The Reflex takes his cue from the original remixers, using only the original sounds from the master tapes to rearrange, extend and breathe new life into music. Nicolas Laugier moved to London from France just before the new millennium hit, and has recently had his work brought to light by the likes of Gilles Peterson and Craig Charles on their respective radio shows. His ‘revisions’ of classics such as Michael Jackson’s ‘ABC’ and ‘Rock With You’ are rapidly becoming the go-to versions for DJs across the world to play out.

 

How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with it?

I would say they are essentially remixes of classic songs done for DJs, with the particularity to be only done using the same sounds that were on the tape in the 70s, or whatever year the song is from. Anything you see called a ‘revision’ has nothing added and has been processed in a way that sounds good for the club with a new arrangement, but I haven’t added any drums, or keys, or sounds.

Were you a DJ first then?

Yeah, of course. I’ve been in London for 16 years now, so I’ve been DJing all that time, starting as a hobby then becoming more serious. Back in France I had loads of records, so I would DJ in bars there, but there was no thriving scene.

At what point did you start making your own edits?

When I started to switch to CD DJing. Before, with vinyl, you’d have to cut dub plates. There were no CD players in bars and clubs. Once you started to use CDs, if you made an effort to personalise your DJ set it was a lot easier to play – just burn it on a CD. That was the start of it really, because of technology. I did some training with Seiji from Bugz In The Attic. He became my mentor in a way. Then through him I met other people. I did some training with Toni Economides, a mixing engineer who’s done a lot of The Reel People stuff, Joey Negro, all sorts of house. I just tried to learn as much as I could.

At what point did you become The Reflex? How did that first release on Mad Mats’ GAMM records happen?

I turned full-time four and a half years ago. I decided to go for it and gamble everything I had. I didn’t have much. I wasn’t even The Reflex then. All I knew is that I was going to be a full-time DJ and producer. I hired a studio for a year, with all my savings – a proper space where I could make noise, a really good, soundproof space. I started to do stuff and I was all over the place – house, hip hop, edits, this and that. I was always tweaking tunes to make them fit in my DJ sets, little edits, and I realised that if I wanted to do that really well, then it was actually quite time-consuming and I wouldn’t be able to do as much of everything else I wanted to do. The first thing I did for Mats was ‘ABC’ with ‘I Feel Good’ by James Brown. He liked those and decided to put them out on GAMM.

Have you had any trouble with Soundcloud recently?

Not really actually, they only took a couple of things down. They took ‘ABC’ down a few months ago.

So it’s still a useful tool?

I really don’t know how it’s worked, to be honest, because some people are affected, some less affected.  I think one of the things to do is not put shed loads of stuff on Soundcloud all the time – just a few good things and make sure that they’re getting the exposure that you want. One of the things that really helped me, without knowing it, is the fact that a lot of my tracks have very different intros to the originals. Now I only put snippets, with fades in and out. Otherwise it’s akin to giving the tracks away.

Have you heard from artists that you’ve revised?

Yeah, Kid Creole, who even allowed me to put out a 12-inch. That’s really cool. He really loved it as it’s actually one of his favourite songs from his whole catalogue [‘My Male Curiosity’].

Which of the artists you’ve worked on would you have liked to have produced at the time?

So many of them. Stevie, probably. Earth Wind & Fire’s stuff is great as well, with all the layers and harmonies. MJ, got to be MJ. Back then, it was done for the times, not for the use we have of now. They did remixes and stuff back then too, but it was a different era. Something like ‘Burn This Disco Out’, which is the next GAMM one, which is a less famous MJ track. It’s nice to be able to put that back on the dance floor. The original version’s great, but you can’t really play it next to more current stuff. That’s what’s cool about those parts, because you can play another MJ that people are familiar with, not everybody’s gonna remember it as well as the others, but we can enjoy that as well. Recently, I’ve got some less well-known things, and you have a bit more freedom with those. If it’s a song that everybody knows then it’s more of a challenge.

So what are your next moves?

I’m going to do remasters and updates, probably a big pack of stuff, for the end of the year. I’ve recently completed remixes for Simply Red, for the new album. First, I try and see if I can do my thing with just their sounds, and often I don’t really like that because it’s modern sounds. So I’ll just do a normal remix where I’ll add stuff. So that’s not called a ‘revision’, it’s called ‘The Reflex remix’. I try and add my arrangements and sounds. I’ve done one for Quantic, something from his forthcoming album. As well, I’ve done a mix for The Kooks, the indie blues band. It’s nice to come out of your comfort zone and try to put a twist on something. I’ve also done [UK funk outfit] Speedometer, a remix for them.

Greg Wilson’s been a big supporter of yours. He’s talked about having a need to share as a music lover. Is that true of you too?

My goal really is to do versions of classic songs that you’re going to be able to play in years to come. I want people to think, ‘This is the version to play in the club, the one that respects the integrity of the original. The one that’s got the sound’. Not a housed up, cheesy vocal remix. That can work for lots of people in different contexts. A lot of people say ‘Rock With You’ and ‘ABC’ is the version to play. I hope that some tracks are really regarded in years to come as good pieces of work that do the job on the floor. A lot of songs are very dated and you can’t really play the originals anymore.

Did Greg’s interview with you open a lot of doors?

Every time someone well-known digs your stuff and says it, that opens up doors. The same way when Gilles played ‘Rock With You’ and made a big thing out of it, or when Craig played ‘ABC’. The other day I heard an amazing story from this guy in the States who was a good friend of Frankie Knuckles. He sent me a message saying that one of the best memories he had was of staying at Frankie’s house in Chicago, where he went onto Soundcloud and played him a dozen of my tracks. He said that Frankie just loved them, went crazy and was dancing – just the fact that I know that he listened to it and he liked it, it’s cool. There are loads of stories like that from people. A friend of mine spent an afternoon with Nile Rodgers at his place, and he played him ‘September’, ‘Jungle Boogie’, ‘Bad Luck’, ‘Rock With You’. He didn’t believe that the strings in ‘Rock With You’ were in [the original version].

That’s what you want!

Exactly! Listen, for me, if it manages to surprise Nile, who’s, for me, the most amazing musician. [My friend] played him ‘September’ without telling him it was ‘September’. He said, “The guitars, the layers, I’m going to have to play this to my band because we’re working on a song and this is exactly the sound I’m after”. He just couldn’t believe everything was from [the original sources] and it was as rocking as it was. That was cool.

soundcloud.com/thereflex
twitter.com/thereflexmusic

Read an extended version of this interview at groovement.co.uk

Jamie Groovement