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Subcultures emerge from a shared collective energy. They are shaped by peer groups who embrace many creative disciplines, including art, music, photography, fashion and design. In turn, creators feed their own spirit back into the scenes around them.
With lockdowns across the world, musicians and creatives across the country continue to white-knuckle their way through 2021. So how are they helping each other through? THE FACE has teamed up with Dr. Martens Presents for a multi-part series which harnesses the power of collective creativity across the UK and Europe.
In the first part of this series, we heard from Liverpudlian radio station Melodic Distraction. Next, we turned to Berlin-based duo MADANII & L:LUCID. For part three, we’re speaking to Jean-Charles Leuvrey. As founder of Parisian internet radio station Hotel Radio Paris, Leuvrey has been responsible for keeping the city’s independent music culture afloat in the age of 8pm curfews.
Below, Jean-Charles Leuvrey explains why resilience and collaboration are central to creative development, and introduces THE FACE to two young rising stars of the Parisian music scene.
In a former life, Jean-Charles Leuvrey spent his days in a corporate haze as an investment banker in the city of London. When the working day ended, Leuvrey spent nights skating at Southbank. Jaded by the duplicity of a double life, Leuvrey hung up his suit and tie and moved to Barcelona.
As a network of independent radio stations blossomed around the globe, from Hackney’s NTS to Know Wave in New York, in 2016 Leuvrey made the decision to move to Paris and start his own radio station. “I felt like people were like looking for something completely independent, completely free of everything,” he remembers.
In the four years since, the founder of the independent radio station Hotel Radio Paris has programmed and broadcasted thousands of shows hosted by an ever-changing roster of DJs, producers, singers, musicians and skaters. And it doesn’t stop in the City of Lights, Hotel Radio Paris has gone global, hosting shows and parties in cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul and New York.
Hotel Radio Paris works against the grain. Without a formalised schedule, the station’s six daily live shows stay fresh – listeners never quite know what’s coming up next. “We don’t have residents,” Leuvrey explains. “We don’t have playlists. I’m trying to do the inverse of everyone else. Some DJs have a show every six weeks, some have a show every month, some every three months. It’s up to them if they want to come.” Jean-Charles Leuvrey’s perspective is simple: “I want to surprise people that listen to it all the time. That’s the point.”
Programming globally-recognised talent such as producer Brodinski, Chinese music collective Yeti Out, record label owner Busy P and skater Lucien Clarke alongside unknown Parisian teenagers, Leuvrey’s democratic approach to airtime has become an unofficial creative support system for young people who want to succeed outside the normative structure of higher education. “Fourty percent [of the DJs] are people under 20 that know the radio because one of their friends came to DJ and had a great time,” JP smiles. “So they want to come and show what they can do. I let them try at least.”
A firm advocate of broadcasting live, during lockdown, Leuvrey was running ten shows a day on Hotel Radio Paris. “For the first time ever in the history of the radio, I let people from everywhere in the world send me mixes that they’d made at home,” Leuvry laughs. Without his usual income from running parties, he opened up a crowdfunding campaign for the station to help with the studio rent. “I got $4,500 in 24 hours!” Leuvry says. “People understood the fact that we are important for the scene in Paris, and that made me really happy to be honest.”
With Hotel Radio Paris’ financial future secured for a few months, Dr. Martens approached Leuvrey and Hotel Radio Paris to ask what the Dr. Martens Presents platform could do to further support his radio station. In response, Leuvry masterminded a bespoke zine. “As a skateboarder, I like print. Print is part of our culture,” he explains.
Titled Focus, the zine documents Paris’ creative scene during lockdown, connecting Hotel Radio Paris with the city’s youth culture. Marking the first (“and hopefully not last”) publication of Hotel Radio Paris’ brief yet prolific history, the zine moves Hotel Radio Paris from a sometimes “restrictive” aural format to something more lasting; a print publication showcasing the creativity and energy of 16 young people from around France, young artists starting out their careers in wobbly, uncertain times. “I wanted to do a magazine and I wanted to interview kids at the beginning of their career in a certain way to see where they are at now, and to see what they’re going to do later,” Leuvry says.
How did you come into contact with Jean-Charles and Hotel Radio Paris originally?
My friend Kevin AKA Keight was JC’s assistant for a while a couple of years ago, so he introduced me.
Tell us about your show on Hotel Radio Paris.
It’s always chill to do a show on Hotel Radio, I come with my setlist on my USB stick and drink a couple of beers with Jean-Charles and my friends. It’s also very cool that we can put the music as loud as we want.
Can you describe the Paris music scene for those readers who have never visited? What part does the radio station play in bringing musicians, artists, DJs and producers together?
The music scene in Paris is very versatile. There are a lot of famous producers and artists (not necessarily from Paris) but mostly a lot of independents trying to make it. It’s a good place to make it happen since there are a lot of events, venues and people, like JC, trying to find new talents and giving legitimate means for artists to share their music.
The good thing about Hotel Radio is that they’re inviting everyone to showcase their music and art, whether you’re famous or trying to make it. It really brings people together because it feels like everyone is on the same level when you’re there.
Talk us through two tracks you’ve been playing on repeat lately.
I’ve been listening a lot to Feel A Way by 2 Chainz (feat. Brent Faiyaz & Kanye West) because it’s such an efficient track and Brent’s vocals mixed by Mike Dean sound amazing. I also love the classic synth outro on the song.
There’s also ApeDM by Nutso Thugn (produced by Brodinski & Modulaw) because it had been a while since I wanted to listen to a track like this one. I love the blend between OG rapping and aggressive industrial trap beats.
What does collective creativity mean to you in 2021?
It means a lot of WeTransfers and messages!
How have you and Jean-Charles supported each other through the challenges of 2021?
As usual, by doing shows and working together on projects like this one!
DJ Zoovie Kazuyoshi
When and why did you start working with Hotel Radio Paris?
The first time I did a Hotel Radio Paris show was when I started DJing, two years ago I think. I’m in a DJ collective called Good Dirty Sound who were already working a lot with Hotel Radio Paris.
What do you feel that the station has brought to Paris’ music scene?
I think Hotel Radio Paris is very important for the Parisian underground scene; it gives many artists the opportunity to unveil and make themselves known. Not only for the Parisian scene — my collective Good Dirty Sound brought an underground artist from LA to Hotel Radio Paris.
Run us through an average show; what tunes are you dropping?
I really like SoundCloud’s underground artists. Like xxxtentacion, Navvvi, lil darkie. I am really into trap metal music, but I play all kinds of music (I still prefer to play trap music!).
As well as being a musician, you take photos. What have you been working on during the pandemic? Has lockdown allowed you to explore any unplanned projects in photography or music?
During the lockdown, I’ve been motivated to make an EP with Good Dirty Sound. We are also making some live DJ shows on the internet. It’s not really easy cause we’re all doing the same things, everything must be done virtually. As for photography, I didn’t do anything during the lockdown — I preferred to devote myself to music.
Which album or mixtape soundtracked your 2020?
That’s hard to answer, I listen to a lot of music! But if I had to choose one artist, it would be [hip hop artist] Ziak, my best discovery of 2020.
How have you and the Hotel Radio Paris team supported each other through the challenges of last year?
Simply by continuing to bring to life discovery and music.
What does collective creativity mean to you in 2021?
By continuing to produce content together, which gave me the strength to be able to continue despite everything that happened during this year which was surely terrible for every artist.