‘I wrote 350 songs and I could not sing you certainly one of them’: Disco maestro Daniel Vangarde breaks his silence | Pop and rock

AThe very first thing Daniel Vangarde says when he walks into the Paris workplace of his label is that he is by no means achieved an interview in English earlier than. Then, he provides, he had by no means achieved an interview in his native French till this morning. He by no means bothered to speak to journalists on the peak of his profession, when he was a key determine in French pop: an artist, author and producer behind a variety of releases starting from the obscure to the immediately acquainted. And he definitely did not anticipate to start out assembly the press at age 75: Vangarde had retired years earlier, shifting to a distant fishing village in northern Brazil.

However then a report firm approached him out of the blue a few career-spanning compilation named after Zagora, the label he based in 1974, which piqued his curiosity. After they despatched him the tracklist, he informed them that a number of the songs on it weren’t his. They had been – he had simply fully forgotten about them.

Vanguard in 1971. Picture: Zagora Archive

At the very least a part of the renewed curiosity in Vangarde’s profession is as a result of success of his son, Thomas Bangalter, till just lately one half of Daft Punk. It is ironic, provided that listening to Daft Punk was one of many causes Vangarde give up making music within the first place: “I believed that is the brand new technology that is coming and it will be troublesome to compete with.”

However Vangarde’s profession is fascinating in its personal proper. It began with an optimistic teenage plan to interrupt into the music business by merely writing to the Beatles and suggesting they let him be part of – “I used to be certain I might deliver them one thing,” he chuckles – and ended with the early 90s, when Vangarde retires. in disgust after a collection of bitter feuds with the French music business.

In the meantime, he pursued a profession that was nothing in need of various. At one excessive, he wrote protest songs deemed so subversive that they had been banned: his self-titled 1975 solo album was in business ache on account of its lead single, Un Bombardier Avec Ses Bombes, an assault on France’s function within the worldwide arms commerce. “The good honor I had was that I made a tv look after which it was censored in France. Even at this time you can’t discuss this topic.”

However, he was the mastermind behind the disco band Bouzouki, whose work was conspicuously absent from assaults on the military-industrial advanced: because the title suggests, they dealt solely with Greek-themed disco tracks with names like Ouzo et Retsina and Greek. Women. His CV additionally contains big worldwide pop hits – Vangarde and his long-time collaborator Jean Kluger had been behind late 70s hit makers the Gibson Brothers and Ottawan of DISCO and Fingers Up fame (Give Me Your Coronary heart) – in addition to unbelievable cosmic disco. launched beneath the names Starbow and Who’s Who, and obscure Japanese-themed funk rock idea albums beloved by at this time’s crate diggers.

The content material of 1971’s Le Monde Fabuleux des Yamasuki has “change into a bit stylish”, as Vangarde places it, in recent times: the album was sampled by Erykah Badu, included on an Arctic Monkeys clear combine album and featured on the soundtrack of the TV collection Fargo. It was remarkably forward of its time: a loopy, cartoonish mash-up of various musical cultures that additionally tried what would now be known as a “dance problem” (the album cowl comes full with directions on how you can do the steps).


Vangarde has at all times been concerned about music exterior the usual Western pop canon. “I prefer to journey, I like unique devices, I hearken to just a little Beatles, Seaside Boys, Stevie Surprise, however a lot of the music I really like is African music, Arabic music, reggae,” he says. However the inspiration for Le Monde Fabuleux des Yamasuki did not contain a lot unique journey. “ the TV collection Kung Fu with David Carradine? That was the factor on the time. We thought we should always make an album about kung fu, and that grew to become a Japanese factor.”

He labored in quite a lot of genres – he reworked a observe from the Yamasuki album into Swahili as Aie A Mwana, then lined it by, of all folks, Bananarama – however disco actually turned his head, blowing his thoughts after heard Stylish’s Le Freak in a Parisian membership. Furthermore, it was a style that didn’t share the period’s historically Anglo-American disdain for French pop. Vangarde thrived, as did its compatriots House and Voyage. “There was no prejudice in disco, I feel as a result of her viewers skilled prejudice – it was black, it was homosexual. They weren’t within the place to be snobs.”

The truth is, he preferred disco a lot that, when the backlash occurred, he felt compelled to behave in protection of the style: to listen to him inform it, the immortal anthem of the Ottawan marriage ceremony celebration, DISCO is definitely a protest music. “It was when disco data had been burning within the US and I felt mad that individuals had been saying it was going to cease: it is a beat, you’ll be able to’t cease folks dancing to a beat. So we mentioned we’ll do a music about disco to point out it is not over. And the rhythm hasn’t stopped”, he provides, triumphantly. “As a result of what’s techno? A continuation of the disco.”

Vangarde (left) with La Compagnie Créole, a band from French Guiana and the French West Indies.  His collaborator Jean Kluger is on the right.
Vangarde (left) with La Compagnie Créole, a band from French Guiana and the French West Indies. His collaborator Jean Kluger is on the fitting. Picture: Zagora Archive

For all his pop success and tolerance for a brand new music, Vangarde has at all times been a curiously unbidden determine, used to turning down high-profile manufacturing jobs if he preferred the artist an excessive amount of, as with Third World reggae stars or the salsa supergroup. All-Stars fan. “I did not need to be concerned. I simply needed to be a listener – I did not need to lose that magic.”

Simply how unbidden grew to become obvious within the late 80s when he grew to become embroiled in a battle with the French music business, initially over royalties. Researching the topic led him to take up the reason for Jewish composers who had been stripped of their mental property rights – and their earnings – through the Nazi occupation of France. This grew to become an argument that ultimately implicated then-president Jacques Chirac, however Vangarde says a later official report on the matter was “all lies – an enormous cover-up”: no cash or rights had been returned. It was one other think about his resolution to retire. “I had a giant combat with Sacem, the copyright firm. To write down a music and provides it to this firm—why would I do this?” He shrugged. “I do not do this anymore.”

Silly trickster.
“What they imagined reached the ears of the folks with none interference”… Daft Punk. Picture: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

It is fairly straightforward to see the place Daft Punk might need taken their famously uncompromising angle in direction of the music business. As their profession started to take off, it was Vangarde who urged they make an inventory of all the things they did not need to do and current it to any report labels who needed to signal them, so that they ended up getting a credit score “for him. treasured recommendation’ from their debut album Themes.

“They did not need the label to be concerned within the imaginative and prescient of their music, their movies or their picture. That is one of many keys to their success, as a result of once you get into the system, they need to please the A&R [people], the radio has to please, and the music is altering. Daft Punk had been authentic, they’d expertise, and what they envisioned reached folks’s ears with none interference.”

Vangarde says he has no want to get again “into the system” himself. He says he by no means listens to the music he made within the 70s and 80s – “I wrote 350 songs and I could not play you certainly one of them” – and is horrified on the suggestion that this new retrospective compilation -could draw again into the studio. “No, I am very blissful now. They needed to launch an album, I made a decision to do interviews for the primary time in my life. And now,” he smiles, ending our dialog, “I will give up once more.”

The Vaults of Zagora Information Mastermind (1971-1984) is out November twenty fifth on Why Music.

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