It's July 1st, 2014, the U.S. National Team will soon be eliminated from the World Cup and Israeli techno DJ Guy Gerber is sitting behind a mixing board at Daddy's House Recording Studios, reviewing masters for the album he created with the man who gave the building its name. "So many people told me, 'Don't do it, it's not going to come out, it's not going to work,'" he recalls, but a month and half later – and four years after the two artist began collaborating – that album is finally being released, available online and titled, somewhat mysteriously, 11 11.
At this point, Diddy's relationship with dance music is long and well documented: Back when he was still Daddy, the rapper and business mogul rose to stardom in a New York City where hip-hop and house rubbed shoulders at mega-clubs like the Tunnel. In 2005, he and Felix da Housecat recorded an electro update of the Jungle Brothers' classic "I'll House You"; in 2009, he tapped another New Yorker, Erick Morillo, for self-explanatory one-off single "Dance I Said" and re-joined Felix for the overlooked 'Lectro Black mixtape.
Around this time, a mutual friend, Mixmag editor Ralph Moore, passed along a CD of Gerber's music, and Diddy liked it so much that he brought the DJ to New York help him finish his Last Train to Paris LP. "It was a very Kafka-esque situation," says Gerber, who at once felt out of place. "They put you in an office and give you all these files, but you don't know what you're supposed to with them."
Gerber's break came when Diddy attempted to inspire his team of producers and songwriters with a mix CD that included Gerber's "The State of Change." "It got weird because all these guys didn't know who I was, so everybody was staring at me," he laughs. "But I was like, 'Oh, I know this track. I can do this.'"
Preferring to work from home and not expecting Diddy to actually appear at the studio, Gerber then almost stood his boss up on an evening when they were supposed to listen to his work. Learning that Diddy had arrived to the House but was preparing to leave for the airport, Gerber rushed in, set up his laptop and discovered that – alas – the file was corrupted. Recalls Gerber: "When he wanted a sample from me, we had already lost the files, so he was pretty stressed. He said, 'No, no no, not again!' So I told him, I will go to the room and I will rebuild it really quickly."
Sweating, the producer rushed to reassemble his track, dropping in the vocals just as Diddy entered the room – a successful effort, except that Gerber didn't have time to properly place the a cappella. "I just put it randomly on the track, and he came in and was like, 'What, what, what? You're a genius! You totally understood how the vocals should be on this song. This is exactly what I had in mind.'"
From there, Diddy suggested that Gerber put together a Last Train to Paris remix album, but Gerber wasn't interested, preferring instead to combine samples from several tracks in order to create completely new ones. Diddy, in turn, suggested that they create an entirely new album, and this time, Gerber agreed, so long as he could work on his own terms. "Puff said that for the first time in his life and probably the only time, he had to follow somebody else because he knew with me, that's the only way to work."
Appropriately, then, 11 11 sounds more like one of Gerber's records than one of Diddy's, a collection of moody techno that seems almost ambient until played at the proper volume. The hooks are there, but they often require a little searching. According to Gerber, the pair wanted to make an album that could be understood by both Paris Hilton and Seth Troxler, the EDM-loving heiress and the critical fave who contributed production.
Citing the kind of – as Gerber puts it – "underground beats" that get played in Ibiza clubs like DC10, Diddy initially wanted the album to expose a new kind of music to a new kind of audience. Gerber, however, suggested they take a different approach: "He thought that we could surprise people with something really weird and nasty, but I thought that if it was very emotional and deep, it would actually be even more surprising."
In the beginning, most of the album was made with the two artists in different cities or on different continents. Gerber, at the time, "wasn't interested in making dance floor tracks," but Diddy pushed him to add songs that would give the album a little more thrust. "I have to say," says Gerber, still surprised, "he never came upon anything weird and said, 'Hey dude, I want it like this.' He was actually pushing me to be more weird."
"He had the vision for the album, then I made it with my sound," he adds, chuckling. "I'm a very honest guy. If I felt like he didn't do anything, I would say fuck off."