Driven by a relentless and exceedingly eclectic appetite for new music, French techno trailblazer Laurent Garnier has been filling discerning dancefloors around the world for more than 30 years. Recently awarded the Chévalier de la Légion d ́Honneur award (the French equivalent of a knighthood) for his services to music, Garnier was one of a select group of acts chosen to play the first Sónar in Barcelona 25 years ago, and the legendary DJ/producer explains why he's reigniting his love affair with the festival by jetting in to close this year's Sónar Hong Kong with an unmissable three-hour set.
We had a chat with Laurent ahead of his Sónar performance on 17 Mar:
Sónar: You've played Sónar many times before, including the very first one in Barcelona 25 years ago. What do you think makes Sónar different to other festivals?
Laurent: I think they are daring much more than other festivals, they're daring to programme things which are really not easy, to programme stuff that a lot of us have never heard before. So I'm going to Sónar to experiment and to get an experience. Sónar is an experience for sure.
Sónar: You're playing a three-hour set at Sónar Hong Kong. How important is it for you to have a longer set in terms of the music you want to play and the pace you want to build at?
Laurent: It's very important to play long hours, especially coming to Hong Kong, where I haven't been for six or seven years. I think it would be really disrespectful for me to come and to do just an hour and a half. To me as an artist, playing long hours is usually my way of expressing myself. I actually don't do short gigs because I can't express myself - I don't have time.
Sónar: How much does the reaction of the crowd influence your live sets?
Laurent: That's my job! My duty is to have a look at the crowd with every single record and check they are following me, and if they don't my duty is to try to find a way to take them on the journey. A DJ that doesn't, he must have a problem - because the whole thing about DJing is sharing. I need to see people and watch them and have a relationship with them.
Sónar: You've been DJing for more than 30 years. What is it that still excites you?
Laurent: Music man. There's so much music out there. And you know what: the more I discover, the more I think I know nothing. So that's what keeps me going, because I know there's so much more stuff to listen to, and not only in the techno world. Every time I open a new door, like I go to a new club or something very specialist, and I hear something I've never heard before, I'm like 'oh, for fuck's sake, I'm going to need another 200 years to listen to all this'.
Sónar: Do you think you'll ever hang up your headphones and stop DJing?
Laurent: I might do. I can't really see myself DJing for another 10, 15 years. I think I'm going to have to stop at one point, that's for sure. But then maybe I'm finding music for films, finding music for radio shows and stuff like that, so I think I will carry on for quite a while. Because music's in my blood, and if it's so much in my blood to find music and share it with people, I can't see myself stopping that.
Sónar: You were recently awarded the Chévalier de la Légion d ́Honneur by France. How did that feel?
Laurent: It was very strange. I was very surprised when I found out, especially in a country where 15 years ago politicians and police and government people were trying to do everything they could to stop techno music spreading. My first reaction was that it was quite funny, but the second reaction was, you know what, I was right to believe in my dreams, I was right to fight for what I truly believed in.
Don’t miss Laurent's closing set at SonarClub! Get your tickets here.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.