Coachella 2018: Jean-Michel Jarre On Electronica & New Projects
Electronica dominates the Coachella line-up in 2018, but there’s a world of difference between your standard DJ set and the performance art of Jean-Michel Jarre. While the goal of the former is to transform the stage (or tent) into a nightclub, the French legend has loftier aspirations. He delivers a mind-bending 3D experience that effortlessly combines music with nature, space, lasers and cutting-edge technology. It’s the latest triumph in a glittering career that has helped shape a whole sub-genre of music.
I caught up with the 69-year-old in an interview trailer before his show-stopping set on Friday night (April 14). Jean-Michel explained what sets Coachella apart from other festivals and laid out the intricacies of his live show. He also gave some insight into future plans, which include two new albums (after all, the producer is celebrating 50 years in the business) as well as the possibility of composing a soundtrack. Get to know the EDM legend a little better in our Q&A below.
Why did you choose to do Coachella now?
I’ve done lots of shows in my life, but you have all other festivals in the world and Coachella. Coachella is something else. And I think it’s probably due to the character of Paul Tollett because having the courage, the guts, the energy to do such a big event in the middle of the desert is also a statement regarding environment. People are forgetting that we’re in the middle of the desert, and this strong message in terms of lack of water… I’ve always been always touched by that.
Being a U.N. Ambassador for Ecology, Environment and Education puts me in a interesting spot. Also, it’s a big honor to be invited because the best artists and performers on the planet are playing Coachella. So, the pressure is on. I’m really grateful because Coachella agreed to all my requests. They even built an extended stage for my show. They gave me the right stage and slot. Everything went really smoothly. The organization is really good.
You mentioned being in the desert. There’s also a big new age movement in Indio. Will you be tapping into that energy?
It’s strange because I always had an ambiguous attitude towards the words “new age.” New age for me is always the guy sitting on top of a hill playing the flute, you know. But also, at the same time, new age indicates a certain link with nature, a certain respect with the environment. And, of course, my music has been linked to that. I always considered my music to be linked with space. Not with outer space, but just immediate space around us. And that’s the reason I did so many outdoor shows. This is the reason also, I’m so happy to be in the Outdoor Theatre in Coachella. I think that’s really something that makes sense in my life as an artist and as a human being.
Will you bring out your trademark laser show?
Yeah. I think the show is fairly different from everything else in the festival because, as you know, I was probably one of the first artists to integrate so many visuals in my performances. And, for this one, I created the stage design. I devised the stage myself. It’s a 3D concept without glasses. The goal is to create total immersion. Yes, there are lasers, but used in a totally different way than lasers are used at other festivals. It’s something different.
Have you had to make any changes to the set for Coachella?
Yeah. It’s my tour on steroids. I mean you don’t play Coachella every day. I was discussing with Beyonce’s team… I’ve worked with the team in charge of her stage design. Also, the sound engineer was part of my crew two years ago. So, it’s the same kind of gang. I know that she’s also doing something special for Coachella. So, I’m really happy because also the word of mouth is saying that the shows that are to be not missed are Beyonce and myself, so it’s lots of pressure. I don’t know because I just arrived yesterday. I’m saying this in a very humble way.
How different were music festivals in the ’70s?
I was in Houston a couple of days ago where I did — it’s still in the Guinness Book of Records for the biggest audience in America — a concert for 1.3 million people, which is absolutely insane and amazing. But, you know, at the end of the day it’s still the same story of this strange chemistry between two entities … the audience and the stage. And it works or it doesn’t. And you don’t know why. This is why, I mean, for instance, I have so much pressure for tonight. And like yesterday, because as I was rehearsing and we had so much wind. I was really depressed. I worked so hard to make it happen really in the best possible way, and we couldn’t even put the screens up last night.
Can you believe you’re still so relevant and doing sold-out shows in 2018?
I really don’t know. I never thought in those terms. I always did what I thought was relevant for me. I’m never happy with what I’m doing anyway. I’m always improving. We are recording every night. So, during the day, I watch the video. And then I’m happy if what I see and what I hear creates an emotion in me as an audience. And otherwise, I’m not happy. So, being relevant for me is that. Whatever the generation, I always thought that whoever you are, you can be Chinese, Brazilian, or Eskimo and you can be 14 years old or 80 years old. I mean, it works or it doesn’t.
Does it excite you that there are still generations of kids discovering your music?
Yes, of course. I was playing in Latin America the last few weeks. I was in a stadium in Santiago de Chile, and I had such a young audience, and they probably knew my music through their parents. And they knew some of my recent work. And they accepted me like I was from their generation. So, it’s really moving. And it proves something that electronic music has like rock in a sense. It’s actually trans-generational. I mean, it’s not linked to a generation. It works or it doesn’t, and they’re moved or not. It’s what I hope will be the case tonight.
Do you have a new album in the works?
Yes, I actually have two different projects coming to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my career. So, we are doing something quite special. It’s a kind of “best of” with a lot of exciting things. I wanted to do it by myself. And then I’m going to put out a new album by the end of the year. The theme is artificial intelligence. I’m quite convinced that in the next two decades, you’ll have machines that are able to create movies, book, novels, or music in an original way, not only copying. So, it’s going to change entirely a perspective in how we position ourselves as artists regarding creativity and creations. So, I’m very interested in all this.
Have you got any intention of doing more film work?
Yes, I would be very interested. I always considered that the soundtracks were my father’s [legendary composer Maurice Jarre] territory because my father used to be the great composer and when he passed away I stopped all that. But I’m now at peace with my father. It’s sometimes difficult. But then I said to myself, now I really would like to do it because also electronic music is more and more in soundtracks. And we are talking about this with Hans Zimmer, my good friend. We made a collaboration on my last album. And, he said, “Ah, one day we should collaborate and do a soundtrack.” I said, “Yes, that would be great.”
Thank you for your time.