Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
When I was living in London in the mid-80s, West End Girls was a massive hit in the clubs. I would always meet my friends before going to the Mud Club – and you had to be especially dressed-up, otherwise the club’s host, Philip Salon, wouldn’t allow you through the doors, so we were pretty eccentric. And when I remember those days, West End Girls is one of a few tracks that we would be listening to all the time.
It arrived before house and techno, when everyone was listening to lots of different types of music. It’s not that I’m a big Pet Shop Boys fan, but West End Girls is one of the markers for that period. I was part of a big community of French people, and a song talking about a certain area we knew meant a lot to me and my French friends. And of course we had a lot of English friends, but I can’t say I was hanging around with too many proper West End Girls at the time!
Trouble Funk – Drop the Bomb
Trouble Funk had that Washington DC mixture of hip-hop, funk and jazz. When they covered Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express, they dipped into the early stage of electro music, too. At the time, in the 80s, music was getting kind of boring and too neat – and artists were searching for new ways to make music so they were mixing things together a lot: Trouble Funk felt fresh.
For me, even though Trouble Funk are from DC, they represent my major Mud Club era, when I’d spend every Friday for about two years in that club, listening to music and dancing all night. And Trouble Funk were definitely one of the trendy bands you would hear in a lot of different clubs, because of their crossover appeal. They’re one of the only funk bands, and early sort of hip-hop/funk acts, that some of my rock’n’roll friends listen to. You know, the pure rock’n’roll hardcore people from France? They’ll still have a Trouble Funk record in their collection. When the music elsewhere felt too clean, an act like Trouble Funk felt messy, bringing more depth and realness to music.
Gwen Guthrie – Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ on But the Rent
When DJs used to drop it, the dancefloor would go absolutely crazy. This is a much cleaner song, but felt like house music before house music really arrived, with people like Farley “Jackmaster” Funk. You could feel that undefinable mixture of soul, pop and funk in not only Gwen Guthrie’s voice, but the rhythm, groove and dubbiness of the track. I think it’s like a great, late disco record with a real drive: even though it’s much cleaner than Trouble Funk’s track, you’d have to react to it if you heard it in a club with a good soundsystem. You’d have to get up and dance.
Back in the 80s, we were putting this song in basically every mixtape we’d make. It was a great tool when you wanted to hit the disco people with a mixtape – when you wanted to hit the Mud Club crowd.
Fade II Black – The Calling
Here’s the thing with techno: it crossed all borders because there are no words. And I think that’s why techno because so big so quickly – going from the UK to France, Germany, Spain and across the world – because the lack of lyrics opened up this whole world of understanding for people. Fade II Black are everything that Detroit electronic music can offer you. You feel the mood. You can understand that behind the track there’s a whole story based on people suffering in a city that’s spiralling towards hell.
I think The Calling is definitely one of those tracks – alongside another 1,000 – that was extremely moody and powerful, filled with a sadness, sorrow and a melancholy cry for help. Detroit techno mixes American jazz and funk culture with Eurotape stuff – and that’s where people like Fade II Black came in. It’s something I feel very close to – it’s been very important in my career. As much as I loved Chicago house music, Chicago was only giving me the funk. Detroit was giving me the funk, the soul and all the mixed-up feelings I was experiencing in my 20s. Detroit was giving me much more.
Justice – Waters of Nazareth
I love this song. For me, this is the best song they’ve ever done. Justice are an interesting case because they were graphic designers, doing flyers and posters and adverts for clubs like the Rex in Paris, before they were making music. So they met the right people, like Ed Banger records’ Pedro Winters, when France was becoming important in the techno music world. Justice had very good knowledge of rock music as well as techno, and they landed on the precise crossroad between both genres. They arrived at the right time, when techno was repeating itself and getting a bit bored. Justice said, “No, fuck the idea of techno being faceless, where we don’t have to market ourselves – the package is really important as well. We’re going to show our faces. We’re going to put ourselves centre stage. We’re going to bodyslam like punks because we come from that scene as well.” And this is why Ed Banger was so successful, because Winters pushed the boundaries to make it harder, tougher, crazier – and funnier. It’s true that the techno world is very serious, but the Ed Banger guys have a great sense of humour. And I think Justice are the biggest definition of that.
• Laurent Garnier’s book Electrochoc is published in English by Rocket 88. His album La Home, a selection of highlights from his vinyl and CD Home box set, is released on 18 May via F Com.