Distinctly prolific and quintessentially adaptive, the impressive career of world renowned, French-born music producer, songwriter, bassist, author and all-out consummate music entrepreneur, Josquin des Pres, spans and survives the harsh test of time and music’s ever changing, turbulent tides.
Landing his first major record deal with United Artists Records at the age of 19, des Pres toured the world with some of the biggest acts in France, becoming a highly sought-after bass player. His evolutionary trajectory through music led him to Los Angeles where his skills expanded to include producing, arranging and songwriting.
In the late 1980s des Pres’ career boasts the long lasting and rare distinction of collaborating with the legendary Bernie Taupin–Elton John’s famed lyricist. Their co-writing efforts produced several songs that have been covered by artists around the globe. His collaborations and numerous covers led to publishing contracts with Warner Chappell Music, EMI Music, New Heights Entertainment and numerous industry major labels.
Furthering his accomplishments, des Pres has produced and recorded hundreds of projects and CDs, composed more than 700 songs and adapted to crest the unforgiving changing tides of music by composing soundtracks for some of television’s most recognizable shows and networks such as MTV, VH1, CBS, CNN, Anderson Cooper, Discovery Channel, Food Network, Animal Planet, the Ellen DeGeneres show, amongst countless others. His longevity and adaptability continue to define him as one of music industry’s definitive players.
Nondescript amongst offices, eateries and retail storefronts that line the 7200 block of University Avenue in La Mesa, his Track Star Studios is, paradoxically, internationally relevant and acclaimed, ultimately landing des Pres within San Diego’s community’s reach where he has set up shop, if you will, since 1997, remaining highly accessible.
A.C: What motivated you to get into music?
J.D.P: Most likely, as everyone else, I originally got into music for the love of music. Simply because of the incredible high I would experience playing bass with my friends. Nothing like 16 year old kids in a stuffy room, with cranked up dusty tube amps–I can still smell the dust heating up on those old tubes and transformers– something you rarely experience nowadays with solid state amps. A few years later, after getting signed with United Artists Records in France, I decided I was going to make a living at this and it gradually turned into a fun business. Today, everything I do is very business oriented, but still lots of fun.
A..C: What was the music scene like in your native France at the time?
J.D.P: I was born in St. Tropez and grew up in the south of France in an environment where classical music was very prominent, both at home and in school. We were less than 100 miles from both the Spanish and Italian borders. The radio airwaves were a melting pot of French, Flamenco, Spanish and Italian music.
A.C: What brought you to collaborate with Mr. Taupin?
J.D.P: I was working as a producer in Los Angeles throughout the 1980s. In the late ’80s, a mutual friend, producer Mark Paladino, asked me to join him in co-producing a song Bernie Taupin was writing. A few years later came the opportunity to collaborate with him. Being a very private person and very selective about whom he works with, co-writing with Taupin was something that could have only happened on his terms. Needless to say, I was very honored to be asked. To this day, I’ve written over a dozen songs with him.
A.C: What brought you to the San Diego area?
J.D.P: Originally, my parents had moved from France to San Diego in the 1970s. When I arrived from France I first set foot in San Diego, prior to looking for work in Hollywood. I had spent over a decade in L.A. working as a producer, songwriter and bass player. In the early 90s I was a songwriter for Warner and when my contract came to an end, I decided to move to San Diego to rethink and reorganize my music career.
A.C: Do you like living here?
JDP: La Mesa is a great place for me to live. I am only 2.5 hours from Los Angeles. My recording studio and offices are here in La Mesa and any music venture I take part in begins at Track Star Studios, here in La Mesa.
A.C: What do you think of San Diego’s music scene?
J.D.P: San Diego has always had a thriving music scene. Jewel, Jason Mraz and Carly Smithson (from American Idol) and numerous others. I participated quite a bit in the San Diego music scene in the mid-90s, when Cargo Records–the label who launched Blink 182– was active in town. I produced numerous CDs for artists I helped get sign on Cargo. Now I work more with the L.A. music industry, but also, New York, Europe and Asia. Nowadays with the Internet, there are no more borders.
A.C: Do you manage artists’ careers?
J.D.P: Currently, Track Star Entertainment manages only two artists: Gipsy Nouveau (featuring Patchai Reyes of the Gipsy Kings) and I’ve recently teamed up with Bryan Spevak, formerly of Geffen and Cargo records, to handle the career of an amazing new pop punk band from Colorado called Leave The Universe.
A.C: As you look back on your enduring career, what were some key moments that you would like to share–consisting of memories of people in music, or your own pivotal career paradigm shifts?
J.D.P: There are several key moments and great memories: Arriving from France to L.A. and playing with numerous musicians I had admired for years is one. Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s lyricist– opening a folder of lyrics on my kitchen counter for me to co-write with him–is another one.
A.C: What music do you personally gravitate towards?
J.D.P: In terms of what I write, produce and publish, I, of course, gravitate towards the demand. I don’t dictate what we are going to be composing and producing, our clients and the market does. As far as what I like to listen to, I enjoy everything that is current. There is a lot of incredible new music out there. I have very little interest in listening to music from previous decades. I already heard it back then. I don’t feel I will discover anything new hearing it again one more time. Basically, I am not a “classic rock” kinda guy… I like to move forward with the times, discover and participate in new music.
A.C: What sets Track Star Studios/ Entertainment apart?
J.D.P: As far as publishing, we get approached by numerous writers and we usually try to pay attention to all inquiries. However, we’re not the decision makers. Once again, the market decides. If there is a demand out there for “coffeehouse music or “pop-punk” type artists, that is what we’re going to be listening for. Additionally, we compose and produce music for dozens of TV shows (network and cable). So we have a pretty good idea of what styles are being picked up by the networks. As for Track Star Studios, our recording and production expertise speaks for itself. Our clientele is worldwide and our credits range from recording artists as varied as Jack Johnson, Kirk Whallum, Gipsy Kings, TechN9ne to producing song demos for world class songwriters like Bernie Taupin, Winston Sela, Andy Goldmark etc. As far as our production and recording teaching program. It’s much better to learn in a working studio environment with real live musicians and on real projects, rather than in a classroom. When studying at Track Star, you’re living a real “on the job” experience while you are studying.
A.C: Considering music industry’s many pit falls, what is your best advise for enduring the arduous process to an aspiring singer-songwriter?
J.D.P: Play out to build your following and to get feedback on your songs. Look at the possibility of getting your music in TV shows. Some artists have received great breaks through TV and commercials . Be prepared with broadcast quality recordings. If a music supervisor or publisher likes your song and it’s poorly produced or recorded, they will quickly move on to the next artist. Even if your song is great.
A.C: What makes you still excited to get up in the morning and head for the studio?
J.D.P: It’s hard not to get excited when your work is your passion. A good portion of my time is spent composing and running my publishing company. I get up fairly early because some of our composers are based in Europe. I am usually at my studio by mid morning and I start developing projects with my team until roughly mid afternoon. We have a relaxed and easy schedule. Regardless of what we’re working on, I feel very fortunate that every morning I get to participate in the creation of music. Everyday, I get to live this passion I’ve had since I was a pre-teen.