Martin Solveig talks one-man brands, his impending lust to score movies
Past the Guettas and Sinclars of this world, Martin Solveig has been one of the more humorous entities to touch French dance music and its dotted cultural timeline. That isn’t to say, however, that the Smash-orchestrating festival icon hasn’t been hard at work. He’s DJed the MTV Movie Awards, produced for Madonna, balanced crossover hits with landmark house anthems and more recently, managed to return to the White Isle for his residential spot at Pacha Ibiza. In short, Solveig has triumphed the industry and its commercial potential on his own terms – and with very little apology towards the matter. From a man whose legacy started with a steady ascent of the Parisian club circuit, the journey from such European club hits as “C’est La Vie” to radio-friendly triumphs “Hello” and “Hey Now” has been as much about shifting musical culture as it has his re-imagined brand identity. Whilst some have found need to call his crowd-pleasing sets and befitting crossover antics to arms, the general air of relevance surrounding his name has never looked stronger. Dancing Astronaut grilled the tennis-suited maestro on the anatomy of a one-man brand, the spoils of balancing universal prowess and why mustering the masses remains a stroke of musical genius where the globetrotting Frenchman is concerned.
It seems fair to say that your career has had two landmark peaks: you as the French house pioneer and you as a commercial club icon. Talk us through what each of these periods meant to your wider career and the impact each has served on your creative outlook.
I don’t really see my career divided in two but more like a journey. During the past 12 years, things have evolved so much from the underground era to the super-professional and massive EDM awareness. During these twelve years I’ve been trying to enjoy myself, make my music evolve without losing my personality and the core of what I do, which is trying to be creative.
While the recording industry seems to have suffered considerable blows over the years, live dance music has never looked healthier on a global scale. Talk us through how you have found the balancing of your live and recorded careers and whether the change in emphasis within the industry surprised you along the way?
It’s true that the industry has evolved drastically. What’s so important and so positive is that the appreciation for electronic music has never been as high as it is now. The old pop model where you buy a record and eventually go to a concert and everything is now a little bit obsolete. The good thing with the new models is that they allow new space for creativity such as making creative videos (not only music videos but also videos announcing shows), creating a character that is going to live inside and outside the music project. That’s exactly what Steve Aoki is doing with his project, in which the character Steve Aoki, the actor Steve Aoki should I say, is as important as the music producer or the DJ.
Talk us through the development of your sound from “C’est La Vie” to “Hey Now” and whether you feel this has been the case of you becoming a product of your own environment or purposely steering yourself towards the commercial market.
It’s funny that you mention “C’est La Vie” because I think this is when I found my music signature and there are actually a lot of similarities between “C’est La Vie” and “Hey Now.” There are a couple of elements from that track which can be found in “Hey Now.” Within these six years I’ve probably made thirty or forty different songs, which all have a different story with different singers, different instruments but you can always find the elements that make my music signature such as guitars, live drums or live percussions mixed with electronic percussions and overall — something that has a bit of a rock edge.
You have remained a logical commentator on the recurring argument surrounding “mainstream” dance music. How do you feel about the way in which attitudes towards the commercial market have changed over the years and do you believe that the negative press occasionally attributed to it is valid? Should we be fearing or embracing this movement?
The one thing that we need to keep in mind is that the success of David Guetta or Avicii has allowed the industry to go to another level for dance music. It is thanks to those successes that we have amazing and huge shows such as Ultra, Tomorrowland and all the fantastic events that are organized around electronic dance music. This is something to keep in mind first. We also need alternative acts like Rudimental or Disclosure at this time who are sort of pushing the envelope and then, eventually, every ten years we need a real genius to arise such as Daft Punk in the nineties or more recently Skrillex. It’s all these different acts with their different impacts that make a healthy global scene. Opposing them or even comparing them is completely irrelevant and doesn’t make sense. What makes a healthy scene is to have all these elements combined.
Given the huge landmarks we have seen throughout the ranks of dance music, how do you hope to see the industry and its live aspects develop from here onwards? Do you believe that the mass attention now surrounding it is sustainable?
After the explosion, things probably need to equalize a little bit and I think we’re going to need an evolution. Artists will need to put more work and creativity into the live delivery of their music if they want to maintain the mass attention. In that field there is a lot more to bring to the audience than a LED wall with some random visuals and big drops every one minute. So this is probably one of the places where there is the bigger space for creativity.
Does being a one-man brand come with any considerable challenges and has being a high-profile DJ/producer become easier or harder with the developments in technology and industry culture?
I actually think that the idea of a one-man brand and band makes things easier because artistically, only one man is making the direction. The reason why rock bands are sometimes struggling is because after 200 shows together they can’t stand being in the same room or same space anymore and destroy themselves. This is the positive aspect of being a one man band. Of course, everyone knows that the biggest brands in the industry are teams, like the Owsla team or the Diplo crew. Of course the brand has only one name but the band actually has many members. There is one guy who makes the call artistically and that’s probably easier on an artistic level.
What do you consider to be the most important lesson you have learned during your time in this industry and why?
To me the most important lesson is not to let your ego blur reality. If you are able to feel, visualize, understand who you really are and what you really represent – and these things evolve quite a lot in a music career – then you have a chance to last for a long time.
What can we expect from you for the remainder of 2013 and what wider ambitions do you hold as an artist for the remainder of your career?
For 2013, I have a couple of tracks that are close to being finished and I’m very excited to hopefully premiere them at a number of festivals this summer. As for the rest of my career, my biggest dream in life is to make music for the rest of my life so I simply hope this will be possible. And of course, I’m just going hope for some other opportunities to make different things in music such as making music for movies or doing new collaborations such as the one I did with Madonna, which has been such an incredible moment in my life. Just to have the possibility of living different experiences in music, this is basically my dream.