Disappearance of Philippe Zdar

Philippe "Zdar" Cerboneschi in his studio, rue des Martyrs in Paris, on June 18, 2019. © RFI / Sébastien Jédor


Half of the famous duo Cassius, producer emeritus, essential actor of the French Touch, Philippe Zdar, died accidentally from a fall of a Parisian building on June 19 in the evening. A few days before the release of Cassius' new album, Dreems , he answered questions from Sebastien Jedor on June 18th.

Philippe Cerboneschi of his real name was best known for his activities in the Cassius duo he had built in 1996 with Hubert Blanc-Francard. Their first album 1999 , mixing hip hop funk and house, became a marker in the evolution of the French electro scene.

The two men had met when Philippe "Zdar" was still a sound engineer, he had worked for Serge Gainsbourg. Zdar had already created another duet with Étienne de Crécy, Motorbass.

Cassius will release several other albums, Au rêve in 2002, 15 Again and Ibifornia in 2016. The next title Dreems was released on June 21st.

As a producer, Zdar also collaborated alone or with Hubert-Blanc Francard, on MC Solaar's albums in the 90s, but also on Phoenix, the American rockers The Rapture, or lately the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand.

© Twitter screenshot Alex Kapranos


At age 52, Philippe "Zdar" still had many projects, the world of electro, and more, is in mourning.


The Dreems CD will be released. With this disc, you wanted to go back to the fundamentals of house music, music full of sun, sensuality with beautiful feminine voices?
Philippe Zdar: No. In fact very honestly, we wanted to go back to nothing with the disc. We just did as we do all the time, that is to say we do what we can, and then we come to the end. There was just one thing for real, it is that indeed I had produced a lot of records and in particular that of Franz Ferdinand [ed .: Always Ascending] , which was done in 6 weeks. And I suggested to Hubert: "Come on, we're trying to make a quick record" . We are fed up with dragging, deconstructing, remaking, etc.

Hubert Blanc-Francard is the other half of Cassius ...
Exactly, Hubert ... it's Hubert Blanc-Francard, aka Boom Bass. So we thought we were going to do that. After, we made this record as we have never done, that is to say, end by end, really going as a mix, like a tape, like a mixtape. And suddenly, it was discovered that it was perfect for the summer. That's why we fought for it to come out this summer. The record, at one point, made us dream. There's a particular song called Dreems , and we thought , we call it that. It's large enough to put all our fantasies, all our dreams, all our anxieties.

What are the anxieties then? because dreams are perceived ...
The anxieties, you must do the other interview, the one with Hubert, because it is he who is anxious !! I am not at all anxious. (Laughter)

That's how your duo works. There is one that is more solar, and the other more distressed?
No, in fact, no. We both have very strong climbs and descents. I am Aquarius. So, maybe the descents are shorter. No, there is no more anxiety than me. We work in a fantastic way. For 20-30 years, it's my best friend. We make music, we never argue. But he knows very well when I irritate him, and I know very well when he annoys me. It's a dream, I would love to live like that in couples (laughs).

It's amazing that many groups of the French Touch are duets elsewhere: Daft Punk, Cassius, Air?
It is true and indeed, it does not surprise me in the sense that the electronic music, it is a music that is done anyway in a computer at the origin. But, it seems logical to me, we are always better at two. And on the other hand, at five, for electronic music, it's a lot more complicated, because there is a computer, a mouse, and so on. The "Power Trio" was the perfect expression of rock: bass, drums, guitar and voice. For electronic music, being two is really good.

I used the expression "French Touch". Do you still recognize yourself in this movement?
By default yes, I am obliged to recognize myself. It's not that I recognize it or not. We never really recognized that. We know that this is the term that has been endorsed to talk about what happened in 1995 in France. We knew very well, whether it was the Daft [Punk], or us, that our love was the music of Chicago. So, it was quite funny that we are trying to reproduce the Chicago house music and that we are told that it is the "French touch".

We are in your studio to record this interview and on a shelf next door, there are many vinyls, including those of John Coltrane, Maria Callas, the great era of Motown ... Are these artists always inspire you?
I'm inspired by everything, from life, from music. But anyway, I listen to a lot of vinyls. I only have vinyls, I never passed the cap "CD". So it's very good because these days, there is a return of the vinyl. So, I can buy new ones. I have a particular love for soul, jazz, American black music from the 1950s to the 1980s. I also listen to a lot of rock. I am a DJ so I continue to listen to electronic music to follow the news.

You are a DJ and an album designer, these are the two facets of your personality. Being a DJ, does it allow you to be in touch with everything that's bubbling right now?
Exactly. Being a DJ is my passion. In fact, I have three caps, I am also a record producer and that brings me a lot. There, I helped Hot Chip make their record. I remember going out on weekends, coming back and having an idea. Because when you're a DJ, you have your finger on the pulse of what's going on right now. We have to. We listen to things that 17-year-old guys do. If we only stay "rock" or are obsessed with the Rolling Stones, our references, our culture ... it's all aging. After that, it will not prevent us from being good or not. In any case, I find that continue to be a DJ for the pleasure of going to clubs, find myself in the middle of kids , (I love), the music very strong, sweat ... it brings me something that can to be in Cassius and my career as a producer.

Before the house, there was rock. What did this period bring you?
A good way to get out all the energy I had. When I was little, I was called the "pressure cooker". I have always had a lot of energy, I never sleep. I am always up and down. When I was between 14 and 18, hard rock and speed metal, it was a way to get out testosterone, serotonin. All that stuff that makes a 17-year-old kid ready to break cars. But I preferred to go break my battery!

Cassius Dreems (Ed Banger Records) 2019
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By: Valérie Passelègue Sébastien Jédor

Philippe Zdar - Cassius

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