David Guetta - David, The Goliath
Friday, 14 December 2007
The French revolution continues apace in dance music. A new guard of Gallic electronic auteurs aspire to match the triumphs of Daft Punk. It may not be called ‘French touch’ any more, but the French still have that flair.
Parisian David Guetta, like Justice, dips as much into electro as disco and house. And he’s Bob Sinclar’s biggest rival in the pop sphere, his third album unabashedly entitled Pop Life. Guetta is a hot DJ, too. In 2007 he is the world’s highest ranked ‘house’ stalwart in the influential DJ mag poll at No. 10.
As such, Guetta is again bound for Australia. And he’s anticipating time out here after a hectic year.
“I didn’t have a holiday for a long time,” he says, sounding sanguine. “I’m a little bit tired. This is the last day of my North American tour. I was there for three weeks, and I’m gonna come back now, but I’m looking forward to some sun [in Australia].”
Guetta is surprised that the French contingent should be so celebrated, he hears nothing distinctively ‘French’ in their music, but he’s not questioning it.
He’s no overnight sensation either. In fact, he’s a contemporary of Laurent Garnier’s, belatedly making moves into production. Prior to 2002, when Guetta delivered his debut album, Just A Little More Love, he’d concentrated on DJing and promoting. Even today Guetta is equated with the Fuck Me I’m Famous parties in Ibiza.
In the late ’80s Guetta, already DJing as a teen, was primarily into funk. He picked up on acid house and, being curious, visited the UK to investigate its nascent scene. Guetta returned to France to launch a house night at a gay club. He never looked back.
Guetta’s first track, Up & Away, a collaboration with Chicago’s Robert Owens, materialised in the early ’90s. The DJ was too preoccupied with promoting to consolidate his success. He eventually resurfaced with Just A Little More Love (remixed into a club smash by Wally Lopez).
He also aired a bootleg remix of David Bowie’s Heroes which, approved by the legend himself, was officially released. He’d later receive a Grammy nod for his tweaking of Deep Dish’s Flashdance.
Nevertheless, Pop Life, which follows 2004’s Guetta Blaster, is the DJ’s most commercial offering yet. The album, which he co-produced with Joachim Garraud, encompasses the mega hit Love Don’t Let Me Go (Walking Away), Love Is Gone and, bizarrely, a song from popsmith-for-hire Cathy Dennis.
Guetta opened for Madonna on her last tour and, significantly, the Queen of Pop gave props to Pop Life in a blog.
“This is my best album, for sure,” Guetta trumpets. “I’m really happy and proud of it. I’m spending more time in the studio, so I’m progressing – I’m getting better. I think it’s very well produced. There’s some good, good songs in there. It’s something you can also listen to at home and play in your car – it’s not only dance music.”
Guetta imagines presenting one more album before producing other artists – perhaps Madge. The DJ has covered Public Image Ltd’s This Is Not A Love Song, which has garnered little attention in Pop Life reviews.
“I used to love that track and, when I started mixing stuff, I was mixing that into my acid house set. I’m like, I should do it – and I’ve done it. I usually don’t really do covers, but this one is special to me.”
Cathy Dennis co-wrote Baby When The Light, Guetta’s current single. It’s not unlike a number Kylie might record. He doesn’t shy away from cutting radio hits, although on occasion he’s expressed ambivalence about his pop star status. (The album title Pop Life is a reference to Prince’s ironic song.)
“I’m trying to be faithful to my community,” he says. “My tracks are being played by all the big DJs but, at the same time, I’m trying to be open to a larger crowd. It works right now. It’s a difficult balance...but it’s possible.”
This explains why Guetta appeared in a L’Oreal campaign for hair gel, the ad using his Simple Minds-sampling The World Is Mine. He considers himself an ambassador for dance in the mainstream. Purists can disapprove all they like but, at one stage, the techno godfather Derrick May agreed to an ad for Jansport in the US with a similar rationale. Guetta merely sought to expose his music.
“I had the opportunity to have The World Is Mine be played on TV in most countries in the world because of the ad. It was a great opportunity for me to have my music be a little more known because, especially at that time, it was very difficult to get dance music played on TV and radio. It’s getting much better now.
“This is what I always wanted for dance music. It’s so underestimated. I’m really happy about what’s happening right now. For years people thought, Oh, this is a music for drug addicts and gays – it’s ridiculous, ’cause hundreds of thousands of people are going out every weekend and dance to that and listen to that at home. It’s crazy. It’s a real culture. And, finally, we’re getting there – and I’m really happy about this.
“In Europe it’s huge right now. In France, for example, national radio stations are playing 30 percent dance music. I think this music should be where hip hop is [and] where rock is.”
If French DJs once lamented that they were ignored at home, then Guetta has changed that. He’s a household name in France. And, while Bob Sinclar has relocated to Los Angeles, Guetta won’t be abandoning Paris. “I love Paris,” he declares. “It’s so charming. I’m very much a Parisian.”
But, for all his fame, Guetta is anxious to prove his underground credentials. When asked what excites him about dance, he’s careful to acknowledge minimal.
“There’s been a lot of very good underground tracks lately. There was this minimal techno scene that was pretty exciting last year – I’m not really into that, but it was interesting.
“I’m a big fan of all the Swedish house mafia – Axwell, Eric Prydz, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso...they’re my musical family.”
Guetta is an entrepreneur, working as a team with his glam wife Cathy Guetta, a bartender-come-socialite. He’s branded Fuck Me I’m Famous with mix-CDs. Until recently, the Guettas operated an upmarket strip club, Pink Paradise, in Paris.
“I used to be in the club business,” he says. “I sold everything to be totally in my music, and that’s all I do now – making music and playing as a DJ. But I opened the first strip club in Paris. Actually, it was a strip club and an afterhours during the weekend. People were proud to say they were going to my club – they were not hiding it. There were lots of girls coming. It was a very trendy place.”
That said he has no desire to get back into the club biz.
“I’m much more happy with music, because it takes a lot of time to run those clubs – and I couldn’t go to the studio anymore,” he admits. “I was making money, but I was not very happy. It’s more important to be happy.”
WHO: David Guetta
WHAT: Plays Pacha NYE at Home / Pop Life out through EMI
WHEN: Monday 31 December / Out now