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by Don Crispy

Laurent Garnier

“I don’t find anything so new with all this ’80s revival stuff.”

If someone somewhere is keeping records on which DJ claims the longest residency, then French DJ Laurent Garnier would have to be near the top of the pile. At the grand old age of 38, he’s already had 16 years behind the decks at club Rex in Paris. “I think it’s one of the last places where absolutely everybody has played,” Garnier said by phone from his suburban Paris home. “If we said we were closing we could have any single DJ around the world for nothing.”

For better or worse, Garnier represents in some ways the situation dance music finds itself in—still relatively young, but already having seen it all. Since catching the dance bug in the late ’80s acid house boom as an employee of the French Embassy in London, and getting his DJ feet wet at Manchester’s legendary Hacienda, Garnier has been an essential figure in European club culture, almost single-handedly putting French house on the map. But as a DJ, he says he’s not hearing that much in the way of innovation among the hundreds of promos that reach his office every week. “I make a point of listening to every single track on every record,” he insists. “About 10 percent finds its way into my set.”

Garnier discounts much of the so-called “electroclash” ’80s-influenced material that has been finding its way into his mailbox of late. “I don’t find anything so new with all this ’80s revival stuff,” he says. “Nothing has struck me so strong where I go, ‘F***ing hell, this is so fresh!’ Frankly, when it comes back to revival, it’s something we’ve lived through before. I’d rather wait for something fresh and exciting.”

Behind the decks in both clubs and on the airwaves, Garnier has been a key tastemaker, introducing listeners worldwide to successive waves of dance music from acid house through techno to breakbeats. As a DJ, he insists that he has “no style,” but as a producer, Garnier’s sound is distinctive. Fat, acid beats and a wicked sense of humor characterized his last artist album, 2000’s Unreasonable Behavior, and have been a hallmark of his productions since he debuted with his first LP, Shot in the Dark, in 1995.

But Garnier says that his forthcoming album, due out by the end of the year, will be different. “I’ve made quite a lot of tracks that are much less dance-floor oriented: more cinematic...moody...dark, with live instruments.” He explains that he recently composed a film score for a movie about French homelessness, and that he’s in the process of reworking some of those themes for his new album. “So far, what I have is downtempo. But I’ll see what the album looks like, then I’ll work on a live show, and decide which kind of venue I want to bring it to—clubs, concert halls or festivals.”

Looking back on the 16 years of his Rex residency, Garnier says that in his native Paris, the scene seems to be locked in a status quo. “I can’t really call it healthy,” he says. “It’s not growing larger or smaller. It’s the same as it’s always been. There are three or four clubs playing interesting music, and the rest is commercial.”

On the other hand, he thinks Japan possesses one of the healthiest club scenes in the world. “Every single time has been memorable,” he enthuses about his many visits, the latest of which will bring him to Yellow tomorrow night for an installment of Spice! (and a secret after-party). “It’s by far the most open-minded crowd in the world. Japanese are passionate about music, know a lot about it, expect anything and everything from a DJ, and accept anything. Yellow is my home—a bit like the Rex it’s been there for such
a long time. For me, Yellow is one of those clubs that means a lot.”

Spice!@Yellow, 5/22, 10pm, ¥3,500. Tel: 03-3479-0690.

Credit: F Comm