Room for change
French musician Philippe Cerboneschi from the legendary Parisian electro act Cassius invites us in for a chat about life, music and lots of lamps.
French musician Philippe Cerboneschi, or as he is also known to the public Philippe Zdar, is one half of the legendary Parisian electro act Cassius and at the same time he is a sought-after record producer who has worked with bands ranging from Beastie Boys, Phoenix, The Rapture and Chromeo to artists like MC Solaar, Cat Power and Sebastian Tellier. Coincidence lead a young Zdar to a job at a recording studio, where he worked his way up to one day become a sound engineer, and it was during those formative days he met Hubert Blanc-Francard, also known as Boom Bass, the other half of Cassius. They released their debut album, Cassius 1999, to both critical and public acclaim, and the debut also coincided with Zdar starting to work with Phoenix, another prime exponent of a new and popular electronic sound coming out of Paris. In his own words, he is “just a regular French guy doing everything in the music world”.
We’re in the 8th arrondissement of Paris where Philippe lives with his family. We’re here to talk a bit about his life - and see how he lives. “It is very important to me, that my home is functional,” says Philippe Zdar and elaborates, “but the most important aspect is actually the look. It is the same with my studio, the functionality has to be there, but first of all it is the feeling to be happy. I travel a lot, I have kids, and I miss my home because I’m away so often, and when I finally get back I like to feel like I’m in a cocoon.”
“I’m obsessed with lights, and like to be able to switch on all the lights. I used to live in an apartment where it took me 10 minutes to turn off all the lights when I had to go out. I tend to put lights all over the place,” he says with a laugh.
Zdar travels all over the world with his job, and he tells us that he always prefers going to old hotels, because they give him something emotional. “I don’t need perfection around me, but there needs to be a spirit to the place. There is this hotel I go to, and I really don’t like the decorations but the atmosphere is good, and I just love going there because of that. I can feel the years, and all the stories of the people going there.”
Moving through Zdar´s apartment, it is evident that he has a special relationship with lamps. His interest in lighting started very early on. “It all started in the kitchen when I was a kid. The home I grew up in was very beautiful, I didn’t realize it at the time, because when you’re a kid you don’t pay attention to those things. When I became older, things changed, and I noticed all the nice lamps and colours of my mother’s apartment,” says Philippe Zdar as he thinks back. “When I arrived in Paris as an 18-year-old I started buying lamps. I bought my first one, and my room was easy to decorate. Then I got an apartment, and then after that I got a recording studio, and even more lamps.”
“It makes you feel better when you are home, and the lights are turned on. When I am sad or happy at night I can control the lights, and dim them accordingly. 25 lamps and you have an atmosphere,” he says smiling. “This obsession with lamps started early, and as I’m a big spender I don’t have any money left in the bank. I’ve spent it all buying lamps. I started collecting early before everyone else, now they all want to buy lamps, and the prices have gone crazy. Some of the lamps can even be considered as investments but I don’t buy because of a potential reward. I buy what I like.”
“I have known Bang & Olufsen since I was a kid, and I remember a friend of mine who had a B&O system. It was super tight, and it made me crazy,” says Philippe Zdar and continues, “I thought this company was going to go away, but I kept on seeing it, and I still do. Bang & Olufsen makes you dream, and I know my kids are going to be dreaming about it too. The combination of design and sound is fantastic. I actually bought a BeoCenter from 1981 the other day, and it is just as great and relevant as when it was released.”