Laurent Garnier: ‘A good night with a good DJ is an experiment’
Laurent Garnier has been a driving force within the French electronic music scene. A man who is universally revered for his constant evolution and forward-thinking approach to his career, he is currently in his 25th year as a DJ and will soon be bringing about an end to his well-received LBS Live project. With this in mind, I sat down for a chat with him recently…
Firstly, how does it feel to still be involved in music after 25 years?
It’s great! I love travelling and seeing places, having people come to see me play. It’s wonderful to still feel alive and that I’m doing something interesting. I’m still passionate about it and to have people still into it… it’s really really nice to have that feeling.
And I presume the last 25 years have gone quickly?
It’s gone very fast, but I never look back, I’m not a nostalgic person. I never sat down and thought, “I’ve done it” or “I don’t have to be involved that much because it was better before and now it’s all shit”. I never thought that. For me I still have a lot to say and I want to fight for a lot of things. I never rest, so it’s gone very fast.
The weird thing is, I feel the same as I did when I was 25 or 30, and then I look at the crowd in front of me and they’re half my age. This is the shocking thing about it! It’s gone too fast.
Yeah I find that. It’s because the average age of most people going out is usually 18-25, and that doesn’t really change but obviously we get older so the age gap increases!
Of course, you get people who say, “Oh, there were too many kids in the club”. I say, “No, no, no, there were no kids – you’re getting old mate!”. [Laughs] You were going out at their age, so you can’t complain when they go out. That’s life and, quite frankly, I don’t feel too distant from them. The day I feel really old and look at them and think, “I’m too old for this” is the day I stop. But I don’t feel that, I played in Newcastle at the weekend and yes the crowd was young but, when I see all the feedback on Twitter with people saying, “It was the best night this year!” “The music was incredible!” “Thankyou so much, you had me dancing for five hours!” I think, “Good!”
There isn’t that much of a gap obviously, otherwise they would be saying, “Oh he’s a fucking old fart, shite!” I don’t feel too much of a difference.
I guess you have a young spirit and that keeps you in-tune with your audience.
Probably yes. As a DJ you have to be aware of what’s happening now and incorporate some new stuff in the music you play. I’ve never left my roots – I always have my own sound and the music I love playing. I don’t play a lot of old stuff, I don’t play many old productions – even though it’s the music I’ve defended all my life – I guess there’s one sound that’s defined who I am, which I’ve played for years. I play new stuff, but still with my sound. I’m aware of what’s happening and take from things I like and stay fresh.
So, your show LBS Live is coming to an end, can you explain why you won’t be doing it anymore?
I think every good thing should come to an end. I never felt comfortable with things that became… comfortable. As soon as you do something where it’s, “Oh, it’s LBS, we know it’s good…” I never feel comfortable when it’s like that. I need to be in danger and LBS was a dangerous thing to do. We did amazing gigs, we still get people in and it’s still exciting but I need new challenges. So we’re going to stop LBS and I’m just going to take three months where I just do one gig a month because I need to have time in the studio and to think about tomorrow. I’ve never felt good about dragging things on for years, this is why sometimes I DJ, sometimes I play live – I’m going back to DJing for six months and maybe, after those six months, I’ll want to do something else. Maybe a new live or something like that, I need to keep myself excited.
And that’s the fuel behind such a long career I guess? If you’d have allowed yourself to get stuck in a routine a long while, maybe you wouldn’t have carried on.
Can you imagine if I’d been only DJing for 25 years? At one point I would’ve been completely fucking bored! So this is why I’ve done live shows or done some weird music for choreographers or stuff for the cinema – all these different projects that have kept me hungry and excited. We’re in this artistic world and, if you don’t please yourself, you feel lost. If you lie to yourself, people will hear it straight away. If you do something, do it honestly and do it with your heart because people are not stupid and they understand if you don’t.
Can you recall how you felt about DJing when you first started?
It hasn’t changed for me. It was all about passion, sharing and… I’ve always said DJing is about telling stories. Somebody takes you to a place where you’re on a certain level and, in the next three hours, takes you to another level. It’s an experiment – a good night with a good DJ is an experiment. It’s such a strong experiment that, if you’re there on a very good night, you remember that night for the next twenty years. My job since the beginning has been to find the right way to bring people to a different level and to make a party special. It’s always been about this, working hard… it’s tough! Always trying to understand people and do the best you can, it’s difficult to change every night and do it every night, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to share with people. I’ve never done it in a different frame of mind.
It’s funny because on Monday night I played in a horrible, horrible acoustic place, the music sounded so bad. The idea was people were having dinner and, after the dinner, they would have a dance – so I was playing while they were eating and I knew I would be doing that. A journalist came up to me and said, “The craziest thing about you is you always adapt to the situation”. So I said, “Yeah, that’s my job!” I’m not going to play techno while people are eating their starters. I played soft jazz, some really really soulful blues. My job is to adapt wherever I am. But my job is also to catch their ear… so that every so often when they’re eating, they’re like, “What is this track?!” and they’ll come up to me and ask. I try to do that even in a situation where people are sitting down and eating. I’ve always been like that, from the warehouse days and the rave days to now with the festivals, or anywhere – it’s the same, I’m trying to find the best way to touch people. That’s it.
So, with that in mind, which DJs have left a lasting impression on you?
The last DJ? I don’t know, I haven’t heard a DJ that completely took me a journey in a long time and that’s because a lot of the young DJs don’t want to play more than an hour and a half. That is one thing I really don’t like, how are you supposed to tell a story when you only have three pages to write on? I need time to go on a journey and I don’t understand how you can do your job properly when you only have 50minutes or an hour and a half. I refuse gigs if they offer me an hour and a half because I can’t be myself, I can’t express myself. I feel now a lot of the things I hear are very fragmented, there’s a lot of energy and information (maybe too much for my brain) – a lot of the tracks are the same, a lot of information in the track to get people within the first 20 seconds when we used to take a good two and a half minutes to get to a peak in the track. The whole perception of music these days is very different, so I must say I haven’t heard anything impressive in ages. After an hour and a half I haven’t felt like, “I need to stay here because this is going to be unbelievable”. I like long concerts, again where the artist takes you on a journey.
I understand why the kids want shorter tracks and energetic stuff because they are part of that generation, it’s a generation that’s watching TV series instead of movies. They are stimulated by short and fast things, whereas I’m more stimulated by trippy, psychedelic, long journeys.
Tolerance and patience levels are generally a lot lower nowadays.
It is because there’s more information. Look at the way they react in the clubs, ten years ago they were accepting that the guy was going to play a long set. They were on the dancefloor listening to him. Today, alongside trying to listen to what he does, they will be talking to their friends, taking pictures, and writing a text at the same time. I can see the crowds [doing it], I see it a lot in France – they hold the camera to film the DJ, turn to their friends to have a chat and on the other hand their sending a text to someone else. Look at them! They can’t concentrate on one thing. It’s the times we’re in, they’re overstimulated and of course their attention is so stimulated they have less time for you. They need to keep switching from one thing from another, not to say it’s better now but it’s a generation thing…
Laurent Garnier presents his LBS Live shows in the UK this weekend for Circus X – in London on Friday 30th November at EGG and his final ever Liverpool LBS performance on Saturday December 1 at Circus.Tagged in: Circus X, DJing, electronic music, French DJ, Laurent Garnier, LBS, LBS Live
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter