Interview: 5 minutes with John Lord Fonda

Image by Julien Lasota

France has consistently produced some of electronic music’s most cutting edge creators. The evolution of the French touch has earnestly embraced other forms of club music, arriving at the banging electroclash of artists such as Vitalic and John Lord Fonda. Fonda is a more elusive creature than his peers, quietly going about the technical mastery of his distinctive dance music. He broke onto the scene in 2004 with his debut EP Voltage, which would establish his eclectic blend of techno and rave with a rock and roll energy. A string of releases would follow and refine Fonda’s sound, including 2011’s critically acclaimed Supersonique. His forthcoming EP Altaïr follows last year’s acid techno outing Titanium, and sees Fonda revisiting his love for retro futurist sounds and minimal techno rhythms. Set for release on Vitalic’s Citizen Records on September 10th, Altaïr is a manic three track journey of buzzing electronic layers and metallic synths. It’s an all-out club focussed record, and a particularly dance heavy project to arise from the isolation of lockdown. We caught up with him ahead of Altaïr’s release to find out how he’s kept the inspiration flowing between records and how lockdown has influenced his practice. 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

As far as I remember, I’ve always enjoyed listening to music, particularly electronic and classical music. I still have memories of listening to Pink Floyd or Jean Michel Jarre when I was 5. I really loved listening to this kind of stuff. I really loved the funk of KC and the Sunshine Band too. I studied classical music. Classical will always be one of my first musical loves. I played the flute at the Conservatory of Music for 10 years. 

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

Yes, in the 90’s when I discovered techno music. Some years after the Conservatory, I partied a lot at a club called l’An-fer in Dijon, in Eastern France where this new sound was being played. It reminded me of the golden age of synthesisers. I had never heard this kind of sound before and I said “ I want to do the same!”. I still remember a party with Laurent Garnier in June, 1993. He played his tune Wake Up for the first time, and he said to the audience “this one’s for you!” It was amazing! So, I logically decided to buy some machines and tried to make the music I discovered in this club; techno.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

When I’m in the studio, there is no specific production routine. Sometimes, I turn on my synths, choose a preset, start with a melody, or a succession of chords. Then I work on rhythm patterns and edit the sound. Or I start by programming my synthesisers and then I go on. As I said before, there is no rule in my studio, it depends on my mood and what I want to do.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound? 

A lot of people told me that my music is easily distinguishable. I don’t really know where this comes from because I don’t feel like I use specific techniques to get a personal sound. I don’t have big equipment, so when I want to experiment, I push my machines to their limits and maybe this is how I get my sound. But to me, the most important thing is to get a sound that doesn’t age. This is the main purpose when you’re a producer.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Difficult to say, maybe I love making music in the same way I’m not into gardening. There’s no explanation for that.

Altaïr has a wild, manic energy which is interesting for the times. Did you find that lockdown and isolation shaped or changed the way you approached making dance music? 

Thanks, I’m very proud of this new EP. I’m very satisfied with the result and I love the Damon Jee remix. The production was being finalised during the lockdown, but the writing and the composition of them was done before the pandemic. I don’t think the lockdown has changed my way of making dance music, given that the writing and the production process are often done in an isolated environment. I don’t think that the lockdown has changed much, at this point. Obviously, this period is very special, so it influences my way of making music in one way or another. I wrote a song called We Can’t Breathe which talks about this period and its suffocating side. The future is uncertain, and I’m not sure we’re done with the pandemic. 

Pre-order Altaïr here

In the years since your earlier work such as Ondes, what have been the things that have truly sparked your inspiration? Are there any sounds, genres or experiences that are shaping what you make now, that have not done so previously? 

I’ve never really stopped making music. I composed a lot of tracks, most of them are still sleeping on my hard drive. I released an acid techno EP called Titanium on A-Traction, a French label. This one is clearly harder than Altaïr! Let’s say that between Ondes and the last one, I was more focused on the techno spirit of my music than before. Next to that, I listened to lots of different stuff like classical music or ambient music like Alessandro Cortini. Also, I was less focused on getting a hit. I preferred having the freedom to embrace my spontaneous inspiration, without any other purpose other than enjoying what I was doing.

Breakdown the news for us: what else can we expect from you this year?

A new EP and a new album are coming at the end of 2021. I hope it will work!

Famous last words?

Keep the faith in what you do, and never stop doing what you love to do!

Listen to They Will Fight For You from Altaïr below.

Follow John Lord Fonda

Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud