The French DJ and producer Philippe Zdar has died after accidentally falling from a building in Paris, his agent has said. He was thought to be 52 years old.
Zdar, born Philippe Cerboneschi, and Hubert Blanc-Francard had produced tracks for the French rapper MC Solaar before founding the dance music duo Cassius in 1989.
They rose through the pioneering Paris electronic music scene known as French touch, producing remixes for groups such as Air. Zdar also formed Motorbass with Etienne de Crécy and released one album, Pansoul, in 1996.
Zdar’s solo production for other artists earned him a reputation in his own right. He stepped in to save Phoenix’s 2000 debut album, United, when sessions with the initial producer went awry. His next fully fledged work with the French soft-rock group was with their 2009 breakout album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which won the Grammy award for best alternative music album in 2010.
Zdar credited the runaway success of the Phoenix album and its pairing of hip-hop-inspired production with rock guitars for the evolution of his career, with personal heroes such as the Beastie Boys and Cat Power asking to work with him as a result of the record. He worked with Kanye West on a Cassius-inspired song, Why I Love You, from West and Jay-Z’s 2011 album Watch the Throne. He also worked on Phoenix’s subsequent albums, 2013’s Bankrupt and 2017’s Ti Amo.
Known by his collaborators for his joie de vivre, he once described his philosophy as a producer to the Fader magazine: “Some people want to go to the top of K2, but have a helicopter come and take them to the top, voilà! Me, I will be the alpinist. I will never be happy listening to the album finished without me having done all these things before, you know? It’s craftsmanship.”
Zdar’s peers paid tribute to him. Mark Ronson described him as “a true, true legend whose influence hangs over not just dance but indie, hip hop, all of it”, while Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand – who worked with Zdar on their 2018 album Always Ascending – credited his “impeccable” taste and “huge joy for life, generosity and passion”.
“Philippe Zdar was such a huge inspiration,” said the producer Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend. He recalled comparing one of his own songs to Zdar’s production of 1901 by Phoenix “as the benchmark of an incredible mix, nothing could touch it”.
The Australian electronic band Cut Copy described Zdar as “a true original and unique talent who was involved in making our first album, as well as so many amazing records. Your energy and generosity will be sorely missed.” The Black Madonna, a music producer, called him “a visionary and tectonic force who shaped the geography of modern dance music”.
Cassius’s latest album, Dreems, is set for release this Friday. Zdar produced Hot Chip’s latest album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, also out Friday.