by Nancy Dunham // Photography by Nabil Elderkin
It’s early morning in Sydney, Australia, and even though he hasn’t been awake long enough to have breakfast, David Guetta is ready to talk music.
The France native, who was just named the world’s best DJ by DJ Mag – knocking Armin Van Buuren from the position he held for four consecutive years – just can’t harness his enthusiasm, and one can’t help but think that music permeates almost every thought he has. When told it is likely he is constantly working, even when in a casual situation where others are passively listening to recordings, he laughingly replies, “You are right. But it doesn’t take me away from enjoying it. I always analyze the sound and that is part of what makes me enjoy it, appreciate it. Most people are listening and feeling something. That is what music should be, the emotion it will give you. I also experience that, of course, but I also analyze the way it is mixed [and other technical aspects of the recording]. But that makes me appreciate it even more, not less.”
He recently saw his August release, Nothing But the Beat, debut at No. 2 on the U.K. Albums Chart and now rest comfortably in the Billboard Top 10 Dance/Electronic Chart. Yet the two-time Grammy Award winner seems most interested in talking about what he sees as a swift rise in the artistry and depth of electronic music than reflecting on his own success. He describes watching the musical talent entering dance music as a rebirth.
“It’s a mini revolution,” he says. “The thing is, there is a generation that is now 12 years old that is starting to make music with computers. Thousands and thousands of kids do that. This music is going to be ready and…they will all move ahead musically. In five years, when they are 17 and 18, I think it will be absolutely amazing. They are not necessarily musically trained, so that makes it very exciting. Overall, this is [part of] a big revolution. You can make your music your way [without traditional record labels]… It is way more democratic than it was before.”
In the 1980s, a teenage Guetta began work as a club DJ, fueling his addiction to sound and studying how it affects others. It wasn’t until about a decade ago, when he released his first album, Just a Little More Love, that he began to build a truly international following. His 2009 LP, One Love, spawned hot singles, including “When Love Takes Over” featuring Kelly Rowland and “Gettin’ Over You” featuring Chris Willis, Fergie and LMFAO. As the songs rocketed up the charts, Guetta’s career rode a similar trajectory.
You’d never know by his conversation that the DJ/producer is an international wunderkind of electronic and pop music. Guetta is amazingly unpretentious, constantly moving conversations away from him and toward the new talent in the genre. Perhaps that’s because Guetta had the same passion when he was little more than a toddler, always experimenting with and discovering new sounds. That’s clearly one reason that, despite his renown as a producer, he still identifies himself as a DJ first.
“I am hooked on new music. I have been like this all my life,” he explains. “I am actually always looking for new sounds, and if I don’t find it, I make it. When you are a DJ and you play almost every night, you don’t want to play the same records or you are bored. You are always looking for new music all the time, all the time, all the time.”