David Guetta created the concept of the superstar DJ, encompassing celebrity while building the genre. Yet even at the top, it’s connecting with fans and honing his skills as a DJ to create a legendary party vibe that remains the most important to him. It’s this connection that led him to fall in love with DJing, a life long love affair in which he seduced the electronic dance music movement to come out of the shadows and take over pop music in America.
Guetta is currently wrapping up multiple American residencies including XS Nightclub in Vegas before heading to Ibiza for the summer months. The legend is currently soaring on the success of his sixth studio album Listen, released in November of 2014, and his latest the chart-topping single “Hey Mama” featuring Nicki Minaj & Afrojack. During the first of his two headlining Coachella performances, he premiered yet another fiery new track sure to break the airwaves; “Awesome,“ with The Black Eyed Peas, following up on the success of their 2009 party anthem “I Gotta Feeling.” If there’s one thing Guetta knows, it’s how to produce a banger and throw a party. And the Guetta party won’t stop just because Coachella has ended. “Hey Mama” is the first #1 single of the album, reaching 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs & Dance Electronic Digital Songs Chart.
The Untitled Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Indira Cesarine, caught up with the icon shortly after his fiery 2015 Coachella performances to speak about his role in the electronic evolution, award-winning collaborations, and his efforts to make the world a better place. Check out his interview below, and stay tuned for his exclusive feature in our Fall / Winter 2015 print edition.
Indira Cesarine: I can see that you’ve been having a pretty crazy schedule since our shoot in New York. How are you coping?
David Guetta: (laughs) Well, I just finished Coachella, which was absolutely amazing! I’m very happy about it. On the first weekend, I had the Black Eyed Peas back together for the first time on stage, and it was really exciting as we have a new record called “Awesome.” And then we did “I Gotta Feeling,” which was really crazy! And on the second weekend, I played my new single called “Hey Mama” that is doing really incredible in the U.S. right now. We didn’t promote it yet or anything, and it’s already number seven in the charts, which is incredible. Nicki [Minaj] came on stage when I dropped it. Together with Beyoncé, and of course that was pretty exciting!
IC: That’s amazing!
DG: Yeah, so I’m a little bit in heaven right now. Really the vibe was so so so crazy…
IC: You do so many festivals back to back, are there certain festivals that really stand out?
DG: Some festivals like Coachella or Ultra – they really really stand out. Or like Tomorrowland… It’s just like moments in the year that are super emotional, intense, and important career-wise, you know. Like usually, it’s the moment when it’s like Ultra for example, where I would change my set and try to come up with a new sound, and then Coachella right after, it’s already in motion… and it’s working. And the vibe at Coachella – it was really insane when I was playing! I changed my DJ style a little bit around “Hey Mama”, and it’s like a combination of EDM, of rap, and a little bit of an urban vibe. It’s really really crazy!
IC: Incredible. I’ve heard everyone said it was amazing. I’m bummed I wasn’t there to see it in person, but I heard it was just mind blowing. Everyone was talking about how incredible your performance was.
So everybody knows David Guetta; the superstar, the “one and only” DJ that that changed the industry and created celebrity DJ’s. What do you think changed in the industry, where being a DJ became an art form, with the impact and global platform you have now? You know, obviously, when you first started, that didn’t exist.
DG: What made a difference was really when we started to create our own music. It all started with remixes, actually. But what happened is—that was in the UK—some remixes became bigger than the original versions! And being played on the radio. And then we were like ‘Okay, like if we are gonna make a remix used as the original version, why are we not also the artist, and why don’t we create from scratch the record, you know? And that’s what we started to do, And by creating our own music, it became the real genre. And with artists and tours and something that was organized into the same way that hip hop or rock was organized. That became really big in Europe, and in South America, and in Australia. Everywhere except the U.S. And the U.S, being the biggest market in the world, that was a problem. And then will.i.am. came to Ibiza, and he couldn’t believe what was going on when he came to the club where I was playing. Also, Puff Daddy was hanging out in Ibiza. They would just come to party, but then [they started] to witness how big this music was, ‘cause being from the U.S, they didn’t necessarily realize it, because in the U.S, it was underground. And then, we did “I Gotta Feeling”, and I think that record really completely changed the game. I did that the same time as, “When Love Takes Over”, “I Gotta Feeling”, and “Sexy Bitch”. So all those records really made our music and our culture cross over in the U.S. I think it opened many many doors and it changed the sound of the radio.
IC: Do you ever miss the days of being a DJ in Paris, the early days of Le Palace and Les Bains, and the early club scene you started in?
DG: Um…No. I don’t miss it. What I can say is that for a while, I was doing only David Guetta concerts or festivals, and it’s true I was missing the clubs. And that’s why this year, I changed my agenda. Previously I was only playing [clubs] in Ibiza, and now I took a residency in Vegas, at XS Nightclub and I’m playing every week, March, April, May. I’m also a resident in Miami at LIV. And that’s what I was missing, I have to admit, I was missing the clubs! When you play to a festival like, where there’s 100,000 people you don’t really see the eyes of the people. It’s more like a show, and I was missing the connection of just improvising, going with the flow, playing longer sets, and this is what you get in the clubs. I’m not missing the time where I was being paid like almost nothing! I would just spend everything in records, and people were not really caring about who’s the DJs, so I don’t miss that. But I was—it’s true—missing the clubs when I was only playing festivals, And now, that’s why I’m really happy about what I’ve been building in Las Vegas, because when I started in Las Vegas, there was not such a big musical culture. But now, it’s really crazy, and I been building my night at XS, the pool party, and it’s really—it’s crazier and crazier. I wonder what’s gonna happen if it keeps on like this because, you know, the word is in the street that it’s a crazy party! You know, it’s the real job—to me—that’s the real DJ’s work, to build the reputation of a club or a night. This is where I’m coming from, which is as you said, Le Palace, where I was playing [in] Paris, and I was a resident DJ, just creating an atmosphere where people love it. They didn’t go just because they want to see a celebrity, or a superstar DJ—they go because they know they’re going to have crazy fun. That’s what I’m trying to do in Miami and in Vegas and in Ibiza. Even though, of course, I love festivals!
IC: Your new music has really transitioned. You’ve taken a much more personal direction with the album, Listen. Can you tell me about your new approach?
DG: Yeah I’m actually already somewhere else now. laughs
IC: Oh are you? Okay! Like “that’s boring, and I’ve moved on”? laughs
DG: Yeah, exactly. It’s just, you know, I’ve been through a divorce, and I was feeling really like “ugh I’m gonna cut my veins” and [it] obviously influenced my work, but also as an artist. So there was a lot of super emotional songs. I’m a DJ so you know it had to be a “dance music album”— but a lot of songs were a little more serious I would say – in the words. And now I’m feeling good, I’m happy, and I’m coming back with this new single, “Hey Mama” with Nicki Minaj. And it’s just like fun and partying, which is what I’ve done my entire life! And it’s starting just unbelievable, because we’re seven in the charts in the U.S, without a video, without doing any TV shows. I’m just starting to promote now, so that’s like really, really incredible. I was speaking about it with Nicki yesterday. It’s usually radios are pushing the charts and right now, it’s the charts pushing the radio, which is amazing. It’s a genuine hit. People just want to hear the record, you know! So yeah, this is where I am right now. laughs
IC: laughs. And you’re getting ready for the summer, obviously, which should be a lot of fun.
IC: I know you collaborated with a ton of amazing artists on your album. You mentioned Nicki Minaj and Sia and John Legend. How do you decide who’s going to work with you on vocals when you’re working on an album?
DG: Well, it depends. Every time it’s different. Sia is a different example because we have already worked together. We did Titanium together, which was really life changing for both of us. And we worked together in studio and she’s an incredible writer, and an incredible singer. We start usually from scratch. But, for [Listen], as I said, it was more song-orientated. I’ve been working with songwriters, and really focusing on that, instead of basing everything off of the beat like I’ve done before. It was more like “okay, let’s start from the song and then use it to make it a dance record”. So it was a different option and only at the end, when it was produced, I would go see artists and say ‘Okay, who’s the best artist to sing this song?’ So that’s how I did it this time. But there’s no rule really. I’ve done it very different for previous albums. For “Listen”, it was more like writing the song, and composing it, then producing it, and completely at the end, going to see the artist that would be the best to sing it.
IC: Have you ever thought of doing your own vocals?
DG: Oh, I’m so bad! I’m like ridiculously bad. Like, really—and the thing is that I’m lucky enough to be able to work with the best singers in the world. That’s also why my benchmark is so high! Even though I could, you know, make my voice acceptable because of all the production tricks that you can use now, I’m like why even try when other artists are so so so much better. You know…and I can’t hear my voice! I don’t like it at all… I think it’s important in life to know what you’re good at and what you’re bad at…and focus on what you do good!
IC: Yeah, that’s a really good point…So what are your plans from here? What’s next for David Guetta?
DG: Well, I’m really focusing on “Hey Mama” right now. I think it’s a huge record and it’s also changed my DJing style, and it’s a really exciting moment for me. I’m finishing my residency in Vegas, that is also very important to me because, as I said, for me, creating a night that is solid and consistent, it’s very fulfilling as a DJ. And then I’m going to start Ibiza very soon. I’ll be in Ibiza from the end of May.
IC: And can you tell me about your philanthropic projects? I know that you’ve done a lot of amazing work for the U.N. and other organizations?
DG: It all started because one day, the U.N asked me to use “Without You” for one of their videos, and it went really well. They asked me if I would be more involved, and I think they are really really incredible people. I’m from Europe, and the perception of the U.N. was always like super political and I was like ‘okay, I’m not really into politics’. But then I saw all the work they do, just to help people. To help children, having food and water, and helping people, victims of war—stuff like this propelled me to get more involved. The campaign last year was very successful. It was based on big brands that are giving $10 every time someone is tweeting about something we do, then this year, we did a new version with Yoko Ono of “Imagine”. There’s an autotune in the app, so everybody can sing “Imagine” good, and sing together with John Lennon, which is kind of fun. And this is giving a lot of money to help around the world. Anytime I can be useful to them, I’m happy to do it!
IC: That’s amazing. Well I think it’s brilliant that you’ve kind of taken your opportunities to the next level to give back. Not everybody thinks about things like that. Well thank you so much for the interview!
Photography & Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Fashion Editor: Indira Cesarine
Fashion Market Editor: Izzy Ruiz / Cannon Media Group
Grooming by Nil Muir
David Guetta wears a leather jacket and jeans by Saint Laurent.
Tank by Ermenegildo Zegna.
Watch David Guetta’s hit video “Dangerous” from his album Listen, featuring Sam Martin below:
Check out “Hey Mama” below: