Jean-Michel Jarre on Music, Film and Hollywood
For years, fans of Jean-Michel Jarre would have little options – other than boarding a plane for Europe – to attend one of the musician’s live concerts, celebrated for their lights and fireworks. Even though his largest to date was in Houston in 1986, attended by 1.5 million people, the creator of popular albums such as Oxygene and Equinoxe never played in America again. That’s why meeting him at Amoeba, the music store in the heart of Hollywood where he came to present his latest album, Oxygene 3, felt a bit strange. But there was a reason behind it: that day, Jarre announced a tour in the USA that will start in Toronto in May 9th and will take him to Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, to conclude in Los Angeles on May 27th. Previously, he will go back to his giant concerts playing in Masada, Israel, on April 6th. Being in Hollywood, the conversation touched on his relationship with his father, the famous composer Maurice Jarre, who was nominated to 11 Golden Globes, winning four, and his reluctance -until now- to work on his own soundtracks.
Your concert in Houston was your only American experience. Why are you coming to America now? Why did it take so long for you?
Each time we were planning to tour in America, for different reasons it was not fitting the right schedule. So on two or three occasions I was about to do it and I had to cancel it, because I was involved in some other things. And I am really happy to finally be in this country, because I love America for lots of different reasons and also my father became an American citizen and being the great soundtrack composer we know. The relationship with him had been a bit difficult through the years and it became much better at the end of his life. California and soundtracks was a little bit my father’s territory. I think psychological reasons made me postpone.
What does Hollywood mean to you?
Actually, it’s very strange, because Hollywood means to me what it means to everybody, I mean, the center of the entertainment in terms of movies and music. But also for me, it’s something quite different. My father passed away six years ago now and I feel very close to him these days, it’s a little bit like as if he was with me and just with the idea of coaching me, we are together. I spent a lot of time with this Electronica project in Hollywood, and it’s like a part of my homeland in a very strange way. I was born in Lyon, in France, but I almost feel the same kind of thing when I am in Hollywood. It’s very strange because it’s very familiar, like something close to my family actually, because this is something that is very personal and I would say even enhancing my desire to work closer to Hollywood, maybe doing soundtracks or different projects and spending more time here in Hollywood. And that’s what I am planning to do for the next two or three years.
You started by writing film music years and years ago but you haven’t done it as much once you became famous. Why did that happen?
Actually for the same reason. It’s that I always considered my career as a recording artist, by doing concerts and shows. Soundtracks, they were really my father’s territory. Actually I refused a lot of soundtracks in my life, saying okay, I leave this to my father in a sense. And I don’t know if it was a good or a bad thing, but it’s what happened. I refused lots of soundtracks actually in my life and now all that has changed. The way we are doing soundtracks these days is different, where we can see that more and more composers for current movies are using electronic music as a serious style for soundtracks and maybe that was not the case back in time, where even for Sci-Fi movies, I have always been amazed by the fact that systematically, these big movies, they were using strings and orchestras and apart from Blade Runner, most of them were conceived with a symphony orchestra. Now things have changed and I think that I have things to bring and I feel that, and I am saying this in a humble way, but I think that today, my involvement in potential soundtracks would probably be more relevant than it was before.
How was the musical relationship with your father? Because for years I thought, he is the son of Maurice Jarre and that is why he is a musician. And then I found out that it was your maternal grandfather the one who influenced you. When you met with him, did you talk music?
You know, it’s strange, almost not. We met very few times in my life. My parents split up when I was five years old and he went to America. I grew up in Europe really far away from his influence. And that was when soundtrack composers were mysterious. We are not talking about soundtrack composers as we are talking about them today. So it was really abstract what he was doing. I really grew up far away from his influence, even from a musical point of view. And because we never saw each other that much, when we were meeting, I don’t know if it was because he was a bit shy, but we never really talked about music, which is something obviously today that I regret.
Your Grammy nomination came on top of your reconnection to America. Do you feel overlooked? I mean you got another nomination before, but you have been working in this for more than fifty years. Did you ever ask yourself before, why aren’t they paying attention to what I am doing?
No, not at all. And you know, you have so many talented actors and directors who have never won an Oscar in their life and when you are thinking about Charlie Chaplin or Orson Welles, it makes you very humble. Or Ennio Morricone, who just got his first Oscar last year, so that makes you very humble. So I am not thinking like this. I mean obviously a Grammy nomination is a great honor and it’s also for me very important because it’s regarding the collaborators and the whole team working with me. But, obviously if I can get this Grammy back home, it would be a great achievement. But I am doing like lots of artists, where I am not necessarily doing music or movies to receive Oscars or Grammys and obviously if it happens that would be a good thing. But I never felt any kind of frustration before, and we know the business and it’s really a mixture of so many parameters.