Like we promised, here is the first composer in a series of interviews, that will follow with so called "Library" music composers.
Bernard Fevre is a french composer and musician who experimented with dimension of sounds. He released a couple of really amazing "library" records back in the 70's. Among them are "The Strange World of Bernard Fevre" from 1975 and "Cosmos 2043", which was released two years later. In the late 70’s he changed his music style and started a project called "Black Devil", which was a very intelligent music way ahead of it's time. These days he is still very active with "Black Devil Disco Club". We are very happy, to host him on It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine. You can read our interview with Bernard and found out many stories, he shared with us.
Thanks for taking your time, Bernard. Let's start this interview with a question about your childhood and teen years. Where did you grew up and what were some important events, that made you decide for a music carrier?
I've always been interested in music as far as I can remember. When I was 4 years old, I was crazy about the piano. When I was seeing one I would sit and play, anywhere, in a shop, in a restaurant, at peoples places... I've always played with both hands, I guess at the beginning it wasn't that good, but the idea, the spirit, the soul were here. A teacher told my parents they should encourage me to take piano lessons, which they did, but unfortunately they were a bit boring, too much conventional... so around 10 I quit and focused on my own at home, just for fun. I would play stuff from the radio, mostly rock & roll (it was around 1957). At 15 I played "What'd I Say" from Ray Charles in a club and a guy asked me to play with him in his band. That's how it started.
What can you tell us about your music background. I mean what did you do before 1975, when you released your first album?
After that first band I joined, which sounded really rock & roll, a bit like Elvis and co, I started working in a factory but luckily my boss introduced me to a jazz piano player. I started to play in a soul band, and left the factory at 18 for a deal at the famous Casino de Deauville run by Regine. Our shows gained bigger and bigger audience, and we had stars and rich people dancing for us. But once again unfortunately I had to quit, as I had to do my military service in Berlin, where I didn't get a single German lesson in sixteen months, which would help me right now to answer interviews.
I was a bit mad at this music revolution happening without me... I'm still a big fan of the Beatles. When I came back from Germany I started to play with another french band I was in contact a bit before, boys from different ages, with a lot of vocals, and the music was pretty much traditional, it was a bit like french Music Hall. During my German stay they had improved a lot, and were performing in a lot of cabarets, and we started touring in a car, all over France. It was a lot of fun. We had the first french stereo live show, the sound was really amazing for the time. We played about 10 years together, and even at the Olympia and Bobino which were the two most famous venues at the time. Olympia is still open. But the money wasn't really here so it ended...
Being from Paris, the late 60's and 70's must had been a very interesting decade and since from Paris also place and the scene. How would you describe the scene there?
Paris was young, casual, easy, fun... Less "hype" than now. The geography of the city was really different, there was a real center and there was much more social classes mix. You would meet people way more easily. Young were doing fights or riots, but it wasn't that serious actually. It wasn't war.
'Suspense' is I believe your first album. It was released on Musax Records. How did you get signed up on the label and what is the concept behind the album?
For Suspense, I wanted to use synths and create a music with a kind of strange, unreal tension. The idea was to not use traditional instruments in order to imagine sci-fi or contemporaries stories. I met Eddie Warner through a cassette he had heard of me. At the time I would give them to people. He was from this 40/50 generation of musicians who cared for music novelty, research, experimentation...
The same year you released your probably best known work 'The Strange World of Bernard Fevre'. Amazing atmosphere, a lot of experimentation, fresh sound and originality are some words, that come in my mind while listening to it. What's the story behind this LP?
For 'The Strange World of Bernard Fevre' basically I wanted to create a music which would make people think of Salvadore Dali's paintings, art, world... I can't tell if I succeeded, but it was pretty much the idea.
The title seems to work as a concept…
I'm always for a good joke and I really enjoy humor, but I don't think I'm still the extra-terrestrial I was back then. People keep on telling me I'm strange or at least different, but my "strange world" is mostly about music, my real personality is there, I don't think I'm that strange if you meet me in the street. My music is the freak I'm not.
All the track on the LP are very short and I think, this adds additional charm to it...What about the process of recording this album. What gear did you use and what are perhaps some of your favourite memories from recording it?
The recorders only had 2 or 4 tracks, so it was pretty complicated and there was no loops at the time. So you had to be short and good, rather than long and ugly. I used synths, the same, and I borrowed a friends' Moog, and a polyphonic keyboard I believe. But for the 1978 BDDC album, I recorded in a studio, with a 8 or 16 tracks Studer console, with an amazing talented producer and a great drummer.
'L'Illustration Musicale' released this LP. Was this a big label? How many copies were pressed?
L'Illustration Musicale "released" that record only for professional at the time, so you couldn't buy it. Hence the idea to do "The Strange New World of Bernard Fèvre" in 2009 which is now available for music fans.
The term "Library Music" has always been for me a bit confusing. How would you define it?
Yes, "Library Music" has always been a bit confusing. I would say that at the time it was a laboratory for crazy scientists like me to create something else than what the majors and media were promoting. The idea for most of us was to create new sounds. It was really much an experience rather than a career.
'Cosmos 2043' was your "last" library release. Then you started a brand new project called Black Devil. Tell us how this project was born?
'Cosmos 2043' is my last "library" record, contemplative music with that sci-fi, unreal, fantasia touch, which I kept for BDDC, a more dance floor orientated project. It's just how I did music, there was no plan, really.
1978 your release was out and now I would like to stop here and ask you where did you record it and who signed you a deal for it and how did the distribution looked like?
1978 was kinda released by RCA, which did nothing to promote it. It was a loser album. Something bad, uncommercial... so I doubt people heard it at the time. 28 years later I really had forgotten it, thanks to Aphex Twin who re-issued it in 2004. I had to dug in my past, to be sure it was my album.
How does Black Devil differ from your previous "library" releases?
Bernard Fevre and Black Devil are the same people actually, a bit like Dr Jekkyl / Mr Hyde but Black Devil is the one people prefer, so it took over Bernard Fevre. He's more glitters. Bernard Fevre is more underground. So the conclusion is that it's cooler to hang out with the devil than with a strange french guy.
What was Jacky Giordano role on the LP? Only financial support, or?
Jacky Giordano wrote the lyrics from BDDC 78, I wanted to sing in english, something easy, and he was pretty good at it. I believe he also payed the recordings, which I'm not totally sure but I can tell he was a great musician, in another style than mine.
These days we have plenty of artists trying to imitate what you were doing long time ago, but I'm most positive, that they lack of originality and also creativity. What's your opinion about that?
I don't think music was better in the past. There's modern, futuristic music nowadays which isn't promoted, a bit like what happened to me in 1978. You just need to look for it, it's not on TV or radio or in the magazines. Technology is just not really evolving in a good way these days... I can't say mp3 is sounding good, though it's easier to share of course.
In the 1970s people were already saying than it was better in the past. I guess it's been this for ages. People always regret their youth, when they were free, in love, excited by new ideas, could jump over obstacles without paying attention... when they were young.
What were you doing during the 80's and 90's?
During the 80's and 90's I work as a music producer for a living. I had to pay the rent, buy food, stay in the society...I did commercials, jingles for TV, radios... Like most of people I didn't really enjoy my daily job, but I'm happy to have had the chance to make music for a living even if it wasn't as an artist. It's still better than to work at the factory where I started.
You are again very active with project you call Black Devil Disco Club and you released a couple of albums. Would you like to tell a bit more about this project that is going on?
In the 2000s I brought to Black Devil Disco Club a new exposure as dance music was becoming a real phenomenon in the world. It was the occasion to travel and to escape a bit from France. Also I prefer the audience to dance with a smile rather than sitting and hanging their head with their hands saying "what a genius". Black Devil is still a kid. I love to play with people, that's why my live shows have breaks, talking it's not a DJ set or a one-hour performance where people don't know what I 'm doing. I sing, I play the keyboard, I make fun, sometimes mistakes, I dance... It's more rock'n'roll than Dj-ing.
You have a brand new album out called Magnetic Circus. Would you like to present your new piece to our readers?
I really want to work for other artists, as a producer, recorder, mixer, arranger... I do think I can help younger artists to another level in terms of production. I'm also releasing a new BDDC album in 2013. I Want this record to help me to reach a new audience, to tour worldwide, and to show people that BDDC's spirit is still alive but evolving, still staring at the future. It's not a vintage thing. My inspiration comes from the ugly and the wonderful, from life on this planet. I'm not living in the past, I'm living with my time and looking fwd to exploring the future. Maybe I'll do another Bernard Fevre record as well if I have time. I only have one message: stay insane, stay cool, everything's gonna be alright. Thank you.
Online store for Circus (2011)
Special thanks to Olivier Rigout for translation.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
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