A world redrawn: pop can keep us together, says star DJ David Guetta

New York (AFP) –


Pandemic confinement has electronic dance music titan David Guetta looking inward, and he said he's emerging "extremely inspired" ahead of a New York benefit set for this weekend.

A key EDM architect who's heavily influenced the pop of recent decades, the 52-year-old Grammy-winning French DJ will perform a livestreamed set from New York for COVID-19 relief, starting Saturday after the nightly clap for health workers.

The exact location remains secret.

But Guetta told AFP he's remixing a version of the famed "Empire State of Mind" hit, from rapper Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, for the show.

It follows a two-hour set he played recently from a Miami rooftop that saw an estimated 8,000 residents watch from their balconies, as millions more joined online.

The event raised more than $750,000 for coronavirus relief, and Saturday's proceeds will benefit a number of organizations including the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, the World Health Organization and a top French foundation supporting hospitals.

What follows are extracts, edited for clarity, from an AFP interview with Guetta, who since March has hunkered in Miami with his girlfriend.

Question: How's confinement treating you?

Answer: My life is usually taking planes -- going from hotel to hotel, traveling to the next show.

This showed me how important it is, for inspiration, to just spend time on the keyboard.

With experience, of course... you have some recipes to make it work. During this time I was like, 'Okay, it's just me -- I can take the time to create and try to do something new.'

I'm one of the lucky ones. I don't worry about how to eat next month. My confinement is in Miami -- right now I'm looking at the ocean, so it's not that bad.

I've tried to dig into myself. I've been very blessed by life, and maybe I didn't give back enough, so that's why I started doing (the fundraisers).

Q: The pandemic hit the music world hard -- how might live performance fare going forward?

A: It's going to be very hard for DJs... I'm not going to lie. I don't really plan on working before 2021.

Our hit records usually start from the clubs, from the festivals -- now there's no clubs, there's no festivals, how do we do it?

It's the right time to focus on becoming a better producer, on working from home, on creating music. I'm creating this incredible catalogue and when things open, I'll be ready.

Q: What role can music play in ameliorating the crisis?

I feel a need to do more pop... in times of crisis, people just need to feel good, and music has this power.

My biggest record as a producer was probably "I Got A Feeling" for The Black Eyed Peas, and it was during the financial crisis. It was in 2009... the world was going through a catastrophe, and such a simple, happy, feel-good song became the biggest hit of my career.

I like the dark, techno vibe but my mind is not really there right now. I'm more inspired to write songs to inspire people and try to give them happiness.

Q: EDM normally is reliant on crowds and dance to shape the vibe -- is it possible to create an atmosphere in the social distancing era?

A: Miami was one of the most incredible atmospheres I've seen in my life. People are craving entertainment, to interact... which humans need as much as they need to eat and breathe.

When I took my car to go home... the whole neigborhood was still screaming and shouting. It was crazy, absolutely crazy.

It's not ideal conditions, but it's also very special.

The idea for me was to, instead of doing something from my bedroom, to give a little more of a show, and have real people in front of me, even though they were on their balconies and on screens.

I could have real feedback, and thanks to the success of this event, we're doing New York City now, which is incredible.

Q: How do you think the pandemic is shaping society's future?

A: Different interpretations can come out of this. My hope is that this is an obvious demonstration that borders, social borders, races -- all of these don't mean anything.

The reality is that we are equal in front of this disease. I hope that's the conclusion people take.

I hope it's not the opposite... that people live more closed, in fear of other people.