From 1971 until ...
On the occasion of this year's anniversary of my 50 years with music, I will write for you about my musical experiences, encounters, anecdotes...
I have always thought that if you want to go far, from time to time you have to look back in order to know where you came from. Happy new year to all and see you soon on this page.
T. Zaboitzeff le 08/01/2022
On the occasion of my 50 years of music and at the request of people close to me and those further away, of the public, of the fans who have accompanied my, our journey, I will try to tell you my story with simplicity...
The following words are my own and my memory.
I will try to be as accurate as possible, but if any information or details are inaccurate, please let me know via this link
Below are a few photos of the period, I am waiting for some older ones. This page will be updated regularly.
Maubeuge and Valenciennes (F), it's in these two towns in the North of France that it all started, Gérard Hourbette was at the conservatory studying violin and percussion and I was on an apprenticeship contract in a printing shop. In my spare time, I desperately strummed the guitar on my own and also sometimes in more collective circumstances but not very interesting at the time. I used to go for lunch nearby in a young workers' hostel that Gérard also frequented from time to time. I remember, some time before, having put up a poster saying that I was looking to meet a percussionist or in general other musicians... Our meeting was therefore quite natural, first over a cup of coffee and then with an instrument in hand in the minutes that followed...
That was the trigger, the sudden desire to do something together, we were not very fixed at the age of 16-17, but we had common desires and passions.
Gérard listened more to classical and contemporary composers (Bartok - Xenakis - Ligeti ...) and I listened to experimental and progressive rock, which was not yet called so at the time
(the very first Pink Floyd - Soft Machine - The Mothers of Invention - King Crimson - Amon Düül II...)
Very quickly we launched into crazy electro-acoustic improvisations: Electrified violin / Twelve-string guitar, all passed through the mill of tape echo chambers and spring reverb. Nothing could stop us anymore, so we had to organize our first concerts (hall rental, ticketing, flyer and poster printing) and get people to come and see our thunderous improvisations... We had organized two concerts in Maubeuge, one at the Salle Sthrau, the second at the young workers' hostel where Gérard and I had met the very first time (Foyer Sangha).
In the weeks that followed our first concert, a friend and bass player (Guy Judas) joined our crazy adventure and did the improvisation! This time with a bass : Class !
On an idea of Gerard, our group was baptized Rêve 1 and the title of our future concerts would be: "Voyage towards Kadath", title and name of the group inspired by a novel of
In the summer we decided to take a break and to travel to the south of France to stay with friends I had met on an epic trip to Corsica where I lived and slept on the beach. I broke my contract with the printing company and decided on another destiny far from normality, I knew nothing of life, of the difficulties we would encounter later on but youth and curiosity were our strength. For this short stay in the south, we had taken our instruments with us, which helped us a little financially because we played here and there on the terraces and other busy places. Very quickly, we got tired of this hippy life and decided to return to the north and to consider our future in music more seriously and as soon as we returned, we resumed our thunderous improvisations, still in trio...
I don't remember exactly why Gérard had to go to a music shop in Valenciennes (to repair a violin microphone or something else?) As soon as he entered the shop, with his violin under his arm, the conversation started quite quickly with Rocco Fernandez and other Art Zoyd musicians present that day. Exchanges were going on and intentions of collaboration were slowly emerging, so much so that Gérard returned the same evening to Maubeuge in the company of Rocco and another member of the band (Serge Armelin?) in their superb van (Ford Transit) put at their disposal by their record company at the time: "Opaline Records - Chant du Monde" following the recording of their first single : "Sangria / Something in Love". We were quite impressed at the time... Then naturally, after the usual introductions and some buttered toast soaked in coffee (our only dish of the day), we all gathered in Gérard's parents' cellar, where we were rehearsing, for a "Boeuf" like we had never experienced before. In my distant memory, there were not enough instruments to really play together, we exchanged, we tested each other and the current passed very well... Rocco Fernandez (a look-alike of Franck Zappa), Serge Armelin (?), Guy Judas, Gérard Hourbette and myself were present that evening. A few days after this magical evening, we met again (Rêve 1 : Gérard Hourbette on violin - Guy Judas on bass - Thierry Zaboitzeff on 12-string guitar) in Valenciennes to join the Art Zoyd group at the invitation of Rocco Fernandez. We thus became true " ZOYDIANS ".
The group will then become Art Zoyd III.
TO BE FOLLOWED...
<< In this photo from left to right: Jean-Paul Dulion: Bass | Jean-François Cantagalli: Guitar | Rocco Fernandez: Guitar | Claude Ascensio: Drums.
In 1969, Rocco Fernandez founded Experimental Music which became Art Zöyd when they recorded their single in 1971. The group then took the name Art Zoyd III when Gérard Hourbette and Thierry Zaboitzeff joined in 1971-72. In 1975, after the departure of Rocco Fernandez, the group became Art Zoyd and only the association supporting the group's projects kept the name Art Zoyd III.
There have been many fanciful spellings of the name Art Zoyd, but here is what can be retained in spite of the various errors noted over the years.
The rehearsals were going well and we were all pumped up.
Rocco was the exclusive composer of the band until 1975. He composed with the musicians, instruments in hand, we all tried, sometimes exchanged our parts, adapted, and started again until it was in phase with what he had imagined. I remember our rhythmic difficulties as young beginners (Gérard and I...)
We were rehearsing at that time on rue de l'Intendance in Valenciennes, opposite the Maison des Jeunes, in an old building made available to many very active rock groups in the Valenciennes area. Walking through the corridors, we could hear the accents, chords and other feedback of the musicians in action.
We spent all our time in these vaulted cellars that we had whitewashed and sanitized, trying to find a musical path together. Often some of us ate and slept there and the daily material life became more and more difficult. The first one to get discouraged was Guy Judas, bass player of Rêve 1, who had moved with us to Art Zoyd. For him, music was not compatible with the constraints we were under, the compromises we accepted, such as taking out a loan to buy our instruments, playing at dances, getting into the system... He preferred to go back to the road, the road...
The question of replacing the bass player suddenly arose: in my memory, it was quickly resolved. Addressing the other musicians, Rocco announced: "Thierry will play the bass! I was very proud and terrified at the same time...
I was determined to take up this challenge by switching from the twelve-string to the bass, and I became aware of my future rhythmic role in the band with the drummer. Apart from Gérard Hourbette and Serge Armelin who were readers, we were all self-taught and had to redouble our efforts to memorise all the musical parts we had experimented with during the day, so as to be able to reproduce them the next day. This exercise, repeated over many months, had the advantage of being able to play each piece without notes or sheet music.
Before our arrival in the group, Art Zoyd had just recorded a single with Opaline Records (Le Chant du Monde), following a victory at the Tremplin du Golf Drouot, and this assured him a certain notoriety and facilities (supply of posters, a mini-bus...). For the concerts it was quite different. Coming from a ballroom musician background, Rocco had good connections with a touring agency based in Valenciennes and covering all the regions north of Paris. This agency placed us quite often. The problem was that we had to play at balls, which meant playing at a ball that lasted five hours (which I personally never did because in that case there was an occasional bass player who was more experienced in this specific duty) or being programmed as an "attraction" in the middle of the ball for an hour and thus having the possibility of really playing our repertoire, which was very often unsuited to the situation. At that time, there were two kinds of audiences at balls: those who wanted to go dancing and others for whom, in the provinces, it was the only place to hear rock music in all its forms. We had some funny scenes during our performances between the pros and cons and it sometimes turned into a fight in the audience.
We were obviously looking for other networks or tried to initiate some as well.
We used to go to the Maison des Jeunes de Valenciennes (Youth Centre), which was located just opposite our rehearsal space. At the same time, we learned that other cultural establishments (MJC: Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture) all over France were beginning to open their programming to free music and rock groups... That would be our rescue!
As early as 1973, the Maison des Jeunes de Valenciennes programmed our first concert outside the ball circuits in the region; other independent concerts followed fairly quickly in larger, more central venues. We were then going to take our management in hand and integrate ourselves into the MJC network initiated by our "cousins" Gong, Magma, Ange...
But let's go back a bit.
In order to be heard and listened to during our concerts, we had to seriously equip ourselves (sound system, amplifiers, instruments, microphones, mixing desk...). The solution was a loan, but given our insolvency with the banks, we quickly fell back on more family-based solutions. Gérard's parents (lovely people) offered to support us in this financing in exchange for the repayment of the monthly instalments. During our concerts, each sum earned was divided between the repayment of this debt, road and fuel costs, payment of posters, photocopies of press etc. We didn't give up and continued our prospection in all directions in order to find concerts everywhere, first in our region, then one thing leading to another, further and further away, throughout France. We didn't shy away from anything : concerts in university campuses, MJC, night-clubs, campsites, high schools, animations of public places, all negotiated by phone... An intense experience directed at that time by Rocco and shared by all of us, members of Art Zoyd, in this bubbling 70's.
A little later, during 1973-1974, new musicians will join the band, others will leave, our network will grow like our music and our artistic desires will sharpen during these difficult but hopeful years.
See you soon for the rest...
Thierry Zaboitzeff, 4/02/2022
As I explained in the previous episode, our decisions of autonomous management combined with the offers of the booking agency of Valenciennes began to bear fruit. Moreover, a fan who had become a friend and collaborator, freshly arrived from the Grand Ouest, came to help us in this task and we started to travel all over France (MJC, municipal theatres, balls, support galas...). From Valenciennes to Metz, passing through Reims, then Dijon, Lille, Dunkerque, Amiens, Rouen, Le Havre, Paris, Versailles... Then Bretagne, etc.
Through the booking agency, we occasionally crossed paths with Martin Circus, Dynasty Crisis, Zoo, Triangle... I vaguely remember a performance at a ball somewhere around Le Havre. We were playing in the middle of the evening for an hour and Triangle had to follow; I can still see the members of Triangle behind the curtain during our set, completely stunned by what we dared to produce in this kind of place. I think I remember that we weren't very good, even bad, tired and dressed up as it was not possible... long multicoloured tunics and gigantic pseudo-African masks, in an almost improvised sound chaos between Hendrix, Zappa, Sun Ra, Amon Düül... Just imagine this scene in a ball !
We were often on the road in our old VW Combi with our "Freevox" amplified speakers and my nicely padded red "Kustom" amp as seats, and drum toms and other misplaced guitar handles as headrests. The trips were organised according to our budget: no hotels, no restaurants... We took food and drinks with us, as well as a very basic camping equipment and a few sleeping bags just in case... On the "days off" between two dates, some slept in a tent , at the forest edge, out of sight (wood fires, coffee, bread...) often woken up by the police: identity check very early in the morning. And others in the bus, when we heard unusual noises around our camp still a little lit by the embers. Some policemen had just arrived and inspected our set-up with great interest: indeed, for the scenic needs of our concerts, we were carrying a female model wrapped in a blanket on the roof of our bus and obviously, these gendarmes had a lot of humour and started joking with us about this young lady on the roof of our van. I think I remember that after a cursory check we had coffee together around our campfire.
In some MJC-type venues, we were often paid a percentage of the tickets sold, with a small fixed fee that barely covered our expenses, and as there was no question of paying for hotel rooms in addition, we often negotiated to sleep on the floor behind the stage after the concert. An album project still seemed far away at the time and our musicality and means left much to be desired. But we kept the faith, our course.
Despite our high spirits, one day we had to face the facts: we were finding it increasingly difficult to pay our debts and to make a decent living. So we took the bull by the horns and started looking for a house in which we could live together, in community, and rehearse. Rocco had previously played with a bass player whose uncle was a florist and who had a piece of land with abandoned greenhouses and a house in the middle of all that abandoned nature. We were able to move in quite quickly, after some basic work and a lot of cleaning. Everyone could find a minimum of privacy and comfort and together we saved on food, rent, etc.
It should be noted that a few weeks before, those (including myself) who did not have a room or a flat sometimes slept in the bus parked discreetly on a square in Valenciennes. The cold was so intense that we set up a tent inside (VW Combi and then a Peugeot D4B bought for almost nothing from a Valenciennes laundry). We just had to push the car to start.
There were about ten of us (musicians, women, children). When we came back from the concerts, we paid the expenses, the petrol, the monthly payments of the loan we had taken out for our equipment (when we could). The rent of this new house was also taken care of and at the end of the day, most of the time, we only had three or four francs per day per person, hence the advantage of the community, even if this was not always well experienced by some.
But I am not being miserly, I am very happy and proud to have lived through this period in this way. What a school!
In those difficult times, this community house seemed to me a haven of peace and freedom, we finally had a little place of our own. It was also in this house that Rocco built his famous three-necked guitar (electric, of course: 6 strings, 12 strings + a small neck: simulating 6 frets). Bare and braided electric wires, like guitar strings, stretched over this small neck, came into contact with soldered points on a copper plate when the fret was pressed, just like on a guitar. This contact triggered the note, the sound of a penophone (monophonic synth) attached to the back of the guitar. It was an unbelievable piece of tinkering with a sometimes improbable operation, but it was brilliant at the time.
These two years were full and intense, with concerts all over France and great experiences. The band went through many personnel changes. The base had become solid (Gérard Hourbette - Rocco Fernandez - Thierry Zaboitzeff). Serge Armelin (tenor saxophone), who had taken a break, returned to Art Zoyd; Christian Paul Dubois de la Saussaye left us, Michel Prugnaud replaced him on drums; and finally Joël Caron (alto saxophone) joined us. The colour became more jazz. The new drummer and the wind players had a lot to do with it.
We were constantly looking for the little detail that would make the concerts more attractive and with this in mind, we had a little visual moment during our sets: a sort of diabolical pas de deux between a masked, disguised character and an inanimate mannequin in a shop window... I don't have any extraordinary memories of this, but the experience was pleasant and very intriguing for the audience. The role was always played alternately by "roadies" or companions, friends or drivers who followed one another during these two years.
See you soon for the next episode!
Thierry Zaboitzeff, 10/02/2022
Concert dates - as many as possible, at any price, everywhere it was possible, this was our motivation during three years (1973 - 1974 - 1975) and longer.
To give you an idea: we performed all over France, between 1973 and 1976, in Abbeville, Agen, Albi, Amiens, Armentières, Arras, Avesnes-sur-Helpe, Avignon, Alençon, Angers, Bagas, Bar-le-Duc, Beauvais, Berck-sur-Mer, Besançon, Beuvry-la-Forêt, Blois, Bordeaux, Bouchain, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Boussois, Brest, Béthune, Bourg en Bresse, Caen, Calais, Cambrai, Cannes, Carcassonne, Carpentras, Carmaux, Castres, Caudry, Chalon-sur-Saône, Charleville-Mézières, Chartres, Chaumont, Cherbourg, Châlons-en-Champagne, Chauny, Châteauroux, Châtellerault, Cholet, Denain, Dieppe, Dijon, Dôle, Douai, Dunkerque, Épernay, Épinal, Étaples, Fontevraud-L’abbaye, Forbach, Fougère, Fourmies, Fréjus, Gaillac, Gap, Gray, Grande-Synthe, Guingamp, Grenoble, Hazebrouck, Guise, Hénin-Beaumont, Hérouville-Saint-Clair, Hirson, Joué-lès-Tours, La Ciotat, La Courneuve, La Roche-sur-Yon, Langres, Laon, Laval, Lavaur, Le Havre, Le Mans, Lens, Le Portel, Lille, Limoges, Liévin, Le Touquet, Loos-en-Gohelle, Lorient, Lunéville, Lyon, Malo-lès-Bains, Marcq-en-Barœul, Maubeuge, Merlimont, Metz, Millau, Mons-en-Barœul, Mont-de-Marsan, Montauban, Montbéliard, Montbard, Montigny-lès-Metz, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Morlaix, Muret, Mâcon, Nancy, Nantes, Nœux-les-Mines, Nevers, Nice, Niort, Orléans, Oyonnax, Paris, Poitiers, Périgueux, Quimper, Reims, Rennes, Rodez, Roubaix, Rouen, Saint-Brieuc, Saint-Chamond, Saint-Dizier, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, Saint-Leu, Saint-Malo, Saint-Nazaire, Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, Saint-Priest, Saint-Quentin, Saint-Raphaël, Sarreguemines, Saumur, Sedan, Six-Fours-les-Plages, Soissons, Somain, Solesmes, Strasbourg, Tergnier, Thionville, Toul, Toulouse, Tourcoing, Tours, Trith-Saint-Léger, Valenciennes, Vallauris, Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy, Vannes, Versailles, Vesoul, Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Viry-Châtillon, Vitry-le François, Wattrelos, Wignehies…
We have been to some of these cities several times. I'm sure I'm forgetting some and I'll come back and correct them.
I can't certify that all these dates took place, but the vast majority did! Everything was negotiated by telephone, often in a phone cabin. We had plastic bags full of yellow coins, we squatted on the premises in order to conclude our deals as well as possible, then by simple letter we confirmed by sending contracts, posters, photos... We did not have a telephone at our house, but our landlord did, so sometimes he would tell us that someone had called to confirm this or that concert. Our house was situated below his, about fifty metres away, and it was not unusual to hear him shout: "Telephone!!!", after which we would go up to his shop to conclude a negotiation from his office.
A lot of time on the road, in our exhausted van with slick tyres. We used very secondary routes as much as possible (very few motorways or national roads) in order to avoid road checks, which sometimes made the journeys much longer. This is how, in 1972, we went to the Bordeaux region (Bagas) to participate in a festival where we finally did not play because the organisation could no longer pay us due to a global deficit... We tried to negotiate, without success. OK! Before leaving, we attended two wonderful concerts (Gong and Magma).
On another road trip, this time with good tyres, we were on the Paris ring road heading north. Suddenly, the bus began to cough, graze and then stop on the emergency lane. Rocco, who understood what was happening because he was driving, shouted at me: "Thierry, quick! Thierry, hurry up!!! Take off the lowest string of your bass guitar, the throttle cable has just broken!!! A bit dazed and surprised, as I had fallen asleep in the back seat, I finally did it and, in a few minutes, our musician-in-chief Rocco, a handyman in all circumstances, installed this new cable ("Rotosound", for the experts). We were thus able to escape the hell of the ring road and returned to Valenciennes.
In fact, I now realise that every bus journey could become an extraordinary adventure and lead us to experience things that were far removed from the purely musical context. By the way, with all these concerts, our repertoire had improved a lot and became more and more original. We were slowly starting to move away from the idioms of rock music, even if the instrumentarium was still close. The sound was getting sharper, more aggressive, the tempi were getting faster, the time seemed to have come for us to break away from the labels we were often rightly stuck with (King Crimson, Zappa, Captain Beefheart and other progressive rock bands).
It was at this point that we started experimenting with rhythmic and cinematic breaks, the beginnings of the songs that would later become, in a completely different form, « Les fourmis » and « Scènes de Carnaval ».
Then concerts, more concerts. Like this festival in Lorient where we shared the bill with Barricade II, which had become a kind of Big Band, completely crazy and joyful. Their sound check was a monstrous howl of brass instruments lasting no more than 20 seconds. We were seduced and got in touch, so that after the concerts, we found ourselves in a forest near Lorient, in the middle of a completely surreal scene, surrounded by our respective vans, a campfire in between and a large camping table covered with a white tablecloth to break out the champagne at around five in the morning. To force the image, try to imagine these fifteen or so people, some dressed in black, others in pink rain coats, yellow shoes and dark glasses... Unfortunately, we didn't have a camera to immortalise this scene, which is somewhere between the end of a story from Asterix and Obelix and the outdoor meal in Werner Herzog's film "Nosferatu" (minus the rats).
In 1974, we were invited to a series of concerts in Avignon, during the OFF festival. A local musician, whose name I forget, invited groups to perform every evening during the festival. The concerts were held outdoors in the courtyard of a house that also housed us for the time we were there. In my memory, the setting was quite nice. The stage was set up at the foot of this tree-lined house and every evening the courtyard was filled with an audience unaccustomed to experimental rock concerts... (We repeated this operation a year later, after Rocco Fernandez left, but with Frank Cardon on the violin). To attract the public, we paraded, pulled, dressed up, every late morning in the centre of Avignon, in order to arouse the curiosity of possible visitors. After which we went to the end of the market to collect fruits and vegetables too fresh to be sold, which ensured us, among other things, excellent ratatouilles and fruit compotes... To go to Avignon, there was no alternative, it was with our old D4B Peugeot, still him! It was tired, poor thing... As soon as we entered Burgundy, the gearbox gave up the ghost, fortunately in the countryside, near a garage next to a car cemetery. The garage offered to replace the gearbox, which it had purchased nearby, and, if we wished, to camp in its grounds bordered by a pretty river, while the repairs were being carried out.
Staff changes were also accelerating: Serge Armelin (sax) left, then Joël Caron (sax), then Michel Prugnaud (drums), the latter being replaced by Jean-Jacques Reghem (Mickey). In January 1975, Jean Pierre Soarez (trumpet) joined us following a rumour that Gérard Hourbette was going to leave the band and that we were looking for an instrumentalist to replace him. Personally, I never heard of this rumour and Jean-Pierre was welcome anyway. This violin/trumpet colour, so characteristic of a bygone Art Zoyd, was thus born. A guitarist, Bernard Boyssens, joined the band and left in 1975.
All our efforts started to bear fruit, more and more curious spectators attended our concerts. We even played at José Arthur's Pop Club (France Inter), who was worried about the fish in his aquarium after our live performance. Then, following a concert as the opening act for Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes in Lille (Faches-Thumesnil: La Rotonde), Rocco Fernandez, tired and bored, announced his desire to leave the band! He was determined, wishing to move on to something else and not necessarily in music.
After a few days of reflection, Gérard Hourbette and I decided, with Rocco's approval, to continue with our artistic signature the work done until then. A new Art Zoyd was born in 1975, composed of Gérard Hourbette (violin, keyboard), Jean-Pierre Soarez (trumpet), Jean-Jacques Reghem (drums), Thierry Zaboitzeff (bass, voice). The (then) guitarist Frank Cardon will also join us. This Art Zoyd prefigured the 1976 formation.
See you soon, for the next episode, where everything will accelerate in a radically different form.
Thierry Zaboitzeff on 20/02/2022
Until 1975, Rocco Fernandez was the band's composer. Gérard and I had a few ideas, but it was not yet the right time, especially for me... Rocco composed instruments in hand during our rehearsals and in this context, each one could bounce back with his know-how and personality. We kept this way of doing things for some time after his departure, and our 1976 repertoire and album Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités were born partly in this spirit, with the difference that Gérard began to present us with his sketches, which quickly became: "Brigades Spéciales - Masques - Simulacres", compositions that were also edited collectively. We also adapted Rocco's compositions, which became "Scènes de carnaval" and "Les fourmis", in more concentrated, condensed versions. They will be re-orchestrated without drums a few months later. As I wrote in the previous episode, Franck Cardon (guitar, cello, violin) had just joined us. We will do many more concerts in this formation, until the departure of Jean-Jacques Reghem who was our last drummer.
We wanted to take the opportunity to approach composition from a different angle, as we were often very irritated by having constantly to move musically between the regular and systematic pulsations of the drums and percussion. From this reflection and desire, an Art Zoyd without drums was born. Consequently, according to our aesthetics at the time, we could assign very different roles to our instrumentarium (two violins, a trumpet and an electric bass): sometimes one was percussion, the other harmonic, and we thus changed roles according to our desire for arrangements in our compositions. Our sounds thus gradually left the traditional framework of a "jazz-rock" band, evoking more theatrical and cinematographic atmospheres and flirting with the colours of 20th century classical music. This unusual approach led us to unexpected encounters. Indeed, Cyril Robichez (director, actor and director of the Théâtre Populaire des Flandres) invited us to compose and record the music for one of his productions: Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot, which was performed in Lille at the Palais Rihour in October 1976. Gérard Hourbette composed the music, which was performed by Art Zoyd. Everything began to move feverishly. At the same time, through Philippe Asselin who was then employed by the TPF, we met Jean René Pouilly (Variétés Contemporaines) who initiated a project of touring under a big top throughout the Nord-Pas-de-Calais: "Le TPF Circus", piloted by the Théâtre Populaire des Flandres. The big top was set up for a whole week in a town with a programme including : The National Orchestra of Lille, Le Cirque Imaginaire by Jean-Baptiste Thierrée and Victoria Chaplin, a jazz concert, Art Zoyd. Afterwards, Jean René Pouilly will be our agent. In collaboration with Michel Besset and Georges Leton (Magma's manager), he finalised our participation in the concerts at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, and later organised one of our last concerts with Magma at the Hippodrome in Douai on 16 November 1976.
But let's go back a few months earlier, during the winter of 1975... We received a visit from Michel Besset and his wife Rosine who, on the advice of Erik Fabre-Maigné, a great admirer of Art Zoyd from Toulouse, came to our community house from their native South-West. I was alone with my dogs that day, the house was not heated, the other musicians having returned to their families. Michel and Rosine were on their way to London to visit members of the Henry Cow band whose concert they had organised the previous autumn. I suggested they meet Gérard who lived 40 kilometres away (Maubeuge). He was married and no longer lived in our house in Valenciennes. We spent a little time at his house, then we set off again, but we had to deal with the freezing rain so typical of the North of France in winter. We had to stop on the outskirts of Maubeuge to take refuge in a bar for most of the morning, and we took advantage of the opportunity to taste the Christmas beers…
Since 1972, I think, Michel Besset was already organising concerts in his region of Carmaux, Albi... (Léo Ferré, Magma, Gong...), first in partnership with Michel Grèzes "Tartempion", then with his own association "Transparence" which invited us to play in June 1975 in Carmaux. He also put us in contact with other organisers in the South-West: Castres, Albi, Montauban, Gaillac, Muret... Michel also managed some concerts in Spain, he accompanied us there and lived live with us these galley tours with a sick child, theft of suitcases, break-in of the bus, and other complicated moments due to Gérard's dialysis which was suffering from kidney failure. For these concerts our line-up was increased by the presence of Michel Berckmans, the bassoonist of Univers Zéro whom we had just met. Michel Besset will also put all his energy into our opening act for Magma at the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, where Art Zoyd had a huge success in front of 2,500 people.
Very quickly, we became friends with Michel Besset and this complicity led him to become the producer of our first opus Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités, then of our tours. For the recording of this album, he created the Art Zoyd III association and borrowed 10,000 francs from the Houillères to carry out our project. This record will be recorded from August 30th to September 9th 1976, at the Tangara Studio in Toulouse by François Artige and Jean Pierre Grasset, in a particular technical and economical situation. No re-recording or individual takes, the pieces were divided into the shortest possible logical sequences and we recorded them all together. If we made a mistake or misinterpreted something, we started again until we had a perfect take. Everything was put together, glued together in the end. A lot of stress combined with a mix of cigarettes, coffees, beers... Cigarettes, coffees, beers... Cigarettes, coffees, beers... cigarettes, coffees, beers... screams… crazy laughter...
About twenty dates followed in support of Magma, including eleven concerts at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris (from October 23 to November 2, 1976) where the public rushed to buy our freshly made album during the interval. On the best nights, we sold 40 copies of this now cult vinyl. But before this tour and the recording of the album, Franck Cardon will leave the band and will be replaced by Alain Eckert on the guitar and who, very quickly, will also start playing the violin.
As you will have understood, the meeting with Michel Besset was very important and decisive for Art Zoyd and also his career. Michel will say about us : " Art Zoyd built me up on a musical and human level, on the life on tour, on the collective. The one in which you have to give everything and share everything. It is the group that I liked the most and that taught me the most „.
Note: Art Zoyd from 1975 to 1976 after the departure of Rocco Fernandez:
- Gérard Hourbette : violin, viola
- Franck Cardon : guitar, cello, violin
- Jean Jacques Reghem : drums (he will leave the band in 1975)
- Jean Pierre Soarez : trumpet
- Thierry Zaboitzeff: bass, voice
- Alain Eckert: guitar (he joined the band shortly before the recording of the album Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités and the tour with Magma.
But there will still be a few twists and turns very soon!
See you soon for the rest...
Thierry Zaboitzeff 07/03/2022
After the concerts with Magma and our various tours in the South-West, the rhythm slowed down and the concerts were less frequent. Alain Eckert, the guitarist of "Symphonie..." left the group for the first time and Franck Cardon (violin) returned to the group.
We had some very interesting encounters, especially during an after-concert-gathering. At the organisers', I discovered one of the rare copies of Univers Zero's 1313 album. It was a shock, a magnificent surprise that this "Chamber Rock" band, exists so close to us and at the same time so far away. I was, we were thrilled and intrigued. Moreover, to learn that we were neighbours (we from Maubeuge, a town on the Belgian border, and they from Nivelles in Belgium, a few kilometres from France) added to the pleasure of such a discovery. A few weeks later, I met Daniel Denis at a Henry Cow concert in Hénin-Beaumont. Then a little later, Univers Zero visited us in Valenciennes and that was our first real contact. We talked about our working methods and influences. This naturally led to a friendship and mutual respect. The bassoonist of Univers Zero, Michel Berckmans, played a number of dates with us, because following a serious car accident that damaged his lips, Jean-Pierre Soarez could no longer play all his magnificent and intense trumpet parts. And it was only natural that Michel Berckmans joined the Art Zoyd adventure for a while on bassoon and English horn, at our invitation. We reworked the orchestrations accordingly, and Michel Thomas (saxophones) also joined the group. At the same time, Daniel Denis and Roger Trigaux asked me to replace their bass player, who was leaving: I accepted this proposal with great pleasure, on the sole condition that I remain completely available for Art Zoyd. So I did only three dates with Univers Zero in 1978: Nancy, Nottingham, and London for the first RIO, before Guy Segers took over. During these three concerts, we had already shared the repertoire, essentially centred on the 1313 album.
Back from Dr. Petiot, Carabosse et Compagnie, a big project was waiting for us: Musique pour l’Odyssée. In the wake of Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités, we had already put down and experimented with a few ideas, and now it was time to move on to the big job, so to speak! On this occasion and for the first time, I signed the composition Bruit silence, bruit repos. Quite a programme! A piece composed with the help of scribbles, diagrams, sketches, rhythms, melodies repeated and firmly fixed in my memory, in order to transmit orally, but with precision, this music to my fellow musicians who, at the time, had to redouble their efforts to understand what I was asking them. I am still very grateful to them today.
We were suddenly going to migrate to less choppy, less sequenced music with longer tones, and I already sensed that my bass pizzicati weren't going to do the trick. So I decided innocently and wildly to take up the cello. And to tell the truth, after a few weeks, I began to doubt the feasibility of something that I was completely self-taught. I can remember hours of elbowing my way across a table, practicing my bow with my wrist only, trying to get the most elegant and rhythmically free sounds out. Sometimes it was enough to make you cry. But willpower and perseverance eventually paid off and after a few months, with the encouragement and precious help of Gérard and Franck, I was able to play the cello, not only in my own compositions but also in the orchestrations Gérard proposed for his piece Musique pour l’Odyssée. A whole new world of sounds opened up to me. Our album Musique pour l'Odyssée was prepared and played live in 1977-1978 and was finally recorded for Atem Records in January 1979. Daniel Denis (Univers Zero) played some discreet percussion on it. We had just met Gérard N'Guyen, who had created the magazine Atem devoted to 'new' music. Atem also became a label with which we produced three albums: Musique pour l'Odyssée, Génération sans futur, and the re-recording of Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités.
Following Univers Zero, we became part of the "Rock in Opposition" movement initiated by Chris Cutler and the members of the Henry Cow band. We played until 1979-1980 in some festivals labelled RIO : Milan, Stockholm, Reims, Maubeuge, Ljubljana... To be continued in the next episode.
Art Zoyd and Univers Zero sometimes got together on stage, what we called reunion concerts, a kind of Big Band of the apocalypse (hi hi !). For the occasion, we re-orchestrated our masterpieces of the time (UZ and AZ) and played them in an expanded formula. These events were rare and difficult to organise for financial and availability reasons. Michel Besset organised a few in the South-West, including one in Toulouse on 12 May 1978 at the Théâtre du Taur. We were also programmed, for one of the last times in this formula, in October 1980 at the Nancy Jazz Pulsations festival. I think I remember that the hardcore jazzmen had an unpleasant time.
The next episode will evoke the years 1979-1980. To be continued.
Thierry Zaboitzeff - 29/03/2022
A lot of comings and goings during these years, to get lost in it !
1979 will see the arrival of a young lady to Art Zoyd, in the person of Patricia Dallio, formidable pianist, companion and colleague in music of Alain Eckert, our guitarist at the time. Patricia was fourteen years old when she saw us for the very first time in Chaumont, her home town (during the Art Zoyd-Rocco Fernandez period) and it was only a few years later that she saw us again at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. Then, on her return from a stay in Great Britain where she had accompanied Alain Eckert who was working on a project with Pip Pyle, Phil Milller and John Greaves, if I remember correctly, Patricia and Alain came to visit us somewhere in the North of France where we were giving a concert. During an evening at Gérard's house, Patricia played Ravel's Sonatina for him. And from sympathy to affinity, we quickly began to build our new repertoire around the compositions that would make up our next album, "Génération sans futur", then to rearrange the old "Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités", which we re-recorded in 1980 and which was released in 1981 for Atem Records with this new line-up. Indeed, the original master had been lost and moreover, we were dissatisfied with the very dry and almost monophonic sound of the very first version.
Patricia Dallio: piano; Alain Eckert: guitar; Gilles Renard: saxes; Franck Cardon: violin; Gérard Hourbette: violin, viola; Jean-Pierre Soarez: trumpet; Thierry Zaboitzeff: bass, vocals; Eric Faes: recording and mixing.
Our first concert in this formation took place in the open air, somewhere in the Somme on the property of a castle whose name I have forgotten... We played the same programme as the group Odeurs. With this new formula, we found there, thanks to the piano, a more seated, precise, direct and efficient way of interpreting our rhythms, sometimes deep in time, far from the fixed classical interpretations. This was my feeling, shared also by the other members of the group during this period.
The transition to the 80's was difficult, because we had far fewer concert dates than before, although some were more prestigious, like our participation in the various RIO (Rock In Opposition) festivals: in Milano in May 1979, Stockholm in September 1979, Reims in April 1980, Ljubljana in June 1980, Maubeuge in November 1980.
We had huge difficulties to keep our head above water financially, because in those days, without any real financial support from institutions, except the loan of a rehearsal room by the Maubeuge town hall which will help us in a more consequent way in the following years, we could only rely on ourselves. In spite of this heaviness, we were a band of cheerful characters, not lacking in humour, jokes and puns during our bus trips. The masters of ceremonies in this field were generally Alain and Gérard, closely followed by Patricia, encouraged by our fits of laughter... Time passed much more quickly during a Maubeuge-Stockholm trip in a three-speed Citroën Tube running at full speed on the European roads of that time...
Strange years too, because the composition of the group often changed. Patricia and Alain worked as a duo, then with other artists such as Jacques Thollot and could not necessarily be there full time, which explains their coming and going.
Musically, as with every album or project, we were looking for new ways, yet the formation of that time and our living conditions did not totally allow this in my opinion. I personally found the repertoire of those years too diluted, not radical enough, despite the two masterpieces "Génération sans futur" and "La Ville". But patience, time and our perseverance will do the trick.
As the months went by, our respective personal financial situations became absolutely catastrophic and the beautiful utopia of living solely from music evaporated almost instantly. Most of us had to look for gainful employment for at least a few months. The band lived in slow motion, but continued to exist and to meet for the few rehearsals and concerts that had been planned for a long time. Gérard made deliveries for his father, Jean-Pierre worked on the building sites and for my part, through a family relationship, I very quickly managed to find a job which consisted of spending eight hours a day at the bottom of a barge bringing sand towards the centre of the hull so that a mechanical shovel could evacuate it to the quay. I think I lasted three months working 3 x 8 hours. I used every day off to sleep and then try to maintain my technique on the instruments. I had so much pain in my arms that I despaired, it was a very, very hard time in my life that my partner at the time, Carole, who was to become my wife from 1984 to 1997, helped me to get through, especially as soon as she got her job as a drawing teacher in a secondary school. I left that hellhole and our situations improved somewhat.
In 1980, Jean-Luc Aimé (violin), from the west of France, joined the group. We played a few concerts together: Lyon, Arènes de Fourvière at the invitation of the group Vortex, then in Brest where we broke down again with our van, forcing us to spend a few days on holiday camping in Le Conquet, a town in the far west of France. A whole program of nice moments and difficulties. Then Jean-Luc left Art Zoyd for Univers Zero.
In June 1980, on our way to Ljubljana via Trieste, we were blocked at the Yugoslav border because the customs employees stopped working from Friday evening to Monday morning and could not give us the famous sesame (a stamp on our ATA carnet) to cross the border with our equipment. We were already exhausted from all the kilometres we had travelled and had decided to spend the whole weekend on the huge car parking place between Italy and Slovenia, as we couldn't even go back to Italy... Suddenly, as if in a hallucination, a mirage, we saw a luxury tourist bus with a driver pulling up for the control. Inside the vehicle was a jumble of young people dressed in black, flight cases and instruments hastily stowed away and on closer inspection we saw that it was indeed Univers Zero going to the same festival as us. They had broken down in Venice and had been forced to hire a somewhat oversized replacement vehicle. What a bargain (for Art Zoyd)! We were able to escape this forced stop and reach Ljubljana with Univers Zero, whose customs papers were in order. We returned on Monday morning to the customs post for the formalities, then went back to Ljubljana for a magnificent concert in the open air in a sort of very large „Biergarten"...
Later in 1981 we did our first tour in the DDR thanks to Nick Hobs who was managing Henry Cow (Rock In Opposition). He put us in touch with the Künstler-Agentur der DDR who supervised the dates (the East Berlin concert was organised, recorded and broadcast on the national radio...).
Reminder of the important events of the period 1979-1981:
- Festival des Musiques Nouvelles - La Gaité Montparnasse - Paris
- Festival Rock In Opposition - Milano (I)
- Festival Rock In Opposition - Uppsala (S)
- Nancy Jazz Pulsation (F) 1980 - Art Zoyd and Univers Zero - reunion concert
- Festival Rock In Opposition - Maubeuge (F)
- Festival Rock In Opposition - Reims (F)
- Festival Rock In Opposition - Ljubljana (SI)
- Release of the album Art Zoyd " Génération sans futur "
- Video of 13 minutes produced and broadcasted by FR3
- Tour in D.D.R.
- Concert at King's College - London (GB)
- Re-recording of " Symphony for the day when the cities burn "
The musicians who took part in the Art Zoyd adventure during these three years :
Patricia Dallio : piano | Alain Eckert : guitar, violin | Gilles Renard : saxophone | Gérard Hourbette : violin | Jean-Luc Aimé : violin | Paul de Prekel : violin | Franck Cardon : violin | William Schotte : cello, double bass | Michel Thomas : saxophone | Jean-Pierre Soarez : trumpet | Thierry Zaboitzeff : bass, cello, voice.
See you soon for the continuation of this extraordinary adventure.
Thierry Zaboitzeff on, 26/04/2022
N.b. This story depends of course on my memory, facts and some dated documents, if you knew well this period and you notice some error or omission,
contact me here.
Photo credits for this page : Editta Braun | La Voix du Nord | Michel Laloux | Nord Matin | Alessandro Achilli | Unknown