Thursday, 25 October 2012

Jean-Marc Lederman - Exclusive interview for Electrospective - Elektro Diskow! (Part 4)

In the previous installments of our interview with JM, he talked us through his time with Fad Gadget, forming Kid Montana and then the Weathermen and his work with Front 242. In this final part, Jean Marc brings right up to date as we go through the 90s and into the 21st century.

Part 4

-So you were working with Front 242, then into the 90s you collaborated with Alain Bashung and Julianne Regan from All About Eve (in Jules Et Jim), there seems to have been a lot of experimentation and freedom in that period…

Well, it’s funny. I got myself a sampler an Akai s3000 in the early 90s and started doing sampling and one day I got a call from Alain Bashung – for you English people must not mean much to you but he was the hugest rock star in France at the time so when he called me asking me to work one song with him and I immediately said yes. I ended up doing 5 songs with him so he really loved what I was doing. He really pushed me to experiment with stuff and I enjoyed that immensely. It was an experiment with him because he gave me tracks without the vocals and without ANY indication of what the chorus was and what are the verses and what the song is about. He also took out some instruments and so it was a really weird experiment for me to work on something so big and which was supposed to be still enjoyable for people in the mainstream audience. I supposed he liked what I did because he called me two years later and asked me to write songs for him that was even one step further. I’ve got one song on his album Fantasie Militaire which has been voted Best French Rock Album of the last 20 years which is kind of cool. I made some experiments with Julianne Regan from All About Eve under the Jules Et Jim name which was great also which was more kind of … electronic pop I would say you know but it didn’t have much success to be honest which is a shame because the songs are very good I think. And she’s marvellous.

-Around that time – the end of the 90s – one of the musical directions you embarked upon was composing for video games. How did you get into that?

In the mid 90s somebody I didn’t know but was working in a studio I did know of was asked to do the soundtrack for a game called V-Rally one of the early car games. The producer of the game wanted something that sounded like 9 Inch Nails. They thought of me and they called me said why don’t you do the soundtrack for that so I did soundtrack for that. Gluing to the idea that they wanted industrial style music like trance which I was doing at the time. It was for Infogrammes and they hated it so they didn’t use my soundtrack so they asked some rock band to play some hard rock music but I then started to make soundtracks for video games and I loved that to this day I still love it. I think it’s music complemented with images - it’s much more powerful than just music.

-Do you approach like a film soundtrack composer or is the process different?

It’s very different. In a game first you have to think things will be looping. If the player has to be in one interface if he can’t resolve the puzzle he’s going to be there for 5 minutes. So you have to think I have to do something remarkable but at the same time the player can’t notice it because if he notices it it’s going to distract him but at the same time it needs to be immersive. It’s a very complex thing. It’s not like in a movie soundtrack where you have to do things in layers which is going to be in the background. In a video game it’s very much up front. I try to do something which is great and at the same time I try to make it blend with the image. It’s quite complicated but it’s a great process. I start with either playing the game in its early form or with images from the game and then I build from that.

-Most recently you have been working with Masayuki Akamatsu and of course the legendary Kraftwerk keyboard and percussionist Karl Bartos on the iPhone app Minicomposer. How did that all come together?

I had done a remix for Karl Bartos a few years ago and we kept in contact. I went to see one of his shows which happened in Belgium two years ago and I thought it was just brilliant. It was imaginative and at the same time it was very nostalgic and sentimental and romantic, powerful – all the emotions that come with Kraftwerk. I told him you should do this and do that. He was bored of me telling him what he should do so he said, well, show me now. So I started to work with him more closely to find gigs. Then I thought why don’t we do a free application for iPhone. So this is how it happened … I looked for somebody to work on it that could program the application. I found Masayuki and we went on from that. It came out. It’s still available, still free and still fun to play!

-A final question – what are you working on now, what are your current projects?

Well, I have got several projects coming on. I’ve got one album which is made of cover versions which is called Leatherman with a guy who’s more of a lyricist than a singer. It’s cover versions of songs but the songs are totally deconstructed and played differently from the original-  The Ghost & Writer project which I’m doing with a German singer. We’re doing it the way more and more bands are doing it which is all the members of the band are disbanded all over the internet and they send files here and there. I send the music, he sends the vocal and then I mix the stuff.

I’m actually doing a soundtrack for a great video game which is going to come out in a few months which I’m working with classical instruments. After the early analogue synthesizers, digital synthesizers and samplers, now you have the libraries. Some libraries are amazing and I’m using one which is brilliant which allows me to play with orchestral instruments. I’m just f**king around with it. It’s really entertaining too. Sometimes it does sound a little bit like an orchestra but most of the time it’s just the sounds that you use but you use them in a way that a classical composer would never use. I am also doing a [sound track to a] movie. It’s very funny because this project is a TV movie about wildlife in Africa [so I thought] ‘What the f**k am I going to do with this? How is this going to work?’. So to start with I made some African music, High Life music, music I know and I love. I tried to do that with guitars it sounds OK to me but I thought when I try to place that on the images it doesn’t work at all. I was supposed to make music about elephants going to the river to drink or rhinoceroses at night or hippopotamuses … and it doesn’t work with High Life music like this. So I thought what am I going to do? What about if I did what Camille Saint-Saens did with the Carnival Of The Animals and I gave every animal a sound. So started working on it and I gave the rhinoceros a cello sound [from the library], the hippopotamus woodwind sounds and the elephant brass– and it works marvellously. The producer loves it, everybody loves it! I managed to get myself out of a hole I put myself in. How am I going to do music which is basically electronic in a field which is totally opposite to what I do.  Wild life in Africa – how do you come from listening to Kraftwerk and Brian Eno to end up doing music for that.  I don’t know! But they [the production company] love it. 

Jean-Marc has put together an exclusive Spotify playlist for us that chronicles over 40 years of music including classics, influences and some key tracks from his diverse and unique back catalogue. Listen here ...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Jean-Marc Lederman - Exclusive interview for Electrospective - Elektro Diskow! (Part 3)

In the previous two installments of the interview, Jean-Marc talked us through his musical beginnings and memories, his work with Fad Gadget and then Kid Montana. In this part we fast forward to the mid 80s - here's what happened next ...

Part 3

-Can you tell me a bit about how the Weatherman came about?

Kid Montana [JM’s project after Fad Gadget] was camp and pop so I needed something more extreme so I started the Weathermen... At the beginning the Weatherman was a joke because I could hear what Front [242] was doing and I thought, ‘Well, I can do that, too. Let me try.’ I thought at the time that if you were into politics and really wanted to make an impact in the 80s you had to be in a band because this is what the media was listening to. More than politicians they were listening to rock bands. You had Bono. You had Live Aid. So I thought – what about the Weathermen who were an American terrorist group that went underground. They were very much feared.  And I thought what if they had to come back today and they had to make politics to music. So I started to do that [and took the Weatherman name]and sent anonymous tapes to PIAS [Play It Again Sam, famous Belgian label]. And PIAS loved it immediately and they decided to release it so I started with the Weatherman at the same time that Kid Montana was going. It was totally opposite. More aggressive, very ‘Beat’. Quite political but in a funny way. I did that with an American singer called Bruce Geduldig who was a member of Tuxedo Moon. That was 1985-86.  We decided to make a 12 inch every three months. And it worked! Because after a few [releases] we had a small following and people really liked it and liked the concept. People thought it was funny.  The label PIAS released an album and ultimately we had a hit. And that was somehow a little bit the end of it because after that people were expecting things from us, you know.

-Was that Poison?

Yeah. Poison was quite a big hit in Europe especially in Germany and Belgium. So we started to tour which kind of killed the idea of anonymous, you know. We were supposed to be a ‘terrorist band’ and then there we were on stage with our faces [visible]. We kept the idea of being different than into politics and fun by doing movies.  We had those motocross type of clothes on stage and we had on the rider that we need a female bodyguard on stage who must be at least 2m high and stuff like that. It was really funny to do. People were playing with it. And to this day people still remember Poison. So I think it was a good thing after all.

-That record in particular was a big record on the New Beat scene and influenced EBM. Do you have any memories of the clubs at that time?

Absolutely. It’s funny because EBM and New Beat have nothing to do with each other. It just happened that the two movements started in Belgium. Well, what happened was one DJ started to play an EBM band whose name escapes me and he played the 12” but at 33rpm [as opposed to the European standard of 45 rpm] so it slowed down the pace and everybody loved it at the time. So everybody was starting to make louder and louder slower and heavy music. So that was how New Beat started at the same time that EBM and Front 242 were getting very popular. So the two movements were kind of collapsed together but had nothing to do [with each other]. I do remember the New Beat clubs – I didn’t like it at all because it was stupidly hedonistic, stupidly heavy and had no content at all. If you take the New Beat, if you listen to the lyrics, it’s like most dance music - it has no sense and to me you need to inject at least a little bit of sense if not a lot of sense in your music.

-That’s the story of the 80s – you start off with the very political post punk early 80s, and it gets to the mid 80s and it becomes very hedonistic it becomes very drug-driven as a culture and that’s the way the clubs went …

This is why I kind of got out of it because I wasn’t into drugs at all. If you had to go to those clubs and listen to this heavy pounding music without drugs or without being drunk it was just boring, you know? I never liked seeing my friends getting out of it and then starting to act stupid. I suppose that if you take when it all started for me, which is Brian Eno and Kraftwerk, bands with a content. It’s normal that I just couldn’t stand the New Beat scene.

-Those Records From Belgium and Holland of that era had a big influence on House & Techno ..

Yeah, totally.

-Did you have much contact with those people [in Detroit and Chicago etc]? Did you go over and play?

Not at all. We toured the States in ’89 with the Weathermen but we had no interconnection with the Detroit scene. No … So that was the end of the Weathermen in 1989 we toured the States and I just collapsed I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I took a sabbatical and I started working for Play It Again Sam. This is when and how I got to work with Front 242.  As their [PIAS] office manager for 4 years. From ‘90 to ‘94. So for 4 years I was with Front 242. That was very very very interesting work because they were just signed by Epic and you could just pick up the phone and say ‘This is for Front 242…’ and all the doors would just magically open.  It was really exciting!

-Just to finish the Weatherman, I think one thing you did very well and very cleverly was integrate spoken word and dialogue samples and that kind of thing which I think ended up being an influence on a lot of 90s music. To integrate the snippets in an almost Soundtrack way …

I don’t know … people tell me that when they listen to the early Chemical Brothers they hear the Weathermen all over the place but I can’t see it myself! I don’t know, to me it seemed natural to inject things like that because it was what we wanted to do with content to make music that meant something. We didn’t want to make tracks that could work in clubs. We just wanted to make great music you can listen to in clubs, maybe, but would still sound interesting when you listen to it at home. That was the problem with the dance scene. The music, once you take it away from the big speakers and the clubs and the drugs and the alcohol, they sound really bad! We didn’t want that. We wanted something that would stand attention more than 4 minutes. Something you can listen to over and over again. Just like when I was listening to Brian Eno and Kraftwerk in the mid 70s and it would still mean something. Even when you listen to it 5 times or 17 times. Whatever. So, was it influential? Well, you tell me!

-Well, I’d say so!

Thank you!

Click here for Part 4!

Jean-Marc has put together an exclusive Spotify playlist for us that chronicles over 40 years of music including classics, influences and some key tracks from his diverse and unique back catalogue. Listen here ...

Friday, 19 October 2012

Jean-Marc Lederman - Exclusive interview for Elektro Diskow! (Part 2)

Here's part 2 of our exclusive interview with electronic composer and artist Jean-Marc Lederman. In part one he talked about his early musical experiences culminating in his time with the legendary Frank Tovey AKA Fad Gadget.  In this installment JM takes us through phase two of his diverse career following the Fad years.

Part 2

- The next band you put together, was Kid Montana, right?

Yeah. So I already had done an EP by myself with a concept band called Kid Montana. And Daniel [Miller] provided the remix for that EP. So I went to London. I played with Matt Johnson, you know [from the band]The The. I played with Gene Loves Jezebel. I played with several people like that. Then I went back to Brussels because Les Disques Du Crepescules were offering me a deal for Kid Montana. So I decided to stop singing because my voice is terrible and  I decided to team up with this American guy called Dudley Kludt and we decided to do the Kid Montana adventure which was brilliant because we could have access to a great recording studio which was the studio where Marvin Gaye recorded Sexual Healing. State Of The Art technology and my brother was doing the engineering. So we had a few days in the studio and we really experimented. At the time it was the Emulator II [early sampler technology] so the Temperamental album is entirely made with that and the MSQ 700 sequencer. That was already better than the early days with Fad Gadget and I was seeing Daniel [working] in the studio. He had to put on a tape a square [sound] wave of LFO and he would be able to come back to it and trigger his synth from that. So by the time we did the Kid Montana Temperamental album things had evolved because it was the beginning of MIDI. It was also the [Yamaha] DX7 [synthesizer]. The DX7 was a revolution. Nobody seems to remember that but the last days of real early analogue synthesizer were very very very boring. There was the Jupiter 8 – like you have all over the last Human League albums from that era. It was just like brass sounds. So nothing was happening really. In the mid 80s sampling started to be about and I went into it totally. I loved sampling.

-One of the things about Kid Montana which you touched upon earlier [in part 1 of the interview], that I get when I listen to it is that soul and funk influence. I think that quite a lot of music out of Belgium and the Netherlands at that time seems to be about bringing these two things together. The electronics and the black and African influences …

Maybe it’s because in the UK you have a scene that lives by itself.  You don’t need outside influences. Belgium is a country that is in the middle of so many different things. It’s normal that we kind of mix things more, you know. So for me it was obvious to start mixing the African music I love and the electronic music I love. This kind of influence you can even see it with Kraftwerk. They were totally about black American music. Funk and stuff like that. The electronic music scene – if you take it from the late 70s which was kind of the early days and quite trashy and noisy and then romantic and then you get into the mid 80s and you see it gets more into the African melody and kind of vibe. It helped to give it some new blood.

-That whole post-punk era was about melding influences. I think that’s why that music has so much resonance now …

Yeah, I think so, too. People seem to forget that the New Wave movement and the post punk era which went on to the mid 80s was a very rich era because people were starting to be bolder and bolder and bolder. The influence the alternative bands had on the media was huge. Alternative bands were making it. You had people like Matt Johnson [The The] who was making records that were quite alternative but still made the charts. The technology was helping too. So you had three reasons why the mid 80s were so interesting musically. Also the arrival of the DX7 which made a huge difference for electronic music and the sampler. So you had a new rush of blood.

-It’s interesting you mention the DX7 because a lot of people seem to think that’s kind of the end, that it’s a negative influence on sounds and the 80s generally.  Interesting that you see it as a real positive…

Well it was positive because let’s face it the Jupiter 8 was a bore! There was nothing happening there anymore. People weren’t experimenting so from the moment that you start to take an analogue synthesizer and play big chords on it you just kill it. It’s not interesting. Yeah, you can make big waves, you can make this and that but it’s boring. I think the DX7 started the era of digital synthesizer which peaked being really boring with the Roland and Korg products. That’s probably more the case. But the DX7 was a liberation for me and many people because for once you had different sounds and you had a different synthesis. Because before that it was all about additive or substantive synthesis. Not about new algorhythms.

-So, with Kid Montana you did 2 albums?

I did a few EPs and one album and it was re-released 2 years ago on an English label. A label called LTM.  It’s a double CD which I think is really interesting if you’re into the early 80s because you can hear what I was doing. The early days when what I was doing was really home-made music to the end when it was 48 tracks going really crazy with the Emulator and stuff like that. Kid Montana was camp and pop so I needed something more extreme so I started the Weathermen...

For Part 3 click here!

Jean-Marc has put together an exclusive Spotify playlist for us that chronicles over 40 years of music including classics, influences and some key tracks from his diverse and unique back catalogue. Listen here ...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Jean-Marc Lederman - Exclusive interview for Elektro Diskow! (Part 1)

Spanning more than 3 decades, Jean-Marc Lederman’s fascinating career has seen him work with legendary figures like Frank Tovey AKA Fad Gadget, Daniel Miller of Mute, Front 242 and most recently Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk whilst producing innovative electronic music with his bands Kid Montana, the Weathermen and Jules Et Jim and latterly as a composer for TV, video games and apps. In this four part interview, JM will take us on a true Electrospective as he talks us through his musical life from tentative teenage beginnings in Belgium right through to composing for apps and video games in the 21st Century. He also touches on some of the advances in technology he has seen over that period including Midi and many of the iconic synths of the past 30+ years.

Part One

- Hello Jean Marc!


- So, to start things off, can you tell me a bit about your formative musical experiences – what were your first experiences in making and listening to music?

Well, when I was very young, when I was about 16, I wanted to do image experiments. I went down to London to see the Spectrum which was built by EMS. I didn’t know about it before but when I was there they told me about the synthesizer. I was interested but not much more than that because I started music really late, about 19 or 20. So, a friend of mind had an AKS synthesizer and showed me how to get around it and I loved it. I started to experiment with that AKS then after that I started to play with a punk band using a synthesizer which was quite “out” at the time. You had the punk sounds at the top and the electronic sounds in the background. That was quite funny.

- What was the first electronic music that was inspiring you at this time?

It’s very simple – I was totally in love with what Kraftwerk and Eno were doing at the time. I was especially in love with, first the music, but also the way that they were doing music because Eno was just an amateur – he didn’t have a real musical background like me. He was just making things with sounds. The same with Kraftwerk. I remember listening to Radioactivity or [Taking] Tiger Mountain by Eno all night long and thinking this is great music. Everybody else around me was into the Sweet and the bands of the moment and I was more interested in what was happening in the alternative scene.

- So your first synthesizer – that was the AKS?

No, I learned on the AKS but my first synthesizer must have been … 1977 …  So I brought my little piggy moneybox and went to London and bought myself an ARP 2600 because they were quite cheap in the UK at the time. So I was doing bass synthesizer for the band called Digital Dance. It was the first synthesizer I really had. So, I was on stage with that band using an ARP 2600 just for the bass sound which was really stupid but there you go!

- So, the first band you were using the synthesizer for was Digital Dance and then where did you go on from that? What was the next project for you?

After Digital Dance …? Well, I quit the band and then decided to go and try my luck in the UK. I called Daniel [Miller] and asked him “Do you know someone who is looking for a musician?”. It was quite bold because I was a terrible musician and he said “Yeah I’ve got this guy Frank and he’s looking for somebody to play live with him”. So this is how I met Frank Tovey from Fad Gadget and how we ended up playing gigs in the UK, Belgium and Germany.

- So literally, you’d have heard Warm Leatherette, heard about Mute [Records] …

Well, actually, I met Daniel at the place called BetterBadges. I think it was about '79 or '80 and I remember very clearly meeting this guy there who had a big long coat and he had a green bucket and he was putting badges in it – I thought that was quite funny. We just got together and clicked. There weren’t many people into electronic music at the time. So we got in contact then kept contact going. After this he told me Frank is looking for someone. I went to meet Frank and I didn’t audition or anything like this. He decided “That’s the pair!”. So Frank, this bass player called Philip Wauquaire who was with me in Digital Dance and myself we started to play live 

- Were you involved in the records or the live set-up?

Err, no we were involved in the live set-up. The tour was based on the songs you find on Fireside Favourites.

- The First [Fad] album?

Yes, I played some stuff on the first album but it wasn’t on the last mix.

- So you went out on that first tour for the first album. Frank sounds like he was a real character …

He was a real character and he had a great sense of humour. Really funny – deadpan type of humour and we got on quite well.

- I think Fad Gadget are often overlooked when people write the History Of Electronic Music and I think they’re an incredibly influential band. Depeche Mode basically signed with Mute because of Fad Fadget. One of things I wanted to do with Elektro Diskow – there are two Fad tracks on the album – is to talk about and bring attention to  Fad Gadget because I think Frank/Fad is very underappreciated …

Well, totally. I was quite conscious at the time that Fad Gadget was something totally special because all the other bands at that moment were nice electronic bands. I didn’t really see anyone who was even close to the intensity of Frank on stage. I loved it. I loved that time. I remember - and I’m very fond of the memory of Daniel [Miller], Chris Haas from DAF and myself in my little car in Germany just having fun and laughing and going to the gigs and doing the gigs and knowing that what we’re doing is totally unique.

- What were your highlights of that era with Fad? Your favourite records, songs, gigs, that sort of thing?

The Clarendon gig [in Hammersmith, London] was really something quite unique – the last gig I played with him. He opened his skull on the drum machine. Banging his head on the Syndrum wasn’t a good idea! He opened his head and it was bleeding and he wanted to keep going. Somebody else had to stop the gig and put a cloth around his head because he was totally bleeding. That was quite a moment. It was so intense. Being with Frank on stage – to be honest you didn’t know what he was going to do next because he was totally carried away. It was like electronic voodoo!

- What year was that? ‘81? ‘82?

That was ‘81, yeah

- That was the final tour you did with Fad?

I just did one tour with Frank and then he went on and had the band, the band which he is known with. We were playing all the songs from the first album but very crude versions.  I was a really bad keyboard player – I still am! So it was all about the shock of Fad Gadget on stage.

- From that era of time [early 80’s] what were the records you were listening to?

Human League, obviously the Mute records, and also black music. I have always been fond of black music. After the Fad Gadget thing I went back to Belgium I did my military time, and then I went back to live in London and I put an ad in NME or Melody maker, I don’t remember, saying “European musician looking for someone into Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and Fela [Kuti]”. I had no response because somehow my influences were too much of extremes. It was quite unusual at the time to be able to enjoy African Highlife music made by Fela Kuti. And Kraftwerk. And Brian Eno and Roxy Music. But for me it’s the same. The same music. So I was listening to that. I was listening to Faust. I was listening to most of the time electronic music, really. And black music.

Click here for Part 2!

Jean-Marc has put together an exclusive Spotify playlist for us that chronicles over 40 years of music including classics, influences and some of the key tracks from his diverse and unique back catalogue. Listen here ...

Monday, 15 October 2012

New Order Interview From "Rock & Roll: The Perfect Beat"

Interesting curio from a 1995 US PBS documentary. This clip deals specifically with New Order's work with the legendary Arthur Baker in 1983 which bore the singles Confusion and Thieves Like Us. Great footage of  NYC club the Funhouse, too.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Electrospective: Elektro Diskow

We are proud to be participating in Electrospective where EMI, Virgin and Mute Records bring together some of the key moments from the history of electronic music.

More details on including an in-depth timeline with Spotify playlists which chronicles electronic music from 1958 to the present day.


PS. Keep your eyes peeled for an exclusive Electrospective-Elektro Diskow interview next week!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Depeche Mode - Where It All Began & Television Set Live

With a new Depeche Mode album (their 13th!) very much on the horizon, here's a reminder of how it all started more than 3 decades ago in Basildon, Essex.

This is the '80-'81 segment of the album-by-album series of documentaries that accompanied the 2009 reissues of the full DM catalogue and takes us from the very earliest beginnings in Basildon, Essex to the point at which Vince Clarke leaves for musical pastures new.

As a bonus, here's a very rare piece of live footage of DM in '81 performing the song Television Set which has never had a full release!