Philippe Zdar of French House Pioneers Cassius Dies at 50


Philippe Zdar, a founding member of French house music duo Cassius, has reportedly died in an accident in Paris. He was 50.

"He made an accidental fall, through the window of a high floor of a Parisian building," his agent Sebastien Farran told the BBC and AFP, though no other details surrounding his death have been announced. 

Active as a recording artist since the ‘80s, Zdar (borne Philippe Cerboneschi) linked up with Hubert Blanc-Francard (aka Boom Bass) in 1994, initially producing hip-hop under the La Funk Mob moniker. Two years later, they found their groove with house music, hit upon the name Cassius and emerged out of a scene which propelled Daft Punk and AIR into the international spotlight. 

Zdar, who grew up in the south of France and formed an early love of jazz, also created Motorbass with Etienne De Crécy, a collaboration that worked with the elite of the so-called “French touch” movement, from Alex Gopher to DJ Mehdi, and of course Daft Punk and Air. Motorbass also released the acclaimed 1996 album Pansoul, which they released through the Motorbass label. Today, it’s recognized as a landmark recording in the French house genre.

Cassius’ debut album 1999 was issued in that year through Virgin, peaking at No. 28 in the U.K. The title track reached No. 7 on the U.K. singles survey, one of five Cassius works to impact the chart.

Their 2002 tune “The Sound of Violence” with vocals from Steve Edwards hit No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. 

The duo were in-demand DJs and producers, working with the likes of Phoenix, MC Solaar and others, and their most recent Cassius artist album, 2016’s Ibifornia, featured assists from Ryan Tedder, Beastie Boy Mike D, Cat Power, Pharrell Williams and more. 

A new studio album Dreems was due to drop this Friday (June 21).  

Tributes are pouring in from the dance and electronic music communities. Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo wrote, “RIP to one of our dearest friends and musical collaborators.”

Australian act Flight Facilities tweeted, “Cassius and Zdar laid the groundwork for a lot of today’s dance music. Hugely inspirational.” 

And fellow Australian act The Aston Shuffle tweeted, “Shocked & devastated by the news of Philippe Zdar's passing away, he was responsible for so much amazing & influential music, truly a tragic loss."