DJ Cam: Eyes of the Beholder

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DJCam_by_Graham_John_Bell

All photography by Graham John Bell

It’s a totally different universe to my music. In the beginning it was a little strange. Now it fits perfectly.

Juxtapositions in dramatic art forms and music make for strange bedfellows that clearly leave lasting impressions. Think about the unlikely electro pop Sophia Coppola used as the backdrop for scenes at Versailles in Mario Antoinette or the classical compositions used in the futuristic 2001 Odyssey.

One of the founders of trip hop, DJ Cam, is setting his atmospheric music against silent films like the 19th C. The Three Musketeers. “It’s a totally different universe to my music,” he explains. “In the beginning it was a little strange. Now it fits perfectly.”

For Laurent Daumail (his real name), the images and music have always been one. You cannot have one without the other, he points out. “Since the beginning, before music, I was always into graphics and visual art. I use to have a design intelligentsia in Paris.”

“Swim” feat Chris James

Now the French producer lives in Venice, California where he finds it not as “suffocating” as the beloved French capitol. “Paris is a great city but design there was really, really slow,” he explains. In California, Daumail values “tranquility,” the ocean, and taking his time to add artwork to a house with big white walls and modern French designer furniture from the ‘50s and ‘60s. “In Paris, I liked displaying photography and art related to music,” he continues. “Now, we want to take our time to find exactly the right pieces that speak to where we are.”

In looking through the artful lens of DJ Cam’s latest album, Seven, you experience a dazzling world of natural, melancholic beauty and lushness on display. Tracks delve past the languid intoxication of his biggest hit, “Summer in Paris,” (a single that sold more than a million copies in 2002) to 11 textured vignettes. “It’s like a virtual soundtrack for your holiday,” DJ Cam suggests.

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“Summer In Paris”

Seven’s plush yet stark songs are well healed and vocally enthralling—from the serene tone of Chris James (Stateless) to Massive Attack singer, Nicolette. “Uncomfortable,” “Fontainebleau” and “Dreamcatcher” are as matched to the midnight hush of KCRW’s airwaves as they are to more precise sound systems of Vegas pools and posh European clubs.

I think Los Angeles is a new New York. There is a love of new artists here—in music, pictures and art. Some of my favorite artists from New York have moved to LA. In the past everyone said there was nothing here and that it was tacky.

In the beginning (circa 1995) DJ Cam took a sharp turn away from his country’s other electronic music pioneers (Daft Punk, Bob Sinclair, Justice) to carve out a dreamier landscape in trip hop, in place of bombastic club singles. “It’s a question of background and education,” he ventures. They were more into rock and clubs and he was more into jazz, funk and soul.

One of DJ Cam’s goals for Seven was to create “a real album” with a beginning, a middle and an end—to tell a story. “I love all the tracks—they are all really different,” he adds. “Yet I hope people will listen to the whole work—not just a track or two. I love that concept. Now, in music, it’s just single after single on iTunes and everything is mixed together in electronic music. You don’t know what you’re listening to… if it’s techno or dubstep. It’s so strange, you know?”

What he does not find strange is the city he lives in. “I think Los Angeles is a new New York. There is a love of new artists here—in music, pictures and art. Some of my favorite artists from New York have moved to LA. In the past everyone said there was nothing here and that it was tacky. It was like, Oh, you’re from LA… okay.”

Now in terms of art and music, “It is one of the greatest cities because there is everything every day.” If you venture out into the vibrant music scene, you may even run into DJ Cam, watching bands like the Friendly Fires at Nokia Theatre (“They are so funky and disco!”) or DJ Shadow (“I’m curious to see how he performs alone.”). Yet when it comes to streaming music online, “It’s not really my thing,” he confesses. “But I really like Pandora because you can discover a new artist or track. If I like a track, I will buy the whole album, or I will buy the track to make a playlist.”

I was amazed by the island and the people. They are so smooth and gentle and peaceful. Even the furniture they do this very avant-garde...

Outside of music and design, it’s no surprise that DJ Cam adores film, art, fashion and travel. He admittedly loves to go on holiday and discover new countries, people and out of the way places. As an adventurer and practitioner of Vinyasa yoga, his most recent revelatory trip was to Bali. “I was amazed by the island and the people. They are so smooth and gentle and peaceful. I love the message and the food. It’s a very special place. Even the furniture… they do this very avant-garde furniture that’s a mixture of 1950s and Asia. It’s beautiful… I want to try and go to Bali every year now.”

Now that Seven is on its way to inhabit the psyche of artful types around the globe, what will be the next evolution of Laurent Daumail? “I am working on my first exhibition on landscape architecture. It’s a series of very strange landscapes (photographs) taken from my trips around the world…” Here's a glimpse into his upcoming project and imagine the soundtrack.

DJ Cam Downtempo club mix Live @ Tripnotic Lounge, Los Angeles