DJ/producer, Ghislain Poirier is taking on the world one beat at a time. With a sound that ranges from Caribbean dancehall to urban techno, his music is always evolving. Already a household name in his native Montreal, Poirier looks to expand his fanbase with the release of his new album, Running High, a powerful procession of soca-dancehall-electro tracks. Here he is on the new record and that time U2 almost came to his party.
Did you know whether you wanted to DJ/producer? Well, I started as a radio DJ. I had a college radio show in Montreal for five years. So that was like my musical school. From there I started to do production and after producing a couple albums I started to DJ more.
What did you grow up listening to? Well my parents we listening to some stuff from the 70’s but nothing very interesting for me so when I started getting interested in music I was into hip hop.
Who did you listen to? It was just commercial things. We had a bunch of series of compilations in Canada called Rap Tracks. Also, in Canada at that time, we had Maestro Fresh Wes who was really big, one of the first big Canadian rappers.
What was the music scene like in Montreal when you started performing? I started performing in 2002 and for a long time Montreal was pretty much behind everything in the music scene. But as of 2000, there was some kind of shift and suddenly Montreal became very relevant on the electronic scene and on the indie rock scene and still is now ten years later. But that shift was around 2000 and a lot of festivals were born around that time.
With your new album, Runnin High, what have you changed with your sound? Well this one is way more defined; it was made completely for the dance floor. I’m comfortable to play them in the club. What I had in mind was pretty much Caribbean versus electronic music. That was actually written on my wall as a constant reminder. There was the Soca music, dancehall, and also instrumental dance hall music. There’s a whole bunch of new versions and remixes of people I appreciate.
How did your Bounce Le Gros and Karnival parties get started? Bounce Le Gros was from 2005-2007. It was a monthly night in Montreal and the goal of the night was to play everything related with bass. When I started I was pretty much interested in how hip hop related to electronic music, so I was playing all kinds of things, hip hop, electronic, grime—everything I was feeling. It wasn’t about a genre specifically, it was more like an openness. But I ended up stopping that in 2007 because I didn’t like what I was doing with it and needed a break. But I decided last year to come back with a new concept—Karnival. This is more in the same philosophy as the album. Put into musical terms, the concept is joyful and intense; it’s like definitely a more happy but intense vibe.
Any wild stories from any of the parties? Back in 2005 I was doing a Bounce Le Gros party and that day I got a message from someone saying that they wanted to reserve 12 people for the guest list. The venue we were playing in only had a capacity of about 120 so I thought they were crazy for asking that, and disregarded the message. A few weeks later when my girlfriend at the time was listening to old messages we realized he wanted to reserve these spots so that U2 could come! They were playing a show in Montreal and heard Bounce Le Gros was a good party to go to after. At that time my doorman was Irish-Canadian, so I can’t imagine his face had they walked through the door. He probably would have slammed his head against the wall. The venue we were at was just a small, dirty club with no VIP or bottle service so it’s funny to imagine if U2 had come. But that same night, the filmmaker Michel Gondry came, so that was great.
What’s your touring schedule like? Well right now we are doing a tour across Canada so that’s a tour of 12 dates. I’m doing the next weekend in Vancouver and that will be the end of that tour. In May I’ll be in Europe doing 10 events in 12 days in France and London and Germany. At the end of May I’ll do Los Angeles and Sacramento and Vegas.
Are you coming to New York at all? Not right now, maybe this summer. I’d like to do a loft party in Brooklyn on a rooftop.
What are some of your favorite venues or cities that you’ve played in around the world? I really like Copenhagen, I have some really good friends there. I like to play in Calgary in Canada too. I’m becoming attached to certain cities because there are certain people there that I see always and they become sort of a musical family for me. But also playing in Australia was a good experience especially because their summer is synchronized with our winter.
What are you looking forward to in the world of music? If you listen to CD 2 of Running High, a lot of the remixes are people that I appreciated, support, and inspired me. There are people like Uproot Andy, Mungos Hi Fi, or even Sticky who has been a part of the UK urban scene for quite some time. These people are people that I really hold in high esteem. Also, I’m pretty happy now to see some new faces in Montreal, like some young producers who are rising slowly but surely. I feel like I am part of another generation but I want to be involved with their ways.