- Didier Lockwood Théâtre Municipal – Calais 29-05-93 (Jim Ross)
- Daniel Denis interview (Alain Juliac) (Translation: Betsy Draine) (courtesy: NOTES)
- Hexagone May 1981 interview (Jean-Marc Bailleux)
- German Tour 1983 (Peter Hill / Duncan Lane)
- Kultivator ’Barndomens Stigar’(APM 9201) (Michael Draine)
- Art Zoyd ’Marathonnerre I & II’
- ‘A Fiïèh’Announcement (Georges Besnier) (Translation: Jim Ross)
- The German Phenomenon (Rolf Spengler) (photo: Riccardo Pioli)
- My Contribution (Christian Vander)
- ‘Mestari’ Perception (photo: Michel Adda)
- Ork! Update
CARTE BLANCHE À DIDIER LOCKWOOD
Théâtre Municipal – Calais 29-05-93
Didier Lockwood (who is currently celebrating twenty years in the music business) chose the Théâtre Municipal in his home town of Calais to present a very special show featuring performances by the Didier Lockwood Trio, The Didier Lockwood Group and an eleven piece Violin Orchestra made up from the best of the up-and-coming jazz violin players in France (amongst whom was one Debora Seffer, daughter of Yochk’o).
First on, were the current Trio, featuring Alain Caron (Bassist with UZEB) and Jean-Marie Ecay who played a 3/4-hour set of Jazz/Blues. This was followed by an improvised piano/violin duet with Didier’s brother Francis which led up to a full two hour set by the Didier Lockwood Group. The Group played a very enjoyable mix of Trad/Rock/Blues/ Jazz. Incorporated in this was one particularly outstanding piece inspired by Didier’s childhood memories of Calais (as seen on a recent Canal + T.V. special about his musical career, which is well worth getting hold of on video, as it also features footage of Magma live in 75 or 76 and the 1992 Magma reunion, live in the studio playing part of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’).
The saxophonist from Paga Group (and The Guillard brothers band PAZAPA), Eric Serra also joined Didier for a while before the Violin Orchestra took the stage. Didier highlighted each individual’s musical talents by pointing out one member at random who would then play solo with the other ten joining in once again for the chorus. Another outstanding musician in this ensemble was Patrick Tilleman.
Two encores rounded off a highly enjoyable evening’s entertainment, Didier had all his family and friends with him and they celebrated with a big cake at the end. With the show starting at 20h30 and finishing four hours later, it was most definitely well worth the 120Ff admission fee.
More than 13 years at the summit of European music with groups such as Univers Zero and Present, Daniel Denis – inspired drummer and composer – amply deserves our attention. We hereby deliver, with an interview that he gave us upon release of ‘Sirius and the Ghosts’, the first compact disc out under his own name.
AJ: What was your first contact with music?
DD: At the playground, I’m sure – I recall playing with a drum.
AJ: Do you come from a family of musicians? Did you learn music at school: In a conservatory, or are you self-taught?
DD: When I was around eleven, one of my older brothers bought a drum set (or something that passed for one). He started playing in a little group with my other brother (who left the group pretty fast). He was self-taught, and as I watched his technique evolve over the, I became eager to play the instrument myself. I learned a great deal just by watching. Around age fourteen or fifteen, I went out with him on a gig and he let me play the drums for one or two numbers in front of the crowd – it was great “schooling” for me. But it was actually in 1967, when the music of Hendrix and Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett was discovered, that it all really started (as I disconnected from school more and more). I began to have a little technique. I let the recordings of Hendrix and Cream act as the foundation, and I built my music on top of that. I was obsessed with the style of Mitch Mitchell, Hendrix’s drummer, who was and remains one of my favourites.
AJ: Do you play other instruments?
DD: There came a moment when it bothered me that I could only play the drums. I had ideas in my head for pieces; so I started to play the piano and to compose, always self-taught. I play a little bass too, but without having pushed the technique much.
AJ: How do you explain the originality of your style of drumming?
DD: I have always been concerned to fuse the drum with the totality of the music. Not just to get the rhythm right, but by control of the different tones and timbres of the drum, to follow and reinforce the thematic developments in the music – somewhat in the spirit of orchestral percussion. It was with Univers Zero that I worked the most like that, but actually with my CD I took great care to separate this notion of drum-percussion from “the drums” properly speaking. If you are a drummer and you get the opportunity to play another instrument, you grasp a whole new conception of the role the drum can play, I think. That’s what happened to me, when I began to play piano and compose.
AJ: Who are the drummers you admire?
DD: As I said, I admire the work and the inventiveness of Mitch Mitchell, who is a famous example of fusion percussion; the very intelligent and refined style of Michael Giles with King Crimson, Tony Williams and Christian Vander, of course, who is of the same calibre. John French, who was the chief drummer for Beefheart, is fantastically original, as is Wyatt, equally. Finally the playing of Vinnie Colaiuta has also impressed me greatly.
AJ: What was your musical pathway up to the birth of Univers Zero?
DD: I bought my first set of drums in 1968, and I played through ’69 with two groups that were doing retakes of pieces by Cream, Hendrix, Nice, etc. In 1970, I met Jean-Luc Manderlier, and we decided to form a group influenced by Soft Machine. That’s how we formed the trio Arkham. It was my first experience of music that was truly interesting and enriching. I learned an enormous amount from playing with Jean-Luc. He composed fantastic pieces, in spite of the strong and obvious influence of “Soft”. For me it was the first experience of uneven rhythm, of bizarre harmonies and of the “post-atomic” mood.
In 1971 we were the opening act for the first or second concert by Magma in Belgium. The connection was immediate. They were enthusiastic about signing us up (that was a rare thing for them). It was a little later that Christian Vander asked Jean-Luc and me to become part of Magma. His idea was to enlarge the group but when I played two or three “Mekanïk” concerts as second drummer, the experience, as interesting as it was, was maybe a little too brief to be conclusive. I didn’t sense the possibility of finding my place and being able to express myself sufficiently. Jean-Luc stayed a year. I went back to Belgium. Arkham broke up, and I was on the point of beginning all over. At that moment, I made contact again with Claude Deron, the trumpeter who played at the heart of Arkham just before its dissolution. We asked Roger Trigaux and Guy Segers (they already played together when working in the same studio as Arkham) to join up with us. It was 1973. The group called itself Necronomicon, then Univers Zero in ’74.
AJ: How did Univers Zero work! Were you the leader or was it really a case of teamwork?
DD: Around the beginning of Univers Zero in ’74/75, the work was more collective, in the sense that one person would bring a theme, the sense of mood for a piece, or an overall idea for a piece. We would put our ideas together and thus we would construct the pieces. That sometimes led to pieces that were a little too chaotic or fragmented. Little by little, some of us began to have more precise ideas about the structure and spirit of the pieces. That’s how Univers Zero came to be oriented towards the music on the first recordings that you know. It goes without saying that certain problems were created with respect to the identity of certain musicians. The evolution of the music of Univers Zero entailed growing in a particular direction and became more and more distinctive. The function of leader came upon me somewhat inevitably as in the course of the I became the principal composer.
AJ: Does the fact that you have put out a recording under your own name imply the end of Univers Zero – or is it simply a different venue?
DD: The cessation of Univers Zero in ’86 was a voluntary choice. I had assumed all the financial costs and responsibilities of the group. I also had the job of gathering the musicians together for rehearsals. At the the, also there was a sort of dispersion of spirit at the heart of Univers Zero – an obvious lack of cohesion, not to mention that our concerts were too few and far between and that there wasn’t enough money to take care of things. I’d had it.
Somewhere in there (at least two years later) there was in the air a project where Guy (Segers), Roger (Trigaux), Andy (Kirk) and I had the idea to each do a piece on a recording under the name of Univers Zero. The project would have been possible if the financial means had been there – but it stayed at the stage of an idea for a reunion, and it never was realized.
AJ: If the page is turned on Univers Zero, what is now your judgment now on all that period?
DD: It was a fantastic experience. When we did ‘Ceux du Dehors’ we were very concentrated. That was bound to lead to a very fertile creation. Each one of us truly put his energies in the service of the group. It would be very difficult, probably impossible, to work again in that same spirit. We would have needed some kind of response from people outside ourselves that could propel us out of the sterile circuit we were in. To work always with the same intensity, without a “return” in proportion to what our work cost us in energy – that took too much out of some of us, who became discouraged and quit the group. In any case, the group had broken up a good number of times. It was an eternal rebirth. Also at that the we were determined to defend against any action that would directly harm the music itself. We insisted on complete control over everything we thought essential and important for the health of the group, but that obligated us also to take attitudes that seemed a little too extreme or categorical.
With hindsight I think that that (insistence of ours on control) contributed also to the closing of certain doors.
AJ: In retrospect what is your favourite album by Univers Zero?
DD: Even if the production of each record wasn’t always exactly as I wanted it, I can say that each recording possesses its own strength and its status as an “event”. Each one is important to me. We took great care that each recording should have its level of energy and its potential for emotion – and in an omnipresent manner, in each case.
AJ: At the same the as you worked with Univers Zero, you played with the group Present. Can you speak a little about that experience?
DD: It was interesting for me to work with Present because I didn’t have the worry of composing or of bringing the group together. That allowed me to concentrate only on the drum part. Roger and I had known each other a long the. He allowed me total liberty to “place” the drum on the music as I thought best. I had always before had to create the drum part in relation to the whole piece that I myself had composed and in relation to the pieces of the other musicians. I should say that right now I rarely leave the drums to compose.
AJ: After all these experiences with interesting groups (Univers Zero, Present) why have you chosen to work henceforth under your own name? Is it a personal choice, or one you have been pushed into?
DD: Many factors have pushed me to this choice. After the dissolution of Univers Zero, the logical step was that I should take the the necessary to weigh all the past experiences and to have the liberty to reflect at my ease without the constraints of an operating group. The choice to work under my own name obviously allows me to experiment with new orientations, with the privilege to explore my musical ideas to the limit. This is possible thanks to the help of Didier De Roos (the sound engineer of ‘Uzed’ and ‘Heatwave’ who truly caught onto the music of Univers Zero), who proposed to me to work in co-production on my future projects such as the current CD. He has his own studio now since the beginning of 1990. Because of that he can bring me all the complementary technique and “savoir-faire” which is necessary to my music. It is the first the that I am not subject to stress when I work in a studio. Besides, I began to find it a little frustrating to have my name as composer overshadowed by that of Univers Zero, especially when I had become the principal composer of the group.
AJ: How would you situate the music of this first album under your own name, in relation to the music of Univers Zero?
DD: One could say that the music of my CD is the continuation of what I composed for Univers Zero. I couldn’t in any case create pieces in a contrary direction to what I feel. The techniques and the immense diversity of sound that I now have at my disposition permit me to go further without altering the essential bases and fundamentals of my music. If one wanted to distil my current work, one could find there the same ingredients, the fundamental materials as before. That is to say that right now I have the firm intention to explore singing, or other things I haven’t been able yet to truly exploit.
AJ: What are the new elements that appear in your music?
DD: One of the new contributions is the use of the computer, not for the creation of the music but for its modulation in the smallest details. It is another way of working. If one uses a certain prudence and proceeds advisedly, it is a fantastic tool for realizing the performance. The search for the right sound is necessarily more aggressive than before with the introduction of elements such as the sampler.
In any case, the contribution of Didier to the work is altogether remarkable. The work of putting together a CD is the work of a long breath. I do it by using the whole keyboard. In terms of instrumentation, there are certain pieces with clarinet, bass clarinet, and sax played by Dirk (Descheemaeker) on the bass and a little violincello (Jan Kuijken). They produced something fantastic.
AJ: What is the structure of your pieces? Short cuts or long pieces?
DD: For the CD, I have tried not to include cuts that are too long – none more than ten minutes (there are six titles). In any case, these pieces did not require extensive development. It was also necessary to think about how these cuts would be aired; it is always frustrating to have to cut the piece in two because of its length.
AJ: In terms of listening, is your music more accessible than that of Univers Zero?
DD: It’s always difficult to locate the borderline between what is accessible and what is not. I have always found that this music has a certain dose of accessibility, if only for example through the multitude of images that it seems to evoke for the listener; that should help make the connection with what lies behind. Obviously, that depends a lot on the listener. It is a question of openness and of receptivity. Technically, the music of the CD is better produced than previously. Is that a criterion of accessibility?
AJ: ’Sirius And The Ghosts’ – why this title for the album?
DD: ”Sirius” could be a name from a fair or a circus – a fantastical, fantomatico-circus – the atmosphere of which is reflected in the cut of the same name on the CD. ‘Sirius And The Ghosts’ could be the title of a novel by Jean Roy. The photo of the horse on the jacket reflects this idea.
AJ: What label will ‘Sirius’ come out under?
DD: I don’t know who will release it or distribute it in Europe. All that remains to be arranged. I’ve disconnected myself from that part of things: it’s always painful for me to see the indifference and the absence of mutual aid between musicians or “professionals”. Efficient distribution is always a huge problem to resolve. I’ve known that for ages.
There’s unfortunately a strict correlation between distribution and live exposure: poor distribution = no concerts. In the states, it will be Cuneiform. That’ll make now several years working with Steven Feigenbaum – with whom I’ve sometimes had a problem about the excessive prudence of his work and the limits on the size of his distribution.
AJ: Do you plan concerts after the release of the album? If so, in what form and with which musicians?
DD: First I want to get the promotion and distribution of the CD taken care of. The ideal thing would have been to shunt right out on a tour upon the release of the album, but since I’m setting out again from point zero, in a sense, it would have been difficult to arrange everything. The CD will be in any case a precious tool for the prospecting of future concerts that I plan for the autumn of ’91 (I hope!). Anyhow, I want to take the the necessary to think about it, and to find motivated musicians (there’s already Jan Kuijken who has agreed to be part of my next group) who won’t be content only to execute the music. I would love to develop a concept for a concert that would surpass by several echelons what Univers Zero could give at the top of its form. I’ll take this opportunity to advertise that I am looking for a keyboard player and a bass player of top quality.
AJ: What do you see in the future for Daniel Denis?
DD: Being able to buy a new pair of shoes!
Interview: ALAIN JULIAC
From NOTES #37
Translation: Betsy Draine
Reprinted by kind permission of NOTES magazine.
Interview May 1981
Jean-Marc Bailleux – Rock et Folk June 1981
First Names: Stella and Christian
Socio-professional category: Singer and ‘manager’; Composer / leader of the most formidable French musical enterprise since….
Selective discography: All, with a special mention for ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ (A&M) and ‘Magma Live’ (Utopia)
CV: When it comes to music, in France we intellectualise too much. One is sensitive to poetry and literature, but not to sound. I give this example: if you go to see the “Le Roi et l’Oiseau”, a good film, good story, fine images… there is a gate which is two hundred metres high which when it closes itself, just goes clunk. The gate I see there does nothing for me, I want to hear, not to “imagine”, the noise that it makes when it closes.
JMB: ’Retrospectïw’ is sub-titled ‘Volume III’, why is that?
CV: There are many reasons. First, ‘Volume III’ clearly indicates that there remains ‘Volumes I and II’ to come, or perhaps they have already been. Tactically, I think that this is more effective. Moreover, it is ‘Volume III’ because it was recorded with the last group; it is therefore logical in a chronological sense. ‘Volumes I and II’ will represent ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’; the series is then complete.
JMB: When will that be?
CV: It is. The last section has been mixed and the records cut, and it will be released in a few days: two sides ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ and two sides ‘Theusz Hamtaahk part 1′.
JMB: The actual group belongs to which “phase”?
CV: This is the beginning of the second. There are the Guillard Brothers on brass, Dominique Bertram on bass, Benoît Widemann and Guy Khalifa on keyboards, Jean-Luc Chevalier on guitar, Stella and Liza on vocals and Doudou Weiss is the second drummer.
JMB: And so, more from Klaus for the first the?
C.V. No. In fact, his presence has been doubtful for a long while already. He does not appear on ‘Retrospektïw’.
SV: He had a heap of grievances and demands, which are not specifically definable.
CV: In fact, and since he has said this himself, I am able to repeat, he wanted to be THE singer in the front of the stage with the spotlight on him. I had nothing against that, but this was something that he wanted to assume and follow to the end. Because of his attitude it has brought a lot of complications to our work. And finally, I have to say that it was Klaus who said he did not want to be on the album sleeve.
SV: That said, he has changed his position since then: he sings on ‘Volumes I and II’ and he is featured on the credits.
JMB: What has happened since ‘Attahk’ from a business point of view?
SV: For the first the we are free. We have produced all of ‘Retrospektïw’ ourselves. That seemed to be the only solution; we had searched for a record company for one year. In vain….
JMB: How is that possible? Were you too greedy?
SV: No, not at all. We were touring the record companies with very modest demands at the the when they were looking for a group like TRUST or TÉLEPHONE. We went to see RCA and said to them: “We have finished every part of this project, we have mixed the tracks, we give it to you for you to distribute. We request nothing more from you”. This is how we came to be signed for these three volumes.
JMB: What will happen after ‘Retrospektïw’?
CV: We attack a new cycle. Phase 2, not only in a musical sense: we reform Uniwerïa Zekt, as a label and as a reinforcement of Magma.
JMB: That seems to imply that you will continue to take charge of the extra-musical problems?
CV: Yes, right down to the tiniest details.
SV: ’Retrospektïw’ is only a trial shot in this field, a sort of apprenticeship: all this has been done very quickly.
JMB: Is it you Stella, who takes on that aspect of the work?
SV: Principally, as long as there is no one else to do it.
JMB: Did you wish to achieve this situation, or do you suffer from the burden of these things?
CV: Both. We say that we were wishing for this autonomy, but that it has made it challenging in rather negative circumstances and has thrown us in at the deep end.
JMB: And musically?
CV: Since ‘Köhntarkösz’ I had needed to reflect on a new music. The music of Magma is a music that needs a focus, it needs to search, to try, to transform. Each record has to be a contribution in an evolution. You work on some things for months, these you record afterwards; if they have been worth the sorrow and difficulty. Dozens of pieces by Magma have not been released.
JMB: Is the music in conception dependant on the group?
CV: Always. I say that there is a problem of recruitment in the sense that there are numerous qualities required to perform with Magma: It needs the sensitivity and the fingering of a classical musician, and on the other hand he needs to be able to play the blues, Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and to have made that synthesis already.
JMB: You seem very frustrated by present-day music?
CV: There is not the “Cry” in the bands of today. Alternatively, the vocal call is hidden down low. At twelve years old I was in there. This is why Coltrane has such an importance for me. Ray Charles also wanted to scream out loud, Hendrix too, but neither achieved that shout completely. Coltrane possessed that quality: Hendrix, Otis Redding all of it that you could want: The Cry… More a one-dimensional universe; all the cries. The proof is that the music of today (it does not matter specifically which), is just a blend of clichés, some of which are Coltrane’s phrases. You know, I read an anecdote about Coltrane recently. He improvised on ‘Impressions’ in a club once, for two and a half hours, the blood vessels in his face were bursting; he was bleeding from the nose and from his mouth. For two and a half hours!
JMB: Yet, what is clearly more transparent in your music is the Slavonic influence. ‘Mekanïk’, for example, seems to come in a straight line from Stravinsky’s ‘Les Noces’. “to summon the spirit”
CV: There are two reasons for that: Firstly, you have to understand, to live Coltrane to the point of being able to summon the spirit, not the letter, takes years. This is a discipline that we shall apply little by little in Phase 2. And concerning ‘Les Noces’, I have to say that at the the of writing ‘Mekanïk’ I had not listened to it. It was Faton (Cahen) who lent me the record – but that was after I had already composed the piece. That said, folklore is folklore; this rhythm is essentially Slavonic, and in case anyone is unaware of it, I am not exactly French! The only cliché of everything I have composed, I say this because I am fundamentally honest, is a brief quotation at the introduction of ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ which is the introduction of a piece by Carl Orff, ‘Triomphi di Aphrodite’.
JMB: In my review of ‘Retrospektïw’, I expressed some reservations about some of your compositions, on the melodic level in particular, which left me hungry, unsatisfied.
CV: But you noted that it was changing. Just as there are children who can speak before they learn to eat with a little spoon, for others it’s the inverse. Me, I need to search for rhythmical plans to purify my work. Before, I was looking for a good melody and I did not always know what to follow it with to make a good hook.
JMB: The prime accomplishment in that field is ‘Hhaï’.
CV: Yes, because the purely melodic aspect began to preoccupy me, then it became clear that it was secondary: ‘Rïah Sahïltaahk’ (’1001°C’), has four or five times the content of ‘Hhaï’. But in fact, at seventeen years old you have a little baggage, which you spread out, you do not always serve the music. Afterwards, you learn to choose the cuts. You purify: some things which would have lasted twenty minutes you are able to prune to a seven minute piece with a very strong punch. That’s a little like what I have done with ‘Otis’, a new piece dedicated to Otis Redding which is a result of ten years apprenticeship. Magma, for me, is an apprenticeship. Look at Coltrane, he was not really himself until he was thirty-three years old.
GERMAN TOUR 1983
Peter Hill & Duncan Lane – 5th December 1983
Hamburg 22-11-83 / Berlin 23-11 -83 / Koblenz 24-11-83
Magma have not toured the U.K. since 1975. Since that the, their approach and personnel have altered considerably. This short tour of Germany saw their line-up halved to six members (drums, percussion, pianos, vocals and occasional bass guitar) with most of the group doubling on instruments.
Anyone who witnessed earlier incarnations of the group will be surprised to learn of the semi-acoustic nature of the present set and the general absence of bass guitar, where before masters such as Jannick Top and Bernard Paganotti have been essential driving foundations of Magma’s music. There has been a shift in emphasis from the rhythmic to the harmonic and melodic elements in the music: elements that have always been inherent in the compositions while being underestimated by the group’s critics who accuse Magma of a harshness and have been faint-hearted at the intensity of the attack of the group.
Their present set is dedicated to John Coltrane. It contains no material on any of their dozen albums. It is a powerful three-hour set, consisting of around ten numbers or sections which constantly build slowly and hypnotically from quiet piano riff passages into soulful, strong crescendos and beautiful waves of sound that wash back to quieter pieces. The music is fuelled by the strangely exotic vocals of Christian Vander who, along with Stella Vander, takes on most of the vocals and their intricate harmonies.
The originality, beauty and drive of earlier Magma is still present, although the rhythmic power is understated. The stated aim was to get nearer to the core of the music and this has been achieved at these three German gigs – the music has a new vitality and a natural freshness and accessibility. Melody, Motion, Tone and Sensitivity…
Another surprise is that Christian Vander, unquestionably the world’s greatest drummer, hardly plays drums in this set. He concentrates on piano and his vocals, into which he squeezes every last ounce of passion and control. When he does finally mount the drum kit, it is both fascinating and exhilarating to see his frenzied assault transforming a quiet piano figure into a soaring crash of sound. Later on, he displays the same awesome power in a twenty-minute drum solo. You’ve heard of boring drum solos, and of drum solos that are supposed to be exceptions, but Vander’s is not merely a drum solo – it goes far beyond his muscular technique, it has melody, motion, tone and sensitivity – it is music!
Christian Vander has been at the heart of Magma for thirteen years. Commercial success has eluded the group despite a succession of essential recordings and being cited as an influence by almost every worthwhile group of the past ten years. Most musicians would find this dispiriting. However, Vander is utterly committed to Magma and to the joyful, celebratory music they are currently making. This devotion to a pure music, a total disdain for the machinations of the music business and an indifference to passing fads is both inspiring and potentially a barrier to commercial success.
The tour manager hopes to bring Magma to the U.K. soon. This is the strongest line-up for a couple of years, the gigs will be fantastic and it’s hard to see how anybody could fail to be impressed and moved by this unique group.
‘Barndomens Stigar’ CD (APM 9201)
Michael Draine (© 2003 Michael Draine)
Rescued from the limbo of high-priced vinyl rarities by the new label APM, this Swedish quintet’s 1980 debut may be the Zeuhl / progressive reissue of the year. Wry, whimsical keyboard flourishes and a certain pastoral air allude to the Canterbury school, while the aggressive, pulsing bass lines, loping backbeat, and soprano scat vocals combine and combust in the best Magma-inspired tradition. Traces of Swedish folk linger in Kultivator’s eclectic blend, but the group’s influences are infused with an urgency and intensity entirely their own. Keyboardist Johan Hedren is the only name familiar to me, but the robust, fuzzed organ and lilting electric piano on display here is light-years away from the austere, abstract soundscapes of his Bauta LP, ‘Kretslopp’. There’s not a weak track among ‘Barndomens Stigar’s twelve, including an excerpt from Kultivator’s first concert, and a fresh, vivid 1992 recording by the reformed group. Sound quality is rather coarse, with the left channel louder than the right, but with music this good, who cares?
‘Marathonnerre I’ CD (Atonal 3015)
My first reaction was to the artwork rather than the music, the packaging is excellent – the music is often disappointing. ‘Tocsin’ was interesting and ‘Firebirds’ ends with a riff used by Deep Purple on ‘Smoke on the water’. ‘Konzo Bélé’ however with its breathy sounds is more like Art of Noise than Art of Zoyd. And ‘I Szene’ is an ecclesiastical new age piece…. Then thankfully the last few tracks are a vast improvement ‘Danse de Mort’ features an ultra low frequency throb and the cries of poor Mr Zaboitzeff being whipped! More challenging is the stereo vocal chanting and cyclic percussion of ‘Fair Fair’, which also has some evocative cello work. The final number is typical 1980′s Art Zoyd fare, not spectacular and a bit too repetitive.
‘Marathonnerre II’ CD (Atonal 3016)
This is the second CD of a pair of studio recordings of the music performed on their 1992 tour of marathon twelve-hour concerts. ‘La Belle et la Bête’ is a stirring inventive mixture of circular chanting with some fine string accompaniment. The martial / robotic rhythms of ‘Anamorphose’ are one of the few highlights of this set. This combat spirit continues onto ‘AZPP’, which appears to be a live recording. Then the classic ‘Mariée a la nuit’ (Japanese version) burst forth – it’s only really at this point in the pair of CD’s that the real power of Art Zoyd comes to the fore. Until this stage the whole set has a laid back, new age feel which is not terribly inspiring. But ‘Mariée’ is a diamond. ‘Tournoi’ is an intensely percussive piece, but it fades out far too quickly. ’2ème experience de vol’ is a discordant mish-mash but the tuned percussion ending has potential. Foghorns herald ‘Le lac des Signes’ initially bearing resemblance to Magma’s first album in melodic structure and particularly the vocal lines, but eventually this reverts to mediocre doodling (or noodling as Zappa would say). The closing theme is a sombre piece but no classic. Sadly I feel Art Zoyd have lost their magic again, temporarily.
‘A Fiïèh’ ANNOUNCEMENT
you have already waited patiently… We have made this record like all the others, for you…
You, whom we have, since the start of 7th Records in November ’86, brought you news of our record releases with more or less regular postal communication. You who have given your support and regularly bought our albums, we return to you this loyalty by dedicating to you the following. We have since the beginning always emphasized this, and now this situation is still as relevant as ever, with your active participation being reflected in the music.
We are in your debt.
We bring you the new album from:
CHRISTIAN VANDER – A Fiïèh
HYMNE KOBAYEN (variation improvisée)
LA MARCHE CELESTE
PURIFICATEM (accord des instruments)
A Hymne Kobaïen, an improvised variation on a theme taken from Wurdah Ïtah.
Cosmos and A Fiïèh which you without doubt already know, and which this the attack and exceed the known universe already experienced in concerts.
La Marche Celeste, with the nine vocalists from “Voix de Magma”.
Followed by Magnifi, strange and spellbinding.
Then, after an instrumental beginning, Purificatem, a version, which is very different to that which you may have heard in concert. Sixty minutes and forty seconds of exceptional and accomplished music by OFFERING.
N.B. A complete musical score for voice and piano for Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh will soon be available, rest assured you will be the first to receive news of this release.
1993 THE GERMAN PHENOMENON
Do nazi’s really have a more expanded musical mind than we thought until now? Or what lies behind the Prussian “Tschinderassabum”? Is the missing link between bavarian “Blasmusik” and today’s neo-nazi skinhead punk really this dark, brooding, Zeuhl-signed Zebëhn Strain dë Geustaah singing Hitler speeches in German and praising a Kobaïan kind of “Herrenrasse”? You all know the articles telling this kind of story about Magma, especially in the ’70s.
During the Third Reich, Vander would surely have been one of the first to be thrown into a concentration camp because of his producing ‘Entartete Kunst’ (Degenerate Arts). So let’s disregard these absurd nazi rumours. But what is it about C.V. singing in German? In issue #15 of our favourite fanzine you could read that, ‘Magnifi’ seems to be sung in German, ‘Sprechstimme’ mainly. Let me assure you that it is definitely not German; the language is Vander’s own original creation. O.K., I concede that you can easily imagine some phrases to be based on German, like “Boots am Boots” (this can almost be translated as “boats at boats”. But, the correct plural in German would be “Boote” instead of “Boots”). But it makes no sense as a sentence, and similar phonetics can easily be found in other languages, like English for example.
Likewise, on the releases from the ’70s it is hard to find a phrase sung in German. Except for the song title ‘Tröller Tanz’ on ‘Üdü Wüdü’ (since a Troll is an evil ghost in German and Scandinavian sagas, it does indeed mean Ghost Dance). Of all the early releases, maybe ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ contains the most parts which are reminiscent of German. But something that reminds me much more of German is the beginning of ‘Zëss’ sung in Kobaïan by Zebëhn (the only official recording of this is on the ‘Les Voix’ album, but earlier performances had a French introduction – ed.) For example, for me part of it sounds like “Ich komme in a tausend und a tausend, Gott is wiren meint wo die Stürme toben”¹ or a little later “De Sülrme wir haben, a lost wiren meint viele Stürme und des viele Toten “, which in fact doesn’t make sense in German as a complete sentence. But there are individual words which do, like Ich komme = I come; Tausend = thousand; Gott = God; meint = means; wo = where; die Stürme = the storms; toben = rage; wir haben = we have; und der vielen Toten = and the many dead. (See Ork Alarm! #9 and #13 for French and English transcriptions of ‘Zëss’ – ed.)
So, I believe that Christian uses these words just as sounds, which are convenient for his music, and every similarity to German is more or less accidental. I absolutely agree with what Ian McDonald wrote in 1975 (see Ork Alarm! #4), that Kobaïan is a language to listen to, more than to transport some sort of content in the words and therefore it is basically phonetic but not semantic.
The aim seems to be to create runs / phonetics to supply the maximum effect to the music, a reduction on essential phonetics transporting their meaning directly to our subconscious. For example, in the ’70s Magma was – as the German music magazine ‘Sounds’ headlined in 1974 (see Ork Alarm! #3) – music made out of steel. So the vocal parts had to be hard and gutturally pronounced to support the music, and so they were. Remember the themes it was all about: The of Hate, Death of Earth and Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh. Now just recognize the change Vander effected with Offering. Another side of the same musical message “Love” required a softer kind of vocals, and Vander integrated more English and French elements into his music. At the end, Offering sang much more French than Kobaïan in their concerts. That’s why ‘A Fiïèh’ is a kind of turning-point, containing harder sounding vocals, more like German and Slavonic tongues, transporting a similar feeling to Magma.
Even in concerts I can’t remember Zebëhn singing in German, except on two occasions. The first was when he did his drum solo ‘Ptäh’ in the 70′s. When he got really excited sometimes, he began to shout clearly “Der Satan ja, der Satan ja!” (= The Satan Yes!). The second, you can hear on a tape made in Brussels on 14-2-74, when Zebëhn silences a heckler in the audience with “Halt die Schnauze” (= Hold your jaw!).
In fact, maybe he knows some particular expressions. Like when we left the Dunois concerts in April 1992, he took leave of us by saying, without any accent, “Auf Wiedersehen “. But as far as I know, C.V. definitely doesn’t speak German. So close your eyes and let the music speak for itself.Ork Alarm! # 17 November 1993 Magma – Before ‘M.D.K.’Ian McDonald Early in 1973, Giorgio Gomelsky, one time manager / producer / artistic director of a crucial chunk of the British rock-scene, at the time performing the same pioneering service for France, fixed me with a piercing gaze and growled: “It is impossible to understand the French scene without first understanding May ’68″. Which is to say that Revolutionary Socialism was even more dominant in shaping the development of rock in France than it was in Germany. In the early seventies, the French gig circuit was as lacking in centralization and co-ordination as the German one was. Although managers were perfectly legal in France, the growth of the rock scene had been actively thwarted by the legislation of Pompidou’s government, and most bands found themselves arranging their own venues and publicity from day to day.
There were two main reasons for this: first, the failure of Andre Malraux’s “Maisons de Culture” programme to provide facilities for the young audience: second, the fact that the government only ever granted licences for fifteen agencies, all of which were controlled by half-a-dozen bourgeois concerns. More than half of the official venues and promotional machinery in the country were in the hands of a single middle-class business run by the powerful Marouani family. With the establishment having an unbreakable grip on the status quo of French entertainment, the only choice for musicians not willing to sacrifice their scruples and play the “bals” (Discotheques) for “les minets” (teenyboppers) seemed to be to set up an alternative underground circuit which is where Gomelsky’s interest in France comes in.
With Bob Benamou, manager of the countries number two group, GONG, Gomelsky opened up a “parallel” circuit of nearly 300 small capacity (2400) gigs, thirty of them in Paris alone, co-ordinated from an unofficial agency run jointly by both men. A band playing this circuit had to work pretty hard (at least twenty gigs a month, every month), but, with a guaranteed minimum of 1500 francs per venue, they were supposedly certain of a measure of financial security. The two best-known groups in the country were Gong and Magma (a very freaky ensemble – the most powerful and individual group France has yet produced).
Gong a congregation of various nationalities and states of mind which occupied the position of Favourite Head Band for France in the same way that Amon Duul II did for Germany, and Hawkwind for England. Their ‘Radio Gnome’ album demonstrated them to be by far the best of this trio. Behind Allen’s band lay a whimsical mythology based on “les emissions de la planète Gong”, vaguely identified with Selene (Goddess Of The Moon) and the Female Principle. Their close friends and touring partners, Magma, likewise have a planetary mythology centring on the Nitzschean world of Kobaïa and the Masculine Principle; they therefore produced virile, rather fascistic music which was one third propaganda, one third posturing, and one third scintillating jazz-rock of a unique intensity.
In their first three years, led by Christian Vander (who was tutored by Elvin Jones) they released two albums in France. The first, of which, was reviewed in New Musical Express (December 30, 1972); the second, ’1001 Degrees Centigrades’ (the temperature, according to Magma, at which the universe melts), winning the Grand Prix Du Disque in its class for 1972. Neither record can fairly be said to be a success, despite the rapturous approval of French audiences: the Kobaïan mythology is too intrusive and, on ’1001′, it stultifies the music to a point where it becomes conceptually brilliant but intolerable to listen to. Vander, pianist François Cahen, and superb soprano saxophonist Teddy Lasry wrote most of the material and Magma’s best moments from these releases can be heard in ‘Kobaïa’ and ‘Sckxyss’ on the first album.
Towards the end of 1972, following a self-immolating tour with a twenty-voice choir, Magma ran out of funds and broke up. Cahen went on to found a new group (ZAO). Lasry settled down as a session musician. But the fanatical energy of Christian Vander could not be suppressed and he reformed Magma as a four-piece, in which form, in January 1973 they completed a third album: ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’, a compressed version of their five hour live set, which was eventually released sixteen years later… Virgin Records had rejected the first version as insufficiently commercial; three months later a slightly different line-up (now with Jannick Top on bass) re-recorded the album. A&M records subsequently released this version of ‘M.D.K.’ in December ’73. Reports of Magma’s live performances outstripped one’s wildest imagination: their theatrics, which had been an integral part of their sets, were said to completely eclipse those of Bowie and Alice Cooper, and it was standard practise for a Magma concert to end in several hours of political debate between Vander and the audience. Needless to say, you had to see them.
In geological terms, Magma is the substance found deep beneath the crust of the earth or to quote the dictionary: … molten material from within or beneath the world’s crust from which igneous rock is formed. It suggests energy, brute and primeval. It can burst through the surface and burn away life, as we know it, in a mad flash of purification. Or then, living the existence of a cosmic monster deep inside the earth’s womb, nourish its crust with endless vitality.
“I have always found the names of groups somewhat weak and unrelated to particular motivations. Magma is a very powerful and a little known matter of which stars, suns and entire galaxies are made of. Perhaps it is our only physical link with the Universe. So I decided to call the group MAGMA. We all come from there and nothing is more powerful than Magma, and since the musical idea was a powerful and grandiose one, I wanted the name to be up to it.”
There are inside of us relationships that lie so deep we are hardly aware of them. Music, like all art, is a witness of man’s predicaments and can perhaps best of all express the anguish of discovery that overcomes us at times.
“When I heard Coltrane for the first the I couldn’t listen to anything else afterwards. Perhaps I was wrong. But there was no other music that mattered to me, and every time new Coltrane record was released it was like a source of new life. At the time I was not very happy, I had really great problems and my only link to life were my Mother and Coltrane. Coltrane was not just music – there was something else there as well: a spiritual search. I also felt and still feel that some musicians at the time, and even now, have not understood Coltrane. Many tried to copy him, for technical reasons, for the then ‘fashionable’ modal changes, etc., but without a real understanding of what he was saying. To me he was not just a sax player but also a man speaking, saying something. That’s why none of his ‘notes’ were vulgar.
I guess it was a purely instinctive thing that made me like him and then love him. Every time something has affected me deeply, it’s been instinctive. Every record of his, for instance, was penetrating my life; was the thing that made me want to live. At home I’d play along with his records with my brushes on the back of sleeves. It was, you might say, a lonely passion. Whenever I could, I used to hire a little demo studio and get in there with my Coltrane records and my drums. Three or four times I tried to go and jam at one or the other of the Paris jazz clubs, but the musicians were still playing ‘standards’ and even those who, a little bit later were trying to play his themes or copy his ‘sound’, only managed to vulgarise him.
So I preferred to play alone with the records. I couldn’t play “jazz” anymore, particularly with the mentality of the French musicians; not one single one of them could help me to answer some of the things Coltrane asked. I was entirely on my own. At the end it became quite fantastic. When a new record came out, and often I didn’t have the bread to buy it, I used to go to the record shops just to listen to it. While other people around me were listening to other music, I was in another world altogether; proud to be listening to Coltrane and to know what was really going on. And increaingly I felt there was more happening than just music. To me every note he played was something I cannot describe even today.
Anyway, I remember it was summer and Coltrane died and the guy who told me the news said it “just like that”. I didn’t believe it. Two years before, already, the same news had spread and then I was 16 and I rang up the radio station to find out if it was true or not. Nobody could tell me but finally I found out he hadn’t died. I was so relieved. Then the “Village Vanguard Again” record came out. His playing was so fantastic, so far away that I felt this time he could, possibly, die. The day I bought the record I played it all night and again I felt afraid he was going to die. I went across the road to the local cafe and a guy said to me, “Hey, you know that friend of yours, Coltrane or something? Well he died last night in New York”. I was shattered. I thought, I’ll never find another life-source. So I got more and more depressed and started to drink and worse. I tried to forget that there was no link anymore to his existence. I didn’t know what to do; I was lost. My dream had always been to play music like Coltrane, to perhaps one day be able to play with him.
Another Coltrane just seemed impossible, but I was almost hoping a miracle would occur – but nothing was happening in “jazz” and nothing has happened since, at least for me. Never had there been such communion as there was between Coltrane, Garrison, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones at least in jazz. Some groups, call them rock or whatever, have it or come close to it. So, for three or four years I goofed all the way. Then, one day, I was on my third whiskey, I put it down and went home. I was in a terrible state, afraid of dying and went through horrible anguishes but decided never to booze again. I was going to try in all humility to go on playing and to pursue Coltrane’s path. I knew that he was dead but I also knew that had he been alive he would have gone on playing and exploring spiritual accomplishment, and were he alive today, with so many more means available, and people’s readiness for his music, he would have gone so far out, its unreal. But then he was very much alone. Today he would not be. I for one dedicated my life to follow along the path he mapped out.
My music is not like Coltrane’s; its mine, but it is the same quest, the same course. If he were alive today he would perhaps like my music because I make it like he would, by feeling it in my heart, and I hope I am able to do it well enough. But being European, exposed to other musical sources, my situation is culturally different. My Grandfather, for instance was a gypsy violin player wearing golden earrings. I remember him well although he died when I was six. He was always surrounding us with music. Coltrane’s music deeply moved me, because it wasn’t ‘time’ music, ‘temporal’ music. He went well beyond jazz; music to “swing” to. He went into space, into infinity. By analysing my music I discovered it came from deep Polish and Baltic forests, from voodoo which I love like all exorcism and trance-music, from the grandiosity of some German music, Russian opera, “universal” music, tragic music. This is why my music is not like Coltrane’s, but we are certainly soul mates.”
MAGMA play recognizable music, but have rejected all known languages, like English (the pop-esperanto) or even French. Their language is Kobaïan. Which comes from Kobaïa, the imaginary planet where the new concepts will one day be able to flourish and where the new man, UNIWERÏA ZEKT, will find, we hope, greater energy and meaningfulness.
“I can’t explain how Kobaïan came about. When I started to write on the piano, years ago, I used to sing along with the melodies and from deep down inside me, words came out, that didn’t sound like anything that existed anywhere. Little by little it all began to make sense. French seemed too weak a sound and English wasn’t my language, so why not invent one.”
With the expansion of leisure and “leisure industries” it is important that popular music should evolve a greater sense of social action as much for the vast audience that it covers as for its own aesthetics, In the age of Prof. MacLuhan’s “Global Village” we cannot just go on amusing or entertaining ourselves without due care for our spiritual, as well as physical, survival.
“We have nothing to lose on this earth because there is nothing to be gained from it. Since we find ourselves “launched” into life, the only thing we can lose, but in which we had no say whatsoever, doing nothing is also nothing. MAGMA is my entire life. If it fails I shall die. For me, personally, on this earth, there is after MAGMA, nothing.”
MAGMA’s music and attitudes spring from the awareness that the time for meaningful popular-artistic action has arrived. Its work is that of undertaking the research and application of a “now innocence”, which, to quote French writer Raoul Vanageim “… is the lucid bringing about of a wipeout”, even if it means facing moments of horrifying anguish. MAGMA are against a view of life which reduces every person to an impotent onlooker, his creative dignity repressed and his liberty curtailed, and where the imitative and the mediocre reign supreme. Tradition is not rejected as such, but there is a pressing need for invention, particularly with today’s available media.
“This is why I cannot leave anything to chance with my music. I dedicate my life from now on so that it will be a contribution I can offer to people if they need it. Too many “musicians” play for themselves, for a few critics and promoters, not really caring for the people even when the people care for them. When people leave a MAGMA concert I would like them to think that they knew why they came: to listen and to have heard something that might help them in sorting out the mystery. MAGMA is not a “commercial” group. We didn’t set out to please lower common denominators.”
Yochk’o Seffer’s third album ‘Mestari’ with his early seventies New-Music / modern-jazz ensemble PERCEPTION has been released on CD. It is a live recording taken from a small club in Paris on the 28th November 1973. The pan-European line-up was the Hungarian Seffer on sopranino sax and tenor sax; with piccolo, bass clarinet and his own invention the ‘malabar’. French percussionist Jean-My Truong was also working with Seffer in the rockier ZAO line-up at this time. When ZAO eventually split up, Truong was the original drummer with Seffer’s next project NEFFESH-MUSIC. The German electric pianist Siegfried Kessler also plays clavinet and thirteen years later rejoined Yochk’o for their ‘Dialogue’ album. Didier Levallet on double bass went on to be a central figure in the French jazz scene, promoting the French tradition of strings in jazz-rock with CONFLUENCE in 1975 and ever since with his medium size string band SWING STRINGS SYSTEM (formed in 1979 and originally featuring Didier Lockwood) or in a trio with the violinist Dominiqe Pifarely. After recording ‘Dialogue: Water-Fire’ with Seffer, Levallet joined some of the most inventive improvisers in French jazz to form ZHIVARO
Seffer’s first piece on the ‘Mestari’ album is a sensuous number called ‘Trabla Air’ in which he previews brief passages that he would later turn into full blown solos when performing live with NEFFESH-MUSIC. Kessler wrote the next track ‘Chott Djerid’ as a vehicle for the live PERCEPTION to stretch out, creating a dense forest of sound, exhibiting their remarkable talents. The title track however is a composition by Levallet, this weaves and un-weaves in an infinity of configurations. Sensual, light or grave, the lines intertwine from collusion to fruitful conflict, from sweetness to harshness in a style reminiscent of ZAO. The tension builds, each musical moment feeds on exacting interactions, on collusive signs apt to carry things away ever further… until the listener comes to a stirring final solo by Yochk’o, then silence….
Perception: The force of Zao, the freedom of flight.
CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO
15-9-93 Le Sunset, Paris
16-9-93 Le Sunset, Paris
17-9-93 Le Sunset, Paris
CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO, PATRICK GAUTHIER GROUP & SIMON GOUBERT TRIO
25-10-93 New Morning, Paris
GRAND FÊTE DU MAGMA
??-11-93 Paris (5 hour show)
??-11-93 Paris (5 hour show)
On the 25th October Seventh Records will be staging a concert at the New Morning club in Paris to celebrate the simultaneous release of albums by Patrick Gauthier, The Christian Vander Trio and Patrick Gauthier’s group. The next OFFERING album will be a called ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’.
In November, there will be a big festival in Paris of Vander’s music on two nights, with five hours of music each night. This, as you will have guessed, ties in with the Seventh anniversary of Seventh Records. Bands currently scheduled to appear include MAGMA, OFFERING, LES VOLX DE MAGMA, STELLA VANDER, and SIMON GOUBERT. We also expect special guests to turn up if they want to join in, but no specific names have been mentioned as yet. One band that I thought would want to play is DON’T DIE but so far I have not heard them mentioned for this event.
Sadly, the great SUN RA has fired his last retro rockets. The theatrical master of interstellar jazz has finally returned to his “home planet, Saturn”, aged 79. He leaves a vast legacy of over 600 albums of his mystic brew of space sounds and highly orchestrated modern jazz. His penchant for extraordinary, space-age costumes and ambitious, pioneering music charted a parallel course to Christian Vander. Based in New York from the early ’60s, the group to which he devoted his life, his ARKESTRA, were probably the most rehearsed collection of musicians in the galaxy. Robert Muge’s fascinating documentary (originally broadcast on Channel 4 TV) is now available on VHS (PAL)
VANDER MAGAZINE ARTICLES
I hear that SONO Magazine did a big colour feature on Christian Vander’s ‘Les Voyages de Christophe Colomb’ in their May 93 edition.
Vander La Force! is the title of a major article by Frédéric Soupa in Batteur Magazine # 60 (Septembre ’93), reproduction in Ork Alarm! is absolutely forbidden… so this is also an essential purchase from: Batteur Magazine.
This year’s UK Electronica Festival will again feature a varied clutch of synth soloists and high-tech groups, including Steve Palmer’s ambient echo guitar band MOOCH. The top billing goes to Richard Pinhas “probably the world’s most powerful synthesist/guitarist” (with John Livengood). Pinhas is certainly a major coup for this festival and he will be promoting ‘DWW’. Pinhas’ career reads like a history of continental electronic music. Strongly influenced by the rock guitar of Robert Fripp, his band HELDON combined heavy sequencing, jazz influences from musicians such as bassist Bernard Paganotti, screaming lead guitar and flowing Moog melodies. On his later solo albums Pinhas incorporated the minimalism of Philip Glass and Brian Eno – as well as featuring science fiction author Norman Spinrad on vocals! Audion describe him as “the spearhead of a new genre in music… a major talent to be reckoned with and still one to take chances”. So, if you like Heldon you can’t really afford to miss his only gig this year at the Shaw Théâtre, Euston Road, London on Sunday 26-9-93.
XCRANIEUM, the avant-rock band from Los Angeles have lost their bassist, Greg Gunthner, who has moved to San Francisco. However, work is continuing on their next project, which will be called ‘Carnage’. Apparently this will be quite brutal in comparison to their earlier recordings. Meanwhile, Greg Gunthner has joined a project in San Francisco called NONOX (pronounced “na naks”). This is a guitar/bass/drums combo fronted by a female vocalist. Their style is similar to the ART BEARS, MASSACRE etc. Greg expects the group to develop into something very violent!
ZUKUNFT are hoping to stage a concert in Strasbourg at the end of the year.