MJFrance is glad to have that opportunity to talk you you and discuss the MJ MusicDay, an event that Michael Jackson’s fans should not miss on November 18th in Lille, France.
Considering the program of the event, it seems like everything is set to make it quite an amazing day. We are happy to see that Isabelle Petitjean and yourself will be there too, since we have always supported your works and felt that you have the same passion for Michael Jackson that we also have. We have no doubt regarding what you plan to do on this special occasion.
Can you tell us more about how you decided to launch the « On The Line Association » and who are the main founders ?
The On The Line Association was born following the numerous discussions I had with Isabelle Petitjean. We have also met quite a number of times and have gradually realized that we both felt like getting involved into events that would please the fans, beside the books we regularly work on and publish. That’s how we decided to join our forces to become the founding members of the On the Line Association. Of course we have invited some very close persons to help us with their own skills - Laetitia, our translator, who will be on the stage of the MJ MusicDay and Yann Merlevede who will confirm his talent as a speaker, among others.
How did you convince Brad Buxer and Michael Prince to take part in such an event ?
I had the great opportunity to interview Brad Buxer for my latest book « Let’s Make HIStory ». It was such a wonderful surprise, all the more so as we became really friendly and planned to collaborate on other projects. So it was obvious that we would invite him to our very first event. He was immediately very enthusiastic about it and he also suggested that he would come with his friend Michael Prince. I had had very few contacts with the latter at that point but after a few emails and phone calls, we can guarantee that he is as happy and motivated as Brad about coming and discussing the King of Pop’s creative process in the studio, but also about sharing anecdotes on the tours. Although the association is new, both professional musicians and sound specialists trust us and will get involved into their first seminar in France. I hope that the fans will be pleased and grateful and won’t miss the opportunity to pay tribute to both artists in November.
Why did you choose to settle the MJ Music Day in Lille ?
Regarding the logistics, we needed a very skilled partner. The only person I knew that would have the ability to help us was Pierre Failly from Blue Box Prod’ - he had put up Steve Lukather’s Clinic Tour in France. He very kindly accepted to lend us a hand and since he lives in Lille, we decided it would be easier to settle the event up there at the Mercure Airport Hotel in Lesquin.
Like Isabelle, you have always put the spotlight on the people who worked in the mixing console booth or in the studio - the only real witnesses of the HIStory according to the fans. Why are the fans interested in hearing their stories, and not the Estate or Sony Music ?
That’s a good question ! I can’t speak for the Estate or Sony Music but it seems to me that we see things from a different point of view. As authors, we want to pay tribute to the artist through a global vision of his career and what he left to the world. A record company would rather make a singer, although gone, a product that people can buy. As fans and authors, we feel that reaching Michael’s joint collaborators and collecting their stories and memories is something more valuable than ordering a remix to the fashionable producer of the moment and making a posthumous album like Sony Music sometimes does. The MJ Music Day is something very similar to what we do in our books - asking close collaborators to tell about their work. But this time the audience will be there and the interviews will be live.
What will the fans hear that they haven’t heard before ?
The major point is that Brad Buxer will have a keyboard ready so that he shall explain the creative process of numerous songs and their evolution from demos to final versions with the help of his instrument. Of course the Q&A session with the audience will also reveal some well-kept secrets. Brad Buxer worked with Michael from 1989 to 2008 while Michael Prince collaborated with him for the HBO concert that never happened until the rehearsals of This Is It. They must have a lot to tell since they were involved both in the studio and on stage. We plan to have them play some unreleased material but the audience will have to play the game and not betray our guests’s trust.
Can you tell us more about the audio system at the Mercure Hotel ?
Actually we will use an audio system that doesn’t belong to the hotel - it will be put up by a service provider hired by Blue Box Prod’ since they are the ones in charge of the logistics as I explained above. This way the audience will be able to listen to the guests and Brad’s keyboard in good sound quality, even if the conference room is not an auditorium. There will also be giant screens to display the pictures and videos related to the program. Who could ask for more ? (laughs)
Aside the interviews, what are the other aspects of the event ?
sabelle, Hector Barjot and myself will star the day as authors and present our works while interacting with the visitors.
We have the pleasure to welcome Gareth Maynard, a journalist at the BBC, who will give a preview showing of his documentary « King Of Sound » that pays tribute to Bruce Swedien’s work as a sound engineer. Gareth has done a massive work and had the opportunity to interview big names like Greg Phillinganes and Siedah Garrett, but also Quincy Jones (who doesn’t take part in the projects by the Estate) and Rod Temperton who sadly passed away a few months ago. This shall be the opportunity to hear the last account of the composer of Rock With You, Thriller and many more songs… We are getting ready to work on the subtitles so that the French-speaking visitors shall fully enjoy this 75-minute documentary.
Do you think this kind of event will attract Michael Jackson’s fans that have tended to thin out due to the low Jackson actuality ?
Well, we surely hope so ! While we were creating the association, we were told many times that it would not be easy to put up an event about the King of Pop. We think that the strange choices made by the Estate contribute to that loss of impetus but this is not inevitable. We regard Michael Jackson as the greatest artist of all times and we can’t even imagine his popularity shall decline. With a quality program like that of the MJ MusicDay, we believe that the fans from Europe will be there and will prove the most sceptic people wrong. To anyone who feels disappointed by the Jackson actuality, you can ward off bad luck in a beautiful manner !
Do you have any other projects in mind or are you waiting to see how the fans respond to the coming event ?
Since this is our first event, we know there are some expectations. We have many more ideas for the coming years because we would really like the MJ MusicDay to become a yearly concept. So if the fans are there next November, there will be no reason for us not to go on. We really feel like dedicating our time on a long-term basis so that the members of the Jackson community shall have a way to gather and live their passion together.
Will you put your own books on sale at the event ? Will there be any other items that the fans shall buy as a memory ?
The Mercure Hotel has several rooms among which one will be used for stands and exhibitors selling records and memorabilia. We will have our own stand with books for the fans who haven’t gotten the opportunity to discover them so far. People will also have the possibility to get their own picture taken with Brad Buxer and Michael Prince, as well as signed items if they choose the Meet & Greet formula. Other rooms will be used for the cocktail and then the dinner (with the guests) including a dance floor where we shall end the event on a high note and make the pleasure last longer in a friendly way.
Is there anything you would like to add and/or that we haven’t discussed yet ?
We want to make it clear that this event is made for all the fans in Europe, not only the ones living in the north of France. Except Yann, no other member of the association lives in that area. We are quite aware that it might be a long and expensive journey for some people but they can connect through social networks, for instance, and use the Facebook page of the event to organize car sharing and shared accommodation. On the ticket office webpage, they can book rooms at the Mercure Hotel at a fixed price (while the prices on the hotel website might be subject to change).
Brad Buxer and Michael Prince will cross the ocean and fly thousands of miles to meet us, so we can all drive or travel a few hundred kilometers to share this moment together.
Thank you very much for these precious informations. See you soon then to share that passion with our members and visitors and the numerous French fans.
Photos: L.Myreil, Reza Cifuentes, Hector Barjot.
(Text: François Guerrini for MJFrance, 01/06/2017)