CHAT: Laurent Garnier

The French Godfather of techno pours his heart out to yours truly about technology’s influence on music, what techno means to him and the awesomeness of Zouk’s boss, Lincoln Cheng.

You’ve been DJing since the late 80s how do you think music has developed over the years?
I think music has developed with technology. I don’t like the word dictate but I think technology have impacted the way we listen. Similar to (how we share) pictures and videos. Music has evolved, production has gotten much better and so have the mixes. Music wise, it is interesting that (in this generation) we have probably explored every corner of the music world. We went as hard, as minimal and as funky as we’ve ever gotten.

Has 2011 started off insanely for you?
Yes and no. 2010 started off as a busy year with my tours with Live.Booth.Session (LBS), and that took us to Brazil and many other countries. I also did some stage shows with acclaimed French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. This year has been good but I am looking forward to take a break to start working on productions again.

Which moment in your life propelled your career to what it is today?
My migration to London was the spark. I’ve always wanted to play music since I was 12; whether as a DJ or as a radio presenter. Back then, these professions weren’t that popular. I guess the turning point was when I was playing in the Rex Club in Paris. I was a resident there on every Thursday; and the people and the boss there have deeply influenced my career today.

During that time, what kind of music were you more influenced in?
Detroit techno alongside house music when the latter just started to take off. I was DJing at Haçienda club in Manchester but we didn’t have enough house records to carry off a stable night. So at that time, I played everything from hip hop, to old electro and go-go music. Then it went to house, Chicago house and then Detroit techno. To me techno is the essence of everything I liked –housey, rough cuts, urban hip hop vibes and so on. Techno has always been about freedom, it has a little bit of everything in it.

Gnanmankoudji -LBS epic live version @-Panorama bar BERLIN-Nov 2010 by laurent garnier


And your current sound would be?
My definition of techno could be very different from yours or your reader’s perception. For me techno embraces all and defines everything in music.

How is your creative process like when you go into production?
I like to be on my own. I start on my own, work on a skeleton, a rough sketch and I will invite other musicians in after I’ve done my part. Even when musicians come in and work on their parts, I will ask them to leave after they are done so I can mix it all together by myself. Creativity in isolation. It’s more of a frustration because I am not an instrumentalist. I can’t play drums as good as my drummer does or the keyboards as good as my keyboardist. I do write and produce the tracks but I am not able to play the instruments by myself, and therefore I need time on my own to work on my music. It’s a kind of frustration that I am not able to (freely) express myself the way I want it.

But Tales of a Kleptomaniac in 2009 was still an awesome release nevertheless, are there any plans to head back to the studio?
After Kleptomaniac, I was touring intensively with LBS and also worked on Angelin Preljocaj’s ballet show, suivront 1000 ans de calme (A Thousand Years of Peace). We also produced a CD from that show and there were only 2,000 units which were sold out within the first few months. From late last year till now, I’ve already been working on new tracks with LBS and we finish a track after every month or so. We’ll test it out live during our gigs and fine tune it every now and then. So yes, I am looking to release another album around the middle of this year.

Talking about your gigs, where do you like to play?
Japan has always been my favorite. I love the clubs and how they design it and these clubs know that it’s not just about a room with four walls. The crowds are musically educated and are deeply passionate about the music. I am careful about what I play because my job is to try to make every night special. I am lucky that there will be that one night that everything comes together out of many. And since it is my responsibility to make every night special and it doesn’t happen all the time, I do get frustrated.

I doubt you’ll be frustrated at Zouk when you play live with Scan and Benjamin Rippert of your LBS fame. What can we expect?
With LBS we play live. It might sound just like any ordinary DJ set but we mix it up with live instruments from both Scan and Rippert. Everything flows together like a proper mix and in similar tempo. We’ll do a 5 minutes live set, then 3 to 5 records mixing after and so on. We build the tracks live and are very influenced by what we see on the dancefloor.

You’ve played in Zouk many-a-times, what’s your impression of the club?
It’s an amazing club. (To me,) behind every good club is a good person and he (Lincoln Cheng) is absolutely passionate about music. He’s not young but he still comes in and sees the DJ and enjoys what he does. This guy is crazy about music and that’s where his heart is –Zouk is where his heart is. Zouk is super amazing.

Head on to Laurent Garnier ‘Live.Booth.Sessions’ feat. SCAN X & Benjamin Rippert on Feb 18,10pm. Zouk, 17 Jiak Kim St., 6738-2988. $28.00-33.00 includes two drinks.