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Go BackIF YOU DON'T KNOW THE PAST YOU CAN'T GUESS THE FUTURE - Disco legend Cerrone to rule world's biggest dance floor!

Posted: 19/10/06 12:09

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Terms like “legend” and “influential” sometimes get tossed around liberally in the world of electronic dance industry, but they both fit to a T when you're talking about Parisian drummer Jean-Marc Cerrone - or, more famously and simply, Cerrone.

The numbers speak for themselves. His first single, 1976´s “Love in C Minor,” at 10 million copies sold (and climbing), is one of the biggest selling tunes ever. Let’s honestly put that into perspective: Today, when smaller dance labels that can afford vinyl manage to sell through a run of 2,000 copies it’s worth celebrating. And “Love in C Minor” came out well before the era of digital downloads and music piracy. Better than sales, is that Cerrone’s tune and subsequent records (Cerrone's Paradise, Supernature, Golden Touch, Angelina (Cerrone V), Cerrone VI and others) helped set off a movement: disco as a foundation for club culture that lives on today in cities around the world.

And, oui, says Cerrone graciously, it’s cool. But it’s the music that matters... While he continues to produce music today, Cerrone is accustomed to talking about the past. Most of the time, it’s about stuff that happened 30 years ago, but, lately, on the North American press tour for
Bob Sinclars Cerrone, it’s more four years ago.
That’s when Sinclar’s remixed homage to the legend’s body of work was first released, classic disco born again for a new generation of fans. The remix album has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide already and with the North American release it will, again, be counting higher still.

Again, says, Cerrone, excellente. But the play is the thing. Cerrone could likely sit back and reap royalties, but explains the way he most appreciates his legacy is by seeing others enjoy it.

And next year, he plans on mixing a little Love in C Minor with a lot of
I Love New York” as he undertakes a 30th anniversary celebration of the tune in NYC, turning Central Park and other parks around the city into the world’s biggest dance floor. Cerrone will, once again, be behind the drum kit. We ask Cerrone about Club Med, keeping a level head and why talent and luck have worked hand n hand in his career.

Didn't you once act as a booking agent for Club Med during the 1970s?
Wow, yes! When I was 16 years old it was the beginning of Club Med. I asked the director of Club Med at that time why he didn't have bands playing the different villages. He said, "Why not?" That was during the early '70s when we had to invent everything ourselves. So, I started booking bands: bass players to drummers. I stayed there building my own band and after that I left. That was really my first experience as a producer. 

Club Med was a very exotic symbol of the 1970s for many people.
Is that what it was like for American people?

Yes, I think so. Not for me (laughs), because I'm a bit younger.
Yes, it was something, though (laughs). 

So, that´s where put some of your first ideas together?
Yes, I would say so. I went back to the Europe to work on my first LP and to find a manufacturer to make about 5,000 copies. I ended up selling about 10 copies here, 10 copies there. When you have this kind of system, you're trying to sell the record any way you can because you know at the end of the month you have to pay the studio no matter what. That's all I had in mind.  As an artist, you of course need to have talent, but you need good luck, too. My luck at that time was this one French record shop owner who asked me to give him 300 copies of my record. He said after a month he'd pay me for whatever he sold. He called me up after a while and said he'd made a mistake. He was supposed to ship 300 copies of a Barry White album back to America, but ended up shipping back my records instead. He told me that until he got my records back from America, he wanted me to give him 20 more copies. Of course, I told him yes. I then discovered that the guy who received the records in New York was a DJ. He started playing my record ("Love in C Minor,” a disco single that went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide) in a club and that was how my career got its start. I can say that I am a lucky man.

Coming to New York must always be like a homecoming for you every time you return. Can you recall your first experience visiting New York?
Wow, that was 30 years ago when I came out with my record “Love in C Minor.” I was trying to convince Atlantic Records and the original writer of the song to release it. A DJ here had been playing it and it had reached the top 10. So, when I received the news in Europe I was in shock. So, I took a plane and came to New York, went to Atlantic and introduced myself, telling them whom I am. We signed a contract and then my success went on the rise. That was my first experience in New York. 

Obviously a very positive one.
Oh yes (laughs). Definitely

Do you get a sense of nostalgia when you return to New York?
When I come here, it's like my second home … sometimes. I didn't actually spend too much time in New York; I spent many years in L.A. with my family - I still have a house there. I usually come to New York when I'm doing some promotion for new LPs or some showcases at clubs like Studio 54, more than 25 years ago. 

When you first flew to New York, you were surprised at how well “Love in C Minor” was doing there. Looking back, are you more shocked at how well the track ended up doing internationally?
When you're 22 years old – that's how old I was when I made “Love in C Minor” – the success arrived so quickly. I had to do so much touring, so many flights, so much promotion; so many concerts … you just don't see what's happening with your life. It's after five or six years, when the success came down a little bit and you look back, you're like "Wow, what's happened to me ?" So, it's difficult to react seriously. 

So, you never had much of chance to breathe and think about what was happening to you …
Exactly. I think it's the same for the new generation of artists right now. I think if you asked them what has happened in the last five years, they wouldn't really know, either. It's strange. I mean, I'm really happy about it, especially after 30 years to still be in this business. I'm still speaking with you, for example, about “Love in C Minor” or my career in general. It's a strange sensation. Even with the new generation of discotheque DJs who look at me and say they do this job because of people like me, that without me (the dance scene) wouldn't be like it is. 

Does that kind of praise give you a big head?
No. To be in this business, you really have to have your feet on the floor. A lot of the new generations of artists are only in the game for two to three years maximum and then they're out. To make a real career, you have to be much simpler and not believe it when people are calling you a genius or god or whatever it is. You can't take that seriously, even though you're bringing them good times. 

Back then, it seemed like keeping your feet on the floor might have been difficult, because so much has been said about the party atmosphere of clubs like Studio 54. Maybe it was difficult for some people to keep their heads.
Probably (laughs). I'm sure if you asked people about me and the first five or six years of my career they might say, "Yeah, Cerrone had a big head." Probably. The point is that, no matter what, is that if you make a mistake not to make it for the rest of your life. But, yeah, the period from 1977 to 1981 – it was absolutely crazy. 

Is it easy to remember? 
Of course. I can't forget it. I only force myself to forget the bad things. But that period was absolutely great, even though we may have an excess of drugs and everything – of course. But I smile about it now; it's not the bottom of that period. I have a great life and don't regret anything. 

I know you're in New York right now doing press for the Cerrone CD compilation that Bob Sinclar put together. It's being released in North America on Nov. 14, but it was already released in Europe …
Yes, four years ago and it was a massive success – it sold more than 1 million copies. 

Do you find it strange to be doing press for it again in North America?
I don't analyze it too much. I'm happy, but don't feel too differently about it. It's funny that this new generation looks at it like they're new LPs. I mean, Bob Sinclar did a great job putting it together as a DJ set. So, when I do the interviews I always get asked about album, but what can I say? Thanks to the younger generation and thanks to the DJs. But I am onto other stuff now. I am still involved with music. It's actually tough to talk about what I did 30 years ago. One of my biggest surprises came when (former Beatle) Paul McCartney sent me a letter with a CD inside asking me clear samples for stuff he was doing with Wings"Goodnight Tonight" (1979). That was a shock. Or even other stuff, when people like Lionel Richie use my samples, I'm like, well, great. I am glad that's happening, but no more than that. 

But sometimes when things become popular in Europe, it takes longer for them to take off in America.
Yes, but it works the other way, too. Sometimes the States are first and then Europe maybe six months later. Yes, I'm promoting this album four years after the original Sinclar release, but that's probably only because of the record business, and it's also because my big event is happening in New York next year – it's not just a dream; it's happening. The music industry probably just smells that and thinks there's money to be made (laughs). But I'll take it; that's fine with me. 

So, tell us about the event. How did the idea come about?
It's happening next year October during the Columbus Daylong weekend (Oct. 7). Well, I've got that kind of reputation, to put on a big event. Last year, I produced big event like it in front of the castle at Versailles and we had more than 100,000 people there. If you watch the DVD (Cerrone Dance Party - Live à Versailles), you'll see that most of the people we had out were between 18 and 35 years old. It was a huge dance floor! That made huge impression on me – much more than the Sinclar compilation, if you know what I mean. The five minutes before we started the show, I was like, "Wow! After so many years – again." Or when I do shows in Russia or Japan, that's what puts my feet on the floor. I'm proud of that. So, to be in New York again next year with the main stage in Central Park and other stages around the city. We're going to link with more than 30 video screens around the city. Trust me; that's going to be huge. I'm a drummer, so people are always surprised about what they're going to see. I'm in the background. I'm not a singer or dancer (laughs). You'd have to ask the people why they come, but it's just for my general sound. Why are my records still on the shelf after 30 years? It's a good question, but it's really just for the colour of my music. 

You're still making original music now, right?
Yes, of course. When I produced “Love in C Minor” or “Supernature” or tracks like that, I never produced to be on the charts. Getting success with a single on the charts is great, but I've never depended on that. I do show every month without being on the charts anymore so that's great. As long as I get to keep playing. I've probably changed, because there are so many good influences now. 

Words by Yuri Wuensch