French DJ/producer Joachim Garraud is a bit different from most other electronic-music acts: First, he’s a classically trained pianist, and second, he shows off that skill when performing live by rocking his “keytar,” which is a keyboard you strap around your neck like a guitar. He’s also well-known for extensive work with French superstar David Guetta, plus other diverse artists including David Bowie, Moby and Kylie Minogue. Garraud performed at the Ultra Music Festival in the wild Root Society Dome.
What can we expect from your set at Ultra?
Ultra is a very special festival – it’s one of the biggest in the world, and this is very exciting for me to come to Miami and play Ultra. I’m releasing a brand-new album called “Invasion 2011,” so I’m gonna play a lot of new tracks and new dance-floor remixes, and mix in live improvisation.
Have you performed at WMC before?
Yes, I’ve come to Miami for the past six years, and played last year at Ultra, and that was really exciting. I can’t wait to come back. Ultra is one of the best places for making people dance – people are crazy there, especially under the Root Society Dome, where I’m playing. It’s the sexiest place for me, and I like the connection with the Burning Man festival in Nevada every year, which also has a dome.
Are you gonna play your keytar?
Yes, for sure – this is my trademark. When I’m coming onstage people just look at me and say, “Do you have your keytar? Do you have your keytar?”
How would you describe the new album?
The album is really for making people dance. The first job as a DJ is to make people dance, so that’s why when I’m producing music, I try to make it dancing and partying all together. There’s electronic, techno and electro, but very happy and positive.
Do you prefer playing at a big festival like Ultra or Coachella to performing a full night at a big club?
You know, these are two different crowds – I like both. I like playing Ultra because it’s unique – you’re in front of thousands and thousands and thousands of people. But at a festival, the first row is a little bit far away from you, so you don’t have the same connection as when you’re in a club. When I’m playing in a club, people are very close and you can see each of them.
Do you plan your sets differently for each?
Yeah, more or less, because when you play in a big arena for people, you need to play what we call “stadium mixes.” When you play in a club, you’re able to play different music, maybe something more intimate – you don’t have to give 100 percent of power every time. At a festival, you have something like an hour or an hour and a half, so you have to mix very fast to go from one track to the next. In a club, you can play three or four hours, so you’re able to have a different way to approach the crowd.
You’re a classically trained pianist. what inspired you to begin producing and performing electronic music?
I’m lucky to have had a classical music formation. when I was 6 years old, I started to learn piano and drums, and I was very lucky to have parents helping me do this. Having learned how to read music and write music helps me every day in my studio – I’m sure I’m going faster than any other DJ who knows nothing about notes. For sure, today you can be a producer without being a musician, but for me it helps. When I was young, I spent a lot of time learning piano, but I was also in love with the machines, the computer. so when I had some free time, I was very excited to try to merge both passions. And the best way to do that was through electronic music, so that’s how everything began.
What tracks have you worked on with David Bowie, David Guetta, Moby and Kylie Minogue?
Kylie: “Love at First Sight”; David Guetta: “Love Is Gone,” “Love Don’t Let Me Go,” “The World Is Mine” – a lot of tracks with him because we made three albums together, from 1999 to 2008.
What do you think of the split between WMC and Ultra?
I think it’s a shame. For a DJ like me coming from France, we can’t do both. I can’t come to Miami in the beginning of March and then come back at the end of March, so we had to choose. I completely understand why they did this – I think they wanted to split the professional area with the people who just want to party. But for me, to do a good job as a DJ, you need to have an audience ready to rock and ready to party. So we’re gonna see how it works – I hope next year they’re gonna try to find a way to merge both.
How often do you get to Miami, and what do you think of the city?
I come maybe two or three times per year. I love the city, I love the weather. Last time I came with my family – I have four kids, and I was with my wife and kids on the beach. I like the city, but to be honest, only for holidays – I wouldn’t feel comfortable living every day there, because sometimes it’s a little bit too much for me. Miami looks like a fake city, but I’m always excited to go there.