After three years, David Guetta is finally wrapping up his sixth album. Admittedly, it has been hard for the 46-year old French producer find studio time with his touring schedule: This month, he’s doing sets Ibiza and Las Vegas every single weekend, with festivals and a Miami show or two thrown in. But this is par for the course. The man largely responsible for dance music’s pop takeover has been DJing in Europe practically non-stop since 1988.
Guetta’s trendsetting 2009 album One Love was one of the first EDM albums to make waves on pop radio, and turned him into one of the busiest DJs in the world. In the past year, he has toured with Rihanna, co-written a song on Lady Gaga’s Artpop, and produced parts of Britney Spears’ album Britney Jean. His last album, 2011’s Nothing but the Beat featured Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, Timbaland, Ludacris, Jessie J, and Sia, among others. And his latest release, “Lovers on the Sun” (feat. Sam Martin), was co-produced with Avicii and reached No. 1 on the UK singles chart.
Last weekend, Guetta headlined New York City’s Electric Zoo festival between performances in Ibiza and at London’s iTunes festival, and he found time to sit down with Billboard to discuss his forthcoming album (which he says is in the “very advanced” stages), what’s next for EDM music, and more.
Billboard: You’ve long pulled for dance music to be on the radio, but did you ever foresee it actually dominating the pop charts?
Guetta: That’s always what I wanted, but I honestly never knew if it was possible. For so long, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on the radio like it is now. I was playing every weekend to thousands of kids who were going crazy for this music, and I could feel that everyone wanted to hear it. The demand was there. I thought, “we have the product, people want it, why does no one want to promote it?” It felt crazy to me. It was the fight of my life to make that music crossover.
As one of the most powerful ambassadors between electronic and pop music, what was the turning point?
I think, for me, it was “I Got a Feeling” and “Sexy Bitch.” Those two songs were when dance music hit pop radio, and “Memories” and “Titanium” followed. But “I Got A Feeling” was when radio seem to say, wow, okay, this is actually working, this is marketable. And then everybody changed their format. Now, of course, we’re way beyond that and onto something completely different.
What’s the biggest misconception about dance music right now?
That it’s stagnant. Between that moment that we just described and now, the situation has completely changed. What was big in the dance music world then is completely different what’s big now. The electro-pop sound turned into something way, way harder, and soon, we’ll see a reaction to that. Music is always action–reaction. It works in cycles. Rock n’ roll did, disco did, people want something fresh and exciting and then they get tired of it and they go for the opposite.
What do you think rave culture will look like next year? Will you have a stake in it?
Of course, this is my life. Right now, I think the hard EDM sound is going to burn out — at least that’s what I’m seeing. I see things shifting toward the melodic, toward songs, toward people like Avicii who is creating instrumental and lyrical dance music. And of course deep house is exploding. The super hard stuff was exciting and new, but too much of it isn’t sustainable. I think we’ll see a little less heat, and that’s okay.
The way that I’m making my album is ultra-traditional. I’m composing with piano, guitar, acoustic instruments, and then completely at the end when I had 100 songs, only then did I pick the best 15 or 18 and turn them into dance tracks. That’s a completely opposite process of what I used to do. It was a big challenge, but it was the right challenge.
So what stage is the album in?
Let’s say very advanced.
What can you tell us about it?
All I can say is that it’s completely song-based. There are featured artists of course, but none that you’d expect with me, and really it’s just completely different from anything I’ve done before. That’s why it has taken almost three years. It’s just different. Like I have this record “Lovers on the Sun” that’s out right now and it’s doing amazing, but it’s still comparable to other records I’ve done. This next album has tracks I couldn’t compare to any other record.
What do you think the reaction will be like from fans?
Hard to say. I’m excited. Everyone else? We’ll have to see.