and because of that I think Infiné
can release anything it wants."
You were doing a live set a couple years ago, right?
An Ableton Live kind of thing, yes. But I don't feel comfortable with live because what I would like to do would cost too much money. I would like to make a band, with musicians and singers. Maybe at a festival one day, they will invite me to make a proper live show.
Why don't you do it for your own festival, Nuits Sonores?
We've done it, and it was so stressful. It's my town and in front of my family and my friends. I remember that something didn't work, so we had to reboot the computer. So we were there for my first live act in my home town, waiting 15 minutes for everything to start again.
Can you talk a bit about the circumstances in which the festival began? I've read that it was a reaction to what was happening at the time in the city club-wise?
Lyon, at the time, was the epicenter of repression. All the parties were being cancelled, all the politicians were talking about it.
Why do you think Lyon was singled out?
The préfet, the guy who is taking care of the province, had a problem with a person in his family who went to raves and had a problem with drugs. The main problem, I realized recently though, isn't drugs really. It's the question of security. They're afraid of thousands of people going on a motorway following each other to a place that nobody knows.
At that time, I was happy that we were doing something forbidden. It was exciting. I remember finding myself many times in the morning at the police station because I was a young DJ. I was 21 or 22, so I was the last one to play or the first at the afterparty. So when the police knew where the rave parties happened, I was the one playing and the police guys were like, "Oh no, again you Mr. Devaud!" By the end, they knew me. [laughs] I'd been two or three times to the police station, so my parents were always coming to get me at 12 on Sundays. "Where are you?" "Oh, a little thing at the police station." But they always trusted me, and they were right to do so because I was just playing music.
Your parents were always supportive of this music?
Not for my music, no. I think they thought it was crap. And they were right. When I listen to my early records, I'm really thankful for the guys who helped me to make this music and to release this music, because they were like angels. But this was part of my education.
It seems like in some ways that you aim to educate others with your label Infiné.
I think of it more like a laboratory, even for us, but also for the artist. I'm happy to hear an artist saying that they feel free to do whatever they want. If someone was thinking, "This is this kind of music [Infiné releases]" and they won't try to do something because it wouldn't fit with our image, then I would be quite disappointed.
I guess the problem nowadays is that most of the records that are getting released are put out for a purpose. People want their records to be played by these DJs, or they want to please a certain scene. I want Infiné to suggest more than to say, "OK, this is for you." We suggest and people decide if that's for them or not.
When people ask me if I'm saying if I'm not in the techno scene anymore or if Infiné is... I don't want to justify it first. But people are really focused on that point most of the time, because people want to put stickers on things.
I guess your distributor must be unhappy with you. They need some sort of designation to be able to say, "OK, here's how we can sell this thing."
Yeah, but I think that people are really open-minded today, much more than three years ago, four years ago.
Why do you think that is?
I feel it in parties, I feel it. Every time I play different records from what people are used to listening to in a club, the reaction is ten times better than if I play, let's say, a really techno-intensive record. They're pleased to be surprised, and because of that I think Infiné can release anything it wants, even if we aren't selling all of them. We aren't selling millions of records. It's really tough. But I think even on my album it's better for me to do something from my soul rather than just thinking, "OK, let's do this for that or..."
Who were some of the DJs that you were influenced by when you were just starting out?
There was an extraordinary French DJ named Stephanovitch that probably inspired me the most. The way that he played with basslines was amazing. At that time the records were not really produced to make it that easy. But he would match them perfectly. I remember a night at an underground club in Lyon club called Hypnotique. It was in a basement of a building, open for maybe two months before the police discovered it. I remember I went there one night when Stephanovitch was playing until six or seven AM, but I had this feeling of only being there for 15 minutes.
This idea of a "trance" has disappeared a bit because DJs are more focused on the photo of the reaction, or a video of the reaction. They're trying to get people to put their hands in the air and make everyone scream. But at that time it was totally different, it was to try to make you become entranced and to build something with the audience. After that, I was organizing a party and inviting Stephanovitch every time. Everyone was like, "Again, Stephanovitch!?"
Is Garnier an influence?
Definitely. Most of all, for me, it's his personality. He is the ambassador of French electronic music much more than, say, Ed Banger. But he's never mentioned this anywhere. He helped me a lot when I started. Everywhere I was going, playing everywhere in the world, people are telling me, "Oh, Laurent was here two weeks ago, he gave us your record." I was not on F Communications, and he did not know me so well at that time. He just wanted to share. Some artists are, the word in French is passeur, they want to give information.
Is that also some of the reason behind doing Nuits Sonore in Lyon for you?
The festival was really important for me, but I'm not the only one behind it. I'm one of the co-founders, but today I just give advice for things that I can help out with. But in the beginning we created the festival in reaction to the nightlife situation. It's interesting, we had nothing to do during the nights, so we made a lot of music. But after three, four, five years with really nothing in Lyon, the mayor, Gérard Collomb, talked to people involved in culture, saying, "This city is dying, we need something here."
It seems very progressive for him to say that.
Yes. We were, I don't know, 20, 30 people at the first meetings, trying to figure out what we should do. Some people were arguing for a salsa event, some people a rock or indie event, and there were four or five arguing for a real electronic event. Vincent Carry, the director of the festival, is a very good communicator and convinced the mayor to come out one night. So we brought him to all the bars in the town, and at each stop we organized for him to meet artists—electronic, indie, drum & bass, techno, house—and in all those bars he spoke with the artists. By the end, we visited ten bars and we were all drunk. (Except him somehow!) And he said, "OK guys, let's do it." He understood that the night culture is really important to develop the culture and the economic aspect of the town. It helps the young to decide to go to university there. Would you go to Lyon for college if there was no nightlife there?
Do you think it's changed, the town?
Totally. It has changed a lot, the town. People were coming to the south of France earlier, and they wouldn't stop there—even to get a coffee. Now the town is cuter, the town is more romantic. Also the football team, Olympique Lyonnais, has been good recently too.
What inspires you to write music? Is Lyon, the city itself, an inspiration?
It's strange that you ask me this question, because I really didn't think much about this until last week. I did a radio show with two famous singers in France, and we were speaking out our inspirations, and one of them said that there is something that you can touch and there is something that is totally untouchable and you will never know where it will come from.
but maybe I know better what
I don't know how to do."
Was the writing of the album much easier than previous albums?
Oh definitely. I'm not trying to be pretentious or arrogant when I say that. It is a reality because the two first albums, I think The Green Armchair especially, was really tough to do. I've worked on it for two years and every single track I made a few arrangements and opened them back up again after three months, and again after six months after just trying to find something. On the first two, I wanted to make music with people that I respected. On this one it was something much more natural. Maybe I'm not better, but maybe I know better what I don't know how to do, and I won't try to do it myself.
With this one I achieved what I tried to do on the first two maybe—something really eclectic, but with a real flow and a real story. It came easily to me because of my wife, I think. I met her, and she has given my peace.
It's interesting you say with your earlier albums that you were almost trying to prove something. It sounds like with Impermanence you didn't have to prove anything to anyone, and that made you more at peace. You were able to just do it.
I think Infiné also gives me this peace, because I'm releasing stuff that maybe I would love to do. But then I can say, "OK, I haven't done it myself, but I released this and I'm happy." It's a cliché, but it's true that most DJs want to have complex orchestrations—they want to prove they can do it too. Also my family was all musicians, I was not. I was a DJ, all my friends hate techno music. My good friends don't care at all. You only realize this kind of thing with perspective.
Have your parents and your friends listened to this album?
Yeah, they like it! Maybe this is the one for them! But maybe they are lying now because they've read some interviews where I say that... [laughs] No, no, I don't think so. Artistically, though, I think Infiné really helped me a lot because people like Bachar Mar Khalifé, Arandel and Francesco Tristano are all real musicians and when I speak with them, they tell me, "You're silly, you shouldn't care if you know exactly how to write music or not. You do your thing, and you do it well." All these people, as well, when you speak with them give you the impression that we all have a special place, that comparing isn't that important.