Mighty few American performers are able to communicate with foreign journalists who use a language different from their own – so credit French DJ David Guetta, the subject of a November 15 Westword profile, for speaking English (and doing so intelligently) while discussing his burgeoning career to date in the following Q&A.
Guetta tackles a passel of topics, including the contrast between his fame in France and his relative obscurity in the U.S.; what he sees as a growing American dance scene; his approach to marketing himself, exemplified by the ultra-accessible material and glamorous photographs to be found on his most recent CD, Pop Life; the status of him and his wife, Cathy, as a clubland power couple; the genesis of Fuck Me I’m Famous, a regular party that draws the very sort of luminaries who the bash’s moniker gently needles; the mainstreaming of French dance-music sounds via tunes such as Kanye West’s “Stronger,” which is built upon a musical bed made by Daft Punk; and the ways in which his late-night life has, and hasn’t, been changed by the addition of two young children to his family.
Clearly, Guetta feels that the kids are all right:
Westword (Michael Roberts): There’s a huge difference in your level of fame from Europe to the United States. Does that make coming to America kind of a relief for you – because you can walk the streets without immediately being recognized?
David Guetta: (Laughs.) Well, hopefully it is going to become the same in America one day. But no, I love it. I love the fact that also, this dance-music culture is still growing in America, and it’s getting bigger – but at the same time, it’s really still underground. So I like it, because right now, in Europe, it’s like pop music. It’s becoming really more mainstream. You have some really big radio networks that play 30 to 40 percent of dance music. I don’t think you have any radio that would do that in America yet. But hopefully that day will come. Because it was the same for us ten years ago. But at the same time, I can feel that it’s growing in America.
WW: So you see the same kind of signs of development in America that you saw in France back then?
DG: Exactly. I would compare that to ten years ago in Europe. Absolutely. I don’t know if it’s going to be the same, but the last time I came to America, I was really shy. I was really, like, “Oh, nobody’s going to care about me.” And actually, I had such a warm welcome. It was really amazing, this tour. So it’s, in a way, a sign, with people knowing the words and there being a really big interest from the people. I don’t see why this place would be the only one where dance music is so underestimated right now.
WW: Some DJs tend to almost hide behind their decks. They don’t put their photos on their CDs and they try to keep things as low-key as possible. But you seem to enjoy the limelight. Are you comfortable with the level of attention you receive these days?
DG: It depends what you want to do. There’s still a very strong underground scene even in Europe. What I always wanted to do is, at the same time, stay faithful to my community, but also put this music where it should be, as strong and as solid as hip-hop or pop or rock. And I think in order to do this, you need to, of course, produce good music, but also come with some good videos and good pictures for the cover of your album. I’m working with people like Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who’s an amazing photographer, and also does a lot of videos for Madonna and people like that. You know, being an artist, it’s not only producing tracks to make the people dance. I’m trying to do more than that. So yes, I’m really happy to make the people dance, but I’m also happy that people are playing my album at home and in the car, and that my tracks are being played on the radio. It’s amazing.
WW: I know your wife has a promotional background. Has she helped you to create your image?
DG: Yes, in a way. Yeah, of course. Not lately, but at the beginning, yes, very much. And we’re partners now in a party called Fuck Me I’m Famous, which is one of the bigger parties in Ibiza, and I also do this in Miami during the Winter Music Conference. It’s really an amazing party.
WW: I know that you and your wife have been referred to as the “Posh and Becks of the club scene.” Is that amusing to you? Or would you like to have a lower profile?
DG: I’m really not trying to be… How do I explain this? I’m doing this for my music, and yes, I want my music to be successful. But for me to be recognized is really not important. It happens now a lot, but this is not why I do this. This is also something I like about DJ culture. We have every advantage of a star without being inconvenienced. Usually you can go shopping without anyone asking you anything, but when you go to the club, people are going nuts. That’s perfect. Right now, dance music is becoming so strong in my country, for example, that it’s more like a pop level. So that’s changing a little bit now. But that’s not everywhere in the world. But for me, mostly, like I said, I’m happy that so many people love my music and my new album, Pop Life.We’re platinum now, and that’s fantastic. Now, I’m not saying I’m ready to do anything for that. But I like being played by older, super-cool DJs that I was admiring and that give me such passion for this music, you know? What I’m trying to do is difficult – to be played by the real people from the scene, and at the same time, to be played on the radio. But it’s working.
WW: You mentioned that Pop Life has gone platinum. Is that in France?
DG: Yes, in France, and we have gold records in many countries in Europe right now.
WW: You mentioned the Fuck Me I’m Famous parties. How did you come up with that name? And was the name a way of satirizing the celebrity lifestyle or celebrating it?
DG: Both, actually. We used to run, with my wife, we used to run a club where every artist, including a lot of American artists, were always coming. It was a club called Le-Bain Douche. And it was a way to take the piss out of my own lifestyle. So the party is a mix of glamorous people and really crazy ravers, and I love that. You can be nasty with the people you love.
WW: I would think some celebrities wouldn’t want to go to a party with that name, because people might go thinking they’d see famous people there. But it seems that celebrities are going more often than ever.
DG: Celebrities love that. You just need a sense of humor. Again, my party is about the music. My life is about the music. And of course I love music, so if they come, they’re welcome. But everyone is the same to me. This is what I love about house music – this idea that we’re all one, you know?
WW: You mentioned how different the United States’ scene is from Europe’s, and how things are much more underground here. Does it seem strange to you that you can play a song in a club here that everyone inside the club will know, but no one outside the club will know?
DG: No, it’s the same in Europe. We still have a very strong underground scene. It’s just that some of us manage – I don’t know how to explain it. But sometimes, there will be just one track that will cross over. But, you know, a lot of my tracks did not cross over. Only some of them. So this is what I say. I still have one foot in the underground culture, and at the same time, my music is pop because it’s on heavy rotation every radio, so I can’t say that I am underground. That does not mean that underground is dead here. It’s not. There’s some amazing underground, minimal techno DJs, and their music will never be played on the radio. And there are some tracks that you can play in a club and people will go crazy, and it will never be played on the radio. But I’m trying to make tracks that are dirty and twisted, but with some proper songs. Because if you come with a new beat – like, okay, I’m going to put more infra-bass in that kick – it’s going to be super-cool for two months. But in ten years, nobody will remember that. And, you know, a song like “Just a Little More Love,” which I did in 2001, I can still play it and people love it and sing along to it. So this is why I love songs so much.
WW: Here in the States, one of the biggest singles is Kanye West’s “Stronger,” which basically uses Daft Punk as the foundation of its sound. Do you see that as a good sign that America’s mainstream is opening up more to some of France’s dance sounds?
DG: It’s an excellent sign. Not only Daft, but Timbaland is using so many sounds coming from dance music. It’s just that the way he’s using it is different, and I love the way he’s using it. It’s really cool. But I can see a really big interest in the hip-hop community right now for what we do, and I think it’s very flattering. And I love also the fact that there used to be a wall between hip-hop and dance music, and now everybody respects each other. I was always like that. I listened to lots of different genres, and I think good music is good music.
WW: You’re the parent of two young children. Is that right?
DG: Very young. The younger one is fifteen days.
WW: Has that changed your lifestyle at all?
DG: Not really, not really. There’s more happiness in my life, but professionally, I didn’t really change my life.
WW: So it’s only added to your life. It hasn’t forced you to make changes you didn’t want to make.
DG: Exactly. This is why I’ve waited so long to make children. I’m passionate about music. I didn’t want to have to change my life and be frustrated. So now I have a nanny that can help me. I didn’t want to have to change my life because I wanted to have a child, and I didn’t have to. Now I have both the music and the happiness.