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Interview: Laurent Garnier

Laurent Garnier is the first man of French electronica. Learning his craft up in pre-acid house Manchester at the tender age of 19,  he has continually risen up the ranks ever since. Twenty odd years on, he’s still in demand as a DJ, although nowadays he focuses the majority of his time on production. He’s renowned for his conceptual sets and experimental ethos, putting out track after track combining different elements of the electronic music spectrum; from acid house all the way to Detroit techno.

He’s in town this Friday for the London leg of his Live Booth Sessions tour – gigs that’ll see him accompanied by a live band behind the mixing desk, consisting of Benjamin Rippert and Scan X. He took some time out to talk to me about the days of acid rave, French politics and getting lost in translation.

What was it like being involved in the height of the acid/rave days?

It was great at the time, and I’m very lucky to have been a part of it. We were like a big family, discovering something new together, and we had a lot of fun. I’m not nostalgic for it though – I’m still doing a lot of things I find extremely exciting.

How would you compare the dance music scenes of London, Paris and Manchester? How are they different?

Paris is an amazing city for jazz and live music. For a city so big, the Paris (dance music) scene is small and there is nothing in the suburbs. There are three small clubs that are trendy, and maybe a couple of big parties, but the rest is pretty pathetic.

I witnessed the rave scene in Manchester explode, and the place went from not much compared to London, to absolutely amazing. Overall, England is a real party place and there are great clubs to go to in every city.

Musically, who or what inspires your work?

I listen to everything. For instance, I’m currently recording my radio show, and in just the first hour there’s techno, drum ‘n’ bass, David Bowie, and salsa. I’m someone who just likes music, full stop. If something makes me feel good, then I like it, if it doesn’t, well then I don’t. Music is pretty much the only thing in the world without rules, where we have the freedom to think for ourselves.

You seem to give your songs interesting titles, such as ‘Crispy Bacon’ and ‘A Bout De Souffle’. Is it to do with the textures they evoke or were you just hungry and stuck in the studio at the time? 

Textures, and funnily enough, I actually meant to call it sizzling bacon, because I thought it literally sounded like something cooking in a pan. It wasn’t until six months later when Jeff Mills was remixing it that he pointed out that it didn’t make sense and then I realised. So yeah, I fucked up with the name. People don’t even notice that though, so it still works. 

You famously made reference to the Iraq war a few years ago, an act that has gone down in dance music folklore. Are there any particular issues in politics or culture today that you’re passionate about and may include within this Friday’s set?

There’s a lot of scandal going on in France, and I like to keep track of it. Politics over there is all becoming show business and entertainment. I mean, the first lady of France is a singer. That’s weird!

Are there any artists that you would make for a dream collaboration? 

There is a young English jazz musician called Malla Chai who I’m in talks with. I love hip hop, especially the Foreign Beggars – I could really do something with them. I’m always talking with Carl Craig, but somehow we’ve never found the time to make something together. I also love PJ Harvey. Just listen to her albums – her voice is just, wow.

So you’re back on the road with your Live Booth Sessions. Could you tell us a bit about the concept of L.B.S.? What should we expect from the live shows?

Going back to the ‘wheels of steel’ after the previous series of live shows made me feel like I was regressing. I’m 44 now, I can’t go back to just playing records on my own. I wanted to still be essentially playing records and making people dance, but also to give them a unique experience – there are things to see as well as music to dance to.

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