He's gotta feeling
He may send purists running for the nearest exit, but DJ superstar David Guetta is now in the big league as a producer with the Midas pop touch. He talks to JIM CARROLL
A COUPLE OF MONTHS ago, a video fetched up on YouTube from a French TV show back in 1989. It was a clip about the Parisian club scene of the day and featured bon mots from Laurent Garnier and David Guetta, then fresh-faced DJs and cheeky lads-around-town.
“How funny is that video, man?” he roars with laughter. “Back then, I had no idea what was going to happen with my life. I was so cheeky and arrogant. I called Laurent when the video turned up on YouTube and we were laughing so much. But, you know, I was kind of shocked because I saw myself with a TR303 synth back in 1988. That was fucking cool.”
Back in the late 1980s, Guetta was an ace face and club DJ on the French scene but, these days, he’s become big business on the global stage. You’ll find him on the main stage at big outdoor bashes like Oxegen. You’ll catch him grinning like a goon at glitzy backslapping bashes like the recent MTV Europe Music Awards in Belfast. Naturally, he tops those ego-tripping lists like DJ Magazine’s Best DJ In The Known Universe.
But the superstar DJ-ing lark which takes Guetta all around the world every week of the year is only one part of the equation and it’s his productions which have propelled him into another league.
Turn on your favourite pop radio station and chances are one of his soul-and-electro tunes will come along before the next ad break. Guetta has always had his hand in the production game – his tracks from the early Noughties featuring US soul singer Chris Willis were an early preview of where he was going – but that sound of his has become ubiquitous. It may send purists running screaming for the nearest exit yelling about cheesy tunes, but Guetta’s tracks with Kelly Rowland (When Love Takes Over), Black-Eyed Peas ( I Gotta Feeling), Usher ( Without You)and others have ensured he is seen by many acts as the producer with the Midas pop touch.
“My thing was always to bring soul into electronica and that was my sound from the very start,” Guetta says. “You mentioned Chris Willis and that’s what we were trying to do then. It became clearer and clearer over the years that this approach was right. At first, I was a little shy about what I was doing, but I went for it 100 per cent because I could see it was working.”
Guetta knows the purists detest him, but that doesn’t bother him too much. You can almost detect the Gallic shrug coming down the phone. “There’s always pressure from the culture and the people around you to do things in a certain way and I know I broke a lot of rules. Before, there was almost a war between hip-hop and electronic music. It took me a little courage to do it and cope it with the criticisms I received. The people who came to work with me also got criticised but today, everybody is doing it.”
When he says “everybody”, he means “everybody”. A list of Guetta’s past, present and future collaborators is really a who’s who of modern pop and r’n’b stars. Other producers might seek to ape the Frenchman’s soulful-vocals-over-banging-beats template, but they probably get the gig because Guetta is too busy with someone else.
“I only work with people who I am a fan of and that’s what gives me motivation to work with them to begin with,” he says.
“At the same time, I love to take artists out of their comfort zone and that’s why we get the results we get. I think artists like that. I don’t think they really want someone around them who is just going to agree with them all the time. They need to be challenged.
“On the current album [ Nothing But the Beat], what Usher has done is totally different to anything he’s done before, even vocally. The same with Turn Me Onwith Nicki Minaj. No one knows she can sing like this and I’m happy that I could take her there.” Guetta’s live adventures have also been on an upward trajectory. He’s a mainstay at big American dance events such as the Ultra music festival and Electric Daisy Carnival and can see first-hand how dance culture is finding a new audience Stateside.
“It’s like going into the wild west and finding a new frontier,” he enthuses. “It reminds me of the old days in Europe because there’s so much energy and excitement at the gigs.
“But now, it’s a different generation and the excitement from the dancefloor from people who are discovering the culture for the first time is so unique that you have to be moved by it. In Europe, I feel we’ve become more blasé because we’ve had it nonstop for the last 20 years or more.”
Guetta still keeps his options open in Europe. His Fuck Me I’m Famous club had another bumper summer season in Ibiza’s Pacha, though Guetta didn’t get to appreciate the island’s joys as much as in previous years.
“The season felt like two days to me. I didn’t have any time to go out and check out the other clubs and hang out at the beach and find out who was there. In July, I was still working on the album and in August, I was touring and promoting the album.
“I know that Fuck Me I’m Famous has been an incredible success again this year, sold out from May to September, so I wasn’t concerned. I didn’t have the nerves that I had in previous years about if enough people would come through the door. Next year, though, I want to take more days off to enjoy myself.”
Chance will be a fine thing. Guetta’s a hot property right now so that will mean more gigs and productions for some time to come. He relishes it all.
“All my life, I was thinking about the future and what came next, but I want to enjoy what’s happening now.”
There are always challenges and new projects to work on too. Any singers he’d like to work with right now? “Adele, for sure. She’s so amazing. I don’t know how much sense it would be for her because she’s so acoustic, but I think that kind of Titaniumvibe I did with Sia would work with her. I’d love to hear from her.”
Nothing But the Beatis out now
5 David Guetta earworms
I GOTTA FEELING Black-Eyed Peas
A Guetta production which has become ubiquitous on those sporting occasions when Queen’s We Are the Championswill not do.
WHEN LOVE TAKES OVER Kelly Rowland
The song which put Guetta firmly in the mainstream and has very much set the pace for
his future productions. The song took the former Destiny’s Child singer, meanwhile, to T he X Factor.
GETTING’ OVER YOUAnother single from the breakthrough One Lovealbum and another example of Guetta packing in the guest stars with Chris Willis, Fergie and LMFAO onboard for the ride.
WHO’S THAT CHICK? Yes, of course, Guetta has worked with Rihanna. Who the hell hasn’t at this stage of the game?
WHERE THEM GIRLS ATIf it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. From Guetta’s latest album Nothing But the Beat, this has the fabulous Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida doing the hip-hop-over-electrohouse thing. It’s the sound of cash registers ringing out all over.