Domino, Notes and videotape
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This is an English translation of a big interview I did for one of Norway’s largest newspapers, Dagbladet. In addition to translating the interview, I’ve also included all the content I had to cut out of the Norwegian version for space reasons. I’ve also included more photos, which you can click on to see in high res versions. Enjoy, and please, let me know what you think.

Jarre in China

Jean-Michel Jarre was the first western artist to perform in China, four years before Wham did it. Here he is performing “Souvenif of China” during the concert in Brussels

– You were from Norway, right?

– Yes, I’m the guy who always say hello to you from Röyksopp, and then you tell me to say hello back, because I meet you guys every other time.

– That’s right! Please, say hi back. I love them, I’m very sorry that we didn’t have time to cooperate on my Electronica project. Anyway, what I was going to say was that Norwegians are very sophisticated and talk bluntly. I think one of the reasons for this is that you are rich and a bit spoiled. I mean this in the best way possible. You demand something from an artist and you are not easily fooled. And because of this, when you like something the reception becomes much more honest and sincere. The words are from the French master of synths, Jean-Michel Jarre.

This Friday he will release his third album in what has become the Oxygene trilogy. In the past two months he’s played 40 cities in Europe, he visited Oslo Spektrum in October. On this tour, he has played music from Electronica 1 and 2 which were released last autumn and this spring.

THE FRENCHMAN looks annoyingly young considering that he is 68 years old. We caught up with him backstage during the tour before his concert in Brussels. One would think that after selling 80 million records in a career that spans 40 years and putting up multimedia shows that attracts audiences of millions in Houston, London, Paris, Moscow and other cities, you will become jaded. Not so with Jarre. Instead he comes across as a young boy on Red Bull.

He got his international breakthrough with his third album, Oxygene, in 1976. In 1997 he released a sequel called Oxygene 7-13 and on the exact day of the 40th anniversary of the first one, he will be releasing Oxygene 3.

Jarre Oxygene

Jean-Michel Jarre gave the audience a preview of Oxygene 17 back in October, with the famous Earth skull rotating around him like a hologram

– You’ve released three albums in the span of just 15 months, with almost five hours of music. That’s a pretty hectic release schedule?

– It wasn’t planned that way, but my record company wanted to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first one and asked me if I had any ideas. I don’t celebrate anniversaries. I take that after my mother. She never even called me on my birthday. When I asked her why, she said “I gave you birth, you should call me!” But while working on Electronica I composed a piece of music that I felt didn’t suit that particular project, so I put it aside. I actually felt like I did during the creation of the first Oxygene when I did that track, so when the request from the record company came, I remembered it. I then decided to do the entire album like that. Playing with frequencies, sounds and sections, and do it alone, in my home studio, in just six weeks, like I did back in 1976. I started in July and was finished in September. I only had a small break in August where I was stuck and decided to stop being a musician and become a painter instead. By the way, did you get the chance to listen to the album?

– Yes, they gave me a digital preview copy which I listened to in the hotel room last night.

– You know, I just handed in the master tapes and then I went straight on tour. Not even my family has listened to it yet, so you are the first one I’ll get any feedback from. What did you think?

– I had a huge grin on my face while listening to it. I really liked it. Especially Part 19, which sounded like a rave party with a melody line and sounds from your Deserted Palace thrown on top.

– I’m so happy to hear you say that, because that’s the track I just told you about, the very first one I did for this project!

Jarre insists that he didn’t listen to the two previous albums while composing the third one.

– No, the thought was just to work after the same principles. Sculpting sounds and melodies out of frequencies and playfulness.

AFTER OXYGENE Jarre released a string of electronic albums that sold millions and created a template that has been used by a whole generation of electronica bands and projects like Röyksopp, M83 and scores of trance-, techno- and dance artists in the 90s and 2000s. His huge outdoor concerts, using entire cityscapes as his canvas became a proto type for rave parties. Despite his vast influence, critics have never been on his side. Until now.

Jarre guitar

Jean-Michel Jarre started out as a rock musician. But the revolution of the 60s made him revolt and turn to synths. On the Electronica tour he took his guitar out of retirement again

 – In the last few years you’ve started getting good reviews, not least for this tour and the Electronica albums. Do you think there is a new generation of music journalists taking over after the old school writers?

Jarre nods. – You’ve got to remember that I’m a French child of the 60s revolutions. We were in opposition to the establishment, including rock’n’roll. When we started using electronic instruments instead of traditional tools to create music, we weren’t seen as real composers or musicians. Electronic music was looked down upon by rock musicians. Just like jazz musicians looked down upon rock musicians and classical musicians looked down on jazz. Today everything is a wonderful mix of all genres. Even jazz musicians are fiddling with electronic devices these days. I feel more in sync with today’s music scene than I ever did in the past.

ANOTHER THING that is more common these days than in the past Is something that Jarre and Pink Floyd almost used to have a monopoly on: Multimedia concerts with gigantic projections, lasers and lights For both artists, they became as important as the music. But Jarre says he’s never set out to top himself. – I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before.

He stops and laughs at himself. – That’s something all artists say. It’s almost impossible to do something that hasn’t been done before. But even if we all have big expensive digital cameras today, there’s only one Quentin Tarantino. It’s who you are and what you want to convey that is important.

 – But people writing about your concerts are saying that are doing something very unique. 3D without the need for 3D glasses.

Jarre goes straigt back in to his young boy modus again. – Yes, and that’s a feedback I really like. I’ve always included visual elements in my concerts, but this time the challenge was to do 3D without those pesky 3D glasses. I hate them and I gladly pay extra to see films in 2D instead. So my idea was to use LED screens which can create that effect, without the need for those damn glasses. And we’ve succeeded, even for the people sitting in the side aisles.

Jarre 3D

– I hate 3D glasses, says Jean-Michel Jarre. And created a visual 3D show without the need for any

He then tells the story of the three arrogant British technicians who came to assist on certain aspects of the show. Their sniffy attitude was quickly erased when they got a demonstration on what Jarre and his team had achieved. – Fiona (Jarre’s manager) overheard them talking, and they said that “that was really something.” And that was a fantastic feedback to. When people in the business like it, you know that It’s going to be copied. And that’s the sincerest form of flattery.

AFTER EIGHT YEARS of silence on the recording front, Jarre released two volumes of his Elecronica project in six months. The first one in November 2015 and the second one in May this year. He spent four years travelling around in Europe and the US to create songs with Pet Shop Boys, Moby, Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode and Erasure), Massive Attack, Pete Townshend (The Who), Laurie Anderson, M83, Yello, the movie director and composer John Carpenter and a whole lot of other artist within the electronica field. Most of the concerts on the tour consist of songs from these two albums.

One of the more original guests on Electronica 2 is Edward Snowden. With the assistance of journalists from The Guardian, Jarre visited him in Moscow and recorded a speech by Snowden. In the speech Snowden says that if you are not willing to stand up for your rights for privacy, then who will?

– It’s unusual for you to be so political?

Jarre takes his Espresso and leans back on the couch and looks a little bit skeptical at me. – Are you so sure that I am political? I don’t think I am. Remember that music can have two facets. You music that is simply to have fun with and dance and party to. And then you have the kind of music that want to say something about the times we are living in, music that wants to convey a message. This is something Bob Dylan, who just won the Nobel Prize for literature, is a perfect example of. But I don’t like artists who use the stage as a political platform.

Jarre Snowden

Edward Snowden appears not only on Electronica 2, but also during the concert, to huge cheers from the audience

HE STRAIGHTENS UP in the sofa and starts a long speech about Snowden, Wikileaks, the Big Brother surveillance society, disillusioned kids and the challenges we, as a society, are facing.

– Snowden did what he did out of love for his country. Remember, he was the third generation in a family of soldiers. And he’s still a soldier. He risked his life for this. I think Norway has always been at the forefront for personal freedom and individual rights. I think Snowden could have moved to Norway.

When I tell Jarre that Snowden couldn’t even come to my hometown, Molde, to receive the Bjørnson award because the Norwegian authorities couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t hand him over to the US authorities, he looks truly saddened. – That surprises me, he says.

He goes on: – Remember that most progress in the world comes out of disobedience. Even the US was founded on an act of treason. And the values the founding fathers fought for, that’s the values Snowden fights for. I think the EU has been cowards when it comes to the stuff Snowden and Wikileaks have revealed. Especially France. No wonder the kids in France are rebelling.

AS THE PRESIDENT OF CISAC, the international organization for artists rights, the challenges in a digital society is something he is very aware of.

– The entertainment industry has never generated more money than it is doing these days. But the people making the art which is creating this revenue is paid nothing. Where is the money going? This is a huge challenge that we have to deal with if we want to have artists or musicians in the future. Intellectual rights are also huan rights. I’ve done pretty well for myself, but I’m thinking of the next generation.

WITH OXYGENE 3, and the two Electronic albums, Jarre feels he has gone back to his roots. –I’ve gone back to the way I used to work. Mixing ingredients like a cook, only I’m mixing frequencies, sounds and sonic textures. Sequels are very common with games and movies, but they are much rarer when it comes to music. The only one I can think of, besides me, is Mike Oldfield. But I still hope I’m doing something that sounds fresh in a world where people zap on after just five seconds. And when I then add my old classics in the set list of the tour, albeit in a rearranged form, it all hopefully becomes fresh and exciting. I want to surprise myself, as well as the audience.

Jarre Keytar

Keytar Hero: Jean-Michel Jarre beaming on stage, proving that geeks know how to party too.

I’ve been down this road before, and I’m sure most other artists, journalists, writers, photographers and musicians have as well (I know you have).

Friday night I photographed a concert done by the Norwegian band Di Derre. The concert was great and both the band and the audience were on fire. Suddenly Jo Nesbø (world famous author and lead singer and song writer of the band, which I guess how is a hobby project for him) announced that they had a new singer. Then the captain of the local football team came on to the stage. His name is Daniel Berg Hestad, and he just set the record for most games in the elite series in Norway (even I recognise that this guy is turning into some sort of football legend). His team had also won that day, and they are currently the number one team in Norway. In short: There was cause for a celebration, and he sang his heart out.

Naturally I realised that this was a moment I had to capture on video. I was ill prepared and just had to make do with the lens and equipment I had there and then. When I came home that night, I edited the video and uploaded it to the local paper’s web site. It got thousands of hits, something I of course knew it would get. Both Berg Hestad, and his team, are well known, well liked and very popular.

The next day, a journalist from one of the biggest media houses in Norway called me and asked if they could have the video on their web site (read: in their player so that they could receive all the hits for the video). The would credit the original article on rbnett.no and link to it. I said that was of course fine with me, as long as the editor of the rbnett.no approved. He did, and I downsized the video so that it would be easier for the journalist to download it to his computer.

I emailed him the link, and then I asked where I should send my bill. I swiftly got a reply telling me that there must have been some misunderstanding. Payment had never been mentioned, and they thought that it was clear that crediting the video and linking to the original article would be enough. I told him that no, that would not be enough. He then replied he had to check with his superiors about payment, and said he’d get back to me.

I was sure that this would be the last I heard from him, but several hours later I got a reply from him telling me that they would not be using the video after all, and he thanked me for my time.

That’s when I got really pissed off. I had spent over an hour getting permission for them to use the video, downsize it, upload it to my server and telling the journalist where to get the video. Yes, the video is not of great quality, as I said I was ill prepared, but there are videos on their web site of much worse quality than mine. And that’s beside the point. They wanted me to give them my work for free so that they could receive hits and ad revenues for it. And believe me, Berg Hestad’s name would make sure that they would receive loads of hits on this. This is incredibly unprofessional behaviour that I would not expect from this media house.

I choose to believe that it all came down to a misunderstanding. That they didn’t know that I was a professional, and do this as part of my livelihood. But the realist in me is afraid they thought they would get away with telling me that I would get free exposure.

I’m sorry, but the exposure I will get from your use of my photo is minimal. Besides, would they go to the local grocery, buy lunch for your colleagues and then tell the cashier to give it to them for free because it would give the shop publicity? Would they tell their carpenter working on their building that? “I doubt it. Do you think the journalist on duty work for free?

I’ve invested in equipment, I’ve trained, worked for hours and I worked my butt off that night to get pictures, interviews and that video. I worked until half past three in the morning, and they have the gall to ask me to get it for free?

I know the editor of the web site, so I will get in touch with him and tell him what I think of all this. I just have to calm down a little bit more first.

Here’s Harlan Ellison on working for free: