A Sit Down with DJ Lautrent Gartnier

I think Techno broke the rules.  House Music couldn’t become anything else other than House.  House has to be a dancefloor thing, Techno doesn’t have to be something to dance to.  For me, ambient is Techno.

Laurent Garnier has been making the planet dance for 30 years. And, for all this time, his huge energy has seen him grooving behind record decks, bouncing up and down behind studio equipment and leaping around radio studios. He is a multi-faceted artist whose impact on the music scene is far-reaching. But above all, he is a DJ, a true DJ: transformed by music, passionate about the crowd. Bodies move in a trance on the dance floor, minds elsewhere.

Laurent spends most of his spare time sifting through old vinyl in record shops, following the most obscure leads on the Internet and listening to every single piece of music he is sent. Music, the pulse of our planet, is his Holy Grail.

He then proceeds to cover the history of House and the demise of Disco, just for good measure, before coming back to the original point of what makes Techno, Techno.
And then he puts the genre topic to bed with characteristic controversy:
House is not a way of life – House is just music.  It’s good music, I love House, but Techno is much deeper in the mind.  House today is only a branch on the tree of Techno, and Techno has bigger roots.  For me, House is part of Techno, but Techno is not part of House.
    When I started producing, I was still a DJ that was producing a little bit of music, but I was not a musician.  And one day with my partner Eric I said ‘I’d like to go on stage.’  And we thought ‘how can we make a real live show?’ and I said to him, the best thing is Jazz.  We went to Jazz musicians, because they can improvise.
It all goes back to Jazz.
    “It took me a long time to get the right musicians.  Finding the right musicians is a hard thing, especially when you’re 25 years old and you haven’t got a clue how to play an instrument, and you haven’t got a clue how to direct anybody.  Believe you me I struggled, and it took me 20 years.

No doubt travelling around the world so much, it’s hard to keep up with how your fellow artists are doing. Who’s been catching your eye recently?

Lately, I haven’t heard anyone super new. I played with a lot of people of course, but a lot of people I knew. I would say a few of the young guys from the new generation from France which are into underground House and underground Techno like Jeremy Underground and people like that which I think are very exciting music wise the way they play and the way they fight for their music. There’s a whole new generation in France which is inspiring for me.

It seems Techno has had something of a renaissance over the last few years, and it’s popularity has never been so widespread.Do you think techno of the last few years will be looked at with the same love?

I think some will stand the time for sure. I’m sure. Yeah, there’s some timeless records made in the last 10 years for sure, for sure. For me yes, I can see that, because these records I get to keep them in my record box and it’s quite a lot of stuff over the last 5 years I can’t delete, you know. I keep them in my box and I still play them once in a while and for me, they’re becoming classics. New classics. I think for the last 30 years there’s been kind of classics coming out but again, as I said before, because there’s been so much production that it’s harder now to surprise people and that’s why there are so many more classics from the early 90s than from 2010.

How did you manage to capture the interest of the new techno generation?

Maybe because I stay sincere. But I am the most stunned of all to see the young techno generation’s interest in me. I noticed it with Modeselektor. In the same way I was the first to be surprised that Motor City Drum Ensemble wanted to put my songs out on his label. For each label who welcomed the Garnier project, I wanted it to be clear and I said to them: ‘Release the 12” because you like the music, not because it’s Laurent Garnier!’

How do you choose the clubs where you play?

I only play the places I want to. I have the enormous luck to be able to choose. And I turn down places that talk money before talking music. Money has never been my priority. My only drive is staying motivated behind the decks. So I choose the places which seem exciting to me. Plus, in any case, I play less now. I don’t have such a packed schedule. I’m not 20 anymore, I have a family life.

Do you get different requests: to play only house or world music?

Sometimes yeah and I love that. It’s three years now that a guy has been contacting me for a hip-hop set. I’m going to do it! No doubt! But at the same time, there’s a risk of being imprisoned in one style alone. In my sets I like to mix genres. Techno is never so good as when it’s played with other music!

Do you ever feel constrained by a certain kind of techno that clubbers expect?

Whenever I feel like a prisoner, I do a u-turn. I develop my set. I try to bring the clubbers towards something else, but smoothly, gradually. By gentle suggestion. You always have to find the right songs, the escape routes.

It’s good to know that Garnier is using that systematic, trainspotter’s mind to try and innovate with his music and his performance – it’s the kind of output you’d associate with a mad creative that doesn’t know what day of the week it is, not someone as conscious as he is.  We’ve all seen those ‘conscious’ DJs who have a great grasp of how the system works and who basically make an entire career out of playing it.  They have their style, they have their sound, they have their own label that churns out the same sound, they happily take their £1,500 per set, and they have a perfectly good career.  If Garnier put his mind to it, he could do that, but thankfully, he loves to challenge himself far too much for it to ever happen.

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