Bars, Pubs & Clubs

On the right track, baby

DJ Snake spoke to Time Out about how he cracked the international circuit

As far as big breaks go in the music industry, William Grigahcine, aka DJ Snake, couldn’t have had a better one. After being chosen by pop stars Pitbull and Akon to co-produce their song “Shut it Down”, the French DJ caught the attention of none other than Lady Gaga. She tapped him to work on her latest album, Born This Way. The album had a handful of co-producers, but being involved with anything Gaga is a ticket to ride the music celebrity gravy train. Consider: Snake is currently fresh from his first visit to the Grammy awards in Los Angeles, where Born This Way was nominated for Album of the Year.

So what’s Snake’s sound? His club-derived influence is glaringly obvious on the two Gaga tracks he co-produced, “Government Hooker” and “Bloody Mary”. While all of the Lady’s songs are geared towards dancing, “Hooker” is clearly the club track of the album, with its explicit techno backbeat and hip hop undertones. More and more, major pop acts – from odd birds like Lady Gaga to bubblegum girls like Katy Perry – who want their music to carry from MTV videos to underground clubs, are enlisting DJs like Snake, who’ve done the rounds at parties for years. The advantage, as Snake told us, is that “a DJ who’s producing tracks can try his productions every week in front of people who just wanna have fun.”

Snake began DJing in Paris clubs nearly a decade ago on weekends, while working for a movie marketing firm. But he wasn’t always an electronic artist. He grew up learning to play multiple instruments – guitar and drums mainly, but also the trumpet and tuba. “I played in the marching band and orchestra in school,” Snake explained – at the time, this was was his only musical outlet. As he got older, “I started throwing parties and DJing, which became extremely popular.” However, after finishing school, he joined the military. “It was in the military that I got the name Snake, on the second day of basic training,” he told us – rather a better story than most of the DJs who choose menacing stage names because they sound cool. After completing his service, Snake returned to Paris to attend university, where he studied television and film. He continued to DJ in his free time, building his original track list and a solid reputation. “I’ve been spinning for ten years now,” said Snake, a mighty feat for a 26-yearold. His musical influences – “Michael Jackson to the Notorious BIG, Daft Punk to Queen” – dot his playlists; an appropriate selection for someone whose productions mix danceable hip hop, electronica and vocalheavy pop. Those examples are also a good idea of the accessible and melodic mix he’ll bring to the dance floor at Kitty Su this fortnight.

Before Born This Way, DJ Snake worked repeatedly with Pitbull, and on tracks with Tyrese and T-Pain. However, it was probably thanks to his collaboration with Bostonian hip hop DJ and producer Clinton Sparks that Snake was given the opportunity to work with Gaga. Though Snake didn’t mention Sparks to us, the two worked together on the aforementioned “Shut It Down”; “Shake Senora” and “Vida 23”, also by Pitbull; and a club single “Favourite DJ”. Hip hop seems to be a common ground for Snake and Sparks, who produced Notorious BIG tracks in the 1990s. Sparks has had a famous radio show in Boston for years, and is known for his ear for talent. Snake simply told us that in terms of the Gaga project, “her partners gave me the opportunity to make some music and she took two tracks for her last album. The rest is history!” Doubtless, there are many more collaborations to come, but Snake isn’t divulging anything specific: when we asked what he was working on next, he replied “Some good surprises.” Who knows, he may a debut a track in Delhi that’ll show up on Nicki Minaj’s next multiplatinum album. So get your dancing shoes on and let this Snake charm you.

Snake bites
A primer on DJ Snake

“Government Hooker”, Born This Way You can’t go wrong with Gaga, and this song brings the weird, mixing a pop aria intro with a buzzy techno beat, and lyrics like “Put your hands on me, John F Kennedy”.

“Tomorrow Tonite”, Single Guilty pleasure hip hop, featuring the vocal stylings of Diddy and Ludacris.

“Party All Day”, Single Check out this DJ Snake solo effort on You-Tube for a taste of what he’ll play in Delhi.

By Simran Bhalla on March 16 2012 4.30am

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