"More, I want more. Oh, Laurent I want more.
LAURENT Garnier has been hailed as one of the best DJs on the planet. Deservedly. He plays like he's a crossbreed of Thor, the God Of Thunder and a hi-NRG gay DJ from sleaze-city. Because no matter how hard, mean and distorted his sets get, they always make you want to dance. Laurent plays hardcore you can vogue to.
He speaks with a neat accent but slides between a thick, almost Peter Sellers piss-take French and a broad Manc swagger. The only big European DJ to have had a residency at the Hacienda, he has, unlike Sven Vath or Dag, a regular penchant to cry
In restaurants he's seriously Gallic, talking about snails and gaily translating menus for the English contingent with adjectives a TV chef would be proud of. He laughs a lot and cracks jokes, takes the piss out of scouse snapper Mark McNulty with a series of scally impressions and references to shellsuits.
But he's deadly serious when he DJs. He doesn't even smile much but is totally focussed, flying in and out of his box to find exactly the right record to play next. His sets fly across genres to take in disco, trashy trance, metallic hardcore, underground Detroit and the minimal pump of Chicago. When he wiggles the EQs he knows exactly when a track is going to break into sub-bass or flashing trebles and always finds the right moment to turn up the heat.
He cross-fades like a scientist, shifting sounds in and out of the mix to build ever more wild and intense vinyl collisions. And he looks just like the chef he trained to be, only instead of adding spices he's dropping hi-hats and kick drums.
"House," says Laurent,
"is a mixture of many things. Soul, funk, disco, Mantronix and Kraftwerk." Put all these together and you build a spectrum that takes in everything from deep garage to queer classics and both pure and hardcore techno. Like Amsterdam's Dimitri or Detroit's Derrick May, Laurent is one of the few DJs who uses his Technics to connect Lil Louis' `Blackout' and Donna Summer's `I Feel Love' to the cutting-edge ultra-hardness of Luke Slater, Jeff Mills, Rob Hood, Mike Banks and Maurizio.
"Do you want to know the difference between hardcore and Luke and Jeff?" asks Laurent,
"God knows how hard their music is. But it's no gabber. When you go to a gabber club, what moves in your body? It's your head." And he starts to bang his head like Rotterdam's gabber-loving ravers hooked on 180bpm and rising.
"When you listen to Luke, it's your bum. I feel like my bum's shaking. It's hard but it talks to my arse and to my hips. That's the difference between rock n' roll, y'know-" and he launches into a head-banging impression of Alice Cooper
"-and disco. What I play is shakey shakey, wiggle your bottie."
"My parents were taking me to clubs and the music was thumping, the lights, everything was marvellous. It was really beautiful to watch someone with the power to make people dance."Within a year he was making mix tapes for his mates and DJing at his schoolfriends parties and by 14, he had played his first allnighter, New Year's Eve at his grandmother's restaurant.
"'You wanna be a DJ?' my grandmother said. "You're going to have to do it.'
"I was playing disco, hi-NRG, Village People, Taylor Dayne, go-go, cha-cha,"recalls Laurent,
"it was very open."And then came house.
"It blew my mind. I was dancing in the Hacienda and Mike Pickering played Mantronix, Joyce Sims and then he stopped and played Farley Jackmaster Funk's 'Love Can't Turn Around'. And you know when you can get punched by someone and it hits you heavy? Well I was on the dancefloor and I felt this massive punch. I went straight over to the DJ box, I just knocked on the door saying, 'Tell me what the fuck is this. What kind of stuff is this.' I never heard anything like it before."
"It was the future of disco music and disco wasn't there anymore,"says Laurent.
"House was talking to everybody, to gays, straight, blacks and whites. So it was a good thing."
NEXT was the E.
"Ecstasy made the whole thing happen," recalls Laurent.
"It was a completely black dance orientated thing in the beginning, especially in Manchester and then ecstasy brought all the white people in. I think it just turned the world upside down completely."
The planet exploded and Laurent went with it. He returned to France for his National Service but still DJed in Parisian house, gay and nu beat clubs. He went back to Manchester in 1990 to rock the Hacienda for six months then headed out once again to Europe to play raves, manage DJs and set up his own gay and underground clubs like the legendary Wake Up in Paris. He became a stronger and better connected DJ and watched the scene grow into a major cultural force but simultaneously degenerate into drug-fuelled chaos.
"Now it's become so much a part of the culture," opines Garnier,
"that if they don't do an E they can't enjoy themselves. And that means they don't even listen to the music anymore, they just get the rush off their drugs and they lose themselves in their own little world. It bores me. All these kids want is a rush with the drug and I want to rush with the music."...click here to continue