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For over 25 years Laurent Garnier has been at the forefront of electronic dance music. He was there in the late 80s at the birth of acid house, regularly playing at The Haçienda before starting his F Communications label and dominating the world stage for over two decades. Albums like ‘Tales Of A Kleptomaniac’ and ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ pushed the boundaries of what techno could be, and from these LPs came classic tracks such as ‘The Man With The Red Face’, a tune that remains the highlight of many a DJ set to this day. In 2003 Laurent created ‘Pedro’s Broadcasting Basement’, a worldwide, 24-hours-a-day web radio station that’s a veritable treasure chest for those searching for new music. He also presents a weekly radio show called ‘It Is What It Is’, on Le Mouv, where he showcases his love of music outside of techno. Garnier has documented his musical journey (and the history of electronic music) in his book Electrochoc, which is soon to be translated into English. His most recent project was the Live Booth Sessions (LBS), for which he, Benjamin Rippert and Scan X improvised a mixture of DJing with live machines and instruments. Laurent has also composed music for films, television and theatre.
You’ve always been very eclectic in your musical tastes…
That’s why I love doing radio where I’m free to do what I want. The show changes depending on my mood: for example, this week I’m making a show with hip hop artists from Finland and 1970s funk from Thailand. I love finding new music to help others discover more.
So are you ever not in the mood to play techno in a club?
No, because when I play somewhere I know why I’m going there. Plus I’m never in a bad enough mood to not play techno, I love it – it’s my heart. Though I had one guy on Twitter saying, “You fucking ruined my night” because I played a couple of dubstep tunes. Two dubstep tracks in a six-hour set and I ruin his night! If two songs in six hours can ruin your night you’re a pretty weak man. All the way through my career I’ve come across people like that. To be frank, over the years I’ve become a lot more chilled about these kinds of things.
Does DJing still excite you?
Of course! I’m a little older and have started a family. so I limit myself to five or six shows a month, but I’m very lucky that I still attract large crowds that want to dance all night after 25 years in the industry.
On MixmagTV’s ‘DJ Hangouts’ show, Richie Hawtin called EDM “pop music”. Agree?
It is! Ironically, dance music has its roots in America and now many young Americans are listening to EDM without having any idea that it originated in their country. It reminds me of an interview I did with Mike Pickering for my book Electrochoc. In early 1990 he was asked to play in Chicago. Back then we were strictly playing Chicago house. Mike went to Chicago and at the end of the night two or three kids came up to him. They said, “What is this music you’re playing? Where’s it from?”. Mike looked at them and said, “Are you joking? It’s from your neighbourhood!” The funny thing is, twenty years later hundreds of thousands of kids in America are going crazy for EDM. Without America we wouldn’t be listening to what we’re listening to now. So that’s the biggest joke of it all – that they don’t know the background, they don’t know the roots.
Does that annoy you?
Not at all – this music’s been going on for twenty-five years, so I don’t expect an eighteen-year-old to know the history of techno. Kids in America are listening to EDM because of people like David Guetta. I know David well – I worked with him over 20 years ago, and whenever I see him we laugh about it. He says, “Fucking hell, Laurent, I’m a pop artist now!” “Of course you are!” I say, “You’re working with Rihanna and Nicki Minaj.” He’s changed pop music, and changed the way people view pop music. Through guys like him, kids in America are listening to EDM. I’m not into it, it doesn’t talk to me, it’s not my roots. But pop music was never my thing, and if the kids nowadays don’t like the music Hawtin or I play, then what the hell. We’ve been here for twenty years and while times have to change, one thing is for sure: I’m not going to change the music I play and make to please them. However, there’s a lot of new music out there that I’ll incorporate in my set because that’s my job – to be aware of what is happening. That said, I’ve always been a bit funny about this ‘education’ thing; DJs aren’t teachers, but we are there to propose different sounds.
Who do you see as the next generation of true young underground artists?
Producers like Bambounou – he’s only 21 years old and has an amazing album out on 50 Weapons, Modeselektor’s label. And a producer called French Fries, he’s brilliant! For me, those guys are the new generation of French musicians. Their passion and attitude reminds me of myself at their age. In the UK there are tons of talented producers mixing dubstep with techno. It’s really exciting. And it’s not just music, it’s attitude: if you look how things have been going over the past five or six years, with all these social networking sites getting so big, there will be a new generation that will say, “Fuck that, we’re going a different way.”
We hear you plan to knock the whole LBS thing on the head. Is this true?
Yes, every good thing must come to an end, and the final performance will be December 21 in Lyon, France. The first ever LBS was in Lyon, so it will go full circle. We had a nice send-off in the UK – thanks to Yousef for an incredible night at Circus at the Egg, London.
And you’ve had some amazing times…
We’ve done some amazing gigs and LBS changed a lot along the way. Our keyboardist had to stop because he had some heart problems and we had to rework everything because there were just two of us left. It’s changed the way we’ve played music, so I’m very happy. For me, LBS has been a huge success.
Any ideas about what might come next?
I’m going to release a lot of music, and after that I’d like to be doing a new live show by next October. I plan to make something strong, visually, to go with it.
What else have you got coming up?
I’m making a lot of music for choreographers. I composed the music for a really good documentary on sport just before the Olympics, and we’re writing a new chapter for Electrochoc. I’m also finishing off plans for a movie of it
How much creative input will you have in the movie?
I’m writing the screenplay with two other people. It is going to be very different from the book as it’s a lot to get into one film – especially now we’ve written a new hundred-page chapter!
When the English translation comes out we’ll be sure to read it!
Ha! Indeed, if you don’t speak the language, reading it in French could prove difficult…
Laurent Garnier’s remix of Martin Landsky’s ‘1000 Miles’ is out now on Poker Flat.
Watch a live stream of Laurent Garnier in Mixmag's DJ Lab here