Ghislain Poirier's Bounce le gros
"Bounce le gros!" This catchphrase will be on the lips of club goers around the world if Ghislain Poirier has his way — or if his bass-tastic new album Breakupdown gets the widespread exposure it deserves. Because "bounce le gros" is not just a phrase for this Montreal beatmaker, it's a way of life.
It's the way Poirier signs off all his emails and message board posts. It provides the chorus on "Rivière de Diamants," the catchiest song from Breakupdown, featuring francophone MCs Omnikrom. Most importantly, it's the name of his irregular club night at Montreal's Zoobizarre, a medieval dungeon located on the second floor of a mile-long strip mall where Poirier throws down "grime, crunk, hip-hop, ragga, reggae, booty house, Baltimore breaks… original urban music from all over the world."
"Bounce le gros" began when Poirier started playing shows with Montreal MC Seba at the turn of the century. The two of them would call each other "yo, gros" — pronounced in French, with a silent ‘s' and a heavily rolled ‘r' — as a way of saying "hey, big!" "Later," he explains, "I incorporated the bounce and our whole intro was ‘Hey, yo, bounce le gros!' When I say it, it means ‘bounce your big ass.' When Anglophone people translate it, they think it means ‘the big bounce.' And it's totally Quebecois: one word English, two words in French."
The unifying factor at his club nights is Poirier's love of all things bass, and every track on the eclectic Breakupdown reflects this. It's a far stretch from his first two albums, which explored abstract ambience and minimal techno. Yet hip-hop was Poirier's first love, and that influence has slowly moved to the forefront, especially after hooking up with Chicago's Chocolate Industries label. Around the same time that a trusted friend told him that 2003's Beats as Politics lacked bass, Poirier moved his weekly DJ gig from a low-key lounge to a well-endowed soundsystem where he could witness the effect that full-on bass had on a dance floor, both in other people's tracks (Roots Manuva is a favourite) and his own newer material.
Though Poirier does collaborate with MCs such as Beans and DJ Collage, it's the way that this untrained musician approaches composition that separates him from other instrumental hip-hop fare. He learned everything he knows through software and sampling, which means sliced-up string sections stutter over beats that fold into themselves, electro keyboards punctuate ragga rhythms, and melodies are extracted from swirling samples.
"I think it's more mature," he says modestly of his new masterpiece. "I've been able to be on the fine line of being fucked up but not too much. It was tough to pace it with so many styles. On different tracks I tried to build new sounds and try different structures, not repeating the same gimmick, not starting all the songs the same way. Instrumental hip-hop is not an easy game; it's hard to keep the attention. With no MC, you have no margins and you can't hide."
Poirier's recent big break came when he was picked to open most of the dates for the much-hyped, sold-out North American tour for his label-mate, Britain's Lady Sovereign. (Poirier has a remix on her Vertically Challenged EP, and apparently she likes it so much she wants to use it on her upcoming Def Jam debut as well.) Lady Sov had a bratty habit of bitching about her monitors at every show, which Poirier says is "a really annoying gimmick." At one show in Philadelphia, she stormed off stage after one song. "I told her, ‘Hey, can you do that more often? Because I sell more CDs when you do.' For real! It puts more shine on me."
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