November 8, 2005 on the Holland America Oosterdam cruising
in the Pacific
Interviewed by Susan Johnson
Marc Antoine is a man of the world. Born
in Paris, he grew up with the guitar in his hands and played
jazz and Afro-pop in smoky Paris nightclubs. Marc moved
to Los Angeles and was a member of Solsonics, who toured with
the Fugees and Queen Latifah. The Queen (Latifah) ended up asking
Marc to play with her band for part of the 30-date tour. Marc
has toured with Basia and played gigs with Dave Koz and Chris
Botti and Sting. He won a Latin Grammy for his work on an album
by The Latin Project. Modern Times is
Marc’s seventh solo album and his second with Rendezvous.
Smooth Views (SV): Tell us a little about the
process that went into recording your new record, Modern
Marc Antoine (MA): Well, you know I
pretty much changed the process here. I used a deejay,
somebody who… pretty much like Mark upstairs (deejay
for pool party going on simultaneously on board ship) actually… who
does a lot of remixes for people like Santana, Jennifer Lopez,
a lot of things like that. But he’s always been
in love with jazz but has never done a jazz project. So
we worked on something together one day and I said, “You
know I’d like to try to mix what I know in the jazz genre
and what you do with the deejay-ing.” Miles Davis
used to do this kind of stuff… like use people in a
completely unexpected horizon.
SV: How do you determine when to use studio musicians
and when to use the technology?
MA: You know… I don’t like
to use technology [myself]. I don’t mind if somebody
else is pushing the buttons, but for me… I use it because
it’s easy nowadays, especially with the new technology. You
can really make a record sound good at home, you know. But
I’m more of a player. For me, playing is the most
important thing. I don’t like touching [the buttons]
too much. When it becomes interesting is in a case like Modern
Times, for example, I’d been playing a
lot and the guy is using some things and building things around
that as well. Then it becomes an interesting process
for me. I pretty much did everything as far as the instruments,
apart from the horns that I can’t play. I called
Phillipe Saisse from New York to play some piano and that’s
SV: What do your French and Spanish connections
bring to the music you write?
MA: I have no idea. (laughs) You know,
I really consider myself to be a citizen of the world. French
is handy and I can bullshit my way around in France. (laughs) Because
you really have to. (laughs) And Spanish is a good language
to know anyway because it’s the second language behind
English. Sometimes I do miss LA, but if I spend too
much time in LA, I miss Madrid. So I feel at home in
both. People are really laid back in Madrid. They
like enjoying life and life is really more important than anything
over there, which becomes a problem if you want to do any business
over there! (laughs) Forget about it! For living,
it’s great. For inspiration, in my case it’s
great. I like writing music over there. But to
work, you’ve got to be in America.
SV: You successfully tackled some adversity when
you tore up your hand in a plate glass window. You proved
your doctor wrong when you were able to continue playing. How
has that determination carried into your musical career?
MA: A good example for me was Jango
Reinhardt. He burnt his hand to the 3rd level. I
mean he was just… I think he had two of the fingers
that he couldn’t even move. If you see pictures
of him when he was playing back in the 50s, his two fingers
were always bent over. He really, really hurt his hand. Worse
than I had actually. I think if you can go through this,
you can go through anything. It gives you a lot of strength
for the future. I was about 19 years old when it happened
and now I’m about 22. (laughing)
SV: How does smooth jazz in Europe compare to
MA: There is no smooth jazz in Europe. None
at all. Smooth jazz is an American term. I don’t
think it really represents what there is in smooth jazz and
it’s also really hurting certain kinds of music as well. So
I don’t have any comment on that because I think it’s
a very good commercial thing for a lot of people, but I think
that’s what it is. It’s a word that is helping
to… it’s a vehicle to do some great business for
the radios and the magazines and things like that. For
me it doesn’t mean anything. For me, what means
something is music. Of course, if you want me to always
do smooth jazz, I will never do smooth jazz all the time. I
love classical music. I love flamenco. I love Latin
music. I love electronic music. It can not always
be smooth jazz. In this case, I think now they’re
pushing the limits into trying to be too commercial.
SV: Your devotion to your guitar won over your
swimming career when you were young. And we’re happy
about that. Why did you end up in smooth jazz instead
of staying in classical?
MA: No idea. You know, when I
made my first demo tape, I had no idea what smooth jazz was. And,
you know what? I don’t think the “smooth
jazz” words existed. It was just contemporary jazz/instrumental
radio. The Wave existed. It just didn’t become
a smooth jazz thing like this. It had nothing to do with
where it is today, which it is great today. It’s
like a big thing. But it could have gone anywhere else. It
could have gone more world. I could have been on
the world charts instead of smooth jazz charts. I didn’t
find smooth jazz. Smooth jazz found me.
SV: What brings you joy and a smile to your face?
MA: When I see my kid play around.
SV: Is there someone you wish you could go on
stage with that you haven't already?
MA: Miles Davis, but he’s passed
so I’ll never do it.
SV: Will you be touring in the States in 2006?
MA: Of course, if you let me.
SV: What is your most embarrassing road story?
MA: I don’t have any embarrassing
road stories. Well, I probably got drunk with Jonathan
Butler once or twice and we probably embarrassed ourselves,
but we don’t care about that. (laughs) I
mean, if my zipper is open…sometimes I’ll think
about it… “I just went to the bathroom before
I went on stage. Is it open or not?” But
if it’s open, who cares? That’s cool. If
it’s open, it’s open. I’ll sell more
SV: What song do you enjoy playing the most on
MA: I don’t know. I have
no idea. I like playing the solo stuff better actually. It
just depends. For example, right now I’m into playing
a little more of the electric guitar. I’m just
enjoying playing music in general. It could be bass,
guitar, piano, anything. I’ve enjoyed playing only
percussion on stage as well. Music! Music, in general. I
write on piano, on bass, on anything you can tap on.
SV: In closing, what’s it been like working
with your new label, Rendezvous?
MA: It’s been great! These
guys are really letting me do what I want to do. I think
they’re THE label right now because they are really open
to a lot of stuff, like Praful. They’re doing some
lounge compilations. They have some almost classical-ish
music. They have no limitations. Of course, they
have to play the smooth jazz game like pretty much all the
labels, but they like spreading their wings, which for me is
great, because creatively speaking I like spreading my wings. So
as long as I can have a label who understands what I want to
do, then for me it’s the right label. Usually an
artist leaves a label when there is a misunderstanding of the
artist by the label. I’m not in it for the money. I
mean when the money is good, it’s great. But
I’m not going to go to another label because they offered
me a little more money. It’s not going to make
that big a difference at the end of my career. I could
never do my own label. I think it’s a headache. I
see these guys… Hyman and Dave and Frank… I know
they’re going through a lot of tensions. It’s
got to be horrible to be the head of a… you have to
really know your job and only do this. Me, I’m
an artist. I like to create music. We’re
talking about maybe doing a solo project. They’re
like, “Why not?” They aren’t afraid
of doing something that, in this case, would get no… zero… airplay.
SV: Thank you for taking time away from cruising
the seas to talk with SmoothViews, Marc.
MA: No problem!
Rendezvous Entertainment: www.rendezvousmusic.com
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