Hugo Leclercq left school at age 16, taught himself music and perfect English, and then caught the ear of Lady Gaga, who was so impressed by the now-18-year-old native of Nantes, France, that she asked him to open for her on her North American tour. Madeon, as he is better known, may be most recognized for his button-pushing mash-up “Pop Culture,” but his musical depth extends much deeper than simply re-tooling the material of others. He has quickly followed up with a series of his own hits (“Icarus,” “Finale” and “The City”), is the only DJ to have played the New York Stock Exchange and will play the main stage at Ultra Music Festival in Miami on March 16. But first he’ll be at Surrender on March 15.
You started producing at age 11. How did that affect you?
When I was 11, I decided I wanted to be a producer. Later in life, in my long and ever-changing life [laughter], I discovered DJing and other aspects of electronic-music production. One of my main concerns when I started was to make sure my head was focused, so for the first couple of years I refused to do any photos or video interviews. I made sure that all the attention was on the music, and I am thankful it was, so that I could build a fan base that liked my releases. It would have been easy to say, “I am 15 and DJing,” and it all could have disappeared quickly, because the nature of that gimmick is that it’s not lasting. It would have been a mistake to not believe in my musical abilities and to bet on that. Obviously, when I started touring a bit more, it would have been ridiculous to keep on hiding. I could have went the [Deadmau5] ‘helmet’ way, but that seemed a bit cheesy, and it’s already been done so much. My youth was something I am proud of, but it was important for me to manage it and make sure it didn’t overpower the musical projects.
How did you land the gig as Gaga’s opening act?
I was playing Lollapalooza and one of her promoters saw me, liked what he heard and I sent some songs in. We started chatting a bit and it felt right. I also really love her as a person and was happy to go on tour with her.
Are you helping produce her new album, ARTPOP?
I may. It’s a process where we are trying things and making songs. You never know how it’s going to end up.
What is she like when the public isn’t watching?
She is incredibly nice, intelligent and an incredible singer.
You have a studio on your tour bus?
I’ve never been able to produce on the road, because I use speakers and I can’t mix with headphones—it really bothers me. For this tour, because I was on the road for quite a while, I didn’t want to not produce any music for two months. So I got a production laptop, speakers and all the basic gear I needed to make a studio that I could set up on the bus. The bus doesn’t have the best acoustics, however, so it doesn’t sound great. I experiment, though, and change songs and try out new ideas on the piano. When I was last in Vegas for three days I actually set up the studio in my hotel room [at Encore], and because it’s a larger room it sounded great, even better than at home! I actually wrote a couple of songs that I am super excited about, but obviously one of my concerns was my neighbors. My manager actually moved his room next to mine to make sure we didn’t disturb anyone—we did some tests to make sure, and thankfully it was OK.
You tweeted, “The past year has been dazzling, and there is more to come.” What’s next?
I’ve just finished a track called “Technicolor,” which is more of an experimental release for me. It’s a six-minute journey. I’ve played it live, and my fans are asking for it, so I am thinking I’ll release that next. I also want to do an album. A lot of my ideas and the things I’m working on are more clearly merging, and I can start to see what my album will be like. It will be all original music and collabs with singers, no remixes. I have a lot to say musically.
You often wear a blazer on tour. Would you consider yourself fashion forward?
My style consists of owning five black jeans, a million white V-necks and a couple of black blazers. I wear the same thing every day!
Let’s talk iPhone cases—I hear you hate big ones.
This is a prototype of the new Madeon iPhone case [points to a naked iPhone 5]. It’s quite thin and slim as you can see! I used to have a big case, but I thought, “Let’s live dangerously.”