Cedric Gervais talks Tiesto collaboration and Madonna controversy

By Ken Taylor

Cedric Gervais wasn’t born in Miami—nay, far from it—but the Marseille, France native has become one of the city’s fixtures, having lived there for 16 years now, helping to define its sound, taking over its club scene, indulging in all that it has to offer, and, this year, unintentionally getting thrown into the middle of one its biggest controversies.

At the gargantuan Ultra Music Festival, the queen of pop herself, Madonna, got onstage during Avicii‘s set to prop up her recent MDNA release, and, thinking she was doing her friend Cedric a good turn by helping to promote his latest electro-house single, set off a firestorm of public debate when she asked the crowd if anyone had seen Molly—”Molly” being slang for ecstasy in its powder form.

Deadmau5 threw the first barb, criticizing what he thought was Madge’s inherent support of ecstasy use, and much ink was subsequently spilled on the topic. So, with the actual ”Molly” single, and his recent ”Playa” (with Cid), now out on Beatport, we figured it was a good time to get the lowdown from Gervais himself—on the Madonna debacle, how he settled into living in the US, and his upcoming collaborations with Tiesto and Sander Kleinenberg.

What’s the thing that’s least known about Miami?

That’s a hard question. It’s not just a party city. It’s actually a real city with real stuff happening. For people coming here for the Winter Music Conference, it’s like a Las Vegas destination, but it’s definitely a great city to live in.

But where do you just go to relax?

I like to go to Lincoln Road during the afternoon and just walk around. It’s a great place—you know, to sit down and have a coffee…

Why did you choose to move to Miami?

Fifteen, sixteen years ago I was in Paris, starting my residency at the Queen in Paris. I was young—about 15 years old—and all the clubs in Paris were shut down for drugs. So a friend of mine was living in Miami, and I had just moved to Paris, from the south of France. I thought I was gonna start my career, and this friend of mine told me, “Listen, just come with me on vacation, wait for everything to settle down in Paris, and then go back.” I got to Miami, fell in love with the city, and just decided to stay.

I’ve read that you didn’t speak any English when you first moved there. How did you settle in?

I didn’t speak a word of English. The only English I knew was what you learn at school, but it’s like, in France, what they teach you in school, it’s really bad. When I first got here, I started DJing in a club called the Living Room, which was the hottest club in Miami owned by French people. They gave me a shot and I started DJing, and people would come up and ask me requests, and I’d just look at them and didn’t know what to say, so people would be like, “Look at this asshole!” I just didn’t know what they were saying to me! So it was funny and kind of hard at the beginning, but then I learned by watching TV and talking to people and having American friends around me.

How did you come to start producing music?

I produced my first track when I was the resident at Crobar in Miami, I think in 2000. The name of the track was “Burning,” and the A&R of Ultra Records, David Waxman, was DJing the next night. So I just went up and said, “Hey buddy, I made this track. I hope you like it,” and the next day I get an email from the guy, and he says, “Listen, I played it last night, and we wanna sign you.” And that was my first track; I produced it on Cubase actually. 

Do you still use Cubase?

No, I’m actually a Logic/Live guy now.

Do you have a general approach to production that you always stick with?

It always changes; it always depends. Like, sometimes I start with just drums—or something I like about a drum loop. Or a simple piano riff. It can be a bassline. Sometimes it can start from the vocals. I don’t have a formula—I just get in the studio and I start playing around with sounds and I start getting a loop that I like and build around that. The easiest way I’ve found lately is when I write piano hooks or I play a guitar hook and then I build the track around that.

What do you find are the big challenges with collaborating with other artists?

The challenge is to see if you vibe with the other artist—the synergy that happens in the studio.

What’s been your best collaborative experience so far?

I’m collaborating with Tiesto right now on a record. Me and Sharam will have a new record as well. I did a record with Sander Kleinenberg. It’s always good collaborating with friends, people who are on the same page musically.

Do you feel like the French style still permeates your work?

I keep in touch a lot with Europe. I get my inspiration from a lot of stuff—a lot from America as well—but I always make sure to keep up with what’s going on in France and Europe.

Who are some of your favorite French producers these days?

I love Martin Solveig. To me, he’s like the freshest producer right now, and Laurent Garnier. I’m one of his biggest fans; I grew up with him. Daft Punk, obviously. I actually saw Daft Punk for the first time ever in my city, Marseille, 16 years ago.

What do you want people to take away from your music?

I want people to feel something, and have a good time. I wrote a song called ”Spirit In My Life,” which was a big song for me; it was about a breakup and a girl, and I had so many people coming up to me, like, “Man, you helped me go through so many things in my life with this song.” And I think that’s the biggest thing for producers—that people actually feel something about what you wrote and what you did.

Are you having to defend yourself with regards to the whole Madonna “Molly” controversy?

Madonna is a friend of mine. I was in the studio many times with her… and we’re working on new stuff. We did a genius campaign during the Music Conference, which was this “missing” poster of Molly. So, it was all over the place and Madonna loved it—you know, she’s a marketing monster, so she saw it and scanned the code, and saw that it was me, so she decided to go out there, and said what she said at Ultra, and then the next day she got a lot of shit from it. Obviously she justified it herself, but what she said was just to promote my song. Obviously, a lot of people are saying a lot of things, but listen—it’s about a girl called Molly. Molly is not the name of a drug all over the world—it’s a common American name. [Drugs] are not what we’re promoting. You can look at the video; you can see it’s about a girl.

Have a lot of people been bugging you about it?

No, actually. I’m actually getting a lot of people loving the track. Sure there’s a couple of people giving me shit, but I’ve gained a lot of new fans. Everyday I get amazing responses from every single DJ in the world on the track. I get a great response from all the fans that love the track. So I’m happy about it. Obviously, a couple of people are gonna be hating and talking shit, but it doesn’t faze me. To be honest, it’s not a lot of people doing that. It’s far more people enjoying and loving the track and loving the campaign and loving the whole thing.

What’s next for you? You’re working with Tiesto?

Yes, I’m working with Tiesto. I’m remixing Katy Perry at the moment, a new single. I have many productions coming out right now. I’ve got six tracks ready to go, so we’re planning the releases now.

Quick! Your three favorite tracks right now…

Cassius – “Sound Of Violence (Cid Remix)”

Savino Martinez & Dino Lenny – ”It’s Like That

Cedric Gervais – “Put ‘Em High”

**See Cedric Gervais’ recent Beatport chart here.