DJ Laurent Garnier ardently believes that his primary focus, regardless of creative format and setting, has always been that of a storyteller.
These storytelling impulses are realised in an expanded and newly translated English language version of Electrochoc: an ambitious and singular history-cum-autobiography which utilises Mr. Garnier’s unique career trajectory as an exploratory device to interrogate and chart dance music’s cultures, protagonists, commercial interests and consequences.
Renewing past collaborative efforts with journalist David Brun-Lambert, Mr. Garnier weaves together his experiences within dance music to reach a very personal but wholly imperative set of understandings about its progression. Having spent most of his life intertwined within the celebration, evolution and defence of the sounds and cultures of house and techno musics, Electrochoc is interested in, but crucially not confined to, plotting a history of these genres.
Yet Electrochoc does not exist as a mere hedonistic scrapbook of names, dates, vogues and tracks (although for the dance-music anorak there are a series of Garnier curated playlists which appear in the margins throughout.) It is instead a book which, amongst its very apparent myriad aims, has a commendable propensity to problematise and expose the internal issues that dance music’s culture faces and brings upon itself.
Although nodule passages shimmer poetically with Laurent’s love for his chosen musical culture; a love which has brought him experiences as far-reaching as his last rave in 80‘s England as a young man (‘Live the Dream’) and the last dance at Japanese superclub Yellow as a globally renown DJ. These evocative memories are not chosen for their stand-alone anecdotal worth – though their interest to any fan is clear – but cherry-picked as evidence to support Mr. Garnier’s beliefs on maintaining a ‘purity’ within dance-music culture.
As Mr. Garnier and Mr. Brun-Lambert chart the evolution of dance-music in vivid socio-cultural and emotional detail – from its beginnings in sweaty, maligned enclaves of youthful bourgeois breakaway, freedom of expression and the nightime hangouts of sexual, ethnic and social minorities to its current, seemingly ubiquitous, conception as a cacophonous, mind-jarring, lazer-backed, pre-packaged product of the juggernaut that is big record label hyper-commercialism – Mr. Garnier’s intent for being involved in the writing of this book becomes clear.
Dragged along by a fast-moving narrative that seam-stretches with anecdotes, Electrochoc is a clearly demarcated interrogation of dance music that blends together the personal, cultural, commercial and social to expound on Mr. Garnier’s unease at those who abuse, and have abused, this music for money, vapid hedonism, political gain or an easy journalistic story.
It also celebrates the characters, whom he believes have maintained a creative output that does not pander to contemporary tastes to keep all culture invigorated. Or, at the very least, who have defended dance-music culture in the face of adversity.
His continuing career – inseparable from the artistry, ethics, creative output and compunction it has embodied – is reassuring. So long as him, and others like him, are fighting for their voices to be heard and their music to be listened to, in the manner in which they believe it should be, we can take solace that the music industry is still sane – at least in part. Which, simply speaking, is why Electrochoc is as compulsory reading as can be for any person planning a career in whatever chosen artistic direction.
Mr. Garnier’s anger, in the face of rampant commercialism, is refreshing within an industry whose whorish commercial face overshadows the achievements of DJs, producers and curators who still embody a ‘paie de sa personne’ attitude.
That he has a platform to rail against the nature of ‘the authentic experience being abused for commercial gain ….compounding [a] misery is that the absence of judgement in the kids with regards to the mediocrity of what they are experiencing – and labels that just want to market their image’ Mr. Brun-Lambert needs commending, for instigating and guiding the production of this as yet-to-be matched guidebook and history of, and for, modern dance music.
Published by Rocket 88. RRP Hardback £30. Released, for the English Language, July 2nd 2015.
Words by Dan Cave