Louis Lazare Hoche was a general in France’s 18th century Revolutionary Army. Quick-thinking, stern and ruthless, his motto was ‘deeds not words’. Now, more than 200 years later, his namesake is a revolutionary leader of a mellower sort: a producer, DJ and label boss who sits at the forefront of a new generation of French house artists.
“Hoche died at 29, and I’m 29 now,” says Charles Naffah, the man behind the alias, on the line from Paris. “I should watch out! Rue Lazare Hoche is the name of the small street in the suburbs where I grew up. I spent 22 years of my life there, I made my first records there, and I didn’t want to use my real name so I chose one that sounded timelessly French.” Born into a musical French-Lebanese family, he has a brother who composes, a harpist sister and a cousin who is a singer-songwriter in Lebanon.
From the age of 16 he went to clubs, “first for the girls, then for the music,” he tells us. “Even at corny parties we had some nice beats being played… Bob Sinclar, Martin Solveig, Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’.” A decade ago he started hanging around record shops and experimenting with production and DJing, deepening his understanding through late night internet sessions bingeing on Move D and St Germain. “Then I saw an advertisement in a record store saying, ‘We can press 300 copies of a white label for €900.’ So you’re telling me I can have records out? With my music on it? I started putting some money away.”
The result was 2012’s ‘LH Edits’, and when it sold out Naffah found the confidence to begin work on November’s debut proper, ‘I Don’t Sync So’. “Then everything happened: I became a producer, a DJ and a label owner, and people overseas contacted me for my music and my DJ set. Everything within six months,” he says.
‘I Don’t Sync So’ was the beginning of Lazare Hoche Records, which has built its catalogue and reputation upon the personal connection Naffah has with his artists, including Mandar and Medicis; he sees 2015’s 5LP ‘Access’ box set as “the most complete work in terms of trying to display my aesthetic.” In 2014 he founded Oscillat Music with fellow producers Samuel Andre Madsen and Nick Putman, aka S.A.M. and Malin Genie. “We use that for the more dark, looping tracks, and LHR for the choral, loud, colourful house stuff.”
Overseas recognition has taken Naffah to Ibiza – a culture shock, given his underground roots – and, later this year, the launch of his own Access club brand in Paris. He’s also dabbled in photography and fashion design.
While it’s tempting to call Lazare Hoche the next link in the chain of great French house artists, the roots of his upbeat, itchy-footed productions are transatlantic in nature. “New York and New Jersey house is my secret garden to this day,” he tells us. “When I feel bad I listen to ‘I Hear My Calling’ by Kings Of Tomorrow, or Masters At Work, or Louie Vega stuff. That’s the soundtrack to my life.”
‘Time Guard’ is out now on Lazare Hoche Records
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