Julian Casablancas
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Julian Casablancas

Julian Casablancas
Julian Casablancas Belfort 2010.jpg
Julian Casablancas at Eurockéennes 2010
Born
Julian Fernando Casablancas

(1978-08-23) August 23, 1978 (age 40)
Occupation
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Years active1998-present
Juliet Joslin (m. 2005)
Children2
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
  • drums
  • synthesizer
  • vocoder
  • sampler
Labels
Websitejuliancasablancas.com

Julian Fernando Casablancas (born August 23, 1978)[1] is an American musician, singer, songwriter and record producer. He is best known as the lead singer of the American rock bands, The Strokes (founded in 1998) and The Voidz, founded in 2013. In the midst of The Strokes' hiatus between the release of their third and fourth album, Casablancas embarked on his solo career, during which the album Phrazes for the Young was released in November 2009, as well as a multitude of collaborations with several other artists on their work- examples being The Lonely Island's 2009 album Incredibad and Daft Punk's 2013 album Random Access Memories.

In conjunction with the release of his solo album, Casablancas founded the independent record label, Cult Records in 2009.[2] In June 2014 Cult Records entered a label services agreement with Kobalt, and currently represents artists such as The Growlers, Rey Pila, Karen O, and several others.[3]

Early life

Casablancas was born in New York City to business mogul John Casablancas, the founder of Elite Model Management, and Jeanette Christiansen, a Danish former model and Miss Denmark (1965).[4][5] When Casablancas was eight, his parents divorced. He once stated that he wanted to be closer to his father, and this, "translated into teenage rebelliousness."[6] His mother subsequently married painter Sam Adoquei.[7] Adoquei helped shape Casablancas' early musical taste by exposing him to music such as The Doors, which was markedly different from the mostly Phil Collins-influenced music he listened to as a child.[8]

Casablancas knew the bassist of The Strokes, Nikolai Fraiture since they were six,[9] while both were attending Lycée Français de New York.[10][11] When he was 13, Casablancas' father sent him to Institut Le Rosey, a boarding school in Switzerland, where he met future Strokes member Albert Hammond Jr.[12] Casablancas later returned to New York and attended Dwight School with two other future Strokes, Nick Valensi and Fabrizio Moretti.[13][12] Casablancas never finished high school, but took a GED and continued to take music classes at Five Towns College, where he says he first enjoyed himself in class.[14][15][16]

Career

The Strokes (1998-present)

With The Strokes in 2006

Casablancas met guitarist Nick Valensi and drummer Fab Moretti and played together at the Dwight School in Manhattan. He reconnected with guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. when the latter moved to New York. The band was formed in 1998 when Hammond was accepted into the band,[17] with Casablancas as the lead vocalist and main songwriter.[18]

The band began rehearsing a fourteen-song set which included "Alone, Together", "Barely Legal", "Last Nite", "The Modern Age", "New York City Cops", "Soma", "Someday", "Take It or Leave It" and "This Life" (an early version of "Trying Your Luck"). Most of these songs now feature different lyrics. A demo sent to the newly reformed Rough Trade Records in the UK sparked interest there, leading to their first release via the website of the UK magazine NME who gave away a free mp3 download of "Last Nite" a week prior to the physical release as part of The Modern Age EP in 2001. The EP sparked a bidding war among record labels, the largest for a rock and roll band in years. Shortly after, The Strokes' critically acclaimed debut album Is This It was released.

The band has received the highest of praise for Is This It, and it set the stage for what people expected to "save rock" in the new millennium.[19] Though some would argue that such statements left unreasonably sized shoes to fill, The Strokes are still highly recognized as one of the most influential garage rock bands of the early 2000's, paving the way for many new alternative bands to come.[20]

Statistically, all albums released following their debut were not nearly as successful or well-received by fans and critics. [21] In an excerpt from Lizzie Goodman's Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011- named after The Strokes' track- Strokes guitarist, Albert Hammond Jr comments, "With Room on Fire [2003], people were giving us shit because they said we were sounding too much the same. With the third album [First Impressions of Earth], we were getting shit that we don't sound like Room on Fire. We got fucked by the same thing twice!"[22]

After the release of the two other albums and several major tours, the band took a 5-year break before returning with their fourth album Angles in 2011.[23] The five year hiatus was said to be the result of conflicting solo projects, sobriety issues, and unspoken emotions. Commenting on the emotional tension, Strokes drummer Fab Moretti claimed, "There were a lot of emotions that were kept secret but were so evident. We didn't know how to process them, (a) because we were children and, (b) because it's hard to process subliminal subconscious volcanic emotions.[22]

Though their creative processes has been critiqued by outside observers as "a democracy under a dictator"[24], Casablancas has encouraged each band member to contribute their own ideas and collectively sort through which ones will potentially turn into something more.[25] Commenting on the meticulous nature of Julian's creative process, guitarist, Nick Valensi, has said, "his ear is so sharp. He's the one with the ear for detail in this band. Creatively, he is a force to be reckoned with."[24]Angles is said to reflect the beginning of the more collaborative nature of the band's creative process.[26]

The album release was followed by several headlining appearances at musical festivals, including Reading, Coachella, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.[27]The band released Comedown Machine in 2013, as their last album under the contract with long-time label RCA, for which they did no promotion.[28] The band released an EP, Future Present Past, on Casablancas' own label Cult Records in 2016.[29]

Solo projects (2009-present)

Casablancas, 2009

As a solo artist, Casablancas set out with an intention to say what was on his mind, both musically and lyrically.[30] Speaking on his experience as a solo artist versus releasing music with The Strokes, the singer has put it simply, "it's like touring with me or with five of me," meaning that each member has their own opinionated state of mind. While such statements raised much concern for the relations between the band members, Casablancas claims that in pursuit of a solo career, he is protecting the integrity of the [Strokes] vibe.[31] In having a musical project separate from The Strokes, he is able to "chase down any idea [he] wants", which he would refrain from doing with the band.[32]

His first solo album, Phrazes for the Young (inspired by the Oscar Wilde book "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young"), was released on November 2 in the UK and November 3, 2009, in the United States.[33] Recorded in Omaha, Nebraska, and Casablancas' home city New York, the album was produced by Jason Lader, with additional production from Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis.[34] The album was strongly influenced by new wave and electronica, with Casablancas utilizing synthesizers for many songs. He discussed his new influences by saying "I would've gone weirder with the music, but I wanted to be smart. I didn't want people to say, 'Okay, this is his weird abstract thing,' and dismiss the album. I worked too hard on it for that to happen...I wanted to be crazy original and bridge the gap between traditional music and modern music."[35]

Julian Casablancas made his live solo debut for a private party for fashion brand Opening Ceremony in Tokyo, Japan.[36] To celebrate the release of the EP, Casablancas performed a series of shows in October 2009 at The Downtown Palace Theatre in Los Angeles with his live show band, The Sick Six. Members of The Sick Six include Jeff Kite (keyboard), Nelson London (synthesizer), JP Bowersock (guitar), Danielle Haim (percussion) and Alex Carapetis (drums).[37] Casablancas then toured with The Sick Six in Europe, United States, Australia and Japan from November 2009 until July 2010.[38][39][40]

Casablancas composed an original song, "I Like The Night", as part of his endorsement deal to represent Azzaro's new men's fragrance, Decibel, dB. The Azzaro Decibel television commercial featuring Julian aired in France on September 1, 2011.[41]

Casablancas also hosted a monthly music show Culture Void on Sirius XMU between May 2016 and February 2017, where the singer curated and shared some music across genres.[42]

Julian Casablancas + The Voidz performing at The Coronet, 2014

The Voidz (2013-present)

Casablancas' most recent project of focus, The Voidz, formerly known as Julian Casablancas + The Voidz, was formed in 2013. Along with Casablancas as lead vocalist, the band consists of Jeramy "Beardo" Gritter and Amir Yaghmai on guitar, Jacob "Jake" Bercovici on bass (as well as synthesizer), Alex Carapetis on drums and percussion, and Jeff Kite on keyboard[43]. Wanting to earn a greater sense of respect as a band, rather than be perceived as simply a "side-project" of Julian's, the band officially changed their name from "Julian Casablancas + The Voidz" to simply "The Voidz" during an 'initiation' video on the band's YouTube page on December 8, 2017.[44][45] . Julian performed with Carapetis and Kite throughout the tour for his solo album, Phrazes for the Young. Through Carapetis, Casablancas met Gritter and Bercovici. Bercovici, having played music with Yaghmai for several of years, then connected him to Casablancas, forming what is now known as The Voidz.[46]

Though the band's sound has not always been well received, The Voidz aim to "bridge the gap" between music that is both aggressive and complex.[30] They share the goal of "representing things unseen" and "exploring [music] from the margins", as Jake [Bercovici] has said.[47] Inspired by the complex nature of Middle Eastern music scales, Casablancas claims to be more interested in "the in between notes" than the traditional 7 note scale of Western music.[48] The band is bound by a mutual love for powerful music that does not gain much attention in mainstream media, which is embodied in Julian's record company, Cult Records, as well.[47] Julian claims that his work with The Voidz is simply an "evolution of the same mission" [as with The Strokes][49], but The Voidz are more aligned with the type of music with which he would like to experiment, moving forward.[50] Though the Voidz remain a more active musical entity, both bands are still currently represented under Cult Records.

In June 2014 Casablancas announced he would be releasing the debut album, Tyranny. The album would be released on his own label, Cult Records[51] and coincided with his move to Upstate New York.[7] On September 23, 2014, the album was released, followed by a tour in the United States and United Kingdom.[52] The album features the 11-minute single "Human Sadness", a song whose demo was originally composed for the soundtrack of The Unseen Beauty, a short documentary film which profiled Casablancas' stepfather, artist Sam Adoquei.[53] The group revealed dates for a South American tour in August 2017.[54]

On March 30, 2018 The Voidz released their second album, titled Virtue.[55] The album takes on a more political stance, dissecting universal concepts such as the paradox between what is perceived as "truth" and "lies", when taking multiple perceptual view points into consideration.[56] The album features track, "Pyramid of Bones", which was featured on Adult Swim in April 2018, along with their single "Coul as a Ghoul" on the Adult Swim's Singles Program.[57][58]

Music & Politics

In recent years, Julian has become increasingly more vocal about his political interests, and has concluded that there is a direct parallel between politics and music.[48] Though he claims the reelection of George W. Bush was the catalyst for his political intrigue, this link between political thought and music became much more evident upon the 2018 release of The Voidz' album, Virtue, through which he more explicitly expresses politically-charged ideas.[49] Doing so, Casablancas explains, is using his music as a "means to an end to make the world a better place."[49] The music industry, according to Casablancas, operates quite similarly to the political world, where "whoever's propaganda's the loudest" is what is popular, regardless of its quality.[48]

In 2016 Casablancas interviewed Henry Giroux, during which they discuss the idea of whether or not the average American identifies that there are still existing struggles and conflicts that need to be addressed within the country.[59] Amongst various other issues impending on society today, Casablancas is most concerned with the idea that institutions have become more powerful than democratic government.[49] He proposes that there is a perpetual conflict between those who understand that the democratic nature of the U.S. is lost and those who seek to keep it that way.[49] It is in this way that the music industry reflects the nature of politics- quality and integrity is compromised under the control of capitalist greed.

Casablancas cites some of his most politically influential figures as Oliver Stones, Chris Hedges, Jesse Ventura, and Howard Zinn.[48][49] He notes Martin Luther King Jr. as his favorite philosopher, whose work, Casablancas claims, held truth as an important standard value.[49] He recognizes Paul Robeson as someone who used his musical platform to help further his serious political intrigue and as someone who, therefore, serves as a role model for politically engaged musicians.[48]

Casablancas has been a guest on the Russian sponsored program Redacted Tonight, as well as included its host, Lee Camp, as an opener for a Voidz show in Houston, Texas in October 2018.[49]

Collaborations

Casablancas, along with the Strokes, provided vocals on a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" with Joshua Homme on drums and Eddie Vedder on backup vocals. The cover was released in 2006 as the B-side to "You Only Live Once". Casablancas also provided bass guitar and backing vocals on Albert Hammond, Jr.'s "Scared" on his solo album Yours to Keep. He subsequently played a Casio guitar and provided backing vocals on "Sick, Sick, Sick" by Queens of the Stone Age.[60]

In 2008, he recorded a song with Santigold (then known as Santogold) and Pharrell of N*E*R*D called "My Drive Thru" for a Converse advertising campaign.[61] During his solo phase, he recorded "Boombox" with Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer of The Lonely Island for their 2009 debut album Incredibad, and was featured in an SNL Digital Short for the same song.[62] In addition, he also recorded "I Wish It Was Christmas Today", a festive song based on a Saturday Night Live skit made popular by Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan. Casablancas performed the song live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on December 21, 2009, together with The Roots, Horatio Sanz and Jimmy Fallon. He also appeared in the 100th Digital Short, which aired on May 12, 2012. Casablancas also collaborated with Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse on the song "Little Girl" on the 2010 album, Dark Night of the Soul, contributing the lyrics, lead and backing vocals, and guitar solo.[63] Aside from vocal collaborations, he also contributed to a song, "Forrest Gump", on Digitalism's sophomore album I Love You, Dude in 2011. The electronica duo initiated a collaboration with Casablancas through his manager, and Casablancas contributed 'a 30-second recording with him on guitar' via email.[64]

Casablancas also lent his vocals to the title track, "Rave On", on a 2011 tribute album to Buddy Holly, Rave On Buddy Holly.[65] In 2016, Casablancas contributed three specially recorded The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed covers - Venus in Furs,[66]Run Run Run[67] and White Light/White Heat,[68] under the title White Light White Heat (rock n roll animal live era version) - to the HBO television series, Vinyl.[69] The songs were subsequently released on various soundtracks to the series by Atlantic Records.

Casablancas worked with Daft Punk on their 2013 album Random Access Memories by contributing lyrics, vocals, and a guitar solo to their song "Instant Crush".[70][71][72] The album won the 2013 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, with Casablancas as one of the co-recipients of the award.[73]

In April 2015, it was revealed that Casablancas had worked on a song with Savages' Jehnny Beth. The collaboration was later announced to be a cover of "Boy/Girl", a 1983 duet by Danish punk band Sort Sol and Lydia Lunch.[74] The music video, directed by Warren Fu, was released on December 4, 2015. The 7" was released through both Cult Records and Pop Noire Records on December 18, 2015.[75] Casablancas also wrote the song "Youth Without Love" for Har Mar Superstar's 2016 album Best Summer Ever,[76] and is featured on "No One There", a song by Indian-born musician, Hammarsing Kharhmar (Exhibition).[77]

Julian Casablancas and The Voidz at Lollapalooza Chile, 2014

Cult Records

In 2009, Casablancas founded Cult Records, the creative imprint for his solo album Phrazes for the Young. The label subsequently signed a partnership agreement with Kobalt Label Services in 2014, which includes representation and product management, physical distribution across multiple territories, digital distribution through AWAL, marketing and sync licensing services.[78] Cult currently represents The Growlers, Har Mar Superstar, Songhoy Blues, Rey Pila, Karen O, Promiseland, The Strokes, The Voidz, Exhibition and Cerebral Ballzy. The label has also released works of Albert Hammond Jr., The Virgins, Reputante, INHEAVEN, Exclamation Pony and Nelson London (C O L O R).

Casablancas served as a co-producer on Rey Pila's album released on Cult, The Future Sugar.[79] In August 2016, Cult Records announced a new album with The Growlers, a Southern California-based band. It was also announced that Casablancas himself was producing the album, later known as City Club.[80]

Musical influences

Casablancas claims that one of his earliest musical influences was The Doors- musically and instrumentally, in particular, rather than through the identity of Jim Morrison as a frontman.[45] He has also cited Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground as a major influence on his lyrics and singing style. "The way Lou Reed wrote and sang about drugs and sex, about the people around him -- it was so matter-of-fact," Casablancas stated in a Rolling Stone interview. "Reed could be romantic in the way he portrayed these crazy situations, but he was also intensely real. It was poetry and journalism."

Additionally, he has stated that Bob Marley,[81]Nirvana and Pearl Jam are major influences on his work, the latter being the reason he started making music, upon hearing the song "Yellow Ledbetter".[82] Julian has named Stevie Wonder as being a composer with a "next level mind".[45]

Personal Life

Julian Casablancas' father John Casablancas was a business mogul who founded the Elite Model Management. His second wife, the 1965 Miss Denmark Jeanette Christiansen, is Julian's mother. They divorced when Julian was 6 years old. [83] After the divorce, Jeanette married a classical painter Sam Adoquei. As a stepfather, Sam was a positive influence on Julian and helped him shape his artistic taste.[84] Commenting on Adoquei's influence, Casablancas has claimed, "He taught me everything about art and philosophy. He taught me that the best artists were the ones that worked the hardest."[24]

Julian has several half-siblings, including an elder sister from his father's first marriage,[85] and three other siblings from the third marriage.[86]

In 2005, Julian married Juliet Joslin, who was the assistant manager of The Strokes at the time.[7] Their son, Cal, was born in January 2010.[87] Their second son, Zephyr, was born March 27, 2015.[88]

Julian's father died of cancer in July 2013.[89]

Legacy and Influence

The commercial success and legacy of Julian Casablancas is most attributed to his work with The Strokes- more specifically, to their debut album Is This It. Named number one album of the year by NME and number two by Rolling Stone, Is This It earned Casablancas and The Strokes tremendous respect across various artists in the alternative music scene.[22] Lead singer of LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy, has said, " Is This It was my record of the decade."[22] The album went on to win Best International Album in 2002, nominated by NME, Meteor Music Awards, and ASCAP College Vanguard Award.[90]

The Strokes have been said to be, "as influential to their era as the Velvet Underground or the Ramones were to theirs," by Lizzie Goodman in her book on the New York City music scene, claiming that, "almost every artist I interviewed for this book -- from all over the world -- said it was the Strokes that opened the door for them."[16] The band was named Band of the Year in 2002 by Spin and have heavily influenced bands like The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, and Franz Ferdinand.[91][22]

Courtney Love's song "But Julian, I'm a Little Bit Older Than You", from her debut solo album America's Sweetheart (2004), was written about Julian Casablancas.[92]

He has also served as inspiration for several other musicians and the painter Elizabeth Peyton.[93]

Discography

Solo studio albums

With the Strokes

With the Voidz

References

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