Dan Ghenacia is one of the underground’s survivors. The Parisian has been at the heart of his home city’s scene since the late ‘90s, helming Le Batofar’s legendary after-hours boat parties and forming seminal house and techno imprint Freak ‘n’ Chic in 2003, a label that spawned many of Paris’ current crop of leading lights. Fast forward to 2013, and, while that first label has been closed three years, he continues to be resident at Ibiza’s Circoloco parties, and now resides as one third of Apollonia, a DJing, label and production trio with fellow Parisians Shonky and Dyed Soundorom. Pulse Radio caught up with him in Germany in between studio sessions to talk about his plans for the next twelve months.
You’re in Berlin at the moment. Are you playing out there this weekend with your Apollonia crew? I am actually in the city for the winter, and I’m working on the Apollonia album with Dyed and Shonky. They are living in Berlin, so I have to move there if we want to make records together [laughs].
So, when is the album planned to be released? We don’t know yet, but should be finished for the spring and released in maybe September or October next year.
As a DJ, you seem to be an artist that’s survived quite unchanged since you first were playing at the end of the ‘90s. Obviously your music will change around you, and you’ll progress, but do you feel like the same guy that started out back in Paris all those years ago? Yeah, I feel pretty much the same. I’ve always tried to have this confidence in what I’m doing musically, so while it’s not the same music as 15 years ago, we try to evolve with the times and we don’t try to live in nostalgia. The reality is that why it’s working for us today is that we’re very versatile in what we play. We don’t play one style. We play in many different directions. And of course we have always been doing this! It took a very long time for people to understand what we do, and for us to be good at it. I think we love so many different records, and yes, it is house and it is techno, but we are in this moment where people in techno want something versatile, which wasn’t the reality fifteen years ago.
I interviewed Erol Alkan recently, and one thing he said was that he found that many DJs seemed afraid to play lots of different music or styles. And I think it’s really nice to hear a DJ that doesn’t feel afraid to play anything. Yes, it’s four beats, but you can play deep house, disco, techno, everything. We take the risk [every set] with Dyed and Shonky. It’s quite difficult just jumping from one style to the other. Also to play like we do, when we play one record each, while we can do it for hours, and [while] it’s not like there is a big difference from the beginning to the end, there is many ways for it to go, and you have to have a lot of knowledge in music.
It also much be really nice to know you can play with guys you are close to, and that you know each other’s music so well. Yes, definitely. There’s the thing that we know each other very well. The other thing is that we keep in mind is that if we want to enjoy and make people enjoy it, we have to surprise each other. We may surprise each other with an old record, or a new track the others don’t know. It’s not like we can just say “stop, I’m playing this new record!” We just go with the flow. It’s certainly not boring [laughs]! It’s not like this is what we were playing fifteen years ago when I was working at a record store and I’d buy new music only at the store and then play them on the weekend. It was all about the promos. We were always going out to try and get the hardest to find records. Now it’s different. So much is just there on the Internet, so we have find these records from many places to be original. So we keep in mind that we have to surprise each other, every record.
When you used to play at Le Batofar, and then with Freak ‘n’ Chic and now Apollonia, is it always important to you to have a really tight group of friends, a crew to work with, where you know you can continue what you’re doing free from any constrictions? Obviously. I’m not a big fan of loneliness [laughs]! I love to have people involved in what I’m doing with giving them a job, to have a career, and have this community. It’s all about sharing with people who are believing in you, which is good for yourself of course, but also you can help them too at some point. It’s enjoyable again and again and again.
Going back ten years - Dyed was working for David Guetta before he was a DJ, promoting you and you became friends. Now he’s an artist in his own right and you’re working together. Can you tell us more about that? You know, Dyed for me is someone that is really special because he was one of my first big, big fans. And then I become his first fan. It’s really about sharing your lives and your careers. I could see it from his first gig, he was so good, and I knew it would lead to something big. And now you could see the success he was getting and that makes me really, really happy.
It reminds me of maybe eight or nine years ago, I spent a weekend with you and the Freak ‘n’ Chic crew and came to one of your parties at Le Zebre. What I thought was great was the party just felt like a party with your friends, and not some big flashy club night or some big promotion. At that time I decided not to move to London or Berlin, I wanted to carry on with my own plan in Paris. And we thought “let’s do a party on a Sunday, and play the records we cannot play on a Saturday night in other clubs.” That was the only way to be able to do it. At this time, I was playing many places, like Batofar, and I was getting gigs all around Europe because of that sound and that party, so I couldn’t play other music in those same clubs. But Le Zebre was the next sensible step, and to have my friends around me. So it always made me really happy.
You’ve been doing parties back at Batofar again now. Refreshingly, that sort of party isn’t all about being in a really big club, or having a VIP area. Are those the sort of parties you’d always prefer to do? Well I think it was very important to keep it intimate - we had to have our own way of doing things. It’s like last summer; we did the first DC-10 party [for Apollonia]. The first edition was maybe five hundred people, and this year it was more than two thousand! And then you realise maybe it is because they follow you for that, for the music. It feels good, and it makes you remember you need to have a nice environment and a club, the appropriate size, and it works. But of course we could love to do a big event, a big festival, if everyone follows us [there]!
When you DJ, do you feel you have this ‘sound,’ and you know you don’t have to compromise what you do? No, we are just not that way, to feel we have to change. During fifteen years of DJing I have some moments where I have to change a little, to adapt to the club where I was playing, but I was always keeping in mind “I’m going to play this way, because that’s me, who I am and I want to do it,” but it’s always much more easy when everyone is going with you [and your music].
You started out running a record shop, you started DJing, you ran nights, and ran a label. Do you think you understand the business better and have that knowledge because you’ve been there yourself and you know what others are going to do? I don’t know for sure, but what I know is that I decided very early in my career, I didn’t want to produce records. I remember when I was [working] in a record shop, giving records to the guys who were producing, I realised most of the guys were focused on one song, and one thing, but this is what I try to really, really avoid in my DJing. I didn’t want that [in producing]. But finally after years I decided, “I do feel it, I need to go to the studio,” and it feels like a new start for me, a new career - the start of something great.
Ibiza is a huge part of your life. You’ve been at DC-10 for what feels like forever, for ten years now. It’s mine, and many people’s favourite club in the world. What makes the place special for you? I think with DC-10, there is a culture, a special thing, where people want to go enjoy themselves and freak out together. I would say it’s the talent of the promoters [Antonio and Andrea] that is so much about the choice of the artist they book. That’s why I love to play at DC10, and that’s why I always feel that anything is possible in this club, that I could do my own thing. I could go very, very deep one time, then I could have these crazy moments sometimes, but I was always able to feel I can deliver a good set in this club. And it’s much more difficult to do that in many other clubs. I think that’s one reason why there’s so much success at this club, and I love it there.
And it’s changed so much in many ways musically over the years, but I think it’s just unafraid to let the people play what they want, like there is no boundary to what they have to play. Completely right. It’s the music that makes the club.