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Baker's Dozen

Oxygène Of Collaboration: Jean-Michel Jarre's Favourite Albums
Yousif Nur , October 20th, 2015 10:53

As he releases his first new material in eight years, the French composer, producer and laser harp maestro talks Yousif Nur through a Baker's Dozen of LPs by artists who shaped or collaborated on his Electronica albums

Jean-Michel Jarre has a lot on his mind. Not least the heating in our small pod, which won't switch off. Then again, when you've sold over 80 million records and holds the world record for the largest crowd at a concert - 3.5 million people in Moscow in 1997 - you've earned the right to make demands such as switching rooms or having the AC switched off.

"Do you mind if I take my scarf off, as I've got a strange kind of flu or angina of some sort?" Jarre mutters. Hiccups and illnesses aside, the electronic music pioneer has a new album, or rather two albums, imminent. The first, Electronica 1: The Time Machine, came out last week, and the second installment will be released in spring. We're wondering, though, as part of his chosen 13 albums, whether these are records from his past, present or future.

"Actually, it's a mixture of everything," he says. "When I was asked to put together this list last night, I obviously thought about things that are directly linked [to my album], not for promotional reasons but the fact I spent four years of my life trying to realise one of my dreams and this Baker's Dozen list represents a source of inspiration to me. Collaborating with them wasn't really a sort of "featuring" concept, where people send a file and put on a top line or synth part over the internet and they'll never meet, which is quite abstract. They're all linked with technology or electronic music in one way or another. And when you asked me for a list, by instinct I directly and indirectly went for artists involved with my new album. For instance, I chose Discovery by ELO - I didn't work with Jeff Lynne but I would like to have done."

What does each artist bring to the table with Electronica?

"All these artists have a recognisable touch. Listen to 30 seconds of Moby, Air or Fuck Buttons and you instantly know who they are. Nowadays that's not so common, you have a lot of talented artists who aren't easily recognisable via their musical DNA. The idea with this project is to merge our DNAs in a balanced way with the notion that electronic music is everywhere and there aren't any boundaries anymore. All these great artists are linked in one way or another to that scene and there are specific reasons I worked with each of them, because they are all a part of the family of electronic music. Unlike hip-hop, rock or even punk, electronic music is more than just a genre - it's a new way of writing music and compositions. It's also a new way of producing and distributing music. I like that because when I became a pioneer in this genre, I had a teacher and a mentor who changed the world of music by creating this idea that electronic music isn't only made up of notes, but of sounds. The difference between and a noise and music are down to the musician themselves."

So it's an exact science?

"Yes, in a sense," says Jarre, hesitantly, "but what I mean is that, before, music was considered as something you dealt with in terms of writing notes on a piece of paper. Music was about dealing with existing sounds via existing instruments, based on writing harmonies and chords. Suddenly you have someone say, 'Music isn't only made of notes, but of sounds. You can make music with the sound of a train, your dog...' and that was a totally different approach. For me it was a real revolution.

"The mixture of classical influences, electronic and sound processing seemed very avant-garde, but also pop music as well. I've been so lucky to start this movement with nobody behind me. Now a young DJ starts old, in the sense that he has 40 years of musical heritage. And pretty heavy heritage at that! For this album, the collaborators and I have that organic approach to sound, in spite of the fact that we're all analogue animals and digital geeks. So whether it is 3D from Massive Attack, Armin van Buuren, John Carpenter, Pete Townshend or Moby, what do they have in common? They all have a 50-50 importance in every song."

Was this list difficult to put together?

"It's like asking if I were stranded on a desert island, what albums would I choose? My musical choices also depend on my mood. I could have injected some jazz or classical albums, but the ones on this list were picked because of how I felt that day. They mean something to me and, beyond this, it's also the mood that I find myself in today. All the artists in my list are, in a sense, part of my heritage."

And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Electronica 1: The Time Machine is out now on Columbia. Click on the image below to begin through Jean-Michel's choices, which run in no particular order