Jean Michel Jarre - Virgin webchat (10/02/2000)

Jean Michel Jarre Jean Michel Jarre

The rise in popularity of dance music and club culture over the last 20 years has been phenomenal. We secured an exclusive live chat with Jean Michel Jarre, widely recognised as one of the founding fathers of the electronic soundscape. Jarre is best known today for his epic laser-embellished live concerts, but his first commercial hit came in 1977 with the album Oxygène. The record was way ahead of its time, forming a template that has influenced many of the popular DJs and dance music producers of recent times. Check out the official JMJ website and the fan site, Revolution, for a comprehensive discography.
In 1979 he held the first in a series of massive open-air concerts in Paris, the million-strong crowd earning him a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records. Amazingly he topped this figure in 1990, with over 2.5 million fans converging to see him perform a Bastille Day concert.
He's back with the latest instalment in a pioneering career that has spanned three decades. Now you know the history, here's your chance to read the transcript with the Godfather of Trance...

Stephen Taylor I think the change in approach with the new album is refreshing for 2000. Lyrics in a Jarre song?!! Is this going to be a permanent change for you to write tracks with words, or is Metamorphoses a unique project?

JMJ I have no idea, it's like being in the middle of a metamorphosis, you never know how it will end. I have had a lot of fun doing this project. It has been quite refreshing for me. When you start to integrate words, you start to be in a narrative process; you find emotions, you find words, you find a way of being less abstract. Also all of this was created entirely on a computer, everything has been done with new software called Prototype, so it is all very different. I would really like to explore more of this idea of mixing electronic music with words, and the statement that electronic music is linked with instrumental concerts. It is nice to explore different styles and I would really like to explore more.

wulumulu You've played concerts in some great places, Houston, China, Russia, Hong Kong... Where in the world would you like to play assuming there were no technical restraints? (by the way, Wooloomooloo has grown on me!)

JMJ I think for me, Egypt was that in a certain sense. My next outdoor project will be tailor-made for cyberspace. I never know when I am going to do all these rock shows and outdoor events again. I think my next project of performance will be in smaller clubs.

TeeJ Bonsoir, Jean Michel. Were you disappointed in the Cairo gig, with the weather et al?

JMJ The fog contributed to the mystery of the whole night, a sort of Egyptian Woodstock. It was an unforgettable moment. At the end of the night, we had a bit of rain and snow; the best omen in Egypt is to start a new year with snow.

Marcos Mr. Jarre, do you have plans to bring your show to South America (Chile) someday?

JMJ I am quite committed to do a tour at the end of this year in South America.

Jan Henriet You said in an interview for Dutch radio, "I do like singers, as long as they keep their mouths shut". What changed your mind?

JMJ I don't remember saying that, but for some of them, it is definitely true.

Lucas Gonzalez Ojeda Do you see Metamorphoses as the Zoolook of this 2000 year?

JMJ Not really, no. Zoolook is an album with Laurie Anderson, involving vocals in a different way. It's not for the meaning of the words, but for the sounds, playing in a phonetic way. Metamorphoses is an album where the lyrics are approached in a minimalistic way, but the meaning of the words are important.

miltex On your latest album (Metamorphoses) most tracks have the lyrics in the cover, but not Bells, why not? Everyone is wondering what is said in that track, is it possible for you to tell us?

JMJ It is called playing with words, playing with the name Isabelle and Is a Bell: very smart. I was not as proud as that to print this on the cover!

Finlay Shakespeare In the past, you have seemed to be a man who likes to work largely alone. Have you found that your recent collaborations (with TK, Laurie Anderson, Natasha Atlas etc) have been more rewarding and productive?

JMJ I have always been involved with lots of people, I never felt that I was ever lonely or just on my own. When you are doing a song or are part of a band, you do it more solo, but the idea... electronic music is something different. It is like cooking, when you are in front of your oven, you don't want to share your recipes.

Fire Tours involve much work, do you still have time to develop new music in your studio?

JMJ For Metamorphoses, I went to the south of France on my own. It was the first time I did this, I tried to be isolated for a while and tried to develop ideas, without phone calls and interruptions.

Maz Monsieur Jarre, what do you think of the electronic music today (like trance, breakbeats etc) compared to the early Nineties and the Eighties?

JMJ What is exciting with electronic music is that you have so many different styles. It is like when jazz or rock'n'roll started; you have a fresh approach with sounds, with electronic sounds. It is something new, dealing with sounds, something different - it really is something else, you have so many sectors, and it's very exciting.

Daniel Stevens Surely you have a favourite track on Metamorphoses. Which one is it?

JMJ It is a very unfair question because I love them all; I wrote a lot of music and I kept what was relevant. Some of them are definitely history and some of them may be developed for other projects. I would say Je Me Souviens has a very organic approach to sounds, a series of generic words, and I think Laurie is brilliant at that.

Bignath Just one small question about Millions Of Stars... What do the letters mean?... Notes or stars' positions?

JMJ It is simpler than that. They are just name of notes: for example, D6 is the note, D6 is played. It is creating an audio link with stars and visualising the notes which are going to be played on the keyboard.

Signe Are you still not single:-)))))))

JMJ What do you mean by that? I am exploring at the moment and obviously the Web is very practical for that, the main activity of the Net is based on meeting people.

Low-ek JMJ: about the second single, your fans have chosen Hey Gagarin on a poll. Are you going to follow us or let Sony choose the track they want?

JMJ This is a tricky question, we are going to decide this tonight, so it is a very appropriate question. Hey Gagarin will have to be single-ified, it's not an appropriate length at the moment. I am working on three tracks at the moment that could possibly become the next singles.

Sim Jean Michel, I recently heard on the Radio 2 interview that you intend performing an Internet-only concert - can you elaborate on that?

JMJ Yes, that's right. I am quite interested in trying to explore new ways of performing. But I'm not sure about doing concerts that can only be broadcast on the Internet, because many people are still not connected with the medium.

Polly F Your new album evokes the feel of HiNRG and Disco such as New Order (Give Me A Sign) and the Pet Shop Boys? Can you recognise their work in yours?

JMJ Not consciously, when you start to have electronic sounds and vocals, people can think about influences, but music is about sharing. I'm sure people such as New Order or Underworld have also influenced me. That is what music is all about, mixing...

Joost Lommers Many "electronic" musicians only compose for their CD releases, they never perform live. Do you find that composing music that must be performed live constrains you in any way? Is it different than purely composing for the record only, and in what way?

JMJ I have always composed music for records only, I never think about concerts when I am creating. Then afterwards I think about how it can be performed. I attempt to find a solution of how to perform electronic music on stage, electronic music is not the sexiest music in the world when performed live, so you have to invent a technical grammar, create a spectacle.

Jackie Hello, Jean Michel. Jackie from Spain here. What do you think you will be composing when you are 65 years old?

JMJ I hope that nobody can predict this in their own lives. I don't feel that way, I even have no idea what the next record will be.

ptta Is it coincidental that "Love Love" was sung by Christophe and that "Tout Est Bleu" sounds a little bit like "Les Bleus Au Coeur"? Is it a coincidence or is it done to remind you about the time when you wrote the lyrics for Christophe?

JMJ To explain this, I used to write lyrics a few years ago for some rock singers, like Francoise Hardy and famous artists in France. I like to play with words; if it sounds similar, it was unconscious.

Graham Pop songs are often covered, classical music is played by various orchestras and used in modern music, but electronic music is rarely covered. It's rare that you see interpretations of your compositions, for example, by another famous artist. Do you know why?

JMJ Yes - it is because, with electronic music and technology now you do not need scores anymore. Nowadays with electronic music you can be like a painter. Electronic music doesn't need to be covered, it can be mixed. There is no need for it to be played by other people because you have the original.

Fosi Are you going to sell new tracks on your website?

JMJ New tracks on my website? Yes, to panic my record company I think I am going to do it in the next few months, just by injecting new songs regularly. The beauty of the Internet is to use it as an artist and to show that after all we have control of what we are doing.

GaryJJJ Jean Michel, I am a record producer/re-mixer (working under titles such as Motiv 8). Many people like myself have been heavily influenced by your work. Do you ever choose who re-mixes your work yourself?

JMJ Yes, and we have big arguments with John Best, the guy behind the camera. He is responsible for half of this!

Bignath JMJ, is the rumour of you acting in a movie true?

JMJ Acting in a movie? It is probably true! Yes, it is a Belgian project, a very funny story about a Romanian guy looking for a musician, and I played a role in this film. It was with a very talented cartoonist, there are two guys, Benoit and Francois and they had developed a very interesting world, all their characters are developed in a surrealistic way. Very Magritte.

Yost Mr. Jarre, is there an artist that you never collaborated with yet, but that you really would like to work with in the future?

JMJ Yes, a lot of people, the list is too long. Mozart, but probably a bit difficult.

john2 Do you still talk to Ms Rampling?

JMJ Every day. We spoke in the taxi three hours ago.

Alan Antrobus I was also wondering how you feel about Sony releasing your other great works, ie repackaged and re-mastered. Do you feel that you are just another Sony product?

JMJ We should stop these kind of very contemptuous condescending attitudes and being cautious about record companies, this is a cliché. It depends on the record company and the artist. Everything should be discussed prior to the release, but there isn't always time. When your record is released, like it is the case this week where it is released in a lot of countries at the same time, it isn't always the responsibility of the record company. But I am happy with my relationship with Sony so far...

Joost Lommers This is probably a very undiplomatic question, but how much artistic freedom do you have? What is decided by you and what by Sony? Would you do things differently if your music did not need to be released by a big commercial record company like Sony (or Polydor)?

JMJ I think that Stanley Kubrick had a very good line - I am doing my film for my fans. Well I am doing my music for my fans. I have never been told what I should do since I began in this business.

wulumulu Mr Jarre, in 12DOTS, some people have mentioned a 13th dream... what's that about?

JMJ A 13th dream? It is referring to the 12 dreams of the Sun, the Pyramids. It is something that was discussed and was on the Internet. The 12 Dreams of the Sun was performed between 10.30 and 12.30. It was initially planned that I would come back again in the morning, and that was thought of as the 13th dream.

Bells Mr. Jarre, is it true you're planning a concert for the Pope?

JMJ Two weeks ago I was in Poland and all the TV stations asked me about this concert I was going to do for the Pope in May. I am not aware of it, it is a rumour.

ptta Jean-Michel, are you aware that your records are not very well distributed in Belgium?

JMJ No, I hope the record company in Belgium is listening! It seems that it is working quite well in Belgium. Are they going in record shops or somewhere else? You can order the record by Internet anyway.

DanielM When I listen to your music, it conjures images in my mind. When you write it do you have a sort of mental picture of what to create, or does the melody occur to you rather than a visual image of the feeling?

JMJ It was quite different for Metamorphoses. By using words it had a much less abstract feel, not quite telling stories, but a kind of narrative process.

Jonathan. J. Bradley With the ever-expanding world of music, one can still trace musical statements, figures and motifs back to their classical ancestors. Were you inspired by any of the great French contemporaries and if so who and why?

JMJ Musicians? I have been a big fan of Debussy and Ravel, it's quite impressionistic music and it is very French in a sense, but I think I am always influenced by them. My major influences come from the cinema.

Bells Mr. Jarre, are you on the jarre@clic.net mailing list?

JMJ Maybe, yes.

miltex Jean Michel, I know that you like movies: which is your favourite movie at the cinemas right now, and your favourite ever?

JMJ At the moment I really enjoyed Being John Malkovich and All About My Mother, those two were my favourites. Also anything by David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick.

Nino Aurrichi I am a composer, and have been writing for 13 years and I have trouble creating fresh new work. How do you manage to come up with fresh ideas after writing music for over 30 years?

JMJ I think it is a difficult question, based on the idea I am not really satisfied with what I have done, and am always trying to escape from the label that people give me, or that I could put on myself. The best help I can give though is: try to find what Brian Eno calls "transvessel thoughts", try not to use the same instrument as last time, or the same lighting. A good way is to break the routine, try something else.

Smirnov Who else apart from people like Orbital, Underworld, Chemical Brothers would you love to work with? Have you considered working with Brian Eno or Philip Glass? Keep up the good work!

JMJ Aphex Twin, Air. No, I haven't considered working with Philip Glass, though I am not saying that I don't like him!

wulumulu Mr Jarre, I would say that some parts of Chronologie (C3) sound almost operatic. Have you ever wanted to write a great opera or something like that?

JMJ I have been confronted with the format of an opera - music mixed with the visual technology of the 19th century are the carpenters, painters and tools of today: satellite, video, Internet, they are the grammar of electronic music. All that is very close to opera.

wulumulu In fact, if you didn't make music, what would you do for a living?

JMJ Architect probably - I really like architecture. Or dealing on the Internet, because then you can stay in your bed.

Agni Theologu I have followed all your work since Oxygene. You seem to experiment with trance vibes that are more into the club scene. Have you ever thought of experimenting with drum'n'bass or other types like garage music?

JMJ Yes, I worked with some very interesting musicians and the Apollo 440 drummer. A friend of mine called Paul Coghis was one of the first drummers to invent a jungle feel, a totally different feel to drum'n'bass, very refreshing. The gig I did for the closing ceremony of the World Cup involved a lot of drum'n'bass.

Harold Is the rumour about a Webcast 2001 concert with you (my favourite composer since 1978) and Arthur C. Clarke (my favourite sci-fi author) true?

JMJ We are talking about it, nothing definite, maybe. It is actually something that, well... I have always been close to Arthur C. Clarke, he is a big influence in my life.

DragonLady How often do you change your hairstyle and why? I draw your portrait several times during a year for The Danish Jean-Michel Jarre Magazine "Magnetic Fields", and each time the drawing is "hairstyle"-outdated.

JMJ I've managed to avoid so far the bald concept.

wulumulu Mr Jarre, do you read Internet message boards and newsgroups where your fans post? Do their opinions influence your music? Would you like to do more "real-time chat" similar to this?

JMJ Yes, the best system I found is to be arbitrary on these issues. When I opened my website I tried to read all the messages, and it took me an entire day and then I realised that if I wanted to answer all these people it would take all my time. The best way would be to pick letters/emails at random. I try to absorb everything, I am like a sponge.

JArtiste Jean Michel, are you planning to perform in the USA someday?

JMJ Yes, though I am more interested in the East rather than the West these days. So far I have been involved with the Middle East; this afternoon I have been talking about specific projects in the USA and would like to do something special there.

Remixer Jean Michel, over the past few years quite a few of us have noted that your style has become more "commercialised". Rumour was this was because of pressure from your record company, whereas other people are saying you are trying to stay ahead of the crowd... How would you answer this?

JMJ If it has been more commercialised, I would congratulate my record company. I don't think that Metamorphoses is more commercialised than anything else. It doesn't fit necessarily into the regular format that the record company are expecting; it is very subjective. When you see independent labels, I love that. I am with Dreyfuss, which is in fact one of the last independent companies in France; but it is distributed by Sony in France and has a record deal with Sony Worldwide. I am one of the few artists faithful to an independent label - but as with all record labels, their dream and their fantasy is to sell their label as high as possible to as big a company as possible.

Spikey Which of your previous songs or albums gives you the greatest sense of achievement, and why?

JMJ None of them, or a very tiny percentage. It is the reason why I am continuing to try and improve myself.

Christophe Ketels What is your favourite sound?

JMJ The sound of the moon or also the cry of a fish - a goldfish particularly.

Low-ek And what about your "dream" of a concert on the moon ?

JMJ No, it is just... people keep asking me this, I think I will have to do it one day.

YaXoMoXaY Jean Michel, is it true you are planning a Metamorphoses tour? If yes, will you return to Italy or Milan?

JMJ Yes, I am returning to Milan on Monday morning, very early flight, and I am planning on doing something special in Milano or Venice.

Tim What is your favourite tune to play live?

JMJ Hey Gagarin

Tim Do you listen to your own work, and if not, what do you listen to?

JMJ No, I try to avoid that. What I am listening to at the moment is the Nine Inch Nails.

polaris Dear Mr Jarre, half of the Jarre@clic.net list hates Robert Miles - what do you think about his music and dream/trance in general?? It was influenced also by your music... is it possible it could influence you now?

JMJ I have no opinion. Might have been a big hit with Children, it was just a dream music hit. I am not feeling necessarily close to this, but what has been positive about this whole thing, it has created activity in Italy and given the opportunity to countries outside to have international exposure.

Milan Csaplar How does it feel to play for such masses of people? What are your first thoughts before such concerts?

JMJ I don't think about all this - it makes you feel humble and tiny.

Sim Can you tell us more about the Jarre special to be aired on BBC2 next week?

JMJ It is not going to be very interesting because it is not going to happen next week. You should watch out for it next month!

miltex Jean Michel, I've heard some plans to collaborate with Danish hi-fi manufacturer Bang & Olufsen. What is this all about?

JMJ Yes I am in contact with Bang & Olufsen for various things. I really like the company; being always ahead of its time, being the only company with high tech hi-fi. I think aesthetics are crucially lacking nowadays. Hi-fi's are usually so ugly-looking, dull, grey, but Bang & Olufsen try to concentrate on both the quality of the equipment and the aesthetic side.

New_Age_dude Will you finally team up with Vangelis some day?

JMJ No particular plan, I like Vangelis a lot, he is working in Greece and it would be nice to collaborate with him in Greece.

J. Manuel Martinez-Mattar As a big fan of yours in Mexico, I was very disappointed when local authorities didn't let you perform here in the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Now that we all saw your performance at the best New Year's Eve concert in Egypt, in the name of all your fans in Latin America, I ask you to consider scheduling a live concert here. Do you still want to come back?

JMJ Absolutely, this project in the Aztec Pyramids, was a great project. Unfortunately it didn't happen for technical reasons on the Mexico side, but I would love to try to do it again.

Elin Nylander What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Is there anything you haven't done yet but wish to do?

JMJ To be able to give people hopes and dreams for the future through my work and music.

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