Garnier wasn’t perturbed. He has always been a DJ first and foremost, but when his peers started producing his own records, he figured he should probably have a go, too. He asked his friends, members of the Underground Resistance crew and Detroit pioneers such as Jeff Mills and Derrick May, whom he’d booked to play at Rex Club, what equipment they used to make their tracks, then went out and bought it.
But producing has always been more hobby than passion for Garnier. “A lot of musicians are working from pain, frustration, anger, they have something to say,” he says. “I don’t have anything to say. I don’t drive myself from frustration. The only thing that drives me is my love for music.”
Those who’ve toiled for years in the studio might then envy Garnier his seemingly effortless success. Much of his output - ten albums and over 40 EPs and singles - has been too experimental to connect in huge numbers; Garnier’s dabbled in everything from jazz to dubstep over the years. But when it’s worked, it’s really, really worked, resulting in some of the most iconic dance tracks ever made, from the techno classic “Crispy Bacon” to the undeniable horn-led house of “The Man With The Red Face”.
“‘Crispy Bacon’, I knew I had something,” he says. “I played it to Jeff Mills, he’s like, ‘Oh, I like that, but you should change the name, it’s a stupid name.’ I said, ‘Great, I love that reaction, I’m going to keep the name.'”
“The Man With The Red Face” came about when Garnier was asked to perform a set at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival. “I thought, if they’re going to be generous enough to invite a techno artist, I have to do something influenced by jazz, my vision of jazz,” says Garnier. An early version of the song was performed at Montreux, then Garnier got sax player Philippe Nadaud into the studio to record it. “I could talk to him via mic, and I was talking to him, saying, ‘This is shit,’ we were just mocking him for about 15 minutes.” Through exertion, rage, or a combination of the two, Nadaud ended up with the titular red face. The track was finished and named in one take.
As well as switching genres and styles, Garnier’s restless spirit has seen him take on hugely diverse projects over the years, from scoring for ballet to his still-running “It Is What It Is” radio show, which he records in both French and English. He published a memoir, Electrochoc, in 2003 and in 2013 co-founded Festival Yeah!, a family-friendly rock and pop event in Lourmarin in southern France, where he lives.