In a new interview, synth music pioneer Jean Michel Jarre explains why, despite all the advances in electronic music technology, he still has a love for vintage gear:
Jean Michel Jarre is reeling off some of the music he’s been listening to lately: Actress, Fuck Buttons, Zomby… It’s not the average 64-year-old’s playlist, but Jarre has never really done average. His presence has loomed over electronic music for some four decades. The Frenchman studied under musique concrète progenitor Pierre Schaeffer—one of electronic music’s earliest pioneers—and released the seminal Oxygene LP in 1976, which proved the catalyst to a sustained period of commercial and artistic success throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. His career has been defined not just by his achievements themselves, but also the scale of them: on Bastille Day in 1979 he played to a live audience of one million in Paris, while a further 100 million tuned in on TV; nearly two decades later in Moscow he performed to a crowd of 3.5 million. He’s also sold around 80 million albums (Oxygene alone has sold more than 18 million copies).
Jarre now exceeds the French pension age by four years, but he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. He talks excitedly of two new albums he has on the boil. His most recent project, InFiné by JMJ, saw him delve into the French label’s back-catalogue and pick out his 12 favourite tracks for a compilation. It was a low-key affair—by Jarre’s standards at least. In conversation, he’s clearly enthused by the project, earnestly discussing the merits of each inclusion and explaining his shared roots with the label—both he and former label boss Agoria hail from Lyon in southern France—with pride. We called up Jarre at his studio to discuss the compilation’s origins, his current musical interests and his ambitious plans for an electronic music academy in East London.Can you tell me about how the InFiné compilation came about?
It’s a concept that started in my hometown. Like me, InFiné has its roots in Lyon, and lots of the label’s artists are also from that part of France. I collaborated with some of the InFiné artists at the Nuits Sonores festival in Lyon last year, and we had a special evening where some of them revisited my work on stage. When InFiné decided to celebrate their tenth anniversary with a compilation, they asked if I would look into their catalogue and make some selections for a compilation.
How did you go about compiling it?
I went through lots of different tracks, and tried to build a kind of journey, using songs and artists that fit well together. As the music on InFiné is quite varied—there are artists from all kinds of different musical worlds—it was important to have some sense of direction on the compilation. A selection like this is always subjective; [the final selection] doesn’t come down to which track is better than the other, it’s just more reflective of my own tastes.
How did that sense of direction develop?
One of the reasons why InFiné is so important to me is that lots of artists on the label have been influenced by my own music. For the compilation I chose tracks that I felt were close to my own music in some way. The first track [Oxia's "Exaila"] could almost be a kind of introduction to one of my own albums; it’s a short piece and I think it opens the door to the compilation nicely. Then there’s Murcof’s “Como Quisiera Decirte.” I’ve admired this guy’s work for a while, at times it’s very close to the kind of stuff I was doing when I studying with Pierre Schaeffer at the musique concrète studio in Paris, when we were experimenting with sound design in pretty abstract ways. Murcof has an approach to music that I really enjoy—he mixes an experimental approach with Latin flavour. I’ve always been interested in trying to mix the Spanish or Italian soundtrack ambience of people like Pedro Almodóvar or Fellini into music. I find “Como Quisiera Decirte” quite haunting. It has a Mexican feel but it’s still definitely electro. I love that mix, that hybrid feeling between two different worlds.
Which other artists on the compilation did you find yourself drawn to?
Rone is a good one—he has a very interesting sound. The problem with so much electronic music now is that more often than not, you hear a track, and it’s interesting, but you don’t feel it belongs to somebody in particular, or has a particular style, even if it’s OK and you like it. In the case of Rone, for instance, or Agoria, and some of the other artists on this compilation, they have a definite sound world of their own. That’s rare these days
Talking more broadly, which other contemporary artists do you listen to?
I’m listening to lots of different music. I really love Zomby’s work, I’ve listened to a lot of his tracks over the past two years. And there’s Actress—I’ve been appreciating his style of music recently. Then there are more established electronic artists in France like Air, Vitalic, M83, Justice or Sébastien Tellier—actually in fact I’ve just finishing a recording session with Sébastien today, we are working on a track together. I also really like Fuck Buttons. The first time I listened to their music I thought, “Wow, they’ve got such a special and unique type of sound.” I mean, those guys build a kind of wall of sound in front of you, a fog of audio, with a kind of techno beat lost in smoke. It’s a vaporized sound. I really love their direction and their Olympians EP was very nice.
How much time do you find yourself spending in the studio each week?
I try to spend as much time as possible in the studio, but it’s never enough. There are always other things to do. My dream is to be like a writer, and spend four or five hours every day locked in the studio, but I can’t really do that, I don’t know why. I’m a workaholic in short spurts—I’ll go into the studio and work for three or four days and nights, then I’ll stop, take a break, and go back to the studio a week or so later. So for me, it’s three or four days on, then three or four days off.
I read in an interview that you said when you’re in the studio you feel more like a “painter than a producer, mixing with colour and light, and experimenting with textures.” Do you still feel that way even when you’re not in the studio as much?
Yes, more than ever. I think that’s the beauty of electronic music. I used to do a lot of painting when I was a student, and I even hesitated between pursuing a career in painting or music. Over the years, when I’ve been faced with electronic instruments, oscillators and all these kind of strange machines, it occurred to me that mixing colours and mixing audio frequencies is actually the same thing. You are a craftsman, you are a painter, mixing colours and textures. For me, electronic music is very close to abstract painting, which is all about textures, shapes, colours and contrasts. These days, I like mixing analogue synthesizers with pure digital elements. I think this combination is actually reflective of society itself, because we aren’t analogue anymore, but we’re also struggling to deal with being in a virtual, digital world. I think it’s quite nice when you can mix both worlds.
Held on October 28th, 2006. This is the full movie and some preparations of the day before. The goal of this meeting was to do an improvised electronic music concert like those of the Tangerine Dream in the seventies by some fans.
The Gasometer in Oberhausen is an unique location. The Oberhausen gasometer, the largest disc-type gas holder in Europe, is an industrial monument located in Oberhausen, Germany. It was constructed between 1927 and 1929. It has a long reverb because of its height 117.5 m (385 ft) and its diameter of 67.6 m (222 ft).
The three guys who performed this unique concert are:
René van der Wouden
About a cute happy Korg MS family having good time together
- Korg MS-50
- Korg MS-20 (2x)
- Korg MS-10
- Korg VC-10
- Korg SQ-10
- Doepfer MSY-1
- Mackie Onyx 1620i
- Ableton Live
I’ll update the description soon with some information on the setup
The first of 3 short videos featuring a quartet of the up and coming MacBeth Micromac-D desktop analogue synthesizer.
“I called it The Sweep- two Micromac-D units having their filters swept in stereo! A third unit is doing the lead stuff- and the first one that you see/hear- effects…..”
Info on the OB-XA:
The OB-Xa is a massive analog synthesizer with a very familiar and classic Oberheim sound. Its sound, size and power are very similar to the Prophet 5 from Sequential. However this one has up to 8 voices which can be split, layered and stored!
The OB-Xa was available in four, six or eight voice polyphonic models. They all featured patch memories, also in varying degrees. A minimum of 32 patches were available on early models (4 banks of 8). The maximum amount of patch memory storage found on many OB-Xa’s is 120 patch memories. All models of OB-Xa, however, featured the new Curtis chips which offered great stability for an analog synth and they are attributed to its great filters and sounds.
The OB-X was very similar to the OB-Xa except that its voices could not be split or layered and, more significantly, the OB-X had a lowpass-only discrete SEM 12dB/oct state variable filter, which had a great and classic Oberheim sound. The OB-Xa changed that in an attempt to economize manufacturing and increase stability by switching to CEM3320 Curtis chips for its filters. The Xa offered two switchable filter modes: 12 dB/oct (2-pole) or 24 dB/oct (4-pole). This hardware change resulted in a more agressive sound, not quite as creamy as the OBX original, but what still became a “bread and butter” sound of the Oberheim line.
Splitting the keyboard mode separates the OB-Xa into two 4-voice synths with two available patches. The Layer mode plays the two patches simultaneously. There are also some added effect sources, perfect for any analog polysynth, including portamento, unison, sample & hold, chord memory and three LFO’s!
Single track twisting and turning of the Studio Electronics Boomstar 4075 – nothing too fancy as requested – for the sole purpose of getting to know the structural tonality and flexibility of this ARP-filtered SE synth.
Direct Boomstar audio out .wav file link: http://studioelectronics.com/assets/A…
A Deep House-inspired improvisation using Roland Juno-60, Korg M1, Roland TR-909
Vintage synthesizer demo track by RetroSound
bass and sequencer sounds: ARP Odyssey Mk III Analog Synthesizer from the year 1980, sequenced by the SCI Pro-One internal step sequencer
all other sounds: Oberheim OB-Xa Analog Synthesizer from the year 1981
drums: Roland TR-707
recording: multi-track without midi
fx: a little bit delay and reverb
more info: http://www.retrosound.de
Tara Busch explores the Swarmatron at NAMM
Dewanatron Swarmatron Controlled by Moog Voyager and MP-201
Time to sum up this years Winter NAMM show with a gallery of the 10 things that made this year’s event so great. I guess there will be few surprises to those who regularly follow our web magazine or any other of our web mag colleagues in the msuic creation business either
Overall trends for this year include:
a. More vendors takes the route of Arturia’s MiniBrute – analog, low price point, performance sized
b. Modular synths are hotter than ever, as well as the DIY micro synths
c. The controller / control surface segment is getting over crowded – who needs them all
d. Software retro clones of vintage classics has come to its peek
e. All analog synths are alive and kicking
f. All you can eat tablet instruments – iOS is all fed up, now vendors are looking to Android and other platforms
g. More innovation is needed in the DJ space
Here is Steelberry Clones’ top 10 list!
1. Moog Sub Phatty
2. KORG MS-20 Mini
3. KORG KingKORG
4. Arturia SparkLE
5. Dave Smith Instruments – Prophet 12
6. Roland V-Combo VR-09
7. AKAI MAX49
8. NORD Electro 4
9. NUMARK Orbit
10. KOMA Elektronik
That’s it for this year’s NAMM show, next up is MusikMesse in Frankfurt.
Please leave your comments if you agree or disagree with the listing or if anything ought to be added. We know that we probably should have included some software products as well, but we might come back to that later in the week.