Jean-Michel Jarre: how we made Oxygène

From The Guardian.

‘Hi-fi shops played it as an example of state-of-the-art music. I didn’t tell them I made it with Sellotape in my kitchen’

A few preset buttons and a load of Sellotape … Jean-Michel Jarre in his recording studio. Photograph: Jean-Claude Deutsch/Paris Match/Getty

Jean-Michel Jarre, musician, composer

I played in rock bands as a teenager and would use a tape machine my grandfather gave me to get processed sounds out of my guitar. During the French student uprisings of 1968, this felt like a way of being rebellious. I loved it when people said: “What is this crap?” But by the mid-70s, I wanted to bridge the gap between experimental music and pop.

I had done production work for some rock artists, earning enough to set up a studio in my kitchen. I didn’t have much equipment, though, just a few guitar pedals and my first synthesiser, an EMS VCS3, which looked like a telephone exchange. I realised that using a Revox tape machine to delay the sound that came out of one loudspeaker created a huge sense of space.

With so little to work with, I had to be creative. My old Mellotron had only a few working keys, but I still managed to write Oxygène (Part II) on it. My primitive drum machine – a Korg Mini Pops – was the sort of thing people played in pubs, but by using Sellotape I could make it play two preset rhythms at the same time, creating cool beats. Part IV, which became iconic, was a mixture of “slow rock” and “rock” , while Part VI combined “rumba” and “bossa nova”.

Nobody knew about synthesisers back then. When I first heard Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, I thought they were a Californian band trying to imitate the Beach Boys. But I still saw Autobahn as a pop song with vocals – and I was into electronic music with no singing. Somehow, I wanted to link it all with nature and environmental issues. Then in an art gallery one day, I saw a painting of the Earth peeling away to reveal a skull and thought: “That’s the album cover!

For the full article, please see The Guardian website.


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