DJ GUTS, DJ and producer is coming to Australia for the WOMADelaide festival in March where he will be performing a DJ set to close the festival on Monday 13 March. We spoke to DJ GUTS ahead of his arrival in Australia.
This may be an obvious question, but why the name DJ GUTS? Because in English it can mean courage, but it can also mean everything inside.
The guts! Exactly. Actually, it’s not such an obvious question. Basically, it’s just a tag. It’s a nickname. When I was young, it was a signature, a tag that I made on the walls to mark my territory at the same time.
So you did a bit of graffiti when you were young?
Precisely, I did a bit of graffiti and it’s a name that I chose at the beginning completely by chance, but in life, there is no chance. I say to myself now with a lot of hindsight obviously that in the end this name suits me perfectly because I needed courage when I was young, to achieve – to find my way, to find my path and to take my life in hand and my destiny in hand. I needed a lot of courage because when I was young, I was very shy and very introverted. And I found, let’s say, my way, my path and my destiny, I found it thanks to hip hop. So it’s hip hop that brought me out and we’ll say hip hop in its entirety.
It’s everything that hip-hop can integrate, that is to say its culture, its philosophy, the graffiti, the dance, the DJs, the beatmakers, the rappers. So, all the disciplines of hip-hop and all that it can represent, it is exactly what came to touch the deepest part of me and it is what gave meaning to my life.
And after GUTS it also means the guts. And in fact, the second brain is the gut, it’s the belly. That’s what happens there. And for me, it’s something that is very, very important because I’ve always been a sensitive person, with a lot of emotions and everything I’ve felt in my life, I feel in my guts and in my stomach. So for me. it’s also, let’s say, “emotional intelligence”.
On the WOMADelaide website it says that you are from France and Spain. You are French, but do you also have Spanish origins?
Actually, I don’t have Spanish blood, I have Italian and French blood, but I’ve been living in Spain for 16 years, on an island, so it’s true that after 16 years living in Spain, I feel half Spanish, half French. I got married to a Catalan woman, a Spanish woman, and my father who is Italian, but who came to Ibiza in the late 60s, at the time of the psychedelic movement, the hippie movement. So you could say that I followed my father’s path and I ended up settling in Ibiza too, like my father. That explains it.
Was your father a musician too?
Not at all. My father was a restaurateur, because may he rest in peace, he’s gone now, but he was an Italian restaurateur in all his splendour.
So what can the WOMADelaide audience expect from your closing DJ set on Monday night?
In my philosophy and in my approach to art in general, I always say don’t expect anything, but welcome it. You really have to make the distinction between a concert and a DJ set – I have a DJ set proposal since I stopped doing concerts. In my DJ set proposal, in fact, it is based on my musical research, so that means that it is based on musical discovery.
And what I love personally, first of all I’m a – what we call – Crate Digger and I spend most of my life, looking for music, bringing to light things that either have gone unnoticed or things that have been totally forgotten. And I like to bring them back to light and to the forefront. So what I love most about my DJ sets is not necessarily playing my own music, my records, my discography. But what I love is to play my discoveries of the moment. That is to say that, for the last two or three months, there are maybe forty or fifty tracks that I’ve been playing and I want to share them and I want to make the audience discover them.
So obviously, it’s not always easy for the listeners, because the listeners are often waiting to hear my songs, to hear the tracks from my albums. But it’s true that for me and often for DJs who are also producers, it’s s a bit tricky to play your own music on stage when you’re on the decks as a DJ. Because the interest of playing your music on stage is to be able to reinterpret it, to give it a new dimension on stage. And when you’re a DJ, it’s difficult to give a new dimension to your own music because it’s not played live, it’s just played on record.
So either I play remixes of my own songs or maybe edited and reinterpreted versions. While it’s true that I generally play very few of my own songs, my own tracks, ‘ll make an effort like at WOMAD because it’s the first time I’ve been to Australia. So we’re in a festival setting.
I’m not very, very fond of festivals, especially DJ sets. I like festivals when I go to see a concert, but I don’t actually go to a festival to see a DJ or to listen to a DJ. When I go to a festival, it’s mainly to see and listen to live bands. So the DJ’s task at a festival is always a bit tricky. In any case, this is the proposal and what I propose in my DJ sets.
Where do you look for the new stuff, the tracks that you’re going to share with the audience?
It’s quite a different way of searching. I have a bit like everyone else, I go snooping, hunting, searching on Discogs, on YouTube, on blogs, on mixtapes of DJs who are other diggers. So I spend a lot of time listening to that. I do a lot of research on Bandcamp. I love Bandcamp, it’s my favourite Bandcamp platform.
Otherwise, I’m also very much in touch with dealers around the world who are dedicated to finding rare vinyl in their country and then selling it to DJ diggers, like me. So there’s a whole network of “vinyl dealers” and I have my networks in Paris, in Sao Paulo, in Brazil, in Africa, in the Caribbean, in South America.
Are there any Australian artists you have discovered that you would like to sample or work with?
That’s a good question. The last few days I’ve been in touch with a beatmaker/producer from Adelaide who I really like, called Inkswell. And he knows my music very well. He told me he was very happy to welcome me in Adelaide, so we were going to exchange, we’re going to spend time together. I’m very happy to meet this artist.
And there’s a band I like that I discovered not so long ago. This group called Black Jesus Experience. Of course, there’s a rapper I really like in Australia. Her name is Sampa The Great. She’s really amazing! I love her!
So you can enjoy it a little bit. That’s good, but what are you looking for in the music that you sample?
What I’m looking for, of course, is either a sound or a melody that will come to me immediately. To touch my soul or to tell me a story, or to bring back a memory because I’m very nostalgic. But in fact, it’s something that will simply touch my soul and that will inspire me to tell a story around this sample.
I often start by composing the music with a sample. And once I have my basic sample, which is a bit of a foundation, then I’ll build around it and I’ll tell a story around it and I’ll sublimate the sample and make it into something beautiful and, why not, something moving or touching.
To talk about your music now, your last album Estrellas, which brought together 25 artists from Senegal, Cuba and France, is linked to the music of slaves, isn’t it?
It’s related to that. It’s the heritage of this music obviously, because Cubans were deported from Africa through the triangular trade. By having Cuban artists who themselves came from Africa through the slave trade… Inevitably, the fact that Cubans come back to Africa to record a record, a project, this history and this heritage will both feed the project and above all, it will float around. It’s something that’s going to hover around us and obviously it’s going to be present in a totally unconscious way, but it will be present. In addition, France was a colonising country, a country that also engaged in the slave trade. Africa, which suffered slavery, was also an accomplice because it was they who sold their own people. There were also Africans who were in business and they themselves sold people from their own country. So they were victims and at the same time accomplices. All this means that the legacy of slavery is still very much present.
Why did you decide to make an album related to this music and its roots?
My first idea was to make an album in Cuba because Cuba represents for me the place where the music is the strongest, the most powerful and where the musicians are the best. So for me, it’s really the Mecca of music. It’s where the musicians are the most rigorous, the most brilliant, the best trained. So I thought maybe once in my life I would go to a place that for me is perhaps the most musical place in the world. And with the pandemic, with COVID, we could record, but it was so complicated that I had to find a plan B. And the plan B, I said to myself simply that since it’s too complicated to record in Cuba with Cubans, I’m going to record in Dakar, in Senegal, with Cubans.
Cubans who lived in Senegal?
No. Cubans from Cuba who were brought to Dakar. It was very complicated to get them to go there. So we came up with the idea of Cuban artists from Cuba coming to Dakar to record the project.
And how did you find these musicians?
These are musicians I dreamed of collaborating with. Cucurucho Valdés is an incredible pianist, who is the nephew of Chucho Valdés. So a legend, a legendary pianist in Cuba is Cucurucho Valdés. For me, it was a dream to collaborate with him. When I went to Cuba to meet the artists before working with them, I went to see the musicians who made me dream and with whom I wanted to collaborate. So it started because the pianist Cucurucho Valdés was the absolute priority for me and when he said yes and gave me his agreement, and then I went to see Brenda Navarette, who I wanted to work with.
And then I went to see other artists with whom I wanted to work and I asked them if they would agree to come and record in Dakar, since it was not possible to record in Cuba. And they all agreed and they were even very, very happy and very proud and honoured to go for the first time in their lives, to go back to the land of their ancestors and to go and record a record in Africa, in Senegal, in Dakar. For them, it was an honour and a privilege.
I can imagine. Personally, when I think of hip hop, I think of rap. For people who think that hip hop is only rap and that your DJ set is only going to be rap, what do you say?
I’ll tell them that my musical background is hip hop and it’s rap, but in a very natural way now there is very little rap in my DJ sets now. Now my DJ sets are a lot of African music, South American music and Caribbean music. So we’re going to listen to music, sunshine, music from many countries – music from Colombia, Brazil, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Cuba, Trinidad, Cape Verde,. We’re going to travel and it’s going to be the music of the sun, the music of the islands and it’s going to sound like that.
We thank DJ GUTS for this interview and can’t wait to see DJ GUTS peform his DJ set at WOMADelaide.
KEY INFO FOR DJ GUTS IN AUSTRALIA
AT WOMADELAIDE 2023
WHAT: DJ GUTS in DJ SET at WOMADelaide 2023
WHEN: 10pm Monday 13 March
WHERE: Botanic Park, Adelaide
HOW: Buy your tickets via this link: https://www.womadelaide.com.au/tickets
HOW MUCH: If you wish to see the DJ Set, you will need a Monday ticket.
Because Saturday tickets are now sold out, it is only possible to buy single day tickets for Friday, Sunday and Monday. They are available at the following prices:
- Adult $166
- Concession $148
- Youth (13 to 17 years old) $103
- Child (under 12 with an adult) free
- Adult $225
- Concession $198
- Youth (13 to 17 years) $137
- Child (under 12 with an adult) free
Monday (the night of the DJ GUTS set)
- Adult $225
- Concession $198
- Youth (13 to 17 years old) $137
- Child (under 12 with an adult) free
WHEN: Sunday 19 March – time to be confirmed
WHERE: Section 8, 27-29 Tattersalls Lane MELBOURNE
HOW: Just turn up
HOW MUCH: Free
LISTEN: You can listen to DJ GUTS on Spotify while waiting for his DJ set at WOMADelaide here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5mMkUZv8uUrlH0SHX89BeS?si=PVuyxDmnRHGn1d6FKkkK9A
WATCH: Subscribe to GUTS’ official YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-4GEnYaEHfPyOswJPejdbA
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