Hassen Gouaned, aka Master-H, takes control of Le Bain this Sunday. Known for his flamboyant style, the Parisian used to be a resident DJ in Manhattan in the late 90’s, in clubs such as Centro-Fly and Cielo. A long-time partner of Scottish imprint Soma Records, Hassen has been running his own label since 2008: Komplex de Deep. We met him on the 18th floor last Thursday for a Standard Q&A.
The Standard: Do you remember when you fell in love with dance music?
Master-H: I am very lucky with my family, because we are all crazy about music. It is the classic story of a kid watching his mother cleaning the house while listening to James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Salsoul Orchestra, all the Philly sound. That was a natural thing for us, dancing on every occasion. My uncle Shaft was a DJ - he is still is - and we had this huge sound system at home. It was easy to throw a party. That’s where I learned the basics, by watching him and dancing to his music.
Two artists have had a big influence on your career. The first one is Laurent Garnier, one of the most famous French DJ’s, who was an early supporter of you. How did you guys meet?
I have been a big fan of Laurent Garnier and I am touched that we became close friends. He happened to be in a club where I was DJ’ing in Paris and he had been dancing all night. He introduced himself to me in the DJ booth - needless to say I knew who he was. I had one of his CD’s with me, Le Laboratoire Mix, so I asked for an autograph, I was a real groupie! He said “I think we are going to do something together, I will call you soon.” And he did call me a couple of days later: he offered me to share his summer residency at Amnesia, a huge club in Corsica. We lived in the same house that summer. It was really impressive for me as a young DJ to live everyday with such a master. I learned a lot.
The other artist is Stuart MacMillan, the man behind the label Soma. Stuart is one of the producers of techno-house duo Slam and he is also known as the guy who signed the first record of Daft Punk, Da Funk. It is the same kind of story as the one with Laurent: Stuart happened to be in a party where you DJ, he loved it - but this time, he invited you to play records at this wedding in Glasgow, Scotland…
We met in Miami in 1998 during the Winter Music Conference. We shared the decks at one party and they invited me to play at the after party at their hotel - it was a late late night after party… Actually early morning! The people of Soma really enjoyed my set, because I had this New York, Body & Soul vibe: deep, soulful, with a lot of vocals. Stuart and his wife thought it would be perfect for their wedding. So here I was in Glasgow, playing records in front of all those legends of the dance music industry, Carl Cox dancing on the dance floor… It was the beginning of a long partnership: I released my first album Thirteen on Soma in 2003.
In 2008, you decided to create your own label: Komplex de Deep.
I was producing a lot, in different styles and directions and I had all those tracks on my hard drive. I was sending them to labels, and I started being frustrated to have to wait six months to know if my music would be released or not. Because it was a hard time for music business, nobody was ready to take any risk. So basically I created my own label to release the music that was waiting on my hard drive! It was as simple as that, producing music, releasing it as I want, have total control. And I am now lucky to have a lot of friends and heros releasing tracks or collaborating in Komplex de Deep: Greg Oreck of Thugfucker, Funk D’Void, Aubrey, Alex from Tokyo…
Tell us about your DJ name, Master-H. I guess H stands for Hassen, but what about Master? Any connection with martial art?
(Laughing) You know I come from a Hip Hop background. I used to be a Hip Hop DJ in Marseille, in the South of France, and it was all about scratching, phasing, doubling… I started playing the DJ in a Hip Hop band so I had to find a name. One day I was looking at the back cover of Sugarhill Gang’s record and there were three people, three pictures and the guy in the middle was named Master Gee. I thought it was a hot name, so I decided to be called Master H. That name means a lot to me, because that’s where I come from. It is not pretentious, it reminds me my Hip Hop roots.
If you have the power to teleport yourself in a movie or a book and interact with the characters, what would you pick?
Malcolm X by Spike Lee. I think that period was very important in our history. The early 70’s were great and not only politically, but in art and music. Those people gave us the freedom to be who we want to be, and say it loud - as James Brown used to sing.