Interview Contact - Thierry Zaboitzeff (solo, ex-Art Zoyd)
Interview with : Thierry Zaboitzeff
Interview by : Tom Charlier
On an introspective night streaked with uncertainty(s), we made our way to the cabinet of curiosities of Doctor Thierry Zaboitzeff, a more than patented expert in heady potions and other strange transmutatory emanations, who has been weaving for more than half a century, meticulously and with all the support of the accumulated electronic eclecticism of nearly two hundred years of steam punk dystopias, the material of the beautiful bad dreams of a semi-dozen crushed and decompressed alternative futures. We dared to ask this confidential arch-magus for a few indications on his recipe, which will remain secret unless we untie his initiatory words well.
Prog-Résiste: On September 22nd, you have just released a retrospective box set on your 50 Years of Music(s), for which you have not adopted a chronological view, which is, let's admit it, exotic and creative in its very conception. What were the founding principles behind this selection and reunion? Note that for the sake of internal consistency, we will adopt this same atemporal view for our interview.
Thierry Zaboitzeff: From the moment I decided to tackle this anthology, I could never have imagined the difficulty of giving it a breath of fresh air, a boost. I didn't deny myself anything and the first choice was to work on my playlist chronologically, which turned out to be a total fiasco, by which I mean that it seemed heavy, redundant, unlistenable and would only be of interest to fans of dated archives... I certainly didn't want to offer this kind of reading of my music... I had to go forward and then backward and then forward to finally, in the first instance, throw everything in the bin before starting again...
Unconsciously, I wanted to propose a journey to the heart of my sounds, my imaginary orchestras, my virtual spaces or not. I could only be the one to decide on this and to implement it. I put everything back together, then made a new selection of pieces as varied as possible within my catalogue, with this sound material, I will propose a journey out of time, out of my time, by letting my compositions go according to my mood and crossroads that I often take when I compose something new.
This is the secret of this retrospective box set. I have, for the sake of sound coherence, remixed or idealized some compositions or in some cases, replayed and re-recorded them. (see the booklet...)
PR: If my chronology is correct, Prometheus and Dr. Zab & his Robotic Strings Orchestra remain the only solo albums you've made while still fully gravitating to Art Zoyd. What made you decide to release these albums under your own name?
TZ : In the years 82-83-84..., in parallel to Art Zoyd, I had the opportunity to work for a theatre company (Collectif Théâtral du Hainaut) for which I composed stage music for many years... This experience totally invested and enriched me. The music of the album "Prométhée" comes from this context. For the very first time, I found myself in the situation of writing, playing and recording music without having to imagine it for a group or instrumental ensemble in particular, and in this context, I was going to let myself go, bringing together all sorts of objects and instruments that were happily diverted from their usual use, for example, my cello was used to make wind by rubbing the strings with sponges while using successive echoes.
My first goal was to create sound settings that I didn't imagine would be played by a group at that time... This was an intimate approach that I wanted to pursue as a solo artist as long as this language was different from that of Art Zoyd.
Concerning "Dr. Zab & his Robotic Strings Orcherstra" it was the same, all these musics came from productions for the theatre and in the fever of these years, I hastened to publish a continuation which would be attractive on CD, which was the case, I believe! Then I got caught up in the game, I invented a character for myself, "Dr. Zab", and one thing leading to another, in parallel with my Art-Zoydian activities, I found myself on stage as a sort of "MC", as we used to say at the time, for a show between instrumental, electro-acoustic grandiloquence and very clipped sequences, often mocked because I didn't take myself seriously. The concert was introduced by a Luis Mariano song that screamed from my ghetto blaster used for my entrance on stage and ended with an encore played on an automatic toy violin that I always had trouble putting into action for the needs of the situation. You will have understood, far from the seriously bombastic music I was playing for and with the Art Zoyd of the time...
PR: Speaking of the use of the voice as an instrument in its own right, what are the influences of different types of traditional vocal music on your compositions? Are Sardinian and Balkan polyphonies and Mongolian throat singing among them?
TZ : Yes, these are chants and techniques that have interested me a lot, not to reproduce them strictly but to introduce them in different ways in my compositions, especially throat singing which I have mixed a lot with my bass and cello sounds to produce such particular timbres or sometimes unidentifiable masses.
But I must also say that I really liked some of Tom Waits' singing.
I've always loved the use of voice, rarely in a song format, more as an additional palette in my sound colours...
PR: Almost simultaneously with Häxan, you explored theatrical chamber music and futurism with Heartbeat. Do you have any stylistic similarities with Dagmar Krause's RIO and specifically the Henry Cow/Slapp Happy album Desperate Straights?
TZ: No, Henry Cow is a band I particularly listened to and liked on the albums "Unrest" and "In Praise of Learning". These productions are as much a part of my musical culture as many others. I always avoided as much as I could to resemble such or such current or tendency, that sometimes served me badly in relation to the networks but I draw a full satisfaction from it today. Of course, I can say that every sound and music we enjoy throughout our lives leaves an indelible mark on us.
PR: As with Magma's founding trilogies, there is a strong SF influence in your music, particularly in the way you depict dystopian sonic environments with delightfully uneven emotional reliefs. What was the initial impulse that led to this, and why has it remained so? In other words, what do you think makes it last?
TZ : For my part, in my music, I make no reference to literary or filmic SF.
Even if I sometimes set up dystopian settings, it's only to leave them a few minutes later. What I find absolutely unique and very exciting in the creation of sound and only music, is that in the absence of words, of images, we can shiver at the simple reception of a sound or a group of sounds and I like to create striking contrasts in this particular universe of mine. Sometimes at the beginning of a composition, on a simple sound of voice, I imagine a legend or the beginning of a legend which does not exist then the arrangement of the sounds of the rhythms make the remainder... The Voyage... The Magic... The Dream...
PR: You joined Art Zoyd in 1971. How did you experience and influence the passing of the torch between the psychedelic fragrances of the band led by Rocco Fernandez and the band's first albums at the end of the Seventies?
TZ: Gerard Hourbette and I joined Art Zoyd together in 1971 at the invitation of Rocco Fernandez. I must say that we were kids at that time and lacked maturity but it didn't take us long to find our place in the band, to accept and understand its codes and then to develop and transcend them together until our 1976 cult album "Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités".
I tell this story in the form of episodes on my site at the following address https://www.zaboitzeff.org/zaboitzeff-raconte.html
you will find many tasty details that it would take too long to develop here.
PR: Was it the love of Zeuhl music and the RIO that led you to contemporary 20th century music or the other way round? What were your first musical discoveries in both fields (rock and avant-garde), and is there any artist(s) that could be considered as a bridge between the two? In other words, how did you go from Neil Young to Magma and Varèse?
TZ : As a teenager and passionate about Rock music and without any particular musical culture, and without imagining for a moment that I would be a musician and composer one day, I listened to a lot of things, the inevitable Beatles, Stones, Kinks... Then Hendrix, the first Pink Floyd... The shock occurred when I discovered Frank Zappa and the Mothers on a TV channel, and it was the same when Magma's first double album was released. All this abundance of musical inventions sharpened my curiosity and very quickly, I started looking for the origins of these musics which had created in me an irresistible desire to become a musician and I went back to Edgar Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Serge Prokofiev, Ancient Music, Jazz with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Berio, ligeti... I thus offered myself a new musical culture arousing a lot of other envy.
PR: Art Zoyd is well known for his multimedia associations and his musical accompaniments of silent films from the 1910s and 1920s (Häxan, Nosferatu, Faust and your soundtrack for The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari to name but a few). Do you have any other projects planned in this vein? What has been your greatest challenge in this respect?
TZ: I don't have any other project of this kind at the moment, I think I've already experienced so much in this field that it doesn't seem to me to be a "must", a priority anymore.
I think I've already experienced so much in this field that it no longer seems a "must", a priority. In retrospect, the high point seems to be Murnau's Nosferatu, which we undertook with a certain innocence and inexperience but with a lot of audacity, which contributed to the worldwide success of this project supported by this imagery around the vampire.
I would put aside the excellent Faust projects, then Häxan which will put an end to my career with Art Zoyd, I didn't want to operate samplers and loops at the foot of a screen anymore, we had already said everything while Gérard Hourbette wished to pursue this approach and direct it towards a more arid musical language far from my artistic desires.
Fifteen years later, I received an invitation from the Berlin festival "Somnambule ERSTES INTERNATIONALES CALIGARI" to create a new live sound environment on Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, almost on the same location as the film. I hesitated for a moment because I was afraid of falling back into certain ways, but after a few conclusive tests, I found the exciting paths of a new creation and I can say that this is my best film-concert project because it seems to me that I have achieved a musical balance between traditional instrumental and electro-acoustic music, which is just right and well mastered. This is only my opinion of course!
I invite you to consult this page for more information.
PR: Do you see anything Oulipian [in relation to Oulipo, the literature laboratory?
I don't think I have anything to do with this literary movement, except that I often try to break my habits through certain constraints, especially when I commission music, for which I sometimes impose myself to use only one type of instrument, either acoustic or electronic or both.
PR: I personally enjoyed the cinematic lyricism, imaginary folklore, evocative ambient power and soundscapes of Professional Stranger. The album has some unexpected nods and influences, including covers of Depeche Mode, Bananarama and - but maybe I'm just making it up - the innocent folk lightness of a Lars Hollmer. Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating this album?
TZ : The music for Professionnal Stranger is partly composed for a choreographic and theatrical project " Long Life " " editta braun dance company " https://www.editta-braun.com/e/productions/long-life. We needed some rock references and after some research I remembered Venus (Shocking Blue) which I loved when I was a teenager, I decided to do a cover version of it and I had a lot of fun with it, especially as the general sound colour of the show revolved around the accordion that I used on the whole soundtrack of the show and it was the same for "Enjoy The Silence" (Martin Gore - Depeche Mode - Violator album), a song that I completely appropriated and adapted for a scene talking about age, the passing of time and the fact that it doesn't go back. Even though the themes of the piece are serious, I intentionally treated my compositions and soundscores to exude lightness and carefreeness over a cinematic rhythm as you so aptly put it and also by introducing Eastern European folk colours.
PR: What are your immediate plans? Is a sequel to the Pagan Dances EP being considered or is it planned as a stand-alone work?
TZ: At this moment I would say that I am in research, purely in composition, there are projects waiting for me to free up some time, such as recording an electronic and free adaptation of the songs and dances of pilgrims who went to the monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona at the end of the Middle Ages to venerate a black virgin. These songs composed by anonymous people were collected and noted down by the monks in a book with a red velvet cover, which bears the title: "Llibre Vermell de Montserrat", the most famous collection of songs of this period. I had set up this project with a chatterbox (Sandrine Rohrmoser) for a few concerts in 2004, then I had to move on... I'll get back to it soon.
PR: Just out of curiosity, what is your favourite Art Zoyd piece and personal composition today, and why would you recommend them? If this last part of the answer is self-evident, there is no need to say it! Thank you very much for this enlightening long-distance interview.
TZ : I wouldn't talk about pieces but rather about albums which are "Phase IV / The Marriage of Heaven and Hell / The Worried Spaces and Berlin". These four albums are for me important and pivotal stages in my musical career with Art Zoyd. We have invested a lot of time and energy, both humanly and musically, to put together these projects and the tours linked to this period.
Thanks to you and to Progrésiste.
Read the original article
By Jean Christophe Alluin 30/07/2019
The French scene is doing well: 2 - Aria Primitiva Sleep No More
A first EP, a first calling card, had allowed in 2017 to get in touch with the music of the band driven by Thierry Zaboitzeff. The title of this first album obviously echoes the Art Zoyd of the 80s but it would be vain to look for a clone in Aria Primitiva. Let's say that we are in an extension of certain aesthetics but with a necessarily different instrumentation, not to mention the time that has passed...
Through multiple experiments, unfortunately little relayed in France, Thierry Zaboitzeff delivers here an extremely worked record, a mature work with surprising mazes which catch the adventurous listener. One rarely settles in these sometimes tormented, dark or calmer soundscapes for a few brief moments... The instrumentation is dense and provided with beautiful sound openings where the two musicians, Nadia Ratsimandresy and Cécile Thévenot, are particularly at ease. As you can see, this is a particularly powerful record which we can hope will enable Thierry Zaboitzeff to reach a wider audience, which would only be fair, given his fascinating career...
Jean Chistophe Alluin 30/07/2019
And the icing on the cake, our friend Thierry Moreau, author of the band's beautiful visuals, conducted a long interview with the musician, which you can read here in full, thanks to him!
Can you tell us about your first contacts with music,
Do you come from a family of musicians?
The first contacts, in fact, in the family were made by my maternal grandfather who was, among other things, an organist at the church in Fourmies (59). As a child, I loved to accompany him in the gallery and let myself be taken in by these swirling, vibrating and magical organ sounds... But the real trigger was the arrival of rock music, not from people like Elvis Presley because I was too young and anyway, I thought that was old-fashioned, but rather from all that followed a little later, the Stones, the Beatles, the Kinks, Led-Zep, The Who... At that time, I hated school, authority, the norm, so the few music classes on Thursdays were still school, authority... I skipped them!
But rock music had caught my ear and very quickly I wanted to be like those I adored and I tried to play the guitar, trying to imitate those who excited me so much... With a few classmates or friends from the neighbourhood, we formed groups that never lasted more than ten days.
Then Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Zappa... came to my ears and the shock was terrible... Minds opened to something else, at least mine... I must have been 15 years old, it was the starting point of a long self-taught path during which, I discovered step by step what was behind these Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Zappa... So Varèse, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok, Berio... Ancient, baroque, romantic, post romantic music, I remember a time when I listened to Mahler over and over again because his music touched me and I wanted to know how and of what it was made.
How did you get into Art Zoyd, what was your place at the beginning and afterwards, the relationship with the musicians...
In 1970, I met Gérard Hourbette, I was strumming guitars, he had just graduated from the conservatory and I don't know exactly why, but we hit it off right away despite my instrumental inexperience at the time. We very quickly got together to form a duo that would later become a trio: "Rêve 1" where we lived, in Maubeuge. Most of the time, we improvised on atmospheric structures that we decided in advance. Gérard on the electrified violin, me on the 12-string acoustic guitar, also electrified, all in tape echo chamber type effects, distortion pedals, we used, if I may say so, any element that could be used as a percussion by amplifying it very summarily and triturating the whole thing in these echo chambers, without forgetting the magnetic tapes played backwards and on which we intervened or not! (experimental and improvised !!!! Furieux, poetic) a few weeks later, a bass player (Guy Judas) joined us.
One day, Gérard went to buy violin strings in Valenciennes where the only music shop worthy of the name was located, the closest to Maubeuge. When he entered the shop, shaved head wearing a fur coat, a violin case under his arm, all the heads with hair, moustache and beard turned towards him, I was not present at that moment but the conversation and the exchange took place almost instantaneously between Gerard and Rocco Fernandez and other members of Art Zoyd... The same day Gérard was coming back from Valenciennes with Art Zoyd in their bus, we had a jam session in Gérard's parents' cellar: Art Zoyd III was born. As soon as the first rehearsals around Rocco's compositions, our bass player decided to leave us and Rocco encouraged me to take the bass, which I did not without difficulties but after one or two weeks, I found my place ideally and very quickly as a bass player I started to participate in some arrangements, that excited me a lot to start from nothing...
We did a lot of concerts in the region but also all over France, in particular in the MJCs but also in balls and discotheques... Between 1971 and 1975, there weren't too many other alternatives for performing on stage.
In 1975, Rocco decided to give up the business, tired of all these unprofitable tours, he gave us (Gérard and myself) the keys of the Art Zoyd house.
We wanted to take the opportunity to try to approach composition from a different angle.
We were often very irritated by having to move musically incessantly between the regular and systematic pulsations of drums and percussions, and it is from this reflection and desire that this Art Zoyd without drums was born. According to our aesthetics of the time, we could give very different roles to our instrumentarium (2 violins, trumpet and electric bass), sometimes the ones were percussions, the others harmonics, we thus changed the roles according to our desires of arrangement of our compositions.
As far as I'm concerned, I really started to compose from the album Musique pour l'Odyssée. The piece was entitled Bruit, silence, Bruit, Repos, quite a programme! I was living in Douai at the time and it took me two and a half hours of transport to get to our rehearsal place which was in Maubeuge and sometimes still in Valenciennes and I took advantage of this long transport time to prepare the arrangements that we would experiment with instruments in hand during the rehearsal. Being completely self-taught, I had to find ways to memorize the notation during my trip, in fact I had so much in my head that sometimes I sang the trumpet or violin parts and the musicians wrote them down...
Art Zoyd was opening for Magma, the Rock in Opposition movement had arrived, you tell us about it...
1975-1976, we toured a lot in the MJC circuit initiated by our elders (Gong-Magma and many others). Our path crossed with that of Michel Besset (already a concert organiser in the south-west of France, notably in Albi and Carmaux: Association Transparence): He became our manager, the producer of our first album "Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités" and toured us a lot in his region and it was him again who negotiated with Magma and our previous tour manager (Jean René Pouilly) for us, the first parts of Magma's concerts in France during this period following this memorable gig at the Palais des Sports in Toulouse organized by Michel Grèzes and his association Tartempion. (concert in front of more than two thousand spectators). These opening acts also took us to the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris for ten days, and the success was total, with the public snatching up our vinyls at the interval, up to forty copies per evening. It was madness!
Especially if you think about our line up at the time, which was a commando formula with no drummer or keyboards.
Violin: Gérard Hourbette
Trumpet; Jean-Pierre Soarez
Guitar, violin, cello: Franck Cardon replaced by Alain Eckert: Violin and Guitar
Thierry Zaboitzeff: electric bass and vocals
This made our sound, our identity, our trademark.
Prométhée is your first solo album, we can already feel an orientation, ways to expose...
In fact, Prométhée was originally a piece of music intended for a theatrical performance by the Collectif Théâtral du Hainaut in Valenciennes, which commissioned this composition from its director Philippe Asselin. It was the very first time since I started composing that I felt completely free, not bound to compose for this or that Art Zoyd ensemble or other. I had decided to use all the instruments I could play at the time: a good old upright piano not very well tuned, the cello, the bass but also the electric guitar, a casiotone (a kind of toy synthesizer with typical sounds) and multiple accessories such as metronomes, small percussions (castanets, drums, triangles, tampered rhythm box) and the multiple distortion pedals of the time as well as the possibilities offered by the editing on magnetic tape...
Here, no concertante, no solis, nothing to prove on a stage, but a desire for ambience, for freedom, to manipulate my instruments and my textures entirely "homemade". A process of composition and arrangement completely dependent on my will and my technical means at the time.
The literary source, the imposed basis of my inspiration: "Prometheus in chains" by Aeschylus, accompanied by scenographic indications.
Very quickly, I had to forget this very complicated story in order not to get lost in it and I only kept this in mind:
"Divine ether, swift-winged winds, waters of the rivers, innumerable smile of the sea waves. Earth, mother of beings, and you, Sun... I invoke you here" And then Zeus, the Oceanids, Io, Hephaitos...
I was marked by this image of Prometheus chained and condemned for having revealed the benefits of fire to men...
Alongside this stage music, I decided to make an album of it by reworking, re-cutting, re-mixing, superimposing from one Revox to another, thus creating random or voluntary shifts... But above all, throughout my work, I have always been careful not to lose this very unstable, wandering but hieratic side that I had wanted.
Who were your favourite bass players?
Janick Top, Francis Moze, Tony Levin, Hugh Hopper, to name but a few who made a direct impression on me.
You play bass with a pick, why this choice?
It comes from the fact that I used to play guitar but I have a better command of precision for very fast and complex phrasing in rhythmic execution, with time, I have organised a whole palette of nuances and timbres in this way... I am looking for this piqued side... Sometimes I use my fingers to obtain very muffled sounds or to swing a few slaps, in moderation... I must add that I am first and foremost a composer and that I do not take myself for a seasoned and exemplary bassist. I use all the instruments I can play as carriers of my music.
The cello? How did you get into it? The electric cello?
During the conception of the album "Musique pour l'odyssée", I found that only my electric bass wasn't going to do it, I was frustrated, I wanted to play with strings. So I bought a cello and, always self-taught, I started to work with the precious help of Gérard and Franck who gave me some rudiments and good advice... The rest was suffering, perseverance! As for the electrification of the cello, it was quite natural because we already electrified the two violins and the trumpet.
The contribution of computer and electronic lutherie gives new openings, new colours, how are these interventions prepared? The Ondes Martenot?
In the years 1985-86 at Art Zoyd, I was already using this computer and electronic lutherie. The manipulations then were very basic and robotic, it was very frustrating unless you wanted to sound like Kraftwerk, which is not a criticism but it was not what we were looking for...
But back in 2019, technology has changed a lot and you can now have all the sounds and patches you have prepared for the gig in your laptop within a virtual sampler and then manipulate and play them live on stage from keyboards, pads, sensors via MIDI.
Within these same samplers, you also have access to synthesis if you want to work on it and create your own sounds, so it's a powerful, expressive, great tool.
This brings into my composition all the sound palettes I want to associate with an orchestration...
I love the fact that I can, for example, sample the breath of my voice and a cello or bass chord and remix the whole thing until it becomes a new sound and then I can manipulate it over and over again and when I get the right emotion, I introduce this or these sounds into my composition...
Concerning the onde Martenot, I had never worked with this instrument, I had never even heard it, only heard it in works by Messian, Milhaud, Henry to mention only the most famous and also in some film music...
It was the meeting with Nadia Ratsimandresy for this concert and album project Aria Primitiva that was the trigger. From that moment on, I started to document myself, to research. It was a new challenge! For Aria Primitiva, I didn't want to write pieces specifically for the onde martenot but to integrate it into the sound architecture I had in mind, between Rock Metal-Jazz-twentieth century music-electronic-ambient-techno but "Zaboitzeffian"!
For the first steps of composition and orchestration, I used a Virtual Martenot Wave (sampled), just to familiarize myself with the timbres and the main possibilities because the members of Aria Primitiva are geographically very distant and I wanted to be informed about the sounds and variations of the wave before our trio sessions.
Then we finally met again with instruments in hand to put together this "Sleep No More" repertoire and there I really learned a lot by discovering Nadia and her instrument, it allowed me to correct certain errors in my writing but also to integrate the wave in unexpected or a priori incompatible musical atmospheres. Every day, before starting to play or rehearse, we improvised for about twenty minutes and there I really discovered the wave and its immense possibilities.
In all your discography, there are underlying influences, we can talk about Xenakis, Nino Rota, Jon Hassell, Gorecki. Your influences are filigree, and we can feel your rigorous writing, did these people influence you?
Each composer often finds it difficult to say that he has been influenced by such and such...
As far as I'm concerned, there are Artists, Composers, Works that I admired and that made me what I am today: Stravinsky-Bartok-Debussy-Ravel-Eno-Zappa-Hassel-Mahler-Miles Davis-King Crimson-Berio-Ligeti-Orff-Ives-Magma Epok I... And many others...
This mix will surely seem strange to you but that's how it is ! Indeed, a little Gorecky, Nino Rota but not Xenakis which never really attracted me.
You sometimes sing in Latin in "Missa Furiosa", I remember in an old interview that you talked about your grandfather and visits to churches, you "use" Latin a bit like a gimmick, a wink...??
Singing in Latin, it was only in the Missa Furiosa, there again, a challenge: to bring my music in a techno-pop framework, mixing acoustic instruments including a drum kit, electro grooves, lyrical singers and to sing an imaginary Mass with even a bluesy quotation of Mozart's requiem!
My preoccupation in this project was to be Bombastic-Churchy, bordering on caricature, mixing large organs, lyrical singing, sound power for a sort of ceremonial, which has always attracted me because when I was a child, I often accompanied my grandfather to the organ loft because he was an organist and I loved being close to these sometimes grandiose sounds and letting myself be swept away by this visual-ritual that was the High Mass with the incense, the Swiss Guard - the standing-up, the Communion, etc.
I found that Latin went very well with my music and as a non-believer, I must add that if all this was sometimes caricatural, I never wished to be critical or blasphemous, that was not the point here! I felt rather in a kind of "Sunday rave..." (hi-hi)
For the anecdote, a monk who attended the concert even bought the Missa Furiosa album.
Looking back on your discography, we can feel that you explore different facets of your universe, Aria Primitiva is a bit like the quintessence of your work...?
Yes, in each new creation it must show a little, and this time, a little more. I personally find it very difficult to look back and so Aria Primitiva is my latest project and in my mind it is the best, where I put all my knowledge, my soul. This is only my opinion of course!
Why the name Aria Primitiva?
Although there are not many sung parts in this project, I was looking for a name that referred to singing in a global way, primitive singing, tribal singing, something prior to a learned, elaborate music but still referring to it... Aria Primitiva finally came naturally (Aria for the classical-savvy side and therefore Primitiva for the primitive, tribal side... This name came to my mind very quickly, we adopted it as quickly!
Tell us about Cécile Thévenot, Nadia Ratsimandresy, do they participate in the compositions? The symbiosis of the trio is obvious...
Nadia and Cécile did not participate in the composition, but I must tell you a little more about our meeting and the genesis of this project. Nadia , Cécile and I were part of the line up for the Art Zoyd anniversary concert at the Phénix in Valenciennes in December 2017. During the rehearsals, a kind of complicity was born between us, a musical attraction, the evening after this last concert, Nadia and Cécile came to ask me if we couldn't consider working together, I must admit that at the time, I had some reticence about a trio, why? how? What kind of music? In the euphoria of the moment, I said: "OK, I wanted to take up this new challenge. A few weeks went by, during which I went through my desires, which I gradually communicated to Nadia and Cécile, who were listening to what I was proposing. We also mentioned the possibility of forming this trio on the basis of improvisations, which made me hesitate for a while because improvisation is not really my thing, in any case, and I dreamt of a tight compact writing, so I started to write, and very quickly I came up with an hour and ten compositions, which I proposed for the trio, with some free improvisation slots within the very written pieces.
This was the basis of our work after Nadia and Cécile's approval. Then, as time went by, I had the impression that without a radical decision, especially in terms of a calendar, we would always be in a process of waiting, of reflection, of research, each in our own corner, and personally, I had neither the time nor the means to do so, as the three of us are separated by great distances and nothing is easy to meet and work on.
So I took it upon myself to finish the writing quickly. I also had to quickly find the rehearsal places for our first work session as well as a residence, the first concerts and then a technical and financial framework for the realization of the album. This explains why Aria Primitiva has become my project. I must say that this first session of rehearsals and real encounters was exemplary. Every morning before we started the orchestrations and set-ups, we improvised for about twenty minutes for our greatest happiness, just to meet and discover each other. And I must thank Nadia and Cécile again for their great complicity, help, collaboration and professionalism. And as such for me, it is also their project even if they did not sign the compositions. I had previously pre-programmed the samplers and the stacking of sounds that we finally rearranged together for reasons of playability and handling of the machines in performance conditions, leaving Nadia more available for the Ondes Martenot which is one of the original features of this project.
This trio's musical proposition and its technical conception hang by a thread, that of complicity-concentration, and you can feel it immediately when you watch us in concert. I am personally very touched to realise this during the concerts.
I'm currently on a break from concerts as all three of us have other long-planned commitments to fulfil, but there are already possibilities, I can't say anything about them until they are definitively fixed.
I am currently working on a composition for a choreographic project by Editta Braun Company: "Layaz", a piece for a hip-hop dancer. I use the musical codes of this style to create a very personal piece, which is also a new challenge!
The creation will take place in October 2019.
Then I'll take a long break because I'm at a point in my life where a lot of things are getting complicated and this will be an opportunity to recharge my batteries...
The Sleep No More album well received ?
Looking at the mail, the enthusiastic mails we are reading, the sales on my website and other feedbacks (Label-Distributor) I can say that this album is very well received. Let's wait and see how the press as a whole reacts... Some articles already published here and there are very positive about our creation.
The R.I.O. movement is still quite confidential from the general public, what do you think about this movement ?
RIO is a movement created in the late 70's by Chris Cutler and his band Henry Cow who recorded their first albums on Virgin (UK). The aim of RIO was to oppose the Rock music industry in general, proving that it was possible to produce concerts and albums in total artistic, political independence... What each group of this movement was already trying to do in its corner, Henry Cow-Art Zoyd-Universe Zero-Etron Fou Leloublan-Samla Mammas Manna-Stormy Six -Art Bears-Aksak Maboul ) Together, in network we would be stronger ! That's how we participated (Art-Zoyd) in some RIO festivals (Milan-Stockholm...) or isolated concerts labelled RIO all over Europe, and produced and distributed in 1982 our double album Phase IV via Recommended Record which became the RIO Label. As a bass player, I played with Univers Zero (1313- Heresy era) in the first RIO festival held at the New London Theater in 1978... I was acting bass player in UZ, Guy Segers was to replace me afterwards and we shared the repertoire. We had also played in Nancy before in this alternating bass format.
Then this movement fell asleep, the public followed less and less and the artists went their own way. RIO was remembered as a broad label encompassing progressive, avant-garde, fusion, psychedelic or experimental rock outside the control of the music industry.
Until a revival of the movement in 2007 under the impetus of Michel Besset and Roger Trigaux who gave themselves the technical and financial means to put this festival back on its feet and make it an annual musical event in France since then. I don't believe that this movement is confidential in terms of the style of the musicians who are part of it.
The concerts that are presented are for the most part uncompromising and original. Times have become even tougher (artistically) to exist, but I have the feeling that little by little the public's interest is returning to the RIO on a broader basis, with the help of the internet!
What I find a bit annoying and a pity, that some bands are a bit in the imitation of Magma-Universe Zero-Art Zoyd-Henry Cow...) We would like to discover other sounds, other tendencies, other originalities. Times have changed, be careful not to go round in circles!
Who are the musicians you would have liked to work with ?
I spent twenty-five years in Art Zoyd with great companions (Gérard, Jean Pierre, Patricia, André, Daniel...) We allowed ourselves almost everything artistically until we became weary and had different desires on both sides, precisely between Gérard and myself who were from 71 to 97 the two heads of the Art Zoyd group...
Gérard wanted to move towards contemporary music and his networks of composers in residence... and to use more technology, I wanted the opposite, the time had come to separate us...
I then went on a long solitary way, as a composer, in my own projects and those of other artists, choreographers, directors, producers... It was also a kind of therapy: no longer being artistically attached to the language of a music ensemble that had become like a kind of political party whose lines, including my own, could not be crossed, and so, when I left Art Zoyd, I happily enjoyed this new freedom.
So today, after all these crossroads, if I were to dream of a new experience, I would like to play with Daniel Denis (UZ), but certainly not in a context like Univers Zero or Art Zoyd, because for me times have changed. No, in another sensibility, a different approach to be sought, nourished, invented...
But I still have so much to do otherwise !
How do you proceed in the creation, what do you start from? A rhythm, a melody, a sound, which instrument do you start with?
I would say it's a big mess! In fact, often, at the beginning, my compositions are great improvisations in every sense of the word, as I am not a reader, I don't write on paper but I play and record myself with everything and anything, I provoke the inspiration then I let it come, often I reject and then start again, I need to put myself in a state of deep listening and then everything becomes possible, I can for example use my voice or my bass to sketch out a rhythm, a melody, a chord and then directly introduce the cello and sometimes this little sketch will not be used but will have opened a path towards other more magical sensations that I will develop later. I am not the kind of person who theorises or writes a 500 page essay before producing a sound, I work with an instrument in hand, organically, spontaneously, sometimes brutally, but the better to bring out gentleness and tenderness. Sometimes the working method is gentler, searching for harmony and rhythm on a piano, imagining the setting or the atmosphere that I will create in the studio. I try to avoid rules and systems but like any human being sometimes I don't succeed but the fact that I have tried to avoid certain habits often leads me to something unexpected in the end.usually I work in my studio, there everything is ready to be recorded and if needed, re-processed on the spot! mics and interfaces ready to use and then I need to go fast for the technical things so as to stay as light and fluid as possible when inspiration comes. As I said at the beginning, it's a great improvisation of which I will only keep the essence. Of course, when I am commissioned to write music for dance, theatre or film, I have precise constraints (atmosphere, use of a particular instrument, breaks, etc.) but my method remains identical. I adapt myself.
What do you think about ready-made software, we see it in the world, ambient, electronic fields... Doesn't the "ready to use" (textures, sequences, voices...) kill the research, the inspiration ?
I think that if you want to remain yourself, it's better not to use too much of these ready-made things, some sound software are interesting and I use them sometimes but out of the context proposed and mixed with my own sounds or textures. You have to keep your distance but not close yourself off.
I'm one of those people who use technology and don't want to put it in front,
in front of it! I am interested in it and I develop around it... It must be at the service of our ideas, our desires, the emotions we want to communicate. I find that some composers and artists currently hide behind their equipment, their software and their theory and it is sometimes difficult to feel something behind it and it is always very cold and generally goes nowhere...
Interview by Thierry Moreau in spring 2019
by Stéphane Fougère, 18/01/2005
MISSA FURIOSA : Article and interview realized on the day of the concert of ZABOITZEFF & CREW
at the Théâtre Toursky in Marseille, 18 January 2005
You have been working on the Missa Furiosa for several years now (about five years?). What was the trigger for the project? Were there any antecedents or premises in your artistic production that pushed you to develop this creation both musically and on stage?
Thierry ZABOITZEFF : The ideas to carry out such a project were born five years ago. It took me a long time to set up the financial arrangements, and I also had to find a stage to co-produce the premiere (at the Linz Bruckner Festival 2002, in collaboration with Posthof-Linz and Szene-Salzburg). I had been composing very solemn music for some time, too solemn, to really make something solid out of it, and the further I got, the less seriously I took myself. It all bordered on a caricature of my work with ART ZOYD, which I definitely wanted to get away from, and I ended up putting all this too churchy material aside.
At the same time I dreamed of working on a vocal work in a classical register, but very direct and energetic. I was interested in the timbre of classical voices, but outside their usual context (classical-contemporary). The other concern was: songs, yes, but with what texts? I really didn't want to enter into a classical song or lied process. At the same time, I really wanted to create things with techno-house material, but without necessarily going all the way into these systems.
The aspect that moved me was the energy and the trance and I quickly got tired of listening to it over and over for my documentation. I thought, "OK, I like this stuff, but it's not mine and others do it very well." I didn't want to jump on any bandwagons. And it all ended up in drawers for a while, because I had set too many restrictions for myself and I felt overwhelmed by this new approach which, I must admit, scared me.
A few months later, by chance, I rediscovered these sketches and I started to sing myself over the first mock-ups, using onomatopoeia and avoiding the kobaïan style (a search for identity). The whole thing sounded accidentally Italian, hence the shift to Latin, then the shift to the texts of the mass... The project was born: Introitus/Kyrie/Gloria/Lacrimosa/Dies Irae/Requiem/Agnus Dei/Libera me.
It remained for me to deepen it, to structure it and to feed it. In this deluge of technoid riffs, I was listening a lot to MOZART at that time. This may explain the short adaptation of MOZART's Requiem in the Missa Furiosa. Always poking fun at myself: a lot of contemporary classical composers have created around the mass, and I thought, "Now it's my turn too."
Did you want to synthesise everything you had done before on vocal material or just develop new approaches?
TZ: I wasn't conscious of synthesising. It was really a new experience for me.
The Missa Furiosa can be summed up as a combination of two forms of popular gathering: the religious rite and the modern secular celebration or feast. Did you seek through this performance and its score to underline the affinities between these two environments or their differences?
TZ: Yes. From time immemorial, believers, Catholics for example, have appropriated pagan rites, diverted them and often included them in the calendar of religious festivals. So I looked for this mixture, it was never a question for me to remain purely in the mystical and religious. But this is not an ironic project either, and I have insisted on the greatest respect for the religious, even if, deep down, I disagree.
Your mass includes all the elements of the ritual but integrates, on a musical and vocal level, aspects that go beyond the sole Catholic and Western reference, such as the use (at least on stage) of the oud, which refers to another culture. Is the Missa Furiosa intended to have a "universal resonance" or at least a "multicultural resonance"?
TZ: As I explained before, I was looking for the universal; I therefore introduced very quickly in this piece elements of different religious cultures (Islam, Hinduism...) but never in a deep reflection. I wanted a trance of global bigotry.
When you say "techno", you think of "rhythmic programming", but CREW also has a real drummer, Peter ANGERER. How did you define his role in relation to this electro environment?
TZ : I have very often used rhythmic programming for its coldness and rigour and also for its cultural references (from KRAFTWERK to today in the techno-electro scene). Listening to the first demos of the project, I found these rhythms so banal that I wanted to give them another life by inviting a drummer to play over or against them, depending on the piece. I needed flesh and blood, especially for the rhythmics (timbral alliances: loops-drums-acoustic percussion-bass).
Similarly, the compositions call for a wide variety of strings (bass, cello, violin, oud...). What exactly is their role?
TZ: I love strings and their countless possibilities. When I was putting the project together, I even thought of an electrified string quartet to replace all the synth parts, but for economic reasons I couldn't make that dream come true. So I kept the synths and added a real violin and a cello on the same principle as for the percussion.
The performance you gave at the Toursky theatre in Marseille was mainly in concert form, but the stage work was originally a whole show including image projections. Can you tell us more about this (types of images, their role in relation to the music...)?
TZ: For the creation, we had indeed started to conceive the project with image projections, because the theme of the Missa was the icon. After various attempts, we realised that we were going the wrong way. Everything had become cold and stupidly aesthetic and we quickly forgot about this idea and decided that the icon would be alive on stage by more traditional scenographic means such as elements of scenery, for example an infernal and funny chariot for the Kyrie that one of the singers drove while singing his part; a fireball that explodes and delivers incense for the Introitus; a puppet representing Christ, manipulated by the musicians for the Requiem, etc., all skilfully lit by Eric Baudelaire, all skilfully lit by Eric LOUSTAU-CARRERE. We were thus very far from the concert version of Marseille but which also has other qualities.
This is not the first time you have worked with the director Stéphane VÉRITÉ. What do you like about his work or his conception of things?
TZ: I have been working with Stéphane VÉRITÉ since 1989 on various projects (theatre, dance, events, light and sound installations). We have done all kinds of small and often huge and ambitious creations such as the opening of the Globe Arena in Stockholm (the biggest sports hall in Europe) for example.
We work together whenever possible, we have a common language, so we develop things in a smooth and courteous way. It was only natural that he should be involved in the Missa Furiosa adventure.
Our path continues, as he has invited me to compose and perform the music for Journey to the Centre of the Earth on the occasion of the Jules Verne Year. A giant image show will take place at the Stade de France on 16/17/18/19 December 2005. For the occasion, I will be surrounded by a brand new team adapted to this project.
I suppose that the Missa Furiosa, because of its size, is a kind of turning point in your artistic career. Has it given you other creative perspectives in relation to electro, sacred music or vocal music, for example?
TZ: Every project for me has always been a turning point towards something else - which I'm happy about in this business - and I find it hard to imagine it being otherwise.
As soon as the Missa was finished, I exceptionally followed up with a somewhat similar project, but as a duo: an electro adaptation of 13th century pilgrimage songs, Llibre Vermell De Montserrat, with one of the singers of the Missa, Sandrine ROHRMOSER. In this project, I also sang and played the cello, the bass, and I was in charge of the electronic part, etc. The challenge was different, because here I was playing the cello and the bass. The challenge was different, because here I wanted to completely respect the Catalan lyrics and the original melodies. And I think it's time to move on, but I'm happy to have set up these projects that can continue to exist, to tour if the opportunity arises.
The Missa live show has been, apart from two dates in France, performed mainly in Austria. I suspect that its very structure doesn't allow it to be programmed everywhere for financial reasons; but would there be by chance more stages open to this type of show in Austria than in France ?
TZ : No, there are no more stages open to this kind of project than in France. I was wonderfully received by a structure rather focused on contemporary classical music, Bruckner Festival-Linz, which trusted me completely to set up this project in collaboration with a rather rock venue: the Posthof-Linz and I thank them very much.
Article and interview: Stéphane Fougère
Photos : Sylvie Hamon Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Massimo Ricci - 2002
A Zoyd alone
Identifying Zaboitzeff with Art Zoyd is automatic: since 1971, Thierry has been composing music for the legendary ensemble, which was decisive for the development of so many other artistic discourses of the 1930s. Deep Listenings, in the early years of its existence, dedicated an article to the French group; since then mob te things have changed and their founder has left them to embark on a solo career that - although it began during the joint venture - has now taken on totally personal connotations after leaving the parent company.
Born in northern France, Zaboitzeff plays cello, bass, guitars and keyboards as well as having a wonderful, deep voice - often altered into a werewolf-like timbre. He has always associated his artistic ideas with
important multimedia projects: the most recent include modern dance performances choreographed by his current partner Editta Braun.
his current partner Editta Braun, whose testimonies are immortalised on his increasingly frequent CDs.
From the very beginning of his career, Doctor Zab has offered his alchemy for photographic exhibitions, silent films, theatre openings, galleries, and theatres.
theatre openings, modern art galleries. The compositional ability of this man succeeds in evoking images through sound-scapes and samples (Thierry himself confirms this), but what strikes me most while listening are the extraordinary bass lines - not necessarily the
extraordinary bass lines - not necessarily the instrument, but the written part, even if played by other or-chestral voices; an indispensable foundation on which to rest suspended chords or unethereal sampled sounds from time to time,
Ever since the Art Zoyd days of 'Ballade', the harmonies created by the Frenchman are able, at just the right moment, to hit the
mouth of the stomach, generating goose bumps in quantity as a side effect. Some passages of Thierry's music
are recognisable after a split second and that is the best compliment one can pay an artist.
Zaboitzeff's first solo album came out in 1984 - 'Promethee' - and can be described as another Art Zoyd record to the extent that it shares common parts with 'Le mar marmalade'.
common parts with 'Le mariage du ciel et de l'enfer'. In it we find mysterious and gratifying writings, vocalis
between soloist and choral 'à la Magma', reverberating percussion, sax in the background, echoes of the minimalist organ of the
Philip Glass of vintage. The bass and guitars frequently slip into dissonance while the treated voices emit
woodland gnome shrieks... The finale, featuring frenetic drum machines and tapes altered in speed, is a ve-
We have to wait until 1992 for the new solo chapter, entitled 'Dr. Zab and his robotic strings orchestra'. We can already
We can already speak of excellence: the CD contains a series of architectures that capture the attention and tickle the aesthetic sense from the very first moment, fundamental
the first moment, key tracks such as 'Miracle in Bagdad', 'Dr. Zab', 'Serenite' and the beautiful remake of 'Mi-
grations' by Art Zoyd. Zaboitzeff applies the Zapian concept of 'conceptual continuity' to his music, reusing
known or recurring themes from one work to the next, playing all instruments solo (except for one track in which there is Andre
Mergenthaler on saxophone) for what is one of the best places to start when getting to know him.
Jumping forward to 1997, a beautiful new record is released: 'Heartbeat', whose cover shows Thierry's intense mask staring into the lens, introducing us to another excellent album; it is the first partnership with Braun and the music, fragmented as always, is fresh and purposeful. It varies from illustrious quotations ("See me feel me" by The Who, reharmonised in a spine-tingling way, Prokofiev's "Kijè") to ingenious original pieces carved for voice, keyboards and strings, to the new version of "Clear light", in which we rediscover an old passion of Zab's, the voices of pygmies - male and female - accompanying, each in a stereo channel, the repetitive arpeggio that characterises the piece. The right word is... moving. 'India' (1998) is also basic. As explained by the title and the liner notes - and as can be heard during listening - the concept is extraordinarily influenced by the Indian origin of the voices and instruments used in the textures; however, Zaboitzeff does not exaggerate with exoticism, but only applies a pinch of the right ingredients to his own wisdom, giving us, as usual, some moments of pure ecstasy - above all, I would cite "Loneliness", which is the usual glimpse into infinity that a complete musician is able to give when he gets the masterpiece right.
In 1999 came what I would describe as our only real misstep to date, namely 'Les chants d'Alice et du
vieux monde'. In spite of some worthy ti of the pastat - the opening "Alice à la riviere" is very beautiful, as is "Le trou" - the CD is remembered above all for the continuous, obsessive presence of the sampling of a laughing girl, certainly linked to the theatrical performance but which from an audio point of view totally penalises the work, becoming extremely annoying as the minutes go by. This distracts attention even from the best passages,
Alice' as an album is certainly not one to be missed.
It returns to level with the following 'Miniaturen' (2000), subtitled 'Zoydian suite in 3 movements' - that said, all said and done.
to. Christian Kapun on clarinet and Peter Angerer on drums accompany Zaboitzeff in his lucubrations, contri-
to a sound that in many parts harks back to the old Zoyd company, bordering at times on free music with jazz influences, exploring the
with jazz influences, exploring caverns full of Gothic references, opening up to the wonderful glimpses of serenity that only
only Thierry knows how to give: subtrack 27 of the second movement, yet another recurring theme, is a minute and a half that
will not go unnoticed by people with sensitivity.... Of the same year is 'Nebensonnen', with instrumentation
half acoustic and half electronic; a series of sketches that only partly reach the levels of excellence within the reach of the
the Frenchman's reach, especially during the articulated harmonies of the pieces based on the sonority of the piano, where Zab's evolved ear
Zab's evolved ear gets those resonances right that fully satisfy; on the other hand, some of the synthetically obtained woodwind and string timbres in various parts of the disc leave one puzzled.
At the time of writing, the latest chapter in the Zaboitzeff saga is 'The fantomatick bands - Dr. Zab n°2', released in 2001,
in which the author once again amuses himself by mixing ingredients in a cauldron full of discordant elements. The co
There is no shortage of beautiful songs, and in fact we find at least three or four gems on the disc, most notably 'Fraven', whose string and bass melody
in less than three minutes makes the walls of my room and my heart vibrate; 'Landregen', linear and crystalline; 'Le pal
mier du levant', which strikes deep into the soul. On the other hand, there are four reinterpretations of famous Beatles songs
and a 'Petite danse italienne' that I prefer not to judge, as I might not have understood the spirit somewhere between iro-
ny and homage with which they were performed. I find 'Fantomatick bands' to be a kind of fun for Thierry and co-
I feel I can forgive any small lack in a vome that is able to provide great emotion
and real substance in each of its episodes. The following interview was conducted in July 2001.
Interview with Thierry Zaboitzeff
Massimo: "Tell me about your first thought when you sit down and start composing. Do you improvise by collecting ideas or do you write everything down beforehand?
Thierry: "My starting points differ a lot and depend on the type of project (dance, theatre, events), so I have pre-cise indications of atmospheres or rhythms, using these for the beginning. But in spite of these indications I try to be free,
I do not delve into a single concept and I want to be able to change the composition at any time. I bi-
dream of working like a sculptor directly on the material (samples, recordings, electronic manipulations, instruments)
and for this I have my own digital studio. At other times, the starting point is already totally in my head and I develop it on the piano until the end, arranging the music in my head.
to the end, arranging it and recording it in various ways... but in the end the choice is difficult..."
M.: 'You are a great bass player and cellist, but many people don't consider the 'virtuosic' aspect of your being a musician.
Have you ever thought about becoming a soloist or has composition always been your main interest'?
T.: "Thank you, but I'm not interested in virtuosity, I'm more looking for an orchestral set with a dram-
matic sounds that create melodies, rhythms, harmonies and ambience".
M.: 'Tell me about your encounter with music when you were young, how did you get started'?
T.: "When I was 14, I had no idea of playing music, I was interested in being at home, I had no musical education and naturally
my sensibility led me to rock music and the rock sound of the 60s and early 70s. I started playing chi-
tarra and bass playing covers but it wasn't enough, so I was happy to discover Frank Zappa, Soft Machine,
Amon Duul, Magma... Suddenly, a new colour touched my heart strongly. From month to month my cu-
my curiosity for jazz, classical, contemporary was growing fast, I was hungry for different things both for my own enjoy- ment and to learn myself.
and to learn myself.
M.: 'Your sound is often full of dreamlike, if not nightmarish atmospheres. How do you explain this'?
T.: 'I see music as a theatre stage with drama, like a film with different planes; I have never imagined just a beautiful harmonic construction but I need images
strong images in the background, things you cannot achieve with words. I look for both the beautiful and the organic..."
M.: "Why did you leave Art Zoyd and what is left of that experience for you as an artist and a human being"?
T.: "I left Art Zoyd after 25 years of wonderful collaboration but in the last 10 years we only did three
sound recordings of films (Nosferatu, Faust, Haxan) each time with the same elements and too many samples for my gu-
sto. At the same time, I felt very creative in ways that had no compatibility with further Art Zoyd projects".
M.: 'Do you think your music is better appreciated on its own 0 by associating it with a visual context'?
T.: 'I would hope and prefer it on its own, however with a visual concept the feeling becomes completely different, you can read-
degrees of the music itself, some of the associations between image and music are absolutely unexpected and provide keys for future works and for the music itself.
provide keys for future works and for your audience. I consider this a great thing.
M.: 'Describe your artistic connection with Editta Braun, for whom you have been composing most in recent years'.
T.: "At the same time that I stopped with Art Zoyd I started a sentimental and artistic affair with Editta Braun, an Austrian co-
reographer from Austria. Very quickly we decided to work together on various dance projects and we continue to this day.
We create an artistic construct quickly: for example, she provides me with words, images, texts and colours as a guide for
for a new performance and I immediately start working; then we develop the cut of the scenes and the theatrical adaptation together.
M.: 'What are your main influences and favourite records and musicians'?
T.: "Stravinski, Davis, Mozart, Fripp, Bach, Hendrix, Kalshoum, Kraftwerk, Bartok, Reich, Wyatt, Fauré, Nusrat Fateh
Ali Khan, Prokofiev, Vivaldi, a few technoid DJs and MCs and some anonymous pygmy singers. Right now my favourite di-
favourite sketches are: Concerto for 2 Pianos and Percussion (Bartok), "Are You Experienced" (Hendrix), "Rock Bottom"
(Wyatt), "Bitches brew" (Davis); it is difficult to give an objective answer because my mood often changes and sometimes I don't feel like listening to other artists.
I don't feel like listening to other artists..."
M.: "What do you like about everyday life"?
T.: "My wife, my children, love, good wine, eating well, fresh air, swimming, theatre, dance, cinema and working in my studio" "
M.: "Are you happy with the evolution of your career? And finally, what is your primary goal, not only in art but in life'?
T.: "In general, I am happy! I need to have a big surprise every time I muse about a new project, and I
I have it... But I am aware that my style of music is outside the mainstream and it is complicated to survive -
but it is my choice, I feel free in life; I stand free, sincere and open".
® Massimo Ricci
INTERVIEW WITH GERARD HOURBETTE AND THIERRY ZABOITZEFF
by Elena Savitskaya and Vladimir Milovidov, 2015
Thierry Zaboitzeff and Gérard Hourbette (Art Zoyd): Music is like bridges
French avant-progressive band Art Zoyd has a huge legacy and remains an active, although not very often, performing unit. Last year the band played a stunning gig at Rock In Opposition Festival 2015 (France, Albi, Cap D’Couverte): 2,5 hours of music, ten outstanding musicians on stage, including two masterminds of the band, bassist/cellist Thierry Zaboitzeff and violinist Gerard Hourbette, who haven’t been playing together since 1997. And on December 7th 2016 the band is going to play one more reunion show in Art Zoyd’s home town of Valenciennes! A huge event that inspired us to publish following huge text.
Telling the story of Art Zoyd is a tremendous task. Asking the musicians themselves is an amazing chance we had twice. The first was when Thierry Zaboitzeff kindly agreed to answer our questions by email. The second, when we met face-to-face with him and Gerard Hourbette the day after their triumphant gig at RIO Festival’2015. The first conversation became a basis for feature story in «InRock» magazine (issue #3(71)/2015). The second part was waiting it’s time till now. Instead of merging them in a chronological manner, we decided to leave them «as is», because every detail is important and there isn’t so much of English-language interview with Art Zoyd at all. So, we have a truly unique material, which is necessary to share with all prog / avant rock fans.
Art Zoyd music will be a school subject soon
Thierry, please tell us about your pre- Art Zoyd history. Where and when were you born?
I was born July 27, 1953 in Maubeuge, a small town in northern France, neighboring Belgian
border, between industrial and rural areas.
Your surname sounds very Russian. Do you have any Russian or other Slavic roots?
My paternal grandfather was Russian, from Arkhangelsk region. He was naturalized French and spent half of his life in France.
What education you had, music & general?
I didn’t really study music, though sometimes I went with my grandfather (the other, not Russian) to the church, where, on the gallery, he played organ during liturgies, weddings and funerals. Really impressive it was for a child that I was these days.
What were your inspirations and reasons for become a musician?
At the very beginning of my adolescence, I got really interested in amateur music, then in rock, but not that of Presley & Co. but that of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, etc. Then, for a short while, I become interested in the very first compositions of Pink Floyd, then Soft Machine, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis... And step by step I discovered other composers such as Bartok, Stravinsky, Varese, Pierre Henry, Berio, Kagel...
At that time I began to feel the strong need to be in music but with the firm conviction that it would not be imitating others. These feelings were very vague, diffused at that time.
Was it also a time when you met Gerard Hourbette?
We lived in the same town. I met Gerard one day in my wanderings. And from that moment everything accelerated.
Gerard had a classical background and studied violin at the conservatory, and I was an amateur guitar player,
inexperienced but ready for everything.
We were both in search of various experiments (prepared guitars, violins into the echo, various analog sound effects, distorted sounds but also spacey sometimes...) Our first group was just born, we named it «Dream 1». Duo which made a trio a few weeks later with bassist Guy Judas, whom I don’t have any news about.
A few months later, Gerard met Rocco Fernandez in a music store in the town near Valenciennes. Rocco was immediately intrigued by the looks of Gérard (shaved head, fur coat, many necklaces and bracelets and a violin under his arm).
They became acquainted, we became acquainted and almost the next day we joined the Art Zoyd.
There is different information about time when Art Zoyd was formed. Wikipedia mentions 1968, artzoyd.net website – 1969, your own website – 1971 (the year when you joined the band). And the name of the current tour, «44 1⁄2», probably points at 1971... Confusion, sorry! Art Zoyd was born in 1969, and Gérard and I joined the band in 1971. The name of this project (44 1⁄2) is this birthday.
Sorry for the primitive question: what does the name “Art Zoyd” mean and who was the author of the name?
This name was created by Rocco Fernandez and the manager of Opaline Records before release of «Sangria»
– the first single of Art Zoyd. Originally, the group was called Experimental Music. Not a very original name! They thought that the name had to reflect a little bit of the strange (bizarre in French) side of the music. They gathered around a table to find a name which would sound strange enough, so to say, «bizarre». Suddenly they found the word bizarroïd, then by inverting some letters they got arzoïd. This invented word reminded the art of zoïd. After some small researches, they decided for more attractive and more mysterious Art Zöyd.
Why the band was titled «Art Zoyd III» for a while?
It became Art Zoyd III when Gérard and I arrived. «III» because it was the third change of line-up. We returned to simple Art Zoyd a little bit later. This completely invented name was made to intrigue and make speak. I believe that it is very successful and it also pleases graphically.
How did you start to playing bass?
When we started, there were few very exciting rehearsals with Rocco making sort of local Frank Zappa in his musical approach and looks. Then a few weeks later our bass player (Guy Judas) left us. We had to quickly replace him, but we could not find anybody and Rocco asked me to keep the bass in the band, which I did with great pleasure and pride. But I had a difficult task to learn it...
But you liked it nevertheless.
Yes, I really like this instrument. Its role became even more important since we decided to work without battery, after the departure of Rocco, and the bass found a place as a rhythmic, melodic, percussion instrument...
And when you started to play cello?
The cello came for the album «Musique pour l’Odyssée». I was impressed and attracted by the sounds that Gérard produced on his viola, so, as I wanted more diversity in tone quality for strings, I made a step. He offered me a cello and I almost gave up so many times, so difficult was to learn to play it, but I persevered and I am very happy today.
Where the trumpet player, Jean-Pierre Soarez, came from?
Jean-Pierre Soarez joined us in 1973. At that time Jean-Pierre played in different cover bands. We had
heard about him for his crazy improvisations and interventions here and there. A friend musician presented him to us and we stay together until 1985.
He has a very particular manner of playing the trumpet, with a lot of tension, but also subtlety. It was and it is again very important to work with him. He has a lot to do with the specific sound of Art Zoyd.
Please tell more about mysterious Rocco Fernandez...
In our region, Rocco Fernandez was nicknamed «Franck Zappa of the North» because of his looks and of his funny side and his musical provocations. I owe to him a lot, I learned from him enormously. He was inventive and pushing forward constantly.
Why he left Zoyd Art in 1975 and what he’s up to now?
After seven years of tours and very enriching and badly paid concerts, Rocco had a big wave of tiredness. He lost any desire, any motivation and decided calmly to leave the group and the music generally. He gave the direction of Art Zoyd to Gérard and me.
From your first «Sangria» EP (1971) to «Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités» (1976) you changed radically – from heavy psychedelia to chamber/avant rock. Almost no rock instruments besides bass, no drums... How brave/scary it was to abandon usual rock methods and, literally, “burn the cities” behind you?
After Rocco left us, we wished to question ourselves. We were very tired of doing the compositions with this continual pulsation of drum kit and clichés of jazz rock. We dreamt about other, more unstable, flexible things, playing with the differences of dynamics without being fixed between hi-hat, snare drum, bass drum and rains of cymbals. We began to experiment, to give unusual roles to instruments – bass, two violins, trumpet... And the result for us was magnificent, the sound seemed unique to us.
Why so “apocalyptic” title of the album — «Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités» («Symphony For the Day When the Cities Will Burn”)?
Our decision was don’t write pop songs. Every step forward went towards a research, a modernity and anown sensibility.
We had to try to break the codes, our codes. Our music at that time was talking about the oppression of urban areas, the dictatorships, the surveillance, etc.
Was the music somehow influenced by Olivier Messiaen’s «Quartet for the End of Time»?
Personally – not. Although we love this composer and many others, such as Bartok, Stravinsky...
...with a little bit of humour!
Your music, especially then, is full of dark, sinister, scary moods and dissonant harmonies. Were you really seeing the world in black back then?
This was not only our vision, the world was like this, still is! I admit that we were particularly moody at that time, but in general I think we liked it! We loved these scraping, aggressive harmonies,
Playing in small clubs...
these syncopated and irregular rhythms. We made provocation almost a duty and broke precepts, dogmas of rock music.
We were looking for another rock, integrating European roots, jazz, classical, contemporary, experimental...
In fact, what most attracted us in rock music was energy, electric power of the instruments.
Was there a place for humor in music then? By the photos of early concerts – sure it was!
Yes, along with our black and dissatisfied side, we were a band of guys enjoying a good laugh, including at ourselves and our music. It could be seen on stage between two serious pieces, for example, during Rocco Fernandez times (1971-75). We were imitating idiotic rock bands and pop radio stations. Later, in 1976’s album, we took old compositions to the extreme, making a caricature of them in «Les Fourmis/Scènes de Carnaval». I remember these instrumental humoristic performances were played next to dark and serious pieces and the audience enjoyed this, as much as we did so!
Which language did you sing there? Kobaian, maybe?
No! No Kobaïen language here. At the time of Rocco Fernandez, there has been the temptation of singing Zoydien
(«Sangria»). This idea was soon forgotten! Personally I often had the desire to use the voice. Because I find that voice that is singing, chanting, shouting, whispering has an extraordinary emotional power in music. I did not want to write songs with clear texts. In my opinion it did not suit our music, I was more interested in the organic side of the sound of voice.
Being self-taught, I composed on my bass, guitar, cello or rather on a piano. When I was looking for specific intonations, I imitated instrumental parts by the sound of my voice. One day, I recorded myself working this way, so I discovered the possibility of using my voice along the music. The voice became a real instrument with different registers.
At first, I worked with pronouncing nonsense sounds, which echoed the other instruments, like words without meaning. Later I started to inventing words that sounded organic to bring certain structure, to allow these words to be pronounced each time in the same way. It’s like a text, an ancient text that we could no longer find the meaning.
In 1983 you met Roland Petit. How it happened, what the meeting was like? How it was working with him on «Le Mariage du Ciel et de l’Enfer»?
One night after a rehearsal, Roland Petit returned home and turned on his television which was broadcasting one of our concerts, «Phase IV», specially filmed by FR3 Channel.
«The Marriage of Heaven and Hell»
He was so touched, so impressed by the music that he telephoned immediately to get our contacts. A few days later we met in Paris and he commissioned us the music for his next ballet that would become «The Marriage of Heaven and Hell». And he asked us to be present on stage. He added: «Call it what you want, I love your music, I want to dance [to it]». We could not get better compliment!
Was he giving you any instructions musically or you decided everything for yourselves?
In the same time we were preparing a European tour with new repertoire, having some compositions in state of development. We agreed to record our concerts and to inform him in that way regularly of the evolution of our compositions. Roland Petit worked with those fragments and ideas we sent him. As soon as the entire suite was completed, we polished the music in the studio.
How it was to move from small clubs to big prestigious theaters? Why your music, being still very avant-garde by its nature, achieved success among the masses?
We have often thought about that. Our music had not seriously changed. I think that «The Marriage of Heaven and Hell» is essential piece of Art Zoyd, it is a very strong point in our career and now we realize that our music, when associated to another medium, only multiplies its strength. It offered us new aspects and new ears not easily conquered otherwise.
It was a big change in the transition from small venues to large prestigious theaters. But great pleasure that our music has found a wide response.
You did several works with silent movies of 1920’s: «Nosferatu», «Faust», «Häxan», and also «The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari» now. What is so close to you in the expressionism, in all these «horror» aesthetics?
In my case, it is not only aesthetics. Of course we kept this atypical side, this attraction to the abnormal, fantastic... Yes, these films are masterpieces of their time and of expressionism, but what I find most interesting is the possibility to see these films in other than their original context. Art Zoyd’s film-concerts don’t work in the usual sense of movie soundtrack. They act in
Art Zoyd primordial way – of course, the film orders the action, it is our conductor, but its power is being limited by image only, no dialogue, no sound, which leaves a very interesting place for our art, allowing to bring different perspectives, to precede, to destabilize, to divert, to create more layers with the magic of the music.
Why did you leave the band in 1997?
We were together since 1971 and since 1989 we made one concert film projects after another: «Nosferatu», «Faust», «Häxan»... I felt that there was a certain routine. Then, in 1997, I dreamt of other things and I became tired and very impatient. On the other hand, Gerard wanted to move more towards contemporary music and to organize composer residencies, which did not suit me at all. I needed to move, to explore other universes, new experiences that I would not get if I stayed. So I left! And it was really painful!
Your solo works show broad specter of styles from new age and ethno-trance to electronic minimalism and sympho rock. In whole, it feels like you decided to make a step towards more clear and simple music.
I had nothing planned, I had just been a little more curious than before and opened myself to other people and artists who supported me and helped me to achieve the result in new projects. I was hot, I wanted everything... There has never been the question of a «simpler, clearer music». Sometimes there were precise requests that I dealt with my professional expertise. I never felt different from before. I just allowed myself all I want in music, including, like now, a return to the aesthetics of Art Zoyd. I feel a great pleasure to do it.
Your solo projects are one-man-band mostly. One of the exceptions is «Missa Furiosa» by Zaboitzeff & Crew. Do you prefer working alone or with other musicians?
I must confess that for a long time, I could not bear the thought of a group, with its emotional tension, egocentrism, a group that was like a political party with its rules, its program which we could not depart.
I made «Missa Furiosa» with the group because I had received the budget for such a project and in this case, I was the leader (leader of the party!) and I did not intend to spend my life with this group because I could not physically make it last. But for me it was a great time with these musicians and singers.
I also enjoyed solo work, there are so many challenges in it, in the instrumental area and in juggling between songs, loop machines, cello, bass etc. It’s funny... and economically very viable.
What instruments do you play now, what modern technologies do you use?
Bass guitar, cello, guitars, percussion, keyboards, virtual samplers, multiple manipulations + DAW plug-ins (Logicx / MachFive 3 / Digital Performer). Nothing in fact is totally modern! Just a continuation.
What solo works are most important for you, most successful creatively?
Without mentioning my collaborations with theater, dance, etc. – my first two
albums: «Prometheus / Dr. Zab», «Missa Furiosa / Sixteenth» and then my solo concert «Cross the Bridge». Lately, the concert film «The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari».
Why you re-joined Art Zoyd? Is it for long, or just for this year RIO fest performance?
Gerard and I wanted to play once more or to make somebody play Art Zoyd 1975-2015 repertory. We decided to bring together former bandmates and the current Art Zoyd team. We contacted, we met and we found each other just as 20 years ago. And quickly began to work on it. RIO proposal accelerated the process.
Who is the driving force behind reunion?
Art Zoyd is the driving force of the project that Gerard and I have created, supported by the RIO and Michel Besset. And a great team of musicians: Serge Bertocchi on saxophones, Romuald Cabardos on percussion and pads, Daniel Denis on percussion and pads; Yukari Hamada-Bertocchi on keyboards; Gérard Hourbette, samplers; Daniel Koskowitz on percussion, pads, guitar; Michael Nick on violin; Nadia Ratsimandresy on keyboards; Jean-Pierre Soarez on trumpet; Thierry Zaboitzeff on bass, cello, voice. Sylvie Debare as technical director and lights; Pierre Sampagnay – sound; Florent Meunier – backline...
How the rehearsals are going? How you change old material to play now?
Firstly we worked on the editing of new scores and programming samplers and now we rehearse in small groups. In August 2015 we finally got together for 10 days. We have decided to respect the sound and arrangements of each era.
Thank you so much for the answers!
The second part of unpublished material is a face-to-face conversation with Thierry Zaboitzeff and Gérard Hourbette, held on the day after the show at RIO-festival (Cap’Decouvert, Albi, France) in September 2015. Beautiful place, sunny day, and these great musicians in front of us. Another participant of the interview was an actress, choreographer and producer (and Thierry’s wife) Editta Braun, who kindly provided the translation from French into English and viсe versa.
We are happy to finally see you here! Thank you so much for agreeing to do the interview. Let’s start with yesterday’s performance, because it was so astonishing.
How hard it was to prepare everything, to rehearse, to memorize all the parts?
Thierry: We had this project in the head for some years. We were cleaning the studio and found a lot of material. It was on magnetic tape and we copied it to contemporary technique. We have noticed there was a big mess. We also found some notes and did photocopies of them. So in fact everything started by cleaning the studio. In the beginning we thought it will be quick, but when we started to rehearse with the musicians we realized there will be huge work. And it was difficult to choose out of this huge amount of pieces what to play. We choose together. If not, the performance would have 44 hours and a half (laughs).
At the press conference with French music journalist and writer Aymeric Leroy
What were the criteria of choosing?
Thierry: It was difficult because we have so much important pieces, and going back to history we found that we become
connected emotionally with the past. And we decided like grown-up people. (Laughs). As Art Zoyd had a great evolution we decided to choose some pieces from each period. We reconstructed the pieces and did a medley with some of them.
Gerard: Of course when we did this medley we had to shorten them and then to choose again.
How it was to work together after all that years? Gerard: It’s like it would have been yesterday. Everything was back.
Thierry: It was easy to communicate. And the other musicians came with their ideas. Everybody came with what he knows and what he doesn’t know. And we haven’t changed so much as the musicians.
Was it difficult to perform the tracks from the very first albums?
Gerard: As I am a violinist I didn’t realize that it will be really difficult to reproduce some of my parts (at the RIO-festival concert violin parts were performed by Michael Nick, – InRock). It was so unusual way of performing! It was not easy for us. Thierry: And if I would have been to explain to another bassist how to play my parts it would have been lost. The rock energy is such a thing that is very difficult to explain by words! In the very beginning we were composing together with the instruments in our hands. We were sitting in the studio for hours and composing there. So music was born not in the head but in the fingers. Gerard: We were playing these pieces like we were talking. No scores!
But how did your record them without scores and sheet music – was it all in your minds? Thierry: It’s like an actor remembering the text.
Gerard: The music will be much more interesting if all musicians in general will be able to perform without scores. But it needs a lot of time to memorize.
Thierry: Because every time you have a delay between what you read and what you play. And you have no idea what happens with your body. It needs the whole body being a part of music. So I didn’t want to limit myself with scores, because it would change the music.
But your music has very difficult rhythmical structures, it seems like you need to count all the time...
Yes! (Everybody laughs).
How do you manage not to miss a beat?
Gerard: Music is also numbers. When we started there were no computers, but we had them in our heads. Music is also like architecture. So we construct a building with sounds. And also we have more complicated pieces and less complicated.
Who is your favorite classical composer?
Gerard: Personally I love Xenakis for his primitive violence and architectural thinking. I listened to TV Shooting many records and
read many books. I’m very curious.
Thierry: For me in the very beginning it was Stravinsky, his dissonances and polyrhythmic combinations. We also wanted to combine the energy of rock and the background of European music, which is far from blues.
We have some more questions to Gerard about his musical background. Why did you choose the violin?Is that true that you decided to play music when you’ve read the musical vocabulary?
Gerard: (Laughs.) I started at the age of seven in the conservatory. I wanted to be a really good and famous violin player. I moved to Paris at the age of sixteen to continue my study. Then I discover the nowadays music and I was very disappointed [by classics]. I was a little bit lost when I left the conservatory. I was playing in the streets – the blues, improvisations... Then I came back to the North of France and somebody told me that somebody is interested in me. It was Thierry. We met and decided to play together. We formed a group of three musicians just in ten days or so. It was the first time when I played with the amplifier. Voila! And after that we founded Art Zoyd. It’s interesting that many of those who finished the conservatory are often not be able to play rhythmically and to understand the rhythmic complex. Normally rhythm is something you have in your head and in the same time you can pop it to another...
So classical music education didn’t give you the opportunity to learn how to play rock?
Gerard: No. I started to learn it afterwards. I liked rock music: Soft Machine, King Crimson...
But did the classical foundation you’ve got in the conservatory help you later on to create those great albums with Art Zoyd? Gerard: Yes, nevertheless. But more important was listening to a lot of music. And of course the solfeg... sol-fa... оkey, like this (singing) do-re-mi-fa-sol help you to understand the music, if you know this. You need ears but you also need a brain (laughs).
Can we ask you about Rock In Opposition movement? How had you become involved in it, how did you decide to join?
Thierry: Rock In Opposition movement have existed since 1978 with Henry Cow and Univers Zero, Samla Mammas Manna from Sweden and Stormy Six from Italy. Personally I played bass with Daniel Denis of Univers Zero. Once I met Chris Cutler, and several months later we discussed integrating Art Zoyd into the movement. We played different festivals in Milano, in Switzerland... And the basis was to find different way to present our music. The most important was to exchange the ideas with others, and also to communicate with the audience which is far from the mainstream. In fact Rock In Opposition was a movement to be against the mainstream, to oppose the labels who didn’t want to give any artistic freedom to the musicians. RIO created their own way of communicating through festivals, our own label and so on. It was not an aesthetic movement, it was a political movement. Political in the means of art. It was against show-biz, against commercial music.
Gerard: We started to tour to help each other by organizing concerts. It was very successful in Eastern Europe which was normally closed by the Iron Curtain.
Original RIO PosterSpeaking about politics, did you share RIO political manifests?
Gerard: Politics is in the music for me. The aesthetical protest could be stronger than political.
Thierry: We have no texts, no lyrics, and we don’t want them (laughs).
Gerard: And maybe the violence is in the music. Sometimes the titles give
political direction and associations for people. Sometimes some sounds. For example, the first piece of
«Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités» (1976) starts with sounds of people growling and fighting (we can hear the wild growling and groaning in the beginning of the composition, – InRock). Thierry: Sometimes guys in the public were crying – agrhhh! (Laughs.) For us it wasn’t necessary to speak about politics. We do it simply with the music. Art Zoyd on stage was our politic acts – like commandos against the system.
So you were fighting with the help of music. Thierry: Yes!
One of maybe darkest Art Zoyd album is “Generasion sans futur” (“Generation Without Future”). What did you mean by this title? Is it about your generation?
Thierry: It was an album about pressure in big cities, about non-communication. And nowadays it’s the same situation. It’s even worse at the moment. Lack of real communication...
Gerard: We could give the same title to nowadays albums. Nothing’s changed from the early days. We have the same problems today.
You’ve recorded so many records to films, to theatrical works. And the latest Art Zoyd album «Eyecatcher» (2011) is dedicated to Russian cinema
director Dziga Vertov. How have you found his works?
Gerard: I discovered his films some year ago. The first was a documentary “A Man with a Movie Camera”, shot before his very famous science fiction films. I can say it was an exercise for a new style. The film shows that life is like a montage, cuts, but seeing through your eyes. Even if the camera comes from the other side, the audience see themselves through it. I wanted to invent musical stories in parallel to the film. And I gave silence where it was sound and sound where it was silence.
The band was in Moscow in 1989, what do you remember about that visit?
Gerard: I wasn’t there, because I was sick. Thierry and other musicians were there.
Thierry: It was a long tour in Moscow, Bucharest...
Editta: And you had to drink a lot of vodka! (Laughs.) Thierry: Yes, we played “Nosferatu” in Stockholm, and then we had a boat to Tallinn, and next was Moscow, Bucharest and Budapest.
Who invited you?
(Discussing.) Thierry: No idea. We don’t remember. (Laughs.) Our manager contacted that time with some organization in Russia but I don’t remember what it was.
Editta: There were rumors that for sure Ronald Reagan had organized this tour to put Soviet Union in danger! (Everybody laughs.)
But what do you remember from this tour about Moscow?
Thierry: It was very sad [to see]. I mean people in the streets were waiting in lines. They were queuing in front of each shop for ice cream and so on. I remember it was completely decadent to see these people along the lines. And we came with the promoters to the very luxurious restaurant and we had it all, and in the streets there was nothing. It’s now different, I know.
Since that time Moscow has changed a lot... Thierry: Yes. But the people around the concert were super.
Was it just your concert or part of some festival, cultural event?
Thierry: No, just a concert. It was a festival in Bucharest, eight thousand tickets were sold, but we didn’t manage to go to Kiev in time because roads were so bad. And it was quite dangerous in the streets that time. We were attacked on motorway in Russia with iron sticks. We bought diesel for our bus on service station and suddenly somebody came... agrhhh!
It’s really awful! Thierry: It was crazy! And there were a lot of traffic jams. And in order to pass at check points you had to give money so we could pass quicker.
Thierry: If not we would have arrived much later.
Thierry, could you please give us more details about your Russian grandfather?
Thierry: I don’t know the full story about my Russian grandfather. When he came to France he didn’t want to talk about his past. He didn’t talk Russian with us, so I didn’t learn Russian. I just know that he came from Arkhangelsk, maybe he was somebody to cut trees in the woods. The First World War started, and he got drafted and captured, and then he came as a war prisoner to Belgium. Then he managed to flee and there in Belgium he met his future wife. She was from Belgium, and they came to live in France.
That’s a very interesting story! Thierry: But I don’t know more.
Thank you. May we ask some questions about future of the band? Was yesterday’s performance recorded and will it release somehow?
Gerard: Yes, we have an audio recording. Maybe not everything but some extracts would be issued. But we don’t know yet. We have to listen, if it worth to...
You have also a lot of Art Zoyd’s unreleased material you’ve found in your studio, will it be published someday?
Gerard: Yes, we’re planning to publish 11 CD’s or even more, there are live and studio versions. We
have very early live cuts of some pieces, they sound very funny sometimes.
And what about new Art Zoyd music?
Gerard: Everybody has his own projects. I have a lot of new projects in my mind that I want to fulfill. And Thierry also.
Will you continue working together?
Gerard: We did so much together with this Art Zoyd reunion project. Maybe we would like to compose something together to put it into this concert. But we don’t want to say «yes, we will do it» – or not. If it happens – it happens.
Gerard, at the latest albums and on the concert you have been playing mostly synthesizers, not the violin, why?
Gerard: Oh, I have problems with my hands. Since 1988 I have problems with my health (arthritis, – ed.), so I have to stop playing violin.
Sorry to hear that... By the way, you mentioned that making music for you is like architecture. What architectural style can you compare your music?
Gerard: (laughs) Bridges!
Gerard: Bridges. I wouldn’t compare it to the certain style [of architecture] but to the bridges as an object, which unites two sides of the river together. It gives perspectives, it gives a direction.
Great! Few little questions to Thierry. Yesterday you not just played the bass and cello, very groovy and powerful, but you also sung in “Baboon’s Blood”. You voice sounds very mighty. Do you use some sound effects?
Thierry (with hoarse and growl sounds): IT’S MY VOICE!!!!
Thierry: It’s only little bit of chorus. Nothing more. During all the years I researched my voice, I researched expression, styles, harmonics, lyrics, theatricality and so on.
And you have very beautiful electrical cello. Please tell a couple of words about this instrument.
Thierry: Visually it’s not very beautiful. It’s not like a real cello, it’s a stick. The vibrations are capturing by a piezo microphone on the bridge. Since the 80’s I have my own way of amplifying. Working with cello for a long time I developed my own cello sound. I want my cello sounds like a classical instrument, but if I need something different I use an effects pedal for distortion and so on.
Gerard: Thierry doesn’t want that cello to sound like electric guitar, rather like cello. He searches for that specific harmonics that you can hear only when you are very close to the instrument. These overtones can be very fine with the sounds if they will be amplified.
Having three drummers on stage is more musical or visual thing?
Gerard: First of all, musical. This is normal lineup of Art Zoyd nowadays. It produces a lot of energy. We could have a bigger cast but it’s very difficult economically. This is why we use two keyboards and one piano which got different sounds. We won’t be able to perform like nine musicians at the time, it’s «It’s my voice!»
By the way, you used the crowdfunding to arrange this concert, was it successful?
Gerard: Of course these are difficult times now. So when considering this project the band decided not to rely purely on public money, but also ask their fan community to contribute to the project. This has been a wonderful success in financial terms, but also because there is a strong sense of community now – between Art Zoyd and all the people contributed to this project.
So thank you very much for such a great conversation. We are very happy to be at this grandiose performance you made yesterday. And we hope for the continuation!
... and the continuation, as it has been already mentioned, will take place on December 7th 2016, Le phénix scène nationale, Valenciennes, France. Be there if you can!
Thanks to Editta Brown and Ekaterina Vinogradova for the help with translation.
About Professional Stranger & the EP Pagan Dances
Interview by Thomas Hilton (April 2022)
THIERRY ZABOITZEFF is an artist who has enjoyed a life adventuring in many different sonic spaces. He is primarily a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose work encompasses an eclectic and diverse array of genres and styles. His most well-known endeavour is perhaps his tenure with Art Zoyd, the French progressive rock band, who he served as co-artistic director from 1975 to 1997. More recently, Zaboitzeff has proven himself to be somewhat unstoppable with a steady and frequent stream of fantastic solo releases. His techno rock meets acoustic electro EP, Pagan Dances (September 2021); his experimental adventurous seven-track record, Professional Stranger (November 2020); and his Area Primitiva side project, ‘an imaginary crossroads where dense and challenging personal routes meet’. This is a creative, artistic mind who is still in its prime. Thierry Zaboitzeff took some time out from his busy schedule to discuss his musical journey with Aldora Britain Records.
Aldora Britain Records: Hi Thierry, how are you? It is a real pleasure to be talking to such a talented and eclectic musician today. Thank you for your time. I was wondering if we could start off by rewinding the clocks. What are some of your earliest musical memories and what first pushed you towards pursuing this passion of yours?
Thierry Zaboitzeff: From the end of the sixties, like many young people of that time, I was attracted by the fantasy and energy contained and developed in so-called ‘rock’ music, and also by the movement of freedom that emerged from it in general. I had no particular musical education at the age of fourteen. In the family, only my maternal grandfather was a musician, a church organist and ball musician. I then decided to learn, to discover this ‘rock’ music by myself, by learning the guitar, the bass and by playing with a few friends. We formed a few college or neighbourhood bands. It may seem strange to you but I was not at all sensitive to ‘mainstream’ rock, but rather by all the experiments and sonic adventures that were initiated a little later by artists like Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention and Pink Floyd, especially at their beginning. I then very quickly began following Soft Machine, Robert Fripp and King Crimson, Magma, and then from curiosity to curiosity, I became interested in classical composers like Prokofiev, Bartok, Stravinsky, and then in some contemporary artists like Kagel and Ligeti. Jazz too, especially that of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. Such rich and different worlds that have nourished me for many years.
“From the end of the sixties, like many young people of that time, I was attracted by the fantasy and energy contained and developed in so-called ‘rock’ music, and also by the movement of freedom that emerged from it in general.”
Aldora Britain Records: For over two decades, you were a member of French progressive band Art Zoyd. How did this come to be and how did you meet the other guys? How do you reflect on this time now and how would you say you have developed as a musician since?
Thierry Zaboitzeff: Yes, I was not only a member of the Art Zoyd group, but also co-founder and co-director of this unusual ensemble from 1971 to 1997. This group already had existed since 1969. It was created by Rocco Fernandez, and at his invitation, Gerard Hourbette and myself joined the group in 1971. I had met Gerard – violinist and composer – a year earlier and we had already formed a duo, and then a trio and we were close artistically. When Rocco Fernandez left the band in 1975, we took over the destiny of Art Zoyd and its projects, radically changing our approach to composition. This was a very important and founding moment in my life as a musician and composer. We put together ambitious projects that we toured all over the world with talented musicians, sometimes different depending on the project.
Aldora Britain Records: These days, you often approach your music through the worlds of dance, theatre, multimedia events and movies. I can imagine this is a slightly different way of approaching music. How does your creative process work? How do you come up with such elaborate and intense compositions?
Thierry Zaboitzeff: After so many years, I finally left Art Zoyd. We had gone, in my opinion, to the maximum of what we could do together, and as time went by, too many habits and systematisms
30 settled in. I would have gladly broken this situation without leaving the group, but this was not possible. I was thirsty for new experiences. In particular by composing music for dance and theatre etcetera. I have always wanted to avoid composing only for a fixed ensemble, especially with the same instrumentation. So, this was the perfect opportunity for me to bring together, for example, a string quartet, pygmy chants and ambient electronics in the same composition, and to be able to sculpt and invent unreal worlds with several layers. In spite of all the technology I use today, my working process has remained simple, basic. I generally fix a few ideas in a very simple way with what I have at hand. A guitar, a cello, a bass or a keyboard. I let them mature a little in my mind and I touch up little by little with the same process. Then I go into the studio and there it can last because I am quite capricious about what I am looking for without quite having the keys. On top of all that, there are the constraints that you sometimes have when you are commissioned. But it’s fantastic and, so far, I love it!
Aldora Britain Records: I don’t believe you could possibly sit firmly into any genre or style. That is the best way to be after all! It is a journey of creation and evolution. For new fans or listeners, how would you describe it? What would you say goes into your sound and who are your biggest influences as an artist?
Thierry Zaboitzeff: I often give myself the label ‘electro symphonic art rock’. I find that corresponds well for the moment to my approach in the sense that I develop mainly electronic acoustic atmospheres mixed sometimes with a very tight symphonic-type of writing, but in a dynamic and sound energy common to ‘rock’. But to be clear, I’m more in an artistic approach than in an approach to making people dance, that said without any irony or contempt. The sound I try to build must be different for me in each project. Although I want it to be recognisable, and it’s always a great difficulty to achieve this and I leave it to the public and the critics to judge on that. It is always very difficult for an artist to say that he is influenced by such and such a person. So, I will allow myself a little diversion, by quoting, in no particular order, some musicians and composers that I listen to a lot and that I hold in high esteem… Robert Wyatt, Bela Bartok, Jimi Hendrix, W.A. Mozart, Miles Davis, Igor Stravinsky, Robert Fripp and King Crimson, S. Prokofiev, John Coltrane, Jon Hassel, Claude Debussy, Martin Gore, Luciano Berio, Gustav Mahler, Mauricio Kagel, Steve Reich…
“I was thirsty for new experiences. In particular by composing music for dance and theatre … I have always wanted to avoid composing only for a fixed ensemble, especially with the same instrumentation.”
Aldora Britain Records: I recently discovered your Pagan Dances release on Bandcamp. Wow! I love what you bring together on this release. What are your memories from writing, recording and releasing this particular set?
Thierry Zaboitzeff: Pagan Dances is a parenthesis amongst all the creations I have made for shows where I was always at the service of the director. Here, there were no external demands, I was left to my own devices, facing my emotions in complete intimacy. And I must admit that all these moments of confinement linked to COVID certainly influenced the atmosphere of this piece. I told myself for this composition, I had to find a dark and unique colour, but not negative or repulsive. When I started working on it, after a few minutes, I immediately realised that I was going to go back to the instrumentation that was very familiar to me when I worked with Art Zoyd. Pianos, percussion, bass, cello and a sampler for the ambient, election and electro-acoustic sounds.
Aldora Britain Records: If we travel back further to 2020, you released a work called Professional Stranger. This was one of my first Zaboitzeff listening experiences. How do you reflect on this one now a few years later?
Thierry Zaboitzeff: Parenthesis also but this time amongst all my musical productions. Indeed, on this occasion, I wished to break with the musical styles in which I was generally classified, such as rock, experimental rock, avant rock, ex-Art Zoyd, contemporary music, etcetera. With this album, I was going to reveal a facet of calmness, of softness, and to settle down in the mazes of time, of the time which passes, in more minimal rhythms, of calmed landscapes inspired by the choreographic creation Long Life by the Editta Braun Company, on which I was composing this music. Moreover, I decided that we would find this very typical accordion sound everywhere in the album. With which, I even do a cover of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ by Martin Gore and Depeche Mode. It was an opportunity to break the codes, my codes. Because until now, I always hated being in a too well arranged drawer.
“I was left to my own devices, facing my emotions in complete intimacy. And I must admit that all these moments of confinement linked to COVID certainly influenced the atmosphere of this piece. I told myself for this composition, I had to find a dark and unique colour, but not negative or repulsive.”
Interview by Thomas Hilton for Aldora Britain Records - zine - April 2022
Interview of Thierry Zaboitzeff for the magazine Rythmes Croisés (F)
by Philippe Perrichon in September 2022 for the release of the retrospective box set : 50 ans de musique(s)
Thank you Thierry for accepting the principle of this interview because, if I understand correctly, your timing is rather tight...
Thierry ZABOITZEFF : Yes, and I apologise for that. Indeed, as soon as this box set project is finished and delivered, I'm back in the studio to compose and record a soundtrack for a 19' LUVOS Migrations film, a project piloted by Editta BRAUN COMPANY. "Vision of the future or images from a parallel universe? In breathtaking natural settings, automated industrial landscapes and deserted ruins, a journey through time and living spaces unfolds. The strange LUVOS creatures of Editta BRAUN's theatre of body illusion take over the music of Thierry ZABOITZEFF.
It's a new challenge for me and I thank Editta BRAUN for her confidence each time.
A teaser of this soundtrack is available here: https://vimeo.com/751118062
This recap has a striking effect: it makes one realise how much your work has been spread out over time and makes one want to delve into your discography and your considerable output. How did this triple-album project come about?
TZ : Well, as you know, I'll soon be 70 years old, and when you're lucky enough to reach that age without too many problems, you can't help but look back, not without a little bit of pride, and make a kind of assessment, and I thought it would be interesting to gather in a box set with a relatively tight format in order to avoid any repetition or redundancy, an anthology, I prefer this word to the one of compilation which I find bland and ugly...
In any case, there was absolutely no question of releasing my 30 albums in a box set at the risk of an economic disaster and a serious indigestion.
So I started to work summarily on 3 or 4 playlists, just to see what the task was on an artistic level. Then convinced of the feasibility, I decided to go round my contacts to find out who could co-produce such an album. Out of politeness, as it should be in the business, I first contacted the label and publisher that has been supporting me since 2005 (WTPL-Music and Monstre Sonore) who were immediately willing to accept the conditions I set. It was in December 2021 and we had already planned a release for June 2022 but finally we postponed it to September 2022.
It was a complicated and difficult job which I am happy with at the end and I think the secret was to forget any chronology and then we had to master and unify all these recordings from different periods.
There are several aspects of this set that are very impressive: first of all your poly-instrumentalist skills and then your mastery of current technologies. How did this expansion of your skills come about?
TZ : A long time ago, I was only a bass player but also a bit of a guitarist, which suited perfectly the rock-prog rock framework of the 1970s, but very quickly Gérard HOURBETTE and myself within ART ZOYD, decided to break the codes, which Rocco FERNANDEZ had already started...
This resulted in the progressive addition of effects pedals of all kinds, echo chambers to lengthen the sounds, to give them wider spaces, from our second album, I started playing the cello to reinforce this electrified chamber music side... Thus, one thing leading to another, we also became interested in studio techniques which were financially inaccessible at that time. In spite of the magnificent work done for each album in the studio, we always had huge regrets: not enough time for recording, mixing, etc.
But then, in the mid-1980s, computer music came along and from then on we equipped ourselves to become completely autonomous in our recording. Without going into too much detail, it was a revolution for me, for us: MIDI/keyboards/and very soon affordable hardware samplers/digital multitrack recording systems. We had to learn on the job and master these new lutheries, from that time until today, taking care not to let ourselves be eaten by the technical side. For my part, I've always tried to strike the right balance between machines and acoustic instruments, but sometimes, and this happens, the machine gives off something that you can't reproduce with an acoustic instrument and that fits in well with the context of the composition.
I have only one small regret, but it is undoubtedly the price to pay for the exercise of an anthology: I had really liked your work on the Livre Vermeil by Montserrat and this is perhaps one of the lesser known aspects of your work as an arranger and composer. Do you also have this regret?
TZ : As you say, it's the price to pay. Of course I tried to include one of the pieces in this project, The Vermeil Book of Montserrat, but in the end I realised that I didn't have good enough material for that. In the meantime I phoned Sandrine ROHRMOSER and we agreed to record this project professionally next year.
Can you tell us about your collaboration with Thierry MOREAU who also honours us by writing in our columns?
TZ : I knew Thierry MOREAU for many years (ART ZOYD period) then by chance, I met him in a train between Douai and Paris in 2004 I think : we exchanged very nicely, I sent him some albums and time passed.
Little by little and very discreetly, he approached me, telling me about his graphic work, especially for album covers. He very quickly offered to work on my album covers, which I refused because I rarely had the budget for it. However, his approach and his work had immediately seduced me so much that in 2017, when it was a question of an album for ARIA PRIMITIVA, I did my utmost to have his graphic design work integrated into the production budget. The work was done in a great mutual respect, right up to this box set, on which he did a fantastic job completely outside of what he or I could have imagined.
Are you animated by a form of spirituality (even if it is quite personal - as a self-respecting autodidact! - In my modest capacity, I am also self-taught and I know that it is sometimes difficult but that it is a choice that makes you freer)? This question comes to me through your recourse to Latin, which is a culturally marked choice, typically European, and, also, anchored (and inked) in a Christian context that has marked our continent (and beyond).
TZ: Dear Philippe, I am animated by diabolical thoughts! (laughs) No, I'm kidding! The reference to Latin is linked to my personal history with my maternal grandfather: he was an organist and when I was a child I used to accompany him to the gallery for high mass. The power of the organ pipes made an impression on me... as did the Swiss guard who regulated the service. All this context much later inspired me for the Missa Furiosa, I had already wanted to tackle these slightly technoid riffs by associating them with Latin... The pitch was found !
Can you tell us about your strange cello? I've always been intrigued by this instrument...
TZ : You mean my customised Yamaha Silent Cello ? For a number of years I worked as a composer and live musician, very often in the open air, summer and winter... My acoustic cello suffered so much from this, it couldn't hold a chord in extreme weather conditions and eventually broke... So I found this stick almost impervious to the elements thanks to its bass mechanics, but I re-equipped it with excellent quality piezo pickups, as the basic Yamaha system wasn't very convincing. This system allowed me to play in all weathers and without feedback problems by giving me the possibility to alternate between a classic or electro sound with the help of effects pedals that guitarists know very well.
What was your initial career path? I can imagine you as a complete autodidact...
TZ : I am the complete autodidact ! I had a problem with that idea for a while in my early days, I was always surrounded by very professional and trained musicians. Many of them I worked with were very respectful of that and very responsive to my ideas.
Then, as time went by, I freed myself: the experiences, my unconventional learning on the different instruments I use and then, also, my self-taught training on computers, recording techniques, constitute a whole and a heritage of which I am very proud because thus, I was able to follow my own paths with all the fantasy I wanted!
What are your projects for the months and years to come ?
TZ : As I said before, the recording of my adaptation of the Livre Vermeil de Montserrat with Sandrine ROHRMOSER, with a view to an album... Then a little rest !!!!!
Then a little later some surprises, I hope.
Thank you for this interview and congratulations again for this beautiful album !
TZ : Thanks to you, for your attention.
Article and interview by Philippe Perrichon - Photos : Bettina Frenzel (scenes) - Zablab2022 (portraits)
PROG CENSOR (04/12/2002)
Taking advantage of the release of the triple CD "50 years of music(s)",
Thierry Zaboitzeff agreed to answer a few questions we had about his career.
(Interview conducted by Tiberius.)
Prog censor - How do you feel after 50 years of creating innovative music?
Thierry Zaboitzeff - Not bad, thanks! Sometimes a little out of it, in doubt, but there's always that little something that gets me going again, a chord, an improbable idea, a sound, the sound, a simple vision that slides over others and leads me into the magical mazes of composition, but I'm like the little thumb, I sow things to find my way back...
In fact I feel very happy to have been able to carry out this retrospective project.
Pc - Can you come back for us on the beginnings of the story. It wasn't easy. We can see it by browsing your site (http://www.zaboitzeff.org/zaboitzeff-raconte.html) where you relate episode after episode (there are currently eight), 50 years of musical love (and hardship).
TZ - Yes, I advise you to read them, just to get a good idea of what it meant to be an independent musician and composer in those days.
The beginning of this whole story is the meeting with Gérard Hourbette and then Rocco Fernandez who invited us in his group Art Zoyd. Rocco left us in 1975 and gave us the keys of the house and, from then on, we experimented with different Art Zoyd formations with a lot of musicians who came, went and came back... All these meetings and experiences led to important moments: in 1976, our first album and then a tour in France as the first part of Magma; we were also with them at the Théâtre de la Renaissance (Paris) for about ten days. Then, to mention only the most important moments, we will do a European tour in 1984 followed by the creation with Roland Petit's ballets of "Le Mariage du Ciel et de l'Enfer" (Milan - Palais des sports / Paris-Théâtre des Champs Elysées / Marseille-Opéra / Bordeaux-Opéra); to make a long story short, there will also be the film-concerts "Nosferatu - Faust and Häxan"... This brings us to 1997, the year I leave Art Zoyd (deep divergences on new orientations, weariness...).
But I would like to specify that this box set only dedicates a few episodes to Art Zoyd and that I absolutely want to defend and put forward what I produced in the 25 years following my departure from AZ.
Pc - What order did you choose to present us your whole career?
TZ - The order was a big headache. I never managed to put together a chronological playlist that made sense, or if I managed to do it sometimes, it was never appropriate in the long run. So I decided to sit down on the chronology and I went rather on the idea of travel in my music, with my music; this idea is much more interesting because it allows more space, more finesse, more poetry... Moreover, I like to play on contrasts, I was going to enjoy myself...
Pc - Did you remix some tracks ?
TZ - I remixed two tracks out of the 43 proposed: "Unsex Me Here", originally on the album "Art Zoyd-Berlin", but which I cover and remix in solo and live in 2009. Then "Konzobélé" from the album "Marathonnerre". For other pieces, I re-mastered them in order to unify as much as possible the colour of these compositions, which are sometimes very distant in time. I also re-recorded "Baboon's blood" (from the AZ-Berlin album) by inviting Daniel Denis (Univers Zero) to play the percussions, which makes the piece more lively and wilder, then as a tribute to Rocco Fernandez, the founder of Art Zoyd, I took back in a very personal version the title "Sangria" that the group had recorded on a 45 rpm on Opaline Records-Chants Du Monde in 1971.
Pc - How were most of the compositions made, whether it was with Art Zoyd or the other musical emanations that you met?
TZ - Vast subject! It all depends on the times... Self-taught for a long time, I don't write music (on paper), I use home-made audio or MIDI recordings because I play several instruments and, with time, I also became a manipulator of electronics (sequencers, samplers, effects, computers...) to communicate what I wish, in a relatively precise way, when I intervene with other musicians and when I don't call upon them, I compose and record directly in my studio... But the starting point of my compositions is rarely very sophisticated, I use a single instrument (guitar or keyboard or bass) on which I build a few snippets of what will become a song, even singing, and I let myself go completely to the fantasy that I then reframe and orchestrate in the studio.
The process is a little different when I work on commissions because, in this case, many parameters interfere, such as the duration, the particular demands of a stage manager or director, the type of instrumentation desired...
Pc - Art Zoyd had the opportunity to play (and share musicians) with bands like Magma or Univers Zero. Do you have any outstanding memories to share from this period?
TZ - With Magma, who we thought very highly of, apart from playing on the same bill, we didn't share anything. Shortly after these tours, I met Daniel Denis and then Univers zero and we even mixed our two groups in a sort of apocalyptic bigband, during reunion concerts. I remember the one at "Nancy Jazz Pulsations", it was hot! There were the pros and cons who were very vocal... We only did a few concerts in this economically unviable formation at that time and then also each group had more personal desires for the future.
Pc - Do you have some particular memories and anecdotes to share?
TZ - There are many and I can't take all the space here with that. I will rather talk about the most important facts.
In June 1984, at the invitation of the choreographer Roland Petit : the premiere of "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" with the Milan Scala Ballet and our group Art Zoyd at the Milan Sports Palace for a week. This was a great event that took us out of our daily life as a band playing in clubs and other alternative venues for a while. Big audiences were offered to us with the technical means to match. A great team of technicians and musicians.
For the history and the anecdotes, I invite you to consult this link: http://www.zaboitzeff.org/zaboitzeff-raconte.html.
Pc - Can you tell us about the years that followed Art Zoyd, especially the Aria Primitiva period?
TZ - As soon as I left AZ, I started a lot of projects: contemporary dance, theatre... Always as a composer of course and from time to time live, in solo or in group: Zaboitzeff & Crew on the Miniaturen projects with Edita Braun Company, then Missa Furiosa created during the Bruckner Festival Linz in 2002.
My encounter with the Austrian choreographer Editta Braun has been the highlight of the last 25 years; I have been collaborating musically since 1997 on all the company's projects. It has been a very strong emotional experience, very enriching, and it has allowed me to open my art to other horizons, freeing me from the obligatory paths of contemporary music and from the alternative musical circuits, which can sometimes be a little sclerotic and closed.
Aria Primitiva was born quite late, in 2017, following the anniversary concerts "Art Zoyd - 44 ½". On that occasion, I had met Nadia Ratsimandresy and Cécile Thévenot who were also part of this anniversary band. I missed the group experience and Nadia and Cécile came to me to propose to work together; I hesitated for a moment and then decided to do it! The main problem between us was the distance between us: Nadia in Paris, Cécile in Strasbourg and me in Austria in Salzburg... We could hardly find dates to get together as no concert was planned. As far as composition was concerned, I was making great strides and, within a few months, a basic repertoire was ready and, on the strength of this, I started to look for dates. Four concerts were planned and financially secured. We were ready to take the plunge and start rehearsing. This is how Aria Primitiva was born and lived, because after an album ("Sleep No More") and a few concerts, Nadia went back to her activities with Art Zoyd, of which she was still a member, and a distance was established for a long time, then Cécile dreamed of more improvisations, which was not the main focus of Aria Primitiva, which had finally become my baby. I had, I have a lot of respect for these musicians but a future seemed impossible, I decided to finish with this group and then the covid crisis hit us... I moved on.
I must add that, as long as this ensemble existed, I loved the process of working and the prospect of a new live band, a bit in the direction of Art Zoyd from the years 86-87 that I would have unconsciously liked to resurrect... There was so much to do and so many other musicians to invite.
Pc - Are there any concerts planned to celebrate the 50 years of career?
TZ - At this time, no concerts are planned and close to my 70th birthday. I no longer see music in terms of bus tours, packing up gear at three in the morning. The opportunities for all kinds of excesses and always taking responsibility for other musicians who only move because you ask them to move... Admittedly, I'm a little bitter on this subject after having lived through some unpleasant situations.
Let's just say that I'm no longer interested in this way of living music... I have other projects around my sounds and maybe you'll give me the opportunity to tell you about them later.
Pc - Thank you Thierry for this interview. A last word to encourage our readers to (re)discover your universe?
TZ - Thank you! But for this last question I will quote Denis Desassis who I invited to preface this boxed set and he will speak to you about this anthology better than anyone, and certainly better than me! And thanks again to him for his words.
"Here are 50 years of music(s) illuminated by the abundance of an anthology which arouses admiration, so much the coherence of the whole, from the first hours of Art Zoyd to the last pagan choreographies, is here obvious. Music, cinema, dance, theatre are assembled in a great whole freed from time and stylistic barriers to abandon themselves to an imaginary world full of torments and hopes, those of a journey towards the great mystery. Thierry Zaboitzeff's work is adorned with the dark colours of an epic of initiation revealing enigmatic and sometimes desolate landscapes, the contemplation of which will arouse curiosity mixed with fascination.
PROG JAZZ (CL) December 2022
par Rodrigo Oyarce - 06/12/2022
Hi Mr. Zaboitzeff. First of all, thank you for taking the time to have this conversation with Progjazz
Before answering your questions, I would like to address all the readers of ProgJazz and the Spanish-speaking public that has been following me for so many years to communicate that I am very touched and moved by your attention to my music. Thank you all!
Antes de responder a sus preguntas, me gustaría dirigirme a todos los lectores de ProgJazz y al público de habla hispana que me sigue desde hace tantos años para decirles que estoy muy emocionado y conmovido por su atención a mi música. Gracias a todos
What can you tell us about "50 years of Music(s)" and the process of compiling the enormous artistic legacy you have made over the years?
I will soon be 70 years old... On this occasion, I think that every human being, by reflex and honesty, looks back and retraces a kind of assessment of his life, of his work; this is what I wanted to do simply by celebrating these fifty years of musical activities with the release of this anthology. I worked on it for more than a year, listing, listening, re-mastering, remixing, re-recording certain pieces, then throwing them away, starting again until I found an ideal itinerary of (travel) on my musical paths according to me and some of my relatives. In this work, I wanted to avoid any chronology, which gives a kind of lightness to enter without realizing it in different periods of my career. All eras taken together, one can travel between my solo projects, some of my creations with Art Zoyd - Zaboitzeff & Crew - Aria Primitiva...
What is the creative process like when you start with a piece or art project? What kind of conceptual or subconscious places do you visit to bring your art to life? Or is it something more tangible?
In my opinion, there are different ways to start a composition or a project, I have often tried not to have any rules... But I have noticed, looking back on my past, that I finally had some "tricks" to force myself to be different for each composition, like fighting a routine.
When I compose for myself, I allow myself absolutely everything, like telling myself a story or pseudo legend to set the atmosphere and these stories are quickly forgotten as soon as my setting is set. The rest is just sounds, rhythms, arrangements, developments, fantasy, freedom...
A composition can be born from a simple sequence of bass, piano or cello chords or from a sound that I have in mind but that doesn't seem to exist, so I dig, I sculpt, I examine, I back up, I also re-sculpt in the studio on my samplers and sound editors and it often becomes very physical even if the piece is sometimes apparently cerebral. In all cases, I look for a non-verbal emotion.
As I am also self-taught, I never bother with precepts in this area.
In my opinion, music and sound have the advantage of offering totally open spaces, unlike words or concrete images, and it's up to each person to let themselves be carried away, including me...
You have collaborated with the choreographer Editta Braun, with the directors Stéphane Vérité and Beda Percht. What can you tell us about the projects you had with them and if the creative process was different to your personal musical projects?
I have been working with Editta Braun since 1997, we started with a joint live project "Heartbeat", where dance and music were very closely intertwined, I refer you here for the details https://en.zaboitzeff.org/en-heartbeat.html
We have been collaborating ever since, and we finally got married in 2020, that's how deep our artistic and human relationship is.
On each project for her dance company, Editta often asks me to work on a different sound and conceptual material, which I love doing and experimenting with. For example, on her INDIA project, I worked on sounds and atmospheres she brought back from her trip to India during the first work sessions on site, then she gave me some elements of dramaturgy, the nostalgic and "TechnoWorld" side of things were invited during the work as the scenes were developed.
The same goes for the "Nebenesonnen" project, everything had to be written around the piano. For Miniaturen, the music was to be live with an Art Zoyd-like band: Zaboitzeff & Crew. On the Luvos project, it was to sound mostly electronic and so on...
Stéphane Vérité (Director) I knew him when I was still in Art Zoyd. Through him, we had been commissioned to create a soundtrack for a special event : the inauguration of Europe's largest venue, the Globe Arena in Stockholm (s) . The audience could see the light show and projections on the globe-shaped building from all around the city and the audience received the sound from the radio in the car.
After that I collaborated with Stéphane on the theatre project "Alice" for which I was on stage live, and then on other quite important events.
With Beda Percht, it was also theatre and events, the last one among the most important goes back to 2011 for a purely pyrotechnical show in front of 100 000 spectators in Linz (A) on the banks of the Danube with the company "Pyrovision": 2011 - Feuerwelt. Eine Science Fiction - LINZER KLANGWOLKE 2011
In general, all these projects are commissions, but with Editta, Stéphane and Beda, as we had more than just esteem for each other, a mutual trust and respect contributed to beautiful collaborations.
How did the development for the creation of your first solo record, "Prométhée" in 1984, take place? What can you tell us about your development as an artist in your own right, and not only as a musician of Art Zoyd ?
In 1984, with Art Zoyd, we were about to record our album "Les Espaces Inquiets" and at the same time, I was contacted by a very young theatre company in Valenciennes (F), the town where I was living at that time. The director Philippe Asselin and the administrator Thierry Dupont proposed me to compose and record the soundtrack of one of their first creation "Prometheus in chains" after Aeschylus. In view of the task to be accomplished, alone at the base and outside the Art Zoyd framework, I gathered everything that could produce an unusual sound in addition to my favourite instruments (cello, bass, a bit of guitar...) and I improvised a studio in the tiny house that I occupied with my then wife.
For this project, I had completely decided to forget the way I used to compose for and with Art Zoyd. I started to experiment a lot with tape and concrete sounds that I reversed and saturated and I also shamelessly used re-recording sometimes to double instruments or to dirty and degrade the sound again and again in order to get the paste I dreamed of. I took great pleasure in spreading out, stretching out, taking my time... This moment of questioning was very important in my work afterwards, including the rest of my Art Zoyd years. It was not an end in itself but a stage, a very fine moment, so particular and unique in my whole process. A few months later, I decided to make an album of it, concentrating all these sounds on two times 19 minutes approximately, because of the vinyl.
What are your memories and the vision you gave to projects such as "Missa Furiosa", "Dr. Zab", "Llibre Vermell" or "Aria Primitiva"?
Missa Furiosa. For a long time in Art Zoyd, I didn't care that we often composed very powerful and solemn things supported by organ chords that over time reminded me of overtures or highlights for the services. Moreover, when I was a child, I used to accompany my maternal grandfather who was an organist, he used to take me with him to the organ loft... I was fascinated and carried away by the powerful sounds of these organ pipes supporting this Catholic Ritual which is the Mass... These images and sounds of childhood are still imprinted in me today.
Much later, around 2001-2002, I was looking for something different on a "Technoid" basis but in the old Art Zoyd way with voice, omnipresent singing, power. I found in my recent archives some themes that I was going to develop in this direction, I think that my first attempt, without knowing that I would write a mass afterwards, was Agnus Dei, I found there all the keys of a project that would be called MISSA FURIOSA. I first improvised some grooves, assembled, dramatized, added some organ overdubs, then very quickly, I improvised some voices but I wasn't very satisfied because I was still using my "Zaboitzeffian-Zoydian" pseudo language until I decided to try with any text and completely by chance, by default, the idea came to me to do a bit of a test with snippets of text in Latin from the Catholic liturgical ritual without worrying about the deep meaning and the representation that it could have. I was trying out different vocal styles and the most interesting one was Lyrical singing which was to become one of the bases of this project. I was going to form a basic group "Zaboitzeff & Crew" for the instrumental part, then I invited some classical singers to participate in this Missa Furiosa.
With this Mass, I didn't suddenly become a Christian, what interested me was the ritual, the pomp, in a way, the manipulation of the spirits in these pompous, grandiloquent rituals.
In all conscience, I was careful not to be blasphemous or overly critical.
At the premiere, in the audience, there was a Monk who I believe bought the CD and that touched me and questioned me.
Dr. Zab. Many years ago, (90's) I spent a lot of time in our studio (Art Zoyd), experimenting with everything that was possible with the samplers and sequencers of the time.
I remember myself as a mad scientist in all sorts of electro manipulations... I was called Dr. Zab at the time out of derision...
It was a bit of an empty moment in Art Zoyd's career and proud of all my experiments, I decided to produce a solo album "Dr. Zab & His Robotic Strings Orcherstra" and then a solo show in which I was staged in the role of a sound manipulator, real or virtual instruments, like a puppet showman. The stage was my caricatured laboratory and I jumped shamelessly from one instrument to another, from one style to another, it was very enjoyable for me...
LIibre Vermell (2004)
For decades I had been dreaming of an electronic and free adaptation of the songs and dances of the pilgrims who went to the monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona at the end of the Middle Ages to venerate a black virgin. These songs, composed by anonymous people, were collected and recorded by the monks in a book with a red velvet cover, which bears the title "Llibre Vermell de Montserrat", the most famous collection of songs of that time.
I found these songs magnificent, gripping, direct and in a month I reconstructed each piece and orchestrated them in a way that was personal to me so that I could perform them as a duo and live. I invited the singer Sandrine Rohrmoser to create this duet with me, which she did brilliantly in less than a week. Unfortunately, for various reasons, we did not play much of this repertoire, which could be described as "In Progress". A lot of time has passed but this project is still in our hearts and we are thinking of reworking it, improving it and finally recording it (2023 ?)
Once again as a group, I had the feeling of rebuilding and reliving in a slightly different way
the "Art Zoyd" concept of the 80s and 90s: a group with an originality, a strong, unique personality. Every time I worked with other musicians, that's what I was always looking for. This was still the case. Aria Primitiva gave me a new lease of life in this direction.
I invite you to read here how this group was formed
We were a commando group of three musicians, perfectly versed in technology and with great instrumental mastery. I was the only composer, but we had planned and arranged some beautiful improvisation slots. I had put a lot of hope in this group, then, faced with management difficulties and the reduced commitment of my colleagues to this project, I decided to dissolve the group for a while, then Covid came along and it was impossible for me to reassemble Aria Primitiva in good conditions, so I decided to move on. I am still very proud of this project and I would like to thank all the people who helped me to realize it (Nadia Ratsimandresy - Cécile Thévenot - Editta Braun - Iva Lirma - Xavier Collin and Monstre Sonore)
About the live musical adaptation of "Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari", how did it feel to recreate, with your qualities as a composer, the gloomy atmosphere given to such a masterpiece of German expressionism? In connection with the previous one, and taking into account the cinematographic personality of your style, is there a film in which you would like to "accompany" live music in the future ?
When I left Art Zoyd in 1997 after three film-concert projects over almost a decade, I said to myself: "No more live music,
I said to myself : "No more film concerts !!!". I had suffered at the end of this period from always being stuck at the foot of a screen throwing loops and replaying over it in a context that had gradually become a space reserved for a certain elite, in this case labelled "German expressionism"... I remember that in certain places where we were invited to perform, certain organizers had absolutely no regard for our performance...
I was impatient to get out of this cultural routine and to initiate other projects in addition to the film-concerts, but unfortunately this was not possible within Art Zoyd at that time. So you know the rest and the consequences...
13 years later, Claus Löser, who was co-directing the ERSTES INTERNATIONALES CALIGARI - FESTIVAL IN BERLIN, invited me to compose an original music and to accompany live THE DOCTOR CALIGARI'S CABINET for the opening of this festival. Secretly, I was rather reluctant but everything was gathered to make it an event: The kindness of the organisers of the Brotfabrik - Berlin - Weissensee - Caligari Platz - Delphi, on the very premises where these films were created in the Berlin of the 1920s. So I was going to take up this challenge in a few months...
I watched the film many, many times before I really understood what was going on, what the main lines were, the character of the characters and above all the role that I could play on stage musically in all this quasi-psychiatric imbroglio.
At the beginning, I prevented myself from any restraint by exaggerating the "fair" side, only to become radically darker and more obscure when I saw fit. From my point of view, I felt like a sound actor who came out of the film and would sometimes like to direct the action or at other times react to the action. Again, it was a solo, solitary experience on stage,
very amazing. I had decided that the music, rigorously written and in place, should have its own life, its own pathways, but that with the film it would engage other lines of interpretation, other emotions and not without humour.
Today, in 2022, I no longer have the idea of working on such a film-concert project but rather on creations of current images... here is an example of this "LUVOS migrations" of which here is a teaser.
According to your vision, how do you see the present of music in relation to the avant-garde, experimentation, innovation and how will this affect music in the future?
You know, I'm not a theorist, I very rarely premeditate my intentions in depth and as a self-taught musician and composer, I enjoy this situation of being in a state of total freedom in the moment. I am not concerned with the avant-garde, I live experimentation every day and I wouldn't presume to say that I am innovative, I feel a bit on the edge of all that and embarrassed to answer your question. I think that more and more currents are going to meet outside of these old ideas of rivalries between the old and the modern, the classics and the contemporaries. For a long time now, Jazz, Rock, and Electro music have come to play the troublions in the musical space and a number of happy hybridizations seem to me to be a good omen. In this era of modernity, I remain relatively wary of all these invasive technologies which are too much in the forefront in my opinion and which sometimes harm or destroy any artistic purpose... I remain open and I move forward!
We can't avoid asking you about Art Zoyd. They have been 26 years in this sound ensemble, a journey that began with "Symphony for the day the cities burn". What unique moments of artistic creation have you had over the years with the group?
There would be a lot to tell and I will only tell the most important events.
The unique moments were our first album "Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités" composed, prepared, rehearsed, experimented collectively, instruments in hand in difficult living conditions at the time for the beginner but hard-working musicians that we were.
This moment of rare intensity was followed by a French tour as the opening act for MAGMA, including a week at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris (1976).
- Production of the album Phase IV, a key moment in the artistic process of the group Art Zoyd which will be filmed for television by Daniel Poteau. Numerous tours in Europe and Eastern Europe will follow... (1982)
The creation of " Mariage du ciel et de l'enfer " by Roland Petit then tour with LE BALLET NATIONAL DE MARSEILLE ROLAND PETIT (Scala de Milano - Théâtre des Champs Elysées - Opéra de Marseille et Bordeaux. (1984-85)
The album "Berlin" then tours throughout Europe with this repertoire. (1986-87)
The creation of the film-concert Nosferatu (1988-89)
The meeting with the Austrian dance company "Vorgänge Bewegungs Theater", a decisive encounter (1986)
Marathonnerre, this completely crazy project of theatre-performance imagined by the French director Serge Noyelle with his company and Art Zoyd live on stage during twelve hours from noon to midnight on a frenzied and incessant rhythm crowned by a standing ovation of 25 minutes... fantastic memory !
And finally, the final question we ask all our interviewees, A record you would like to recommend from your recent listening ?
Because of my recent and multiple activities, I didn't have enough time to really listen to something new in depth, so I wouldn't want to give you the wrong hints... But I would gladly mention an artist very far from my work in general that I have been listening to and loving for 40 years already without ever being bored: Jon Hassel, who has passed away today, especially two albums: "Fourth World, Vol 1" and "Flash of the Spirit".
Thierry Zaboitzeff - 50 years of music
Interview Laurence Rémila 09/2022
THE CULT OBJECT - THIERRY ZABOITZEFF
THIERRY ZABOITZEFF, THE AGITATOR
"BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS! "
He is one of the pillars of Art Zoyd, the mythical French free-rock band. To celebrate his half-century of musical agitation,
Thierry Zaboitzeff publishes a majestic 3-CD compilation. Career interview.
You're looking back on your career with this box set 50 years of music(s). How did you become one of the members
of the legendary Art Zoyd?
Thierry Zaboitzeff : Art Zoyd was created in 1969. I joined the group with my ex-colleague Gérard Hourbette (violin), now deceased,
in 1971. It was at the invitation of the founder Rocco Fernandez (guitar and vocals). Then the group was re-founded, with a search for a new style and language, and we released the album Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités (AZ Production) in 1976.
Well, that goes back a long way! I was listening to a lot of old stuff, and then all of a sudden, as we lived not far from the Belgian border, I discovered it on Flemish television.
I saw a Frank Zappa concert on Flemish television. And I said to myself that this is what I wanted to do. There were musicians lying on a bed,
skits, a farting session, burping... Laughs).
What was the music industry like when you started?
It was free. There were no career plans, much less marketing... And we were a bunch of crazy people, sometimes very unaware.
And how were your first concerts with Art Zoyd?
When we opened for Magma, it put us in contact with an audience we didn't know. They came for Magma
and we were a kind of anti-Magma because we were a band without drums, whereas with Magma, the star is the drummer (Christian Vander),
but it was going very well.
You, it was: trumpet, violin and bass.
Yes, it was a skeleton band, but everything was electrified. With my bass, I took up all the space of a drummer. I was doing all the rhythms
I was doing all the rhythms, I was using the bows on the violin. There was a rhythmic game inspired by Stravinsky, Bartok, Eastern composers...
With a desire not to be too soaring despite the absence of drums?
Yes, we were coming out of the babacool movement. We were a new generation, we wanted something else.
You stayed with Art Zoyd for about thirty years.
26 years! We always had a desire for originality, and we continued in the same way as in the early days until the Phase IV album (1982), which was the high point of this way of doing things.
that was the high point of this way of working. We were then contacted by the choreographer Roland Petit, who asked us to write the music for his next ballet, as he had planned.
his next ballet, as he had done with the music of Pink Floyd in 1972, That's when we started to have keyboards in the group,
then samplers, and then we put on movie concerts with Nosferatu and Faust that we played all over the world.
You left the band in 1997.
It was the end of a cycle: we had disagreements, my colleague was moving towards contemporary music with more machines,
and I wanted the opposite. Since then, I've been doing my own thing.
These days you're releasing a compilation of your fifty years of musical activism. Why did you avoid a chronological tracklisting?
It was painful! I started out wanting to bring out little concepts on each of the three records. But it didn't fit together very well, it was
But it didn't fit together very well, it just fell apart. So I started with something from the 2020s, followed by something from 1976 and so on.
musically... So it jumps from one thing to another, but that was the wish.
And what do you think of the music industry in 2022?
I'd like to see the partitions broken down, to mix people who do techno, rock, jazz... Right now, you hear auto-tuned stuff on the one hand, classical
There, we hear auto-tuned stuff on one side, classical and contemporary music on the other; jazz people who don't want to leave it. So: a bit more musical mix!
50 years of music(s): 3-CD compilation on
Monstre Sonore/WTPL Music label
Interview Laurence Rémila
photo credits on this page : Editta Braun - Hannes Klein