Thursday 27th Oct, 2016
Laurent Garnier
Laurent Garnier

April 2003, Laurent Garnier was playing the Music Box, a mythical Manchester nightclub, packed with a capacity crowd of 600 people. He served up a rare, eclectic, and passionate DJ set that night, lining up classic rave anthems from the nineties and cutting edge electronica, vintage hiphop and techno gems from Detroit, disco hymns and reggae classics. Suddenly, Garnier cut the music off. A lone voice rang out criticising the war in Iraq. The second Gulf War was already under way; Blair’s government had dragged England into a war that the people didn’t want. A clamour began and burst into a scream when military drum rolls boomed out. It was “War” by Edwin Starr. At this
moment, Manchester went crazy. I saw t-shirts flying through the air, gangsters dancing like lunatics, girls twisting their bodies outrageously and guys literally hanging out of the ceiling. This was not a club anymore, this was not even a DJ set, this was now a pagan temple in which everything was allowed; eccentric behaviour, loss of control, blissful smiles and improbable gestures. I remember looking at Laurent plunged in his record boxes looking for a last record, hesitating nervously between Farley Jack Master Funk “Love Can’t Turn You Around” and Marshall Jefferson “Move Your Body”. He chose his last record. It sounded like a riot was going to start when the record ended with a spluttering hiss.

That night in Manchester is my clearest memory of Laurent Garnier’s art: generous, urgent and capable of miracles.

However, if like me, you have been following this artist for quite a while, you already know how diverse he really is, and how the term “one of the best DJs in the world” is an expression that does not do the man justice. It has to be said again and again that here is a man who has a one in a million fighting spirit, and who has been fighting for over fifteen years to get great music to the public. Garnier has always avoided theories and preferred action; he doesn't like needless repetition or empty compromises and less still wasting time.

Since his third album, Unreasonable Behaviour, and the subsequent world tour, Laurent has definitely not been wasting time. There have been a series of legendary concerts, whether it was replacing Guns N’ Roses at the last minute in the Torought Werchter festival in Belgium or playing in Vietnam (!). After a year as Radio Nova’s music programmer, Garnier set up PBB  ww.pedrobroadcast.com, his own web radio, conceived as a radical response to French radio’s conservative approach to music. This outlet allows him to share treasures from his record collection. PBB, which doesn’t care about styles, crosses King Tubby with the Sex Pistols, links Underground Resistance to Alain Bashung or Karen Young. Shortly after, F.U. FM was also set up.
The little brother of PBB, a pirate radio station, F.U. FM illegally broadcast its programmes across Ibiza during the summer of 2003.

In the book Electrochoc, we both told the story of techno music over the past fifteen years. The story was told through Laurent's career. Published by Flammarion, the book has been very successful in France (over fifteen thousand copies sold). It has been translated into German and Russian (just what is taking the English speaking world so long?).

The soundtrack was missing to this book so Laurent  brought out Excess Luggage at the same time, a 5 cd package with mixes from Sonar, Detroit, the BBC, PBB and the Rex in Paris. He also signed a cinematic mix using film archives from the Albert Kahn foundation, a philanthropic banker who financed expeditions in the early twentieth century to the four corners of the world in order to collect “archives for the planet”. Garnier wrote original music for several very diverse short films, for example, a film about homeless people or a cartoon. Remixes and 12 “ vinyls are constantly added to Laurent’s discography and all the while he travels across the world as a DJ. He still plays his monthly residency gig in the Rex club in Paris. The very same place where the Music, Expect the Unexpected Tour was launched in September 2004, a European tour with Jeff Mills.

Will the man ever stop? No. And why should he? And remember that what has been mentioned here is just the visible part of what he does. Amongst his less obvious talents, Laurent has the gift of bringing interesting people together and getting the best from them.

After Unreasonable Behaviour came out, Laurent spent a lot of time at concerts checking out other musical styles. He started up beautiful friendships with musicians from different scenes. Amongst them, the Norwegian Bugge Wesseltoft, a marvellous jazz pianist who joined forces with Garnier on stage at Sonar or the Montreux Jazz festival. Dhafer Youssef, a Tunisian singer and master oud player, also answered in the affirmative when he was invited to come and work in Garnier’s studio, The Kub.
A studio that has become over the past four years a meeting point for musician friends such as Scan X, Sangoma Everett, Marc Chalosse or Philippe Nadaud, all of who bring their skills to the Cloud Making Machine.

David Brun-Lambert

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