Jean Michel Jarre: “I Thought Kraftwerk Were Americans Singing In German”

In this month's MOJO Interview, the Frenchman explains why he and Ralf Hütter are at different ends of the electronic spectrum.

Jean Michel Jarre: “I Thought Kraftwerk Were Americans Singing In German”

WHILE THEY MIGHT both be obsessed with modulations, channels and frequencies, Jean Michel Jarre says he felt at the opposite end of the spectrum to other ’70s European electro pioneers, like Kraftwerk. The cover of MOJO 264, on sale from September 29, 2015.

The subject of this month’s MOJO Interview, available in our new issue (November 2015 / #264) on sale now in the UK, the Frenchman explains that he did not feel much fraternité with his German contemporaries. Indeed, he initially believed Kraftwerk were actually Americans applying a fake Euro fragrance.

“I thought we had opposite visions of electronic music. Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk had a very robotic, mechanical approach. I had a more impressionist vision – a Ravel/Debussy approach,” he tells MOJO’s Mark Blake.

“I had a more impressionist vision of electronic music.”

Jean Michel Jarre

“I was obsessed with the idea that no two sounds on Oxygène should ever be exactly the same. I wanted a heartbeat feel, something human. I also wanted music that had its own European identity, without blues or African roots. When I first heard Kraftwerk, I thought they were an American band singing in German.”

Though that was not necessarily a bad thing to Jarre’s ears.

“I thought it was very cool. But Autobahn made me think of an electronic Beach Boys,” he explains. “I didn’t know any different because I was in my cellar in France and Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk were in their cellars in Germany and neither of us knew much about the other.”

Jarre goes on to discuss the disorientating success of his 1976 album Oxygène, the extraordinary supershows that turned him into an electro-pop mogul, the “dark” days of the ’80s and his experience of the horrific Challenger space shuttle disaster, for whose flight he was providing music.

Get the latest issue of MOJO, on sale now in the UK, for the full interview.

PHOTO: courtesy Jean Michel Jarre