To call Dimitrios Yerasimos an electronic music hero would not be overstating things. The French DJ and music producer (of Greek descent) has plied a trade spinning and making slick, sexy and groove-laden stuff since the late-1980s, calling on influences from the proto-house that emerged from disco and funk to movie soundtracks like 'La Dolce Vita' and 'Breakfast At Tiffany's', carving out a sound that's audibly his own.
This Sunday 6th November, the artist better known as Dimitri From Paris lands in Manchester to play a beautifully refined venue that's anything but typical as Manchester 360º takes over historic Victoria Baths for a full weekend. An ideal location for his inimitable style, then, he closes the triple header following Darius Syrossian on Friday and Saturday with Lee Burridge.
Ahead of the show, we called Dimitri to talk about the date, and our city, but the loose chat turned serious with the topic of club economics. During Covid-19 lockdowns, the scene spoke of a need to change once reopen, moving away from huge booking fees and obsessive emphasis on headliners, to nurture local talent and support community. Little, if any of this, seems to have happened, with business as usual starting with the first events back, while new inflationary pressures risk out-pricing many from the club nights that depend on them.
"I was surprised things picked up so fast. And to an extent disappointed. I thought the club industry as a whole did have time to reflect on itself and maybe consider the importance of booking local guys instead of strictly guests from 200 or 3,000 miles away," Dimitri says, admitting this effectively shoots himself in the foot as a touring artist. "There's been no reset whatsoever of any kind. Instead, it's like 'let's go back to exactly where we were, with the good and the bad'.
"I'm not a very optimistic person, so I wasn't thinking it would happen big time, but even a little bit would have been something. See if it works, if not then go back to how it was," he continues, citing lengthier sets — and a return of resident DJs entrusted with entire nights, and clubs — as potential remedies for a culture again on the verge of bankrupting itself. "I think a lot of people will need to rethink their approach in light of what we're experiencing now. There's the material side and the spiritual, cultural side. Both need readjusting."
If venues and those at the grass roots are finding the current climate challenging, touring artists are not exempt either. At the time of our conversation, Dimitri has been planning his first return to the US and Australia since the pandemic hit — two destinations he regularly visited for multi-date stints pre-Covid-19. Like-for-like hotels now come in at around 40% more per night than they once did.
"I mean, that's a lot. Who will end up paying for it?" he asks. "The ticket holders, they will end up paying for it. The club is already having to put more money in, you know, energy bills, things like that. So if you add all this up, the cost of the ticket will probably end up being over 30% or 40% more than it used to be. What people will buy that? That's the big question mark. How much can you push it? It's like a flight to your holidays. It used to be €100, now it's €200. So are you still going?
"I mean, there's a lot of questions, and the answer for what happens next is pretty difficult to figure out because it will be some kind of a catastrophe, But how big? Who will it affect the most? It's really hard to say, because everyone is interdependent. You know, a club has so much to pay that they can't really change," he continues. "But can they afford to stay alive and open just using residents? That's possible — for them to bring enough people to pay the bills next month. But all of this is going to be trial and error, until we find a model that works. Or, we just clench our teeth until it ends."
While the club scene faces serious financial problems, when pressed Dimitri points out he wouldn't agree that things were necessarily better in his early years. Perhaps the music, although he confesses that's entirely subjective. Nevertheless, nightlife is persistently stalked by a rose-tinted view of its past. The solution, we're told, is ensuring what's made today stands up to all that came before.
"We always go back to fashion, or the culture of a certain year. The '80s, the '70s, recycling styles, clothing items, whatever. Vintage is always powerful, because it has this kind of story, this authentic feel," says Dimitri. "The idea of timelessness is something people go back to. They listen to a song produced 40 years ago like it was today, or yesterday, even if they weren't born when it was released. Those things have value. I think serious thought must be put into how to make today the things which will have value in 20 years, 40 years, instead of making a quick buck."
One example of how not to do that might be found in recent controversy surrounding Louis Vuitton. The fashion house opted to 'borrow' iconography linked to David Mancuso's legendary loft events for a new collection. Suffice to say, criticism at the move came thick and fast, with Dimitri among those calling out the world-famous empire of couture.
"That was insane. They don't have money problems, those people. I mean, you want to use David Mancuso’s name, why not reach out to whoever is connected to him? There are still loft parties, his legacy continues. If you Google for ten minutes, you'll find someone to talk to and be like 'Are you OK with it? How can we make you OK with it?' They could have bought a new sound system for new loft parties, or something like that, which would actually give back," Dimitri says.
"But they just take, and honestly, within that crowd, nobody knows who David Mancuso is. I mean, they have no idea. So they didn't even have to use it, and some guy didn't even think twice about it. That's the shame. They're trying to buy into a culture they don't even need, and they do it in a lousy way. They do it by hurting people. And in the end, they hurt themselves. And for what? Selling like five jackets? How much profit are they really gonna make from this collection?"
Dimitri From Paris plays three hours at Victoria Baths, Rusholme, for Manchester 360 on Sunday 5th November.