By GeeJee & Beatle
The amount of people on stage with Jean Michel has been decreased to just two in 2002 in Denmark. But then, there were three. Apparantely a new guy played the street organ in China and he did some keyboarding and guitar parts as well, without being introduced properly. We caught him in his small studio on the eastern banks of the Seine river. Who is this bald lad with the fancy hat?
Claude My name is Claude Samard, Iâ€™m a French musician, arranger, producer, and I started as a guitar player. I mean, my first professional job in music was being a guitar player. I played in most Parisian studios with a lot of famous stars. After that I started doing arrangements as well, which is a pretty natural progression. So Iâ€™ve been working as arranger, as well as a producer, and most recently Iâ€™ve been added to Jean Michelâ€™s team as well, as a musical director.
GeeJee But you are actually on stage, as a guitarist and as a keyboardist as well?
Claude Yeah, luckily I am, haha. It would be a bit frustrating to arrange the music and have it played by others. So Iâ€™m glad Iâ€™m on stage. And besides that, the shows are amazing, so itâ€™s great to be on stage, watching all those people. Especially this emotional thing that was happening in Gdansk was really special, so it was cool to be on stage.
GeeJee Looking back, you have been involved in both the Beijing and Gdansk concerts. How do you look back on these shows?
Claude I think China was amazing, it was very spectacular. It was the most demanding for me, I had to prove myself. I had to show I was able to do what JM expected me to do. So I was anxious to know whether or not I was able to do the job well. Thatâ€™s first of all. Second, it was discovering China for me, which was quite something. It was very interesting to play with all those brilliant musicians, 85 from the symphonic orchestra and 65 of the traditional orchestra, which was amazing. Gdansk was something else. It was more emotional. The singers, the choir was excellent. It was really emotional, especially when we played Mury, everybody started waving and things like that, which was quite something.
GeeJee In Gdansk, you played the street organ, but nobody ever said what the track you played was about?
Claude Yeah, it was tribute to Chopin. I donâ€™t remember the song, but since we were in Poland, I think Jean Michel thought it was more appropriate to do a song by Chopin.
GeeJee Quite a few rumors said JM initially wanted to include songs like Revolution, Revolutions and the remaining part of the Industrial Revolution suite in the setlist. What can you say about those dropped ideas?
Claude There were none. Jean Michel wanted to have the introduction part of Industrial Revolution from the very beginning. Iâ€™m not aware of any tracks that were included in an earlier stage.
GeeJee A lot of fans miss the days Jean Michel was joined on stage by a band. What can you say about this?
Claude Honestly, during one of the first meetings with Jean Michel, Francis and Patrick, they showed me the show in Denmark, where they have only two people on stage. And at that point I said I liked that. It was excellent. Iâ€™m am familiar with the way he used to do it though, cause all those people who have worked with him are my friends, so I know them, and I remember when they were telling they were going on tour with Jean Michel. I remember being jealous, cause I was one of the few million people watching his concert here at La Defense. My friends were on stage with him.
But as far as Iâ€™m aware of Jean Michelâ€™s ideas, itâ€™s not likely he will work like that again in the near future. Perhaps heâ€™ll have something like a percussionist on stage in the future, electronic percussions.
GeeJee Being a guitarist yourself, what can you say about Patrick Rondat?
Claude Every time I see him play, I regret not to have spent more time on the guitar. When I see him playing, I realize that maybe, maybe, if I would have spend as much time playing the guitar as he did, I may have reached what heâ€™s doing. Heâ€™s a fantastic player, one of the best Iâ€™ve ever met.
GeeJee Talking about yourself, youâ€™ve been mainly involved with world music, playing a wide range of different guitars yourself. Will this be of any influence to Jean Michelâ€™s concerts in the future?
Claude Maybe, maybe. I played the bottleneck guitar part during the Gdansk concert, but I donâ€™t think that Jean Michel wants to do world music like itâ€™s been done in the nineties. Heâ€™s very picky about that, and Iâ€™m afraid he thinks it wonâ€™t fit in his context of electronic music. Talking about guitars, I have already played some parts in Gdansk, and perhaps I can do a some more parts like that in the future.
GeeJee Is there any track you worked on which you like in particular?
Claude Voyage A Pekin. I like that track a lot.
GeeJee Any album of his you like in particular?
Claude My favourite must be Zoolook. I was one of the many artists who sampled from that album
GeeJee Letâ€™s talk about Jean Michelâ€™s new album. Are you involved?
Claude Jean Michel talked about his new project, and he said I would be part of the people that will be working on his album. But at this point, I canâ€™t say much about it. I think it will please the older fans, because it will maybe contain more organic sounds.
GeeJee At some points, rumors where going round saying the album would be a bit like Metamorphoses, with invited vocalists, choirs parts and orchestral arrangements as well. What can you say about this?
Claude I donâ€™t know from when this rumor dates back, but I think things have evolved a lot since that.
GeeJee Some fans want Jean Michel to use his old analog synths again. Do you know if he will use any on his new album?
Claude I think it will be organic. I donâ€™t think it will be based on virtual instruments, as far as I know. The feeling that I have is that it will not exclusively be done with software instruments.
Jean Michel is very enthusiastic about this album and he works a lot on it.
GeeJee What about the future of your collaboration with Jean Michel?
Claude I hope that I can have some input in JMâ€™s new album, and I hope I will be able to keep doing so in the future. But I have not yet started working on this next project.
GeeJee Anything youâ€™d like to say to Jean Michelâ€™s fans?
Claude Well, just that itâ€™s great. I have already met two great fans, and soon they will have a great site.
GeeJee Youâ€™re one of the very few who have had the privilege to have a preview of the site. Anything you can reveal?
Claude Yeah, this site is amazing. It will gather a lot of information and fans, whether you are just a listener or more interested in the technical part, whether you are a musician or not, everything can be found there. There has nothing been like this before.
GeeJee would like to thank Claude Samard for this great interview