With nightlife in his blood, Marseille native Cedric Gervais started DJing in St. Tropez at age 13. He followed his dream while still a teenager to Miami, where prolific DJ residencies would later earn him the nickname “King of South Beach,” among others. His French influence proved well-suited for the house-friendly Miami scene that was growing into a global dance music destination. Last winter, we spoke with Gervais as he was kicking off his Marquee residency. He still hasn’t slowed down, except for a quick chat with Vegas Seven before his recent show at Surrender, part of his new Wynn Resorts residency.
At 13 you started DJing at your father’s club, Papagayo, in St. Tropez. What led to that first gig?
I was begging my father, like “I wanna be a DJ!” And during the summer when there was no more school, he was like, “OK, I’m gonna give you a residency at my club.” My father was always wanting me to play disco and hip-hop, and I was playing techno and house, and he would try to fire me all the time!
At 15 you started racking up influential residencies in South Beach. Few people get to experience clubs at such a young age. Did you drink back then?
That was one thing—I had to wait until I was 21. That was very difficult; the manager would always make sure that there were no drinks around me. I was not allowed to have any drinks, or take any drinks from any customers, and I was not supposed to stay there after my set.
How was Miami back then?
When I arrived in Miami I was 15 years old and I didn’t speak a word of English. There were only a few clubs. The major clubs were Liquid and the Living Room. Living Room was owned by French people, lucky for me. I met them and I started DJing there right away. It was open Monday–Sunday and packed every single night. And they were playing house music, so it was perfect for me. I started DJing, I started learning how to speak English. Then came Crobar and then Nikki Beach. Then Space opened and there was a big break. Fast forward it’s now LIV and all these big clubs on the beach. But yesterday, there was like two clubs!
How does Miami compare with Las Vegas?
To me, Miami started all of the U.S. on the dance movement. Las Vegas, seven years ago, there was no one playing house music. Meanwhile, in Miami, clubs were full with house music and DJs playing everywhere. But now I think Vegas is a big part of it; every weekend and you have the biggest DJs in the world performing everywhere in the city. It’s very similar musically now and the party atmosphere.
Last time you spoke with Vegas Seven you were promoting “Molly,” which turned into a big track for you. What’s the backstory?
I was stuck in a record label deal with Ultra Records for many years. I was frustrated, and I stopped making music. Then, when the contract was over, one night before my Sh!t Show party, I decided to make a track for the dance floor, this banging track with some computerized vocals. I came up with the lyrics, and I played it that night. The next day I would play at Pacha New York … it was all over the Internet, blogs, people talking, “Oh my God, what is this track, Molly, Molly!” going crazy. That’s when I really realized I was on to something big.
What happened with the Deadmau5/Madonna “Molly” controversy?
Madonna is a friend, and I was in the studio with her working on an album. And she heard the track, she loved the track, and when she came down to Miami she shouted out, “Have you seen Molly?” and everybody took it the wrong way. Which is great for me, because, hey, it got Deadmau5 to talk about it and my track became even more famous, so it was a good thing!
Your new single “Things Can Only Get Better” is a remix/collaboration with ’80s pop icon Howard Jones. How did that collaboration happen?
Well, I always liked that song, I was a huge fan of [Jones], and it was a sample I always wanted to do for a house-music version, so I did it. Then my management loved it, and said, “Hey, let’s get in contact with Howard’s people,” and Howard loved it and he wanted to do it with me. I’m very proud of this fact; I’m very happy that he decided to do it with me.
How are the Lana Del Rey collaborations coming along?
Yeah, “Summertime Sadness [Remix]” blew up on Hype Machine! It’s blowing up on every radio right now; it was No. 1 on Beatport. It was a big record. I’m actually doing a new record for Lana, a new mix for “Young and Beautiful,” which is actually from the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby.
Is there any truth behind the rumors that you’re trying to become an actor?
No, no, I’m just in the movie Pain & Gain. Michael Bay is a very good friend of mine, I did the soundtrack and I have a role in it. That’s about it; I’m not pursuing any acting. If I do it again my goal maybe to do Transformers or something like that. But it’s not something I’m [pursuing]—I’m very into music.