- Hi Joachim, it’s real pleasure to have you for this interview. how are you doing?
The pleasure is mine! I am very happy, I am very well. We had, us artists, a horrible period for 18 months and now concerts are coming back slowly, so it’s getting better. It’s not yet 150 concerts a year, of course, the whole world is still impacted, but we’re getting there.
I’ve used a lot of my time that I usually have available for concerts to work in the studio, make music. Now we’re seeing a bit more the people, it’s good because for 18 months I’ve stayed quite alone in my studio or with artists remotely via zoom to record them or produce music but it feels great to be back on stage, so I’m doing better.
- You just played at Fireland Festival in France alongside Martin Solveig, Lumberjack, Kungs and other renowned artists. How was it? What was the vibe of your set? Do you feel the energy in the crowd, the general atmosphere to be different or changed since the pandemic hit and people haven’t been able to party together for a long time?
It was lit! You can feel the difference. Objectively, for 18 months people haven’t been able to go out clubbing or to festivals, and what happened that Saturday in Perpignan was unbelievable. I think it’s been a while since I felt a dynamic, an energy so positive with people that were constantly at 100%. They were running a sprint, like a marathon, they did a 5 hours sprint (laughs). It was really great. People were very positive, they were happy to get together, go out with friends, see DJs again. When you’re at home you can listen to music with your headphones but it is not the same as being in a crowd, with a sound system, lights, to feel the energy and to share the passion for music. It was great.
- What about you, how did you feel during your live at Central Park in NY when you played in front of a real audience for the first time in 18 months? And for Bastille Day, what a symbol! What did it mean to you?
For me, it was very special as you mention it, and when I got on stage I took the microphone and I said ‘Listen, this concert is very special for me for 3 reasons. The first one it’s that this is my first concert in 18 months’, people started screaming ‘yeeaaah’, ‘second reason’ I say ‘it’s the first time that I’m playing for France in Central Park’, people went even louder (laughs), ‘and the third reason’, they weren’t expecting it at all, I say ‘it’s very special for me because it’s the first time in my life in 35 years of performing that I’m gonna play in front of people who have chairs’ (laughs). It was a seated audience because before me there was a Jazz concert and after they were showing a movie. I told the audience ‘you know for me it’s a first, usually, my public doesn’t use any chairs’. But after 2 minutes, the first record I played, people were standing up and they weren’t using the chairs anymore.
It was also very special because it was organised a bit at the last minute, until the last moment, the French consulate didn’t know if they were going to be able to use Central Park because of Covid as it was the first reopening of Central Park after 16 or 18 months. So we were lucky to get the slot to produce this event. The French consul, Jérémie Robert, asked me 3 weeks earlier: ‘Joachim can you produce a show? Can you take care of everything?’ I said okay, and I recruited the Jazz orchestra, we made a selection of titles we wanted to do. I did a whole programming for the afternoon and I ended up with a show that combined the best of the French Touch, the best of the French “French Touch” sound and French movie clips. For French people it was great.
- Yes this was something new and special to add bits of French movies to your show. You’ve always been quite a pioneer in terms of creative performance, you were the first to introduce a live instrument in your sets and later on videos for a complete audio and visual show. Where do you find your inspiration and ideas?
There’s this one sentence that marked me a lot. Years ago, when the TV channel Canal+ launched in France it was the fourth channel and André Rousselet, Canal+ CEO, was questioned 2-3 years after the launch when the channel was doing really well, ‘how did you know Canal+ was going to work so well?’ and he said ‘the most important thing in life is to be different’. And that’s what I’m trying to do as a DJ. For me, the difference is the way you stand out from the others. People can hate you or love you but in any case, they can’t say that you do the same as the others, and they will be able to identify you.
I had the chance to do piano and percussion at the music conservatory when I was younger and therefore learn classical music. Later when I found myself on stage as a DJ I was a bit frustrated and I was like ‘I want to play instruments, I want to play music’. And when I brought my keytar on stage, sure it was a bit old-fashioned because it’s an instrument from the ’80s, but the way I used it a bit Techno and Electro it was kind of revolutionary because people weren’t expecting it. At the end of my shows people would come and tell me ‘I loved your concert’, they wouldn’t say ‘I loved your DJ set’. There was a big difference. That’s how the idea of using the keytar came up because I wanted to play a musical instrument and I’m lucky enough to know how to play a bit. It was great to be able to communicate with people. It’s amazing to be able to interpret music by playing notes because when you play a tune two nights in a row, you can really play it differently in the intention. When a singer sings a song, they can sing it many different ways and that’s why people are touched because you’re doing something solely for them that night, and the next day you’ll do something different. When you play a record as a DJ, the record is always the same, it will always sound the same. However, when you play on the keyboard, you can interpret differently and you do something just for them and this is important.
For the video, it’s pretty simple. When I started to be a professional DJ 35 years ago, we were playing on vinyl and we were always in the dark, people could not really see us but it was quite visual: you had these big vinyl turntables with big black discs spinning. Then, 30 years later the profession has evolved a lot, and I find myself on stage with full light and on the same stage as The Prodigy or Rage Against The Machine or Jamiroquai, and technology has evolved and we play with USB sticks and there’s nothing visual left. I was like ‘wait a moment, 30 years ago there was something to see and we were in the dark and now there’s nothing more to see and we’re in the lights! We have to find a way to do a show’. At the same time, the first LED screens arrived and they were taking more and more space, they were bigger and bigger because when we were playing in stadiums and big rooms for festivals, for example, people needed to see the screen from quite far away. And at this time the screens were only used to display the DJ name so you would have ‘Joachim Garraud’ on repeat for an hour. And I thought ‘wait this is a bit ridiculous, we have some screens there, I’m gonna play some keytar, I have to film myself’ and that’s how I started to introduce videos in my shows.
I got the chance to meet Hiroshi Kawaguchi who was Pioneer boss in Japan and he was the one who created the CD deck and the DVD deck where we could put some DVDs and we could scratch a bit like a vinyl turntable. I met him during an evening in Tokyo, we became really good friends and so I gave a little help with the development of this machine cause I’m a bit of a geek I like machines. And so quickly I introduced video in my sets and it made a big difference. Imagine you have Tiesto playing and you have the Tiesto logo on the screens for an hour and a half, ok great, people love Tiesto they are into it, but then blackout and you have something showing ‘ladies and gentlemen are you ready for the show!’ for people this is it, the show starts now, because it was quite exceptional. Now all the DJs do that (laughs) you have to find something else. And that’s why when the French consul asked me to do a show for France, I said look I have this idea that I wanted to do for a while and it’s to mix film clips to the tempo because now technology allows us to kind of rap people like Jean Gabin, put them in the rhythm. And I said I’d like to do that and only French people would be able to understand because broadcasting a clip of Louis de Funes, no one else would get it. And it worked so well that I am organising a tour in French embassies around the world. There are 220 of them, if I can go to 30 countries it’ll be great and I’m actually checking Australia now.