Thank you very much for taking your time and effort, Cyrille. I would like to ask you first where did you grew up and what were some of the influences on you?
Thank YOU to be interested in interviewing me!
I am born in an interesting place : the American Hospital of Neuilly sur Seine, (a rich neighborhood near Paris) in 1949 July 31st, a very very hot day according to my mom and without AC machines, of course. This detail is important because from this first day, I never could appreciate cold weather, only hot, deserter if possible. Right now I am in a hot and half of the year dry part of Brasil and my body is very happy there.
As you can imagine, just a few years after this horrible WWII, Paris wasn't as it use to be now : the most beautiful city in the World. It was poor and dirty for the main part. My father was working at the American Hospital as a doctor, thi is why I could be delivered in this safe environment by my mom. Interesting enough, I am born in the same hospital and even same bed and exactly 100 days after Dominique Strauss-Kahn's birth. I guess everybody knows now who is DS-K, not for good reasons probably, lol ! I need to say that my sexual life (and life in general actually) has been very, very different from this guy. And all things considered, I prefer mine than his!
About my first influences, it has been very open from the start, I was hearing the music that my parents were listening (they love claissic instrumental), the music that my big brother (7 years older than me) was listening (he loves Jazz essentially and became later a good trumpetist and one of the pilars of the Jazz Hot club de France) and the music that I could get with my little transistor radio, basically the first hours of rockn' roll, with Chubby Checker, Littel eva, Ray Charles, Bill Halley, Cochran, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and the french local glory, Jonnhy Hallyday. At 10 years old, I received as birthday gift a little teppaz turn table. I started to buy records on my own (actually I was stealing most of them until I gor caught !) I then understood that stealing records was wrong, really wrong ! So I started to steal money from my mom's wallet to buy the records in the store. A lot safer!
What? My parents should have giving me more pocket money, then I wouldn't have to steal it to buy music, that's all.
Now, no problem for young people like I was : they can free download everything they want from their home. This is why my personal humble indie online record Cie, clearlight888music.com went almost bankrupted, but this is an other story ! Now I linked it with CDbaby.com, miraculously not bankrupted yet and I can still have some pocket money from my CD sales...
After 40 years of activity and creativity, I find it rather hard, but the whole World being in crisis, nothing we can do to escape from it for the moment.
You studied in Paris composition, harmony, and piano. Did you record anything before starting Clearlight? Any releases perhaps?
I began my musical studies at the national Conservatoire of Paris in 1965. The only tape recorders on the market back then were sophisticated "nagra" or revox, only for professionals. I made some tries with the cassette recorders but the sound was too horrible to please my ears, so no, I had no recording of anything audible before 1974, when a friend borrowed me his TEAC 4 tracks. It was few months after the end of my first band, Babylone, led by Christian Boule (RIP).
I recorded with the TEAC one night of full moon (in the sky with Lucy) the first improvised recording of what became later the "clearlight symphony", on the acoustic piano (a superb half grand Gaveau with an inspiring sound) that has always been in my family house. This night I was all alone and spent most of the night playing and recording. It was a true "clear Light" experience as it is described in Timothy Leary's books. This is why the title of this music couldn't be difficult to find. I had no idea that I would base all my future career on this very first recording, though... I even receive from time to time a mail from new young fans discovering this 40 years old creation with vintage gears.
What is the story behind Clearlight? How did you manage to get musicians such as Didier Malherbe, Steve Hillage, Tim Blake, Gilbert Artman , Christian Boulé and Martin Isaacs to work with you on the album?
It was quite fast. After this full moon recording, I added some organ parts (the synthesizers were still not existing on large scales, so I had only a Wurlitzer organ to make the symphonic parts above the piano track.)
I began to share this demo to some friends involved in musical critics but they all said they couldn't help me with this tape (2 pieces of 20 minutes each non stop, totally non commercial it was, compared to the requirement of 3 to 4 minutes songs that the show biz was imposing to musicians.) But one hero liked it, Jean Pierre Lentin (RIP) from the underground magazine Actuel ! Sometimes, one is enough and makes a great difference, because he is the one that suggested that I show it to Virgin. Why ? Because Tubular Bells, the first album released by Virgin, very new on the market, was beginning to become a big hit thanks to the great success of "The Exorcist" movie, were a few lines of Mike's album were used.
By coincidence, this album was also made of 2 parts of 20 minutes each, I guess this is why Jean Pierre suggested me to go to Virgin's office. He gave me the address in London of the squat of Tim Blake, Gong's synthesist (In London, a lot of artists were living in free squats in the 70's). I had met already twice Tim when Babylone was playing in the same festivals than Gong.
So I took my precious tape under the arm, bought a ticket Paris-London and arrived in London with as only tip, Tim Blake's squat address.
Luckily, I found there also my future manager, a French english teacher named Jacques Reland, that was sharing the squat with Tim and his girl friend Brigitte. My english was very bad at the time, so I was needing a guy assisting me to meet Virgin's A&R, (named Simon Draper) and I proposed to Jacques to make the translator, to study for me the contract and this is how heeventually became my manager during 4 years. Simon Draper was Richard Branson's right arm. In spite of the low quality level of this demo (nowdays, it would be totally utopic to hope to have the attention of any A&R for more than one minute with such a sound, but in this blessed time, everything was yet possible, especially at Virgin). Simon accepted an proposed a recording contract. Few weeks after, the contract was signed in Branson's office. I was really happy. Tim Blake also signed the contract as artistic producer for this project.
When I returned to France with the contract, I began to look for musicians. Virgin was a good name already and I could find easely the musicians needed. Tim helped me to convince Steve and Didier in London and I took care of the French crew (Christian Boule and Gilbert Artman) in Paris...
What is the main concept behind the album and what can you tell me about the recording and producing sessions?
When I listened back the day after the fruit of my magical night, the concept was easy : it was a rock symphonic album where both my scale in classic and rock knowledge was displayed. But it was also a spiritual "clear Light" experience where I had crossed the 7 bardos of consciousness according the the tibetan book of Death) and was transmitting these feelings to the piano. For side 1, more classical and drumless, I recorded first the piano parts at the Manor and the rest was recorded at David Vorhaus (white noise) home studio, . And for side 2, more rocky, I recorded all the parts at the Manor with my french fellows one nonth later, which gives this difference of sound and atmosphere between the 2 sides.
According to the contract, I was my own producer, Virgin was only advancing me a certain amount of money to pay the sessions, the musicians and the renting of the instruments and it was not enough money to record the 2 sides at the Manor with a real symphonic orchestra. Too bad, it would have been way batter and more identical to how this symphony sounds in my head).
What gear did you guys used?
As I said, I had a low budget, so the best I could do at this time where numeric sound samples didn't exist was to rent a mellotron to create all the symphonic orchestration with this imperfect tool. For instance, I couldn't use the notes more than 5 secondes each, because the tape was making a big "clack!" after these 5 secondes. It was the first time I had the opportunity to play this mythic instrument, so I spent a couple hours to find a good way to play all the parts inspite of this stupid 5 secondes of limitation. I also used a hammond for the organ parts, Tim used his EMS synthi for the galactic noises. That's it.
What can you tell me about the cover artwork?
Jean Claude Michel, (RIP) the painter, was a good friend. He was working at the time on illustrations for a book of anatomy, so he used one of his work on the human head to created the cover. Since he was listening to my music while painting, he added the psychedelic elements. A real masterpiece of surrealistic art, appreciated by everybody at Virgin when I brought it.
Later, it has been selected to figure in a book collecting the best rock albums covers. And the Clearlight Symphony figures now in the list of the 100 best progressive rock albums of all times published by the Billboard guide magazine. It was a good beginning, to say the least !
By a matter of facts, 2 of my albums do figure on this honorific billboard guide list, the other being "Clearlight Visions". Apparently, I am also the only french musician present on this list, but I find it a little unfair for Magma, for instance...Christian Vander's music should also figure in the list of best 100 progressive albums of all times, in my opinion.
In 1975 you released another Clearlight album called Forever Blowing Bubbles and then you started another project called Delired Cameleon Family. This was somehow a project for the movie called Visa de censure n°X, right. Would you like to tell me the story behind this release? I would also like to hear more about this film…
The story is quite simple. I had a friend, Yvan Coaquette, guitarist and former soundman of my first group Babylone that was friend with Pierre Clementi, a french famous actor. Between 2 movies, he was shooting his own small budget movie, mainly with his friends of the " nouvelle vague", Jean Pierre Kalfon, Valerie Lagrange and others and he was looking for a soundtrack, so Yvan introduced me to him, knowing that I was able to compose music for movies. So I worked a few days while watching the movie to find musical themes. When done, Philippe Constantin (RIP) and friend of Pierre proposed to be the producer and interface with EMI France and when I was ready we could obtain a budget to rent only 3 days of recording studio. 2 days to record and 1 to make the mix with the movie. Very ridiculous but better than nothing at all ! Then Yvan and I decided to invite all the good musicians friends that we had for a free non stop session. 16 hours/day. The 2 ingeeners were relaying 8 hours each ...It has been a lot of improvisation in this session, with a very special atmosphere of intense work, this is why I found this title : delired cameleon family. The movie itself was very special, with several fast motion pictures mixed together. Difficult to tell the story line of this movie, very very avant garde. This movie and soundtrack figures now in the permanent list of original psychedelic movies at the Musee Pompidou, in Paris. But it has been a commercial flop. The French market was not familiar with this kind of Art.
Les contes du singe fou is your third Clearlight album, but this time your style changed a lot. Same goes for Visions. Why do you think?
Forever blowing bubbles was the 2nd and last project with Virgin. I had a contract with 3 albums but when Richard Branson asked me to move out of Paris to live permanently in London to ease the promotion of the band, I had to refuse because my wife was 7 months pregnant when he requested it and of course my wife didn't want to leave Paris and her mom at this stage of her pregnancy. So, when you say NO to a Branson's request, this is it. Virgin cancelled my contract (without any compensation what so ever) and I couldn't do there with them my third project, almost ready, Les Contes du Singe Fou. I wanted to try a new form of concept for my 3rd project, a Space Opera type of album. I gave the theme and synopsis to my anglophone friend Francis Mandin, a great fan of YES and GENESIS.
After a few weeks, Francis brought me some wonderful lyrics in english. I had planned to have John Wetton (King Crimson) on vocal and bass, Bill Bruford (not a King Crimsoner anymore) has been approached but with the premature end of the Virgin contract, all that has been cancelled. So, I realised this album with a low budget in a parisian studio, instead, with an obscure small label ISADORA and not very known musicians, that didn't know how to promote music, so it has been also a commercial flop.
Seeing that, I decided to produce myself my 4th project, Clearlight Visions, I went back towards a more instrumental style, more simple to organise. That album was also my first where I was deciding everything. I paid myself musicians and studio, so that nobody could decide things for me. I asked to Didier Malherbe (sax-flute) and Didier Lockwood (electric and acoustic violin) to bring their talent, Christian Boule on guitar and Jacky Bouladoux on drums to complete the crew. I also began to use natural sounds (ocean waves, birds, woman having a climax (in spirale d'amour) to go with the music, which was very revotionnaire at this time where new age music didn't yet exist.
Valerie Lagrange, Cyrille Verdeaux and Christian Boulé
In 80’s till now you released many solo albums. Tell me something about that period of your life…
The 80's began with a very nice experience : Along with Frederic Rousseau and Jean Philippe Rikyel, a blind syntjesist genius, I decided to produce an album by renting a mixing table and an ATARI 8 tracks for one month, creating a home studio in the living room of the country house of my parents and the same familial piano that I used to learn music and record Clearlight Symphony's demo. The result has been "Messenger of the Son". But before to be able to propose it to various music labels, the worst thing that can happen to a human being happened to me : the accidental death of my 5 years old son, Jonathan.
I left France right away, leaving behind all my musical projects and went in an ashram in Arizona where I could learn yoga and meditation on an intense basis. After a few months, I met in Tucson some musicians such as Dean and Dudley Evenson, musicians and owners of the small new age label "Soundings of the Planet". I became good friends with them and began to release new age music on their label. Offrandes, Nocturnes digitales, Shamballa, Journey to Tantraland.
One year later, I moved for California. There a US fan of clearlight from the early days, Josh Goldstein, former manager of Happy the Man, offered me his services to represent me. He was a Vietnam vet and had lost a leg there in a crash helicopter, so he had received a good sum of money just before our meeting. He proposed to produce my new music. I completed the tracks of Messenger of the Son with some local musicians, and tried to submit this album to a Californian label. One was interested right away, Fred Catero, former chief engineer of CBS. He had recorded Bob Dylan, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago and many others stars during his CBS career. He was now retired and wanted to create his own label. I was very proud that he picked up Messenger of the son to figure in his list of first releases on his label. So Messenger of the Son became my 6th and last vinyl. Unfortunately, his label Catero records went bankrupted quite fast because his spirit of independence didn't please the local show biz mafia and they made impossible the distribution of his catalog... !
I didn't loose everything because Windham Hill new age label signed one of my Messenger of the son's song, Remember Jonathan, a kind of short requiem that I had composed just after the death of my son and had added to the Messenger album.
This very emotional piece is now for ever in the PIANO SAMPLER ALBUM 86 (but also in the CD of Messenger of the Son).
This Piano sampler album experienced huge sales, fortunately. I was sharing the royalties with 7 other pianists and yet I could finance the birth of my twin daughters in Santa cruz, CA.
In 1986, my french wife wanted to go back to France, so we packed and went back to France, where I decided to continue alone, to record new projects and my very first CD : Rhapsody for the blue Planet, followed the next year by a new Nocturnes Digitales. I also became teacher of music during this French stay. Money, money...Most of the labels selling my music didn't pay me correctly my royalties, so...I couldn't sue them, so I dropped the idea to continue to make money with my art only.
In the 90's, I met Pascal Menetrey (RIP). He had a huge collection of natural sounds and with his sound material and E-Mu sample gears, I recorded Ethnicolours and Tribal Hybrid Concept, to honour all the human tribes facing extinction. The style was new for me, based on house and tribal rythmics surrounding hundreds of different sound samples. It should be in the Guiness book of records in this category if it existed, lol ! Ethniclours was the yin version, more mellow, and Tribal Hybrid Concept the yang version, more wild.
Then I met Patrick Meynier, owner of a record store in Paris, Legend Music. With his help, I could remix Clearlight Visions in CD with several bonus tracks in it. Then with his wife violonist, Genevieve, I recorded Solar Trance fusion and Aerobix, 2 powerful albums of progressive house music, if I may say.
I was going all these years back and forth between France and California and in 1995 I met a good singer, Leah Davis, with whom I recorded Flowers from Heaven, along with other singers friends, Frances Key, Gunnar Amundson. I was recording where I could, song per song, the home studios were becoming more and more serious and well equipped in numeric and samll equipement. This album is the only one that has only songs in it. The lyrics created by the singers are all excellent and meaningful, making this album a very initiatic one, philosophically wise.
This bring us to the XXIthe century. I met an other clearlight fan, Dan Shapiro, living in Santa Barbara. First he proposed to produce a solo piano album, Piano for the 3rd ear. Then Dan told me about his huge fantaisy : to produce the re-recording of the Clearlight Symphony, with all the numeric sounds that didn't exist 30 years ago. I spent 3 weeks in a home studio in Santa Barbara, alone with a kurzweil 2600 and recorded Inner peace Concerto, a reprise of musical themes of the clearlight symphony with many improvments and new themes.
After that, we decided to create together my own music label as a little start up, www.clearlight888music.com. We converted into numeric all my vinyl musics and made CDs with it. Plus, the label was releasing also the Kundalini Opera, a 7 hours synthesis of 7 of my CDs, each of these CDs harmonizing a specific chakra. I was mixing here all my knowledge in yoga and music together.
- Ethnicolours takes care of the 1st chakra
- Journey to Tantraland, the 2nd
- Solar transfusion, the 3rd
- Flowers from heaven, the 4th
- Rhapsodies for the blue planet the 5th
- Piano for the 3rd ear, the 6th
- Inner peace Concerto, the 7th
Inner Peace Concerto was sounding so great to his ears that Dan decided to pay for more sessions, with other musicians, a violonist, a sax-flute player, a drummer and an electric guitarist. I called this final result "Infinite Symphony" because it ends exactly as it begins, as a Moebius ring. Hey, I had a new band, eventually ready to go to play in progressive festivals.
Just a few days before the depart for our first festival, the drummer, Shaun Guerin, decided to kill himself because of some problems with his wife ! Unbelievable ! But true, alas...After that, the other musicians decided to quit the band idea and my last chance of restarting a public career with a Clearlight band stopped right there. And in top, I had to leave the Country, having no more reason to get a green card and a work visa.
I had met few years ago a charming Brasilia lady on Internet, and I decided to answer to her invitation to visit her in Brasilia. This is now where I live permanently and I am married with her. Life with its permanent ups and downs...I know exactly what it means !
What are some of your future plans?
To be honest, I have not much plans concerning music nowadays. My musical career is slowly but surely fading away. My label of sales of CD on line is almost ruined by the free download platforms. I have now www.CDBABY.com to take care of it. This label is the ONLY ONE that pays me royalties in the whole universe, so thank you to buy my CDs there and nowhere else !
I have also worked on several musical videos clips with my friend Frances Key that we have released for free on youtube, having no offers to commercialize it. At least like that, we didn't work all these hundreds of hours for nothing ! People can enjoy it for free. But no future plans on this matter. Working for free can't last for ever for artists.
During my last stay in France, summer 2011, I recorded for the fun of it my best piano repertoire on a Bosendorfer 290 modele Imperial, the best piano in the world, and I put a teaser on yourtube. Here is the link:
Thank you very much! Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine readers?
Yes, here is the message, that my guardian angel gave me to share it with everybody. It was in 1977, but I think it says it all even now:
EARTH BEINGS, listen...
Please read carefully the following message :
The time has come to realise that your unlimited expansion in all sectors are seriously threatening the harmonious balance of your sphere of birth.
Consequently, your survival and the survival of your children are now threatened, for the new ecologic datas you are creating are artificial, therefore devastating to your natural ecosystem.
Even before the right to freely travel and to express yourself, your very first rights must be those to breeze non cancerigen air, drink non polluted water and eat non toxic food, all conditions indispensable to your biological existence.
Several severe plagues of planetary dimension beginning to manifest, synonymous of dark and painful cuts in your rows, a new revolution, pacific and ecological this time, happens to be urgent and necessary.
To get rid of the ghost of your extinction, you, from the humblest to the almighties would only have the small price to pay of remembering that the Bill of human Rights passes necessarily after the Bill of Rights of the planet that welcomes and nurrishes you. Do respect and appreciate the natural harmony of Nature, fruit of hundreds of millions of years of preparation and evolution.
Consequently; it becomes important that each of you wakes up in order to effectuate the necessary corrections for the preservation of your destiny, individual as well as collective.
Understand that the more you will delay to concretise this revolution, the more dramatic will be your fate, for the natural forces making functionning your ecosystem are stronger than yours and will be able to find an other new balance than the one you think you can impose and it will often make you feel miserable.
To help you to remember or to finally realise that your blue planet (whom you still are the most precious fruit), is really alive, listen to her music. Then maybe, will you understand that she must be preserved from destruction, this being also your obvious personal interest.
Her voice is indeed necessary in the partition of the Symphony of the Spheres, primordial universal anthem for the establishment and development of Life.
So protect and share her
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2012