"We like things to be simple. When it becomes too complicated, we just don't feel it. We don't want to be part of something that we feel is too complicated."
Those beloved French electro-housers Justice unveiled their long-awaited third album, the decadently disco Woman, in late 2016. Now they're back with an unusual live presentation in Woman Worldwide, recorded in their Paris studio. And Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge are keen to promote the ambitious undertaking as a regular LP — Rosnay phoning from the middle of nowhere for this interview. "I am in the forest, [with] some people — it's exotic," he reveals. "I'm in the middle of the mountains and the countryside in France."
Justice were in Australia last February for the first time in nearly seven years. They performed at Sydney City Limits and, in Melbourne, had a headlining arena date. "We wish we could have really brought the full [live show] to Australia, because the show we did in Melbourne was unfortunately not exactly the one we can do all around the world, just because it's too expensive to freight all these things. So we had to do a kind of stripped-down version. But even that was really fun to do."
Emerging in 2003 with their cult remix of Simian's Never Be Alone (subsequently retitled We Are Your Friends), Justice were signed by Pedro "Busy P" Winter to his fledgeling Ed Banger Records. The duo ushered in a new era of French electronica with 2007's debut, Cross — their millennial rave tagged 'noise'. Between albums, Justice prepped live projects like A Cross The Universe (tying in with an infamous tour documentary) and Access All Arenas. Yet de Rosnay suggests that these were "made in the spirit of pirate recordings", adding, "We really wanted them to sound like the most accurate representation possible of what it is to be at a Justice show."
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Ironically, in late 2008, speculation was rife online about whether Justice actually do play live. Auge was photographed DJing with his Akai drum pad controller unplugged. He convincingly explained a cable briefly fell out. Good-humoured, Justice joked about the incident, using the snap as their MySpace image. But, absurdly, there are still Reddit conspiracy threads on it. This perhaps heightens Justice's zeal for credible live endeavours. Regardless, they toured Woman widely, even staging it at Glastonbury.
Woman Worldwide is no ordinary live album. Indeed, Justice determined to re-cut Woman for an enhanced audio experience. They reworked Woman's material as well as Justice classics like Waters Of Nazareth and their Jackson 5 homage DANCE — several in mash-up form. "We knew that a lot of people listening to those [previous live] records were frustrated by the fact that they couldn't hear the music properly because it was not precise enough; there was a lot of crowd noise and everything. So we decided this time to make the opposite and to make it as perfect as possible — so the listener could actually be able to focus on the music and hear everything that's happening." Inevitably, Justice "feel a bit frustrated" about the limitations of what they can create live. "When you play live, there's too many parameters that prevent you from making things perfect — which is great! I mean, that's the point of watching a band playing Iive. You know it's not going to be perfect and it's actually human people making things. But it was not enough for us. We wanted Woman Worldwide to be like the perfect Justice live show."
Having recorded multiple sets, Justice isolated the "perfect rendition of every track", which they then "reconstructed" live in their studio. The process took four months. Among the highlights is Chorus (WWW), a ravey incarnation of Woman's spectral apex.
In many ways, Woman was one of 2016's most underrated albums, with less 'noise' and more luxe orchestral and choral arrangements. But, if some fans miss 'the old Justice', de Rosnay is chill. "We know that every time we make a new record, because it's always a bit different, there's a part of the audience that will feel a bit alienated. But, at the same time, that's how it goes. There's nothing we can do about it. We make albums that we feel are good and relevant, to a certain extent, but that's taking the risk that it will not resonate with some part of the people. But that's the game." De Rosnay would love Justice to enjoy a radio hit. However, they won't compromise to achieve it. "That's why we don't do 'featurings' or stupid videos or stuff like this." (Today Justice rebuff social media.)
Justice will wrap their touring commitments after Austin City Limits in October. They've been contemplating another album. "We are always thinking about what's gonna be next because, as soon as you finish something, our minds are already onto the next thing," de Rosnay shares. "We will probably start at the end of the year or early next year."
Justice's influence reverberates through the wider pop culture. They initiated the EDM revolution, only to detach themselves from it, being inherently overground experimentalists. Justice also participated in early sessions for Kanye West's 2013 techno opus Yeezus, but quit because they felt overwhelmed by the American's modus operandi. "We tried a couple of times and, finally, we've ended up pulling out every time, just because there's something that we don't feel right [about]. It's just such a different way of making music. Nothing is bad; it's good because they are getting good results with that. But our way of making music and thinking about it is much more simple than that. We like things to be simple. When it becomes too complicated, we just don't feel it. We don't want to be part of something that we feel is too complicated."