that my manager didn’t tell me how much people really wanted my album, or whether it was just me not wanting to make it,” he explains, “but I didn’t feel the need to do it; I never felt that it was like, “the time is now.”
If Vincent was unaware of the impact his music was having on people, things changed drastically when a track he made with Guy-Manuel from Daft Punk was included on the soundtrack to the movie Drive in 2011. ‘Nightcall’ was released two years prior to the film, but once it hit cinemas things got crazy.
“We decided to make almost a ballad,” he recalls. “We were quite surprised it didn’t take off. Then it was in Drive and everybody was like ‘What? nobody ever told me about this!’”
Cue Kavinsky mania. The YouTube video for ‘Nightcall’ has now amassed over 28 million hits.
A quick look around the party demonstrates just how important 80s pop culture is to the entire Kavinsky ethos. His unrelenting passion for 80s movies and video games (his prize possession is an original Close Encounters frisbee – still in the original packaging, natch) inspired the story that the ‘Outrun’ album soundtracks. Kavinsky is not just Vincent’s pseudonym, but the protagonist in a whole universe.
The story starts with an 18-year-old called Kavinsky. Parking cars as a hotel valet, he decides to take off in a pristine Ferrari Testarossa. Picking up his girfriend, he heads for the coast. But then things get weird. “As he is driving near a cliff by the sea there is a terrible storm,” explains Vincent. “Lightning hits the car making him crash, and while it’s on its back the car gets hit again, causing the kid and the car to be spliced together as one.”
Take away the supernatural elements and Vincent and the character he has created have plenty in common. As a youngster he hated school and would constantly be skipping class and leaving early to go on drives with his friend Quentin Dupieux, aka Mr Oizo. The French film director and producer of tracks such as ‘Flat Beat’ and ‘Positif’ met Vincent when he was 18 and they soon became close friends.
“He used to come to my college between lessons without telling me and he’d be like, “Come on, I’ve got my car – let’s ride.” There was nowhere to go, we just thought, ‘Let’s just go’. Where? I don’t know. I can never say no, I always say yes. I ended up quitting school because of him. So for that I thank him.”
After the playback a fleet of taxis whisk everyone off to a tiny little club called ‘Le Baron’, about 15 minutes away from the showroom. It seems like every French DJ of note is here, embracing Vincent and pouring drinks down each other’s throats. Brodinski and Gesaffelstein have flown straight from Berlin to join the already booming roster to celebrate the big day. Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel arrives, sans helmet, and is quickly laughing and joking with Vincent and the gang. With the album now released, Vincent’s next task is to up his own DJ game and find a way of taking it on the road.
“I’ve been DJing around the world for seven years and some nights I’m really bad and some nights maybe good,” he says. “I DJ because it’s always cool to be in a club with your friends and a good audience. Now that I’m presenting my debut album I don’t want people to just turn up and see me drunk wearing the jacket, I want to present myself as I do in the album. Like Daft Punk, Justice and the rest, I want to do it live.”
In the meantime, he’s been given his own radio station on the next Grand Theft Auto (perhaps the most perfect hook-up in music) and there are more hugs to be given and jokes to be made. It may have taken a while, but Kavinsky’s debut proves, like his party, that he belongs in some pretty special company.
‘Outrun’ is out on February 25 on Mercury Records.