“I’m in Mykonos, and it’s so beautiful. It puts me in a very good mood,” David Guetta says over a crackling phone line. Playing on a Greek island is just one of many perks the Parisian house DJ–cum–pop star has enjoyed as he’s rocketed from relative unknown to crossover king. The club community knew him for feel-good anthems like “The World Is Mine,” but with current single “When Love Takes Over,” featuring Kelly Rowland, and his recent work on the Black Eyed Peas hit “I Gotta Feeling,” Guetta, at 42, might finally become a bona fide star.
Guetta’s road has been a long one, especially in an era when the right blog post on the right track can make a basement producer the Internet “it” of the moment. The son of a Jewish Moroccan restaurant owner, Guetta began mixing at age 13; he threw his first party just two years later. Now, nearly 20 years since Guetta mixed his first record, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” he’s gone from throwing basement parties to helming one of the most successful nightlife brands, “Fuck Me, I’m Famous” (copromoted by wife Cathy). Meanwhile, the dad of two has created a slew of No. 1 dance tracks, garnered recognition as the best house DJ according to Europe’s DJ Mag and, of course, put out several albums, including the just-released One Love.
As that laundry list of accomplishments indicates, Guetta’s never content to be still. Yet of One Love, he simply states, “Life really took me there.” In fact, his initial contacts with Rowland and Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas happened, coincidentally, just one week apart.
A blend of hip-hop and electro, One Love takes Guetta’s signature booming house anthems down the genre-bending path that artists such as LMFAO and Diplo have started to pave. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Guetta says. “The fact that [Will.i.am and Rowland] come from such different worlds was fantastic in the studio, because the kind of ideas I come with are strange to them and the ideas they come with are strange to me.”
Apparently, the excitement flowed in both directions as Will.i.am and Rowland began introducing Guetta to other artists for collaborations. The result displays an impressive array of American talent, but with names like Ne-Yo, Estelle and Kid Cudi peppering the list, it might be hard for Guetta fans to believe he’s stayed true to his sound, especially given his frustration with American reception to dance in the past. “It was the only place where it wasn’t as big as it should be,” he notes. When musing on dance music becoming pop, he admits, “If you say, for example, that Kanye West is pop music, then yes, I want to be pop, too.”
Despite the genre debates, One Love is still incredibly house-centric. Guetta devotees will be happy to know that not only can he and R&B scribe Akon make electro-house together, but Guetta’s longtime vocalist Chris Willis (who sang on “Love Is Gone”) makes an appearance, and older electronic tracks informed some of the album’s material. “Okay, I have to admit,” he says with a laugh, “do you remember ‘Technotronic’? That was the inspiration for one of the tracks.”
Clearly, labels don’t mean much to Guetta. “I’m still very true to the community and to the music,” he says. “We’re just trying to touch people’s hearts through the melody [and] the song.” With Billboard hits and a global tour, he seems to be achieving that goal. As our call comes to an end, we remind Guetta that when he last spoke with Time Out Chicago, in 2007, he informed us he was taking over America. Is the takeover complete? “Not there yet—but I’m getting closer!” he says.
David Guetta’s One Love is out Tuesday 25.