Every now and then, a record comes through that is as magical as it is mysterious. I had stumbled upon Jean Hoyoux’s phenomenal first LP Planètes – a space-age, cosmic Krautrock album pressed at 99 copies and accompanied by seven intricately illustrated inserts – during one of my many digs and, as far as I was concerned, I had hit the holy grail of rare Belgian presses. The record has, ever since, been on heavy rotation, both at home and on my radio slots, but somehow I wanted to go further. Who was Jean Hoyoux? What were his intentions with the record? Why the seemingly therapeutic inclinations? Fast-forward to December 2016, and my Facebook feed pulls up a post that was about to answer all my questions. Cortizona, a new record imprint, was set to release a reissue of the record, complete with unpublished photography and an additional insert. A few Facebook messages and email exchanges later, and I was set to get to the bottom of one of the most intriguing and visionary records in my collection. The following recounts the story of the Jean Hoyoux reissue, as told by Philippe Cortens, founder of cortizona and Anne Hoyoux, daughter of the man himself.
Philippe, when did your love affair with Jean Hoyoux begin?
I discovered the world of Jean Hoyoux whilst looking for music for Laika, the program on Klara I did during eight years with Lies Steppe and Mauro Pawlowski. I guess it is the record’s combination of DIY aesthetics as well as the unique sound that combines electronics, krautrock and eerie synths that delivers a timeless vibe and, in a kind of way, a typical Belgian feeling that made me love Planètes. It really is a mind-blowing trip through space. And the record sleeve is totally amazing!
What did you learn working on this reissue?
Whilst working on the reissue, I learned a lot about Jean Hoyoux. The first was that there were two people with the name Jean Hoyoux that lived in the same area, which I found rather crazy and funny. Secondly, I learned that Jean Hoyoux recorded two albums, ‘Planètes’ and ‘Hymne, and studied to be a French and religion teacher whilst also taking some courses in psychology. I also learned that he had recorded some music under the name Jean Le Fennec at the end of the sixties. And apparently he also wrote a book. He sadly passed away in 1986, a year after the release of his second album Hymne.
The record was meant for patients with personal development research.
More specifically to the album itself, what were the premises of the record? Why was it made?
Jean Hoyoux believed in music therapy and thought that there was a correspondence between planets and sounds. The record was meant for patients with personal development research in the first place.
How did you actually get hold of the master tapes?
That was only possible with the help of his children Anne and Stéphane.
Can you take me through the process of reissuing such a record? What would you say was the most challenging aspect of it?
It was a real challenge to get this done: from finding the master tapes as well as recovering the original artwork and inserts to remastering the audio. The goal, obviously, was to stay as close as possible to the original record of 1982, which was made possible by the impeccable work of Gert Van Hoof, who remastered it, and Pascal Deweze, who did the tape transfer. The biggest challenge was to get the record sleeve with the silver printing-parts right. Jef Cuypers luckily helped me out with that.
Jean Hoyoux was a very talented musician and a soul searching man who managed to get his hands on some astonishing electronic gear.
What do you know about the original artwork? The reissue comes accompanied with one extra artwork – can you talk to us about it?
The original artwork of the record sleeve was made by René Moutschen, a good friend of Hoyoux’s. The inserts were done by Annie Cosse, one of his neighbours at the time. The additional insert that comes with the re-issue includes unpublished pictures of Jean Hoyoux and liner notes by Edward Ka-Spel, frontman of Legendary Pink Dots, John Olson of Wolf Eyes and Anne & Stéphane Hoyoux.
Can you talk to me a little about the other people involved in the project? John Olson, Edward Kaspel, Keith Whitman…
John Olson is probably best known as a member of Wolf Eyes. Besides being a great musician, he’s also a record-freak and a fantastic writer of some of the best, most personal and funny reviews I’ve ever read (check out his book ‘Life is a rip off’). The liner notes he wrote for Planètes are spot on and incredibly detailed. Edward Kaspel has been a fan of Planètes for a long time and wrote about how he discovered the record. Musician Keith Fullerton Whitman is also a longtime fan of and expert in early electronic music who released ‘Planètes’ on CD-R a few years ago.
Hoyoux also was the founder of l’Institut National d’AnthropoCosmologie. Were you able to find out a little bit about it during your research?
INAC was an astrological and philosophical institute which studied the relation between the cosmos, the human being and the evolution in time between them. It was started in 1978 by Jean Hoyoux and some of his friends.
On a more personal level, what does working on such a reissue mean to you?
I’ve listened to Planètes many times and I’m still discovering new elements in the record. I think it’s fair to say that I love it now even more than the first time I heard it. I’ve also often wondered how he recorded the songs and if he improvised while recording or not . Most of them sound like they were recorded in one take without overdubs. I guess Jean Hoyoux was a very talented musician and a soul searching man who managed to get his hands on some astonishing electronic gear which he tried to explore fully on Planètes and which resulted in a uniquely personal record. I also think he took his music very seriously whilst remaining as grounded as possible. In a weird way, I also find the record to be funny at times, it has what can only be described as surreal undertones.
What are you hoping to achieve with the reissue?
I’d be happy if the re-issue helped new audiences discover the original record and if more people realise Jean Hoyoux’s truly amazing musical output, one that remains oddly relevant in 2017, 35 years after the first release.
Anne, how would you describe your father?
My father was a self-taught musician. He was a teacher after his studies but his life changed after he had a car accident. He then became a full-time musician and researcher of the human race.
Can you describe the household you grew up in?
My parents got divorced when I was three years old, when my brother was just born. We were with him one weekend every fortnight and half the time during holidays. Most of the time, my father enjoyed life and was surrounded by friends.
How old were you when your father was recording Planètes? Do you remember anything specific about that period?
I was fifteen when Planètes was recorded. I enjoyed listening to him at home and in concert. To me, that period was exciting.
Can you talk to us about the people that were around your father at the time of recording the album, the people instrumental in it coming out?
People that were around my father were friends. René Moutchen was a good friend of his. He made most of the drawings you can see on the inserts.
What do you make of the interest shown today for your father’s work?
This was a big surprise as it happened 30 years after his death. I think he would have been happy of such recognition. And I think he deserves it.
How do you perceive your father’s music?
It sounds to me as a musical journey in search of the soul.Philippe (1975) is a curator and self-described music freak who worked until 2013 as programmer for Studio Brussel’s Select and Laika, together with Lies Steppe and Mauro Pawslowski. Jean Hoyoux’s Planètes was originally released in 1981 and limited to 99 copies. Its reissue is now out on cortizona and, to mark the release, Meteor Musik will be playing a live version of the album at Brussels’ Planetarium this Saturday 18th February.