12/3/2017 – It is widely accepted that France has consistently been a hotbed of electronic music innovation during the past century. Continuing along this trend, Paris is host to another backward looking, yet forward thinking electronic music artist. Jack Maniak is the alter-ego of Parisian Jean-Philippe. His newest album, Code 403, has strong melodies, top tier production values, and…. OMG, bass timbres that will knock you out (somewhere between a chainsaw and a cello). Firmly steeped in the traditions of 70’s and 80’s synth music, Maniak blends all of his musical upbringing to craft a palatable LP that’s worthy of a listen.. or three.
Slickster: You are a native of France. For me, France, has always seemed to be at the forefront of electronic music. Why, in your opinion, do you feel that France has developed this stigma? What is it about the electronic music scene in Paris that drives and fosters such innovation?
JM: First of all they are several electronic genres. In each one of them French people really have as we say “the French touch” (synthwave, electro pop…). Jean Michel Jarre was one of the first and he gave us the love of sound design and more generally of keyboards and electronic stuff, we all listened to him when we were young. Daft Punk and David Guetta lead now the genre with great melodies and great drum sounds and it’s a contradiction because French people are known for the complexity of their music but they can also minimize it with a powerful melody impact.
Slickster: Some people make optimistic observations about musical limits, for example, “you are only limited by your own creativity“. However, in synthwave music there are some stylistic limitations that are inherited. For example, there isn’t a wide range of tempos that are utilized in synthwave music. Or key centers do not really shift that much, and largely all the music is in a 4/4 time. How do you stylistically challenge the limitations and still remain faithful to the genre?
JM: You are right, but I don’t think it’s really a problem, the only thing is to make good songs. Making 3 or 4 songs with the same chords is not necessarily bad and can be interesting because it can be a challenge to find different lead parts. It also depends on which way you are in synthwave; the old school is very limited because you have to keep all the codes of the past without changing anything except maybe a more powerful production; the new retrowave scene like Carpenter Brut or Perturbator is different; they take the codes but go somewhere else typically with the use of big distortion and electro/metal beats. If you take the example of The Algorithm, he’s not always in 4/4 because he uses the Metal codes which offer you more possibilities. I like synthwave in a way to merge memorable melodies and powerful breaks, this modern approach is the best for me, 4/4 is still the best way to keep the song in mind (who doesn’t like AC DC?). But retro songs like FM-84 are so nostalgic that it’s cool too, I think I can have both aspects in my music.
Slickster: One of the most exciting things about your new album, when listening to it, is the huge bass sounds that you achieve on this album. They are nasty, meaty, phat, aggressive low ends! Can you take us through your development process for creating such a gargantuan foundation for the subwoofers?
JM: Well, I am really happy you noticed that. First of all, I am more a composer than a sound designer so tweaking sounds is not natural for me but I learned a lot. I have to read tutorials on youtube to learn how design some sounds and it takes me a lot of time. For the aggressive low ends I wanted something like Carpenter Brut, I tweaked my sound in a different way, closely from a chainsaw, it may be too much but it worked. I will probably continue to explore this sound to create what I have in mind.
For the basslines, I composed basic lines at the beginning and I found it too linear. So I decided to delete everything and compose it like an arpeggiator, it gives some rebund in the songs and I can then create a groovy beat on drums.
As I can’t mix and master my album I went on Lower Tones Place Studio in Paris, a professional studio where Edgard Chevalier helped me to mix all that stuff and it was some work to merge bass lines and distortion basses which are often playing at the same time. Some choices had to be done for the mix but the album contains a lot of details if you listen carefully…
Slickster: When we interviewed MEGAHAMMER about two of the top 1980s electronic musicians, Jan Hammer and Harold Faltermeyer, we asked him this question: Who would win in a keyboard duel between the composer of Miami Vice or the composer of Beverly Hills Cop?
JM: Ah ah, hard question, they both have a groovy beat (don’t need to be complex) and a memorable melody as I said before, that’s the key. If you speak literally of electronic I will choose Beverly Hills as for me Miami Vice has more guitars and drum impacts.
Slickster:Slickster Magazine is located in Colorado, USA. We have become known for our extremely progressive drug laws, notably legalizing recreational marijuana. The connection between artist and intoxicants is as old as time itself. Do you feel that drugs enhance the creative process or hinder the creative process? Can you explain why?
JM: Strange question, but I understand what you mean! I am not concerned; I prefer drinking a good bottle lol. But it’s true that in electronic music, drugs are present though I don’t really know if it’s more or less than another artistic domain. It is a chemical process which started with the shamans who opened their consciousness with plants and occidentals who lived these experience with them brought back these psychotropic. It gives some hallucinations which can open the mind of painters of example, but if you can only be creative in that way, there is a problem…
Slickster: Your new album, Code 403, is largely instrumental. While emotions can be abstractly conveyed instrumentally, not everyone may come to the same conclusion about your intent. What message would you like to communicate nonverbally through your music?
JM: I composed the lead parts as if it was vocal ones. Some are synthesizers, others are guitars, I wanted to do everything for this album. I think it fits to this one because I really wanted to find great melodies and I could express everything with instruments.
Code 403 is a story of a teenager who faced an alien invasion; each song has its own story, I will communicate later on this but the use of Theremin for example was perfect to express an alien invasion.
“Glory” was perfect to end the album with a more heroic melody and great guitar solos to show Jack victory. I really think we can express feelings only with instruments.
Slickster: Do you have a favorite track on your new record?
JM: I think I like the final duo “Code 403” and “Glory”
“Tribal mob” is different than the rest of the album as it was the first song I composed. I like the shamanic break in the middle (now I understand your question about drugs lol).
Slickster: Do you have any live shows coming up in France or elsewhere?
JM: Not for the moment but I have reflection about that, I also have 2 other bands (Idensity, OMRÅDE) and a work, if I play I want more to play live with a true band on stage.
Slickster: Jean-Philippe, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk with us over Slickster Magazine. We also appreciate the promo copy of the Code 403 and it has been playing very loudly in our offices this week. Is there anything else you would like to add, or mention, that we did not cover in our questions? Anything goes!
JM: Thanks for this interview you were very friendly. Ohm, and I am searching someone to help me do a video clip for one song of the album so if some readers are interested they can contact me on my Facebook page.