Betty Bensimon on Parisian Vogue and Revitalizing the City’s Club Culture

The Rinse France resident speaks to Chal Ravens on Red Bull Radio’s Top Flight

Look beyond the city’s undying passion for techno, and Paris is home to some of the most exciting new producers and DJs in the global club scene. Drawing from UK soundsystem culture, Chicago ghettotech and the hypnotizing triplet rhythms of West Africa, a new generation of artists have been combining these influences with the homegrown legacy of Thomas Bangalter and Roulé Records. One of the young DJs exploring this intersection is Betty Bensimon, who has been spreading the Parisian club gospel via her radio show on Rinse France, as well as serving as DJ for the House of Mizrahi. In a conversation with Chal Ravens on Red Bull Radio’s Top Flight, Bensimon spoke about her entry into the Parisian voguing scene and the efforts of artists like Teki Latex and labels like Paradoxe Club in revitalizing Paris club culture.

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Helene Feuillebois

How and why did you start DJing?

I’ve always been fascinated by techno, Detroit and Chicago. I’ve always been fascinated by that and Deeon, ghettotech, Bmore, and also Daft Punk and French touch. I was also influenced by Rinse UK, actually. I was listening back then to a lot of shows on Rinse UK and that really influenced me. All the soundsystems, the genealogy of British club music really influenced me and I started digging into that. I started throwing parties at Social Club and I just tried to do my thing coming from that.

You have this show on Rinse France. When did you start hosting that, and what’s the idea behind the show?

It’s just a mix of everything I like. Having a show on Rinse is actually helping me know what I want to do, what I want to play, and it’s really helping me as a DJ. When I prepare my shows on Rinse, that’s when I get to really know myself and know what I want to play, and what is the music that I like and how I want to do it, basically.

You’re also a part of the Paris ballroom scene as a DJ for House of Mizrahi. How did you get involved? I wondered if you’re playing your normal type of music or if you were playing ballroom from the US.

Basically, I was playing a fashion party and all the kids from the Paris ballroom scene were there and heard me playing. They were like, “How do you know that shit? How do you know about voguing music?” And I was like, “I don’t really know about it, except I’ve just found out about it through my crew, actually.” So Mother Stephie Mizrahi from Paris, who is like the mother of the whole scene in Paris, she actually talked to me about the original stuff that was played back in the ’80s in the actual balls in New York. She told me what to play at what moment for which category and what it meant. I think I joined the House in 2014

I was talking to Paradoxe Club about who is in the Paris club scene. We were talking about how it’s a weird thing where you’re playing lots of different styles of music, but it can be hard to get that audience who understand all of it. It’s difficult to unite different sections of society, basically.

Of course. The thing is, I live in the suburbs, and there is actually a few clubs in the suburbs, but you will find those coupé-décalé nights in the suburbs are not that much in Paris, because Paris is not a multicultural city like London is. All the projects are outside of the town, so basically the African immigration is in the suburbs, which means the coupé-décalé nights are probably in the suburbs. That’s why it’s hard. It’s different. Also, now there is a way for people from the suburbs to actually go to nightclubs in the suburbs, if they don’t necessarily want to go to Paris. So it doesn’t really mix properly. That’s a shame.

I talked to Teki Latex and the Paradoxe Club guys about Overdrive Infinity and how that started up. Were you going to those nights as well?

Yeah, of course. It was like every Friday night, and it was a big rendezvous for all of us. We started hanging out with Paradoxe Club there and actually they all met there. It was important for us, definitely.

So what exactly has happened since Overdrive Infinity ended? People were suggesting that it’s actually been a bit difficult, that the scene hasn’t really found its club yet.

Yeah. I’ve been playing quite a lot in Paris recently and I just realized that we have a huge problem in Paris. All of those small clubs, none of them has a really good soundsystem, and it’s a problem. The Paradoxe Club, myself and Teki and their friends, we haven’t found a place since Social Club. I’m doing my nights at Le Batofar, but it’s complicated to do nights there because you have to invest your own money. It used to be way easier to throw parties in Paris. At Social Club it was really easy, and they would give you a budget. We were there every night of the week, every week, and we don’t have that anymore at the moment. But I’m looking for a new place.

The party at Le Batofar is called Bonus Stage. I’ve had Ikonika many times, I had Mumdance recently, Teki Latex, Club Kelly. Also, Le1f and Gage. I had voguing classes before the night. I try to do something that includes all the things that I play and I try to blend all that. But as I said, it’s really complicated to invest your own money in your night. I’m working on that at the moment, finding a way for it to be sustainable.

If you had any particular predictions of where this scene will go next, what would you say? It’s still quite small, but it seems pretty active. What do you think is about to happen? What do you hope will happen?

It’s hard to say. But we had a proper reunion with all the producers in Paris, when we tried to define a sound for Paris, like what we should be doing. I think Teki Latex probably explains it better than me. He talked to you about La Bérite? This is really exciting, just to get to meet with all the young producers making club music at the moment and reflect on what is actually our heritage as French people going to clubs. What are our influences? I don’t know how to explain that. Just to find our sounds and make rules and try to stick to that, and make it a proper genre, I think.

It’s not actually rules, it’s more like thinking of all the things that we had in common, like what we grew up listening to. But it’s not really proper rules on the rhythm or the tempo. It’s more of a general idea of what it [the Paris scene] could be and what it is influenced by.

By Chal Ravens on November 29, 2017

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