The road seems to bounce beneath his quick and flowing step. Tall and sleek Jay Alansky strides, a soul’s brushstroke against a backdrop of intersecting streets in Paris, London, and New York, looking for an art book, rare music, a sweet look (for the rhyme, but not only). Dandy? Without a doubt. But not before composer, songwriter, filmmaker, photographer, Pygmalion. Always awakening. Always immersed in the process of creation and self-creation. Since the beginning of the 70s, his multiple musical incarnations have traced their way resolutely, standing out at the crossroads of worlds and genres- at the places where rock, pop, electronica, and song meet and overlap. His discography, born out of this eclecticism, reflects a personality that is both intense the vision of an artist as astute as he is aesthetic.
1–A Rock'n'Roll kid
Jay was born in Paris, the city where his father heads a small music-publishing company, baptized Monde Melody (Melody World). His office next to the Palais-Royal doubles as a musical instrument boutique, where stars of the 60s like Jacques Dutronc come to buy their gear. It’s a rainy afternoon in 1963, and in the form of a gift from his mother- an edition of Disco Revue largely consecrated to Gene Vincent- Jay is experiencing his rock’n’roll epiphany.
“Walking up Pelleport Street, the magazine in my hand, I said to myself: This is it. This is what I have to do. This is who I have to be.” Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Dylan…they continually make their mark up until the point where in December 1968, Jay learns a handful of chords on the guitar and writes his first song: Ballad of a Man Like Me. In 1971, at the age of 16, he records his first album in nine hours and calls it Season, released on his father’s label. The next year an EP entitled Hello Life follows. His first fans? Hundreds of classmates, who dig into their pockets to buy copies of the album at Voltaire High School, which he attends with his future collaborator Christophe J.
In 1975, donning the band name The Beautiful Losers, Christophe and Jay record the album “Nobody Knows The Heaven”, imbued with the inspiration of decadent glam rockers. Even though the album sales are modest, it is nevertheless picked up by knowing ears : music critics Yves Adrien, Patrick Eudeline, even the English weekly publication NME give it a review. And it is also during this time that in Brussels, a young author named Jacques Duvall (aka Hagen Dierks) is falling in love with Jay’s songs.
In 1977, Jacques contacts Jay and proposes that they collaborate. Their first work together is a 7-inch single with the sublime Marie-France (“Déréglée / Daisy”): muse of the infamous Alcazar club, of Parisian nights and photographers Pierre and Gilles. The team gathers more momentum when Duvall has Alansky listen to the singing of a tough and spirited teenage girl, Lio, who he discovered in the media library managed by her mother. For two years, Jay and Jacques write more than thirty songs for the young girl. Their tenacity proves fruitful, in the literal sense: their hit song is called “Le Banana Split”. Signed in Belgium in 1979, the song quickly climbs to the top of the charts and becomes an international hit and sold 2 million singles in Europe. Jay admits that he wrote it in less time than the song’s actual duration…
« After two years of work, Jacques calls me and informs me that we finally got a contract and that the first single won’t be mine. They wanted to cover an old 60s classic- I was furious, I told him to send me some lyrics, and in two minutes, I had composed Le Banana Split », a song that became a sensation for the electro-pop generation (before the term was even coined), transmitted on airwaves all the way to Japan. It was followed by a bunch of cleverly titled hits like “Sage comme un image”, “Amicalement votre”, and “Si Belle et inutile”.Albums sales were also excellent.
While composing music for Lio, Jay is also breaking into a career as a lyricist with some quick successes like the ska/reggae album “Kingston, Kingston” performed by the band Lou and The Hollywood Bananas (there’s that fruit again…),a european chart topper. He pens the lyrics of two songs (“Palais Royal” and “Toute la ville en Parle”) on the album “Poses” ( a Gold record…again), a work that marks a comeback for Alain Chamfort after he left Flêche Records. At the same time, he re-launches the career of the joker Plastic Bertrand with a top ten summer ballad in ’79 (“Sentimentale Moi”).
All of this naturally leads Jay to make his first album as the interpreter of his own songs. It’s in French: “Tendre est la nuit” (Tender is the Night), recorded in Los Angeles and released in France on March 6th, 1980, the day of his 25th birthday. Sophisticated, soulful, the album is a critical success and reinforces the image of a singer-songwriter “in vogue”. Faithful to his artists, he continues to write for Lio, The Hollywood Bananas, Plastic Bertrand, while also enlarging his sphere by writing the lyrics to the song “Indiscrétion” for Julien Clerc( on his first platinum album on Virgin Records).
Very dedicated, without forgetting to have fun; it’s the beginning of the 80s and Jay spends a lot of time at Studio d’Auteuil, a hotspot for the Parisian scene at the birth of New Wave. Here he produces several singles for Marie-France, “Image à Definir” for the actress Anicée Alvina, the first French rap “A mon âge déjà fatigué” performed by Pierre Edouard, Anne Marenko, Wall Street, “Prise au Piège” and “Fille Cosmopolite” for Malvina Melville. He also records a second personal album “La force qu’on a en nous” (The Strength We Have in Us), cancelled at the last minute by his record label despite having planned the release. This whirlwind of activity gives him ceaseless opportunities to perfect the art of sound and production. Two 7-inch singles at CBS in 1984, “Defense de Pleurer”, “Heureux, Malheureux” make their waves. Next he produces Christophe J., his former “complice” from The Beautiful Losers (who had made a great solo album with RCA, “Sons of Waterloo”). In his entourage, Jay meets Jipé Nataf and decides to produce the second single of his band Les Innocents. The recording of “Jodie”, turns out to be a long and difficult process. Jay is a demanding producer, but it’s a recipe for success.
3–Jil Caplan, The Innocent One
Among the band’s circle of friends, Jay notices a young, budding actress with black hair and porcelain skin. She is taking acting classes but is not against an experiment in “chanson”. Jay conjures up a name, a character, a repertoire: Jil Caplan is born. He composes and finances the album “A Peine 21” in two months, and four hit singles gathering plenty of radio play prove that it’s receiving a warm welcome. Jil makes appearances on multiple TV shows and the album goes gold (100.000 sales). With her androgynous Parisian look and her nonchalant phrasing, Caplan perfectly embodies the sensibility of songs that are both pop and profound. The remarkable understanding between the interpret and her Pygmalion continues and flourishes on their second album “La Charmeuse de serpents”), for which Jay again plays the role of author, composer, arranger, and producer. The first single, “Tout c’qui nous sépare” is an immediate hit, soon followed by “Natalie Wood”, “As-tu déjà oublié?”, “Parle moi”. These songs, packed with images and cultural references, bring Jil Caplan to the French Music Award Ceremony, where she wins best emerging artist of 1991, with close to 300,000 copies sold. All of this occurs just before her first tour.
Jil’s musical success provides the opportunity for Jay to immerse himself in image-based work (he also directs music videos and shoots photos for album covers). Like a true workaholic, he continues to write music for Lio’s album Pop Model (notably “Fallait pas commencer”( Top 3), and he also finds the time to pass along a great pair of “Lunettes Noires” (sunglasses) to his sister Hélèna to launch her first single. His role as a producer is moving at full throttle: Jay spends over 300 days a year in recording studios, including the famous Studio Garage, where he produces Louis Bertignac and the Visitors, The Pirate’s Fiancé, Les Chiffons, Marie Léonor, Baroque Bordello, La Belle Equipe…all without counting the numerous experiments and projects that never see the light of day. He also produces Valentin and Anna Betti, whose singles capture media attention. Then, he records two duets with Jil Caplan, but it’s the release of “The Price of Love”, a double album sung entirely in English (in an era when French artists rarely attempt a similar feat) that marks his comeback as the interpreter of his own songs. It is 1989, and recording technology allows him to play every instrument on the album, just as he did for Jil. The critics give Jay unanimous praise for this very personal work. The media follows suit, and Jay is invited to appear on a variety of television shows (including the famous Blind Test with Thierry Ardisson).
After a successful tour, Jil cuts her hair short and releases a third album “Avant qu’il ne soit trop tard”, which is a darker, electric,violent and less immediate work, for which she writes some of her own lyrics to combine with the rest, which are written by Jay. Insatiable, he simultaneously makes the album “Honey on a Razor Blade” in 1993, a massive project for which he records over forty songs. Unfortunately, the promotion hasn’t even started when the label collapses due to the suicide of its director. Without distribution, the album becomes a rare collector’s item. Also an avid prose writer, it is at this time that Jay puts the finishing touches on an intense literary experiment he has been working on for several years. Called “Carnets Fetiches” (The Fetish Journals), he refuses to see it published by an unscrupulous publisher who is only interested in the content for its deeply erotic side.
This period comes to a cathartic close with the recording of the almost-live album “Our Secret Place”, a project he participates in with several other musicians that according to some marks a return to the glam rock feel of The Beautiful Losers, but will never be released. Honored by his peers (Coeur de creation award in 1988, a medal from the French rights society Sacem), Jay is also solicited to do film scores. The director Leos Carax contacts him several times, and they even write a song together, which ends up being cut from the final version of “Mauvais Sang”.
4-A Reminiscent Drive / The F-Com Years
It is 1994. Jay is exhausted from years of work. He ceases his collaboration with Jil Caplan and stops haunting the big studios. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that his list of songs in alphabetical order begins with “After Life” and ends with “You are Free”. In the mid-90s, the hit songwriter is thirsty for something else- instrumental music, free from the diktats of the song format- something that will enable him to explore another realm of his sensitivity that has a clear link to his spiritual questioning. The project A Reminscent Drive takes form in 1995, on an old eight-track tape recorder. Ambient, experimental music that remains extremely melodic, free from all formatting constraints, A Reminiscent Drive embraces multiple musical forms and is always surprising. The typewritten words “No Computer On This Record” appear on the cover of the first EP “Flame One”, released in 1996.
Jay Alansky is welcomed with open arms by the label FCommunications, one of the pillars that is soon to become the “French Touch”. This album is followed by two more EPs “Embrace” and “Given”. Next he releases the full-length album “Mercy Street” in 1997, with its distinctive cover portraying a Japanese cherry tree, a photo taken by Jay who is now consecrating half of his time to his photography. Around the same time, he makes a book of collages called “Visual Samples” and numerous exhibitions of his visual work accompanying the release of “Ambrosia” in the year 2000. He does DJ sets, some mixtapes (for the renowned English festival Big Chill), some remixes (including a very special “A ton étoile” for famous French rock band Noir Désir, which becomes very sought after on the internet), as well as work commissioned by Patrick Rémy, important editor in the world of photography. Simultaneously, the A Reminiscent Drive albums are distributed in numerous countries (the UK, Scandinavia, Germany, Japan…) and welcomed by the public and critics alike (Single of the Week in the NME, Record Mirror, the Wire, Mojo) with praises: “if Ravel was alive today he’d be making albums like Mercy Street”.
“New York City Dharma”, “Life is Beautiful”, “Two Sides to Every Story”, and “Ambrosia” get picked up along with other songs and presented in numerous compilations of electronic music (Hotel Costes,etc…).These tracks are also often used by people from the art world or filmmakers such as Agnès Varda.
In 2003, seeing that the world of electronic music is becoming predictable, Jay releases a new album under his own name, this time staying with the label Fcom (it’s at this moment that he changes the spelling of his name- previously Alanski- to Alansky). Its title “Les yeux crevés” (Stabbed Eyes), which also happens to be one of the songs on the album performed by Jay in French is contested, deemed violent, dark and disturbing in opposition to its colorful, hand-drawn cover. FCom asks Jay to do a series of concerts (Brussels, French festival Printemps de Bourges, Nouveau Casino, China Club…). The experience is interesting but difficult. Pursuing one and many paths at the same time, Jay Alansky is also orchestrating his return in the genre of French “chanson” with the first recording of a young female singer, Elfy. Ambitious concept, the songs co-written by her on the album “Lisa without her star” are released in 2002 on a major label. Although the project receives critical esteem from influential media personalities (Catherine Breillat writes Elfy’s biography, Asia Argento is contacted to make the videos), the album is sacrificed due to a reorganization of its label just weeks after its release. Changes in the direction of the label and new priorities cause the album to get shelved. Having become a rare item, the album attains cult status, notably among a particular gay audience that appreciates its subtle ambiguities. Jay continues his collaboration with Elfy and produces two more albums, “Like a Wolf” and “The Animals”, which push the synthesis of French chanson and electronica even further. Unfortunately, the two projects never see the light of day. Only some handmade copies are sold for the benefit of the artist.
During his career as a singer-songwriter, Jay will have the fantasy of writing for several big names. He meets Sandie Shaw, “the barefoot singer” at the beginning of the 90s, Lambert Wilson who asks him to write an album, he sends a song to France Gall and to Brigitte Bardot…
It is therefore with pleasure that he accepts the request of Sylvie Vartan to write for her. He proposes a choice of three songs, one written especially for her, and two more previously recorded by A. Betti. Paradoxically, she chooses those, echoing her famous “Maritza” in her interpretation of “Odessa”, recounting the exile of a young Russian living in Paris. A meeting with Buzy also leads to two Alansky songs recorded by the pop star. He continues his collaboration with Jacques Duvall for Marie-France and Lio. He begins writing a musical with a suprising subject with Pierre Grosz, an effort that is unfortunately stalled by the inability to garner the financial means necessary to launch it. He pursues his work in photography, exploring the universe of Sand M with a collection of images called “Obsessive Flesh”.
In 2006, Jay Alansky proposes a new album to FCom called “Comedy World”, a synthesis of psychedelic, abrasive songs transcending what the label is comfortable releasing, marking the end of their collaboration. The same year, Jil Caplan and Jay Alansky move into new apartments located across from each other- coincidentally. This new twist of fate inspires an artistic reunion, manifest in the album “Derrière la porte” (2007), recorded entirely in the Pink Studio that Jay set up near the Champs-Elysées. A very receptive media praises this disc that perfectly reflects its own time by uniquely fusing the “chanson” culture with electronica taking on its pivotal role in the discography of Jil Caplan and allowing her to make a performance comeback (L’Européen, Le Petit Saint-Martin, a tour in China).
At the same time, Jay writes and directs “Les Stations du Ciel” (Four Steps to Heaven), four films with a total duration of three hours and forty minutes. His experience with self-production and photography lights up this ambitious project, the production team which consists of only one assistant and thirteen actresses, including the mother of Marion Cotillard: Niseema Theillaud. One of the four films, “Look Up, Prepare The Way !” is mostly shot in New York. For those who know his photos, the colors and contrasts are typical of his vision: sometimes trash-Warholian, sometimes tear-jerking fragility suggesting edgy, emotional dialogues. With their air of impressionist collages, these films make important statements about our time. Religion, “ultra modern” solitude, masochism, the unraveling of time and existence, they treat themes that are serious and brutal.Totally experimental , the films distinctive qualities are also their sophisticated music and scripts.
All of this brings us to the present day and a collaboration with the astonishing Pierre Faa (Jay declares he is today’s best French language singer-songwriter), which gives birth to the album “L’avenir n’est plus comme avant”, to be released in spring 2011. The Beautiful Losers’ “Nobody Knows The Heaven” is reissued on the label Martyrs of Pop and gains even more poignant recognition from the press (35 years later !). For this occasion Jay makes three music videos. He writes some songs for the beginner Vanessa Chassaigne and for some months, on the web we can follow the progress of his new and mysterious musical incarnation sEYmour, an avatar he prefers not to explain quite yet. It’s for you to discover!
His songs and music are constantly rediscovered.La Fiancée has just released Caplan ‘s « Tout c’qui nous sépare " , Nouvelle Vague a version of « Déréglée » on his new album out worldwide. His electronic "classics" are on Ibiza Classic Sunset by José Padilla ‘s new compilation and many others every year. And there’s still more to come ! Jay has put on line two hundred and twenty seven short films (largely seen and liked on Vimeo) and his photographic work can be seen on many different blogs and on Tumblr where his photographs are reblogged on numerous occasions. .
He's been asked to participate with "Monstruosa" to the Kiel Fetish Film Festival 2011 and a german label Peacelounge will reissue all his A Reminiscent Drive catalogue in digital and release a double cd anthology "Zoom Back Camera" in Fall 2013. He also lately directed many music videos for Pierre Faa ( among them, two shot in NYC ! ), Emma Solal and others.
A novel "Hermine et le vieux jeune homme" (Editions de l'Harmattan) is published in France in january 2015 and a Seymour album " I was a Gentleman " is finally out february 11. There are also critically acclaimed reissues of many of his previous works. SEASON (on Wah Wah records, a spanish label), FRANCE Chébran (with the 1981 Pierre EDOUARD's rap "à mon âge déjà fatigué").
In 2016, in Paris (april) and Luxemburg (november) take place exhibitions of his film photographies ( 1995-2002 ).
In 2016, in Paris (april) and Luxemburg (november) take place exhibitions of his film photographies ( 1995-2002 ).
His creations, the winding path of his career, tell the story of the most rare type of artist: one whose vision and ambition colors everything in his life- a phoenix who is never finished being reborn.