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Interview with Daniéle Feuillerat

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In January 2013 DISQUES DREYFUS , veteran and legendary French label founded on the effort and artistic flair of its promoter FRANCIS DREYFUS ( 1940-2010 ) , ceased to exist as an independent entity and was going to be part of the giant BMG . Inevitably the future of plump nude woman illustrating the characteristic company logo appears indistinct and its extensive catalog of recordings artists, among them names like CHRISTOPHE, FRANÇOIS DE ROUBAIX, BLUE VAMP, BAHAMAS or JEAN MICHEL JARRE , abandoned the possibility of a hypothetical republication or forgotten, in the worst case .

With the death of FRANCIS DREYFUS producer in mid-2010 because of cancer, few people can relate with great detail and based on comprehensive information that was “the adventure Motors”, the seed of FRANCIS DREYFUS MUSIC and its label DREYFUS JAZZ, the rise and demise of the company that allowed JEAN MICHEL JARRE to be a star . One of those few people isf Daniele Feuillerat, for more than 30 years publishing director od FRANCIS DREYFUS MUSIC ( FDM), plus production assistant in shows like ” Rendez -Vous Houston ” or the intriguing concert tour in China 1981. She met a young JARRE as a lyricist , he witnessed his departure from the maison after publication ” Metamorphoses ” and return to ” Essentials & Rarities ” .

Daniele has agreed to collaborate closely with FAIRLIGHT JARRE with a project that began more than a year ago, lending itself to review carefully the history of JEAN MICHEL JARRE and DISQUES DREYFUS, that is, in a sense, our own story.

PART 1:

 

BEGINNINGS

 

You started very early to work in the musical and publishing world. Tell us about your early career.

I was living in Cannes since the age of 12 and took my Baccalaureat in 1970.

I went to Norwich in England at the University of East Anglia as a visiting student for one year … and stayed 3 years altogether (1971-1974). At the time, England was THE place to live as far as music was concerned ; all the pop, rock bands were English : David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen/Freddy Mercury, Deep Purple, Eric Burdon, Roxy Music, etc.

After the first year as a student I did several small jobs as a temporary secretary, often at the University.

When I came back to Paris, I had to find a long-term job with my skills : shorthand-typing + fluent English + a good Rock-‘n’roll and jazz-fusion music culture. I found an ad in the newspaper for a bilingual secretary in a Music Publishing company called Editions Labrador (owned by Francis Dreyfus). I did not know exactly what a music publishing company was, just noted the word “music” in the activity which was good enough for me. I got the job. I became the secretary/assistant to both Francis Dreyfus and the International Manager.

 

We are in 1975. In that year you started working for DREYFUS, I guess in the Motors label (or possibly in Editions Labrador). What were exactly your responsibilities? 

As I said above I joined the company as a simple Bilingual Secretary and got to learn  « on the spot » all the aspects of the music trade, and to particularly like the music publishing activity.  When I became experienced enough in this field, I became Publishing Manager and abandoned my P.A. job for Francis Dreyfus who hired another assistant.

Definitely FRANCIS DREYFUS routed your professional career. Did you know him before you start working for his music publishing? How was that first meeting with Mr. DREYFUS?

As I said, I knew nothing about the Music Industry and Francis Dreyfus was an unknown name and personality to me. With this job I got to learn by myself  all about him and  the music trade itself.

Francis – people would not guess it – was a kind of shy person and a bit « cold » and not always doing much to make you feel at ease or explain things. I was just a secretary that he was sharing with the International Manager.

It took me a couple of years to get used to his character and slowly confidence was established between us. Gradually, I took more responsibilities in the publishing company  and became a closer collaborator of Francis.

A few years ago RAFAEL REVERT –the only one Spanish musical journalist who attended the China concerts in 1981- defined FRANCIS DREYFUS as “a smart guy, very clever, very proper and polite, and very friendly. A man of world that gets everywhere, he spents the money where it should, he dresses fucking elegant”. What can you say about FRANCIS, your boss and the man?

I have spent 35 years of my life with him ; all along these years, the good ones and the bad ones, I always had an immense respect for his personality, his charisma, his vision, his megalomania, his success, his class, his great culture, his sense of humour, his generosity  and … his bad faith.

But, above all, he was a real music man, a real record producer, one of those independent “entrepreneurs” who lead the music business in France since the 60’s. A man to admire for his achievements.

I guess working at a record company that was hired to the musical idols of the moment (CHRISTOPHE, LAVILLIERS…) your life is no longer normal, in some senses. Tell me, how did your life changed?

I remember my EP’s of Christophe when I was 12-14, « Les Marionnettes » and « Aline ». I remember listening on the radio to the song « Senorita » back in 1974 discovering that Christophe was the singer. I realy liked that song. So when I discovered one year later that the main artist of the company was the same Christophe, I was all excited and thought it was a good start.  I discovered Lavilliers only when I joined Dreyfus. He left the label a couple of years after I joined it.

I cannot say that my life changed a lot because I loved music already, knew what MIDEM was (I was a schoolgirl in Cannes when the first MIDEM was organised in 1967), so I soon got into it. The nice thing was that I got to know everything about the « backstage » of the music industry : recording, studio, manufacture, sale, promo, etc. and I was happy to live in this trade.

At the time producing good music was the main thing for independent companies and profit did not have to turn up instantly. There was hardly any marketing, radio airplays and TV shows were the main promo tools. Sales of an artist could be low or big, there was always a plan for a further album. Also, we were a small team, all of us being multi-tasks, and it was fun working together.

 Dreyfus with Richard Galliano in 1993

Dreyfus with Michel Petruciciani at the Olympia Paris

Daniéle with Marcus Miller

From the long list of Motors’ artists you should keep special memories. Tell us some of those memories and anecdotes, from your favorite musicians.

The Motors label was pretty active at the time and we signed good songwriters/artists (which you find in the CD box « L’Aventure Motors »). In the late 70’s : rock artists Louis Deprestige, a great German kid called Maxim Rad,  an Algeria born French poet, whose texts were put to music by composer Jean Noël Chaleat (who co-wrote the Alain Chamfort biggest hit « Manureva ») and who recorded a great ethno-rock album under his real name Mounsi. Really good stuff … but none of these achieved recognition. I often say that we were sometimes « ahead of our time » with these artists.

Both Louis and Mounsi have remained good friends.

Many other talented artists were signed in the 80’s-90’s, some were also very funny guys with whom I spent great times laughing loud, Gérard Blanchard, David Dexter D, some were charismatic and charming like Gino Vannelli (under license in Europe) for almost 20 years ; also Nilda Fernandez who only recorded 2 singles with Dreyfus (his song « Madrid Madrid » was great), Daniel Guichard and Celtic breton artist Alan Stivell licensed for the world during a long-time (funny memories with him too).

Also, among the jazz artists whom Dreyfus signed on his Dreyfus Jazz label, I got  close to Michel Petrucciani (died in 1999), Richard Galliano and Marcus Miller with whom I have regular contacts.

I have no particular anecdote which I could tell in a few words only, I just remember the good and fun times we shared.

JEAN MICHEL JARRE

 

It’s noted that was HELENE, FRANCIS’ wife, who convinced him to hire JEAN MICHEL JARRE to work on the company. Helene also studied at the Groupe de Recheches Musicales (GRM) and met JARRE there. What do you know about those first contacts between Dreyfus and JARRE?

 

This was before I joined the company but I know some details. In fact Jarre was a close school friend of our International Manager who introduced him to Francis Dreyfus; Francis accepted to sign an exclusive songwriter contract + recording contract with Jarre.

At the time Jarre was earning his life as a songwriter (for Françoise Hardy, Gérard Lenorman, and a few others) while studying at GRM (where he met Hélène) and recording electro-acoustic music. I think that Jarre introduced Hélène to Francis Dreyfus, and, some time later, Francis Dreyfus proposed her a job as Copyright Manager when the position became vacant.

And about your first meet with JARRE, when, where…?

I can’t remember exactly ; I guess it was in early 1976. Jarre did not come to the office so often, mainly to see Francis, sign papers or discuss things ; he would just say hello to people in the office  as he passed by.

It’s only when “Oxygene” was released and became an instant hit that I got to see him more often and was able to know him better. We were not even 10 people in the office, the doors were open, everybody shared the unexpectedly high and fast success of the album, we were a super happy family.

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First he started doing small jobs for DREYFUS, composing and writing songs or making instrumental arrangements for other artists of the label. Sometimes these collaborations have led to confusion, making difficult to know exactly what was JARRE’s responsibility in these recordings. An example is THE POP CORN ORCHESTRA, but also 1906 with the single “Cartolina”. Can you clarify his authorship in those jobs? Do you know why he used pseudonyms such as JAMMIE JEFFERSON or JO SHERMAN?

Francis introduced Jarre to Christophe to write lyrics on the music he demoed for his first album (before Christophe only recorded EP’s) which was “Les Paradis Perdus”. The collaboration continued with the second album “Les Mots Bleus”, both successful albums with hit songs, but the relation between Christophe and Jarre turned sour (egos ?).

During that time Jarre recorded some singles as you quote above ; in those years, it was cooler to have an English style artist name (Johnny Hallyday, Eddy Mitchell, Dick Rivers, etc), this why I guess he used pseudonyms.

–  “1906/Cartolina”  composed and recorded by Jarre, owned by Dreyfus.

–  “Pop Corn Orchestra” was a cover version recording performed and produced by Jarre, owned by Dreyfus.

JARRE released “La Cage” and “Deserted Palace” –this one under Editions F. Dreyfus- and also several collaborations with some other artists not linked to FDM as GERARD LENORMAN, FRANÇOISE HARDY and of course PATRICK JUVET, with a great success. What did DREYFUS (the company or the producer) thinkabout theseparallel jobs?

“La Cage” was an earlier recording (his first), an electro-acoustic /pop stuff I think, from his pre-Dreyfus years. Jarre owns the master.

Prior to Oxygène, two albums were released under our recording contract :

“Deserted Palace” + Soundtrack album “Les Granges Brûlées”.

“Deserted Palace” was recorded by Jarre on the proposal of Dreyfus. It was also  used by Sam Fox Music company, co-publisher, in its musical library. Dreyfus owns the master.

The “parallel jobs” with other songwriters and artists were allowed in his exclusive song-writer contract, they were even most welcome, especially the co-writing of and producing the best 2 albums of Patrick Juvet “Mort ou Vif” and “Paris by Night”.

 Dreyfus, Jarre and a journalist

In 1976 JEAN MICHEL composed “Oxygene”. Do you remember the first time you heard “Oxygene” (or a part of it) at DISQUES DREYFUS? If yes, was it a demo version or the final mix?

Before his contract was to expire in March 1977, Jarre owed a last recording to the company. He offered Francis to listen to his new album to be called  “Oxygène” ; the boss was totally convinced and excited. I think Francis and Hélène listened to a pre-mix of the album, or maybe bits and pieces, I can’t remember well.

All I remember is that during the whole month of November 1976, Francis gathered his staff many times to sit and listen to the album SUPER LOUD in his office … the windows were shaking !  At the first hearing I chose to stay in my room and I remember not being convinced AT ALL that this album could ever have any success. I was the only one in the company feeling that way, of course. But I soon changed my mind and the more I listened to the album the more I loved it.

 

Really the publication and success of this album had to be a revolution for DISQUES DREYFUS. How changed the company after the release of “Oxygene”?

Oxygène was released on 5th December 1976 and, within one month, had already sold over 100.000, something unheard of for an unknown artist playing electronic music.

Soon the album became a “phenomena” and sales exploded both in France and abroad (exports). You can imagine the excitement in the office, the frenzy of sending big orders to the pressing plant, selling, exporting, press, radio, television … a welcome success after a couple of years of bad business.

Lot’s of money, lot’s of recording projects with new artists in which benefits were invested, increase of the publishing activity with good subpublishing deals, it did change the company a lot.

Some A&R’s were hired for our other pop/rock artists, plus administrative staff too. We all had the feeling to share a great time working together. Francis Dreyfus Music  became one of the leading independent French Labels & Publishers.

These were the great early years of the Jarre-Dreyfus close collaboration ; both were inseparable, dreaming about other future and crazy projects. And there was enough success and money in the company to make them happen.

 

Thanks very much Daniéle for this work that it’s dedicates to the memory of her mother, who passed away during the making of this interview. More coming soon…

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