November 3, 2006

Interview: Cerrone

French disco producer Cerrone is, undoubtedly, a legend of dance music. Beginning his solo work in 1976 with the classic Love in C Minor, he has gone on to sell more than 25 million records and win five Grammy Awards for his efforts. In the course of promoting the reissue of his first four albums and the upcoming NY Dance Party for 2007, Stylus sat down with the man that brought us Supernature.

First up—tell us a little bit about the NY Dance Party for 2007. How did you become involved with this project and with Nile Rodgers?

Yes, Nile, he’s been my friend for thirty years. We’re going to celebrate thirty years of dance, also thirty years of his and my careers, too! (Laughs) It’s going to be in New York, during the Columbus Day weekend, and it’s going to be really huge. We have fifteen different sites, the main stage is going to be in the park (Central Park), and the event will be between 3 PM to 9:30 PM. Every site is going to have something different—some will be a DJs, some singers, but at 6:30, from the main stage, we’re going to have the big show, with a lot of stars involved from the last thirty years of dance, and that (will be broadcast to) all the sites by satellite, because all the sites (across the city) are going to have a large video screen on the back of the stage. With all of the sites in New York, we could have more than 3 or 400,000 New Yorkers dancing in the streets—it would be a great image for the World, and for New York. This is what the Mayor wants, too.

So, the Mayor has been enthusiastic and positive about it?

Oh yes, and if the mayor was not enthusiastic about it, you know, how could we do it? The mayor understands very well what we are trying to do, and likes the idea to give back the image of New York to the world… it’s sad, because after the Eleventh of September of 2001, the image of New York for the rest of the world changed very much. You know, it’s become much more a city of business than music, like in Europe we have Geneva… but New York is a wonderful city for music, and we want to celebrate the city as the home of dance music. The image of the people of New York, young or old dancing in the street, it’s a tremendous, beautiful image that we want to give back to the world. We are still working on the sites for the event, but we are thinking Battery Park, other parks, some sites for 3,000 people, some for 10 or 15,000, maybe something by LaGuardia as well… every month the event is getting bigger and better, with more and more people getting on board.

You’ve been doing a number of live events and dance parties recently, haven’t you?

We did the event in front of Versailles, with 100,000 people, which you can see six minutes of video from on my website… that was last year… Two months ago I played (an event) for Dolce Gabana, next month a tour in Moscow, in February another tour in France… and I’ll be working in the middle on a new LP to be released in the spring.

This will be all original material?

Yes, right now we have 14 new tracks.

So, do you enjoy the live performances as much as the studio work? How do you feel about that?

Oh, I love it! Did you see the video?

The DVD you released last year? Yes, I saw that.

OK, because if you see the video, you have the answer for your question.

Very true!

After 30 years in the music industry, when you have the chance to play in front of so many young people… I take a great pleasure, it’s a surprise and a pleasure… and I thank my God that I could do this!

It’s great to see some of the things that you’ve done as far as live performances—not just concerts but theatre events, operas, the global peace concert back in ‘92… do you still see yourself as primarily a musician? In some ways it seems like you’ve become more of an artist in the broad sense, a cultural force of sorts.

When I’m on stage, I’m a musician. More a musician than an artist. I have to be. But, I mean, when you start in a group, in a band, as a musician, it’s for the rest of your life. When you take an American star, like a Carlos Santana, no matter what you have going on in the front, they are still a musician in mind.

How do you feel about your relationship with the dance music world? It seems that you’ve moved away from dance at times, doing rock and doing more neo-classical music, but that you’ve never really turned your back on dance music as a whole…

Well, every few years I have a DJ who remixes or releases some of my old music, so the radio plays new stuff, but also, plays the old stuff with a new style, and the DJ puts me right on the floor where I have to be. For example, William Orbit made a remix in 1990, 1991 and then David Morales and Frankie Knuckles and so on, I mean there are so many DJs who have remixed my back-catalog, so no matter what, if I want to move from the style—and I say to you, I don’t want to move—the DJ kicks me in the… (laughs).

You don’t have a choice!

Yeah, and thanks, it’s perfect! Those guys make my life easier, so I don’t sound like a has-been!

Well I think you’ve combined enough looking back with looking forward that no one could accuse you of resting on your laurels or taking it easy…

Thank you!

But, looking back for a moment, what are some of your favorite or most memorable of your own releases?

Of my back-catalog, oh wow… I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I like I lot of it—starting from “Love in C Minor,” to “Got to Have Loving,” to “Supernature,” and so on… I like them all, they are my babies, if I can say that! I have to love my babies, you know? (Laughs)

How about your productions for other people?

If I made a production or a track for someone else, like Don Ray or Kongas or something like that, it’s still 75% myself, so, it’s still my baby! For example, for my last LP I composed 18 songs, and I know that I’m only going to use 12 or 14 songs for the record, so the other four songs are maybe going to go to someone else, but… I’m going to do something with it. Like, the Don Ray album—I had too many tracks for my album Supernature, and in the meantime, because Don Ray was my arranger for strings and brass, I said let’s make an LP for you—and we finished the LP together, but as I said, these are still my songs, my production—my babies!

What else are you listening to right now?

There is a lot. A lot, a lot of good music right now—I like a lot of R&B, I like also… the Madonna, I love the last Madonna!

How about when you started?

For strings, I got very influenced by Barry White, of course. And because I’m a drummer, I put the drums at the front on the mix. At the moment everybody told me, it’s crazy to have the drums up front, you have to remix that for the radio. But, to make sure that the record company isn’t going to remix my songs, I made it 60 seconds or a few minutes longer so that I was sure I’m not going to be played on the radio and no one is going to touch my mix!

Well, it worked out well for you and for the dancers as well…


[Mallory O’Donnell]


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