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Topic ClosedPatrick Forgas Interview Dec 2006

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Alucard View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Patrick Forgas Interview Dec 2006
    Posted: December 19 2006 at 10:41

A while ago I met Patrick Forgas at his Parisian home for an interview. Before starting the interview we went out to take a few fotos and just a few houses from Patrick’s flat is the museum of Hector Guimard and as Patrick loves ‘L’art Nouveau’ we checked in and the guardian was nice and allowed us to take some fotos in this beautiful building.

 

Interview:

PA: Can you tell us how you started in music?

“My first steps in music were at the age of 11. I was at the window of my parents house and outside I saw a dustbin, with the neck of a banjo sticking out. ( I learned only later, that it was actually a banjo) I ran down the stairs and took the banjo out of the dustbin. The skin was missing and my mother  covered the banjo with a new skin. And one month later, I sawed off the neck of the instrument and started drumming on the body. [Patrick laughs] I had what they called then ‘normographes’[rulers], and I started hitting the banjo, like a drum, and when my parents saw this they said to me : “What you are doing is meaningless!”.

When I was fourteen I wanted to go to the musical conservatory, but my parents refused , arguing that someone who sawed off the neck of a banjo couldnt be a musician. At the age of 16 or 17 I had some Arab and African friends who I played music with, behind a church at Issy Les Moulineaux’, a Parisian suburb. There was a small drum set -the brand was Garry - and I had always dreamed of playing the drums. And when the drummer went away from time to time, I took up the drumsticks and tried to play. One day, the guitar player who the drum set belonged to, offered to sell it to me quite cheaply. So I bought it behind my parents back. And when I was about 18 I played in a trio (Bass, Guitar, drums ) and we played a repertory of Pop & Rhythm & Blues at dance parties in Paris, then in public schools, and in some small clubs. Later on, we were four musicians, and finally we played at the Golf Drouot (famous Parisian Club in the 60s ) in 1969. We won second place on a Friday afternoon contest and we were noticed by the Morali brothers, and we got an audition in their drum shop -BTW the Morally Brothers later became the producers of the Disco band ‘Village People‘- and played as a support act for a big show at the Olympia [another famous Parisian music hall ].”

PA : What is your connection to ‘Soft Machine’ and ‘Robert Wyatt’?

“In 1969 I discovered the music of ‘Soft Machine’ , and immediately I felt a connection with Robert Wyatt, his way of playing and singing . In 1970 I was a member of a variety band and for one year we toured all over France and played the ballrooms to earn some money and after one year I said to myself : “I cant play this music anymore.” I felt like someone was driving nails into my hands and feet.

At the beginning of 1970, I started composing my own music, and in 1975 I met Robert Wyatt at his home in Twickenham, and I really adored him , a fabulous person with a real gentleness and generosity , the musician that you dream of . BTW I had the opportunity to record a French version of Hope For Happiness -Echec Naturel-[Natural Failure] for a small Italian label (Mellow Records).”

PA : Can you tell us something about your first record?

“In 1975 I recorded a tape for ‘Barclay’ [ Big French Label] with Didier Thibault , Bass Player of ‘Moving Gelatine Plates’ and a friend of mine Dominique Godin, on Organ & Sax , and finally the tape was heard by a manager of RCA, who had co-founded a label with the name ‘Gratte-Ciel’ [Skyscraper] , and on this label my first record Cocktail was released in 1977. I had published an advertisement in a musical mag :” drummer, style ‘Soft Machine’ searches pianist” , and one day Jean-Pierre Fouquey [Later Magma keyboarder] rung at my door, and suggested bringing his Fender piano jamming together. .And when he played the first notes I said to myself : “its not possible to have such a prince of music, such a great musician , and we recorded my first record together., with Gérard Prévost on bass , who was playing with ‘Zao’ at that time , an excellent bass player , who later played in the band Odeurs , Laurent Roubach on guitar and Patrick Tilleman who had also played with ‘Zao’ on violin and Bruce Grant on sax.

At that time we didnt have a lot of instruments to produce a big sound : we had an organ , the famous B3 Hammond and it was already extraordinary to have a Leslie Speaker cabinet, a piano Hohner,with a Herbie Hancock sound , some monophonic synths , a ‘Solinas’ (violin-keyboard) , which didnt work too well, but on the other hand I am convinced, that a musician who is gifted , and who plays on a cheap organ , or a bass player on a cheap bass , if they have something to express you will feel it without a doubt. Its not the instruments, that make the music.”

PA : Why is there such a long gap between your first and your second record?

“There were 13 years between the first and the second record in 1990, LOeil’. In 1978 I did a lot of concerts. For example the festival of ‘Carquefou’ in Normandy with more than 1000 spectators and Philippe Talabach on Bass (‘Abus Dangereux‘) Finally the band dissolved and I had personal as well as financial problems and in the 80s I had a major problem with my eyes. [hence the title loeil = the eye]

I owe a lot to Alain Juliac, who is among the people who supported my music. In 1988 Alain contacted me, and suggested to do another record. So I recorded the basic tracks of Loeil’ with a ‘TEAC’ Four Track tape recorder, and as I couldnt play drums due to the constraints of the four-track, I programmed the rhythm tracks myself : bass, drums and synths, and I invited Didier Malherbe, Patrick Tilleman , Jean-Pierre Fouquey and Laurent Roubach for the overdubs, and I also did the vocals. Finally, with little money we made a record that is still selling toady [ Musea]. It is one of the few records , where the musicians of ‘Magma’ and ‘Zao’ play together. In 1993 I recorded Art D'Echo , which is dedicated to Robert Wyatt .”

[In 1997 Patrick forms the ‘Forgas Band Phenomena‘. On the cover of ‘Roue Libre’ (1997) and ‘Soleil 12’ (2005) is the photo of a Ferris wheel that was constructed for the great Paris exposition in 1900]

 

PA : Why are you fascinated by the Ferris Wheel?

“The Ferris Wheel had 40 wagons , and thirty people in every wagon , making turns of 1200 people . The wheel is a symbol of the eternal return, life seen a cycle. I dont remember who said that,  ‘God Is a cycle where the circumference is everywhere and the centre nowhere ‘ So what evolves is the diametre.and its a beautiful object at the same time. On the record Mireille Bauer (‘Gong‘)played vibraphone and marimba with Stéphané Jaoui (‘Xaal), who is self-taught like me, on keyboards.”

PA : Do you see yourself in the line of drummer-composers like Robert Wyatt or Pip Pyle ?

“The frustration of drummers comes from the fact, that they dont play a melodic instrument, even if the drums are tuned , a tonality for every tom. But its still a less talking’ instrument than lets say a piano. Apart from highly melodious drummers like Max Roach. But on the other hand, this frustration is largely compensated for, when the other musicians play music that you have composed yourself and you can play at the same time. Still, this frustration exists for a lot of drummers who cant compose their own music. There is a balance between the use of the cymbals and the toms. The bass drum represents the earth, the ‘magma’ [intended word game Patrick has played with ‘Magma’ musicians] and the cymbals present the sky and the escape. The magic is to know how to make the bass drum sing with the cymbals, and few drummers are able to find this balance . One of the drummers that I appreciate very much is Jack De Johnette, who masters the cymbal as well as the French drummer Daniel Humair, and also the French drummer Bernard Lubat , who is a very complete musician also playing piano & accordion. In comparison to these musicians, I myself feel quite ‘small‘….OK I compose and I play drums , but I have never had any musical training . On the other hand technical abilities can block spontaneity.”

PA : I know that you like the Circus! What do you think about the relation of Rock & Cirkus?

“The drummers who play in the Circus are very acrobatic, and have to play all styles of music. Usually drummers tend to get fixed in one particular style of music, while circus drummers are able to create atmospheres of all kinds, and even create sound effects. For example, when someone lets an object fall you hear a short drum roll. I played in a cabaret and did the same thing. I was asked to make drum rolls for a magician . A drummer has to be a ‘bête de scène‘, very physical, he has to have guts and spit fire like a fire-eater, which is after all a Rock attitude.“

PA : On nearly all your records you use a violin. Why ?

“The violin replaces the human voice, playing even more accurately than a voice , especially in instrumental music. The emotion and the subtlety , which you cant achieve with a guitar or a piano – except maybe for pianists like Keith Jarrett. The violin can sustain the notes, while on a piano the note fades away quickly , and the vibrato gives an emotion like the human voice. Now with the effect pedals, you can give the violin the sound of a church organ, and with the electric violin you can have the sound of an acoustic violin, but also the sound of a crying animal , BTW some musicians like Jimmy Page used the bow to create a sustained note and on ‘Moon In June’ (Robert Wyatt) for example you can hear the sound of a violin crying like a child.”

 Blindfold Test:

PA: Patrick I am going to play you a couple of tunes that are linked in one way or another to your music!

Soft Machine Hope For Happiness:

 [recognizes immediately]

“There is a something special in this piece : the drum roll at the beginning and then the chorus, giving the impression that you would fall into an abyss, thats life as it is : there are more failures then successess in life. This is the reason why I called my translation of ‘Hope For Happiness’Echec nature’l [natural failure] [Patrick recorded a French version of ‘Hope For Happiness’ on a Canterbury tribute by the Italian Mellow label) One can have success in business, but not in love. In recording a record and not in a concert, failure allows you to grow. Growing up means understanding that you are not alone, and the fact of meeting someone else , someone who allows you to know yourself better and allows the other to know him/or herself better, giving you another image of yourself , that gives birth to something in you, because you have opened a door, your heart. Opening up ones heart thats ‘Hope For Happiness’.”

Matching Mole : ‘Oh Caroline’

[recognizes immediately]

“The mellotron is an ‘unreal’ instrument, that uses pre-taped tapes (flute & violin) Its not really the sound of the real instruments , because the natural harmonics are missing, giving it this strange sound and nostalgic atmosphere. For me The song is linked to the childhood.”

Hendrix  : ‘Cross Town Traffic’

[recognizes immediately]

“Whats really strange is the way that Hendrix appeared in my life. I bought my first drum-set from someone who had the look of Jimi Hendrix, and in the town where I bought it, ‘Issy Le Moulineaux’, Jimi Hendrix gave a concert in 1967. And only much later I learned that ‘Soft Machine’ had toured with Jimi Hendrix , and its not so long ago I spent an evening with Hugh Hopper, who had lived with Hendrix for some time and on Friday I saw a guitarist for an audition who is left-handed and plays a Fender Stratocaster like Hendrix.” .

Caravan : ‘The Dog, The dog…’

[ recognizes immediately Caravan , but not the song]

«The singer [Pye Hastings] has a similar voice to Robert Wyatt. The magic of this music comes from the ’inside’. Its music of the interior, like the British musicians know how to do, you wouldnt put this music outside, its inside music… [PA “Sitting by the fireside…” ], Patrick laughs…. yes by the fireside, very cosy, very breakfast,”

[Patrick offers me a cake!]

Egg : ‘Long Piece N°3’ :

“ELP ?….  Hatfield and the North ? ….[ PA : “Earlier..”] ??? [ I solve the riddle ]

“Dave Stewart is an excellent keyboarder, who had played with ‘Hatfield‘ there is something I am wondering about, how is it , that you dont hear this kind of music anymore who is the drummer [PA “Clive Brooks”] they have a ‘Magma’ side, a more obsessional side , less Canterbury.”

Moving Gelatine Plates : ‘London Taxi‘

[ Patrick listens to the strange intro, he laughs : “Aliens” , [ he does not recognize the tune] I give him a hint :”You have played with a musician of the band ! “[Patrick had played with Didier Thibault]

“Gong? “-“ Earlier” “OK [he recognizes ‘Moving Galantine Plates’  ]. “It sounds like Soft Machine [there is an obvious quotation of Pig,‘Soft Machine Two’ ] he starts to sing the piece with the music…

Gong : ‘Radio Gnome’

“Moving Galantine Plates?” [ Patricks Parrot starts to sing with Daevid Allen, a perfect fit]I solve the riddle and he starts to laugh while the parrot continues singing …

Hatfield  &The North :’ Calyx’

[with Robert Wyatt on vocals] 

[Patrick was named in the 70s the French Robert Wyatt ,he recognizes the tune immediately]

“I have two common points with Robert Wyatt : One : I compose simple melodies! I dont have a contemporary  musical culture, I have a rhythmic background like Robert Wyatt. Drummers feel the intention of the melody, and in a certain way we are the doctors of the melody. We dont play the melody , but we try to preserve the ‘precious’ part of the melody. I try to create similar atmospheres.I share another point with Robert, both of us have a lisp!”

PA Thank you very much for the interview Patrick!

 

Interview and English Translation Martin Horst Dec. 2006

(thanx to Caroline for help with the translation)


Edited by Alucard - January 30 2007 at 10:06
Tadpoles keep screaming in my ear
"Hey there! Rotter's Club!
Explain the meaning of this song and share it"

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Zac M View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 19 2006 at 15:25
Very good interview, I don't know Forgas's music yet, but it sounds like I would definitely like it.

Edited by Zac M - December 21 2006 at 16:54
"Art is not imitation, nor is it something manufactured according to the wishes of instinct or good taste. It is a process of expression."

-Merleau-Ponty
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 19 2006 at 16:14
Hello Martin.
 
Very entertaining interview Thumbs Up I remember when I stayed at your studio in Paris, you were busy with this interview. Incredible that his parents were so degrading about his musical efforts but on the other hand he has been very lucky to meet some musical heroes! It's fun to let a musician listen to parts of known music, this delivers great, often surprising quotes like in your interview Patrick mentioning ELP while it is Dave Stewart from Egg (in fact thinking it's the pompous prog by Keith Emerson instead of the Canterbury by Dave Stewart LOL ).
By the way, about a ‘Solinas’ (violin-keyboard): it is a Solina string-ensemble, a very distinctive, quite warm sound, often used in French progrock in the Seventies.
 
Salut/Wiedersehen Wink
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 19 2006 at 16:25
I wrote a review for the most uncommon album coming from an artist such as Patrick Forgas : 'Synchronicité' (not a french version of Police's last album though). It's very different from his casual trademark, as it features compositins in the vein of Patrick O'Hearn or Tangerine Dream.
"Magma was the very first gothic rock band" (Didier Lockwood)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 21 2006 at 14:51
Martin, a very well done interview, interesting, amusing and informative.
I do not know his music, but like Zac said, this sounds like something I'll like.

Thanks

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 21 2006 at 16:49
Originally posted by avestin

but like Zac said, this sounds like something I'll like.



Zac said it sounds like "he wouldn't definitely like it"
     
"Magma was the very first gothic rock band" (Didier Lockwood)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 21 2006 at 16:53
Originally posted by lucas

Originally posted by avestin

but like Zac said, this sounds like something I'll like.



Zac said it sounds like "he wouldn't definitely like it"
     

Oops, guess I should check my posts more often before I post themLOL.

I'll edit it now.
"Art is not imitation, nor is it something manufactured according to the wishes of instinct or good taste. It is a process of expression."

-Merleau-Ponty
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2007 at 04:26
I finally started attacking Forgas' career. I reviewed his 77 cocktail album.
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