It's been just over a year since David Guetta's last full-length release, 7, but the French DJ and producer is already back with a completely new sound.
Created with Danish DJ MORTEN (real name Morten Breum), the style first debuted in August with their collaboration "Never Be Alone" featuring Aloe Blacc. Later that month, the pair then released an official remix of Avicii's "Heaven" using similar production arrangements.
"I'm not excited, but obsessed, with this new sound," Guetta told EDM.com over the phone. "We're doing something that is influenced by techno and a little bit dark, but at the same time has a huge sonic. It makes it almost like a rave that would be sexy, a rave that would be house. It’s hard to describe something that doesn’t really exist."
So how, exactly, does a DJ come up with something entirely fresh and new?
Guetta said it has to do with recreating older sounds, but producing them in a modern way. For "Never Be Alone," Breum first came to Guetta with sonics that were "really, really exciting," Guetta said, and then they worked together to bring the "It factor" to them. '90s rave artists including The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy were huge influences, he added.
The resulting groove is vaguely reminiscent of trance and house, with a strong driving beat that develops into a high-energy drop. This sound has since grown into an arsenal of 10+ songs hidden away in Guetta's laptop awaiting release. Already on the calendar is "Make It To Heaven," due later this month.
Until then, though, he is testing new tracks in his club shows.
"When you play a record for the first time and people react more than when I play 'Titanium,' I’m like, 'Whoa, This is insane.' Something is happening there," Guetta said. "I'm just making beats and going to the club and playing them on the same day."
This is a recent experience for Guetta, who has been focusing primarily on pop music. He originally earned recognition for his ability to seamlessly blend powerhouse vocalists with electronic beats and production. Taking time to focus on this new project has been refreshing, he said.
"When I make this type of record it's so free. There are no rules. It can be three minutes long, eight minutes long. It can be whatever I want it to be," Guetta said.
While this story might sound similar to that of Jack Back, Guetta's progressive house project, he said the sound he's now working on is different. It appeals more to the masses than his niche tech house sound, making it inclusive enough to be released under his own name.
"It’s music that is kind of underground, but produced in a way that is so big that it can appeal to a festival dance floor," Guetta told us.
Is this a new David Guetta, then? Is the legendary hit-making producer a creative vision of the past?
Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. Guetta said his true love is making timeless music that can be played both electronically or on the piano. His label is "freaking out," he said, and so he'll have to go back to making radio hits soon (*sigh*). But at the same time, he added that in an ideal world he would be able to make beats that work in clubs and at festivals.
"I think I will always need both, because I love melodies, harmonies and beautiful songs. That's a really big part of me so I don't think I would let that go ever," he said. "But, I really want to focus on this project because it's so important to me."
"DJs are coming to me asking when they can have this sound, which hasn't happened to me for a while because I've been focusing on pop. It's really amazing to be in this position again," he said
Read our interview with David Guetta below for a better understanding of his new creative shift.
EDM.com: How would you describe this new sound?
David Guetta: What’s hot right now in underground music is a type of music that is not really working in terms of energy. When it comes to really big festivals I feel, personally, like it’s not really for a headliner DJ playing for 50,000 people. It’s just not meant for that. It's an option to be like, 'Oh I’m cool and playing this anyways,' or you can be like, 'I want to murder the dance floor,' and then play EDM or trap. That, to me, feels like a sound that’s four years old. I really feel like there’s this huge gap. I’ve been speaking to so many of my DJ friends, and we feel like we don’t know what to play right now. There’s not a sound that is at the same time cool and fresh and at the same time efficient in terms of energy. I really feel like this new sound I’m putting together with MORTEN is the answer to that. We’re doing something that is influenced by techno, and a little bit dark which is cool, but at the same time has a huge sonic. It makes it almost like a rave that would be sexy, a rave that would be house.
I’m curious how you discovered that this was the sound that would fill that gap that you were talking about.
What’s fun with this is it was actually just by playing it. It started with "Never Be Alone." First, I was playing the record before it even had a song on it, just playing it as a beat, and it was crazy. I started to open all my shows with that record, and the reaction was so massive that I was like, 'Okay, we have something.' Then what I did was this other record, our next one, called “Make it to Heaven.” In testing it people are reacting more than when I play "Titanium." That's insane. Something is happening there.
Now, I'm making beats and going to the club and playing them on the same day. DJs are coming to me asking, 'Can I have it? when can I have it?' This hasn’t happened for me for a while because I’ve been focusing on pop so much. It’s really amazing to be in this position again.
It's interesting that you decided to release "Never Be Alone" under your own name instead of your Jack Back alias. Can we expect more of this sound from your main project in the future?
Jack Back is more the underground sound, more meant for clubs,. I have a lot of requests for me to play as Jack Back at festivals, but I don’t want to do that because then, in a way, it’ll be like David Guetta. I want to give a good time to people, and if I find myself in front of 20,000 people and I’m going to play as Jack Back I still need to bring the energy. But with this project with Morten, because of the sonics and the production, it works for the masses. That’s why I’m releasing it as David Guetta. It’s doing music that is kind of underground but produced in a way that is so big that it can appeal to a festival dance floor.
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What do you think is so important about a drop for it to appeal to a festival crowd as opposed to a club scene?
If I make tracks for the club I don’t really do a drop. It’s just more a like a continuous groove. You want to put people on almost like a clock - tick tock, tick tock - and for people to stay in that groove. It’s a little more hypnotic. With festivals it’s the other way around. It’s super important to use the dynamics, which is the difference between the lowest and highest sound levels. What creates the impact is the difference between a moment that’s very quiet and a moment that’s very loud. Not even talking yet about melody, chords and sounds, but just with this, you can go from almost nothing to a lot or you can go from a lot to almost nothing and people are going to scream. That creates energy. With this project with Morten, we’re still using that formula. It's kind of an EDM formula, but with ravey sounds.
How did you and Morten meet and start working together?
We’ve been friends for many years, and it’s funny because we were friends and not really talking about music. It was more based on friendship than on music. We tried a couple of times to make music but...finally he came with some sonics that I felt were really, really exciting. I was like, 'Okay, let me try something on this.' That’s how we started.
Is there anyone else picking up on this trend of music right now?
No one is doing this right now. I think this is why it’s so exciting and why DJs are asking for the records, because it doesn’t really exist. I have no doubt that a lot of DJs are going to do it very soon because it’s so obvious. When you play a record and they react like this, it’s like, 'Okay, that’s what it is, that’s what we need to do.'
Do you have any idea when those records are going to come out?
It’s not really planned right now. I have some records that have potential in terms of streaming but also songs. And then I have songs that are more battle weapons, that are purely DJ weapons, so I’m trying to think of how I’m going to release all this music. It’s better to be in the position of having the music and wondering how to release it than to be in the position of not knowing what to release.
What are DJ weapons? Could you explain that more to me?
I have, let’s say, 10 to 12 records. I even made some remixes of my classics with this new production formula. Some of those records have vocals that give them a bigger hit potential, but some of them are only instrumental and meant like DJ weapons: something a little more electronic that I could play more in Ibiza, for example. That’s what I would call DJ weapons: just hypnotic crazy records that make people go insane, but they’re not necessarily hits.
Is there one that you prefer to produce over the other?
If I’m really honest I love the timeless music. That’s why I love focusing on songs so much. I love that most of my records are strong records in an electronic version but you can also play them just on guitar or piano. This is, to me, probably what makes me most proud. But I’m also a DJ and sometimes just coming up with a production formula that is sonically new and exciting, that’s fun.
While you had vocals on the original "Never Be Alone" from Aloe Blacc, you also released an extended instrumental version that you had used to open your sets. What went into this decision? How did it change up the song?
Some DJs that are a little more underground, they don’t want to play songs. That’s why we make two versions. This sound that we’re doing can be played by mainstream DJs but can also be played by underground DJs. That’s what makes it so unique and exciting: for the same record, you can make a version with a song that can be played on the radio and you can make an instrumental version that works in the underground.
Is there anything else we can expect from you soon?
At some point I’m going to have to go back and make some pop records because my label is freaking out. I really want to focus on this project because it's so important to me, but I then at some point I need also to do what I’m famous for, which is making radio hits.
I also think it’s important for you to explore what you’re doing artistically as well, though. How does it feel to be working on something that feels fresh and monumental for electronic music?
It’s refreshing to me. I’ve been in that logic of commercial success for many years. It’s been amazing, like I said, to go back to the way I used to do it, making a beat in the afternoon and playing at night in the club and seeing the reaction musically. When I make this type of record it’s so free. There’s no rules, it can be three minutes, eight minutes, it can be whatever I want it to be.
Do you think there’s a chance you’ll ever leave the whole radio hit thing behind and pursue this version of David Guetta?
I think I will always need both because I love making timeless music and songs. I love melodies, harmonies, beautiful songs, and that’s really a big part of me. I don’t think I would let this go ever. But, at the same time, before everything else, I’m a DJ. I need to make records that I can play and that completely murder the dance floor. I love that.
Of course, in an ideal world, there are moments that you can do both at the same time. There were a few years when I was making records killing it on the dance floor and the festivals. I just find it difficult to do this right now because radio is not so much supporting dance music anymore.
One last question: I just have to ask you about these David Greta memes popping up. What do you think about them?
I just posted one, actually! It’s so fucking funny. It's just hilarious, just very funny. And people are loving it. I’m really loving it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.