By Scott T. Sterling
EDM fans around the world will be turning their attention to southern Florida this week, as the dance music industry descends on Miami for the annual Winter Music Conference, culminating in the Ultra Music Festival over the weekend of March 28-30.
For DJ/producer Cedric Gervais, it’s yet another affirmation that he made a wise and prescient decision back in the late ’90s to relocate to Miami from his native France while still just an aspiring teenage DJ having cut his teeth at clubs in Saint-Tropez and Paris.
In the years since his fateful move, Gervais worked his way relentlessly up the Miami nightlife ladder, as the city’s scene grew into its current status as one of the globe’s requisite dance music stops next to Ibiza and Las Vegas.
With the producer of such hits as the controversial “Molly” and his GRAMMY-winning (and pop radio-ruling) remix of Lana Del Rey‘s “Summertime Sadness” about to play host to the dance music community in his adopted hometown this week, we caught up with Gervais by phone to discuss his career, turning ballads into BPM-powered hits and why he still has nothing but love for Miami.
Of all the cities in the world, what led you to make the move from France to Miami back in the late ’90s?
It was actually a friend of mine who was living here at the time. I was playing at one of the biggest clubs in Paris called the Queen on the Champs-Elysees, where I became the youngest resident DJ. They basically shut down all of the clubs in the city back then because of drugs. I was out of a job, so my friend in Miami suggested I try my hand there until things cooled down and I could return to Paris. I landed in Miami and fell in love with the city. So I stayed.
What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen in Miami between then and now?
Miami was the first city in America to really embrace EDM, which we used to call house music, electronic music. They were the first to start bringing in big talent and opening major clubs. People saw what Miami was doing and started emulating it. Not even Vegas was doing it back then. Now Vegas is all about dance music. Just seeing how big everything has become in Miami is the most obvious change. To me, Miami led the way in America.
What do you love the most about Miami?
I love the different flavors around the city. When you’re in Miami, you don’t really feel like you’re in America. You get such a mix of South American and European cultures. It’s a different thing.
What are your favorite clubs in the city?
My favorite club in Miami is definitely LIV, and then STORY. Those are the two best clubs here. It’s all about the club’s design, the talent they bring in and the people running them. (LIV owner) David Grutman is a big influence on the scene in Miami.
What hotel do you suggest to friends coming into Miami from out of town?
The Fontainebleau is a great hotel. It’s where everything is happening. LIV the nightclub is there, the restaurants Hakassan and Scarpetta are there. Lots of good parties happen at the Ocean Lawn pool.
How has Winter Music Conference changed over the years?
WMC started very small, very about business, with artists meeting labels, stuff like that. Now it’s like the biggest dance music attraction in the world. People fly in just to see DJs perform now. You’ve lost a little bit on the business side, but it’s a great week when can see all of your favorite DJs in one place. The only place that can compare is Ibiza.
With WMC and Ultra getting so big, do you feel like the EDM fans that descend on Miami are respectful of the city?
Yes, definitely they are. There’s never any problems happening in the city, there’s never any trash on the streets…it’s not that kind of crowd. In 17 years of living here, I’ve never heard of anyone fighting in the streets or burning cars or anything like that during WMC.
You’re scheduled to perform on the last night of Ultra this year, but there’s been talk of you doing a 20-minute set on opening night with a very special guest.
We’re still working on that. It’s not definite. It’s all still up in the air, so we’ll see.
With your current remix of Miley Cyrus’ “Adore You” currently on the charts, what other releases can fans look forward to this year?
It’s not going to be a remix, but more original productions. That’s what I’m working on now. I’m taking a break from remixes unless something really special comes along. I’m working on a full-length album.
The most recent track I’ve heard from you is “The Look”
There’s two sides to my production. I produce club tracks, because you’ve got to keep feeding the dance floor and the EDM community. Then there are the big vocal hits, like the Lana Del Rey remix. “The Look” is a club track for my DJ friends to play. It did very well in our world. It’s not something that would have a major commercial success, but that’s OK.
It had to be a great feeling to hear your Lana Del Rey remix being played on pop radio as much as it was.
It’s amazing. You never expect something like that when you make a record. I’m just happy to hear my productions in nightclubs and at festivals. Hitting No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 was such an unexpected blessing.
You seem to have a real knack for spinning ballads into dance hits.
The vocals are so beautiful in ballads, and if it’s the right song written the right way, it translates very well into our world. With my style of production, I find it’s better to get a ballad to work with.
Will the album you’re working on encompass both sides of your production style?
Yeah, probably. But it’s going to mainly be big vocal tracks. But I’m going to keep producing club tracks on the side.
How far along on the album are you?
I’ve got two tracks finished so far.
A lot of veteran dance music producers are not fans of the current EDM world, creating a divide between the new and old schools. You’ve been able to adapt to the changing tides really well.
I don’t have any problem with EDM. To me, it’s just a name. Sometimes, techno and house producers seem to get offended when their music is simply categorized as EDM, because they’re purists about what they do. EDM in America is a great way for kids to get into the it. Eventually they’re going to search out and find more music. Ultimately, it’s going to help everyone.
What are you personally looking forward to during this year’s WMC?
I’m really excited to see the Deep Dish reunion. That will be great. Their single “Chocolate City” was the first record I ever bought.
I recently discovered that you’re a big fan of your local NBA team, the Miami Heat I’m a huge Miami Heat fan. I follow the NBA very closely. I think the Heat’s chances of winning the championship again this year are very good. Sometimes they seem to get kind of lax during the regular season, since they have so much talent and can really turn it on during the playoffs. It scares me, but at the same time I know what they can do, and they’ve proved it over the past two seasons. To be honest, I don’t think anyone can stop LeBron James. I see the Indiana Pacers as their biggest threat this season. The Pacers are in the same position the Heat was in a few years ago when they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals. They’ve come close, they want it and they know where they went wrong in the past. They really want to beat the Heat this year. The playoffs should be really exciting.