Music: Response

He produced Madonna's Music, but Mirwais has been around for 20 years and has influenced a legion of French DJs

Beyond the dance scene's slavish devotion to fast rhythms, Mirwais is also critical of how quickly it has disposed of some of its seminal artists. In their place, he says, has come a wave of acts he dismisses as "marketing people."

"I'm not against profit," he says. "You do a good track, you can have a lot of profit that you deserve. But there are a lot of followers that are just in this for profit. In dance music, all the good people that did house and disco, people from Detroit and from Chicago, they are not anymore involved in this music. They are trying to do something creative somewhere else."

As forward-looking as Mirwais might be, you can't help but think he's looking back just a bit on Production. "Disco Science," for example, relies heavily on nifty Devoesque whip cracks. The funereally paced "V.I. (The Very Last Words She Said Before Leaving)" is a reconstruction of an old Serge Gainsbourg track, "Cargo Culte." "Junkie's Prayer," meanwhile, seems like an elegy for "Taxi Girl," with creepy mechanized vocals declaring, "We want drugs/We want to die." And many of the tracks, particularly "Naïve Song" and "I Can't Wait," feature synth sounds and vocorder-treated vocals that seem straight out of the '70s and '80s.

Mirwais: "More people want to use this sound, especially guys on the West Coast -- guys like Dr. Dre."
Mirwais: "More people want to use this sound, especially guys on the West Coast -- guys like Dr. Dre."

"Oh, you know, the problem with the synthesizer, it is the one you use," he says. "The synthesizer sounds -- they didn't evolve, really, from the '70s. A lot of people from the electronic scene use old vintage synths. Understand, I don't use vintage -- I use modern synths with a lot more control on it. I think it doesn't matter if you use an old sound or a new sound. What is important is the construction -- what you are trying to say, to communicate. I am interested by the language of music, and not by the song. Music is not just to put a song together. It's too obvious if you think that. You have to think about what is beyond music, and beyond music there is a language, something you try to communicate. Me, I am interested by that. Tomorrow, if I have to use a guitar or organ, I will use it with no problems. I think the synthesizer and modern instruments are really cool, because you could add a new word to the language. It's very interesting. In the future, maybe there will be new instruments. And I will use them."

One thing puzzling Mirwais, though, is the notion that electronic music is currently seen as a product for, by and of youth culture exclusively. He's 40 years old and still in the thick of it, he notes, as is his benefactor Madonna, who is slightly older.

"I think this music is not just for teenagers," he says. "You know, when you talk about electronic music, it's not new. Everybody says it's new -- it's not new. What we did with Music, it was a combination of an American singer and electronic musician, and there is a collision. More people are interested in this and want to use this sound, especially guys on the West Coast -- guys like Dr. Dre. In the future, there will be a big explosion of this music. Madonna, she may be the first big star to do it. But in the future there will be more. I am pretty sure of that."

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