Born on February 1, 1966, in Boulogne-sur-Seine, France. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
French DJ and producer Laurent Garnier is a member of an unofficial, though highly selective, professional fraternity: he is among modern dance music's most celebrated European turntable artists. New Musical Express writer Andy Crysell called him "a passionate character in danceworld ... [who] invariably, strikes hyper-life into dancefloors." Garnier's heady, hypnotic style has won him a devoted following across Europe, but his studio efforts, released under his own label, have collected unanimously positive reviews. As the principal of F Communications, his Paris-based company, Garnier has also been involved in the surprise success of a television commercial for Levi's Sta-Press jeans: in a clip directed and soundtracked by one of the label's artists, an endearing yellow puppet rides as a passenger in a car, nodding his furry head to "Flat Beat," a song that sold more than two millions copies for F Communications and the song's creator, Mr. Oizo.
Garnier was born in Boulogne-sur-Seine, France, in 1966. His father ran a bumper-car and amusement-ride business. One of Garnier's babysitters worked for a major record company, and he began to amass a collection of countless record albums as a result. Even at an early age, he was intensely devoted to music; so much so that his parents took him to discotheques when he was 12--a scene that fascinated him. "The music was thumping, the lights, everything was marvelous. It was really beautiful to watch someone with the power to make people dance," he told Mixmag writer Tony Marcus. Garnier's grandmother owned a restaurant, and his first real DJing gig came when she allowed the teen to spin for its New Year's Eve party.
At the age of 14, Garnier founded his own "pirate" or unlicensed radio station, which he called Radio Teenager. He built the transmitter himself, and broadcasted only on Friday nights. He and his friends, however, didn't feel they had enough of the right kind of records to play, so they taped music off of other stations' broadcasts. Acquiescing to his parents' wishes to find a more stable profession, Garnier attended a catering college in France, but to escape the compulsory national service for young men in France, he moved to England in the mid-1980s. He worked for a time at the French embassy in London, but eventually migrated to the northern city of Manchester in 1987.
There, he found work managing a restaurant, but also found himself in the throes of a crucial moment in music history with the birth of a new genre. Garnier was both a DJ and frequent patron at the epicenter of the burgeoning house-music scene, Manchester's Hacienda club. "I was playing disco, hi-NRG, Village People, Taylor Dayne, go-go, cha-cha. It was very open," he recalled in the Mixmag interview.
But it was a series of records played by another DJ one night that greatly impacted the direction of Garnier's career. The tracks that evening included cuts from the New York City duo Mantronix, who were gathering a huge British following with their unique blend of turntable wizardry and rap beats, and Farley Jackmaster Funk, a Chicago DJ who released a cover version of a classic soul track from Isaac Hayes, "Love Can't Turn Around," that made it all the way into the British charts in 1986. "It blew my mind," he recalled of the moment in the Mixmag interview. "I was dancing in the Hacienda ... [a]nd you know when you can get punched by someone and it hits you heavy? Well I was on the dance floor and I felt this massive punch. I went straight over to the DJ box, I just knocked on the door saying 'What kind of stuff is this.' I never heard anything like it before."
Soon, Manchester emerged as ground-zero for the explosion of what was being termed "acid house" by 1988. "It was the future of disco music and disco wasn't there anymore," Garnier recalled in Mixmag about that time. "House was talking to everybody, to gays, straight, blacks and whites. So it was a good thing." Garnier became one of the first DJs to spin records from Detroit techno pioneers Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and others--records that would make the American artists legends in the genre across Europe a decade later.
In the end, Garnier was not able to avoid his mandatory stint in the French army, and signed on as a chef. Fortunately, the posting allowed him to continue his DJing: he spun at Paris's gay clubs until early in the morning, and then rushed to catch the train back to his barracks. "Every night for one year I slept only two or three hours each afternoon," Garnier remembered in an interview for New Musical Express with Piers Martin. Returning to the Hacienda in 1990, he found the Manchester music scene had created a tremendous cultural force with young people, but one that also seemed to revolve around illicit substance abuse, too. "They don't even listen to the music anymore, they just get the rush off their drugs and they lose themselves in their own little world," he said in the Mixmag interview. "It bores me."
Founded Record Label
In the early 1990s, Garnier became one of the most sought-after DJs across Europe, and spun at large-scale outdoor events and in the most popular dance clubs in cities like Berlin and Brussels. In Paris, he began his own underground event, which he called Wake Up in Paris. In 1993, he scored his first hit with a record he made with two other French artists, Shazz and Ludovic Navarre. "Acid Eiffel" was released on the FNAC label, and did well, but within a year the label had dissolved; in 1994, Garnier and Eric Morand, who had run FNAC, formed F Communications in Paris.
Garnier's first record on his imprint was issued in 1995. Shot in the Dark was a full-length album, and each track a homage to either a subgenre in the dance scene or to a well-known turntable artist. "Every single track on it corresponds to a different time of the night or to a different time of my life," Garnier told Mixmag. "It's a very personal thing. I just made music I believed in and music I'd liked for years," he told Marcus in the same interview. "I just wanted to see if I could do it myself. All the other records I'd made before had been with somebody in the studio helping me or collaborating. Now I can say that nobody helped me, nobody mixed anything for me."
Garnier's next record, 30, was so titled because he spent an entire year--his thirtieth--in the studio working on it. It had a minor hit with the track "Crispy Bacon" in 1997, a track that New Musical Express reviewer John Perry described as "a thumping slice of road-drill techno." A 15-minute short film was produced by Mr. Oizo, a recording artist whose real name is Quentin Dupieux. The two had met when Garnier bought a car from Dupieux's father; a studio artist as well, the younger Dupieux's first tracks were released on F Communications. In 1999, the label had a massive success with one of Mr. Oizo's tracks, "Flat Beat," that was used for a television commercial for Levi's Sta-Press jeans.
The spot, directed by Dupieux, featured a memorable yellow puppet--Flat Eric, as he became known--riding in a car and nodding his head to the music. Sales for "Flat Beat" skyrocketed, and the single went on to sell two and a half million copies. "Without that puppet it would never have sold five percent of what it did," Garnier told Martin in the New Musical Express interview. "So we can say a good 90 percent of people who bought it believes the puppet made the music! And that proves how stupid people are today. You know, they will buy a tune because of a puppet."
"I Can't Please Everyone"
In 2000, Garnier released another full-length work on his label. Titled Unreasonable Behaviour, the work was somewhat of a departure for his style with its dark, apocalyptic mood. Its first single was "The Sound of the Big Babou;" that song, "Cycles D'Opposition" and "Last Tribute from the 20th Century" won praise from reviewers. "Last Tribute" featured Garnier's own electronically enhanced voice intoning the names of cities where techno first emerged--New York, Chicago, Detroit. A track called "The Man with the Red Face" took its name from Garnier's rather infamously brutal production techniques--in the studio one day, he instructed his saxophone player to play so hard that after a while the veins in the musician's forehead were frighteningly visible. New Musical Express writer David Stubbs called Unreasonable Behaviour "an album of gloomy, almost gothic techno splendour. Beneath its typically sleek, deep urbane house grooves, it beats nervously with foreboding, fear and loathing for humanity as a whole."
Garnier was pleased with the end result of Unreasonable Behaviour, and felt that by this point in his career, he had achieved a certain peace with his creative energies. He declared that he cares little about critical reaction, or whether or not one of his records is a commercial success. "If people don't like it, well, I can't please everyone and I'm not trying to," Garnier told Martin in New Musical Express. "But I feel happier, much stronger about it. Maybe that's why everyone likes the new album."
by Carol Brennan
Laurent Garnier's Career
Worked as a DJ in Manchester, England, 1987, and in Paris, France, after 1988; founded F Communications (record label), 1994; made first record, "Acid Eiffel," for the FNAC in 1993 with fellow DJs Shazz and Ludovic Navarre; released first full-length solo LP, Shot in the Dark, on F Communications, 1995.
- Selected discography
- (With Shazz and Ludovic Navarre) "Acid Eiffel," FNAC, 1993.
- Shot in the Dark , F Communications, 1995.
- Compil Techno , Wotre Music, 1996.
- 30 , F Communications, 1997.
- Unreasonable Behaviour , F Communications, 2000.
- Mixmag, November 1994.
- New Musical Express, December 7, 1996; March 29, 1997; February 12, 2000, p. 42; March 4, 2000, p. 27.