Sébastien Léger on What You'll Hear Him Spin: "Happy Music... I Do Not Like the Dark Shit"

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With a whopping two decades' worth of releases and a progressive retro-futurist sound blending elements of disco, house, techno, and electro, Sébastien Léger has cemented his reputation as a real producer's producer.

And despite his fair share of international dance hits over the years, Léger remains firmly rooted in the underground, where his relentlessly inventive production style continues to evolve, unconstrained by commercial dance music trends.

Ahead of a rare and intimate Miami performance at Steam tonight, we caught up with the celebrated French producer to chat about his musical roots, new label, and a new 20-year retrospective album in the works.

New Times: How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music? Were you exposed to much of it while growing up in France?

Sébastien Léger: My first taste of electronic music was when I was 10 years old. On TV, they were playing Lil Louis' "French Kiss" or Technotronic's "Pump Up the Jam," those sort of hits. That was instant love. I've always been into dance music in general, first with disco and funk.

As far as I remember, the commercial dance music was doing pretty OK in France, but the rest of it, like real house or techno, were almost banned from media for some social reasons more than music reasons.

France is one of the biggest exporters of dance music talent in the world, from commercial superstars like Daft Punk, Bob Sinclar, and David Guetta to underground acts like yourself. What do you think makes France such a creative hotbed for electronic dance music?

I seriously have no idea. All those French artists are really different, of course, and despite my French nationality, I barely consider myself a proper artist from the French scene. I've been living in Amsterdam for ten years now, and even before that, when I was in France, I was never with the others.

Of course, I had at that time that style that we used to call "French touch," a sort of mixture of disco, funk, and house, but with time, I would place myself in between Chicago house roots with a touch of French groove, some fusion with tropical melodies, and deep electronic sounds. I don't know, I guess I created my own style after so many years of producing. That's why I feel a little bit apart from the other French guys.

You've had a prolific production career with several chart-toppers throughout the years. What do you consider the formula for a dance floor weapon? Typically, what is your creative process when producing a record, like which sonic ingredients do you consider most essential?

If I knew the formula to make hits every time, believe me, I would have used it more often. There is no formula but luck and being there at the right time, the right sound at that exact moment -- it's purely random.

The way I produce is very spontaneous. I never start something with this or that in my head in order to re-create it; I just put things all together randomly until I get something that would work for me. Sometimes it's amazing; sometimes it's really terrible! I can just say that while most people I know start with a melody, I always start with the beat -- then I will put the melody a lot later in the process. I just want my drums to sound perfect at first.

What can we expect from you in 2015? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to?

I'm really focusing on my new label and its music direction. It's called Temple of Lions, and it's mainly to release my slower, groovier, melodic tracks -- some of them would be a little bit experimental in a way but still danceable. I'm planning later this year, after a couple more releases -- so people would know the style of the label -- to play this music live, meaning not DJ'ing. Planning to release one EP a month.

Also, on my other label, Mistakes Music, which is more friendly DJ tools-focused, I will release a retrospective of my 20 years of DJ'ing, rereleasing some of my favorite older tracks but also some unreleased and newer things that I've been working on lately.

So what do you have in store for us at Steam Miami tonight?

A nice mixture between melodic groove, deep vibe, and funky techy tracks as well. Happy music, to say the truth -- I do not like dark shit.

Sébastien Léger with Justin James. Friday, February 6, at Steam, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. Ages 18 and up. The party starts at 10 p.m., and tickets cost $10 plus fees via wantickets.com. Call 786-516-3393, or visit steammiami.com.

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