Ever since Laurent Garnier dropped out of a clear blue, gastronomically tinged sky and surfed synchronicity all the way to the heart of the Hacienda, he has been forging a musical legacy spanning the years, the styles, the movements and the basslines. Staging a systematic prison break from the confines of French cultural orthodoxy he honed his inherently diverse musical understanding in the crucible of the acid house revolution, and stormed on to become an electronic legend and a passionately tenacious ambassador for the French scene on the global stage...
How the hell did you end up at the Hacienda?
I guess I was living in the right place at the right time! I graduated from catering school when I was 18 and immediately began looking for an opening in the UK to cement my English, as without a solid grasp of the language, there were very few decent opportunities in the catering world. I was lucky enough to land an excellent job as a waiter at the French Embassy in London, and during that period, I met a girl, as you do, whose sister ran a chain of restaurants around Manchester, and after nearly 3 years at the embassy, I made the fateful decision to move up north and take her up on a job offer. Now of course, alongside the conventional career I was developing, the passion for music that I’d had since the age of 12 was burning as hard as ever. I was a totally committed bedroom DJ, doing a few pirate radio shows, playing at a few small private parties between friends, and keeping my record collection nicely ticking over, but for all of that, it really did boil down to the strokes of fortune that got the right demo tape into the right set of hands. This was 1987, and the Hacienda were looking to launch a new night. I was a regular already, and when a friend of mine, Danny who did a lot of the lights and the visuals mentioned that a new night was on the cards, he suggested I gave him a mix to pass round a few of the relevant people. Danny managed to get it to Paul Cons, the principal booker, and having given it a listen, Paul invited me up for an interview and on the strength of that, gave me a trial run... and of course the rest is history. I was a lucky boy.....a very lucky boy.
How aware were you at the time of riding a social and cultural movement that went beyond music alone?
Well the thing was that I started at the Hacienda before the explosion of acid house– as I say, this was 1987, and certainly in my first 3 or 4 months playing there, you just didn’t get the sense that something epic was brewing. You have to understand, I was spinning Wednesday nights and the music policy was EVERYTHING – plain and simple , you name it, we played it, – soul, funk, hip hop, rare groove –and of course a few of the original house records floating in from America even before it was called house. It was when we got our hands on Farley Jackmaster Funk’s first record that it began to dawn on us that a turning point had been reached, and within 3 months, the entire landscape changed. Up until that point we were playing to a ‘normal’ crowd in a ‘normal’ club, and then so suddenly, house music dropped and before you knew it, the scene was exploding at critical velocity as house rolled into acid house, ecstasy arrived with a sublime sense of timing and the whole thing blew. We felt very much as if we were being swept away on something that was bigger than us, but at the same time, we were equally aware of being at the heart of the new movement. Something was happening around us, we were at the epicentre and even then you had the feeling that you were helping to write the book on it, almost as if we were actors in this unfolding movie and we felt very personally involved with the core. It wasn’t like you might imagine – the idea that you were surfing this enormous external wave - that was the thing, it didn’t feel external or weird at all – call it being at the calm eye of the storm or just call it being young, but we embraced what was happening very consciously and worked very hard to harness it and keep driving it forwards.
Coming from the heart of this empathic, renegade spirit of freedom, how on earth did you cope with military service?
I was called up by the army in the summer of 88, which of course was deeply sad as I missed the peak of the Summer of Love. I managed to get to a couple of massive raves up north before the orders kicked in, and then that was it – I had to leave and there was no two ways about it. Naturally I was keeping in touch to the best of my ability, which basically consisted of forensically reading any magazine I could get my hands on to open a window onto what was happening back in the UK. In a way, I was actually very lucky in the grand scheme of things, because after the compulsory first 2 months in what they call the ‘class’ which is basically introductory training in an army camp, I managed to squeeze a job as a waiter in the mess serving the senior officers. The beauty of that position was being able to go back to my own house every day. I may have been geographically constrained by having to stay in France, but this was Paris now – not some rural camp and I was out every night playing house music in the clubs. Not only did that allow me to still go out, still play out and keep completely up to date with currents across the channel, but twice a week I was playing for English promoters in Paris which kept me in the loop and a lot of my friendships solid. In some ways it was like a parallel reality – I knew exactly what was going on, but I wasn’t living it – it was a really bizarre sensation – but then I was making the best of a non negotiable situation – it was compulsory and that was the end of it. The only way I could fight against it was to make damn sure I was going out every night, DJing every night, getting records from my friends in England and keeping my identity completely independent of my circumstance. But then it could have been so much worse, so I do have to recognise that I was lucky enough to stay on the trajectory and stay connected.
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LSD MAGAZINE ISSUE 7
LSD MAGAZINE ISSUE 7