Words by Edward Wainwright
Laurent Garnier has been DJ’ing, touring live and producing for nearly two decades now. But those long hours behind the wheels of steel can risk getting a little samey after a while. How to change things? How to push DJ’ing in a new direction? Well, the answer for Garnier seems to be: get a little help from your friends…
Eighteen years behind the decks must get kinda lonely for a DJ. But it seems it also pushes some to try and reinvent the format. Recently, perhaps in response to the slightly ubiquitous nature of the ‘live’ laptop performance, some DJs are trying to change the game, to refresh DJ’ing. With the likes of Jeff Mills bringing conceptual art to the club environment with his Tomorrow Plus X and Sleeper Wakes projects, news of Laurent Garniers L.B.S. events suggests the godfathers of house and techno are starting to speculate about the future of live club sounds.
Garnier’s history behind the decks has been long and certainly illustrious, but for the last eighteen months, he has been eschewing the touring DJ schedule for his ‘Tales of a Kleptomaniac’ live show. Excluding a few notable exceptions (last October’s Shake It! party in London for one), his presence on the club scene has been missed. So, Garnier has decided to return to the DJ booth, but this time bringing some friends.
L.B.S. – what it stands for remains elusive: Live Booth Sessions, possibly, or Laurent + Ben + Stephane, or even the odd sounding Loud Bass & Samples – is Garnier’s project to progress the relationship between production, DJ’ing and live instrumentation in a club setting. Driven by the desire to fuse his twin strands of performing – the DJ set and the live act – L.B.S. sees Garnier mixing, controlling and generally conducting collaborators Benjamin Rippert and Scan X, whilst they perform live instrumentation, remixing, creating and feeding back into the DJ set as the night progresses. As Garnier suggests, doing the same thing for nearly two decades can get a little repetitive:
After more than twenty years spent DJing, I really wanted to take it a step further. Sometimes, when I see other DJs playing out today I get the feeling that they’re bored, that they don’t get off on what they’re doing anymore. It is very clear to me why the idea behind L.B.S came to life because not only will it give my work a new lease of life, it will also offer a new and very different experience to club goers.
The set-up involves Garnier on the decks and operating machines, Rippert on keyboards and Scan X working the synths, and as Garnier himself says, testing fresh tracks, remixes and spontaneous improvisations against the tough environment of the club, where the dance floor never lies. No two sets will be the same, and will see the collaborators experimenting live and continuous over a four-hour slot, with the intention of creating new sounds for future live sessions. Playing his own material alongside that of others, the live element will be woven throughout the set, experimenting with what can be created truly on the fly.
Things are certainly changing in the DJ booth at the moment, and with this experiment from Garnier, perhaps the boundaries between live-act, DJ and producer will be blurred even further. One thing’s for sure though: it’s an exciting time to be on the dance floor.
The Burlington Project asked Laurent Garnier a few questions on the L.B.S. project:
BP: Do you see this project as a response to the emergence of 'live' laptop based sets that re-work tracks on the fly, but are effectively DJ'ing through the computer? Is this a way to do that same 're-working' but with more interaction and performance for the audience?
LG: I never really liked the live with laptops. 90% of what they are doing was already written, I don't see the point. This is why I am having musicians, we are properly playing live, the way i perceive it. There is not that many laptop lives I've seen that really do it for me, a few but not that many at all. If you go live, you go live, you take the risk. With LBS there is a lot of experiments, we are creating together, in front of the crowd.
You talk about this being a 'very club based' project - do you see it as something responsive, whereby the club-goer’s response changes what you make, play and then re-play?
Yes, but it will not sound the same every night. This is what everybody does, you try and make better and use again the things that really work, but always trying new ways. We are going to experiment and go further as we can to get the best live show in two years.
You say that the dance-floor never lies - do you see the club environment as a harsh, yet productive test-bed for your music?
The job of a DJ is to look at the crowd and see how people react to your music. It's very clear when a dancefloor is bored and when you have to do something about it. It's exactly the same with LBS, we can see what works, if it doesn't, change it, if it does, make it better.