With a turn of serendipity, I was watching the classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and heard the infamous lines that appear in “Une Very Stylish Fille” off of Sacrebleu by Dimitri From Paris—“How do I look?” says Audrey Hepburn after turning herself from a just awoken state to a trend setting Hollywood goddess, by which George Peppard replies, “Very good. I must say I’m amazed.”
A few days later I learned that not only was Dimitri releasing a double CD, Dimitri from Paris Returns to the Playboy Mansion, but that his U.S. tour would bring him to Denver for the first time.
This double-set release is a first for Dimitri. “PartyTime” is a set of remixes dedicated to his dance fans where he’s taken his love of vintage soul, disco and R&B and waved his magical wand and poof! We have a rich array of booty waving and body swaying “PartyTime” tracks that bring new life to the “old fashioned, heart warming soup.” Chefs and their dishes range from DJ Fudge’s “Liv & Love,” the tinkling cowbell of Young & Company’s “I Like It,” the bongo madness of Lorraine Johnson’s “The More I Get, The More I Want,” and the get-this-party-started beauty from Jamiroquai, “Cosmic Girl.”
But that’s not all folks. We have more decadence in store. That’s right, if you act right now you too can get down and dirty to “SexyTime” (insert Borat’s accent here), the second CD in the Playboy package. Here, Dimitri ventures into a stylish mood he’s not often afforded in the club; the ballad, slow groove that plays in his own man-of-the-world pad. And for this, he turned to the masters of the seduction craft, including Marin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass and Barry White.
Talking from Paris, Dimitri told me of his overflowing dance card, which included a stop at this year’s WMC, along with gigs in Miami, New York, St. Martin, Boston, and other firsts, including Coachella and his date this Saturday in Denver at Beta Nightclub.
We began our chat talking about how music has expanded and diversified not only in what’s available from artists and bands, but how it’s being played in clubs.
Kaffeine Buzz: Dance music went through this era about 10 plus years ago where everyone wanted to be or thought they were a DJ. Then that kind of waned, and now we’re back to a place where its not just electronic music fans that hit the dance clubs, but there’s a diverse, crisscross of music via mashups that’s drawing in people to dance clubs that host a mixture of all kinds of music–rock, hip-hop, indie, or whatever—all in one night.
Dimitri: I totally agree. When I started DJing, and that was 25 years ago, that’s how it was. Whatever it takes, as long as people have fun and there’s a variety of music. The more variety the better it is. People got into these niches for a while, “Oh no, I’m a tech-house guy” or “Oh no, I’m a drum and bass guy.” Well, you’d hear the same style all night and I would find that a bit boring. But the crowd wouldn’t really let you drift away. If you play something that you’re not supposed to, like if I was a house DJ and I started playing hip-hop, people would be, “Hey! I don’t want to hear hip-hop!”
Like you said, the boundaries of styles are all sort of meshed together. I think it’s more fun. It’s more fun because I’m digging out Motown records to play my sets and people are enjoying them, and I’m playing them without fear that I’m gonna break the vibe of the format. I think it’s much more exciting and I think there’s much more room to experiment as well.
KB: You’re known for pulling things from archives and putting a new spin on them that comes from your own creative mind. How do you go about getting your hands on the masters for some of those older tracks?
Dimitri: You don’t actually access the masters. That is very rare. When you have the masters, it means someone has opened the door for them. In most cases, people don’t ask you to remix a song, but you still want to give it a fresh twist, so you use whatever is available. Recently I’ve been doing re-edits and fresher versions of some Motown songs after finding some Karaoke CDs.
KB: Wow. Really?
Dimitri: Yes. They’re the original songs. They’re not fake covers. They were remixed, I don’t know by whom, but the sound is similar to the original but you get to have the instrumental version and the vocal version, and then the vocals by themselves. So it gives you a bunch of stuff to play around with, especially from very old music from the ’60s. It amounts to pretty much having the master. Back then they didn’t have 24-track or 28-track. They had like two-track and four-track, so you’re able to have the original version as it was recorded and you’re able to separate parts that you’d never heard in a song before. So, whatever I can lay my hands on, I use it. And with this set, it was 20 volumes worth, so there were a lot of things to play with.
Recently I’ve been remixing and re-editing a lot of old things because, like you said, there’s more room to play a variety of things.
KB: How much time did it take you to go back and coordinate all the different tracks that you have on this double set, and then decide how you wanted the music to flow from beginning to end. It seems like it was pretty involved.
Dimitri: It took forever! (laughing) This had to be the CD that took the most time to get together. I started early September, so the music thing was finished late December. But then there were other people working on the clearance. Once you’ve got a list of tracks you want to use, then you’re hoping that people will let you use them. Everyday it was a back and forth thing, “Okay this one you can have, this one you can’t have.” So then I try to get this other one and call the guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy.
In some cases, knowing the right person really helped. In some cases it was a dead end, no matter what. Then the deadline was nearing and I still had things that needed clearing and some songs had to be taken out. It does take a lot of time. It’s hard to try to keep things as close as possible to what you had in your mind.
That’s what’s been the hardest thing for me with this CD because usually I’m lucky to get everything all at once. On this one we had quite a few let downs, so it was always figuring out the replacement track that’s not worse than the one you originally chose. There’s no plan B. Everything has to be an A.
KB: Well, I just love that the first track on the CD is Jay Kay (Jamiroquai) to lead everything off.
Dimitri: Thank you. (laughing) I was so happy that he let me use it, which was another bit of groundbreaking news for me. That was one of the biggest smiles we got when he said “yes.”
KB: What are they up to these days? I haven’t heard anything from them in a while.
Dimitri: I know! They’ve been kind of quiet. And I want to hear more of them.
KB: Well, maybe this will spark them to get off their butts and start making music again.
Dimitri: Yeah, who knows.
KB: Even though these are original tracks that DJs can get from other places, do you ever make your remixed versions available for DJs as singles?
Dimitri: In this particular case it was difficult to get the unmixed rights. The major labels, they don’t want the indie labels to get the unmixed rights because they want to go on selling the music on iTunes. What they will do is let you have it on vinyl, because they believe vinyl is a niche, a small market. In this case there will be two vinyl double packs with some of the songs that are on the two CDs. When I say some, it’s because some didn’t let us use the rights on vinyl. So there are a total of 16 songs out of the 35 songs in the CD package.
Sometimes I just make a copy of a song for a DJ friend, but it has to be a trust affair. I need to know that they’re not going to do anything dodgy with it.
There has always been the DJ network, and obviously the Internet has helped us a lot. People send us tracks over instant messaging or You Send It from the other side of the world. There’s a song that I put on the vinyl [version] because it wasn’t ready when I did the CD. A DJ friend of mine out of Brazil literally sent it over the net to the cutting room 15 minutes before they were cutting it. He had finished it a few hours before and had gone to bed, but forgot to send it. (laughing) I was like, “Wake up! They need it now!”
But that’s the thing with the DJ network. He can send me over something he did and I can play it in my set that night.
KB: That’s the beauty with the digital era of music; the access to music that you can get a hold of from all over the world.
Dimitri: That’s the good side. The bad side is that more stores are closing down. But people do have more access to music even if they’re not living in a big city where those stores exist. It’s the good and the bad. It’s hard for me because I always had access to those record stores and it was more fun to go there. There was a whole dimension to it. You could meet your friends, or you go in to buy one thing and you walk out with something else that’s even better that you didn’t know about before. When you’re online, you have to know what you’re looking for. But now you can get stuff sent to you by your friends, where before it was impossible. You could hear them over the phone, and that was the best that you could do.
KB: (laughing) Oh yeah, I remember doing that a lot. That’s so funny. “Hey, you gotta listen to this 8-track!” There’s something extremely exciting about nostalgia, like going thrift shopping is like a treasure hunt.
Dimitri: I love that too. I’m always digging through stuff, whether it’s old stereo equipment or music, everything from a purer time is what I like. America is good for that because you’ve got those garage sales and thrift stores that we don’t have so much of here.
KB: Oh really?
Dimitri: Yeah, the country’s a little different. People treat things as antiques or they don’t care about them.
KB: Well, you’ve stuck with the Playboy Mansion theme for like, 12 years now, is that right?
Dimitri: Well, more like 10.
KB: What has kept you going back to it?
Dimitri: It’s back by public demand, really. (laughing) It was this sort of organic process and it all happened by chance. I met those people from Playboy because they happened to be sponsoring the club where me and my friends were doing a party. That’s where the idea came to do a CD with Playboy involved. That CD became a huge success for me and really put me on the map for international DJing.
To this day, whether it’s Japan or Austria or Miami or Australia, there’s always someone asking me, “Are you going to play something from Playboy?!!” This has been going on for 10 years. And I’m tired of playing those same songs, you know? They like those songs, and who am I to tell them otherwise. It just feels like, “Okay we’ve played those songs enough. Let’s move on.” But they wouldn’t want to hear anything else. So I figured, why not give it another go.
Also, Defected [record label], whom I’ve been doing a lot of compilations and we have a strong relationship with, did this partnership with Playboy that had nothing to do with me, actually. So it was like, “Oh, you guys got together with Playboy.” So I thought I could to my part on it.
Thirdly, there were people that would come up to me and say, “Oh, I made out to your music with my girlfrind/boyfriend” or whatever. Yhis is dance music but they’re treating it like something that’s smooth and sexy. And we didn’t think it was, so I figured why not do a mix CD of ballads and slow songs, which is something I really like, but you never get to play that in the club. So it gave me a chance to do that. The favorite part of the CD is the slower songs, and a lot of people seem to like it as well. I mean, you’ve got the usual suspects like Barry White and Marvin Gaye. No one does it better.
I’m curious to see what kind of feedback I get. It’s unusual that you get a mix CD of ballads and slow songs. Usually that type of thing is an upbeat affair.
KB: Well, we’re looking forward to your first gig here in Denver. The place you’re playing is a new club that opened a bit ago called Beta. It’s run by the guys from Beatport, so they know what they’re doing.
Dimitri: The first time playing in a city is usually pretty good because people make an effort to come out. They’re not like, “Oh he’s been here. He’ll come back.” But we usually get a lot of really motivated people and it makes for a good party. So I’m really looking forward to it.
Return to the Playboy Mansion from Dimitri From Paris, released just this week, is available on Defected. Dimitri comes to Denver Saturday, April 26 at Beta Nightclub in Denver.