French DJ/producer David Guetta never dreamt that some day he’d be a pop star. The one man hit machine lately guested on The Graham Norton Show, looking rock star fabulous in leather pants. David staged an exhilarating performance of Titanium, with Justine Taton filling in for Sia. “It was fun!,” David enthuses.
Strangely, the ultra-swag David still feels uncomfortable posing for photos or appearing in videos. To this day, the Parisian, who has over 25 million followers on Facebook and 1.6 on Twitter, claims to be primarily a DJ. “I have pictures of me playing with the turntables when I was two-years-old – and I was obsessed with the music since I was a baby,” the restaurateur’s son said in 2004. “My parents used to lock up all the records and everything ’cause I always wanted to play with it.”
David is a contemporary of French techno ‘godfather’ Laurent Garnier, the pair old pals. In fact, he was gigging as a teenager in the ’80s, spinning funk and New Wave in a gay club. Curious about the UK’s acid house movement, David journeyed to London to check it out. The DJ was amazed by what he discovered at Danny Rampling’s Shoom, returning to Paris determined to launch a house night. And so he began promoting, eventually introducing the cheekily sexy F**k Me I’m Famous! parties in Ibiza (and how prophetic was that name?). Along the way, David operated Paris’ first strip club, the ‘classy’ Pink Paradise.
In 2011 the now veteran, specialising in melodic electro-house, won DJ Mag’s Top 100 Poll after nearly a decade’s domination of trancers. However, even two years before his UK No. 1 When Love Takes Over with Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland, David was the world’s highest ranked house stalwart at No. 10. Those who’ve never witnessed David’s DJing will appreciate his popularity when he headlines Creamfields Australia 2012 and Canberra’s all-ages Stage 88. The super-DJ covers every base. “I’m gonna play a lot of new music and a lot of special edits. You know, I’m trying to give a unique experience. As much as I play some of my big hits, if I do it, I do it in a special way where people have never heard that version before. I’m gonna play a lot of new music because I’m starting an electronic label – it’s called Jack Back Records. So I have a lot of new music. I’ve a single on Beatport with [Dutch DJ] Nicky Romero and myself called Metropolis. It’s really, really crazy. I have a few new records that I’m gonna try out, that people don’t know yet, but it’s feeling exciting!”
Clearly, the maverick is fond of Australians – they’ve been involved in two of his biggest records. Melbourne’s Nervo sisters had a part in penning When Love Takes Over, while Sia co-wrote and sang Titanium, initially a promo single but now multi-platinum in Oz. “I love Australia, but it’s not an obsession,” David laughs. He reached out to the Aussies because they’re “very talented”. “To tell you the truth, when I worked with Sia, at first I didn’t even know she was Australian.” The Adelaide soulstress is, he adds, “really unbelievable.”
David disseminated his earliest record, Nation Rap, with Gallic hip-hop pioneer Sidney Duteil way back in… 1990. He’d also air the mid-’90s garage Up & Away, featuring legendary Chicago house vocalist Robert Owens. Yet for years David regarded production as “a hobby”, DJing and promoting consuming much of his time. He didn’t present an album until 2002, with Just A Little More Love a post-electroclash reincarnation of ‘French touch’ (Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter aided him in securing a Virgin deal). The American gospeller Chris Willis elevated the title-track. David Bowie sanctioned the official release of what originated as a bootleg remix of Heroes – Just For One Day. Later, David’s Simple Minds-sampling The World Is Mine soundtracked a L’Oreal hair gel campaign, the DJ a photogenic model despite his protests.
David conceived his first ‘pop’ album in 2007′s (duh!) Pop Life, encompassing Love Is Gone. He actually hired songwriter Cathy Dennis. By this point, Madonna was lauding him. Nonetheless, David’s breakthrough year would be 2009. Ms Rowland heard the DJ drop the euphoric instrumental of When Love Takes Over and persuaded him to let her lay down a vocal. Around the same time, will.i.am, enamoured of European club music (and digging Love Is Gone), approached David to produce The Black Eyed Peas – culminating in I Gotta Feeling, which smashed iTunes’ sales records and struck No. 1 in the US, UK and Australia. David bonded with Akon at a BBC Radio 1 event and they recorded Sexy Chick (aka Sexy Bitch), another triumph. David’s fourth album, One Love, containing the aforementioned mega-hits (including a remix of the Peas’), blew up. Brilliantly, One Love surfaced just as urban music (hip-hop and R&B) was rejuvenating itself. Rihanna smartly contributed Who’s That Chick? to 2010′s ‘deluxe’ edition.
Last year Guetta yielded the double-album Nothing But The Beat – again flaunting a stellar line-up, led by Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj on Where Them Girls At. But, while David stashed the first disc with crossover tunes, he devoted the second to instrumental anthems like Sunshine, an Avicii collab.
Today David is deemed revolutionary for bringing together the oft-antithetical dance and urban – or, as he puts it, “mixing electronic European influences and American urban music” – in a manner that no industry type could have predicted. He’s produced the likes of Kelis, Snoop Dogg and Pitbull, occasionally trading beats for cameos on his own songs. David’s arrival has generated opportunities for others, from Tiësto with his ‘trouse’ to Swedish House Mafia to the US Kaskade. Ironically, in old interviews the DJ argued that house might be as big as hip-hop. “I don’t wanna sound conceited, but I made it happen – I’m one of the guys who started it,” David says coyly of his “electro-hop”. “I still love it, but so many people are doing it [now] that I’m also trying to find a new sound. That’s why I made Titanium, because I was trying to reinvent myself – which is difficult, but I’m always trying to surprise people. But, of course, that’s a very important part of my life, that combination. It’s probably what made me really successful from an international point of view.”
David is astonished by his fame. “I have been a successful DJ for a long time, but it’s just that the DJ world was not where it is now – at all. So it’s like a new world almost. It’s surprising – it’s shocking, but in a nice way.” He plays colossal venues. “Sometimes I’m in a place where I’ve seen really famous rock or pop artists when I was younger and I was, Wow! I cannot believe that I’m filling those places now. It’s crazy.”
The producer, currently charting in Oz with his Nicki Minaj-sung Turn Me On, has no immediate plans for a sixth LP. He’s genuinely committed to reconnecting with his beloved underground club culture, hence that fledgling digital label. ”At the moment I’m focussing more on really making electronic beats. I like this record that I just produced for Jessie J. It’s called LaserLight and it’s really cool – with a similar sound to Titanium, a little bit. [But] then, aside from that, I’m just really focussed on electronic music.” David continues to remix tunes like Chris Brown’s Beautiful People, having scooped two Grammies for past efforts, most recently his and Afrojack’s tweaking of Madonna’s Revolver. And he offered the niche compilation F**k Me I’m Famous!: Ibiza Mix 2011, sharing the bill with his glamourous wife Cathy, herself influential. (The former bartender has marketed her own ‘Ibiza’ fragrances.) “She doesn’t take care of the music at all, but we have this party F**k Me I’m Famous! that we set in Ibiza every week in the summer and she does all the visual aspect of it,” David says. “She’s very talented when it comes to production and shows and promotion – so that’s what she does.” They have two kids.
David holds that dance music will only grow. “I think it’s gonna go bigger and bigger for the next [few] years. It’s already the biggest thing on the planet right now, but it’s gonna go even bigger.” He remains receptive to fresh sounds. David, who arguably made it easier for Skrillex to conquer the US, is even into dubstep. “I love it!,” he reveals. “That’s not what I do, but I do take influences… For this record Metropolis that I just released with Nicky, I would say that we kind of used some of the dubstep tricks in house music.”
David is dismayed that the US media are so oblivious to house music’s domestic antecedents – and they’re not alone. Many high-profile DJs were born well after house’s ‘First Wave’, catching onto the music through Daft Punk. David has just released a documentary, also tagged Nothing But The Beat, showing how his career intertwines with that of dance history. Symbolically, Laurent is interviewed. Is it important dance fans know the story of the music – or should they just enjoy the parties? “That’s a good question,” David ponders. “I don’t know anymore because, again, it’s totally changed… It’s a fact that the new generation making electronic dance music doesn’t necessarily know the history and the roots of this music. Is it a bad thing? I don’t know!” Chatting to Nicky about records, he learnt that the My Friend producer was unaware of Lil Louis’ Chicago classic French Kiss. “I was like, ‘What?,’” David chuckles. “For me, it was not making any sense at all.” But, he realised, it doesn’t matter. “[Nicky] is one of the most talented DJ/producers right now – so OK, it’s fine.” And Nicky has the best kind of teacher.