His faith in Miami would eventually be repaid, but not before five frustrating years. Gervais landed gigs at local clubs such as Liquid and Living Room but hardly spoke a word of English. People would complain he had ignored their song requests, when really he had no idea what they were saying.

"Traveling is very hard on a DJ. I'm not going to be a guy 45 years old still DJ'ing."

The biggest problem, however, was rising through the ranks of other desperate DJs, many of whom would promise gigs and never follow through. "In this industry, everybody wants to see you fail," he says. "But this city was actually the thing that kept me up the whole time... It's not like I'm living in New York and it's minus five degrees... I go to the beach, I take in the sun, I watch the beautiful women walking on the sand, and I feel automatically better."

By 2008, Gervais had become a mainstay at Space Miami. One night he was spinning downtown when a familiar face approached him in the DJ booth. It was Sharam Tayebi from Deep Dish. A couple of months later, Gervais was touring the country with his childhood techno idols.

Gervais, ready to strike.
Michael E. Miller
Gervais, ready to strike.

But when he did make his breakthrough four years later, it had as much to do with marketing as music. Gervais, who says he doesn't drink or do drugs, prides himself on staying on top of social trends. In 2006, he released the song "Pills," which seemed to glorify popping pharmaceuticals. In 2012, he crafted "Molly," an apparent ode to molly, or MDMA, the main component in the dance-club drug ecstasy.

The month before Ultra 2012, Gervais and his manager blanketed Miami in posters depicting a woman with duct tape over her mouth under the headline: "Missing: Have you seen Molly? She makes me want to dance." A QR code at the bottom linked to a music video featuring delirious teenagers kissing on a dance floor.

Then, of course, Madonna popped up on the Ultra stage during an Avicii set and asked, "How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?"

"I was in the studio when a friend called me and told me about Madonna," Gervais remembers. "I was like, 'Shut the fuck up,' and hung up on him. But then everybody started calling me and texting me. I was like, dude, this is really serious."

The shout-out was pure gold for Gervais' rec­ord sales, but it also plunged the DJ into a long-simmering debate over drugs in EDM. "It's like back in the days when Woodstock was happening and everyone was doing drugs," Gervais says. "It's there. There is nothing you can do.

"The song is about looking for a girl," he says. "So, OK, yes, it is the name of a drug and everything, but Jimmy Hendrix sang about purple haze, and the Beatles sang [about Lucy in the sky with diamonds]. It's music. It's not like I'm selling drugs or anything."

"Molly" made Gervais an Ultra legend, but it was his remix of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness" that launched him into the mainstream. The song became a worldwide hit. "We sold $5 million with Lana Del Ray," Gervais says. "We basically took a song that nobody knew and turned it into a worldwide hit. If somebody else can sell $5 million with a remix, let me know who."

The song earned Gervais an award for best remix at this year's Grammys. But success can be suffocating. Since "Summertime Sadness," everyone from Usher to Depeche Mode to the Killers have asked him to remix their tunes. So far, he has given in only once — to Miley Cyrus. "At first I said no," admits Gervais, who met Cyrus at LIV. "I was afraid my fans would say, 'What the hell?' But I thought it was very cool for an artist to take the time to [fly down here]." A few months later, the remix for "Adore You" is now climbing up the charts.

But he's wary of becoming known as a remix man. "I think it's failure if you just say, 'Oh, I got a Grammy. It's great,' and then you don't think about next year," he says. "I want to win one for my own song."

Gervais is scheduled to release his third album next year. At a mixing board inside a small studio in his house, he presses Play on a song called "Broken Arrow." It's a synthy, hypnotic pop song about lost love — in other words, a soon-to-be hit.

Then he plays a track featuring British singer Coco O, "Through the Night," a more indie-rock track than anything Gervais has done before. Finally, the DJ reveals his secret weapon: a single called "Hashtag," which he hopes will get this year's Ultra buzzing the way "Molly" did in 2012. Like its predecessor, "Hashtag" features a robotic female voice and an irresistibly catchy chorus. Gervais plans to shoot the video for the song at Ultra and promises appearances by Hulk Hogan and Adriana Lima.

After the studio, Gervais heads to a sushi joint in South Beach that just happens to have a larger-than-life photo of him in the window. "Someone wrote on my forehead," he says with a scowl. Which leads to a question: How does he deal with his detractors?

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
1 comments
rain.zen
rain.zen

At least you could spell correctly the name of the person that made you famous: her name is LANA DEL REY not RAY! You made famous a song that was on 3,5 mil. albums sold ww when you made the remix?! Yea right! You made famous DEL REY?! No boy, you just made her known to the lobotomized edm fans of yours. Nobody, except the dance monkeys, listen to your version of the song which is far inferior to the original which has 140 mil views on youtube. So, don't speak ever again about the goddess, you are not worthy!

 
Loading...