House may have been christened by Chicago’s The Warehouse, but it was New York’s underground that really laid the foundations for the genre to blossom. The Big Apple is a city with dance music in its DNA, and Jacques Renault is a man fully ingrained in its scene, co-running the itchy footed Let’s Play House parties and looked-to imprint of the same name.
Born in Washington DC suburbia, and raised on a diet of (whisper it) hardcore, post-punk and leftfield rock, Jacques upped sticks to Chicago to continue his studies in the viola. Where he quickly realised that the classical world wasn’t his true calling — which may have been something to do with him seeing Daft Punk headline a rave.
“Every once in a while I bring out my viola or trumpet and record something special for a track,” he explains, speaking to DJ Mag. “But after years of being in orchestras and jazz bands I never really regret leaving that world to focus on what I do today.”
Scoring a residency at Smart Bar and gig as a buyer at Gramaphone Records, he later found himself drawn to NYC, where he’s spent most of his time since the mid-’00s playing shows.
Not solely content with spinning, the disco and house impresario has enjoyed success in many areas of the game. His CV is exhausting. He owns thousands of records, as well as three plants, which are “doing better than ever!” he glows.
“I still go to the record shops every week buying old and new. It’s good to see that younger people buying dance 12”s these days and more than ever in the states. That means that more distributors are stocking records and we don’t have to always buy from the EU or Discogs.”
Despite having produced for quite some time, it’s only now — 10 years in — that he’s releasing his first long player, titled ‘Zentrum’. “Every European city has a centre, their own zentrum,” he elaborates on the name of the album, which counts Marcos Cabral (who makes up the other half of Runaway with Renault), The Emperor Machine, The Rapture’s Luke Jenner and vocalist Karl Dixon as collaborators.
“With so many artists featured I wanted to make it come full circle and back to me; I am sort of an equaliser, a balancer, the stabilising force.”
The LP — a diverse slice of shimmery disco, cosmic synths and classic house — is a product of the human beings around him; “all my tastes in a nutshell”, he nods.
“The creative community that I surround myself with inspired me to make the album how it is. Since I had the opportunity to work in super-studios, I was into the idea of inviting multiple friends to record with me and make it a little more eclectic,” he explains. Referencing both New York disco and groove-laden Chicago rhythms, the cities he’s inhabited have made audible impacts on his work as much as his homies.
Much like his CV, his discography is equally exhaustive. He’s released a string of huge 12”s, remixes and edits on Let’s Play House (his imprint with pal Nik Mercer that’s charted HNNY, Francis Inferno Orchestra, Urulu, Luke Solomon, Fantastic Man and Tippy Toes), as well as DFA, Permanent Vacation, Hole In The Sky, Mystery Meat and his own On The Prowl.
But how does he manage to be so prolific as a producer? Apparently, it’s tackling the mundane that allows the genius to surface. “Sometimes it’s best to cross off the small tasks for me to do what I really want to do” he reveals. “A clean kitchen, laundry runs, or even a haircut always gives me a fresh start and a positive mindset.”
One thing’s for certain: Renault will continue to ride the waves of underground credibility. “Music is my passion and it’s taken me all over and I’m super thankful for that,” he concludes humbly.
Something that’s surely enabled the Twin Peaks-referencing DJ to stay on top is his easygoing nature and sense of humour, as the naming of recent release ‘Fromage À Trois’ and his slew of Larry David and Macaulay Culkin instagrams would suggest.
“I have Arrested Development on all the time, does the fact that I know almost every line of season three count as a hobby?!” he wonders. In an age where posers and chin-strokers are no strangers to the dancefloor, it’s good to see one more joker in the pack.