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Miss Kittin & The Hacker

Grenoble, France

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It was in 2001. The “Frank Sinatra” electro ditty, with its light melody and Miss Kittin’s cutting sense of humour, has toured the world: “To be famous is so nice. Suck my dick! Lick my ass! In limousines we have sex, every night with my famous friends.” Karl Lagerfeld, Marilyn Manson and Elton John (who says he gave a copy to all his friends) are self proclaimed fans of the duo. With Miss Kittin & The Hacker’s success, the French music scene has found its, unexpected, second wind after the French touch disco loops.

Caroline Hervé (a.k.a. Miss Kittin) and Michel Amato (a.k.a. The Hacker) meet in Grenoble during the early 90s at a rave. This trend, at full tilt in the UK, is slow to pick up in France: “In Grenoble, there must have been about 10 of us who went to techno parties”, remembers The Hacker. For many people of their generation, techno is a musical and cultural slap in the face. The Two Friends both buy decks and become DJs. Their notoriety, essentially on a national scale, grows little by little. In 1996, the French label, Tekmics, asks Miss Kittin to write a track for a compilation. She turns to The Hacker for help (he is already producing tracks under the XMF project and techno themes on his own). The Miss Kittin & The Hacker duo sees the light of day. Their first track is called “Gratin Dauphinois”. Others are soon to follow…

At this time, techno, in the strictest sense of the term, is at its apogee. The tempo often rapid and the music violent, based on a layering of hypnotic loops. Miss Kittin & The Hacker use this style when DJing (Jeff Mills is one of their heroes), but they decide to take a different direction with their compositions, preferring to dive into naïve, free and easy electro-pop. Their arrangements are direct, spontaneous, seemingly unplanned, and mainly generated with basic material (some synths, a beat box, a microphone…). Miss Kittin & The Hacker’s tunes are somewhat unorthodox. Their techno has a song-like format, based on the verse-chorus pop schema and is heavily influenced by the 80s (Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode or New Order in particular).

Munich’s DJ Hell, who is in the process of founding the International DJ Gigolo label, loves the duo’s demos and signs them in 1997. The first Miss Kittin & The Hacker EPs (e.g. “Champagne” and “Intimités”) are an immediate hit, even beyond the Rhine. The hit, “1982” (a throw back to the music of that year), even makes it onto MTV Germany. Another track quickly sets itself apart, “Frank Sinatra”, a distinct and delirious anthem, composed during an afternoon jam in the Ozone record shop studio in Grenoble.

Miss Kittin & The Hacker soon find themselves playing live. An impressive sight to behold: Her, exuberant, front stage, dressed as a dominatrix nurse and Him, in the background, statuesque behind his machines. The ultimate 1980s duo fantasy: The Diva under the burning spotlights and the composer in the shadows. Soon, other artists make names for themselves using the electro-pop glam vocal formula. Tiga and Fisherspooner both become stars under the electroclash banner of which Miss Kittin & The Hacker are recognised as pioneers.

Preceded by a new single version of “Frank Sinatra” (“Frank Sinatra 2001”), “First Album” is released in 2001. This first album revisits the themes that the French seem so fond of: Synthetic smiley and naive electro-pop (“Life On MTV”, “Stock Exchange”…) or darker and pernicious (“Stripper”), distinguished by Miss Kittin’s French accented voice, full of derision. The album earmarks a next step. Touring intensifies, the duo play every weekend and fly to America, Canada and South America…

At the end of the summer of 2002, electroclash reaches its peak. Miss Kittin & The Hacker are at their summit. It’s here that they decide to call it a day. “We were knackered, we needed to take a break, take time out for other projects and not tie ourselves down to one musical style”, admits The Hacker. Many spoke of a split, not true. “We never separated, we just took a long break” grins Miss Kittin.

Late 2002, Miss Kittin & The Hacker, together as well as solo, become points of reference within electronic music. The former is a sought-after voice (collaborating with Felix Da Housecat, Sven Väth…), a DJ star with an eclectic ear (demonstrated by her mix CDs: “Radio Caroline”, “A Bugged Out Mix”…) and with a successful album under her belt (“I Com”, 2004). The latter goes on to become an unrivalled electro and techno DJ, going from EPs to remixes (Marc Almond, Laurent Garnier, Air, Nitzer Ebb…). His career takes a new turn with the success of his second album, “Rêves Mécaniques” (2004), propelled by the hit, “Flesh & Bone”.

Finally, amid their flowering solo careers, the duo once again come together as they did initially, by accident. Throughout 2006, spontaneously, without any pressure and just for the fun, the French duo compose a few tunes together. Two of these come out in the spring of 2007 on the “Hometown” EP (released by Goodlife, founded in 1998 by The Hacker and his friend Oxia). Miss Kittin & The Hacker full of new perspectives and seemingly complementary extremes. “Hometown” encompasses a light, emotional disco theme (in homage to their hometown Grenoble). “Dimanche”, written in Berlin on return from an afterparty, is darker minimal techno influenced by the 1990s raves.

Very quickly a tour is organised. Kicking off with a huge gig in front of thousands of people under the famous “Pont du Gard” bridge in South France, in July. Each date is the same: A massive turnout. The duo uses this experience to define a new on-stage style. Between “revisited” and new tunes (“Belgium”, “PPPO” or the superb cover of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds”), Miss Kittin & The Hacker leave behind electroclash contrariness and unmask a perfectly accessible, more elegant, more mature and more distinct – yet, still pop – side, an appetiser to their next adventures together.

Finally in 2009 we saw their spectacular “TWO” album release. Miss Kittin & The Hacker have not only forged a new path on this impressive collection of new material, but also, by transforming and remodelling their many musical influences, they have fashioned a club-based European cyber-pop of their very own.

The album also features a wonderful, stellar sprinkling of metallic soul, glamorous space disco, glossy vocal nuances, crystalline beats and swirling melodies. The music possesses a sexy androgyny, glistening and pulsating. And the songs? Sometimes narrative, sometimes confessional, direct and alternatively clouded in mystery. Their single releases “1000 Dreams”, “Party In My Head”, “PPPO” can be considered as instant classics.

They had audiences worldwide under their spell with their impressive live show in 2009 and are now taking a break in 2010/2011. Once some new songs are ready, a new live show will start to take shape. In the meantime you can see them on selected occasions as a DJ team on the dancefloor.