The news of Marc Moulin’s death has come as something of a shock in Europe. The legendary composer and producer is perhaps best known for his work with the pioneering synth-pop group Telex. But that was only one small part of the man’s achievements, as he also had numerous hits as a producer and writer in France, ran a very successful radio channel for some time and was also a distinguished jazz musician and playwright. A bit of a Renaissance man, of the old school…
Moulin created his first jazz trio in Brussels in 1961, and gradually earned himself a reputation as a pianist playing for visiting American jazzmen. He later admitted that he simply couldn’t face a life of playing “Stella by Starlight” and turned his attention to free jazz, notably with guitarist Philip Catherine. Placebo, in the early seventies, saw him strike out in more experimental waters, blending jazz with fusion and prog rock (also featuring one of the early Moog synthesizers). In a trend that he would use again later, the album “Sam Suffy” (recently re-released by Blue Note) was a jokey tribute to black music styles.
In the dizzy days of post-New Wave, electronics provided Moulin and friends Dan Lacksman and Michel Moers with the format to create silly pop tunes such as “Twist à St Tropez” and “Moscow Diskow”. The silliness, if not the music, reached a high point when Telex represented Belgium in the Eurovision and flopped miserably. Many of Telex’s tracks have been remixed by DJs such as Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen, Maurice Fulton, i:Cube and Juan Atkins over the years.
In 1999, he was contacted by the jazz label Blue Note, eventually releasing “Top Secret” in 2001. It mixed electronic music with hazy cool school aesthetics. “Early modal jazz with early modal house,” as he described it to me in an interview at the time. It was followed in 2004 by “Entertainment” and in 2007 by the album “I Am You”.
His later career bridged the gap between jazz and – for want of a better word – pop. Despite what august reviewers might think, Moulin didn’t really see them as antagonistic. “Maybe because jazz came from dance music originally,” he opined.
The relatively low musical output is disguised by the fact that Moulin also successfully wrote and produced, notably for Lio, Sparks, and the French crooner Alain Chamfort. In later years, he also wrote plays and articles and appeared regularly on radio chat shows.
Marc Moulin died of cancer on September 26, 2008. For an interview with him from the time of “Top Secret”, visit Marc Moulin Top Secret.