Published Oct 30, 2007Date of Birth: 2000
Releases to Date: 13
Biggest Seller: Champion Chill Em All
Upcoming Releases: Champion et ses G-Strings Live (surround-sound DVD/CD); TIGHT (compilation of new Montreal electronic music)
When Leo Cerasa (known also as his DJ alter ego, Leo Cruz) started Saboteur, it was to release tracks by the European and American DJs hed met in his travels, and to bring to the global dance floor the eclectic rock hybrid sounds now associated with Montreal. In its nascent form, Saboteur never issued more than a thousand copies of any twelve-inch pressing, and the biggest distribution of their vinyl was in Germany.
All this changed when a friend approached Cerasa for advice: Maxime Morin (known at the time as "Le Max and "Mad Max) was having trouble turning interest in his unclassifiable new project into a label deal, so Cerasa offered to help shop it. When he encountered the same ambivalence toward the new DJ Champion record (too pop for electronic labels, and too electronic for pop), Cerasa decided that it was just too great to pass up as his first full-length album release, and so it happened that Chill Em All "kick-started Saboteur as a bona fide label.
Cerasa and Morin focused their promotional efforts first in Quebec and then France; when they returned to Canada on a wave of buzz they suddenly found themselves with a busy interview schedule, thanks to their original Canadian distributor, Outside. (Universal now distributes Champion releases). Since Champions breakthrough international success, Saboteur has kept its focus on quirky, hard-to-classify acts: Quebecois hip-hop duo Omnikrom (who have more in common with Parisian rappers TTC than other Canadian hip-hop) and electronic party band Numero#, whose "Chewing-gum Fraise was nominated for Socans French-language ECHO songwriting prize.
Collision on the Dance Floor
Cerasa: If I had to describe Saboteurs sound, Id say that its definitely heavily electronic, but its basically anything danceable that I find slightly off the norm. Id say that [French label] Kitsuné is one label that I would make a comparison to and actually we just licensed one of Numero#s tracks to Kitsuné. Whether its on a musical level or lyrically, its the quirky side of things that connects everything together and thats what I really like.
Chronicling the Scene
This compilation that weve put together, TIGHT, came from putting a call out to all of Montreal. We got back a shit-load of demos and it really opened my eyes to just how much talent there is here, man. I knew there was a lot, but these sounds that Im hearing obviously join this rock element that has crossed over big-time, and the electronic side thats crossed over to the punk side. And I guess Saboteurs become a point of reference for this burgeoning new sound.
The Rise of Champion
Nobody knew where to put it, and thats what contributed to its success, that it was a ballsy thing to do. Our main thing in [getting word out] is that we always kept it very low-key, actually, and on the street level. We always planned to get a really good base going here with the club culture, hitting the DJs and the kids who go to clubs. And once that worked, going overseas we didnt go into the rest of Canada for a long time. We promoted through showcases and flyering and the internet. We opened our mouths a lot because we knew we really had something to talk about; we werent just talking shit. And then the word started to spread on its own. After the street, things just kind of happened out of my control, but the street level was always something I had a thing about, and thats how weve built it.
"I would say that 90 percent of our sales are in Quebec, absolutely. Quebec really embraces what comes out of Quebec, and I cant knock that. They have a strong sense of supporting home-grown talent. Its kind of a battle to get things out of Quebec, actually: I have two French-speaking artists on the label, their lyrics are in French, they sing in French and as much as they cross over musically, there is still that barrier. But Im watching that dissipate daily. Malajube opened the doors to a lot of things, as well as acts overseas, such as Nouvelle Vague. Theyve broken all kinds of barriers with their French tracks: its happening as we speak and its great.