Entertainer Exclusive Part 2: David Guetta Talks Hip Hop Culture and Lucky Number 7
Read Part 1 of our exclusive interview with David Guetta here.
David Guetta has become a music impresario, churning out beat banging, genre-busting pop songs that have been topping the charts for nearly a decade with mega-hits like Titanium featuring Sia; Where Them Girls At featuring Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj; Club Can’t Handle Me featuring Flo Rida; Who’s That Chick featuring Rihanna and I Gotta Feeling featuring The Black Eyed Peas. Guetta is the King of Collabs. His creative input on a song almost assures chart-topping status and his fans have dubbed his music, “Guetta-blasters,” an homage to his bold immersion into hip-hop culture, and his constant and effortless ability to blend hip-hop and pop music with an addictive beat.
Born in France to liberal intellectuals who shunned materialism, Guetta says he yearned for a more glamorous life, which he soon discovered in Europe’s underground club scene where he began deejaying as a teenager. He also fell in love with all things American, as he described, delving into American books, movies and music, and yearning to conquer the stateside music scene.
We sat down with David Guetta to discuss his seventh, yes seventh, studio album, simply titled, “7.” It’s an eclectic, genre-fluid collection of emotionally charged lyrics and hypnotic melodies. Of course, the album is full of Guetta’s famous collaborations with the likes of Sia, Jason Derulo, and Justin Bieber.
AK: Tell me about this special creative synergy that you and Sia share?
DG: It’s incredible because first, we have a lengthy history together. Sia, when we started to work together, was not the big artist she is now. We created [the song] Titanium (from Guetta’s 2011 5th studio album, Nothing but the Beat) together, which was, for both of us, a life-changing record. Sia deserves every success she has. She is my favorite artist. She can sing, she can write like no one else, and any time I need her she is always there for me. We have kept working together, and I love the combination. I think what is interesting in music is to combine opposite feelings together into one song. For example, if you play happy chords and have a happy melody, and you use bright sounds, it sounds kind of cheesy. And if it’s too dark, it’s like, “Oh My God. I want to shoot myself.” You know (laughs)? What is interesting to me is to have a dark instrumental with a happy melody or the other way around. I’m a happy person, so I like to make emotional records that put you in a good mood. Like, I produced I Gotta Feeling (the 2009 hit single from The Black Eyed Peas’ 5th studio album, The E.N.D.). Those are the kinds of records I make. And Sia, she is a moody, melancholy, survival kind of artist. The combination between the two is the magic. That is why me and Sia work so well together.
AK: You like the contrast of blending dark and light feelings into your musical collaborations.
DG: Exactly, and it’s just like that with movies I like to watch. If you see an action movie, and all they’re doing is shoot, shoot, shoot; bang, bang, bang, it’s stupid and boring. If you have an action movie, but there is also a love story in there, it works better. With music, it is the same.
When you study music theory and different types of melody and core percussion, they teach you that people want to have seventy-five percent of an experience of hearing something that is familiar to them, and twenty-five percent maximum of feeling excited by hearing something new. This is really a precise number. It’s interesting when you listen to a certain core percussion you need the last chord to feel good, and it’s the same when you go back to the first chord. In between the first and the last chords, you can afford to be more experimental. But if you were to add one chord after the other in a sequence that no one ever heard before, it’s very rare that it would work. People need a little bit of excitement and they need their familiarity.
AK: What spiritual philosophy do you subscribe to? And how does it impact your work?
DG: I’m a very happy person, and I’m trying to share this with the world. I’m trying to share my passion for music with the world, and I’m trying to bring people together. I think there are two things that bring people together, and that is sports and music. At a Football match, you may have the president of the country, and you have working people; people from all walks of life. That is what I am trying to do with music. That’s what has been my mission my entire life. I’m coming from an underground scene, but I always wanted my music to cross over because I’m not a guy who’s trying to keep it for myself. I like sharing. When I was trying to bring urban music and electronic music together, people’s feeling was that if you’re black you’re going to be into urban music, and if you’re white you’re going to be into electronic music. But why? To me, we are all the same, so we can also create music that speaks to everyone.
AK: I read that your father was a Sociologist. Did his studies and his work have any impact on your life philosophy or anything about how you choose to live your life?
DG: It’s funny because my parents were very, very left. And because it was the 1960s, they were hippies. Of course, being a hippy at that time was very common. I was raised like this. So, for me, being rebellious was saying, “I want to be an entrepreneur and I want to make money. I don’t want to be like you guys.” (Laughs) I was also super pro-America, and I was only watching American movies and listening to American music.
AK: What about things like picking up your father’s philosophies on any social causes, or on human behavior; things like that?
DG: You know, I really hadn’t thought about it. Now that you mention it, I would say a lot of the advice I was given stuck with me. Things like believing and treating everyone as equal, and just a certain way of navigating the world, without me even realizing it.
AK: What is the difference, culturally, between how your music is received in Europe versus in the states?
DG: It’s extremely different. There was this magic moment in my career where I brought people together and opened doors for this kind of music in the U.S., with songs like I Gotta Feeling (with the Black Eyed Peas), Club Can’t Handle Me (with Flo Rida) and music like that. It was a special moment of pop music that transcended genre, around 2009, 2010 and 2011. Now, in the U.S., it’s mainly hip hop. Among the biggest deejays in Europe, I am probably the one that is in the middle, culture-wise. The bigger deejays in Europe could probably not be as successful in the U.S. Hip-hop has absorbed every culture there was, in the United States. Hip-hop stars are the new rock stars in the U.S. They act like it and they dress like it. They don’t use the old hip hop codes; they use the rock n’ roll codes. I think that kids who would have in the past been into rock or alternative music, those same kids today are into hip-hop. They relate to that rebellious, provocative culture. I think it’s very interesting how they absorbed this. In Europe, if you want to be cool and different, you would likely be into underground dance music.
Photo Credits: Joseph Abound (album cover), Guerin Blask, Ellen von Unwerth