Joachim Garraud has been making electronic music for decades. The DJ and producer first began his foray into dance music in the late 1980s and has been going full steam ahead since then.
Known both for his unique sound as well as for his one of a kind video shows, Garraud has seen the ebb and flow of the dance music scene and taken it in stride. As a producer, Garraud has been behind some of the biggest dance anthems of the 2000s (“Love is Gone” and “Love Don’t Let Me Go” by David Guetta and Chris Willis, to name a couple). As an artist, Garraud has offered a free weekly radio show called “Zemixx” since 2009 and has created a plethora of original songs and remixes (his remix of Beyonce’s “Partition” saw huge success in spring 2014).
After years in the dance music scene, one might think Garraud would tire of it, but after talking to him, I found this is certainly not the case. The French DJ and producer took time out of his Christmas Eve holiday to chat with me over the phone from Paris. His answers were thoughtful and insightful and it is clear that we can expect great things to continue to come from Garraud.
Cat: You are a classically trained musician – why and how did you make the transition to electronic music?
Joachim: I was lucky to study music at school when I was young. I had two loves when I was younger- music and computers. So at the end of the 1980s, I found a way to merge these two loves by making music with computers. And with my classical music education, I was excited to work and try to make music with machines, with computers. So that’s how I started making electronic music – I made a bridge between music and computers.
Cat: For our readers that aren’t particularly familiar with dance music, how would you describe your sound?
Joachim: Let’s say it’s electro and techno music, with not so many vocals. When I make music under the artist name, “Joachim Garraud,” it is more a techno and electro sound.
Cat: You do some live stuff with a keyboard- how does that factor in?
Joachim: When I’m doing a live show, I try to do something different than the other DJs. I try to optimize my musical knowledge to do something live. That is the main thing for me- to make a direct connection with the audience by playing keyboard live. It’s very cool because we are moving from a classic DJ set to a concert or live show just by adding some notes on the top of the DJ setup. So that’s why I use the keyboard live. The keyboard is something special, it comes from the ’90s *he laughs* the real name is “keytar.”
Cat: You’ve been in the dance scene since the late 80s- talk about the changes that have taken place from then to now. Are you happy with where the scene is?
Joachim: When I started to be a DJ, that was like 20 years ago and the job was completely different, because nobody around me, none of my friends, wanted to be a DJ. It was thought of as the worst job in a nightclub. Everybody wanted to be at the door or behind the bars, making more money. But nobody was excited to play the music, especially because DJs went unknown in that time. The main thing was the music.
Now, it’s crazy because we are on the mainstage, under the spotlight and everybody wants to be a DJ. So the job is completely different. We’ve moved from a specialized job to a very main job and that’s a good thing. I’m so happy to be able to do shows all over the world, it’s something amazing for me. I never thought when I was young that I’d be able to make money doing a job that I loved like this. But it was always the thing I wanted to do the most.
So I’m very happy with all the changes, even if now the relationships between DJs are not as easy as in the past. Back then it was very easy to call other DJs and say, “okay, let’s set up my birthday party and you have to come for free,” *he laughs* and this is something we did in the past. For my birthday in 2005, it was a private party with about 200 people. But behind the decks we had Steve Angello, Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso [members of Swedish House Mafia], Eric Prydz, David Guetta… Everybody was there for free because because the spirit was very easy. But that couldn’t happen today – everything is very under control with managers and all that, so it’s not as easy.
Cat: What do you think the future holds for dance music?
Joachim: It’s hard to talk about the future. What I can see right now is that audience members have a better knowledge of the music and they’re going to see artists that are more involved in the music. Four or five years ago, people would just go to shows and there would be someone behind a laptop and nobody could see what he was doing live. But now people are coming to have a better show. So that’s why there is now a huge production around the DJ – LED screens, fireworks, so many production things not very linked to the music. But I can feel that people are coming back to the roots and back to the musical source and they’re coming more for artists who are going to play music live.
Cat: You’ve been doing a weekly radio show called “Zemixx” since 2009. How do you keep this show fresh week after week? Where do you pull your inspiration from?
Joachim: The Zemixx weekly show is really my baby and in a few months, we’re going to celebrate six years. So it’s been six years that every week I give a free hour of mixed electro. I am very happy and proud to be No. 1 on iTunes in France, Germany, and Spain with this podcast. It’s really something special because you can’t really listen to this type of music on the radio and I’m producing a lot of new tracks only for the show to keep it fresh.
Cat: You’ve done a lot of work with a lot of different producers, especially with David Guetta. What is producing for other artists like?
Joachim: Because I had a classical music education, I am very lucky to wear different hats and one of these hats is composing and producing music for others. I was also lucky to learn some music engineering and I have my own recording studio in Paris, so that was good for me working under the artist name, “Joachim Garraud,” but also in producing for my friends.
That’s a different job for me. For example, when I’m doing a release for Beyonce or making songs for David Guetta, that’s a very different job because I am doing the producer job. And for me, acting as a producer is just to help as much as possible to bring a certain level of quality to songs for another artist. I really like that because I like trying to find the best sound, the best way to produce music, to write music for other people. I’m still doing that right now for some different artists, some are famous, but some I found on the web and I’m trying to help them make the best songs possible.
Cat: Your record label, Space Invader, had a big year in 2014. What do you look for in new artists to sign?
Joachim: This label is only for helping the younger generations of producers to have the most exposure possible. In 2014 we were very happy to give the chance to more than 25 new producers that never had the chance to release their own tracks before. We helped them to produce, to make some remixes and release their tracks. We also gave them the chance to play a lot of festivals in Europe. So if I have to tell you the profile to join the team, it’s very easy – you have to love the music and send an email with your best unreleased track to email@example.com. We review all the tracks and we’re trying to help one or two DJs per month.
Cat: After some big releases and remixes in 2014, what can you tell me about what you’ll be doing in 2015?
Joachim: I have five or six shows in Europe before the end of the year (Note from Cat: I did this interview on 12/24/14). Then I will be back in California. For the next three months, I won’t be doing shows because I’m just focusing to finish my own solo album.
In 2015, I’m splitting myself between Joachim Garraud the artist and Joachim Garraud the producer. I’m producing a lot of music with Chris Willis that’s going to be for his album. This Chris Willis album is vey house, a lot of vocals, very positive and happy music.
Cat: You’re pretty familiar with Chris Willis because you and David Guetta did “Love Don’t Let Me Go” among others with him, and you’ve been producing with him for a while.
Joachim: Exactly. I met Chris Willis in 2000 and since then, we’ve made a lot of songs together. And a lot of those were for David Guetta projects- “Love Don’t Let me Go,” “Love Is Gone.” For the last two years, we’ve made songs for the Chris Willis project and the last song we made, “One Night,” was number three and four on the Billboard charts. The rest of the songs will be released in 2015 on his album.
At the same time, my own album is part of the music I love, but it’s going to be very techno with no vocals. Something completely different.
Cat: You’ve been in this industry for so long. What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a producer or a DJ?
Joachim: That’s a very good question *he laughs*. Maybe a chef. I can cook. Because being in the kitchen and being in the DJ booth are more or less the same thing – you’re creating, mixing something. But it’s definitely hard for me to imagine doing something that’s not linked to music.
Check out Garraud’s star-studded 2005 birthday bash that he mentioned in the interview. It really highlights how much can change in 10 years :