In an era when electronic music was sober and serious, Perrey was a revolutionary. He set out to relieve electronic music of its burden of earnestness by popularising the sounds of early synthesizers with his happy space-age songs.
Born in France in 1929, Perrey developed an early interest in music when he was given an accordion for his fifth Christmas, an interest that later led him to quit medical school. While still a student, Perrey met the inventor Georges Jenny. After hearing his creation the ‘Ondioline’
, a precursor of the synthesizer, on the radio, Perrey was hooked. He dropped out of school, taught himself to play the piano within months, and was hired by Jenny as a sales rep. While touring Europe with the Ondioline, Perrey developed a cabaret act to showcase it and his talents, which led to connections with some greats of the time: Charles Trenet
, Jean Cocteau
, and Edith Piaf
Perrey’s connection with Piaf was significant. She became his patron, and introduced him to Caroll Bratman, who sponsored his move to the States in 1959. In his first years in New York, Perrey promoted the Ondioline, made a name for himself as a performer, and worked on many projects, including advertising jingles, with musicians and composers such as Harry Breuer, Billy Godenburg and Angelo Baldalamenti (who later did the soundtrack for Lynch’s Blue Velvet).
In his studio, Perrey worked to develop his own unique and comic sounds. Using tape-splicing techniques learned from Pierre Schaefer at the Studio of Contemporary Music Research, he “… invented a new process for generating rhythms…” often spending days splicing together short songs built from found sounds.
In the mid sixties, Perrey formed a partnership with Gershon Kingsley
(composer of Popcorn
). Together, using Perrey’s original tape-splicing rhythm generation techniques and Moog synthesizers, they recorded two seminal LPs for Vanguard; The In Sound From Way Out
, and Kaleidoscopic Vibrations
, both re-released in 1988 as a double CD: The Essential Perrey and Kingsley
. Baroque Hoedown
, one of the tracks on Kaleidoscopic Vibrations is still being used for parades at Disneyland. Perrey recorded two more albums for Vanguard The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound of Jean-Jacques Perrey
(1968), and the classic Moog Indigo
(1970), which features the much-sampled E.V.A.
Perrey has released two fairly recent CDs, Eclektronics
- recorded in 1997 with musician David Chazam
(Basta, 2000), and Circus of Life
- recorded in 1999, with musician Gilbert Sigrist (PHMP, 2000). Perrey is currently working on a new CD entitled The Happy Electropop Music Machine
with musician and arranger Dana Countryman
. He has also collaborated with French electronica duo Air, and producer/DJ Luke Vibert
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