In this period of enforced downtime – I last saw a gig on 05-Mar (Marika Hackman), and frankly who knows when I’m next going to get to go to one – I’m using the time to catch up on various amounts of writing for this site, and also get on with trying to make some of the features on here a more regular occurrence.
/Talk Show Host/062/Jean-Marc Lederman
/Talk Show Host/Links
/Talk Show Host/2019-20
/060/Then Comes Silence
/059/Teeth of the Sea
/056/The Golden Age of Nothing
/055/Witch of the Vale
This includes interviews, and this is the latest in that series (and the third in the past month, with a couple more to come). Jean-Marc Lederman has a long history in industrial and electronic music, and with the release of his latest, collaborative album imminent, I thought it high time that I talk with him about his work and music. Unusually, he supplied the answers in audio form, so while I’ve transcribed his answers below, I’ve also included the audio file so that you can listen instead if you so wish.
A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly. Thanks, as always, to the artist and indeed those that help to arrange such interviews.
Listen to Jean-Marc Lederman’s responses:
Your new album is called Letters to God (and fallen angels), with an unusual conceptual starting point (“You can write a letter to a God, or a fallen angel. What do you say?”) for your guest vocalists. Where did the idea come from?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: Well, I’ve done lots of music since I started, and maybe I’ve not done everything, but quite a lot, so I feel relieved and freed from any pressure, but what do I want to do now? What I knew was that I wanted to do many different types of music, with many different types of collaborators, and I didn’t want to do a mundane thing. I didn’t want to just do a pop record, or an EBM record, or industrial or futurepop or whatever. For me, it meant I needed to have content, and this is why I narrowed down the scope of what I do with ideas, and I think it’s a good idea to ask vocalists one question and they answer that so that it gives a red line for the entire project.
The idea for this one came very simply, as I hear many people complain all the time, about “this and that”, or religion, and I thought, well, what about if you had to write one letter to a God (or a fallen angel), and ask them to be accounted for, what kind of thing would you ask them? I think it’s totally the kind of thing that is non-mundane, and would [make] anyone think about it.
You’ve got an intriguing mix of vocalists on this – from scene legends to up-and-coming artists. Did you have specific people in mind, or was the “recruitment” process more organic than that?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: I had no-one specific in mind, although I knew from the start that I wanted to work again with some of the people from 13 Ghost Stories. For the rest of the so-called “recruitment” happened while I was [surfing] the internet and listening to this or that, and thinking “that’s an interesting voice”, or “that’s an interesting tone” or “great lyrics”, what about contacting these people. So it was very much down to random encounters of music on Bandcamp or Youtube, and then sending an e-mail and seeing if they were interested. In other cases, I was pointed to some good artists, as Rexx Arkana told me about Emileigh Rohn (Chiasm), or Billy Anderson, who used to be my label manager at the time of Crepuscular Records, told me about this Scottish Manager who happened to have two excellent vocalists I wanted to work with. So it was really down to the people I wanted to work again with that were on 13 Ghost Stories, the type of concept I believed that they would be interested in answering to, and people I just wanted to work with because I liked how they sounded.
This is your second album with this kind of working method (after “13 Ghost Stories”) last year. Do you prefer working in the background, with others providing a voice?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: It’s actually my third album with that kind of method – the first Jean-Marc Lederman Experience album was in 2015, it’s called The Last Broadcast on Earth. The tagline there was that you’re driving a car, at night, on a deserted road. There’s only one radio station available in your car. Why is that? Is this the end of the world? It’s very interesting to be able to concentrate on one theme for quite a few months and extract a record out of it.
As for do I prefer working in the background? Yes, I do. I’m not a singer, at all, and I enjoy working with collaborators. I enjoy working with talented people who write great lyrics and have a great voice, so for me, it’s absolutely no cost to be in the background. On the contrary, I prefer doing that and providing these singers with something I believe they would excel into.
You’ve been involved in a lot of musical projects over the years. What got you into music in the first place, and how did you then end up working with Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget)?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: I started making music when I was about twenty years old. I always loved electronic music, every time I heard an electronic song on the radio, or on TV, I was immediately hooked. So for me, there was no mystery about it, and one day, a friend lent me an EMS AKS (the suitcase synthesiser) for a couple of days, and I just loved it, and after that, it went downhill! The second thing is that I’m very shy and for me, one of the best ways to meet people and talk with people was with being in a band, because you have a starting point of conversation. And that worked around my shyness.
Working with Frank…I was in a Belgian Band called Digital Dance, I stopped working with them, but I still wanted to make music. I moved to the UK at that time, actually, because in the early eighties, everything was happening in the United Kingdom – and London. So I called Daniel Miller, who I’d met a few months before, and asked him if he knew of anyone that was looking for a synth player, and he said “Yes, I’ve got this new act, Fad Gadget, and I think you’ll like the music, and I know he’s looking for people to put a band together”. I went to London, spoke with Frank, we had a laugh and got on very well together, and he asked me to play synths in Fad Gadget, with the help of another Belgian guy, a guy called Phillipe Wauquaire.
We started rehearsing a few months later in my attic, in Brussels, and went on a tour where we supported Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (D.A.F.) (there were five of them then), and The Monochrome Set and bands like that. It lasted for about five months, I think, and it was just incredible because there was nothing like Fad Gadget at the time. It was like Iggy Pop with synthesisers. We never knew at any moment where Frank would snap out of his Frank Tovey body and change into Fad Gadget and the entertainer we all know and loved. It was an incredible experience.
Indeed, since then you’ve been involved in a whole host of projects, of a wide variety of styles. Is there a constant desire to push yourself, to do something new and exciting?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: I like many types of music, and for me, it’s a real pleasure to be able to try one, and then another one, and mix the elements of one style in another, so it’s a desire to…entertain myself, excite myself with new sounds, and to push myself…”can I try this?” Sure, I can, but can I succeed in that area, can I really do this type of track? I push myself to make something that will amaze me. From the moment I’m happy with it, I’ll try to have it released.
What are you listening to at the moment?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: I’m actually listening to nothing. I listen to very little music, especially when I’m in the phase between records. For the moment I’m doing the promotion for Letters to Gods (and Fallen Angels), so I have little time as I’m handling all the videos, and I don’t want to be distracted. I only happen to listen to music when it’s by random, when I go through the Facebook feed of my friends, I come across an interesting track, and I listen to everything that is being sent or offered to me, but I rarely sit down and listen to music, actually.
How has the lockdown affected your work – indeed has it at all?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: The lockdown has had very little effect on me, except for working my professional job, which is in Health, from home, and I have more time to make music because there is no commuting and because I can handle my time the way I want. So the lockdown has not been a big change since I’m doing music from my home studio. It did give me some more time, to be honest, I’ve just finished one instrumental album, and I’m doing a couple more collaborations for the moment. It’s been a good time, and we’ll see.
What will be surprising to hear is that many musicians or composers have used this time to create, and so there may be a “baby effect” – like in the United States a couple of decades ago, where after a night of electrical problems [the Northeast blackout of 2003] there was a boom of births. So there will be a boom of new albums, that’s for sure.
What would you say in a letter to (a) God?
/Jean-Marc Lederman: I think my letter to God would be how can you let things happen the way they happen? There’s so much inequality, so many poor and ill people, so much injustice, some people with far too much money (or far too little), racism, sexism, violence, whatever, I’d want to hold them to account and ask them to be responsible.
But I don’t believe in any Gods. It’s all down to us to behave.
Letters to God (and fallen angels) can be pre-ordered now, and is released on 29-May.