Among the international DJ set, the chance to release a collection on the revered Yoshitoshi label is a rare and coveted honor, the kind of thing that nudges an artist one step closer to superstar status. Which is why regular Club Space spinner Cedric Gervais is feeling so good these days: His new disc, the aptly named Yoshitoshi Miami, just dropped.
For those not hip to the intricacies of the club music scene, Yoshitoshi is the Washington, D.C.-based electronic music label founded in 1994 by Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi, who make up the duo Deep Dish, the production team famous for remixing the likes of Madonna and Cher.
Gervais's ascent comes as no surprise to locals. Although born and raised in Marseilles, France, the 26-year-old Gervais has been a top DJ on the Miami dance scene since his days at Crobar and Nikki Beach Club. These days his deep beats and European stylings inspire thousands of Club Space patrons every weekend.
His success story actually begins in Paris, where he performed his first gig in front of 3000 people. His age at the time: fifteen. In short order, Gervais won a residency at Queen, one of Paris's hottest nightspots. The work ate up his late childhood. Not that he harbors any regrets. "I feel like I've never had a day job," he says from his loft in downtown Miami. "I owe all that to my family. They allowed me to do what I really wanted."
In 2006 Ultra Records released Gervais's first all-originals album, Experiment. "Spirit in My Life," the record's initial single, is a crunchy, pretty house tune that evokes Sade and Paul Oakenfold. Within weeks of its release, the disc was a staple in the sets of the planet's hottest DJs. The Deep Dish guys, who had shared countless bills with Gervais at Space, were sufficiently impressed to invite him to mix Yoshitoshi Miami.
The ground rule for these region-specific Yoshitoshi compilations (the Miami edition comes on the heels of the popular Yoshitoshi Ibiza) is simple: The guest DJ selects songs from the label's vast catalogue, then gives the tracks his or her own spin. Yoshitoshi Miami is comprised of a dozen deep-hued, midtempo house tracks, which have been Gervais's stock-in-trade for years. One of the songs Gervais chose for the collection was the woozy, faux-mystical "House Music," which was originally recorded by another Miami talent, DJ Pedro. The disc also includes two breezy confections that Gervais himself had remixed for the label, Alcatraz's "Give Me Love" and Holmes Ives's "8 Letters." Both tracks showcase the sort of progressive house music heavy on both melody and electronic atmospherics he's offered clubgoers since his early days spinning in France.
Gervais's parents still reside in the south of France, as do his two sisters, who are still too young to attend his shows. He says he misses his family, but survival dictated that he leave France. "Every single club in Paris was shut down because the government thought all the club owners were dealing Ecstasy," he recalls. "I mean every club. Strip clubs, rock clubs, everything. Two people got caught dealing and that was it. The government went crazy."
In 1998 Gervais followed the advice of a friend and arrived in South Beach. He found a thriving club scene and plenty of work. It's been a steady grind ever since. In fact Gervais says it's been three years since he last took an extended vacation. Much of that time was eaten up by Experiment. His undivided attention to the album was required in every department, from writing the songs on guitar to nailing down the ideal final mix. Then, of course, there's his weekly residency at Space, where he lords over the terrace from Saturday night till Sunday morning, spinning nonstop for the faithful in the main room.
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Oh, and don't forget all the world travel. You'd figure he's been exposed to some pretty weird things, and you'd be right. "One time I was playing a festival in Colombia and they started shooting off fireworks right in the crowd. The real Fourth of July ones. I thought someone was gonna get killed, but they loved it."
As for the local club scene, Gervais lobs a few bombs of his own. "I'd like to see a lot more dancing and a lot less VIP," he says. "It's all about the beauty of the club now, not the music. These [club owners] spend all this money to make their places look beautiful and then they end up fighting each other to bring in the same crowd of people. It's becoming more and more like Vegas. There's not near enough places like Space it's the only dance place around."
Ah yes, back to Space. In the inquiring minds department, exactly what kind of people are crawling around a dance club at five in the friggin' morning? "That's when a lot of people are just getting out of bed, believe it or not. There's also the diehards who show up late at night and stick it out until the afternoon."
Either way, it's those early-Sunday disciples who'll reap the benefits of his official CD-release party for Yoshitoshi Miami on May 13 at Space. Prior to that he'll be traveling again, on another busman's holiday, playing European dates with Sharam and hitting a few U.S. cities with Dubfire.