Joachim Garraud: A Small Step For Europe-Kind, A Giant Leap For The French

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JG.main

Photo by Robert Kerian

The Internet is a many-splendored thing. Ripe with images and assertions both wondrous and life-affirming, it can buoy one’s soul and make the universe seem… possible—even to one whose spirit is coated with a darker-than-black exoskeleton of cynicism decades-that-seem-like-centuries in the making. Oh, sure, the internet had a dark side too, but we won’t discuss this here. Here, with me, is a safe and happy place; and that is why I enjoyed so very much my visit to musician-producer-engineer-showman Joachim Garraud’s website.

I say this truly. His homepage exudes the same exuberance one will find in his progressive brand of genre-spanning electronic, and is equipped with facts that can only be taken as impressive. He is one of only [how the hell am I going to find this info?-ED] French nationals who have been nominated for a Grammy award. He was invited to participate in Paris’ “Technoparade.” Ok. Cool. But he was the only one with his own float. Oliver Huntemann, Laidback Luke, Benni Benassi, DJ Sender and oft-partner-and-collaborator David Guetta were invited along for the ride. I bet they BBQ’d.

Yea. You get it.

He’s collaborated with just about everyone you’ll find in this year’s or last’s Who’s Who in Electronic Music—from Steve Aoki and Felix Da Housecat to Basement Jaxx and Carl Cox; and remixes? Haw, haw. The list is long, but let me tell you that Bowie, OMD and Culture Club round it out. The rest are, well, the rest.

Am I being a little sarcastic? Maybe a little. But I am doing it for your own good. I am doing it to relax you and prepare your mind for the next fact, the big whopper you’ll find on JG.com. In December of 1999, over ten years ago mind you, Garraud participated in a television event that set many, many records. He took to the booth outside Cairo, Egypt. With the Giza pyramids as a backdrop he interrupted the peaceful, eon-long slumber of the pharaohs and spun for an on-air audience on 2.4 billion. That is nearly equal to the populations of India and China combined. When I read it I was dubious. And then I met him.

As I gaze at him across a table laden with a responsible number of now evacuated mojitos I am enthused, because generally speaking, that’s what he does—usually via his music; but in this case work matches personality and JG can invigorate and motivate, I’m finding, in a variety of ways.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. My head switches like a surprised crab and I realize I am surrounded by speakers. Subtle placement. I had no idea. Why Adolfo, my midget manservant and constant companion, hadn’t warned me I did not know. I don’t like surprises, and anytime I go in for an interview I request blueprints of the space beforehand. Adolfo… researches the details the night before and fills them in for me over coffee the morning of. It seems that something has eluded his careful sweep here. But the tune is catchy and so I forgive my formidable sidekick.

“What we have is like the Pet Shop Boys with electro-rock rhythm,” JG remarks.
“Certainly,” I respond with ersatz confidence—a feeling of entrapment lingers.
“This is the new album from my recent work with Perry Farrell. From Jane’s Addiction? Prono for Pyros? You know?”
I knew. And we talked about that for a spell.

Apparently, it would seem Garraud’s just finished a studio session with Farrell which had been scheduled for a week, and ended up lasting over two months. The result? A secret. No. Ijest. In truth, it is an album which will be available to the general public around about September.

The title of the album is secret. The name they are working under is itself secret. About working with Farrell however, JG is effusive. “It was lucky for me to work with someone like him. He is a genius in knowing about how to write. In electronic music it is so often a woman telling you to put your hands in the air when there is really more to tell, but with Perry you get a story.” The pair have just finished shooting video they’ll be using with the music at the upcoming 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza in Chicago. Windy City beware.

That’s the now. The then with JG is equally colorful, and although he rides floats in Paris, has DJ’d in front of 1 million people at Berlin’s “Love Parade,” and is rumored to have engineered the Pope’s Christmas Album, in many ways the LP with Farell will act as Garraud’s introduction to the states. Oh he’s been here before. He’s been just about everywhere before—including Moscow, where he had quite an… adventure. He was, in fact, the victim of a crime which in the United States would be classed as a felony of the highest order.[/threecol_two_last]

At the airport:

It was for a huge show in Moscow. I landed in the airport and saw a guy with a sign, it had my name on it. We made contact.

After contact:

We went to the hotel, I made the party, it was crazy. I went back to the hotel.

The phone call:

When I went back to the hotel I got a phone call from my manager and he said, ‘Joachim, where are YOU?’
I said, ‘C’mon I just got back!’
And he said, ‘But the guy is waiting for you!’
‘I just did the party!’
‘Wrong! That’s not the good one! Somebody kidnapped you!’

The realization:

I was kidnapped at the airport? I was kidnapped at the airport! The promoter came to the hotel and was looking at me—he wanted to kill me.
‘DO you remember how the club looked like?’ he asked me ‘What street was it on?’
‘I don’t know I can ‘t read Russian!’
Then my manager came. ‘They want to cut your hand because you did not make the party!’

JG

Photo by Robert Kerian

Yes. He was kidnapped at the airport by a contingent of the Russian mafia who had, besides ruthlessness, very good taste in music as a defining quality. Well, reader, JG made the trip to the real party and blew it up. He even played the next night for free. The last part is rumor, but I believe it as his travel stories are always the hit at social gatherings and have been well-documented in newspapers; but his involvement with extraterrestrials, well. Listen:

Magnetic: Do you believe in UFOs?
Joachim Garraud: For sure. What a stupid question? They are people who don’t?

M: Have you had an experience?
JG: Of course. There are so many planets in the universe, that mathematically there should be life on other planets. Maybe way-out forms of life. Like highly evolved fish. We can’t be alone. Especially with all the USA has done. With Area 51. You live in the biggest country for this on the planet. You had Michael Jackson!

This is the point where I bolted out of the room to use the facilities. When I returned he had finished telling a story. I assume it was concerned with abduction and/or his relationship with aliens or some type of celestial overlord. I don’t know the specifics as I had turned my recorder off, and Adolfo was inside playing billiards with the Countess of Ackerburg; however, the intern that had accompanied me from Magnetic, and who had long-suffered from an eating disorder? He has began to dine more often than twice a week and to comb his long, skimpy beard. The “X-Box glaze” has dropped away from him like an old cloak, leaving of itself only a mad stubborn gleam deep in his bloodshot, crust-edged eyes. And. And he has started a cult. Again, I do not know the specifics, but I suspect JG’s “aliens” have something to do with it. A powerful tale it must have been. I will say that that the artist is most probably privy to knowledge of a classified and dangerous nature, and then I will leave off the subject. His “symbol” by which he can be identified on t-shirt, album cover or tattoo is the Space Invader. Ya, the invader from the ‘80s smash hit video game of the same name. That he routinely drops hundreds of alien masks on his haplessly enthused fans during concerts should have clued me. “One of my ideas in the show I am producing right now is: ‘Come with me on a journey.’ And with the masks people are able to lose themselves more. I bring them on a trip with the music. They are changing personality. You can be shy, but when you have a mask, you gonna jam and you’re going to come take a trip with me.” I’ve see him live in Los Angeles recently, dear reader, and I can say it is true. The navigation to MP3s has forced many artists to beef up their live shows and perform more frequently. Within the realm of electronic JG points to additional new rungs on the bejeweled ladder of success. “You need to be a producer; unless you are a huge DJ of the old generation like Sven Vath. The new generation is different now. Everybody has the same track at the same time. You have to produce your own sound. The American audience is sophisticated. You need to have your bootleg. If not, there is nothing to set you above other DJs and in my life everything is linked with music and sound.” This is no new pattern in JG’s aerobic , multi-disciplinary life. “I studied music for seven years in school. In the morning I was learning how to play music of great composers, like Chopin, in the evening I was my room trying to make one song with my computer. So that’s why I am thankful. It really joined my two worlds of music and machine.”

It had been a long and fruitful morning. I wordlessly signal Adolfo to begin gathering our gear as the photographer Robert Kerian had arrived hot-to-trot.

“So now you’re here. You’ve worked with a major American talent on a major talent. I feel you’ve really planted your anchor. Your flag. Whatever. What’s your impression of what’s going on in the American world of electronic?” I had been yearning to ask this question since first we’d shook hands, and though it may very sound cliché and toadying to you dear and experienced reader, with this fellow, who as we know now has seen quite a bit more of the world musical than most, I knew his answer would resound. He cocked his head to one side, my right if you must know. Squinted his eyes slightly, as he was looking into the sun, and without even inhaling unduly smashed me across the cerebral cortex with this answer—a hum dinger. “US five years ago was late. It wasn’t anything. USA was the number one market for a lot of cool thing. Except for electronic music stuff. That was French. US was the only place that electronic music does not have a big place on the radio. When I made my first big trip here that five years ago I was expecting there to be some really cool shit on the radio, but it was only country. I was like ‘What’s this shit?’ My friend told me, ‘Yea that shit’s all we have.’ Either hip-hop radio or country.”

“And now?” I asked.

He smiled again. He smiled and motioned with his hands as though he was pulling aside some sort of invisible, super-exclusive ermine curtain.

“Now? Everything has changed. Some of your hip-hop has influenced the sounds of electronic music in Europe and Europe is influencing your mainstream. You’re going to have the best electronic music in the world.”

The best. Electronic music. In the world. Here. So says Joachim Garraud.

And I believe. In the 2.4 billion. In the future of electronic in America. As I step off the fantastic sundeck of the marvelous penthouse of Santa Monica’s superlative Peninsula hotel, there’s not a mote of doubt in my mind as to the fact that he and his exuberant, yes exuberant, personality will find purchase and take root in this big country.

Joachim Garraud @ Playhouse, Hollywood, CA:

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