Techno legend Laurent Garnier released the seminal Crispy Baconin February 1997 – with the track marking a seismic shift in the French producer’s music career.
While debut album Shot In The Dark, released in 1995, garnered plenty of praise, it was arguably the follow up, 30 (which included Crispy Bacon, along with other classic cuts like Flashbackand The Hoe), released on 30 March that year, that launched Garnier into the techno stratosphere.
“If Laurent Garnier’s Shot in the Dark was exactly that, then 30 is his coming of age,” MUZIK magazine wrote in early 1997. “Where the former long-player paid tribute to individual producers who Garnier respected, 30 is the album that he wanted to make for himself.
“The transition from world-leading disc jockey to highly-respected producer was never going to be easy, and while this album may not be a production masterpiece, it does dispel the theory that good DJs don’t make good records.”
In April 1997, Garnier spoke to journalist and author Jean-Yves Leloup about the success of Crispy Bacon, in his usual candid style, and revealed the influence of artists like Jeff Mills, Robert Hood and Scan X on its composition.
“The hype around Crispy Bacon makes me laugh,” he explained. “I love the track but I don’t think it’s the best track I’ve done. However, there are a lot of people that say to me ‘Damn, this is a revelation! It’s deadly, it kills’.
“I like the track, it’s really dancefloor-oriented, but I don’t think it’s the most exciting track on the album; far from it. Crispy Bacon is so simple! There’s nothing to it, four percussions and a bassline, that’s all.
“When I did Shot In The Dark, I listened to certain songs, I was inspired by them, and I moved on to making my own compositions. When I worked on the album 30, I changed my tactics. […] I listened to a lot of things before doing Crispy Bacon, especially Jeff Mills’ Axis 14 and 15. I said to myself, ‘it’s incredible what he does’, and I tried to analyse for the first time what he was doing.
“I don’t usually analyse other people’s music that much. I prefer not to analyse, and instead focus on the emotions. I’m not trying to find out how he made this break or this beat – it either speaks to me or it doesn’t speak to me.
“A few days before starting Crispy Bacon, Stéphane [Dri] from Scan X came over, and I did a week of intensive lessons with him. He taught me how to engineer my mixer, and how to use effects well, because that was my weak point.
“He came over and played with the effects – I saved a couple of things that I liked, and in the evening I started working on Crispy Bacon. I took an hour to equalise it, to find an effect that killed on top, that would really compress it. I found this bass sound, I put an effect on it, and there you go – that’s all it is.”
Or to put it another way, as Garnier told MUZIK magazine at around the same time, “When Scan X first heard it, he said ‘Have you been wearing a balaclava? Do you think you’re Mad Mike from Underground Resistance?’.”
“I had a minimalistic dance thing in my head for a while,” he explained. “I played the bass line, looped it, added a kick drum, hi-hat, compressed it and, in order to give my ears some rest, went for a walk. When I came back, I listened to the track again and decided that something was missing.
“Then I re-recorded it on a DAT, turned on the MS20 and, pressing one of the keys of the keyboard, I started twitching the modulator buttons. This time the result fully satisfied me — it was a super-lifting track – it’s one of those that DJs play when they want to explode the dancefloor.”
The title of the track – Crispy Bacon – was written there and then on the cassette box, according to Garnier and when fellow techno luminary Jeff Mills dropped by a few days later, he listened to the track and committed to doing a remix; aka the Jeff Mills Solid Sleep Mix, copies of which have sold for as much as €75 on Discogs.
“But Jeff absolutely didn’t like the name,” Garnier explained. “‘What the hell is Crispy Bacon? Where did you find such a stupid name?’ I explained to him that when I listen to the track, I have an image of bacon slice frying in boiling oil. ‘Ah, that’s what you mean!’ said Jeff. ‘Then you should have named your track Sizzling Bacon, because crispy — that’s for bacon that’s already cooked’.”
As to the immense effect that the track has on the dancefloor, this too was part of Garnier’s thinking, as he explained to Jean-Yves Leloup.
“I admit that have always been amazed at the success of Robert Hood, for example,” he said. “You listen to the M-Plant stuff, there’s very little there – a sound, a closed hi-hat or something that lasts five minutes. The sound will change a little bit, and from the moment the closed hi-hat comes in, the dancefloor goes crazy, and that’s really great.
“It’s great that someone came up with such minimalist tracks that would freak people out as much as if you were using a snare roll or a TB-303 climb. I think that’s pretty damn beautiful. It’s true that I kept thinking about the dancefloor during the development of Crispy Bacon.”
The accompanying video for Crispy Bacon is more akin to a short film – directed by Quentin Dupieux, it is entitled Nightmare Sandwiches, and is a strange David Lynch-esque tale set in a French café. Featuring the tracks Crispy Bacon and The Hoe (as well as snippets of Deep Sea Diving), Garnier admitted to MUZIK that it was a somewhat farcical film – “Every time I see it, I laugh and laugh” – although it did change perceptions of what a techno video should look like.
“The film is at odds with the way techno music is perceived by the mainstream media,” he said. “In France, we’ve gone through a lot of shit with the government stopping parties, and I thought it was time to do something intelligent enough to say to these people ‘Look at what we do. We’re not just a bunch of drug addicts.”
A quarter century might have passed since it was first released, but Crispy Bacon doesn’t just still slap, it sizzles. Hats off to Monsieur Garnier for creating a timeless techno masterpiece.
Check out some of Laurent Garnier’s classic music videos here.