Jean-Louis Brossard is Art Director at the Rencontres Trans Musicales Festival in Rennes. At this year’s 34th edition of the festival we talked with him about his passion for music, the beginnings of the “Trans” in the ambiance of the 70ies and how he discovers talents for the wide ranged line-up.
“Music is there for giving soul, love and courage.”
It is the 34th edition of the festival. You are part of the team since the very beginnings?
Absolutely, since 1979.
Can you give us a brief summary of the festival? How does the evolution from the beginnings until today look like?
We started with the TransMusicales in the year 1979. There was an association called “Terrapin” at this time. We organized concerts, we let come groups, who were on tour in the ambiance of the 70ies. For me the years 1976/77 were crucial, with the occurrence of punk rock. The whole energy there with the SEX POSTOLS, THE CLASH etc.
I went to London; I went also to a festival in the south of France in Mont-de-Marsan. I got a lot of energy. At this time the groups in Rennes were a lot more influenced by American groups like TELEVISION, RICHARD HELL, etc.
And then there was this moment, when we wanted to show all the groups of Rennes to the general public. Consequently the Rencontres Trans Musicales consisted originally only of artists from the city. This was the first year and we had a lot of success. The festival was for free, everyone just gave what he or she wanted to give and everyone was volunteering.
There was also the group MARQUIS DE SADE, that we liked a lot. With them there happened something strong on the level of media and journalists. There was Ouest France, a journal from here and also Liberation, a big national journal and immediately, “zack” focus on Rennes: They noticed, that there are things going on in Rennes.
The next year we didn’t know if we would make a second edition. But the groups talked about it with us and so yeah, we made a second edition in the year 1980. This time we also invited ORCHESTRE ROUGE, groups from Paris, groups from Brittany and groups from Rennes. There was also ETIENNE DAHO, who became a star. It’s a guy who made pop but who became a real artist in France. It was also him who produced the album of LOU DOILLON, who played on the Friday of the festival at Salle de la Cité [one of the locations of the TransMusicales in Rennes]. There happened a lot of things, professionals were attracted and so we continued. Those were the beginnings of the Trans Musicales. It was the Salle de la Cité, a hall of 1000 places, during 2 days, that’s everything. And now we have about 50.000 visitors.
Then we started inviting English groups, the visitors had to pay, it became more expensive etc. We hadn’t any support. We didn’t have money. But we had a real good time. Every year we had stunning groups, English and American groups.
There happened a lot of things in 34 years, but to put it in a nutshell: For more than a few artists, which I booked for the festival, it was the first time, that one could see them in France. For example I remember a concert of LENNY KRAVITZ in a club, where nobody knew him, not even the Americans.
There are groups of whose you can say, they were born at the festival. BEN HARPER, KEZIAH JONES, even PORTISHEAD – they made their very first concert at the Trans as well as THE SUGARCUBES, then BJÖRK en solo. Afterwards we started with hip hop: CYPRESS HILL, BEASTIE BOYS and all this. Then techno RESISTANCE, ORBITAL, JEFF MILLS etc. We really caught the right moment, we saw what really was going on in the music.
We mixed everything: rock, world music etc. We made a lot of different things, all types of music and that’s the strength of the festival: It’s not only an electronic festival, even if we have a stage, which is completely electronic with TNGHT, ZEDS DEAD, etc. But the rest is hip hop, funk, African, BALOJA, SKIP&DIE and on the other side we have also rock.
A lot of artist crossed the history of the Trans. We had big revelations, METRONOMY, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, DJANGO DJANGO and there are also so many others, who didn’t become stars, but we have extraordinary memories. I remember one time a Finnish choir, it was called HUUTAJAT. It is just a men’s choir and they screamed a capella national anthems. It was incredible.
TransMusicales covers various genre: Who does the selection of the artists, is it only you?
Yes it’s me.
How do you find the groups?
The Trans is about discovering artists, who nobody knows.
It’s not a showcase festival. It is a festival of concerts.
I visit more than just a few festivals. In January the Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands for example – it’s in Groningen. There I discovered the Dutch group the BIRTH OF JOY. I also go to the Great Escape in Brighton, to Norway and to the Spot Festival in Denmark. In this whole Nordic scene there are so many interesting things, in whole Europe anyhow.
Then I receive a lot of mails with links and luckily still some disks, but yes I am in great demand. I don’t need to see anymore the groups for doing my job. I remember PAUL THOMAS SAUNDERS who played on Friday at the festival at Salle de la Cité, he is a young English guy. it was enough to hear one song which made me say “wow”. Then I went to see a live stream on YouTube and “wow“ the second time, ok that’s it, so let’s go.
The Trans is about discovering artists, who nobody knows. The strength of the festival is to bring together all those people with the unknown artists who play. It’s not a showcase festival. It is a festival of concerts. That’s important.
Do you have a favourite act this year, or a group you think they could become big?
But the most important is not to become a star; it’s about being able to live from the music, to do the things you like, to feel good and with an audience which is listening to you.
Organizing such a big festival – can you really enjoy the festival?
Yes, because first of all I am public. This means I go and see the groups, say hello and I am in the hall to see the concert. Because if you plan the program of a festival and if you don’t see the groups, you are not a program director. People come from the whole world, Colombia, Mexico and Chile, so you should go and see them. And I have people who work for me, the whole production staff. I have a good team.
And what will you do after the festival?
I have already some concerts at a night club here. It is called Ubu, a club with 500 places. We organize concerts there 3 times a week. So already next week there will be the CONCRETE KNIVES etc. I don’t have the baby blues.
How do you see the future of the festival?
I see it pretty well because there are so many people. That’s good. Financially we are not too bad, additionally we have visits from the Ministry of Culture, that’s important for the financial aids and what we are doing. I think it’s pretty well. But it is every year a risk. This year we are sold out, even several days. But it takes time.
Last one: What do hope and passion mean to you?
Passion is what you live 100%.
With passion I do my work.
I am crazy about music.
Passion is what you live 100%. With passion I do my work. I am crazy about music. I played the violin and made classic music, when I was young, from 5 to 15 years. My father was a bassoon teacher. I listened a lot to the radio and like all the young children I fall asleep in the evenings listening radio, when I was 14, 15 years old. Then I bought a lot of disks. I am a vinyl junkie. I buy a lot of disks all the time, funk, soul, soundtracks. That’s my thing.
Afterwards I changed the sides: I am a bit musician but in the classic field and then I became organizer of rock concerts. But I don’t have any regrets. When I finished with the violin, I never returned. In my family music played a big role, it’s a tradition, my grandma played the piano, my father the bassoon and the saxophone. It was really musical. But my energy was the rock music, that’s my music.
music is the healing force of the universe.
Mmh and about hope, I don’t know what one can expect… Music is something good – Albert Ayler said: „the music is the healing force of the universe“.
We try to do something. At the moment it is socially difficult, but in France it is nevertheless going on, even if it’s harder. The people go to concerts to meet each other, but that is also a kind of hope. Music is there for giving soul, love and courage.