Laurent Garnier – The multi-faceted diamond of dance

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Laurent Garnier

Laurent Garnier

With a new book and film in the works, Getintothis’ Ste Knight explores the legacy of the iconic French DJ Laurent Garnier. 

Anybody who has even the vaguest interest in dance music ought to have heard of Laurent Garnier, at the very least you will be familiar with his incredibly popular track The Man with the Red Face, the techy, horn drenched house track from his ’00 album Unreasonable Behaviour. It’s safe to say Garnier’s name is synonymous with passion for music. This predilection has garnered him the respect of many other legends within the dance music scene. The likes of Jeff Mills and Mad Mike Banks – both Detroit techno innovators – have described Garnier’s pioneering attitude to music as an inspiration, not only to themselves but also to the younger artists who count him as an influence. This reputation is deserved.

Rumoured to listen to every piece of music he is sent, Laurent Garnier is a man who lives and breathes music, and you’d be hard pushed to find someone who rivals his fervour. Indeed the likes of Sébastien Léger (himself a DJ and producer of twenty years), Mr Oizo (everyone remembers Flat Beat and the little yellow puppet from the video), St Germain, AlexKid and Scan X have all cited Laurent Garnier as a major influence in their work, and some have then gone on to produce alongside him on his FCommunication label.

The French producer and DJ has been at it since the eighties, and indeed cut his teeth as a DJ just down the road in Manchester’s Haçienda nightclub, pushing the acid house sound to the limits. It was this early foray into the acid house sound which led him to be an influential figure in dance music from the off.

Liverpool too has seen numerous seminal sets from Garnier at the likes of Voodoo, Bugged Out, Circus and Chibuku – sets which deservedly achieved legendary status due to his ability to seamlessly blend all styles of music to make any crowd literally flex as though pulled through some sort of tear in the fabric of space itself.

With countless singles, albums, compilations, mixes and live performances under his belt it is definitely safe to say that Laurent is somewhat of a luminary in the dance music world. A quick look at his back catalogue of productions provides attestation to this fact. From the lush, warm padwork (typical of techno of this time) on his 1992 debut single Stronger by Design, to the hard, driving, frenetic beats and throbbing bass of his 1997 release Crispy Bacon, to the muscular pulsating house sound of the aforementioned Man With The Red Face, Laurent illustrates how, over the course of 5 studio albums, he has kept his finger firmly on the pulse of electronic music and has never let go.

It is this attitude which has led to him becoming a huge influence to many new DJs and producers hoping to make it today. Garnier doesn’t just stop at dance music production though. He has twice collaborated with contemporary dance choreographer Angelin Preljocaj to compose the score firstly for Angelin’s own work, and then for a second time to provide the music to which the Moscow Bolshoi theatre would be performing a production of the ballet Suivront Mille Ans de Calme.

As mentioned, Garnier’s DJ sets are a spectacle to behold. Very few DJs have the ability to work a crowd the way he does, let alone flit between genres like a hummingbird gathering nectar. One can expect to witness a complete musical collage as Laurent throws house, techno, dubstep, jazz – you name it – into the melting pot and from the boiling mix forges a set which is as educational as it is infectiously danceable.

The last time we saw him live was several years ago at Circus where he was DJing live on Radio 1. His set was truly tremendous and it was magical to see such a master at work. For an indication of Garnier’s live performances we can recommend listening to his momentous mix compilation, Labarotoire. Despite being released in 1996, the mix is as current as ever and features classic 90s techno and house from the likes of Green Velvet, Underground Resistance and even a Philip Glass orchestration of Cornish sorcerer Aphex Twin’s acid killer Icct Hedral. The mix still sounds as fresh and current as it did ten years ago, and it certainly stands as testament to Garnier’s ability to segue his audience down all manner of musical avenues in the pursuit of euphoria.

So we’ve gathered that you now know of Garnier’s DJ/Production nous, but did you know he was a writer too? No? Well he is! Originally a French language publication back in 2003, Laurent has authored a semi-autobiographical work chronicling the development of dance music over the years, focusing on the scene through the eyes of the French master himself. From UK rave to Detroit techno to Chicago house and covering the whole gamut in between, Laurent has left no stone unturned in this 10th anniversary edition of Electrochoc – there’s even a bonus chapter in the book which summarises the ten years since the book was originally published.

Within this new chapter Garnier talks about the rise of the now very familiar .mp3 format, the introduction of dubstep from its London roots and the birth of the marmite that is the EDM scene (we’d love to know Garnier’s thoughts on Simon Cowell’s plans for his online competition show Ultimate DJ which is co-judged by cake throwing buffoon Steve Aoki).

Being the game changer that he is, however, we don’t just get a copy of his novel, we enter into the whole ‘Garnier Experience’ as his site has been set up to make the book interactive – you reach a certain page in the book and are then directed to the Electrochoc webpage where you are treated to a track which aurally reflects the mise en scène that has just been laid before our eyes. Page 45, for example, takes us on a journey through the sounds of jungle and drum’n’bass, whilst on page 62 we have a snippet of Northern Soul to listen to. This further serves to sum up Garnier’s diversity.

Electrochoc is due for release on July 2 and can be pre-ordered here.

Not only have we the tome to look forward to, but news has emerged in the past week that the book is due to be translated to the silver screen in a feature film which Garnier has co-written, so keep your eyes open for that one. Very little is currently known about the celluloid adaptation of Electrochoc, only that Laurent is currently working on the script, but given his affinity with the Haçienda, I’m left wondering whether we can expect to see something not wholly dissimilar to 24 Hour Party People.

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