Ork Alarm! # 5

February 1991

CONTENTS

  • Marquee Club ’73
  • Gorgo & Zebëhn October ’78 (photo: Jean-Louis Rancurel)
  • XAAL (Cyrille Beerens)
  • A gander with Vander (Rex Anderson)
  • The French Connection (Martin Hayman)
  • Magma to Return
  • Gretsch Advert 1979
  • Ork! Update

Concert News

This edition was originally published with the GIGANTIC A0 size UZMK family tree (that’s why there is very little news in this issue). The tree was an early version and was substantially updated at the end of 1991. The tree gets updated every six months or so. Please let me know of any albums missing from the tree. Also note that the concept of it was not to list the Magma albums and personnel because you know that already! But to record the activities of each and every musician in the UZMK, before and after working with Christian Vander. Obviously, albums that took several months or years (e.g. ‘Inedits’) to record do not fit well in the overall scheme of the tree.
Later on in the life of Ork Alarm! we will include a discography.

MAGMA / OFFERING

SPRING 1991 TOUR NEWS UPDATE

MAGMA

29-03-91 MJC, Epinay sur Seine (11km from Paris)
30-03-91 Grand Théâtre, Reims

OFFERING

06-04-91 Centre Culturel Soissons (100km from Paris)
13-04-91 Salle Dunoyer de Segonzac, Viroflay (Suburbs of Paris)
19-04-91 Cinema les Varietes, Beauvais (80km from Paris)


XAAL

Cyrille Beerens

XAAL have existed since 1986. The original trio of Laurent Imperato (guitar), Patrick Boileau (drums) and Nicolas Neimer, which had trained itself to play some revivals of jazz-rock along the lines of Jeff Beck, rapidly took the decision to tell their own story and started a personal repertoire two years later, in 1988. As the music had at long last stabilised, the group added a keyboard player, Stephane Jaoui, but instead of the latter adapting to their music, it was the music that changed, however the group continued in this form for roughly seven months before returning to the trio formula and to record three tracks in a studio in Brest. Then it was back to a quartet in the summer of 1989, with the arrival of Jad Ayache on guitar-synth. But hardly had this new line-up recorded four songs before Laurent Imperato left the band. Jad took over the guitar, to form the actual XAAL, a really stable band now, with an original repertoire and with ambitions to record a CD soon, at last ready to open to a larger public.

The music of XAAL, which is purely instrumental, by its impact should please three types of public: The Prog-rock fans who will be sensitive to the melodic aspect and to the style of compositions; The MAGMA fans who will jump for joy hearing the breakings of the bass / drums tandem; The jazz-rock fans at last who wouldn’t remain insensitive to the instrumentalist qualities of our three friends. On listening to Patrick Boileau (27), the drummer, it is difficult not to think of Christian Vander during the great period of MAGMA and of Bill Bruford at the peak of KING CRIMSON, to think of them when he plays his pieces with a wonderful power. Nicolas Neimer (23), the bassist doesn’t hide the fact that his influences are Jannick Top and Bernard Paganotti, thus a great noise and bass notes to take your breath away. But the music of XAAL has nothing to compare with the music of MAGMA or KING CRIMSON. XAAL is original. Jad Ayache (25) is left with his guitar out of which the most diverse and interesting sounds emerge. He admits listening to pianists, saxophonists, and principally a guitarist… Jimi Hendrix. Their tape which can be ordered, care of C. BEERENS is the occasion of killing two birds with one stone: To help the band to produce its CD and to give you pleasure as you discover one of the strongest European music’s.


A Gander with Vander

Rex Anderson – NME 3-8-74

It’s difficult to know what to say to a drummer of the calibre of Christian Vander – partly because his drumming is on a plane far beyond that of any drummer I have yet encountered, and partly because he can only understand a few words of English.

It’s remarkable how hard it becomes when one attempts to interview someone through an interpreter (in this case Giorgio Gomelsky, manager and producer of Vander’s French band, Magma).

To start with, the tradition of relaxing ones subject with a little idle chatter and a few humorous remarks can be forgotten altogether. There’s no way you can make small talk through an interpreter.

I thought at first that I might still have enough French to do without Giorgio. No way. That stuff they teach you for O-level is useless except for passing exams with.

MAGMA was formed five years ago by Christian, who decided it was time (that at least someone) in France made a stand for rock and perhaps made some music that stretched its boundaries a little.

You see, the French don’t like innovation in art any more. They like it all the way it was. Society itself is very conservative. All right, the kids like a few new sounds, but the French music industry, steeped as it is in a tradition of Chansant, Reinhardt and the classics, just imports what it needs from here and the States.

They’ve never seen anything commercial in domestic rock. (Well there isn’t anything commercial, but that’s not the point, is it?)  Anyway, Christian and ses amies decided to kick contre this and put together a little combo that now, alors, is actuallement commercial – un peu.

Voila, une feuille de copy et je n’as pas mon cahier ouvert. Ou est mon cahier? Qui a half-inched me note book? Sheeeet! Oh yes, it’s an education reading my stuff.  Before he formed Magma, Christian was a session drummer with a number of jazz and R & B bands. How did he manage to get such an avant-garde band together out of a country of musicians usually so apathetic where modem rhythms are concerned? (Or perhaps just pathetic – or pathetique, though I think that loses something in translation).

Sans pun, I wait while this question is translated into French and then the answer comes in fits and starts:  Christian says: “None of the band are really French… the people he gets together with as musicians… Michael Graillier (keyboards) is North African of French extraction… Klaus (vocals) is Basque… Jannick (bass) is Polish, German and English… Gerard (keyboards) is Lithuanian… Christian is three-quarters German and a quarter Polish. His Polish grandfather was a gypsy.”

Actually, there’s a lot of Gypsy about Christian. He looks itinerant. He’s a very restless person at the best of times. One suspects he’s violent, contemptuous, slightly superhuman and constantly fighting to hold back something evil inside him. Which could all be completely wrong – just another bunch of things that got lost in translation.

Christian started, playing drums at 11. He started playing percussion instruments when he was very young, accompanying Stravinsky, Bartok and Bach… “But I wasn’t influenced by Jacques Loussier.” he hastens to add.

“I was not living with my parents at 11. I had no official tuition. But the only person who taught me was Elvin Jones. Chet Baker gave me “my first drum kit. He was living with my mother and playing with a group in Paris.

“He saw I wanted a drum kit and he took me to the club he was playing and came out with a drum kit and said: ‘that’s for you.’

“Six months later the police came round. It was a kit he had hired for the gig and hadn’t taken back so it had been reported stolen.”

Christian has something of a history of hiring drum kits. The next kit he had he hired himself. “I forgot to take it back. They fined me £200.”

By 11 he had got off the Bach and Stravinsky and was into Ray Charles. He practised between seven and nine hours a day. He still does. The kit he has now is a Gretsch. “I prefer it. The sound is more precise. It is more tuneable and it has a bigger and harder sound.” It consists of a bass drum, a bass tom-tom, a high tom-tom and a snare. He also has a hi-hat and seven cymbals, all Zildjian. The snare drum stand is a Hollywood, which he believes in implicitly, the hi-hat stand is an Orange. The bass-drum pedal is a Cameo, which was custom, made for Elvin Jones. It’s operated by a bicycle chain mechanism. The remaining cymbal stands are Ludwig.He uses a lot of weights around the kit to hold it steady. He has 320lb. on the hi-hat and 40 to 60lb. per cymbal stand.

His playing uses the different sounds of the various percussive effects he can get from the kit rather than just pounding out a basic rhythm. He is a very rare creature. A successful front-man drummer.

‘It depends on the pieces. Magma is going to get into a different thing musically. I shall probably play much stronger rhythms. The drums are a melodic instrument. They can be very flat if they are not tuned properly. All the cymbals are tuned.”

Magma has now been accepted very well in France. It is probably the most respected band by followers of jazz, classical and rock and roll. In France the band, which the industry once ignored, now sells enough albums to be a commercial proposition. Nor is it a band that attracts just the head freaks and the middle-aged intelligentsia. The majority of the audience is between 15 and 16. The kids are starved of music with meat in it and Magma fills that gap. There are now a few other bands in France doing the same sort of thing. Two former Magma members have now formed a band called Zao. In America to date their reception has been OK, but there is a tendency for people there to think the music is pretentious.

“It’s a music of our times. People spend too much time on a particular form of expression. It was listening to Coltrane that made me want to put the band together; although the music is nothing like Coltrane’s. “It was because he is a very spiritual musician. In the last three or four years I have not listened to very much new music, apart from McLaughlin who is also a spiritual musician. “I also listen to Wagner because he is spiritual. He wrote amazing melodies that go higher and higher. At the time people were saying that Wagner was grandiose. But they were wrong, it was spiritual.”

What does he mean by spiritual? ‘It’s not inspired by material, earthly things. The inspiration comes from high above. Rock and roll is not spiritual. When you play it you look down at the earth. Spiritual music you draw your inspiration from above.”

So where does that put yer soul and yer funk, yet actual Negro, back to the jungle boogie?  Negro music is unconsciously spiritual. It appears to be very earthy, but these people have not lost their spiritual potential. They unconsciously, without knowing, are a link with the universe. It’s sometimes difficult to detect because of the commercialism. ”I feel very strongly that Negro music is not immaterial at all Six or seven years ago I listened to a lot of Tamla Motown – Junior Walker, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes. I didn’t understand the words, but I felt the music was spiritual.” Perhaps if he had heard the words he would have changed his mind. To Christian they were singing about higher things. In fact, they were singing about screwing each other. But there again, maybe he’s right. I always thought there was something very spiritual about screwing. This language problem – that of never being able to understand the words to Western music – has led to a strange thing in Magma. Both the musicians and the audiences in France are used to having their rock and jazz with the vocals playing a purely instrumental part.

As a result, Christian has invented a new language which has quite a limited vocabulary and concerns itself with the goings on in a Sci-Fi / fantasy world called Kobaïa.

The band also acts as a kind of travelling panacea for loneliness. Christian believes that the music, to be successful, should draw the audience together. He wants people to de-isolate themselves. After concerts in France the band stays on stage and talks to people in the audience.

“Wherever you go there are the same sort of people. They have the same problems. I collect telephone numbers and put all these people in touch with each other.”


 

The French Connection

Poitiers 13-4-74

Martin Hayman (Sounds 27-4-74)

French Connection says the man sitting over the way from me. It fits good, and it sounds right. Oh yeah? I think as I nod after eleven hours doing my Polish refuges stunt from Paris to London… swift, efficient and discreet? None of these things.

So you want to know how we spent our Easter holidays? We went to see Magma in Poitiers. Yes Magma: the group led by Christian Vander that there was such a big song-and-dance about recently (and for good reason): But why Poitiers, indeed? This was a question that I asked myself with increasing frequency as the weekend wore on and the obstacles against our travelling show stacked up against us.

But how dull to learn how the intrepid reporters various music publications scaled insurmountable obstacles to bring you back the story! How much more exciting to know what the crack was when (finally) we get to our destination.

It must have been something to do with the baroque imagination of mastermind Giorgio Gomelsky, who at the drop of a hat, had suggested (knowing from way back as he does the proclivities of the English music journalist when invited abroad to disport himself with foreigners), that we make this French connection….

Threatened for our pleasure were Magma and Can. There were unsubstantiated rumours that there would also be Stomu Yamash’ta and Keith Tippett. Neither was there.

Breakdowns

Of the numerous breakdowns in communication and organisation in getting there let us draw a veil; other than to note that the Simca rented from the Paris branch of Rent-A-Wreck sighed and gave up the ghost at the moment we entered the city limits of Poitiers: its gear stick flopping around in my hand with the same feel and the same propulsive qualities as a wooden spoon in a saucepan of porridge. By a miraculous chance we coasted to a halt outside the local office of the car rental firm, where a lady with a lapel badge pinned firmly to her ample bosom reading “We Try Harder” encouraged our party to push harder… eventually we arrive at the Hotel de France.

To the gig itself: a vast circular concrete hangar surrounded by acres of car-park; “Just like an American gig” noted funster and publicist Keith Goodwin, whose constant succession of jokes had still not worn thin. We wave slips inscribed with cryptic remarks and bearing the signature of Giorgio Gomelsky, who is promoting the gig: It works.

Inside Can are playing ‘One More Saturday Night’ and their sound is… like it was filtered through a wet blanket. The Palais des Expositions is perhaps one-third full and it’s very, very dark and there doesn’t seem to be anything happening. It’s like a cheapo cheapo overblown Roundhouse.

Can, do a freak-out encore and the Théâtre du Chêne Noir arrive and harangue the crowd with post-1968 slogans. We leave in rather ill humour and recuperate our strength in the hotel bar.

Then Magma arrive

Christian Vander sits in the centre of the stage, a compelling figure with the blank but immortal tormented face of a werewolf. The group has been pared right down now to the essentials; no more Rene Garber with his vocals and contrabass clarinet, no more Stella Vander. Just a hard rock unit of bass, guitar, two pianos and singer percussionist. And those drums… those evil, marching drums.

Evil? Not intended: it just slipped. There is something too close to the edge about Magma. I say Christian Vander is commanding: it’s a military term. There’s an authoritarianism about him; not as lightweight as arrogance, for it wouldn’t apply. There’s a sense that his convictions are stronger than those of the rest of the people in the hall put together. And it’s all channelled straight into a music that is intense; so intense I think it, slips over the edge into obsession.

I creep right up to the edge of the stage … Vander is totally absorbed. His face twisted into the severe and agonised grimaces of one whose absorption in his own creation is total, he stares out into the middle distance. For perhaps a quarter-hour he maintains the same marching rhythm. His right hand rolls on the snare drum; his left hand hits the skin once, stops dead, again, the whole arm flies back to shoulder height; there is something manic about it, this unvarying pattern.

There is something going on that neither I, nor the rest of the audience knows about; something, which in the fullness of time may be revealed to us, but at what price? Top breaks one string, then another, tears them off and keeps on playing, but tonight and every night it’s Vander’s victory.

Victory indeed. I look around at the crowd, young, many of them. Here is no joy. They are transfixed. Do they share this man Christian Vander’s vision? Do they want to? What are these blank, absorbed faces thinking of?

I don’t understand, and it frightens me.


Magma to return

Sounds 18-5-74 -Steve Lake

FRENCH BAND Magma return to Britain next month for their second headlining concert tour. Their opening gig is at Slough Community Centre on June 6 and A&M are rush releasing the band’s next album ‘Köhntarkösz’ on June 7 to tie in with the tour.

Producer Georgio Gomelsky is currently finishing mixing sessions at studios in France where Magma have been recording all this month. Problems arose with the recording when guitarist Claude Olmos split from the band and British guitarist Brian Godding (formerly with Blossom Toes and Mike Westbrook) completed the album with Magma and will probably go on tour with the band.


ORK! UPDATE

In addition to the MAGMA concert at the Grand Théâtre in Reims, MAGMA with musicians from DON’T DIE and ZUKUNFT (both Zeuhl groups) will now be performing pieces from the MAGMA repertoire at the Maison Jeunesse Culturel on Good Friday in Epinay sur Seine (near Cyborg’s offices?). All these dates are now confirmed. We understand from Georges Besnier that Klaus Blasquiz will not be taking part, but that ‘Mekanïk’ will still be included in the MAGMA concerts. Once again Ork Alarm! is a bit short on news, but with the tour about to start, I thought it best to mail it out anyway. If you can, please send me reviews for future issues and any information.

TRANSLATORS REQUIRED

As you are probably aware, there is an extreme shortage of English reviews on MAGMA – so future issues of Ork Alarm! will have to rely on French ones unless one of you volunteers some translations for publication.

GRETSCH TOUR ADVERT

The Gretsch tour advert: with Jean-Luc Chevalier (who was Gorgo in concert from 1978 to 1983), Christian Vander (Zebëhn) and Michel Hervé (who was Ourgon in concert only in 1979) is from Rock et Folk magazine June 1979… so don’t rush out to book those Air Europe flights!


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