- Offering I Trio Vander / Voix De Magma Gigs (merci Georges)
- Retrospektïw III (John Trevor Williams)
- Frankfurt 16-11-84 (Alex Kraus)
- Inedits (The Box Set) (Ehn Aïmaah)
- The Music is so Strong pt 1 (Klaus Blasquiz / Andy Garibaldi)
- Douarnenez 02-08-92 (Jim Ross & Peter Hill)
- Ork! Update
John Trevor Williams c/o Mirage
A live CD of Magma from 1980 **** ½. Why?
OK, certain reservations. First, most obvious – not even the presence (or overdubbing) of Guy Khalifa and a bevy of beautiful choirgirls can replace the range, conviction and authority of Klaus Blasquiz, even though we do get to hear more of the unique, passionate Christian Vander vocal chords in the gap that’s left. Secondly, do I detect flippancy, maybe even a commerciality slipping into the music, where once there was only fierce commitment to the passion of the unorthodox? Vander has never denied that one of his prime sources of influence was Tamla Motown music, and that’s just fine so long as you continue to mix in healthy doses of Bartok, Wagner, Orff, Penderecki and Coltrane to the compositional chemistry. But bear in mind, spiritual and ethnic in origin Motown music may have been, its prime aim in life was still to make the ackers – it sold man, it was easy to listen to, it had a BIG audience. It was manufactured for profit, whereas Bela, Carl, John and Co. made the music they felt they had to make.
The first half of the disc (side one of the 1981 LP) – ‘Retrovision’ – there’s a little too much Motown, right down to soulful harmonics, a shed full of “be be’s” bubbling forth from Liza Deluxe, and even a burst of forged Stevie Wonder harmonica from Benoît Widemann’s Kobol polyphonic synth.
That said, there is much to be admired and treasured on this disc. Naturally, Vander’s impeccable drumming, aided imperceptibly by a couple of ex-NEFFESH MUSIC (Yochk’o Seffer’s band) men – François Laizeau and the magical, firm-but-fluid bass of Dominique Bertram who, twinned with Jean-Luc Chevalier provides a sub-surface rhythmic / melodic axis beyond compare. The sound of two basses in unison running up a super-fast passage in a difficult time signature is the kind of thing that grabs you by the neck and shakes your head around. As it happens, Chevalier was quite a find, doubling on guitar. His solo on ‘Retrovision’ starts on a spiritual high and just keeps on getting higher, its hog-calling exuberance recalling the best of Bill Connor’s work with RETURN TO FOREVER. He switches from bass to guitar and back with surprising dexterity, fuzz-phased guitar added in short, telling blasts to the basic melody structure here and there, picking out sharp rhythm chords in other places.
Then Bernard Paganotti adds his unmistakeable rumbling, floor-shuddering sound to the proceedings. His heavyweight aloofness during ‘Hhaï’ is quite fascinating, never allowing himself to become involved in the excesses practised by Widemann and Lockwood, lifting the rhythm presence of the bass guitar to new heights of respectability. Paganotti is a natural bass player, and a showman, but not a show-off. (After his daunting, manic machine-gun blast at the audience from the stage of the New Victoria Théâtre in October 1975, he returned to the enigmatic confines of his ensemble sound, racing back into ‘Mekanïk Zaïn’ with his mystique unscathed). Despite its over-lavish treatment here, ‘Hhaï’ in its basic form is still the beautiful, light-year-spanning love song it ever was, and Christian has used the multiple female voices in this arrangement to particularly striking effect.
The final track is “La” Dawotsin’, a treat which just had to be saved until the end, featuring the definitive Vander solo vocal appealing to the people and the stars for a better spiritual life. This song is over-short: it’s beautiful, restrained, and could easily have come from Magma circa ’73. It still brings tears to my eyes when I listen to it now, evoking reminiscences of Vander onstage at Manchester University, accompanying himself on Rhodes as he sang ‘Lïhns’, the whole auditorium suddenly transported to some Nirvana, some haven of peace amongst the stars. The only keyboard credited on this track is Vander’s own piano, but I swear I can hear two more Rhodes swirling around in the background, one tinkling in its virgin state, the other buzzing organ-like through a tone cabinet. This is still my favourite track on the album; it sends an instinctive shiver down my spine. Delicious.
Before I conclude, I feel I should add that ‘Retrovision’ contains two other particular moments of excitement, firstly a short rearrangement of a section of ‘De Futura’, and another tense vocal/bass passage where Vander mocks and scorns those who tried to make out that Magma “est mort”: he sounds very assured, and I hope for the sake of the future of music on this planet that assurance is still justified. Vander’s music is unique and exemplary: long may it remain so, no matter which musicians he chooses to have as Magma next month, next year, whenever. But my heart does so long for Klaus Blasquiz to return to the fold. Let us pray.
C’EST POUR NOUS!
16-11-84 (Photos – Alex Kraus )
The concert began with the eerie wailing of ‘Offering part one’ and the sombre mood gradually broke into a rapturous ‘Earth’ followed by more ‘Joïa’ with the mandatory percussion solo culminating in ‘C’est pour nous’. The next phase was a stirring rendition of ‘Another Day’, which included a subdued excerpt from ‘A Love Supreme’. The conclusion was another John Coltrane song (still unreleased) ‘Out of this World’ featuring a drum solo by Vander leading into ‘Offering (2)’ before the perfect concert ending of ‘Elm Deïss’, though not as emotionally as the band performed it in years to come.
(THE BOX SET)
Back in the halcyon days of 1973 / 1978 Giorgio Gomelsky was in control of almost all the MAGMA recordings and supposedly held the rights to re-release ‘ATTAHK’, ‘ÜDÜ WÜDÜ’ & ‘LIVE’ etc on any label he wished e.g. Tomato, Charly, Ariola. Well, did you know that late in the late ’70s he was talking about releasing a box set of 9 or 10 MAGMA albums? All new material and / or live performances of old favourites. This was to be on the Marmalade label and would have included ‘ËMËHNTËHT-RÊ’. The record company had actually included this set in their catalogue listings supplied to the record shops, but the final product never materialised. I wonder who has got the demos?
Apparently Seventh records are now planning to release the original ‘INEDITS’ album on CD – an album that Christian has referred to as “the first Magma Pirate (bootleg)”. It would be nice to think that Giorgio’s record companies could now produce two triple CD box sets of rare material for our eager consumption. Mind you, I hear whispers that someone else might beat them to it with a couple more alternative CDs.
When Seventh records have re-released the last of the back catalogue, perhaps someone would consider digging out the master tapes for the following albums, which were all, planned but never quite materialised in their original form:
‘WURDAH GLAO’ 74
Theusz Hamtaahk pt2
‘ËMËHNTËHT-Rê’ 1976/1977 3 LP box set
‘PTÄH’ 1977 solo album, which started with ‘ZOMBIES’, leading into ÜDÜ WÜDÜ ending with a 20 minute drum solo with vocals
‘PTÄH’.'LA COLERE DIVINE’ 1977 alternative title for ‘Ptäh’ album, included songs: Titilbon’ & ‘City Lady’
‘THEUSZ HAMTAAHK’1979 45-minute version. Planned in 1976
‘ANOTHER DAY’ 1989 2 LP live performances recorded in London
Then of course there were a couple of solo albums that did not turn up in the record racks as promised:
KLAUS BLASQUIZ – 1st 1978 (with Jannick Top arrangements)
KLAUS BLASQUIZ – 2nd 1981 (possibly reworking the 1st album?)
STELLA VANDER – 1st 1988 (with Liza Deluxe & Patrick Gauthier)
There was also a rumoured single and possibly an album by Christian Vander and Rene Garber to be called ‘DEHRSTUN / STUNDEHR’. This was going to be released on the Freebird label, and the single at least is legendary. A test pressing was made, but not officially released. It included the first version of ‘Eliphas Levi’ on the B-side. If any reader does actually have the single, please send me a photocopy of the sleeve or label so that I can include it in the discography in the next edition of Ork Alarm! A tape would be nice too!
Another non-existent album was ‘LA CHAT QUI PECHE’ by Mal Waldron and Christian Vander. This was actually a live tape of Christian and Didier Malherbe playing at the Parisien Jazz club of the same name with Mal Waldron in 1969. Again if a vinyl album of that actually exists I’ll eat my beret.
PATRICK GAUTHIER’s solo album ‘BEBE GODZILLA’ which features one of Vander’s rare guest appearances on drums on the first two tracks called ‘Bébé Godzilla’ and ‘Le Grand maître Orient’ may soon be available again. Musea are considering this for CD release in 1994.
KHAN JAMAL’s jazz album ‘GIVE THE VIBES SOME’ (Palm 10) also features Christian Vander as a guest. This album was recorded in 1974; let’s hope it gets a CD release one day.
THE MUSIC IS SO STRONG
AG: = ANDY GARIBALD
KB: = KLAUS BLASQUIZ
Venue: Klaus’ apartment in Paris in April 1981.
Andy started off the interview by showing Klaus the family tree of MAGMA that he had drawn up.
KB: In September ’69 it was not called MAGMA, it wasn’t another band either, it was sort of…
AG: You were just rehearsing and playing?
KB: Yes, just for a month, I’d met Christian in August. He was with Claude Engel. I was asking Claude to get a band together and he said, “Yes, if you want, but first why don’t you come and see these guys”. I was with a group (BLUES CONVENTION), and then it was kind of a circus. I used to see them practice, I was not the singer but I learned and just listened. Then after three days, Claude said, “Can you sing to help us practice?” I said, yes and I started like that. It wasn’t called MAGMA until October / December 1969 at first it was MAGMA ORKESTRA STUNDUHNDEHRA … a big long name.
(Ed. According to Antoine de Caunes the original name was “Uniwerïa Zekt Magma Composedra Arguezdra”, so I assume that Klaus had just forgotten the exact name at that point.)
AG: I see, yes I’ll probably come on to that, I’ve prepared various questions.
KB: Do you have the little book by Antoine de Caunes?
AG: The MAGMA book? I certainly do, it’s very, very good, the definitive…
KB: It’s not VERY good.
AG: Yes, but without knowing any more than what I’ve read in interviews over the years it’s good. It does not go into great detail but it seems to get the basic things right, I think. I’ve been trying to translate the thing myself.
KB: So maybe you have to change MAGMA No 1 to MAGMA No -1 on your family tree.
AG: I’ve divided my questions up into three parts. The Earlier days: around the time of the first couple of albums. Then sort of the rest, and finally you pursuing your own projects. My first question was how did you come to join MAGMA? Which you have obviously just answered, which is through Claude Engel, he asked you to come and sing.
KB: Yes, I had seen him about a month before and he was playing in a band called…
KB: No, with his brother Marcel Engel on drums, I don’t remember the name of the group. He was playing guitar, singing and playing flute; it was perfect. Then I asked him “Would you like to join me?” and he said, “Yes, but now I am practising with kind of crazy people come and see them”. The first time I saw the group, Francis was not there. It was a very long time before the concept of MAGMA. He was in a band very different from ours, Zabu was practising in the band for fifteen days and then he stopped because of politics you know, for eight months, political meetings etc.
AG: He was more into that than the musical side?
KB: Yes, at that time, so anyway, I learned very easily and quickly. So I started just to help them and then by chance one day I was singing just beside a grand piano they were recording, not me but the piano and drums and everything, just to listen to the tape. Then Zebu was coming back so I stopped practising with them, it was not my place. Then one week later I saw them in a club, a kind of delegation of them Christian, Laurent Thibault etc and they said “We have heard your voice in the back of the keyboard track that’s the voice we need” and I said “Yes but you have to make a choice between me and Zabu”.
AG: At that point I gather you had been playing with quite a lot of groups.
KB: Yes, rock groups and blues bands.
AG: How did you come into music in the first place, did you have any classical training?
KB: No, I just listened to the first Beatles tunes and I started about 1962.
AG: When Christian Vander asked you to join MAGMA how far had the Kobaïan thing gone or had it even started? Because that is always something that has intrigued people in Britain, in that everybody thinks that everything to do with that was done by Christian. They think that apart from you and Christian everybody else just seemed to come and go, contributing musically. But the Kobaïan thing has always been totally attributed to Christian. Now when you joined had he already got an idea of that or to what extent did you collaborate?
KB: Yes, a lot. Because Christian had a very non-personalised idea of what he wanted to do, he said, “That’s the story, we are going out of the Earth” so the story of the first double album was set, and then it was improvising actually. It was very difficult to sing, improvising in the same way that he wrote. So he decided to let me write it down exactly, so that was my first job.
AG: So you in a way drew up the Kobaïan alphabet so that with ‘Mekanïk’ you were able to write a lyric sheet. What is Kobaïan drawn from, is it drawn from totally made up sounds or does it actually draw from linguistic principles?
KB: Both of them because I am a drawing teacher and three years before I had tried to turn all sounds into symbols not thinking of the grammar just like the Chinese idea. But I stopped a few months later because it is very difficult work and I did not have the time to do it, even the parts without music, it has too much importance.
AG: How long did it take you to get that together? The actual language, did it come together so that you could actually write like a normal person?
KB: No, it’s improvised it’s not finished; it is never finished because it changes each year with the evolution of the music.
AG: So Christian had got this idea that he wanted to use this unique language and he did not have any organisational capability. You came in and said, “Well I can use this language, but we will have to draw it out so that we can repeat the same sounds, so that it is a Language”. So your initial job was to organise?
KB: To organise and the same for equipment and practising time and things like that.
AG: Because Christian is not a particularly well-organised person?
KB: In that sense, to practice drums he is organised. But that’s all.
AG: Everything else he has to have done for him?
KB: (Laughs) Incredible!
AG: Going on from that, there are a lot of things in the Kobaïan mythology about the Uniwerïa Zekt. Now the Uniwerïa Zekt seems to me to be distinct from MAGMA. It is something I have never quite grasped. What in fact was the Uniwerïa Zekt? Was it another name for MAGMA or was it something else?
KB: It’s kind of another name because we thought after the beginning that there were some people in MAGMA who were not in the same spirit so Uniïeria Zekt was approved as the concept of MAGMA. The group MAGMA was just an instrument to project the idea so it’s different and there were some people outside of MAGMA in the Uniwerïa Zekt.
AG: Because you recorded an LP under the name Univerïa Zekt on which…
KB: It does not mean anything, I don’t mean the music; I mean the name.
AG: No, but it didn’t matter that much. In the book he keeps stressing that Uniwerïa Zekt and MAGMA are very separate, I think, but it’s not that important.
KB: It is difficult to say, it’s not precise.
AG: This LP that you recorded under the name Univerïa Zekt, it’s just because you wished to play music that was outside the MAGMA story, so you used that name.
KB: That’s right.
AG: How difficult was it to sing in Kobaïan at the beginning? Did you have to do a lot of rehearsing or once you had drawn up the Kobaïan was it easier?
KB: No, we started to rehearse in September ’69 then we recorded the LP six months later.
AG: You said that a lot of people were not in the same spirit for MAGMA because Christian demanded you should give everything to the group. How many people sort of came and went during the initial rehearsals? Did people find it was too much for them or what?
KB: Yes, because we were without money, and we needed facilities and instruments, so it was hard to work with these people not in the same spirit. In a sense because we were too close a family and there were ten or fifteen people.
AG: Whose decision was it for them to leave?
KB: Together, it was in the air you know. So Christian was perhaps often by himself or sometimes with someone else. The music was very hard, not especially in the way of spirit, and it was new. We had seen a lot of Rock’n'Roll players who had not learned anything else other than Rock’n'Roll so MAGMA was a Rock’n'Roll band, but with a background of jazz and classical music. So sometimes we got a piece of classical music and they could not do it because it was not in 4/4. You know they did not understand 7/4 or 7/8 or even 3/4!
AG: So initially most of the musicians were from rock backgrounds, did you find that essentially you had to look for musicians from a jazz background?
KB: Yes, because it’s easier to find a jazz player who knows Rock’n'Roll and Rhythm’n'Blues and classical rather than a Rock’n'Roll guy knowing nothing else.
AG: Was the music initially improvised and then finally somehow it came together?
KB: That is the way that Christian works. He does a recording at home (a lot of tapes) and then he listens to the tapes and he brings it in. That’s the way he writes music.
AG: So he presents an idea to the group.
KB: Sometimes it’s an idea but most of the time it’s a tune with parts, you know with riffs. So he says, “I think that’s the way you have to sing it and that’s the bass riff”. But he does not think of the drums, just the timbre and rhythms. Then he goes to the drum set and says “Well let’s try something!”
AG: Really, so he’s composed the music at home on the piano and singing and then he comes in and directs all the instruments and gets exactly what he wants and then he finally comes to the drum part and realises it does not fit, is that what you are saying?
KB: Yes (Laughs)
AG: Incredible, he’s even more disorganised than I thought.
KB: No no! It’s not a question of organisation, because he does not feel that the drums are a musical instrument in this music. He really plays them like a musical instrument not a just a rhythm instrument. But the most important thing is the harmony, the rhythm in the harmony and the keyboards and the voice. The voice is it.
AG: The voice has always been an integral part of it.
KB: Yes. He does not think of the guitar parts, but the bass is very important.
AG: I’ve always noticed that, does he have a reason?
KB: Yes he always liked Bass instruments sounds and then we have had a lot of good bass payers in MAGMA, some of the most important bass players in Europe, Jannick Top, Francis Moze.
AG: MAGMA has always been noted for it’s bass work.
KB: The SOUND.
AG: Yes, it has a unique mix because the main body of sound is vocals and bass and percussion with the sonorous ringing piano in the background. But the guitar and other instruments are further down. The bass is much further up than any other group I know of.
KB: But England is more specialised in guitar, it is different because the bass player and drummer are thought less important. But in France we regard the bass player as equal so we were surprised to find good ones.
AG: So, you recorded the first album, when it came out how well did it go? Did it sell well; did the band profit from it much?
KB: Well, we just started to go on tour when the first album was released it was very hard because there were no places to play that kind of music at that time. So we had to create them. It was hard because we could not find enough money to live. The album was not a bad seller, but not enough for all the people in the band. So the first two years were funny because it was a kind of journey.
AG: So you were going round France not finding places but creating places to play in.
KB: Places and audiences.
AG: In that case then, it was not that you were playing to an audience that had previously seen pop groups; they had not seen anyone.
KB: Even rock bands, they were very small and very few.
AG: So really you were playing to an audience who had not seen much live music before by anyone. You started a circuit on which other rock groups followed your lead. You must have had quite a big following in France as a result.
KB: Yes, but fame, not money so it was very hard and then the MAGMA musicians were in demand to play in sessions. So Claude Engel started to play in many recording sessions and then he started to have a lot of money and then it was possible for him to see the differences. He saw other bands going on tour with little hotels, much money, big audiences and stage facilities, so he decided to stop going on tour for about a year and a half. I was very surprised by that. For me he was a very important part of MAGMA, at first I thought it was a joke when he said “I’m going to leave the band” and I laughed but he said “no no it’s true” and he said that with a smile “It’s true, goodbye, so long”.
AG: So at that point, if you regarded him so highly, did you think that maybe MAGMA was not going to last very long?
KB: No, we decided to go on regardless, The MAGMA spirit was so strong we just had to go on. We decided to stop having a guitar player because to find a better one was impossible.
AG: Did you get to the level where there was only two or three of you at one point? What was the lowest number of musicians you had?
KB: The lowest? Nine, I think, at the time we are talking about. Yes, Nine! It averaged about twelve or thirteen.
AG: Putting that lot on the road must have been a feat.
KB: Yes, two cars and a truck.
AG: How often did you tour then at that time? Did you just do the one tour after the album?
KB: It was not like that. It was not tours, it was just gigs and not a proper tour for three years because we were not organised.
AG: So you played anywhere you could find in France.
KB: Yes, even in clubs in Paris; small clubs with not enough room to get the band on stage. Sometimes we used to put the amplifiers and some musicians onstage and some other musicians were offstage; twelve of us, including two bassists.
AG: That’s not something that comes over in the book how many musicians you had at that time. Somewhere between nine and twelve, there must have been a lot of changes, like you had two bassists originally. Jacky Vidal, he was playing the upright bass wasn’t he?
KB: A fiddle with a microphone and Francis Moze on electric bass. But before Francis there was Laurent Thibault and between them there were a lot of short appearances by bass players (one or two days).
AG: When you played live, did you have a set number of pieces of music to play or was the gig improvised every night?
KB: The first two years we only played the records from the beginning to the end because it was a story. It was the double album we were playing onstage.
AG: That would constitute the main body of the set.
KB: Not only the main body but the entire set, the whole thing. Because it was a story so we started ‘Kobaïa’ with English lyrics just to explain to everybody “Well we’re going out of the earth and then so on and so on” and after it was the story followed by the music.
AG: Going on from the story to this concept of Theusz Hamtaahk what exactly is Theusz Hamtaahk? Does that refer to the story of the Kobaïan thing or what?
KB: Yes. The first LP was the story of the journey. We decided to stop there. When we are on Kobaïa that’s another story. We had to fight against the earth. We had to fight against the Earthmen on Kobaïa, defend ourselves against ourselves, that’s the story of Theusz Hamtaahk. ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ is just a part of it.
AG: I see, because you have three parts to Theusz Hamtaahk: ‘Wurdah Ïtah’, ‘Wurdah Glao’ and ‘Mekanïk’. Now of the first two which LP represents which part?
KB: ’Wurdah Ïtah’ is the Tristan et Yseult LP which is the first part. ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ is the third part and then we have not yet released the second part.
AG: The Tristan et Yseult album, according to the book you recorded it in 1971 originally?
KB: No in ’71 it was just a rehearsal, a practice session in the Chateau d’Herouville studio and then Laurent Thibault decided, without authority, to use that tape for a soundtrack. We saw the movie after they had put the music on – it is a very bad movie. It’s a joke. I left the cinema twenty minutes after the beginning because of the film.
AG: I’ve never seen the film, the film used the original music that you laid down, the music had not been mixed with it in mind?
KB: No, we had not seen the movie and it really is a daft film. We were very angry so we decided to force Laurent Thibault to make a good record of that, so then we worked with him in the studio.
AG: You re-recorded the album or just remixed the original?
KB: No, re-recorded it entirely.
AG: And the film I take it still carries the original music?
KB: I don’t know; I don’t care!
AG: That would make it a collectable itself.
KB: It’s just a rehearsal tape.
AG: Did you know that Laurent was going to use this tape? He didn’t tell you he was going to put it on the film, you just saw the film and realised he was using MAGMA’s music.
KB: No and I don’t want to talk about it. Giorgio Gomelsky has done a lot of things like that.
AG: He’s got a reputation for doing things like that though. Getting back to the touring side of things, in ’71 and ’72 you toured outside France, in Europe, how did you go down?
KB: Belgium and Switzerland, we started to go out of France to Belgium (Mons) it’s a very funny story because there was a support band (ARKHAM) playing sort of like SOFT MACHINE, we didn’t like the music, but the musicians were superb. When we came back to Paris we decided to write to them we asked the organist to join us, he was so precise and sensory, and they liked MAGMA … So Jean-Luc Manderlier joined us three months after that. The other musician, the drummer Daniel Denis decided to form another band and years after that he formed UNIVERS ZERO. Their first gig was supporting MAGMA.
AG: Did the Belgians or the Swiss know MAGMA at all?
KB: Yes not the records, but they read the French press: Best, Extra etc so they had heard of us. We started from the beginning again in Switzerland then Germany, England, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and then the United States.
AG: When did you go to the States?
AG: I imagine the Americans must have thought you were really hard at that time.
KB: Well, we had just realised (made) ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ with Jannick Top. That was his first session; he had not played onstage with us before. His first gig: We were going for maybe two or three weeks but then we decided in June to go to the United States for the Newport Festival in New York City. We decided to practice in a little house near Paris and then we went to New York in July it was 99% humidity and 40°C. First we played at the festival and another time with terrible sound equipment.
AG: So, getting back to the family tree, it is marked by the incredible number of changes along the way. Now when someone dropped out, was Christian looking for a replacement on the basis of another guy on the same instrument, or was he looking for somebody with expertise to carry on without bothering which instruments he employed?
KB: Sometimes he preferred a guitarist, Gabriel Federow was a kind of classical player and he decided, because he was very good, to employ him. And sometimes he played bass; it doesn’t matter about the instrument, even violin. It was so surprising for the fans “A violinist, no brass, no horns… Oh its not MAGMA!” Every time that got the same reaction because MAGMA for them was the first version with the three horns, singer, bass player and one keyboard.
AG: Over the years the horn section gradually became less and less until it disappeared entirely somewhere around the time of the live album. Was it a conscious decision not to replace it with horns?
KB: It was, because we thought it impossible to find good players even the one we had got was not efficient. It did not matter if we had no horns because it was so difficult to play the MAGMA music in tune.
AG: So your main thought was to get somebody who could play the music. Did you find the music had to be altered at all according to which instrument was brought in?
KB: It does not matter about the instruments because the concept is keyboards, harmony, rhythm and melody. The rest is only orchestration. It is the music.
AG: So as long as you have got the basics how you want the rest is like icing on the cake. You have got the basic bits and then you just embellish it with other instruments.
KB: Yes, but we think it is important, but not the most important. First the music, it does not matter about the instruments, even if we are playing with only piano and voices it is the same music exactly.
AG: I don’t find it incredible knowing MAGMA but to a lot of people the concept of a group is, if a guitarist leaves he is replaced with a guitarist. Even in jazz groups if the keyboard player leaves he has got to be replaced with a keyboard player.
KB: But MAGMA is not a conventional group, we are not playing average music so we are not an average band. It is just a matter of other formulae.
The interview concludes in the next issue, starting with the Jannick Top and Bernard Paganotti eras and running right up to Klaus’ departure and his other projects.
Les Voix de Magma
SALLE JULES VERNE
DOUARNENEZ 02-08-92 (Jim Ross and Peter Hill)
Voices of Magma live in Douarnenez on the western coast of Brittany…. I must return indeed. The tickets were 110FF in advance, 120FF at the door. The venue turned out to be a sort of school gymnasium. The advance publicity had said that the band was an eleven-piece ensemble of two pianos, two synths, double bass, drums and a choir. It also claimed that the show would include ‘Mekanïk’ and ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’. Before the show, Bernard Paganotti was spotted in the 600 strong audience and François Cahen too. Christian Vander’s new line-up, LES VOIX DE MAGMA were scheduled to be onstage at 21h00 as the support act for Antoine ILLOUZ who sounded similar to Miles Davis. Most people were not expecting a long show, since their heroes were technically the support act, but they were very surprised indeed by the eventual outcome. They were richly rewarded with an amazing concert lasting two and a half hours.
The band came onstage at 21h30. The actual set list included ‘Zëss’ (a totally Kobaïan version), ‘Wurdah Ïtah’, ‘Mekanïk’, ‘C’est pour nous’, ‘Ronde de Nuit’ (from Stella’s solo album), ‘I Must Return (Windows)’, Christian’s marvellous ode ‘To Love’… pause for breath – The new song – ‘Tous Ensemble’, and another new piece for the encore. So, not much of the old OFFERING material, and plenty of the classic early MAGMA to whet your appetites for the next tour. The lucky people who were there all say that it was great, “like the original MAGMA of 70-72 era”. “Overall the gig was Intense, Magic”. The good news for those of you who missed it, is that a live CD taken from show was planned for release in October.
The line-up included Simon Goubert on vocals and piano, someone else on electronic keyboards, double bass supplied by Philippe Dardelle, Christian Vander was head chorister, played grand piano, and drums. It was as we expected, mainly choral stuff with more vocals by Alex Ferrand (no Sax this time) and Jean-Christophe Garnet (the bushy haired vocalist from DON’T DIE who spoilt ‘Mekanïk’ for some last year) : altogether there were four male singers and five female vocalists (Stella, Julie, Isabelle Feuillebois, Addie Deat) – quite a choir!
From the beach at Douarnenez you can see the island used in Yvan Lagrange’s film and aptly, Voices of Magma played a hell of a lot of the ‘Tristan et Yseult’ album (apparently all of it bar one song) with Christian on drums, it was a shame that Jannick Top was not playing with them. The new piece was quite strange, similar to the better pieces on Stella’s solo album. “Sort of like Philip Glass”, toy keyboards with vocals, structured around a repetitive keyboard motif. The encore might fit in with Christian’s project to record traditional piano music with a children’s choir.
Many of the audience left at 00h30 and did not catch the next act, which apparently featured Francois Laizeau on drums. After the show Francis Linon (the switch doctor) rushed the digital tapes backstage for Christian and Co to scrutinize them for use on the album. And Georges Besnier was literally besieged at the Seventh Records stand as usual. From all accounts it would seem that MAGMA are reborn at last after what has been for many a dull patch in the last couple of years, don’t miss the next tour if at all possible.
One week after the Douarnenez concert, Francis Linon and Christian Vander discussed the possibility of combining the DAT mixer recordings from the Paris concerts in October, with the Douarnenez tapes from August, to present an even better album. Francis was also keen to encourage Christian to release a live album by ALIEN (Christian’s Jazz combo from the early to mid-eighties), and also a CD set taken from the MAGMA concerts at the Bobino, Paris from May 1981. Whether or not these projects will reach fruition only time will tell. But Christian was keen to get the Douarnenez tapes released before “les pirates” beat him to it.
Musea have released their classic Zeuhl album on CD (MUSEA FGBG 4058) with two extra live tracks from a concert in Rombas on 14-10-78, ‘Rondeau’ and ‘Kolinda’. Unfortunately they did not include ‘Arrive’ which is the track that Weidorje played live on Antoine de Cannes Chorus TV in 1978.
“Dieu et Diable, c’est le Yin et le Yang, Le Blanc et le Noir, le Positif et le Negatif, La Vie et La Mort…
C’est la dualité de la vie, toujours. Autrement il y a Néant. De toutes facons, après tout vient le Néant.”
“The next OFFERING album will be the last one, it will include ‘LES CYGNES ET LES CORBEAUX’.”
Christian Vander 4-92
CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO
Emmanuel Borghi has left OFFERING, but he still plays piano with the jazz trio and Philippe Dardelle is still on upright bass. A review of one of these concerts (by Rolf Spengler), hopefully in the next issue.
22-05-92 LA COURNEUVE, near PARIS
21-06-92 FONTENAY AUX ROSES
25-06-92 Café des Anges, STRASBOURG
26-06-92 Maison de la Culture, CONTREXEVILLE
27-06-92 Salle de Musée de l’Orme, SAINT DIE
LES VOIX DE MAGMA SPECIAL CONCERTS
12-07-92 Cour des Ecoles, BEDARIEUX, SOUTHERN FRANCE (Languedoc region)
02-08-92 Salle Jules Verne, DOUARNENEZ, BRITTANY (JAZZ EN BAIE festival)
15-10-92 Salle Boris Vian, LA VILLETFE, PARIS (North East Suburb)
16-10-92 Salle Boris Vian, LA VILLETTE, PARIS (20h00)
17-10-92 Salle Boris Vian, LA VILLETTE, PARIS (20h00)
18-10-92 Salle Boris Vian, LA VILLE1′TE, PARIS (18h00)
These were some of the special concerts in France that Stella spoke about last spring. The set was principally choral with two pianos, drums, two synths, double bass and guitar. They sang a range of vocal pieces that were originally performed by MAGMA from 1973 up to 1992. Including ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ which was the jewel in the show and ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’.
In April, Christian said that the VOIX DE MAGMA gigs would be something entirely new but he did not want to elaborate any more on that at the time. There have been rumours that JANNICK TOP was about to rejoin MAGMA. Oh how I wish they were true! Alas, even though he and Christian are Mends again and see each other regularly, there are no immediate plans for him to rejoin the UZMK…. However, it’s not impossible (says Georges).
I have almost completed the International MAGMA discography listing, but I would be most grateful if you could let me know if you have any unusual items (i.e. non-French albums, promo singles, cassettes, etc) so that I can at last print the full discography in issue #11. I need to know as much as possible about them, including matrix numbers, colour of label, colour of insert sheet etc…. The more info you supply the better! In particular I need to know the 1970′s cassette details and the matrix number of the Uniwerïa Zekt single, but any info at all could be useful, because you might have a rare item and not realise that it is different to the general releases.
LES VOIX DE MAGMA
BEDARIEUX 12-07-92 (Olivier Fromentin)
Late news from Olivier, who was fortunate enough to attend the premiere of Christian’s new line-up: LES VOIX DE MAGMA played ‘Ëmëhntëht-Rê’, ‘To Love’, ‘I Must Return’, ‘C’est pour nous’, ‘Zëss’, ‘Ronde de Nuit’, ‘Tous Ensemble’, ‘Wurdah Ïtah’, ‘M.D.K.’, ‘Innocent’ and ‘La Marche Celeste’ with the following personnel: Christian, Stella and Julie Vander, Isabelle Feuillebois, Alex Ferrand, Pierre-Michel Sivadier, Simon Goubert and the choir was extended by a few members of the Zeuhl group DON’T DIE.
CANTERBURY-NACHRICHTEN is a Germanic view of the Canterbury music scene, which, like the British magazine FACELIFT also includes Magma in that field. Personally I cannot find the slightest common factor between the music of Caravan and Zeuhl music, but since Francis Moze also played with GONG and Francis Linon worked with GONG before taking over MAGMA’s mixing desk, I suppose the link is tenuous. Whatever, if you like both GONG and MAGMA, you will enjoy both these excellently produced fanzines, which cover the full gamut of the Canterbury scene and Zeuhl too.
CHRISTIAN VANDER’s next release will be the album with just piano and children’s choir that I mentioned in Ork Alarm! #3. This project was originally planned as an album of traditional French songs, Christmas novelty songs and some new pieces…one for the collectors perhaps? (Seventh A IX presumably). Hopefully it should be out before Xmas, so I will try to review it while stuffing myself with figgy pudding and so forth. Meanwhile Eric F. has this for you to ponder, ‘will it be a Turkey?’
ZAO release their third album ‘Shekina’ on CD on the MUSEA label in November 1992 with their first album ‘Z=7L’ also due out on CD in the spring. Musea also plan to release the second album ‘Osiris’ on CD sometime in 1993 and hopefully a live album from the 1974 ZAO line-up too. The live album is apparently a great quality recording, engineered by Main Français who was also responsible for the MAGMA ‘Retrospektïw’ albums.
MORE TRIVIA & STUFFING
Have you noticed that ‘Sands’ on the ‘To Love’ album is similar to the start of ‘Another Day’, in 1988 Christian said that this album was basically a demo for Live OFFERING and MAGMA songs, It’s a very underrated album, but still my favourite work that Vander has done since ‘Hhaï/Live’. Ever listened closely to the first minute of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ album and then played ‘M.D.K.’ immediately afterwards? This theme was used throughout The Exorcist movie and more recently in British TV adverts for the Vauxhall Calibra. And resurrected by Oldfield for his new album ‘Tubular Bells II’. Another theme from ‘Mekanïk’ was borrowed by Cyrille Verdaux for his ‘Clearlight Symphony’ album (3minutes and 20seconds into track 5 on the Mantra CD).
PAGA are trying to release their third album that they recorded in 1989 / 1990, but they have some financial problems. Also their first album, simply titled ‘Paga’ was re-released in the summer on CD, (Columbia 468441 2). In the meantime the quartet of Bernard Paganotti, Klaus Blasquiz, Claude Salmieri and Bertrand Lajudie have been joined by Erie Séva on saxophones. PAGA GROUP and XAAL both played at the Théâtre Trevise, Paris at the beginning of July.
OFFERING played over 150 concerts; maybe we will have a complete list of them in a future issue… let me know if you are interested (I guess you don’t really care, but I could be wrong).
CD releases are planned for the THELEME label back catalogue including UNIVERÏA ZEKT’s early 70′s album called ‘THE UNNAMABLES’ and also the 1971 ‘PUISSANCE 13+2′ sampler album featuring the ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ single recording by MAGMA. After twenty years of searching for the sampler album, I heard the full four sides for the first time earlier this year. It is not a great musical statement by any of the bands involved. ‘THE UNNAMABLES’ album however, is certainly worth looking out for, as it is a fine example of Teddy Lasry’s compositional talents. As Klaus Blasquiz says in the interview elsewhere in this issue – the distinction between UNIWERÏA ZEKT and MAGMA is not precise. One interpretation is that this album contains music that does not fit into the story of Kobaïa or Theusz Hamtaahk. Another is that since it was a collaboration with Lasry, Vander preferred not to release it as a MAGMA album. Whatever, this is not a classic album and it sounds a bit dated now, but the album is an intriguing insight into the early development of MAGMA’s music.
Alain & Yvon GUILLARD’s band PAZAPA have a new album out soon on the GIMINI label.
It is currently suspected that OFFERING have now played their final concert and are technically disbanded, several times last April Christian hinted that this would happen soon and since the concert in May I have heard nothing contrary to that rumour… but no conclusive statement either.
“LE DEGREE ZERO: The birth of French Rock in the Era of Late Capitalism”
“LE DEGREE ZERO: The birth of French Rock in the Era of Late Capitalism” is the title of a book on French Progressive Music currently being edited by Charles John-Arnold in the USA. Charles is a professor of English at a small university. He wrote a chapter on HELDON, Dean Suzuki wrote one on ART ZOYD and Dana J. Lawrence wrote the chapter dealing with MAGMA. The book will also include chapters on Gong, Daevid Allen, Richard Pinhas, Lard Free, Urban Sax, Gilbert Artman, Wapassou, Etron Fou, Univers Zero, ZNR, ZAO and Bernard Szajner. When the University Press publishes it,, I expect that the specialist music stores such as Ultima Thule, Mike Lloyd Music, Chappells and Musea will be stocking it in Europe. And I’ve no doubt at all that Archie will have it in stock at Eurock in the USA, as will Steve at Wayside.
OFFERING III et IV
WDR German radio organised a poll in January for listeners to vote for their favourite records of 1991 and would you credit it? ‘OFFERING III et IV’ came third. Good news for Christian eh? Can you imagine what the result would be if the BBC held a similar poll?
SHUB NIGGURATH ‘C’ETAIENT DE TRÉS GRANDS VENTS’ (Musea FGBG 4042.AR)
“It has been a long time since the first SHUB NIGGURATH album and this new one will blow your minds as much as that earlier effort did. A graduate of the MAGMA school, SHUB NIGGURATH have become the leading innovator in the experimental branch of said musical tendency. Their level of creativity and intensity has no peer among the current French bands and the new album is a definitive document of today’s new music fusion of rock and the avant-garde. I’ve not heard anything the likes of this in a long time.” - Archie Patterson
“The new album from the group which is unique in the field of New Sombre and Contemporary music” - Jean-Christophe Alluin
SERGE PERATHONER / JANNICK TOP
SERGE PERATHONER / JANNICK TOP have a new film soundtrack CD called ‘SIMPLE MORTAL’ which Archie Pattersonsays is Rock mixed with an exotic keyboard/percussion/bass ambiance from the former TRANSIT EXPRESS and of course MAGMA maestros.
LAURENT THIBAULT ‘MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS REVER TOUT LE TEMPS’ (Musea FGBG 4054)
One of the rarest and most exquisite blends of Magmaesque folk rock and progressive rock from one of MAGMA’s original line-up and subsequently their producer. This was his only album and the second half at least is indeed a masterpiece. It seems that Musea have started re-releasing some interesting and Krheatï? material again after their recent flirtations with prog-rock.
ART ZOYD ‘ART ZOYD’ (Mantra 065) Their new double CD is the long awaited re-issue of the original recordings of the first three ART ZOYD albums with an added bonus of ‘ARCHIVES I’ an extra thirty minutes of previously unreleased music from the early years. This album would be worth buying for the 1976 recording of ‘Symphonic pour le jour où brûleront les cités’ alone. But when you add the glorious ‘Musique pour l’Odysée’ from 1979 and the crushing Zeuhl power of ‘Génération sans Futur’ it becomes an indispensable addition, every magmaphile should have one. Even Vander often failed to match the glory of the early neo-classical ART ZOYD 3.
UNIVERS ZERO ‘CEUX DU DEHORS’ (RéR Megacorp / Cuneiform CD)
“The classic. In my view, this is a landmark, the most extraordinary and successful of UNIVERS ZERO’s recordings – not to be missed, in new packaging. No other group sounded like this, part modern chamber music and discernible Magma influences. The line-up includes bassoon, violin, viola, harmonium, bass, guitar and drums. Produced by Etienne Condo at Sunrise studios in 1980. Essential.” - Chris Cutler