Sébastien Léger: 20 Years On
When it comes to French house-music royalty, Sébastien Léger stands tall amongst an elite set of pioneers and innovators. His storied career as both a DJ and a producer is long, illustrious compilation of top-notch production, a diverse output, and a signature that’s undeniably his own, as evidenced by classics like 2002’s “Victory,” 2005’s “Take Your Pills,” and 2011’s “Polymod.”
This year marks an important milestone for the French legend, as he is celebrating his 20th year in the industry. Despite the nostalgic look back on his continued success, Léger is showing no signs of slowing down. In addition to recently dropping Diamond Bridge, a punchy, groove-laden EP on 1605 Music, he’s taken on a packed set of summer tour dates, which will take him to the Americas, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
We talked to the Amsterdam-based Léger to get his take on the two decades of work, his views on DJing today, and his preferred gear setups.
DJ Times: In your view, how has the art of DJing evolved?
Léger: In my career, not too much. I used to play vinyl for 15 years and now I play on CDJs, which is the closest you can get today. I’m not a laptop DJ. I have nothing against it; it’s just really annoying when DJs before or after me connect their cables and shit while I’m focusing on doing something. In general though, the art of DJing is a little bit gone now, crushed by marketing, fake likes, and PR strategies. I’d also say that the art of producing is gone as well, as we all now produce something that has to be obvious, dancefloor-friendly, and with a lot less risk just to manage to get gigs. I’m not the kind of person to be nostalgic, but it was healthier before.
DJ Times: What’s your preferred DJ setup?
Léger: Two or three CDJ-2000s—non-Nexus—and a Pioneer DJM-900. The reason I ask for the non-Nexus CDJs is because I prefer the layout on the screen—it shows the order of my music exactly as it shows in my rekordbox, while Nexus CDJs put it all upside down. It takes me ages to find music with them, while it’s instant on a non-Nexus. My flow is constant and nice, which is very important when you have more than 3,000 tracks like I do.
DJ Times: You’ve recently released a Loopmasters Sample Pack. What’s your current production setup in terms of hardware and software?
Léger: Simpler than ever. Ableton Live 9 with very few plug-ins.
DJ Times: What do you have coming up next for the rest of 2014?
Léger: I have a new EP on 1605 Music called Diamond Bridge. It’s something different from what they are used to releasing. I also have a remix for DJ Sneak ["Sneak Attack” on House Gangsta] that should be released during the summer. I’m slowly finding my way back into the studio after a long break, due to lots of travel and flat inspiration.
DJ Times: What’s the relationship between DJing and producing? Do you prefer one or the other?
Léger: I prefer DJing to producing. The only bad part of DJing is constantly traveling. By travelling, I mean taking lots planes, waiting in hotels, etc.; nothing like “tourist” traveling. I’ve always been a DJ, and I started as a DJ.
DJ Times: How do they give back to each other?
Léger: Nowadays you cannot pretend to have a DJ career if you don’t produce your own music, apart from a very few exceptions of established, “older” DJs. It requires a lot more talent to produce than DJ, as 75-percent of the population on earth is a DJ now. A very good DJ might not be a good producer and vice-versa. I have this weird way of working that during my DJ sets I rarely play my own tracks. I feel that the best tracks that work on a dancefloor are, in many ways, the simplest and somehow irrelevant, not timeless. I prefer to produce stuff that can last long into the future without necessarily being playable by DJs like me!