Avatars, Keytars and Recycling

Geeking out with new Tao Group resident DJ Joachim Garraud

French DJ Joachim Garraud wears the mighty Space Invader avatar like a coat of arms. You can see the vintage video-game character emblazoned on the T-shirts that he wears inside nightclubs, on his live visuals and CD covers and even on the headphones and sunglasses available in his online shop.

Garraud’s fascination with the 8-bit creature goes back to his early career. When Garraud began DJing, at the dawn of the rave movement, he didn’t want to use a photo of himself. Instead, he looked for a symbol that could represent him.

“If you’re looking at the Space Invaders [symbol], it could be a girl from Japan or a guy from Texas or Las Vegas. It could be a guy from Paris,” Garraud explains over Skype from France. “There’s no question of religion. There’s no question of race. It’s really an international symbol, and electronic music is international.”

He was also attracted to the video game connection.

“I feel like deep inside of me, I’m a geek because I love machines and playing with them,” he says.

Now, years after Garraud first stepped behind the decks, Space Invaders have taken on another meaning. Garraud is using the retro character to symbolize his increasingly forward-minded approach to rocking the party.

“What I like to do is to merge the future and the past,” Garraud says.

Last year, Garraud released a single that sums up his attitude. “We Are the Future,” with its sweeping keyboards, almost sounds like it came out of the early-1990s rave heyday. However, it’s still a modern track, with a beat that will even get the folks who were born in 1991 out on the dance floor.

“Electronic music does a lot of recycling,” Garraud says. “Using the words ‘We Are the Future’ with these ’90s sounds is funny for me. We’re in the loop, and we’re recycling some good sensations that we had when the ’90s was there.”

Garraud is part of a wave of veteran DJs who have embraced the new groove of electronic dance music and, consequently, are making a big splash in the U.S. He has played Coachella and Lollapalooza and is set to release a new EP off of Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records in March that will fuse techno, electro and dubstep. Although he resides in Paris, he heads out to the States frequently and considers it to be the “No. 1 market for electronic music in the world.” At the center of that is Las Vegas.

“It’s a very good place because everything goes so fast in Vegas,” Garraud says. “I come every three or four months and, every time I come, it’s getting bigger and bigger.” Garraud performs Feb. 9 at Tao Nightclub.

In the studio, Garraud has worked with the top names in dance music, including David Guetta, but what’s marking his career now is his hi-tech performance style. For his Invasion shows at Amnesia in Miami, he has created an LED space odyssey and he’s hoping to bring some of those elements to Las Vegas, where he has soon-to-be-announced residencies at Tao, Lavo and Marquee. This, he says, will hopefully include 3D visuals that don’t require glasses.

“It’s going to be one of the first cities in the U.S. to be able to have this kind of show,” Garraud says of Las Vegas.

A classically educated musician who studied both piano and drums, Garraud gravitated toward electronic music when he was in his teens. But, DJing was a completely different game when he launched his career.

“When I started to DJ, we were in the basement and nobody cared who was the DJ,” Garraud says. “Now, we are onstage, under the lights, exactly as Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Garraud believes that DJs now need to do more than mix one song into the next. Several years ago, he met one of the leaders of Pioneer, who showed him some new gear that allowed DJs to mix DVD footage as though they were playing CDs. From there, he has built up his sets to include much more than just video.

State-of-the-art visuals are only part of Garraud’s strategy. He also plays live onstage. In keeping with his retro-modern style, he uses a keytar.

“I decided to introduce the live element in my show because I was a little frustrated with just CDs,” Garraud says. “I was looking to have better contact, a better link, to the audience.”

It worked.

“The best words I have with people is after the show when they come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Joachim, I really loved your concert,’” he says. The fact that people refer to his DJ sets as concerts is clearly a compliment for this Space Invader.

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