Jean-Marc Lederman is an artist who didn’t really need any further introduction. He belongs to the (Belgian) pioneers of electronic music and can look back at an impressive discography. He this year released a very special work under the moniker ‘Jean-Marc Lederman Experience’. The album “13 Ghost Stories” released on Dependent Records is an original concept featuring an impressive list of guest singers. The music has something pretty cinematic-like, but still revealing danceable passages and elements of pop. I’d a chat with the ‘leatherman’ and also asked Louise Fraser and Christer Hermodsson about their experience.
(Picture credits by Michel Clair / Interview courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Your newest album “13 Ghost Stories” is definitely one of the most surprising ones you’ve accomplished and I even dare to affirm your ‘opus magnum’, but do you know how many albums you’ve released?
Jean-Marc: I think I’ve released about 20
albums of my own compositions and bands if you count Kid Montana (1 mini LP, 1
album), The Weathermen (8 albums + a couple of compilations), 1 album with
Ether (DJ Moens from La Muerte + Luc Dufourmont), 1 with Jules & Jim
(Julianne Regan from All About Eve), 1 ambient album with Man-Dello, 2 with
Ghost & Writer (with Frank Spinath from Seabound), 1 with La Femme Verte
(cover versions with many singers), 1 with Leatherman (cover versions with
Jacques Duvall), 2 x Jean-Marc Lederman Experience (many singers) plus some I
may forget… (www.jmlederman.com).
Q: What can you tell us about the idea behind this work, its concept, the influences and the writing and what does this work mean to you?
Jean-Marc: I was looking for a new challenging and exciting idea after the demise of Ghost & Writer(name chose by Frank where he’s ‘Writer’ and I’m ‘Ghost’) in 2017 as I didn’t know where to go musically. I was having a lunch with a friend and he asked me ‘so, how is the ghost going to come back?’ and the morning after I had the concept of the album: asking multiple singers how they would behave if they could come back… to Earth as ghosts, for 24 hours….
I had no special influences for this album but, as ever, the multiple styles music I like doing (from dark ambient to future-pop to more experimental sounds or cinematic music) got me into this direction or that direction and I didn’t want to stay on a single simple trajectory so I worked with thinking of the impact of having songs going in different directions instead of trying to stay within one genre. I didn’t care if people wouldn’t understand as I wanted to have no stop for my creativity. So, every song is a little world in itself but also serves as cement for the whole recording.
This album means a lot because I think it’s indeed a personal ‘opus magnum’, a place where I could gather all the things I liked expressing musically, with very talented partners (which makes my work really easy). It has also a very strong image with the artwork of my wife Erica Hinyot and the novels added to the limited, and sold-out, edition.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts?
Jean-Marc: I believe in alternate relativities sometimes collapsing with each others, like a Venn diagram between different worlds.
Q: I see you as an artist who’s always ready to experiment with new ideas and music styles. You the past few years moved from electro-pop top EBM to experimental music while “13 Ghost Stories” sounds more as a soundtrack/electro-ambient composition. What does this eclecticism reveal about the person hiding behind the musician and how is it for you working on different styles and with different people?
Jean-Marc: It reveals that I’m a person interested in many things and many different aspects of life: I’m very curious of everything. It’s a great asset to be able to work in diverse areas as I rarely get bored. Plus you’re getting inspired by the people you work with as you want to serve them with a musical environment that will enhance what you like about their own work.
Q: I sometimes get the impression you
composed the music after having read the lyrics while I can imagine it happened
the other way round? It really sounds you’ve carefully written each song for
each singer; the match or symbiosis between music and vocalists is totally
accomplished. How did it really happened and what has been the main focus in
the writing of this album?
Jean-Marc: Yes, the music was created before I get to read the lyrics, just after the singer said she/he wants to be on board. I contacted the people I’d like to work with, if they’re on board I sometimes send them directly a song penned with them in mind or I ask them what kind of direction they’d like me to work in: sometimes people want to do something really wild, sometimes they need to stay in their comfort zone. Sometimes I also had sketches of songs I reworked with the specific singer in mind.
Once I get their vocals, I mix the track and refine the mix until we’re both happy with the end result.
The main focus was to provide exciting moments that pleased both the singer and me. I have what I believe is a constant dictatorial quality control on my own work and I delete every attempt at a song if it bores me.
Q: I think you mainly worked with artists you know and you like for their work and voices. I can’t imagine it has been the single criteria to work with all those singers. Tell us a bit more about criteria and eventually surprises in the lyrical content and/or vocal performance?
Jean-Marc: Actually, no, I didn’t know
personally most of the singers involved.
I just look for interesting tones in their voice and their lyrical talent and then I contacted them. Most of them were on board quickly cos they liked the concept and they know I do quality work. Plus I have a bit of a (good) reputation so they jump in rather quickly. Some didn’t, but it’s fine.
The criteria are there: interesting voice and good lyricist.
Q: Do you have further plans/ideas for this project? Live? Maybe a next, similar concept?
Jean-Marc: This is a rather impossible project to take on a stage as some singers are from the USA and some from Australia…Plus I don’t like to play live: too stressful for me and the end result is never as good as when I can fine-tune details at my own speed in my studio.
Yes, I have started working on a new JML E. It’s not the same theme of course, but the same axe: providing a strong and coherent record that will surprise the listeners and me/my partners when all assembled (or on a track per track basis).
Q: Louise Fraser, what did you think when Jean-Marc came up with his idea of “13 Ghost Stories” and what’s your impression when you heard the final song and the album?
Louise: Straight off I thought this was a great idea. I mean who doesn’t love a ghost story? Moreover, beyond creating a really unique unifying concept, the question inevitably draws some really personal insights out of each singer. I thought that was very clever of Jean-Marc, who is also such a terrific guy to work with that I would have written on any theme he gave me.
I personally love the collection because it’s both unified and diverse. Jean-Marc’s musicianship weaves together some very unique, and often stunning vocal performances. As such the project really holds my attention, which is not an easy feat! I also think Jean-Marc deserves credit for his mixing skills. When he played me the first mix of our track, I didn’t have a single mix comment, and believe me, that is super rare! He just nailed it off the bat.
Q: Christer Hermodsson, how did you get in touch with Jean-Marc Lederman and what kind of artist is he to you?
Christer: Jean-Marc simply contacted me. What kind of an artist? Hmm, talented and odd/weird/strange, but in a good way!