The Parisian, who turns 60 on Friday, peppers our 90-minute phone call with similar flights of fancy, ponderously linking Brexit to Baudrillard and dropping situationist truth bombs. And he has witnessed that power up close. A cult musician in France since the late 70s, and cited as an influence by the likes of Air and Daft Punk, Ahmadzaï was plucked from the sidelines by Madonna in 1999. He helped coax out her most experimental era, bolting his brand of heavily filtered, minimalist electrofunk on to the superstar’s 11m-selling album Music. His sonic fingerprints were all over two singles that immediately slotted into the already heaving Madge canon: the delicious electro-bounce of the title track and thigh-slapping country curio Don’t Tell Me.
Three years later came the politically-minded American Life, a divisive flop, before Ahmadzaï seemed to disappear into the pop wilderness. However, the pair reunited for last year’s album Madame X. How did she coax him back?
“Very simple – she called me,” he says. “It was after Donald Trump’s election and there were so many celebrities who were saying, ‘I’m leaving America [if he wins]’ and none of them left except her,” he says, referring to Madonna’s relocation to Portugal. “That’s why I have to defend her. It’s cool to have the courage of your convictions.”
Perhaps Madonna recognised that in Ahmadzaï, too. Twenty years after the release of his breakthrough solo album, Production, he’s back with a new single, 2016 – My Generation, and a forthcoming album, The Retrofuture. A mainly instrumental track, all chunky synths and trademark acid bass, 2016 – My Generation comes with an eye-popping animated video from Oscar-winning director Ludovic Houplain that offers up a panoramic view of modern life, from porn addiction (one section features skyscraping ejaculating phalluses), to the rise of the far right.
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