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DJ Cedric Gervais is ready. He's got club connections, South Beach residencies, Lenny Kravitz remixes, and that quiet confidence found in most successful DJ/producers. It's a muggy August dusk. Thunder rumbles in the distance. Gervais is tapping commands on a keyboard and watching graphics on a large monitor display the changes in tempo and pitch of a banging house track.
"This is something I just finished," he says of the song pumping bass and searing vocals off the walls of his custom-built home studio. "It's good, no?"
His French dialect slips but his skills don't. In many ways Gervais is the prototype of a Miami DJ. Consider: He's not from here (raised in Marseilles, France); does not follow the tenets of trance (leaving the commercial style to 93.1 FM and visiting DJs); and is actually optimistic about the club scene and sound of South Florida's electronic capital.
"I came here on vacation maybe four years ago and never left," he says.
Having frequented Paris clubs since he was 13 (his father owned a nightspot), Gervais has had access to the strobe and bass since he can remember, and now at the ripe age of 23 is gearing up to make his name. In 1998 he began playing Miami's game when he shared a residency at Bash with Robbie Rivera, now a recognized name among DJ connoisseurs. Gervais moved on to the Living Room, where he met producer/partner Maurizio Ruggiero.
"Maurizio was doing lights at the time and we hit it off from the start," Gervais explains. "He and I are collaborating on an original project which will be called 440 Central. Kind of a Dirty Vegas-like outfit."
Ruggiero, the tech-head responsible for setting up the elaborate studio Gervais is now playing with, stands quietly in the background, nodding his head to the beat and keeping an eye on the banks of equipment. Along with vocalist Shauna Solomon, they are in the process of laying down tracks for their debut.
"I didn't think just having me as a DJ doing an artist album would work," Gervais says, adjusting the treble slightly. "I'm more comfortable doing something in line with a band."
Such turntable teamwork has launched electronic stars like Basement Jaxx, the Chemical Brothers, and even Miami's own Funky Green Dogs. Having more than one person involved with the project often lends a balance of style. Gervais subscribes to the techno-house philosophy and sees the commercial appeal of the artificially soulful sound.
"This music is going to get really big," he says excitedly. "Consider Dirty Vegas. It's a shame [that] it's because of a commercial that they're known but hey," he shrugs, "if that's the way to do it." Who's an artist to judge? Call it whatever and sell it, right?
Gervais pauses to take a cell call and plans the evening accordingly. A swank party is going down on Star Island and his services will be required. Such bookings are becoming the norm. As are the phone calls from DJ heavyweights like Timo Maas, who touched base with him recently while Gervais was working the clubs in St. Tropez and Ibiza.
A few nights later Gervais pulls up to the velvet rope guarding crobar's door. He exits his shiny SUV and grabs his gear from the trunk; it's roughly 10:30 p.m. He strides through the early arrivals and slaps skin with the staff. Along with Indio Loco, the popular Sunday-night gig at Nikki Beach, Gervais is a fixture at crobar's decks, both in Miami and Chicago, and possibly soon in New York City.
But even without the proposed expansion of the crobar brand to Manhattan, Gervais has already benefited from owner Cal Fortis's connections, which produced Lenny Kravitz a night Cedric was spinning. That resulted in a request to remix Kravitz's recent "Stillness of Heart." "He's one of my favorites and I was shocked he even asked me," says the Frenchman of his Kravitz encounter. "After finishing the track he invited me and Maurizio out to his house. We played it for him and he said it blew him away. That felt really good."
"I'll just take the vocals when doing a remix and build a sound around it," he says. "I'll listen to the original track, but more often than not I won't use their music, just the vocal."
When he's starting from scratch, he explains, percussion is the key, then comes the bass and then, when both are locked into a groove, he turns the track over to a singer. Despite his allegiance to house he is experimenting more with breakbeat these days, a trend found in many top-name releases from Paul Oakenfold to Sasha.
Also in the works is a crobar compilation series, a project that will feature A-list DJs who've rocked the club's decks, beginning with Gervais. The DJ says his relationship with the club has been mutually beneficial and should continue for quite some time. U.K. clubs like Gatecrasher and Ministry of Sound have helped establish DJ stalwarts, and conventional wisdom says the same should hold true for the crobar-Gervais pact.
"They've been very good to me [at crobar]," Gervais says. "They've helped me out a lot and I feel a real sense of loyalty to the club for their support."
Unlike many in Miami's nightlife theater of the absurd, Gervais passes on the elitist attitude and cynicism, instead holding a positive outlook for the city he has no plans on leaving.
"I love Miami," he says matter-of-factly. "I've been to plenty of other cities to play but I think the clubs here and the music being made is the best in America right now. Sure trance and hip-hop have been played out, but the house and techno are still there."
His current position may make Gervais's outlook overly rosy, but he's aware of the difficulty of building a name in a club scene fraught with guest stars and flavors-of-the-month.
"I'll admit it's not the easiest place to get started but I'd rather live here than say, New York or L.A.," he continues. "Because of the Winter Music Conference and the clubs here, Miami will always be important to DJs."