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.
- 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!