When EDM fans discuss ghost producers, Joachim Garraud's name often enters the conversation. The French producer, now based in Los Angeles, is perhaps best known for his work on David Guetta's albums Just a Little More Love and Guetta Blaster. That's work he did on the record, though, as were his collaborations with French electronic music pioneer Jean Michel Jarre.
However, Garraud has also worked anonymously. He admits this inside the Hollywood production studio where he spends his days.
Garraud can't talk about specific ghost production jobs for contractual reasons, but he does say that he doesn't mind doing the work. "They're just buying everything," he says. "They pay a huge fee and they have the song that they can put their name on the top."
Garraud's a pretty good producer to get for the job. He's a classically trained musician, having studied piano at a conservatory in France, and has been making music with computers since the '80s. By his own admission, Garraud can tap into a variety of styles that a client might want, from salsa to a cinematic string piece. "Because I'm very flexible, a lot of people ask me, 'Can you help to me do that?'" he says. "And then, at the end, it was really ghost producing because I was doing 100% of the song. They just have to put their name on it."
He seems amused when he mentions the efforts of fans to figure out who really produced their favorite tracks. "They're very clever," he says of the fans. "They're trying to find some clues on the web."
Right now, though, Garraud is focused on his own work, and part of that includes helping out the next generation of electronic music artists. Instead of producing tracks for them, however, he's providing them with the tools to make their own hits.
On Nov. 27, Garraud will launch a Kickstarter campaign for a special edition release of his forthcoming album 96/24 (out Jan. 22), called the Producer Box. Limited to 1,000 copies, the Producer Box features a keyboard, Ableton software and a hard drive filled with Garraud's personal sound bank, the stems from 96/24, and tutorials in multiple languages. People who purchase the Producer Box will be able to use Garraud's collection of sounds to make their own music without worrying about copyright restrictions. (The vocals used on the album, however, are still protected by copyright.)
The idea is to give would-be producers everything they need to get started. "This is cool to have everything," he says. It's an unusual move for a top producer to hand over his secrets, but Garraud sees it differently. He says he will be "very proud" if even just a couple people who buy the box are able to launch their own careers with it.
Garraud started making music on computers at a time when all a kid could really do was experiment with video game noises. Around the same time, in the mid-1980s, he took to DJing as well. Back then, it wasn't quite the glamorous gig it is today.
He recalls the moment that DJing became more than a hobby. Garraud was still a teenager, living in Nantes, France and using the money from his after-school jobs to buy records. On the weekends, he played his friends' parties for free. One weekend, two friends vied to get him behind the decks at two separate events. One offered cash. The other offered payment plus a promise to help lug in the gear. Young Garraud went with the latter offer, then took a paid gig from the other friend the following weekend.
When he graduated to clubs, the pay was only slightly better than at a teenager's birthday party. He would play a mix of funk and new wave until the sun rose. "Nobody wanted to be a DJ," he says. "The young generation, they wanted to be behind the bar or at the door," he says. DJs, on the other hand, were paid less than the other club employees and stuck with little company other than their records as everyone else partied. But despite the seeming drawbacks, "that was exactly what I wanted to do," he says.
On 96/24, Garraud has a song called "6 Rue Caumartin Paris, Nov89," that pays tribute to the club and city where his career began to flourish. As a young adult, Garraud moved to Paris and immediately fell in love with the city, as well as a club called the Boy where the music focused on emerging sounds like new beat and techno. Garraud landed a gig there. At last, he could play sets where he didn't have to throw in a request for the local big spenders.
Garraud flips through photos on his computer as we chat. There's one of him in the early '90s, wearing a Queen T-shirt, and another with a fellow then-up-and-coming French DJ, Laurent Garnier, at a rave in Russia. A more recent photo shows the crowd at a 3D gig that he did.
A lot has changed since Garraud first got into the dance scene. He can put together shows that are spectacles now, but he also has a long history in dance music to back up the flash.
He can also do a lot with minimal equipment now. Garraud's set-up revolves around a souped-up MacBook running Ableton Live. The keyboard in his studio is there mostly to trigger sounds that exist inside the computer. He still likes playing an instrument. While he has access to a bigger studio when he needs space for musicians, most of the work is done in a tiny room split between his space and a small booth for vocalists.
Three years ago, Garraud moved his family to Los Angeles. He says his four kids — who range in age from 11 to 21 — dig the California life. He does too, although he admits that work can be a challenge in a city with generally pleasant weather. "In France, when it's rainy, when it's dark at 4 p.m. or it's the same thing in London, it's the best city for working," he says, "because you don't have anything to do."
Garraud often describes himself as lucky. He was "lucky" to have started DJing when he did and "lucky" that he's able to make a living in music, to tour the world and still be able to balance a family life. Production has afforded Garraud a pretty sweet life — and that, he says, is why he's putting together the Producer Box. This is his chance to pay it forward.
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"If I can transmit this chance and this lucky life to somebody," he says, "I think it's going to be a good deal to do that."
For more on the Producer Box, visit www.joachimgarraud.com.