Takenoko made music that mixed up references such as Talking Heads and New Order. French synth-pop that bore the influence of 80s Parisian nightlife. Angular Rock, that moved in parallel to that of contemporaries, like Marie Et Les Garçons. Records which pioneered the use of emerging technology.
Emotional Rescue have collected the band`s 80s recordings as L’Amour Est Mon Arme. A project initiated by Uncanny Valley`s Sneaker DJ. His E.P. of accompanying remixes serving to highlight the Proto-House in Takenoko`s compositions. Making clear, that given the exposure, the band would have found themselves played on the dance floor of Texas` Starck Club. Spun, backwards and forward, by Ron Hardy at Chicago`s Music Box. Re-cut by Razormaid. Metal Dancing padded shoulder-to-shoulder with artists such as Hard Corps, Savage Progress, and Torch Song.
With new music on the way, and collaborations hinted at, Takenoko kindly agreed to tell me a little about the band`s past, and its future.
Where are you from?
We are all from Bordeaux, a town in the South-West of France. Near the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by vineyards, and strongly impregnated with Rock culture since the late 70s.
Where are you based?
We are still based in Bordeaux, even if work takes us to different places.
Who was in the band?
Takenoko has always been the three of us: Jean-Louis (Simonet) plays guitar and programs the machines; Jean-Michel (Louisor) plays the bass; Bruno (Aujard) plays keyboards and sings.
When and where did you all meet?
The story of Takenoko begins in 1981, the date of our meeting in Bordeaux.
Were any of you in bands before Takenoko?
Jean-Louis and Bruno played in a band called Standby, and Jean-Michel in another called Bolton.
What made you decide to start the band?
Our aim was to make electronic songs, sung in French. Some would be sung as male and female duets, which led us to quickly recruit a Parisian singer, Vanessa Vaylor – who later had a successful career as an actress and model – for our first single. We were fascinated by the first electronic machines that appeared at the end of the 80’s, such as the Instant Replay, Roland TR808, Roland Bass Line, … we and wanted to make music with them. We were also fascinated by Japanese culture, so we decided to call the group, Takenoko. Japanese for “young bamboo shoot” and a metaphor for teenager in Japan.
Which artists or pieces of music would have been sources of inspiration?
We found our inspiration in the French cinema of the “Nouvelle Vague”, the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, JD Salinger and the music of Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, the Japanese group The Plastics, Pink Floyd, Trentemoller, Gang of Four, New Order, The Stranglers, Chic, The Cure, Human League, Heaven 17, ABC, The Normal, Wire …We were also inspired by personalities that marked our adolescence: Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne, The Little Prince of Saint Exupery, and Marilyn Monroe. Our songs question human relationships, in particular love, and the elements of violence they contain.
Which clubs were you going to?
During this period we spent a lot of time in clubs. In Bordeaux, Le Cyclope, Le Performance, Le Salon Jaune, Le Sénéchal, La Grille des Goûts. In Paris, Le Palace, Les Bains Douche, Le Rose Bonbon, L’Élysée Matignon and Le Globo. In London, at the Marquee, and Camden clubs, such as the Electric Ballroom, the Camden Palace …London was the best place to dance and meet people. For the most part these clubs have disappeared today …
Were there other bands that you socialised with? Other regulars on the club scenes of Bordeaux and Paris?
We had a special place in the music scene of Bordeaux, since everyone else was very focused on Rock and Punk Rock. We only played in concert there once. So we didn’t really have a close relationship with other groups in Bordeaux. Except for Bolton, the other group Jean Michel was in. All three of us would sometimes perform with Bolton live. We always felt closer to groups from other French cities, like Paris, Lyon or Rennes, and of course those from England. Those more oriented towards New Wave and synthesizers. On our first single, Elle In Tokyo, we called the saxophonist from a Parisian group, Tokwow Boys.
What equipment were you using?
Guitar, bass guitar, Roland JP4, TR808, TR909, TB303, and an Instant Replay – one of the first samplers.
Did you play live?
We chose to be a studio group, so we only did one concert, for which we had transformed the venue into a bourgeois lounge from the 1950s … maybe in reaction to the omnipresence of the Punk phenomenon of the time.
My French is pretty bad. Would you be able to give me an idea of the sentiments behind your songs about John Wayne and Lee Harvey Oswald?
In John Wayne, and Lee Harvey Oswald, we reinterpreted, in our own way, two mythical figures of American history. Figures whose quest for “freedom” seemed stuck in ethnocentrism and violence.
In John Wayne we imagined a lost person clinging to a binary world view i.e. good guys versus bad guys, cowboys versus Indians. We were also interested in the character of John Wayne as a caricature of the tough, lonely man who holds “the truth”. Is John Wayne a source of inspiration for Donald Trump?
In Lee Harvey Oswald, this same person seeks to quickly gain notoriety by killing a celebrity. The song illustrates this with the line,
“Le futur est illusoir, mais c’est ça la gloire, pour moi le choix est sans problème et c’est ça que j’aime.”
(“The future is illusory, but that’s the glory, for me the choice is no problem, and that’s what I like.”)
At a time the song was written, 1982, the idea of No Future was in vogue. We were taking a stance on this phenomenon, and a world that we could see coming, one that has unfortunately come to be. The theme of Lee Harvey Oswald has regrettably become very current with the advent of social media networks. Everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to be famous NOW! and they don’t care how. Related dramas are unfortunately more and more frequent.
What gave you the idea of sampling the Marx Brothers on Rendezvous A Malibu?
The Rendez-vous à MALIBU sample is an excerpt from the movie Love Happy. We were particularly seduced by the vocal intonation of the two characters Groucho Marx and Marylin Monroe, who was then unknown, more than by what is said ….
How long were the band active for? Can you tell me why you split up?
The band was active from 1981 to 1988. We recorded three singles during this period. L’Amour Est Mon Arme, which has just been released on Emotional Rescue, is a compilation of these three singles, and four unreleased tracks. The band never really split and we’ve always stayed very close. The band was rather a victim of a gradual distance, that was due to our other activities , such as work, that led us to live in different cities. Bordeaux remains the rallying point.
What did you do next?
Jean Michel continued to play intermittently with his other group Bolton, while pursuing a career in advertising. Jean-Louis worked for a long time in the world of radio, and is a founding partner in a company specialised in corporate communication. Bruno has a career in a telecommunications, and currently heads a company based in South Western France.
Do you still make music?
We started playing together again this year. The inspiration is there, and a new album should be out in 2019. The desire to play in public is there too, and we`ll do some concerts next year.
Are there any plans to do anything with Sneaker DJ, the person behind the reissue project and the accompanying remixes?
We are grateful to Sneaker DJ for presenting our work to Emotional Rescue. We were very curious and interested in his remix project, and the three tracks released on the maxi 45 rpm are really good. Sneaker DJ was able to deepen the atmosphere that our “aircraft” had developed for each song. We haven’t met yet but we would be happy to collaborate.
Which artists do you currently like?
The same old groups, plus PJ Harvey, Friendly Fires, Parcels, dEUS, Phoenix, …
Where do you go to chill out?
Jean Michel, in the mountains in a small valley of the French Alps, and all three of us on the Bassin d’Arcachon, a few kilometres from Bordeaux.
Do you go out to dance?
We prefer to go to private parties with friends.
Can you give me three pieces of music to start a party?
New Order / Blue Monday
The B52’s / 52 Girls
Chic / Good Times
Takenoko`s L’Amour Est Mon Arme, and accompanying Sneaker DJ mixes, are out now on Emotional Rescue.