Laurent Garnier: Live Booth Sessions

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After spending 18 months on the road with his live band (which included virtuosic performances at Stereosonic 2009), Laurent Garnier couldn’t face the prospect of returning to life as a one-man show. As an alternative, the Frenchman devised L.B.S., a live/DJ hybrid that sees him joined in the booth by Benjamin Rippert on keys and Stephane ‘Scan X’ Dri on ‘machines’.

Unsurprisingly, the L.B.S. concept is already attracting rave reviews in Europe. It’s a fluid set-up without time constraints, guided by the idea that no two shows should be the same. We were granted an interview with Garnier – part of which went towards our special feature on the art of the extended set – to find out why he needed something new.

So, to start, can you tell us how the concept for the L.B.S. tour came together?
I have been doing DJ and live on and off for quite a long time, but the problems were bringing too much gear into the DJ booth. I just toured fully live with the band for 18 months and people have been asking me to come back to DJing. I felt that after this length of time touring live, coming back to the ‘wheels of steel’ made me feel stupid; made me feel like I was going backwards in time. Regressing more than progressing by just DJing.

I thought to myself, ‘How can I bring what people want – playing records and making people dance, as well as use what I have been doing the last 18 months?’ I wanted to transform the essay.

Just to have Ben and Scan X means it is easy to plug in and easy to do a show. At the moment a trendy thing in France is you get a team of DJs playing records. Being 44, going back to playing records on my own, I can't do that. I thought, how can I make it much stronger? Bring in musicians, play music live in front of people. Those who want to see can see. Those who want to dance, can dance. It's live but sounding more like a DJ set.

Why can't you go back to DJing on your own right now? Some DJs say they can get bored on their own…
DJing has never been boring; I truly, madly love it. Magical nights are very special. It's brilliant to play records to people but I really felt, with all the experiments I've done – especially the last 18 months and how far we took the live show – that I needed to take the live shows further than I've done before.

We started touring live 18 months ago and what we finished with was totally different. We grew up, we changed; each track got richer and stronger and more experimental. We never compromised. We went crazy and we understood each other more. We explored each track and made it sound better.

With DJing you can play a record, but you cannot alter the track live. I really wanted to bring this to my DJ set and make it more special and unique. We do something each night that we cannot reproduce.

Was it important that this would be a club tour? Are festivals not really right for this format?
With L.B.S. I really wanted to come back to the clubs. Yes, the live show was not for the clubs at all because of sound and spec problems; the live show was really for festivals.

It's true when I do something I devote myself quite strongly. I didn't DJ at all for 18 months when I was touring live – maybe two times, which is nothing. I have been missing the club atmosphere. I felt L.B.S. is only catering for clubs because we want to take time; we don't need the pressure of a festival.

On a festival stage, we usually have a short time, 60 minutes. We can experiment but not as much as with L.B.S. In a club, if we wanted to play one track for 26 minutes, we can – sometimes Man With The Red Face or Gnanmankoudji can go on for this long.

We need to bring it in to a club environment to be relaxed. People look at us and we have to deliver. We need the freedom of the dark DJ booth. If people want to watch they can, but on dancefloor they dance and not watch as much. We need to really go as deep and long as we can – and be as free as we can.

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