Paris is Raving

Words by Bella Spratley
Photos courtesy of the Museum of Youth Culture

Mourir au club (to die in the club) is emblazoned on a raver circa 2018 dancing in a sweating warehouse on the outskirts of Paris. It’s pre-Covid and arguably pre- the club’s own temporary death. Now, the same queer industrial and gabber techno movement has raised like a phoenix from the ashes. We chat to the scene insiders to get the scoop on what’s changed.

Oeshixa is one of many new organisers taking up space like timeless Flash Cocotte and Possession have been doing for years. Their manifesto is simple: identity-freedom and partying.

These raves are political, like Le Consulat Voltaire, a venue which supported migrants, providing a roof over their tents in 2018. Today, they still host radical talkers and DJs and the people behind the decks reflect the highly diverse dancing masses.

Who is spinning the best tunes right now? Louisahhh and DJ Nomad mix classic bangers with fresh sounds. Together, we trace the trajectory of techno, the quite literally riotous Fusion Mes Couilles, Concrete closing its doors in 2019, and these DJs’ personal histories with migration. At a party for misfits, it makes sense to put us on the decks.

In the beginning…

At the beginning, it was a protest. Outsiders were imbued in techno’s industrial sounds. These beats echoed the car makers’ strikes and 1967 civil rights activism in Detroit that birthed the genre (Ash Lauryn). Migration seemed to be a big part of techno too. Since its birth in Detroit within the African American community, techno travelled around the world, gaining a more industrial edge in Berlin and the US. It’s agreed by Lousiahhh and DJ Nomad that migration is important to the history of techno and their own personal stories.

Paris’ rebellious spirit was the perfect place to cultivate these DJs, techno, the mainstream and the alternative. In Place de la Republique in 2018-19, there were different protesters of different nationalities on the square fighting for justice almost every day. At the same time, raves were a place in which those borders of nationality, politics and language were broken down. Regardless of the DJ, everyone is there for the same thing: freedom. Techno’s industrial beating heart sounds of solidarity. Jean-Yves Leloup remembers even in the 90s audiences were diverse. “A blend of punks, gays and disco fans came together,” including people behind the decks like queer Algerian DJ Frédéric Djaaleb.

From the 90s to now raves are still a melting pot. Techno has the “pirate-like ability to seize and appropriate places,” (Jean-Yves Leloup) through sound, physical inhabitancy, and dancers’ euphoric love. Whilst minority representation behind the decks was harder to find, raves were organised on early internet Minitel, as well as person to person flyering, which created the inclusive space ready for our favourite DJs to rise up online too.

Louisahhh, an American who’s lived in Paris as a DJ for a decade recounts, “My ‘lineage’ is probably more rooted in something more ‘low brow’ than techno in its purist form: Daft Punk and ROule Records evolving into Ed Banger, with Busy P, Justice and DJ Mehdi as kind of poster children for a ‘bloghaus’ explosion of the early 2000s. This spawned lots of smaller labels like Sound Pellegrino, Institubes and Bromance, which I came to France on the back of.” Later collaborating with Maelstrom, Louisahhh created her own label RAAR in 2015. “Of course, [there are] innumerable talents and inspirations that have come out of France (aside from the aforementioned Maelstrom): Miss Kittin, The Hacker, David Carretta, Laurent Garnier, Terrence Fixmer, DJ Chloe and so many others have been important players in the global musical landscape that France has exported.” With a sound birds eye view of the Paris techno and rave scene, she also noted that a big difference between America and France is funding for the underground.


Potentially with this sort of help, to counter the lack of diversity, Anne-Claire founded Possession techno – one of the best-known queer rave organisers in Paris. She wrote, “Back in 2015, parties beyond the heteronorm hadn’t really been part of Paris’ rave scene.” In 2017, parties like hers at Fusion Mes Couilles, Flash Cocotte and Concrete felt like a renaissance; somewhere to lose yourself. There was a complete disorientation of codes: dress, sexual and otherwise, that verged on anarchic. You went there to have fun, never to judge, but also to exchange radical ideas. Honey Djion said “Berghain is utopia, no body shame…” So was Concrete. According to Time Out, “Concrete may have closed its doors in 2019, but that Quai de la Rapée mega-club fast became a true destination, almost rivalling Berlin’s Berghain in rep, mystique and programming scope.” Those were the days.

So, where is the culture pulsating out of? Lousiahhh notes, “It would be remiss to discuss France’s musical culture without mentioning funding. Art (including electronic music) and artists get a lot of funding, and this helps promoters, festivals, venues and musicians have an ecosystem where it’s possible to make brave choices and try new things. It’s possible for people to make a living from their art without pandering (too much) to broader commercial tastes.” This then allows the alternative to attract large audiences. “Their events have become so popular they’ve generated roadblocks at best and street riots at worst” writes Boiler Room of Flash Cocotte, the organisers who, pre-covid, welcomed DJs from across the globe to Paris. It was chaotic, but it was beautiful. That’s rave.


DJ Nomad came up post-covid due to the new space for illegal and or underground parties to attract crowds when larger clubs had suffered or closed. On migration and the Parisian techno rave scene he so deeply inhabits, he states; “The music we know and love today as ‘techno’ has been around for a long time and has been taken out of its original political and social context of the 1980s African American community. Its growth and spread globally has allowed it to become what it is today. Even though nowadays there is this element of elitism in techno, I still believe the core foundation of music being used by marginalised communities as a freedom of expression exists today and should be acknowledged and embraced.” I couldn’t put it better myself and that’s what selectors like DJ Nomad, Louisahhh and DJ Garbage are championing – sounds and identities that are on the margins. Despite the challenging post-covid gig economy, the feedback loop between DJ and dancer prevails. But this new thirst for popular familiar music has also made space for less experienced DJs too.

From DIY punk like Throbbing Gristle, DJ Nomad’s aesthetics of the ‘contemporary rockstar’ were born. Shredded jeans and a tight polo. His belief and optimism in this nightlife is palpable, “The simplicity of the 4 on the floor drum beats creates a rhythm that is non-discriminatory. I feel like it taps into a primal part of your brain.” The secretly organised squat raves he DJs, or the more overtly feminine spaces like Dyketopia are both inclusive and exclusive, built for those outsider identities that want a place of belonging inside a close and wider society. “This illusion of outsiders vs insiders is probably a reflection of where we stand in society,” mused DJ Nomad.

It is intersectionality with technology at its core that is equalising the techno space in Paris. “As for feeling like a modern day rockstar, in history I believe the easiest way for someone, or a collective of people to evoke these emotions was to pick up an instrument and play it live. Nowadays I feel like one person can achieve the same thing using CDJS and get the whole club going crazy[… ] Amplified by the do it yourself ideology of the punk movement, I would definitely consider myself as a contemporary rockstar. First came the ideology, then came the movement and defining aesthetic.”

Paris is raving from dusk til dawn from 90s til now. Thanks to migration, techno and the people who take a chance on the genre, we can find a freedom like no other in warehouses and clubs across the city. Showing up on the dancefloor, behind the decks, at funding offices or as renegade organisers, love is in reach. Freedom for the people needs support from the people. As long as we have solidarity, we’ll have ecstatic dancing however the movement changes. Rave will live forever.