Dimitri from Paris
Dimitri from Paris
Disc jockey, producer
House music deejay and producer Dimitri from Paris is credited with bringing house music to France in the late 1980s, after emulating the scratching and mixing techniques of an American hip-hop deejay he saw. Soon he was creating soundtracks for Lagerfeld, Gaultier, and Chanel, and moving dance clubs all over the world with his 1960s-influenced dance tracks on such releases as Sacrebleu and Monsieur Dimitri’s De-Luxe House of Funk. He became commercially successful after creating the Playboy-sponsored soundtracks of luxurious living, A Night at the Playboy Mansion and After the Playboy Mansion.
Dimitri was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in October of 1963. His Greek parents were “hippie intellectuals,” as he described them in his biography on the Atlantic Records website. They traveled throughout Europe before settling in Paris, where Dimitri was raised. When Dimitri first became interested in creating continuous sets of music from a variety of sources, dance clubs were limited to the discos of the late 1970s and 1980s. Dimitri saw a hip-hop deejay scratching records at a live show when he was 18, and he was hooked.
So Dimitri built his own mixer and borrowed a turntable from his parents’stereo. He went on to become a pioneer of “bedroom culture”; lacking a place to play publicly, the inspired deejay created mixes from the stacks of imported American 12-inch singles that crowded his bedroom. The first single he bought was the Whispers’ funky disco song “The Beat Goes On,” and the first album he bought was a compilation soundtrack by John Barry, who scored the James Bond films.
Dimitri landed a job on the European radio station CFM in 1985 and began playing house music there a year later, essentially introducing the dynamic dance music style to the Parisian airwaves. While house music was already flourishing in Britain and America, where it was being played by such house pioneers as Graeme Park, Mike Pickering, Derrick Roland, Frankie Knuckles, and the late Ron Hardy, “[t]here were no clubs playing house music in 1986,” Dimitri said in an interview with DotMusic.
Before long, the Parisian fashion houses picked up on Dimitri’s fresh new sounds and soon Lagerfeld, Chanel, and Gaultier were clamoring for Dimitri’s mixes to accompany their catwalk shows in 1990. He released two independent EPs in 1993 and 1994, then joined the newly minted Yellow Productions record label to release the mini-LP Esquisses, and was featured on the label’s compilation La Yellow 357.
On his debut full-length album Sacrebleu, released on Yellow in 1996, Dimitri practically composed a soundtrack to accompany his collection of retro toys and novelties from the 1960s. Even the album’s cover design was a throwback to the funky-mod style of 1960s graphic design. “His jiggy beats evoke the soundtrack of a louche sixties movie nobody had quite enough bad taste to make: tinkling pianos, swoopy strings, percussion resembling the clink of ice cubes,” wrote critic Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone. The songs “Dirty Larry” and “Un World Mysteriouse” echo the European spy films of the era. After selling 300, 000 copies worldwide, the album was released in the United States in 1998 and named album of the year by the influential dance-music magazine Mixmag. The single “Une Very Stylish Fille,” which features a woman simply repeating “I am a very stylish girl,” was used in a national television commercial, and became a top-20 dance-chart hit. Dimitri’s 1997 mix album, Monsieur Dimitri’s De-Luxe House of Funk, was a definite return to the solid, danceable house music he made his name on in his early days.
While he was hitting it big on the international dance-music scene, Dimitri still had a tough time being heard in his hometown. Dance-music clubs with good sound systems are rarer in Paris than they are in New York or London. ’The good music you’re hearing in America is very unpopular here,” Dimitri said in a 1998 interview with the Orange County Register. “(French pop) musicians have to leave the country if we want to get attention. Most of us had to press our own records and sell them in London. You could find our records more easily in Japan than in Paris.”
Dimitri became best known commercially for his Playboy-sponsored compilation releases, A Night at the Playboy Mansion (2000), and After the Playboy
Born in October of 1963 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Began playing house music on European radio, 1986; recorded music for fashion houses of Lagerfeld, Chanel, and Gaultier, c. 1990; released two independent EPs, 1993-94; released the mini-LP Esquisses on the Yellow Productions label and was featured on the label’s compilation La Yellow 35, 1994; debut album, Sacrebleu, 1996 (American release, 1998); mix album Monsieur Dimitri’s De-Luxe House of Funk, 1997; A Night at the Playboy Mansion, 2000; After the Playboy Mansion, 2002.
Mansion (2002). Both releases were aural extensions of the smooth and sexy lifestyle cultivated by Playboy magazine magnate Hugh Hefner. “They didn’t have a sound associated with Playboy, so it was a good opportunity for me to come in and present my interpretation of it,” Dimitri told Now Toronto online. Besides being presented by the world-renowned Playboy name, Dimitri admitted, getting to use the company’s signature iconic bunny logo on his album covers and flyers was a bonus. A Night at the Playboy Mansion opens with the rhythmic pieces “Reach Inside” by Bah Samba and Mecca Headz’s “Star.” He includes his “secret edit” of the Originals’ “Down to Love Town” alongside Stetsasonic’s ’Talkin’ All That Jazz,” Cer-rone’s “Give Me Love,” the Sunburst Band’s soulful “I’ll Be There for You,” and Ashford and Simpson’s “Found a Cure.” On the album, wrote Rolling Stone critic James Hunter, Dimitri captured the spirit of being more “interested in nocturnal sensuality than in chemical rocking or sonic architecture—you can picture him mixing in Hugh Hefner’s robe and pajamas.”
On After the Playboy Mansion, Dimitri split his house set into “laid-back” and “up-tempo” programs on two separate discs. Several critics agreed that Dimitri’s Playboy follow-up was even better than the original. The two-CD set featured 25 disco and house music tracks. Though familiar, the songs on the album were far from played out, including Dimitri’s reworked version of the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” The up-tempo CD features The lonius Monk’s “Candidate for Love,” Llorca’s “Indigo Blues,” and a Brazilian-influenced remix of “(It Ain’t) All Good,” which was originally recorded by hip-hop legends De La Soul and soul-funk goddess Chaka Khan. “The sound I’m pushing with this new compilation is a bit more mature and sophisticated, which fits well with the whole Playboy vibe,” he told Now Toronto.
Dimitri has remixed hundreds of works by other musical artists, including Björk, New Order, Brand New Heavies, James Brown, and Etienne Daho. He claims his favorite remix is one he did with the rap group Stetsasonic. He used to play the track frequently in his deejay sets before the group approached him to remix it. When they did, they came at him with a big budget, so he decided to reproduce the entire song using live musicians.
Esquisses, Yellow, 1995.
Sacrebleu, Sourcelab, 1996.
Monsieur Dimitri’s De-Luxe House of Funk, Mixmag, 1997.
A Night at the Playboy Mansion, Astralwerks, 2000.
My Salsoul, EMI, 2001.
After the Playboy Mansion, Astralwerks, 2002.
Billboard, March 28, 1998, p. 56; March 6, 1999, p. 26; December 23, 2000, p. 19.
Orange County Register (California), February 20, 1998, p. F4.
Rolling Stone, March 5, 1998, p. 70; December 24, 1998-January 7, 1999, p. 152; April 27, 2000, p. 70.
“Dimitri from Paris,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 20, 2003).
“Dimitri from Paris,” Atlantic Records, http://webross.atlanticrecords.com/dimitrifromparis/artistPhotoBio_long.jhtml#longTextHere (February 20, 2003).
“Dimitri from Paris,” Dot Music, http://www.dotmusic.com/interviews/February2002/interviews23989.asp (February 20, 2003).
“Dimitri from Paris,” Ink Blot, http://www.inkblotmagazine.com/rev-archive/DimitrLSacrebleu.html (February 20, 2003).
“Dimitri from Paris,” Pulse!, http://pulse.towerrecords.com/contentStory.asp?contentld=4854 (February 20, 2003).
“Music Vibes—Dimitri from Paris Rips it Rabbit Style,” Now Toronto online, http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2002-03-28/music_vibes.php (February 20, 2003).