Michael Jackson, meeting his collaborators

Michael Jackson, 12 years following your voice #6


"Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous"

Albert Einstein

@ Renée Paul, artiste peintre, graphite sur Canson, 24 cm x 32 cm, 2017
@ Renée Paul, Sound and Music

In the fall of 2009, social networks were still in their infancy. I had read, during the summer, "The Conspiracy" by Aphrodite Jones (which I will come back to) and "In the studio with Michael Jackson" by Bruce Swedien. It seemed obvious to me that I should dig deeper and try to approach some of the collaborators. Not Bruce Swedien, no! Surely inaccessible, like MJ and other Quincy...


Because I wanted to do anything but ramble in my research. Anything but research for research's sake, writing for writing's sake, building up problems and justifying them at all costs, even if it meant distorting Michael's will or his artistic vision. I felt it was important that my research be based on first-hand accounts. At this stage, I still didn't understand the university system, where they would explain to me, shortly afterwards, that the words of a musician or a technical assistant of Michael's had less weight in the balance than the thoughts of such and such a musicologist or sociologist... I had to learn to think "within the box", by referring to what others had thought before me, without going too far out on a limb and venturing to think for myself or to give my opinion... As for what his close collaborators might say, how could their words be totally neutral and therefore true? In any case, in the eyes of a part of the institution, they were much less so than the ultra-indirect words of this or that thinker who had never taken an interest in the reality of the field (because he or she did not necessarily have to do so) and had never questioned anyone, not even the main person concerned during his or her lifetime... If it had been a question of making a thesis to show that Michael Jackson came from Sirius or that he had no sex, I think the case would have worked. As long as one relies on what a venerable so-and-so may have thought from afar and arrives at a plausible conclusion... What does the truth matter after all, if the demonstration holds? In short... I'm going astray...


The testimony that interested me the most in Bruce's precious book, because I was very sensitive to this parameter, was the one of Chuck Wild, who talked about the unreleased sounds that Michael was fond of and that he had asked him to create for the "HIStory" album. I ended up finding a vague "MySpace" (it was the hot channel at the time) and I had ventured to send Chuck a list of questions. Long... like I could never stop myself from doing. A bottle in the sea, as it were. And what happened a few weeks later? I got an answer. Benevolent. Encouraging.


Because Chuck hadn't just sent a terse e-mail: he had taken each of my fifteen questions and answered them, point by point, in detail. He had been interested in what I had to say and he had played along. What an encouragement! It took me a while to get over it! Such a treasure... Information just for me, straight from the source... It was unexpected...


Then, my emotions a little bit over, I felt myself growing wings. I looked for Bruce's MySpace, took my courage and my nerve in both hands, and sent him some questions. Another bottle to the sea. What did I have to lose? Chuck had answered well!


And again, a few weeks later: an e-mail in my inbox. "Isabelle.... Call me..." followed by an American phone number, signed "Bruce". My blood ran cold... An immense dizziness... Shocked, I printed the email, folded it in 8 quickly, like a treasure that one would like to hide, a winning ticket, and put it in my pocket... I kept this precious sesame with me for several weeks, as if I were carrying a piece of Michael Jackson, something directly related to him, unless it was a precious stone...


Weeks went by, without me doing this number. I was brooding over my treasure. This direct thread to the legend, to a legendary name, to a world that had been for me a mythological world, "virtual" before the virtual... Regularly, I told myself that I would have to call (but well... it had been years since I had practiced English... what a pain!), that it was not done, that this gentleman was already of a certain age, that I could not let such a chance pass, that he would not find me serious... etc. etc. I received his email in December 2009. At the very beginning of March 2010, I said to myself, "Come on, call!" With the support of a friend who spoke good English, after much procrastination, pacing around the dining room table, we checked the time difference with Florida and called, via Skype, the precious number around 10pm French time...


And then a big voice answered, "Allooowwww?" Bruce was in the house! And I was shaking behind my computer... My translator exchanged a few words on my behalf, I stammered a few... We didn't get along well, a lot of crackling on the line... Again, Skype was not yet what it is today... Quickly, he said: "We don't get along well, don't worry, I'll send you an email, you'll contact someone from me...". We hung up. I was exhausted like after a marathon! What pressure! What a leap into the Other World! I had spoken to someone who had spent thirty years of his professional life, practically, with the grail, with Michael! Then, an email arrived. He asked me to contact someone on his behalf. I didn't know who it was. A Frenchman or an American. An assistant who could answer my questions or someone else...


When I wrote my email (in English, in doubt) to this man, he called me. Surprised to see me come out of nowhere and sent to him by Bruce Swedien, he said: "You don't know what a good feeling you had to call him now... In a few days, it would have been too late! He is coming to Paris on our invitation next week. I contacted him again to tell him about your email and he wants you to join us! It's a private session in a Parisian studio. An amazing secret event!"


My arms fell off... I measured the abyss in front of which I had just stood, without falling... For four months I had been waiting to call Bruce. I didn't know why I had let it slip away all that time... Nor did I know why, all of a sudden, at the beginning of March, I had made up my mind... What I did know was that if I had let another week go by, I would have missed the unique opportunity to meet Bruce, during his unique visit to Paris... What I did know was that it was just the right time to call him!


In this moment where nothing had been calculated but where everything fell again just for me, I could only thank God, for this stroke of chance, and Michael who, no more than Einstein, believed in the incoherent void of this chance...




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