Michel Gaubert: A True Fashion Player

As much as Paris-based DJ Michel Gaubert is a man of music, he's also a man of numbers. At the bottom of his iTunes, like all iTunes, are the most telling of these stats: the total number of tracks in his Mac and the number of days it will take to play them all—76,000 and 217. But as (dance) flooring as the figures may be, the enormity of his digital collection should come as no surprise considering Gaubert, 47, has been amassing songs for over three decades and counting. In fact, a count is never very far from the self-styled sound designer, such as the ten iPods he owns, the 100 or so albums/CDs he buys each month and the 48 hours he's been known to spend recording a water drop. This slavish attention to detail, together with a past life hobnobbing with famous designers in the decadent club scene of late-'70's/early-'80's Paris, have made him the most sought-after musical oracle in all of fashion. He's created runway soundtracks for Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons, Balenciaga, Y-3, Dries Van Noten, Sonia Rykiel and Christian Lacroix, among untold others, who understand the visceral value of music, that it alone can send buyers into a frenzy of orders and editors reaching for superlatives. What was once a passion for collecting vinyl as a preteen has evolved into a small empire employing his partner (in life and business), a sound engineer and a corps of assistants. In his room at the Mercer, amid cables coming and going in all directions, external hard drives, cans of Diet Coke, cigarettes and his prized new Leica camera, Gaubert sang like a bird to LEE CARTER about everything from sexing it up in the army to hanging out with Karl Lagerfeld.

What's new since we last talked?

I did the Raf Simons show, and Jil Sander men's. For the upcoming Jil women's show, we're working with the terms electronic, clean, futuristic and elegant. So we've listened to a lot of Philip Glass. I'm also working on the Viktor & Rolf show for the first time, but I can't say what we're going to do since it's so closely tied with the fashion.

Who's next on your wish list?

A Japanese designer.

Let's start by going back to the beginning.

In the beginning there was rhythm.

What's your first music memory?

My parents listening to Serge Gainsbourg and jazz. Also being five or six and singing along to songs and feeling like a rock star. But that didn't last long. Even when Michael Jackson was at his peak, I thought it was so much better to be Quincy Jones, who had more fun than Michael. Now look at Michael. He's so fucked up in the head. My head is fucked up enough as it is. Here's a joke: what time does Michael Jackson go to bed?

What time?

When the big hand touches the little hand. (Laughs.)

I love that. Did you have a Casio as a kid like I did?

No. But my mother sent me to piano lessons. I was such a bad student. I was always getting in trouble for giggling. I wasn't very interested in playing music. I just wanted to sing and be fabulous.

When did you start getting serious about music?

I realized it was serious quite early. I was obsessed with records. When I was around twelve, I would go to England to learn English. My parents would give me pocket money, but I would spend it in two days on records. I kept everything. I have records in my house, in storage, at my grandmother's, at my mother's. I probably have more records than Karl Lagerfeld. For once he can't beat me. He can beat me in iPods, Chrome Hearts and Dior Homme, but not records.

What was your first gig?

The first time I played music for money was in the late '70s when I was working at the Palace. I hung out with a lot of fashion people there, like Claude Montana, Thierry Mugler, Kenzo and Karl Lagerfeld. There's been so much talk about the Palace recently, and the whole era. Last week I went to the store A in Manhattan and I saw Edwige, the doorwoman at the Palace in the 80s. We talked about how the Palace is a big deal now. But even before the Palace I went to Club Sept a lot. It was the big thing in the late '70s. I saw people like Jerry Hall, Antonio Lopez, David Bowie, Karl with his boyfriend Jacques de Bascher.

Is that when you became interested in fashion?

I've always been fascinated by images and fashion. My mother had a bookstore where she sold magazines, so there were always magazines lying around the house. I read up on all the new things. The whole world was fascinating to me. Also, my grandmother took me to a fashion show for older women at a department store when I was like nine or ten. Women sat around having tea. I thought it was so cool. (cont'd)

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