Saturday 17 February 2018

Superstar DJ, here we go...

He has turned the art of spinning decks into a multi-million euro business, but Work Hard, Play Hard star David Guetta still likes to party

David on stage. His personal fortune is estimated at $35m
David on stage. His personal fortune is estimated at $35m
Ed Power

Ed Power

He is everything you expected. Smiling, laid-back (horizontal, really), at pains not to take himself seriously (that's your job, it will transpire). "Hey my maaaaan, how are you?" he says, sounding like Joey from Friends, if Friends was set in St Tropez and featured a gazillion supermodels in every episode.

What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that if you had hoped superstar DJ David Guetta would conduct himself like a guy whose life is a blur of private jets, VIP lounges and popping champagne corks, he does not disappoint.

Guetta has just touched down in Salzburg. It's Friday and tonight's gig, in front of the standard 30,000 screaming, pogo-ings fans, is his fifth of the week. Tomorrow he's back in the studio, laying down ideas for a new solo record.

He makes a point of telling you this, wants you to know that, in addition to whooshing around the globe in a Lear and hanging out with beautiful people, he works very, very hard.

Past the bling and the sunshine, his job, he intimates, is kind of a slog. A glorious, living-the-dream slog, sure. But, still, no tiptoe through the tulips.

"I travel in jets. I do not live the jet-set lifestyle," says the Parisian in perfect English, his accent drifting between Rodeo Drive and the Fifth Arrondissement. "Jet-setters are those who take the plane and drink champagne and spend money. I take the plane to make money – that is the difference. Yes, I use a jet to go to my job, instead of the subway like I used to when I was young.

"It is work nonetheless."

So he lives like a monk while all around the party is at full throttle? "No, no – I am having the party too. That's my thing. I come to party with the people. It is what I do. I would not call myself a jet-setter. I don't go to jet-set places. I go to festivals, to concerts.

"It is not about who is rich, or who has the best-looking T-shirt. It is about who has the craziest energy, who has their hands in the air. It is a different kind of jet-set."

It is no exaggeration to describe David Guetta as the biggest, best-known DJ in the world today. He has created a new genre – stadium dance – and profoundly influenced modern chart music.

Those hi-NRG, giddily cheesy beats that are ubiquitous on pop radio? His idea. As a producer he's midwifed Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling, the most downloaded single in history, and oversaw much of Rihanna's last album.

As a DJ, he has achieved what was once considered impossible: sold bright, splashy European techno to Americans.

In mainstream electro, he isn't simply another dude. He's the dude.

"I'm proud of that," he says of his role in popularising techno in the US, where the genre is lumbered with the horrendous sobriquet Electronic Dance Music (as opposed to dance music played with washboard and spoons, presumably). Aged 45, he is clearly no overnight phenomenon and his transatlantic breakthrough was in the teeth of considerable resistance.

He recalls producing an early single by Akon. One morning he was taken aside and gravely informed his grooves were too out there, too zippy and zesty for an American audience.

"This wasn't Akon. It was his team. They were going 'okay, this is good for Europe. It cannot work in the US'. We sold eight million singles in America. It's not so bad."

"Relaxing' backstage, Guetta is a proper live-wire, jittery almost. You probably need those sort of energy levels to operate at his level. His schedule is draining, bordering on punitive. Even for a happy-go-lucky chap with endless reservoirs of enthusiasm sometimes it can be too much.

"In my mind, my brain, I love what I do. I always want to do more. It is what I adore. Sometimes, though . . . my body . . . it is like 'aaah!'. Right now, it is summer and I'm playing five shows a week and also in the studio the two days I have off. It is a pretty easy lifestyle in certain respects. Imagine your passion is watching movies – and you were paid to watch a movie every day. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to do this. If there was only a little bit of money to be made, I'd be happy."

The question as to whether Guetta would indeed be prepared to toil for peanuts looks destined to remain exceedingly rhetorical.

Worth an estimated $35m, his appearance fee for a two-hour set is said to be in the region of $50,000. At five gigs a week, that's a take-home packet that would make a professional soccer player's eyes bulge.

His rise hasn't been universally cheered however. Capable of filling 80,000 capacity venues, obviously Guetta is widely loved.

On the other hand, dance purists often regard him as the devil's spawn, a bubblegum populist, appealing – like contemporaries Deadmau5 and Swedish House Mafia – to the lowest denominator.

He's heard it all before but insists the hate comes only from a particular stripe of punter. Fellow musicians, including those firmly in the underground, respect what he has achieved.

He tells you this with perfect bluntness, just so you are in no doubt.

"When we are talking about people that are in music production, even those in underground music, many are my friends. And they don't have a problem with what I do.

"It is those who are buying the music. Some like my music, some like techno, some like deep house. It doesn't matter. Everyone has the right to different tastes. I respect that, as much as I've crossed over, I love underground music."

Among his friends are Daft Punk, the Parisians who have spent the past 14 years pretending to be robots.

Guetta understands why they keep their identity a secret and occasionally is envious of their anonymity. Still, he would never hide from the public in such a fashion.

"I don't care about fame to be honest. It is wonderful because it means audiences are buying my records. It exposes me to people.

"Ultimately, I don't have an ego problem. [Celebrity] is not important. Daft Punk have the best of everything – their brand is famous, not their faces. That is genius.

"Of course, everyone is different. I love to interact. Maybe I am a little more personal. So for me that approach wouldn't work. I still think they are geniuses.

He's also close to – it is an indication of the esteem in which the Black Eyed Peas boss holds the Frenchman that he was willing to vacate the producer's booth and let Guetta oversee I Gotta Feeling. He also gets on with Rihanna, whom (swivel on it Bey) he considers to be the biggest star of the modern era.

"She is a huge, huge talent. It's an honour to work with her."

As you'd expect, many of the world's biggest artists are keen to benefit from Guetta's magic touch. He used to say 'yes' all the time until he realised that his DJing would inevitably suffer. So he scaled back. In 2012 it was rumoured that U2 were eager to work with him.

"It is funny you should mention that. I spoke to Bono the other week about something totally different. He sends me emails – he has ideas, not for U2, but for me.

"He will say 'oh, why don't you do this? It would be really, really good for you'.

"He's a nice person and knows a great deal about the business."

At a glance Guetta might seem like a two-dimensional good-time boy.

However, he isn't quite the caricature you may initially mistake him for.

Far from living a dissolute lifestyle, he's been married to nightclub manager Cathy for 23 years and has a nine-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter.

When not jetting about, glugging champagne with Bono and Rihanna – which admittedly sounds like a fair chunk of his working week – you'll find him at home with the kids.

"I am already playing a lot," he says. "If I didn't have a family I wouldn't even have a house. I would be on the road nonstop. So it keeps me grounded, you are absolutely right about that."

David Guetta headlines Oxegen on Sunday, August 4. His latest release is the compilation F*** Me I'm Famous: Ibiza Mix 2013

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