Montreal Gilles Massicotte, a regular at Bostons Rise and Paris Queen, is almost giddy when he talks about DJing. More than a passion, its his raison dêtre and a profession that began as a hobby back in the early 80s.
Staying up late to listen to underground radio programs and buying single song EPs were the genesis of a love that will bring him to the main event of the Black & Blue festival in Montreal, one in a short list of absolute career-defining gigs.
But it all began with a purchase in 1981, Hit and Run Lover by Carol Jiani.
My whole family wondered why I had spent my money on a record made of a single song! Without hesitation I answered with all the passion that can demonstrate a young music maniac that it was because that single song was the extended eight-minute 10 club mix version, explains Massicotte.
More albums followed and, music library in tow, Massicotte was soon throwing dance parties for local schools. In 1986 he expanded his repertoire to include VJing, and in the 90s, he began playing the big clubs and circuit parties.
Today, hes definitely in the uncrowded stable of international celebrity DJs, but he is clear that it was a long road to hoe.
I cannot be prouder of my career than I am. No one can tell when my passion for the music will get to an end, but one thing is sure: as long as I feel people are dancing and having fun with my music, I will be there, Massicotte enthuses. Knowing that nothing is eternal, I perform every night as if it was the last one. And unlike what I used to believe, I can now say that being a DJ is not only a hobby, it is an art.
In newsweekly: Gilles I love the name! So French. You must be a bona fide Quebecois, no?
Gilles Massicotte: Yes, I was born in Montreal and Im the oldest in the family, I have three sisters.
In: And youve spent all these years just perfecting your spinning skills?
Massicotte: Actually, I have a college degree as an electrotechnician, and besides being a DJ, Ive also been an implementation manager for a major Canadian bank for 19 years.
In: Wow. So, what spurred the music passion?
Massicotte: As far as I can remember, there was always music around me. Im definitely following in my parents footsteps. Our house has always been the center of attraction for any parties; my father would DJ and my mother would be the first one to dance. As a kid, music became a significant part of my life.
In: Someone as passionate as you must remember your first gig.
Massicotte: OK, I was 16 when I had my first real gig. With the help of my sister, we had to organize a school dance in a gymnasium for 400 kids. We actually had a huge budget and made it a real success, good enough to repeat it three years in a row. I had my little mobile DJ company for a while, but that wasnt what I was looking for. I got tired of carrying my equipment all around.
In: Flash forward to today. You went from teenage mobile DJ to headlining Black & Blue.
Massicotte: Spinning Black & Blue is for me a reward and a recognition, where you earn the status of professional, high-level DJ. Its the acknowledgment of an artists talent. I do feel very privileged to be en liste for the main event. When I first attended the Black & Blue 12 years ago I get goose bumps just thinking about it I saw myself up in that DJ booth, in charge of the night. I knew this is what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be.
In: What can audiences expect this year? How would you describe your style?
Massicotte: Im not the aggressive type by nature, so you wont hear hard stuff from me. The sound that best describes me and is the most predominant when I play is house music with a good bass line, a good vibe. But my real weakness is cord instruments like violin, guitar and piano. Most people who hear me will say that I play trance, which is also true. Unfortunately, I dont play trance in Montreal because I dont have the crowd for it.
In: Where do you get the chance to put your crowd into a trance?
Massicotte: Paris. When I play in Paris its a whole different story. I purchase most of my records in Europe and in the U.K.
In: A very different crowd. How does that influence your repertoire?
Massicotte: My music influences are the result of all the great places Ive been and the people Ive met who taught me to stay true to myself and what I believe in. When I find myself behind those turntables, I become a kid who wants to play in his playground.
In: Youve been spinning for a while now. What changes, good or bad, have you seen in the club and circuit scene?
Massicotte: I remember a time where going to a circuit party was a musical delight. For DJs, that was because we would discover new songs that other DJs would keep in their vault and surprise everyone. I dont get that treat anymore. The circuit musical scene is now the same as regular clubs. The club crowd is also changing, there is a funny situation where two generations are facing each other on the dance floor, with obvious different tastes in music. Going out is supposed to be fun, not serious.
In: Speaking of fun, what is your dream gig?
Massicotte: A dream is something that sounds unrealistic. I always dreamt about Black & Blue, and now its only a couple of weeks away. I will taste each second knowing that this time will pass in front of my eyes in a flash. My next dream is to play the opening or closing ceremony of the 2006 Montreal Out Games.
In: It sounds like your career as a DJ is far from over, but whats been your greatest achievement so far?
Massicotte: I think one of the greatest achievements a DJ can have is to get his name on a CD cover and his music inside! I recorded Volume #6 Club Queen Paris in 2002, a wonderful experience. But my most memorable moment was first seeing my name printed on a 8×25-foot poster above the Queens entrance as I was driving by on Avenue des Champs Élysées in Paris for New Years Eve, and then when the manager of the Queen handed me the poster for me to keep. Priceless.
In: Are you currently producing any of your own material?
Massicotte: Good question. So many wonderful things have happened, I thought I reached all my goals. But the fact is, there are so many new avenues for me to take. I have producing project on the go.