Starting producing in 2012, Charlie Naffah aka Lazare Hoche has established himself as one of the most interesting DJs in the French (and international) electronic music scene. Going “further and beyond”, as he says, is what drives the French producer, DJ, label owner and even fashion designer.
His smooth house music and his technical skills have allowed him to play for famous music platforms Boiler Room and Cercle, and also for festivals such as Fusion and Weather. Originally from the suburbs of Paris, he went from a student of the famous engineer school Conservatoire National Des Arts et Métiers to an artist who mixes various creative outlets. He recently launched his own fashion brand, named Access – like his record label –, where he finds a meeting point between fashion and underground club music. Intertwining music, fashion design and photography, he constantly aims to step out of his comfort zone. Drawing on the tangible world, Lazare achieves being conscious of his environment, which triggers his inspirations. The creative process of the Parisian artist is worth discovering, and we do so in this interview.
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It’s impressive to see how far you’ve come: from studying at Paris’ Conservatoire National Des Arts Et Métiers, you’ve become a renowned producer, DJ and label owner who has achieved establishing himself in the packed international electronic scene as a force to be reckoned with. How do you feel now that you’re managing a successful career? How do you feel about your journey as an artist so far?
Thanks a lot for those kind words! To be honest with you, it feels super strange to realize all the different events and changes that have happened in my life in the last seven years. I am deeply grateful for every day, doing what I love the most in life, which is developing ideas and trying to give them a life somehow. As far as I can remember, I’ve always had dreams that didn’t fit the 9-to-5 office life. As a child, I was obsessed with the heroes of my generation – Michael Jackson was, of course, one of them. So the first musical ‘slap in my face’ was his MTV Awards 1995 medley performance.
I don’t know if I would use the word successful, but I can’t say that I have been unlucky so far with the music and the ideas that I’ve exposed. Part of me is super happy about all that and wants to celebrate life and take it easy, and another part of me wants to go further and beyond – it’s always the second part that wins the battle.
Besides working in music, your life is also driven by other forms of creativity. For example, fashion. You collaborated with French menswear brand Capsul to create a limited collection, and you’ve recently launched your own brand, Access. Also interested in photography, you’ve already exhibited your artworks in Paris as well. Where do all these creative fields converge in you? Do you feel they feed off each other?
I get bored pretty fast if every day looks the same, so to break the routine, it’s very important for me to challenge myself and discover new disciplines. And I like to get deep into it, trying to understand what are the technical aspects as well as the historical aspects. I’m simply trying some ideas. Life is short.
With fashion, it was a pretty new field for me. My friend Marvin, from the brand Capsul, and I brainstormed the idea of a leather jacket. Like music, I just tried some ideas. When I judge it ready to go, I just present it to the public. All I wanted here was to be excited. Regarding photography, I’ve always been fascinated by the analogue camera world and the excitement to develop it in the lab. I explored some of the most iconic and some obscure camera references as well ‘till I found the one signature camera I liked. Once I found it, I started experimenting as much as I could – I still do.
In many interviews, you mention how inspirational Japan is to you: the culture, the people and even Shintoism, which is very interesting. Do you feel that Japanese culture is reflected in your work? In what ways does it inform you and your practice?
Yes, Japan is by far the most shocking travel I’ve done in my life. I often say that I admire Paris for the architecture, the arts and objects, but I love Japan for the people. They’re fascinating: the way they respect all their environments, the attention they pay when they manipulate the most simple things, or how they display different items; it’s an endless source of inspiration. It’s almost meditative to see them leave work and operate. I don’t know if Japanese culture is directly reflected in my work, but I know this particular country has been one of the most influential travels I did so far.
“The people who originated house music had a big social emergency, let’s never forget that.” 
From early releases like Luv Thang and Pressure Baby to more recent tracks like Time Guard and Maths, how do you feel about your musical evolution? What’s remained and what’s changed?
2012 and 2020, something has changed for sure. Always loving my old deep house garden, but now I have a more experienced approach to it. All the love for the US deep house pioneers and the French way to look at them remains. But the technical aspect and the conceptual approach have changed a tiny bit. My perception has changed. I’ve been touring a lot during this decade, and this club atmosphere has influenced a lot my state of mind. I’ve observed the dance floors a lot, the long sets all around the world… All this has changed my way to approach creation and music.
But house music will remain house music. As brutal and as raw as it is, it’s music that has an emergency, originally. The people who originated it had a big social emergency, let’s never forget that. Even if the house music scene has changed over the decade, we have to understand the DNA, the background, where it comes from.
You’ve played at festivals like Fusion or internet sensations Cercle and Boiler Room. According to you, what makes a set successful? What makes it good?
I won’t say successful, but I would prefer to look at it like this: these DJ sets had a resonance. And they somehow changed my life in a lot of aspects. For most people, this one particular stream sums up all your work as a DJ, so yeah, it’s almost like an exam at school. But an exam where you have to do what you love, how cool is that? You have to play and try to forget that there are twenty cameras filming. In Cercle’s case, there is a real crowd attending the show, so you just feel like in a party, it’s all good. The production is really fine-tuned as well.
Also, could you tell us a few songs you’re listening on repeat right now?
Very simple: Louie Vega - Cerca de Mi (Shelter Mix).
French house is embedded in today’s electronic music at large, and I believe it is definitely thanks to the French Touch movement – artists like Dimitri from Paris, Daft Punk, or Cassius, for example. And today, with artists like your or duo Polo & Pan, the legacy is still alive. Do you feel that today’s French house comes from French Touch’s heritage?
Yes! I mean, for me, I was totally influenced not only by US’s original house music but I was also influenced by the way French artists were perceiving this particular genre. The legacy of all the French pioneers is something that I have the most privilege to enjoy because I am currently very close friends with my childhood heroes – artists like DJ Deep, DJ Gregory and Julien Jabre have communicated to me so much. I owe them so much! It’s the best possible school in the world to be close to them. But now I have something different to say from when this music was brand new and an innovative genre. There is no doubt that the legacy is here, but it’s our turn now to come with something that hadn’t been done twenty years ago. So that’s our everyday duty.
Learning to be a DJ and producer is nowadays pretty easier than it used to be I guess, especially thanks to the Internet. And even if you’re producing from your bedroom, you can reach a wide audience thanks to platforms like SoundCloud, for example. How do you navigate this as an established DJ? Were your beginnings very DIY?
First of all, and I really want to insist on this, it’s a big chance to be passionate about something, to have a purpose in life. And if it’s music, it’s simply wonderful. When you have this emergency in you, there is nothing that can stop you. It’s literally being blessed. If you have something to say musically, if you are in music for the good reasons, there will always be some ways to reach the right people. I always did things pretty DIY when I started. Because nowadays, with one email, you can reach a distributor, or an audio engineer to master your record. With one email, you can reach your favourite artist to propose him something. With one email, you can upload your music on all the biggest streaming platforms.
Of course, it’s not that easy. Answers won’t be positive every day, it’s a hard world to promote your productions, but there is no filter in the process. If the music is good, people will always catch up and ask for more. You can build your label within a day if the product is good, it will always reach an audience. But you have to work your ass off.
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The concept behind Access, your record label and fashion brand, is “the true intersection between fashion and underground club music”. It is very interesting to see how you intertwine both of them. Could you tell us more about this concept? Fashion has always been important in music – from pop to hip hop –, but do you think it’s become more significant in the electronic music culture lately?
I found in Access my main language for everything. My pivotal moment of the year on this topic will be the Access Night in Badaboum with Parisian promoters called Dure Vie. After a long time trying to make this night happen, the time has come. It’s gonna be on April 30th, and I want to have the total force with me on this.
I presented this year the Access clothing line in the UK, collaborating with the biggest wholesale website for independent streetwear, called Everpress. With some top-selling scores over 2019, we pushed the Access Univers Shirt to a regular stream of income. It’s a big achievement for me to be able to diversify mediums without compromising anything. It’s happening naturally, organically.
In addition to the new record label, what are your projects for the upcoming months? Should we expect more releases, music festivals…?
Summer season is already at the door and I will be touring a lot, mainly in Ibiza – at Hi for Saturdays – but also at Circoloco. A lot of music festivals as well are being confirmed these last months, and a US and South American tour as well. And a lot of releases coming, will announce something hardcore in next months! Stay tuned.
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