After building his name up on Paris’ club circuit, Stéphane Pompougnac found fame mixing and compiling Parisian spot Hotel Costes’ oft-imitated CD series – pre-empting the boutique hotel explosion and selling over 7 million copies over 15 volumes. Helping cultivate the sound of ‘lounge’ along the way, he went on to become DJ to the stars and to be enlisted by many of the world’s foremost luxury brands to help them create their own musical identity.
With a new compilation called ‘Sunset Sessions’ out on April 6, we caught up with him to hear about his history, what’s coming up in the future and some stories about a couple of Hollywood stars…
How did you first get started in DJing?
I started DJing in 1986. The music was not electronic music; it was just rock, hip-hop, a mixture. And when I started to DJ, there was a little shop in front of the club where I played which did record imports – so I used to play a lot of music from electronic artists at this moment. I grew up with house music from Chicago.
I always bought a lot of music, because I would spend the whole day in record shops. Now it’s changed and it’s less, but it used to be a lot. So I bought a lot of vinyl, and I used to be a resident in a club called Bains Douches which was very famous, and I used to have to play for 8 hours. So I had to change the style of the house music. I had to play disco house, deep house, club house… it was very eclectic.
How did you first become involved with Hotel Costes?
I started being a guest DJ for them at their hotel. The first night I played, people liked the music. It was not famous music; it was very underground. They started to call it ‘lounge music’. I started to be very eclectic. I always changed the style of the music. Then we made the first compilation and it became a big series.
Looking back, do you think the compilations made a lasting impact?
Sure. A lot of places started to make compilations with their name in it. At first it was good, with just Buddha Bar and Café Del Mar. In France, a lot of people tried but with no idea, no sense. For me, it was my job. I had to think a lot about what I could put in the CD. I tried to make it magic, like a story. I think other DJs just tried to just put some good tracks on a CD and that was all. So it was more serious for us.
How has your own production work evolved over the years?
I used to make some tracks for the ‘Hotel Costes’ compilations which used to be more lounge music, more pop – and now I try to be more a house music producer. I learned how to work Logic alone, so since six years ago I’m able to make music on my own. I have a lot of ideas. I want to do my style – which is like deep house with a low tempo. Now what I’m looking for is a singer. I have a new album project I am working on.
What’s it like working with big luxury brands? Do they trust you enough to give you full control or is it quite restrictive?
I think I can say both. I think the big brands look for the new style. They want to be the first to have this style or this artist. My job with GUCCI was to do the opening of some shops over the world. I also did a compilation for Concorde for Japan, compilations for Perrier, Corona… a lot of things. I did some ringtones for a luxury phone company in Switzerland…
You have DJed for some of the biggest artists in the world. Do you have any interesting stories about those times you can share with us?
I got booked to play a private event in the Riviera maybe eight years ago, and it was impossible for me to know who was the guest. And when I arrived to play on the beach, the guest was Tom Cruise and his wife! So it was funny to see that. I did also a private event for eight people on a yacht in Monaco, and it was for Keanu Reeves and his family. It was very strange. I did also the Oscars for three years in Los Angeles, in a big house. Everyone was there to have some presents, and it was also a restaurant – and so I met everybody, from Madonna, to Paris Hilton, to Sean Penn to the ‘Desperate Housewives’ cast, to Bono…
Tell us about the new ‘Sunset Sessions’ compilation. What was the concept? How do you go about discovering new music for your mixes?
The concept was for me to make something different, because I used to make the ‘Hotel Costes’ compilations and that was more lounge music. As I DJ I play more ‘dark’ music… not very ‘dark’ but more like afterhours music, dark, deep house. It was a pleasure for me to do this compilation, because I tried to keep the positive attitude of this dark music… ha ha… it’s hard to explain. It’s a sample of what I play in Ibiza, for example, with the music of this year.
You seem like someone who is always involved in many different projects. What else have you been working on this year?
I’m preparing my next album. Some tracks are deep house, but others are more song-based. I am also thinking about making a new compilation. We’ll see! First I’m working on songs for the album.
Click here to enquire about booking Stéphane Pompougnac via MN2S booking agency.