Discovering a Legend.
‘Fighting for playing good music for a hell of a long time’ – Laurent Garnier, RBMA, 2011
How hard a task to discover and then regurgitate with feeling the man like Laurent Garnier. Exuding electronic music from every crevice of his life force it's almost an impossible task to discover him in his totality and give justice to it, particularly with my age being equal to that of his music career.
Coming from a drum and bass background, finding my feet still with the house/bass crossbreeds and although knowing the name ‘Laurent Garnier’, not reeeally knowing anything at all about him, including ashamedly that the name ‘Crispy Bacon’ could be attributed to the seminal techno track I’d heard a thousand times before. I knew this article would be an interesting indulgence to say the least, so armed with an amass of preconceptions and the knowledge that I was discovering a dance music legend, I set about forging my own conception of Mssr Laurent Garnier.
A sense of pride exists in the knowledge that Laurent started his music career right here in England. Although first discovering his aspiration to become a DJ at the Sunday Clubs in France that were opened especially for the younger music lovers, Laurent moved to London in 1984 at the age of 18, doing as most aspiring DJ’s have done; relentlessly post out mixtapes to various record stores, DJ’s and club owners. It was finally up in Manchester that Laurent first got noticed and began playing sets at Manchester’s Hacienda.
‘I’m a bit like a pitbull’ he muses in an interview with RBMA, once the chance was offered, there was no stopping him. According to LG, there were no rules at the beginning of House & Techno, nobody was taking it seriously and it was after a drunken night in the studio with friend Dream Frequency that LG handed in a tape to Eastern Bloc and was shocked to discover they liked it.
It was upon returning to the UK in 1988 after a year of National Service in France, that Laurent felt he had missed out on the now famed explosion of house and dance music and came to make a defining decision and one that says a lot of his character – rather than piggy back onto the dance wave already built, LG made the choice to move back to France and ignite a dance music movement of his own…
Crispy Bacon, 1997
In 1997 came Crispy Bacon, with its exponential energy and rigorous techno beat one is inclined to assume it’s the perfect reflection of Laurent’s own energy and his assumed innately pulsating techno beat. This track has stood the test of time and lives on as a legend in its own right.
“This is the most stupid name I ever heard” –Jeff Mills
“Well then I’m keeping it!” –Laurent Garnier
The Man with the Red Face.
Made live on stage during rehearsals…
The Man with the Red Face, 2000 is another seminal track for LG, with the trademark steadily building yet energetic backbone refreshingly paired with the contrasting improvisational and jazzy sounds of a saxophonist.
In his more recent productions, Tales of a Kleptomaniac, Laurent encompasses all manner of musical ethos, be it from the hefty bassline of dubstep to the fast paced beat of jazz and of course the underlying steady beat of techno. It would be true to say that many have tried and failed to hone together varying aspects of many genres and piece them together to form a new style in their own right, but with this album we see it work..
From the laidback jazz lines of Dealing with the Man to the brash yet melodic dubstep basslines of No Musik, No life. And the tribal infused techno paced, aptly named back to my (technodiziak) roots… The album certainly covers it all… One track reeks ‘special’ in particular -
It possesses the exponential energy of crispy bacon, with jazzy interludes of the saxophone that have your feet tapping and your head shaking, much alike The Man With the Red Face… which is an explanation then as to why when listening to Gnanmankoudji, LG felt a feeling he had only ever felt once before – when listening to The Man with the Red Face for the first time (on a loud system).
Laurent talks about ‘fighting’ for the music on more than one occasion. “15 years ago we fought for our music. it was all about being faceless, letting the music do the talking. That was one of the great things about techno music. Now it's all about what I look like, who I am, how I dress, how rock and roll I am and how stupid I can be." I suppose it is fair to say that we don’t know how lucky we are to have great music freely flowing from every angle so we take it for granted instead...
Frequently paying homage to the newer school of dubstep, Laurent professes that it offers the excitement and authenticity that techno once had, using Martyn and his Great Lengths album release of 2009 as the pillar for his views. He has applauded Martyn’s ‘genius’ in techno and attributed it to his indulgence in dubstep and other music besides.
Far Away, Martyn. Great Lengths, 2009, 3024.
Those 3 hour sets
And what of these epically long and journey invoking sets?
I will admit, that coming from those aforementioned d n' b roots I am not a huge fan of the epic ‘3 hour set’. They seem rather unnecessary and just an opportunity for a DJ to explore the depths of his musical circumference on a club soundsystem… but then I listened to Laurent Garnier at Exit 2008 for 3 hours and I was glued. Even through headphones on a laptop.
and since asking myself why my mind had been changed, I realised how much bigger the circumference is than any DJ’s (probably dnb ones in particular) that I had experienced before. Restricted only by his 55,000 deep record collection, the full circumference of LG’s musical taste is far broader and more intellectual than those defined simply by one genre… From techno to house to tribal and classical and right back round to rock, jazz and blues with a little swing and a cheeser for good measure- all mixed to painstaking perfection- that is about the sum of a LG 3 hour set…
"Music is all that there is"
The locality of the musicians in his band and the stories of how he came to meet them is perhaps a testament to the authenticity and organic nature of the music produced by Laurent Garnier. Allied with his decision to remain removed from the UK House and techno scene post-blossom back in 1988- his pursuit of a differing musical path through a natural process is reflected musically in his productions and passionately in his interviews.
And what more could be said of the supposed grumpy French man? Well, he has a sense of humour. I’ll leave you with these all encompassing words from the man himself:
"Sure, I could get a job and work in a restaurant, but it wouldn't give me a hard on I'm afraid..." Resident Advisor interview, 2009
Novice come die hard fan, i'm definitely sold on the man and eagerly await my first encounter this NYE!
Credits: Matt Annis
Mr Garnier plays an extended 4 hour set @ Eastern Electrics NYE next month.
Full details and more info here.