Born in France, Zimmer has become one of the hottest French producers/DJ on the international circuit. Throughout the years he has put out some great singles and played in some of the best clubs around the world.
Photography and Interview by Lauren Engel
You were born in Annecy in France? How was that like?
It was nice and cozy. A small city. There was a beautiful lake there, so peaceful.
What were you like growing up as a kid. What were you into?
I was a sports kid and super into basketball. When I was eleven we moved to LA and it was the year the Lakers won. I wanted to be like Kobe basically but it didn’t happen. I was pretty into music already and I was playing piano when I was fifteen. Those were my two things–music and sports.
Are your parents musical people also?
No, which kind of sucks in a way because I had to build my music culture. My parents had maybe ten records and twenty CDs and we would always listen to the same stuff in the car. Some Michael Jackson, some soul music, some 80’s stuff. My dad’s a scientist, he’s studying gravitational waves. My mom’s a teacher. They’re really academic people. I have a brother, he used to be into music when he was younger and he was in bands, singing, playing guitar, bass and all. I always thought he was going to be the one who was going to have a career in music. Maybe I’ll take him on tour.
You played piano for ten years growing up?
I was super bad though. I didn’t study which is kind of an issue when you are playing the piano. My piano teacher was like my psychologist, I talked to her for twenty minutes then she was like your mom’s going to kill me if you only play two pieces.
Have they always been supportive with music as a career?
I guess so, but at first they were kind of confused. I was considering stopping my studies and just pursing a career in music but now that everything is going well they’re super happy and really supportive. I always call them when I am in airports. Even my grandmother looks at my Instagram feed and says things like, I saw you’re in LA!
Where do you think you got this passion for music from?
I’m not sure. When we were younger we did a lot of road trips in the US with my parents. There was something about the scenery and listening to music I liked. I think that it gives a vibe to things and takes you away.
“I love playing live, I love playing for the people, I love seeing people happy, making people dance, just the good vibes. I want people to remember good parties where everyone was smiling.”
What were your first musical inspirations?
Everything really started clicking when I discovered the whole new disco thing–Aeroplane, Breakbot. I went through a bunch of musical phases but I heard these guys in 2008, 2009 and that clicked really quick for me. I found them through blogs. There were blogs that showcased new music because I didn’t come from a big city. Many people in the Paris scene are born and raised in Paris. They go to Social Club when they are sixteen and that didn’t happen for me so I had to learn everything.
Did you move to LA?
We did move there one year when I was eleven and before that we were living there for two years when I was a baby. We stayed in San Francisco. Until the DJing years that was the best years of my life as I went to schools in bungalows.
Do you still feel that same feeling towards LA?
I don’t know, it’s different. I’m there so much now…I guess like four or five times a year. I’m getting used to it I guess. It’s not as magical as it used to be. That’s one of the things that is bad in a way about DJing because you travel so much, you see so many cities, nothing really feels new any more because you’ve seen so much, yet you haven’t seen anything. You’ve barely scratched the surface. You’ve lost that innocence towards new places.
So you studied product design, were you a design person or how did that come into the picture?
When I was a kid I was really into sneakers, cars. I was always drawing sneakers and cars on my notebooks. That was one of my dream jobs as well. I was really bad at drawing so I went to business school first because I was not good enough to be a designer so I just wanted to be that marketing guy who works with designers. But then I switched to design school and you realized you can still be a good designer without drawing. I was a product designer for two years before quitting and doing music only.
Looking back do you think you should have studied something else?
Definitely not. Basically it is because of product design school that I got to music. I had a year off to do my finals project and instead of doing that I learned production. I was making music everyday. When I look at it now the lifestyle I had back then like opening up soundcloud, listening to music, making music then is the same thing I’m doing today.
How did you realize you could make a career out of music?
I guess it was step by step. First my other job was four days a week so I had one day off to make music and then I switched to fifty fifty, I was working two and a half days. I really took my time. It was all about proving to myself that I could make a sustainable thing with music before quitting my main job. After a year of musical income that was enough to survive, I was like okay I can do this on a regular bases.
“That’s one of the things that is bad in a way about DJing because you travel so much, you see so many cities, nothing really feels new any more because you’ve seen so much, yet you haven’t seen anything. You’ve barely scratched the surface. You’ve lost that innocence towards new places.”
Where were the first places you played?
It was a small club in Paris. The second place was Social Club which is a very important place for me because it was where I got to see all my heroes when I was younger. Social Club for French music is an important place because it belonged to the Headbanger guys, later on the Brodinskis, Gesaffelstein, the whole wave of music that’s sitting somewhere between the mainstream and the underground and that’s cool for both. That’s what we’re trying to replicate for Roche right now.
I read that you like being a Frenchie in America and American in France, why is that?
(Laughs) I guess I just like being different somehow. You have something special about you. Sometimes it’s confusing as well because you just want to fit in and be like the rest of the people.
You also spent time in Berlin and Guadelaja?
I still can’t pronounce it after living there for a six months. Berlin was five years ago and I stayed there for nine months. I was doing my internship after my product design school. I was actually working in music for a product designer for Traktor. That was really fun. It was actually when my DJing career started. I started my first track in March 2011 and my first gig in April and moved to Berlin in April. I was basically using all the money from the gigs to pay for flights back and forth from Paris to Berlin. I was just doing small opener sets. It was cool being in Berlin also because it showed me music. I went to techno and deep house clubs which I didn’t go to in Paris before. Mexico was the following year in 2012, I did five months there. I had to do a semester abroad in my school.
How did Roche form?
There was a label before Roche called Shiny Disco Club and there were already Kartell, Cherokee; these guys have known each other for a long time. I met them in 2011 at a party and also Cezaire who is Roche´s label founder. And then Cezaire always wanted to do his own record label so he started Roche. He brought in basically just friends, people he knew and who I guess he liked the music of and I joined a bit later on as well.
Do you have plans to largen it?
Now that things are really picking up I can’t really speak for the label because it’s Cezaire’s decisions but I feel like we want Roche to be something big and recognizable. I feel like we are on the verge of being that but we’re not there yet. We’ve been compared by some people to Headbanger and labels as such but I think we are still very far from that. We have the potential though. That’s really exciting, we need to keep pushing that. Everyone has to make great music and we have to play bigger shows. Over the past few years FKG have blown up, Darius is also super big. It’s good for everyone, everyone pushes it.
How did you get into photography?
Just when I was a kid…I love visual stuff. Whenever I’m looking at anything I want to frame it and take it away. It just always appealed to me. I got a camera when I was 18. I have the chance to travel a lot so I use that to take good pictures. That’s definitely something I see myself doing after music.
Do you think you would ever get back into product design and streetwear aspect of things?
I’m not sure, I might do some consulting. Once you’ve been your own boss it’s really tough to be working for a company with regular business hours.
What do you want to be remembered for?
My music. I hope I get to have one really good album of beautiful artwork with beautiful music videos. A full package that contains everything I love and makes people feel something. Something that people can cherish afterwards. I also want to be remembered for my DJ sets. I love playing live, I love playing for the people, I love seeing people happy, making people dance, just the good vibes. I want people to remember good parties where everyone was smiling.