Laurent Garnier — The man with the red face. Story behind the record

George Palladev

Laurent Garnier — The man with the red face. Story behind the record

According to Laurent Garnier, twenty years ago, the public in France wasn’t morally prepared for a live techno performance in a concert venue. Ravers could dance around a quarry where chalk was extracted or in a greenhouse where mushrooms were planted, but to make decent madames and monsieurs listen to pom-pom in a hall whose curtain recalls the last king — no way, we hadn’t got there yet. However, there is an epic video by Acid Eiffel with a symphony orchestra, the last refuge for any electronic musician. In 1998, the techno-veteran was also invited to a two-week jazz festival in Montreux. It is amusing but among Björk, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Santana, and Bob Dylan, there was degree of youth brought by Morcheeba, Moloko, Scan X, DJ Krust and the whole delegation of Good Lookin led by Seba. Garnier at the time felt the urge to go beyond the DJ turntable. He was inspired by the live performances of the British Orbital and Underworld, but doubted his own powers. These fears disappeared thanks to Eric Morand, who the veteran founded F Communications with.

Laurent Garnier @ Jazz Festival Montreux ’98. The man with the red face @ 42 minute
“And one day with my partner Eric I said ‘I’d like to go on stage.’ And we thought ‘how can we make a real live show?’ and I said to him, the best thing is Jazz. We went to Jazz musicians, because they can improvise” said Garnier later. “Again, my connection with Jazz and Techno is so strong… the whole frame of mind for making this music is the same, exactly the same. It took me a long time to get the right musicians. Finding the right musicians is a hard thing, especially when you’re 25 years old and you haven’t got a clue how to play an instrument, and you haven’t got a clue how to direct anybody. Believe you me I struggled, and it took me 20 years.”
Laurent Garnier

Garnier thought it would be disrespectful to the public if he played pure techno at a jazz festival. This is why the noisy percussion and throbbing beats were diluted by a thematical thing played almost impromptu with a saxophonist he barely knew (With Finn Martin.) Laurent doubted if he should include such a thing on his third album, but decided to risk it after all and for the saxophone solo he invited a person from his team, who he had toured around the earth with performing live for the last three months. He invited Philippe Nadaud.

“We were in the studio and we put a pair of headphones on his head so we could speak to him while he was playing. He was playing and we were going ‘nah, this is shit, this is really shit’. But it wasn’t actually shit. No no, it was great, I just really wanted to piss him off”.

As Laurent later wrote in Electrochoc, Phillippe felt uneasy and couldn’t let the music control him. “We did it for about 20 minutes, the poor guy just couldn’t breathe, he was bright red, with a sweaty face, the mouthpiece seemed to be stuck between his lips, while we continued: ‘This is fucking shit, go harder, go harder’… and this is why the track goes nuts.” And this why it got this name. In 2000, it was released as a single and became one of the most famous tracks by the French maestro.
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