Jean Michel Jarre Talks New Music, Presidency of CISAC

Jean Michel Jarre
Aero Productions/Patrick Demarchlier

Jean Michel Jarre

Jean Michel Jarre has a lot on his plate, and that’s just the way he likes it.

The French electronic music pioneer is working on two album projects, there’s an outdoor show to plan for next month, a tour on the horizon and he’s just settling in to his new role well-away from the studio -- as president of authors and composers society CISAC.

Remarkably, Jarre’s landmark first album "Oxygène" is now 37 years old. The Frenchman’s seminal recordings are the cornerstone of electronic music and touches of his debut and the subsequent recordings “Équinoxe,” “Magnetic Fields” and “Zoolook” can be heard in music from the likes of Boards of Canada and AIR. Jarre, like his early works, has aged incredibly well. 

And there’s more to come.

“My main project album, I’m recording it to be ready for the end of the year,” the veteran artist explains. “And that will be accompanied by a brand new tour with a new visual concept.”

Jarre will tune-up for the upcoming trek with a one-off Aug. 12 concert in Tunisia at the Carthage Festival.

Jarre describes his other recording as a “special project on the Internet,” though he doesn’t give a timeline for its release.

The Frenchman recognizes the impact his music has had on today’s crop of electronic music artists, and this connection will shape some of his future art. “I have a lot of links with the electronic scene and part of my upcoming projects are based on working with others, creating bridges with people who say they’re influenced by my work and the other way around, artists I’m inspired by,” he explains.

Jarre was elected to the presidency of CISAC during the confederation’s annual meeting last month in Washington. Though he’s still relatively new to the role, Jarre has a firm idea of where CISAC’s battles lie ahead. “Every kind of work deserves remuneration and being approached with a link to an economical system. That is far beyond just a matter of finance. It’s a matter of rights and identity. I’d say by that it’s facing global issues like the giants of the Internet.” 

He adds, “We must find a global answer. And the global answer should be through all the different art forms, joining forces, but also geographically. It’s not only a problem between Europe and the United States. It’s far wider than that.”

The 64-year-old’s remarkable career is built on innovation, and has yielded more than 80 million record sales. Looking back on the highlights, Jarre admits his groundbreaking 1981 concerts in China -- the first by a Western musician -- are now like a dream, like it “was someone else.”

And what is Jarre proudest of? “I don’t know if I’m proud of anything I’ve done. I see my work as a series of demos I’d like to complete and improve. It’s really my state of mind at the moment,” he tells Billboard. “I met the great Italian director Federico Fellini quite a long time ago. He told me something that impressed me on that matter. He said, ‘I thought all my life I was doing a new film. Then I realized later I was always doing the same film but just trying to improve it’. It’s very true for every artist. If you’ve got a certain style, you spend your entire life trying to improve on it.”

When pressed on his career-highlights, Jarre came up with a pair. “What I was really moved by was what I’d done in Houston linked with Nasa and the tragedy of Challenger, when (astronaut) Ron McNair was meant to play saxophone in space live with us on stage. Also, when I played in my hometown Lyon for the visit of the Pope John Paul II. It was linked with the sky, but on a different level. It was quite a unique moment.”