This autobiography starts with a memory in Manchester’s legendary Hacienda club and ends with a promise that the party will go on. If anything, the words of Laurent Garnier will go on.
Electrochoc was first published in 2003 in French. In 2013 a bonus chapter (on EDM) was added to mark its tenth anniversary. Now, thanks to Rocket 88 books, I have had the pleasure of reading the English translation.
The layout of the book is perfect for the subject matter. It is designed like a 12-inch single and is split into two parts entitled ‘Side One’ and ‘Side Two’. Across the pages are scattered images of ticket stubs and playlists documenting Garnier’s journey.
It is so much more than the story of the rise of award winning, multi-talented Garnier though. This autobiography takes us on a journey through dance music. Not just the struggles that Garnier faces when creating his own music but when playing the music of others.
It is a thorough and passionate historical account of how Garnier fell in love with certain music styles and witnessed the changing landscape that a DJ must walk on. It covers three decades and Garnier has said that the book was like therapy for him with David Brun-Lambert constantly questioning him to tease out material.
There are several contributions from the likes of Jeff Mills and Mike Banks (one of the founders of the underground resistance) allowing them the opportunity to talk about their contribution to the rise of techno. It is not just about the music though.
Garnier documents how his chosen path has taken its toll on his physical health:
“ After years of DJ-ing, stroboscopes have played havoc with my eyes. My ears have been subjected to torture. Cigarette smoke, smoke machines and dust have polluted my lungs.”
What makes this an interesting autobiography is that as Garnier ages, adapts, slumps and triumphs; music experiences all of this with him. He speaks about the commercialism of DJs and the death of vinyl giving way to the birth of CDs. The impact of streaming music and the challenges it raises is also mentioned. Both Garnier and music are changing and they need to adapt to survive while Garnier holds on to the desire to be true to himself.
The book provides a real insight into the creation of the French electronic/dance music scene via the record labels, radio stations like Nova and Garnier’s beloved Rex Nightclub. It also looks at the ugly side of music via racism and social/economic decline in places like Detroit. Derelict buildings and the nightmare that is the drug, crack, is a reminder of the darker side of music:
“Gangs and drugs were gnawing away at the positive attitude that had once been so strong.”
The passion that Laurent has for his craft is evident on every page. It is woven into the words and printed forever in this book. Not even death threats can stop the love that he has for making people dance:
“Someone threatened to kill me because I played a drum ‘n’ bass record in a techno club.”
I am glad that the boy who created a nightclub in his bedroom became the man who is a world famous DJ, musician and radio broadcaster. His journey led to this book and what a journey it is.
Electrochoc is published by Rocket 88 books and is available to order now.