Black Devil Disco Club cultivates a mystique worthy of its enigmatic sound.
Pseudonyms are part of the culture of electronic music. A producer on a hot streak may take as many names as he needs to get his stuff out or to categorize disparate material. But obscurity has its limits. When a reissue of a long-lost supposed classic from 1978 called Disco Club—released on the Out label in Italy, credited to Black Devil—surfaced in 2004 on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex label in a series of 12”s, the rumors flew. Was it a collaboration between Richard James and Luke Vibert (who had his own Italo disco pseudonym, Kerrier District)?
Left-field disco, rediscovered in the underground by the likes of Metro Area, was back in vogue—Larry Levan and Arthur Russell were rightly reconsidered as geniuses. Thus, Black Devil seemed almost too timely. Crisp, futuristic, spooky, as close to NEU! as it was to Giorgio Moroder—but infused with melody and charismatic rhythms—it featured bongo attack, live drums and vocals straight out of Factory Records. If authentic, it was surely a prescient artifact.
Eventually, French producer Bernard Fevre, also the creator of the ultrarare analog synthesizer albums The Strange World of Bernard Fevre and Earthmessage, owned up to being the man behind the mask. For a time, Fevre—who followed up the unearthed classic with the brilliant 28 After and a companion remix In Dub—added to the mystery. In interviews, he proved elusive about topics such as his age and studio technique.
Reached by e-mail, Fevre’s slightly more forthcoming about the origins of Black Devil. “The early ’70s in Paris were revolutionary times and the free jazz, psychedelic and tribal forces were strong with me.” With a background in library music and psych rock, he recorded the original Disco Club at night in the red-light district. “There were prostitutes, pimps and dealers hanging around, so the atmosphere was very tense and edgy.”
Having spent the last 30 years “on a voyage into the unknown,” he feels vindicated by his reception the second time around. “For a long time, the clouds obscured the sun. But I always knew that there was a right time for my music,” says Fevre.
This month, Black Devil Disco Club releases Eight Oh Eight, possibly a reference to the opening of the Beijing Olympics on August 8. It’s a more frantic version of his unique aesthetic—tracks such as “Is Sorrow” pulse like the maglev CTA of the future—in a hurry to get somewhere. The spooky “With Honey Cream” sounds like Roxy Music fed through a Korg synthesizer. It’s disco fraught with riveting tension.
In 2007, BDDC emerged as a live act (laptop, keyboards and live vocals) with a show at Spain’s Sonar fest and hints about an American tour this year. Fevre intends to bring some black magic to the nu-disco scene. For him, it’s not drugs but “a desire to explore the musical universe that is essential. It is great to dance but you must dance with your head, heart and feet.”
Eight Oh Eight is out this week on Lo Recordings.