The music of Ghédalia Tazartès…
Ghédalia Tazartès does not have a personal computer nor is he on email. If he did he would correct a few “facts” about himself. “I ask friends to do it for me, but they tell me it is up to the person who’s written the article.” Several things bother him. “I have never been Turkish in my life. – he says, – I would not mind, but it is simply not the case.” His alleged Turkish origins seem to result from an incorrect reading of historical and geographical coordinates. “Both my parents were from Thessaloniki, which, at the time, was under the Ottoman Empire, and predominantly Jewish. They also spoke Ladino, a Judeo Espagnole language”.
Ghédalia himself was born in Paris where he still lives in the Bastille area, but he sealed his reputation as a musical nomad by exploring the outer reaches of music.
A self taught musician, he seems to have anticipated Werner Herzog’s advise to aspiring film-makers not to bother with traditional academic training. Rather, Herzog suggested, they should make a journey alone, on foot, for five thousand kilometres, from Madrid to Kiev. This journey, Herzog claimed, would teach them the essential nature of cinema. When Ghédalia Tazartès embarked on a long walk from Paris to Istanbul he was still to find his musical footing. The trip also earned him the respect of his father with whom he had at times a strained relationship. “He would ask me about girlfriends and if I was going to settle down, so I just told him I was gay, but he wouldn’t believe me.” Before this walk, Tazartès had the impression his father loved him merely because he was his son, not because of who he was.
There followed a number of years as a factory worker at General Motors before Tazartès decided to pursue a musical career.
“At the time, I was doing something that I didn’t even call music, that for me was like painting.” With such a statement, Tazartès is not trying to give substance to his work, by calling into play other artistic practices, but rather he is making a structural point.
Pasolini, for instance, when discussing his films, considered his figurative vision of reality to have more of a painterly, rather than filmic, origin. All fine arts references within his films, were internal stylistic decisions, and not simply accidents or reproductions. The case of the alleged Mantegna quote in Mamma Roma is emblematic. “It is not enough to share a similar framing angle to indicate a direct quote”, Pasolini insisted in Le Belle Bandiere a collection of his writings for the magazine Vie Nuove. He strenuously denied that the shot of Ettore lying on his hospital bed at the end of the film was taken from Mantegna’s famous Dead Christ painting. If anything, the highly contrasted chiaroscuro recalled painters active several decades before Mantegna. Pasolini himself invoked the absurd and exquisite mix of Masaccio and Caravaggio.
In a not too dissimilar way, Ghédalia Tazartès explores the relationship between content and form albeit in an exquisite and absurd mix of African and Pop art.
Many people do painting and what is fashionable nowadays is to leave the frame, the canvas, so I thought you might as well leave the canvas completely close your eyes and you see the canvas. I never thought you could call this music, I would play this to friends at home and one of them suggested I should meet Michel Chion, as he believed he would be interested in what I did. Chion was the first person who, after listening to my stuff said, This is music, what you do is an oeuvre. I would never have used that term, but I said, Thank you very much, I am happy.
Indeed it was Michel Chion who gave him confidence in the way he used the magnetophone, with which he constructed his multilayered tracks. Having worked his way from a second hand Grunding, to several Revoxes in order to make mixes, Tazartès was still viewed with suspicion by the musique concrete luminaries for his instinctive approach to music and lack of technical skills. He also played a 110 volts moog synth asking Pierre Henri, whom he regarded as being the master of the instrument if one needed to have technical know how. His answer, “No, you cannot, you record what you like and you drop what you don’t” validated his musical practice.
Tazartès throws different samples into his musical tableaux, playing around with notions of space and time, singing in different idioms, introducing analogue loops and subverting all parameters of context, while allowing for multiple non-linear readings of his work. Notwithstanding the richly textured grain of his music, there is no trickery in Ghédalia Tazartès’ music, which is informed by natural sounds. He believes that there is enough scope in the human voice not to have to resort to digital processing and that the sonic world is rich enough as it is. If he were to be a marine biologist, he says in a recent interview, he wouldn’t want to invent a new animal. By this, he doesn’t imply that it would be wrong to do so, it is just that maybe he is “happy with too little”, not that considers the human voice to be something “little”.
In the linear notes to Check Point Charlie, Tazartès states, “I do not consider my voice to be exceptional, it is just that I have a certain freedom with it. People are afraid of singing nowadays. Having said that, it would be false to say that anybody could sing the way I do, but at least one in ten are capable of achieving similar results.”
Ghédalia Tazartès was born a musician. The triggering factor was hearing a record of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata that his father had bought. He was so moved he understood music was his calling. He was five at the time. After taking a few piano lessons he soon discovered he was not a gifted student. “I was even worse at school, so one day my father told me, ‘I rent a piano, you don’t study and you are even worse at school, so I will return the piano’. This was really sad for me and my father, when he saw I was crying said, ‘Ok we will keep the piano’, but I said, ‘No, you are right, I don’t deserve it, I don’t study hard enough’. It is true that I wasn’t gifted for instruments. But I was sad because I thought my father was right and I would never be a musician. I was not making music, but singing always. I would sing in the woods. It was something religious for me, even though my family was not religious at all.”
Singing was also a form of exorcism, or exteriorisation, for Ghédalia, who used its force as a way of elaborating the pain for the loss of his paternal grandmother and alleviate the sense of guilt he felt towards her, at the age of 12 in the Bois de Boulogne.
His lyrics seldom seem to draw on autobiographical elements but when prompted to elaborate on a line from one of the untitled tracks on Ante Mortem: “L’ensemble de mon oeuvre s’inscrit dans une perspective post-genocidaire” he openly states, “My father was a survivor of Auschwitz”, adding, “But I say that in a mock France Culture voice.”
His father made it back from Auschwitz, but he never fully recovered physically. “I remember the screaming at night”, he says. “My father never wanted to talk about the camps, though, because he didn’t want me to loose faith in humanity. It makes me laugh when people say that, at a time when Jews were being deported to Auschwitz, life carried on as usual in France and that there were still people singing. As a matter of fact, my father was deported and my mother was indeed a jazz singer and she carried on singing. One day after a concert, a German officer went to my mother’s dressing room and asked her point blank is she was Jewish, to which she just answered, ‘Oui et alors?’ If she had denied it, the officer told her, he would’ve sent her straight to the camps. She got lucky that day”, concludes Ghédalia.
Tazartès’ music may not be narrative as such, but never falls into the abstract. Its organic nature is underlined by guttural articulations for which he has been attributed shamanic qualities, something he resists. When asked to create a live soundtrack for the film Haxan, for instance, he refused at first, as he was afraid of being forever pigeonholed as sorcerer. And yet, when he played the DVD against his album Ante-Mortem, he was struck by the collusion between images and music. He was also drawn by the “feminist” agenda of the film and its strong anti-torture stance.
Ante-Mortem, is also explicit on the subject of sex, even, if again, Ghédalia adopts an ironic attitude. Whereas the visual arts have always tackled this topic, for all its posturing, music has seldom addressed sex even when appearing to do so, save for artists all too often bracketed under the industrial label, such as Andrew McKenzie (with The Hafler Trio’s Trilogy of Sex), and Genesis P-Orridge.
Sex is important but what you can say about it is never important, offers Tazartès. In fact, I believe that all discourse about sex is destined to fail. You either talk about it or you make love. Words are important only in the seduction stage. One can make love and talk at the same time, but it is rare. Generally speaking I find songs about sex and love ridiculous. To be honest, I don't really know what the difference between sex and love is. I do not make that distinction myself. I might be like a woman in this respect, he concludes.
His musings about love translate into looped groans and wordless invocations. Of “An amour si grand qu’il nie son object” the first track from Diasporas he says, “I loved a woman so much and she left me. A few years after I was speaking to her on the phone and I said to her, I loved you a lot and I still love you and she said, ‘Yes, but it is a love so big that it negates its object.’ I liked this very much.” By his own admission, the title and the music don’t cover the same ground. Tazartès was thinking more of the battle between Moses and the idols when he created the music.
To prevent himself from falling into the banality of love, Ghédalia either resorts to irony or he borrows from his favourite French poets, Rimbaud and Mallarmé above all, even though he finds the French language flat and difficult to sing as the stress always falls on the last syllable. “Why use lyrics which are bland and not the masters?” he asks. With Mallarmé in particular, whose poetry inspired composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Milhaud and Boulez, he is able to explore the relationship between content and form and to exploit all phonetic ambiguities. With Mallarmé the sound of the words plays a key role often more so that their meaning. The same applies, for instance, to his two renditions of the Hail Mary at the end of Ante-Mortem, which are emptied of any religious content and simply used for their rhythmic quality. In a similar way, Ghédalia Tazartès rejects the use of titles as a key to unlock the meaning of a song, The legendary life and death of the sperm of Humuch Lardy being a case in point. “Titles sometimes are important, but they are an illustration. A title is something extra. Music has no need for titles. Sometimes I give titles, sometimes I don’t bother”, explains Tazartès. Nothing is to be taken at face value. His faux world music references, his metalinguistic use of early 19th century French chansons and his occasional Brechtian estrangement devices, are all meant to smudge the confines of musical genres and divert literal readings of his work.
It’s not by accident, then, that another poet Tazartès feels close to is René Daumal, whom he pays homage to both on his eponymous album of 1987 with the track Un ivrogne sur le Mont Blanc and in Check Point Charlie with Le Mort de Berchou where he “recites” the poems La nausée d’etre and Brève révélation sur la Mort et le Chaos. As Kathleen Ferrick Rosenblatt points out in her book René Daumal, the Life and Work of a Mystic Guide, Daumal’s literary group Le grand jeu was a brief but more authentic voice of the French avant-garde of the 30s than the Surrealist group. Her definition of Daumal as an anarchist of perception fits Tazartès work with its non sequiturs capable of juxtaposing the voice of Japanese singer Yumi Nara with the stories concocted by a child (Raphaël Glucksmann) of an all round world, with round pianos, and round TV sets and where even the Eiffel Tour is round.
Tazartès has never been taken up by the establishment. “I’m not that well known in France,” he concedes. He was never able to support himself through gigs and sales. His work has mainly been championed by fellow musicians and independent label heads such as Emanuele Carcano, David Fenech, Sébastien Morlighem, Roger Ziegler and more recently Nico Vascellari who’ve produced and released or re-released Tazartès’ albums. Ghédalia was however able to make a living by composing music for dance and theatre.
Having complained to choreographers that they lacked ideas and left it to him to construct the conceptual crux of a piece, he moved to the stage where he was able to work from written texts. Adaptations of novels such as Jeanne la pudeur by Nicolas Genka proved fertile ground for experimentation with its plentiful musical references that brought together Tchaikovky’s Concerto n.1, Louis Armstrong’s St. James Infirmary, and Lily Marlene sang by Marlene Dietrich…
Other French artists such as Christophe Pechanatz and Pascal Comelade, have been treading similarly idiosyncratic paths, but Ghédalia Tazartès is probably unique in the way he weaves multifaceted musical canvases primarily with his voice. People sometimes complain that the credit notes to his albums are very sparse, and yet, Tazartès always includes every contributor. Granted the use of samples, the rich tapestry of his album has been created over the years by Tazartès alone in his own studio flat where he still resides.
In the words of his producers and collaborators…
Interview with Roger Ziegler co producer of Ante-Mortem, Hinterzimmer Records 2010.
As far as I understand Hinterzimmer is very much a “family affair” between you and Reto Mäder doing mastering, artwork and production and releasing albums under different guises. Did the same apply for Ante-Mortem?
Hinterzimmer Records was founded by Reto Mäder and I in 2006 as an outlet for our own projects. It didn’t take long before we started releasing stuff of other musicians that we appreciated. From the last couple of months I’ve been managing the label on my own as Reto has been concentrating more on his skills as a musician. He has been the graphic designer for almost all Hinterzimmer releases so far, and is an experienced sound engineer and did the mastering for the Tazartès album and others. Ante-Mortem was our closest cooperation in a way, and you could definitely say that we operated like a team of producers in an almost traditional sense.
How did you get to know the music of Ghédalia Tazartès and how did you decide to release his album?
I stumbled over Ghédalia’s music more than 20 years ago when I started to work in a record distribution, RecRec. I was fascinated with those early Tazartès albums Diasporas and Une Eclipse Totale De Soleil, but I must admit that it took a few years before they grew into important favourites. At least with later releases like Voyage A L’Ombre and Hysterie Off Music it became apparent that Tazartès became one of my favourite musicians, but it took a few more years until I met him for the first time and saw him play live. I work as a concert promoter and organise an annual festival in Bern called Saint Ghetto. In 2009 I desperately wanted to try to get Tazartès for a concert, but was not sure how big the chances were, as he didn’t seem to play a lot. A friend of mine had his phone number, so I simply called him in Paris and spoke on his answering machine. Short after I got a phone call from Laurent (El-G), telling me that Tazartès asked him to call me and propose a concert of their trio project (together with Jo T.) called Les Reines D’Angleterre. The concert took place a few months later – it was fantastic – and after the concert Ghédalia and me stood outside the venue and talked for a while, I also mentioned my label, and all of a sudden he said that he would maybe have some material for me to release, if I’d be interested. A proposal for a Tazartès album release on the same day we met for the very first time in life!
In terms of Ante-Mortem, how much of the music was composed specifically for this project? (I’ve noticed that there are versions of Bepe La Bulaka and I Believe in You that date back from 2005 and were included in the reissue of Check Point Charlie).
A few months after the gig, Tazartès asked me if I’d be interested in releasing some of his music, and he sent me a CD-R full of material. A lot of that material ended up on Ante-Mortem BUT there was a lot of useless stuff on that CD-R too, snippets that sounded like they were cut away from longer recordings, or tracks with errors, like short moments in the middle of a track that were erased, mistakes that most likely happened during the recordings. I talked to him on the phone and said that we’d have to work a lot on that material as some parts were brilliant but impossible to use without fixing them in Reto’s studio. He agreed and even sent me a second CD-R with additional material, and he gave us a full ‘carte blanche’ to work on the material, take out what we wanted to put on the record and leave away what we didn’t like. Even the track order was Reto’s and my decision. I can proudly say that Ghédalia was more than happy with the result.
As you noticed correctly there are two tracks on Ante-Mortem that have already been released as bonus tracks on the Check Point Charlie reissue. Ghédalia wanted us to include them in Ante-Mortem as he was never really happy with them ending up in that reissue. He felt that they were at the wrong place there and wanted to put them in a context where they fit much better. To be honest I have no clue when exactly the music that ended up on Ante-Mortem has been recorded, so Reto and I decided to write ‘All music by Ghédalia Tazartès, Paris 2010’ on the CD, knowing that the real fans would realise that it’s kind of a joke as two tracks were already released 5 years before.
In the press release you state that some of the tracks are thematically linked, whereas others stand on their own. Did you discuss a narrative thread with Ghédalia? And where does the title Ante-Mortem come from?
As I said before, we were totally free to put the album together in the way we thought it makes sense. But the idea of musical themes that re-emerge at later points in the album was based on the original recordings. Let’s take for example the theme that starts in track no. 4 and continues in tracks 6-8, this theme existed several times in different forms on the CD-R with the basic material, and we chose the best parts and put them in an order that made sense to us. Or that “acapella” Track, no. 10, was at least twice as long in the original form, but sounds much much better in the final version on the CD. Reto and I completely restructured and edited that track. The album title, Ante-Mortem, was Ghédalia’s proposal.
Did you have any specific requirements for the album that Ghédalia worked with or viceversa? Or was it very much an “improvised and free” album in this respect?
No requirements, no. He didn’t make the recordings especially for a Hinterzimmer release, as mentioned before. I can only be happy that I was there at the right time and had the opportunity to release that stuff which is some of the best stuff he ever did in my opinion…
You will also be re-releasing Voyage a l’Ombre. How will it differ from the original version, and will it have any bonus material?
Voyage à l’ombre will be re-released without bonus material. First of all the running time of the original CD is 69:40, so there’s no need to fill up empty space. Second reason is that neither Ghédealia nor me like bonus tracks in general at all. Not only that most bonus tracks do not have the quality of the rest of a release, but it can also heavily disturb the concept of an album and the experience as a listener if the music continues after the final album track, even more so if it’s followed by material that was not good enough to be included in the regular release. But it will be remastered by Reto Mäder who also did the fabulous mastering for Ante-Mortem.
Voyage à l’ombre is one of Tazartès best albums in my opinion. Although it is almost 70 minutes long, there’s absolutely no filling material on it. To me it is the album that resembles his last great work, Ante-Mortem, the most, as both records are much more than just a collection of tracks from different recording sessions but give you the impression to listen to a complex and profound concept album.
Finally, I find Ghédalia’s albums very difficult to place. For instance, it would be very difficult to order them chronologically if one didn’t already know his work. What would you say is Ante-Mortem’s place within his body of work?
This is a good remark! I’m fascinated myself about the fact that his style never changed a lot over the years, but nevertheless it has not aged. Some parts of Ante-Mortem could have easily been done in the 70s, others are obviously of recent date – the one with the sampled (black?) metal riff for example. I totally agree with your opinion that it would be difficult to order them chronologically, but what is more important for me is the fact that most people still think that his early albums are his masterpieces, but in my opinion Voyage A L’Ombre from 1997 and Ante-Mortem are no less important and not much less groundbreaking, and we’re talking about a timeframe of 30 years here…
Interview with David Fenech, musician and producer of Voyage a l'Ombre and collaborator on Superdisque
How did you get to know Ghédalia’s music and how did Voyage a l’ombre came about?
I had known Ghédalia’s music for years (my father had one copy of l’Eclipse Totale de Soleil, one of his best albums) and i was really puzzled by the fact that Ghédalia did not release any album in the nineties. The latest one i knew about was on AYAA , and was called “Check Point Charlie” at that time. So i decided to call him and propose to do a new CD on a new label, built from scratch for the occasion. It’s the DIY approach of things : you can’t complaint not having Ghédalia Tazartès’s music released and never try to do it yourself.
Did you work with him choosing and ordering the tracks or did he already have in mind a clear idea of what the album was going to be about?
So Ghédalia and I met and got along together very well. We decided to select the “best possible album” out of more than 3 hours of archives. So he sent me 3 C90 tapes, that I listened to extensively and I did the selection and track order. Especially the “cut up” of the opening part “voyage à l’ombre” that I still find very coherent. Ghédalia likes to talk about music like if they were “dreams”, and in a dream the transitions between acts can be very short. This is what he did.
I’m very proud of the selection we did, and I still think it’s one of Ghédalia Tazartès best albums, along with “L’Eclipse” and “Tazartès”, I think.
I get the impression Ghédalia needs a good editor and in most cases he has been fortunate enough to work with people who are really passionate about his music. Roger from Hinterzimmer records who’ve released Ante-Mortem has told me that Ghédalia sent him a whole bunch of material and gave him carte blanche to work on it to produce an album.
This is exactly the way he likes to work with editors. Also for the album cover, he often says “I trust you : do what you want”. I should also add that the recent releases of “Granny Awards” and “Repas Froid” are the leftaways from the tapes I received for “Voyage A l’ombre”. I selected the tracks with a “voyage” in mind.
There’s a track called “Il A Loupé Son Looping, Cette Lope” in Voyage a l’ombre, which I take it to be a kind of in-joke.
This is a funny title indeed, but not an inside joke. “He missed his looping” sounds better in French for sure.
As you pointed out to Ghédalia in your interview with him, which is published on your website: “Contrary to your peers, you do not process the sounds you record much.” On the other hand, while he doesn’t tend to manipulate sounds, he seems to use loops a lot with a “trance inducing” effect. Considering the amount of editing work involved on a Ghédalia Tazartès album, are loops also a way to create a sense of choesion to an album?
This is all about the timing of songs. He likes to say: “Once all is said, shut up” and this is exactly what he does with music. And he has a great sense of time. Trance is efficient after some time, and when it should be finished, he moves (or “cuts”) to something else.
He also talks about pop art in your interview and of Andy Warhol having invented repetition. Again, would you say that remark was about looping in a way?
He said “the Africans invented repetition” also. And I agree with your remark about loops. You know he uses a lot the Revox, and created “real loops” from tape.
Finally, you talk about “cut up” of the opening part of Voyage a l’ombre. I do find that, in terms of transitions, there are virtually no “fades” between one track and the other. In other words, this cut up approach seems to be a common thread within his albums. There seem to be very few “songs” as such, mainly chuncks of linked tracks. I use the term songs, because of the track called “chanson” in the album (again, an in-joke?). Is that why often many of his tracks are untitled in his albums?
He had problems with the first LP on AYAA (called Tazartes) becaused he used sentences found in the newspaper (like citations of Commandant Cousteau, etc). Now he tends to get rid of the track titles.
I have noticed that you have been touring Superdisque. Are you planning on pursuing this project and realeasing new material? Also, how did you approach the impro sessions? Did you give youselves guidelines and / or did you discuss beforehand possible musical / narrative themes?
“Superdisque” was a recording project with Ghédalia Tazartès and Jac Berrocal that happened at my own recording studio near Paris for more than 2 years. It was recently released on Sub Rosa, and includes some tracks played Live. We recently played in Brussels for the album release party… and now the project is on hold. We did the sessions with mostly 3 kind of approaches.
– The first one is pure recording of live “impromuz” tracks (impromuz is a term used by Ghédalia on his first album). This means recording for hours and only keeping the minutes that are worth it. This has given tracks such as “human bones” for instance.
– The second one is that one recording session would revolve around one group member’s song. “Sainte” was the idea of Ghédalia , “Jac’s theme” was Jac Berrocal’s idea, “David’s theme” is my composition. Like in the Beatles, for instance.
– The latest one was to use the studio as a composition tool. playing with re-recording and editing. “J’attendrai” and “Cochise” are more in that vein.
I think it gives a good balance between improvisation and composition that might give the album a chance to be played more than 10 times… I don’t know !
Which one of Ghédalia Tazartès’ albums would say is the most modern or innovative?
His next album. I don’t consider Ghédalia as “modern”. He is purely out of time, as Moondog or Robert Wyatt could be considered “out of time”, for instance. I tend to think that Ghédalia is a style of music in one person. But if we had to consider influences and innovation, I really think “L’Eclipse Totale de Soleil” stands out. At that time, very few musicians did what he did… maybe no one else. It’s so “signed by Ghédalia”.
What is in your opinion Ghédalia’s place within the arts generally speaking and whithin “experimental” music in particular? Would you say that he is closer to Luc Ferrari, for instance or to the Sex Pistols?
He doesn’t like to be called experimental. For sure. 100% sure. Ghédalia likes “rock and roll” and it’s that link that’s really common between Jac Berrocal, Ghédalia and myself. I know he met Luc (Ferrari) and Pierre Henry and Michel Chion and John Cage, etc… because he told me. But he’s also interested in musicians such as the Sex Pistols , Taraf de Haidouk and Wagner ! I think the link between all that is that he likes “big emotions”, something that might be called “a kind of lyricism”. Ghédalia hates when it’s too intellectual. For instance, he’s not interested in Olivier Messiaen at all (which was a surprise for me). It does not speak to him.
Interview with él-g and Jo from Reines d'Angleterre
How did you two meet and when did you hear of Ghédalia Tazartès for the first time?[él-g+J] We first encountered the music of Ghédalia in 1998. As for ourselves, we met at high school as we both were Magma fans. [J] : As an aside, I’d just like to point out that the name Jo Tanz is a product of the magic of Internet. Jonathan, J. or Jo would do.
How did you work together with Ghédalia as Reines d’Angleterre? Did you always rely on improvisation or did you “follow a script” so to speak?[él-g+J] All our gigs and all the recordings we did were entirely improvised. Generally speaking, we would debark at Ghédalia’s place and we would play, recording absolutely everything, until we finally came up for air. Then, we would listen to the material and decide whether we should play in a more expressive or restrained way, and whether we should drink more whisky or wine.
When did you decide to produce a record together?[él-g+J] After the first gig we did in the UK, Tochnit Aleph suggested we release an album on his label and to record once in Berlin. At the same time, Bo Weavil also wanted to release an album so we delved into our recordings of both the gigs and the impro sessions at Ghédalia’s.
Was narrative important for you in the case of your album Les Comores ?[él-g+J] The illusion of a narrative discourse, rests primarily on Ghédalia’s talent in terms of narrator expressing himself in an imaginary language. Also, the mix of music and voice gives the impression of a narrative unfolding, which one follows without knowing either the beginning nor the end. As a final step, we take all these narrative fragments to make a sort of fresco in the editing phase.
What is the origin of the name Reines d’Angleterre and where does the title of the album come from? Is it a kind of a joke?[él-g+J] We’d come up with a series of names, one sillier than the other and somehow, this one stuck. And yes there was also the fact that we are French and we were being invited to the UK. Also, it was a goup which was supposed to exist only for the brief lifespan of one single gig (Colour out of space). That is why we finally went for something so idiotic.
Les Comores come first and foremost, from a sonic choice and secondly because of the colonial, surrealist and monarchical association to the Reines d’Angleterre.
You are working on a second album which should come out soon. Is it a sort of second chapter, or will it be something rather different?[él-g+J] It is a very different beast. The new album was recorded entirely in studio in Berlin, following our last series of gigs. Whereas the album we did for Bo Weavil is made out of different fragments plucked from musical pieces still in their embrionic form, the new album will be totally coherent in terms of sound. All the music has been conceived in a single space, within the same context, and after we’d develop considerably our musical approach.
You have released Repas Froid on your label Tanzprocesz. How did the production of the album come about?[J] Ghédalia made me listen to some unreleased material he knew would correspond to my taste from the time of Une eclipse totale de soleil. I indicated what I thought were the best parts. He wanted to rework the music, but I suggested that the original version was much stronger as it was and he trusted my instinct.
Where does the album title come from?[J] I have no memory of it. It must have been Ghédalia’s original title and probably comes from his love of meat and red wine.
The album has been re-issued on vinyle by Pan. What are the differences between the two versions in your opinion?[J] Other that the slight differences in the material, the real difference is in the structure, and the listening experience and therefore in the narrative as there are two distinct parts on the vinyl whereas the CD is one long continuum.
Also, vinyl caters to the irrational desires of the vinyl fetishists.
What would you say is the secret to Ghédalia’s musical logevity?[él-g+J] His first albums were produced on the basis of a diabolical cocktail of different musical sources and their boldness supersedes any time frame. This is what ensures they reatin their freshness and timelessness.
What is in your opinion Ghédalia’s place within the arts generally speaking and whithin “experimental” music in particular? Would you say that he is closer to Luc Ferrari, for instance or to the Sex Pistols?[él-g+J] You should ask him, but he will surely answer that he is closer to himself (and Beethoven) then he will burst out laughing.
Amongst your other musical ventures, you play together as a duo in Opéra Mort. Where does Ghédalia fit in within your musical world? What part of your musical practice have you explored more in detail when working with Ghédalia ?[él-g+J] Even if the experience with Ghédalia has been extremly strong and enriching, the music of Opéra Mort bears no relation whatsoever to that of the Reines d’Angleterre, the difference is somehow like that between night and day. [él-g] For what concers me, I have a very pondered, very detailed and extremly slow approach to production as I have a tendency to record everything myself. Working with Ghédalia and Jo as been an incredible opportuinity for me to record everything together and in one take, and to concentrate myself more on the energy and the listening process, if that worked, than the sound would work as well. [J] The only point in common I can see between Ghédalia’s and my approach to music is in the energy and the rawness. After the intial recording phase, I can then spend weeks on end working on the structure of the finished product. Aside from that, (for what concerns the musical and sonic result) one could try and find other points in common, but it would be disingenous. [él-g+J] Having said that, within the Reines d’Angleterre, we favour the vocal aspect (raw or reworked), in order to preserve a certain consistency within our output and to avoid to have one voice (that of Ghédalia in this instance) lost within the electronic maelstrom. We have always worked as a group, as three equal enteties, with no real leader. It has been a deliberate choise on the part of all three of us right from the start. This might have upset some people but, for us, it works as a balanced approach and we all share and benefit from the same musical freedom.
Interview with Sébastien Morlighem?
When did you first discover the music of Ghédalia Tazartès ?
I do not really remember when I first encoutered it, I think it was quite late, though… The first track I heard was probably the one that opens Tazartès Transports, the song of the little cockroaches… It was a revelation. From there on, I got all his albums re-released on Alga Marghem and Voyage à l’ombre. I think it was in 2005 that I then got in touch with him suggesting the re-release of Check Point Charlie and we met in his studio flat i Paris.
Check Point Charlie had already been released on CD. How did you approach this new edition for Gazul Records?
I have a very close relationship to this album, for a number of reasons, which I have already detailed in the CD’s booklet. It is possibly my favorite album of his together with Hystérie Off Music. Dominique Grimaud, who, at the time, was launching the sublabel Les Zut-o-Pistes on Gazul/Muséa, responded favorably at the idea of re-releasing the album as it was out of print on the its original label AYAA.
In the case of Tazartès Transports and Une éclipse totale de soleil there is also some new material added to the original albums, but those albums had originally been released on vinyl. On the other hand, Ghédalia told me he was not convinced about adding anything extra do Check Point Charlie. Why did that happen??
The idea was suggested by Dominique Grimaud, as all the albums re-released on Zut-o-Pistes had some bonus tracks, and archival material. Ghédalia was not too happy about it and I could see why. In the end we opted for these two short tracks.
You have said that you consider it “from a certain point of view Ghédalia’s least personal album” Could you elaborate on this?
In the sense that he is not at the forefront, singing. Within Check Point Charlie, he acts more as the conductor of a world orchestra… He is rather more present in other albums of his, such as Transports or Voyage à l’ombre, but this is only my point of view, obviously.
If the forgotten vase of flowers in Van Ghogh’s Sunflower painting is a “Check Point Charlie”, are there any similar Check Point Charlies in 5 Rimbaud 1 Verlaine and Hystérie off Music ?
You should ask Ghédalia !
On 5 Rimbaud 1 Verlaine, you wrote that “Mister Tazartès is someone very shy who prefers to potter around or to watch a canary fly around his studio flat than to work at his discography. These interpretations of great classic poems by Rimbaud, with just a touch of Verlaine, fall somewhere between Ferré and a noise fair.” foire au bruit I actually thought that after Leo Ferré it had become virtually impossible for anyone to touch Rimbaud and Verlaine’s poems. Still, I find that Ghédalia Tazartès’ adopts a punk approach in this case. Did you discuss stylistic choices with him?
It is very simple : Ghédalia had a cdr with the tracks already laid out as they currently are, and I thought it worked perfectly as it was!
On Hystérie off Music you have stated that it was “originally conceived as a catalogue of different musical styles in the form of a parody” but also that the album quickly freed itself from this idea to unveil new facets of Ghédalia Tazartès’ universe”. Did he compose the music especially for this album or did he rework some existing material of his?
Most probably, Ghédalia had the material in his sound archives. He fiddles with stuff a lot and assembles bits and pieces that weren’t necessarily meant to go with each other. It all comes down to the way he splices and arranges the material.
At the beginning of Country 3 in Hystérie off Music, Ghédalia states that it is a love song. Is it a sort of parody?
Again, you would have to ask him!
Roger from Hinterzimmer Records told me that when they did Ante-Mortem, Ghédalia sent him a bunch a material and gave him the freedom to use it as he thought best. Has your experience been similar?
No, in the case of Hystérie Off Music, Ghédalia suggested both the tracks and their order. We did a first version and there was only one track, which didn’t work in my opinion. He replaced it and it was just perfect. He also added the bonus track at the end since I thought it would have been a shame for the album to end without his voice, considering it opens with it.
You have also realised the artwork for the album. Was this done before, or after you heard the music, or was it indeed a collaboration between you both?
The artwork was conceived and realized after the music, but its execution echoed the musical content. The album cover is really my translation of the music, vulcanic, infernal…
Which of his albums do you consider the most modern?
That is a difficult question. He is obviously of our time, but he is also out of time, since his music is so primordial and so visceral. All of his output is modern!
Would you say he is closer to Luc Ferrari or to the Sex Pistols?
He is between the two of them, for sure!
Interview with Emanuele Carcano
You are credit as having made Ghédalia Tazartès’ music newly available to a new generation of music lovers. How did you get to re-release his first albums?
I discovered the music of Ghédalia at the end of the 80s, through his albums. I bought Tazartès, his fourth album from a.d.n. (a distributor based in Milan which has long ceased its activity). The other albums were out of print and I struggled to track down copies of them through my international contacts at a time when one still had to write letters and wait for weeks on end for a reply (there were no emails!). A decade later, when I set up Alga Marghen, Ghédalia was one of the first musicians that I got in touch with hoping to release his music. The first edition of Une éclipse totale de soleil was the second album I produced after a CD by Hermann Nitsch.
Apart from the obvious album length considerations, what prompter the re-release of Diasporas and Tazartès (the album) on one CD considering they do not follow each other chronologically?
After Une éclipse totale de soleil, Ghédalia suggested I re-released Transports on CD. A few years went by and only Diasporas and Tazartès were still to come out on CD. By virtue of the fact that their combined length matched that of a CD, we decided to release them together. Ghédalia was not bothered by the chronological considerations or whether there were similarities between the two albums. From my point of view I consider Tazartès (the album) as a more accomplished version of Diasporas.
In the case of Tazartès Tansports and Une éclipse totale de soleil, you have released the original albums with some bonus material. How did you select the new tracks?
The vinyl version of Une éclipse totale de soleil was conceived as two long suites, Part I and Part II, one on each side of the album. For the CD release, Ghédalia surprised me by putting together a third part entitled Il regalo della Befana. Even on first listen, the pertinence of the material is immediately obvious notwithstanding the fact that it had been assembled twenty years after the original tracks of the album. When it came to Tazartès Transports, we asked ourselves if and what to add. Ghédalia suggested the music he had composed for a theatre production he was working on at the time, which became Transpots 1 and Transports 2. We also added Elie a piano piece composed with his young daughter and dedicated to her.
What prompted the release of Les Danseurs de la Pluie as a mini CD album?
When it came to releasing Les danseurs de la pluie, all of Ghédalia’s albums had already been re-released on CD and therefore adding those tracks to existing material was no longer an option. When I asked to listen to his sound archives, whereas he preferred to keep me up to date with his latest recordings, Ghédalia selected some dats with the music from theatre productions assembled by splicing together and processing material dating back to his first albums. Amongst this material were the four tracks that make Les danseurs de la pluie. It was a busy time for Alga Marghen and it was difficult to organise subsequent listening sessions. The common enthusiasm for the four tracks was such to prompt the decision to release them immediately as a mini CD.
Would you say that revisiting the old material has added new layers of meaning to albums such as Un éclipse total de soleil?
If by revisiting the old material you mean adding tracks to the CDs, I do not think this makes for anything new, rather it opens up the listening experience thanks to heterogeneous tracks. Un éclipse totale de soleil is the only case where Ghédalia has chosen to integrate a new movement to an old recording, but I still believe that the third part does not alter the balance of the pre-existing material. It simply attaches an ironic coda that stimulates a reflection on the music from the previous decade.
In several cases, Ghédalia Tazartès’ tracks remain untitled. Is there a non narrative stance behind this decision?
I do not believe so.
Which do you consider Ghédalia’s best works to date?
In my opinion, Diasporas, Tazartès Transports, Une eclipse totale de soleil and Tazartès, remain his most coherent and purest albums as they were initiated, created and produced by him.
I love Diasporas and Tazartès because with them, Ghédalia fully realizes his vocal and aesthetic potential. I must admit to finding Transports uneven at times, even though I still consider it amongst the best and most fascinating non intellectualized electronic music works of the late 70s. Un éclipse totale de soleil remains his most obscure and accomplished work and one of the most representative of French music from that era.
Granny Awards is the first original work you have released which had not been released previously as an album. How did that come about and where does the title of the album come from?
The production of Granny Awards was quick and precise as with all my previous releases by Ghédalia. The origin of this album is also linked to the sad story of the terrible edition on vinyl by a German label, of the same albums, previously released on CD by Alga Marghen, in an expensive box set. I prefer not to discuss details about this release, but I would like to make it clear I was in no way involved in it. Regretting having listened to a former collaboration partner who introduced him to that label, Ghédalia gave me the previously unreleased material from Granny Awards telling me he would have been happy for the album to be released by Alga Marghen as a way of saying thank you for having introduced his music to a new generation of music lovers. The choice of title was his.
In the case of Alga Marghen, all of the editorial and aesthetic choices, both in terms of the music and the artwork, were made by Ghédalia, which is not what has happened with other labels. I have only provided a physical release for the original existing material selected and organized by Ghédalia himself. Personally speaking, I am suspicious of the albums assembled by the producers with no involvement on Ghédalia’s part, in spite of his personal endorsement in retrospect.
According to David Fenech who produced Voyage a l’ombre, the albums Repas Froid and Granny Awards stem from the same material as Voyage. What would you say is Granny Awards’ place in relation to the other two albums?
Granny Awards is made from recordings dating back to the same period of the first albums. The same applies to Repas Froid. About the latter, I appreciated the semi-clandestine look of its first release on CDr. On the other hand I find the artwork and presentation of the new LP version of that album to be loud, redundant and all together rather empty.
According to Sébastien Marlighem Check Point Charlie is his least personal work, in the sense that he appears more as a musical director in that album rather than being at the forefront. Which one would you say is his most personal work?
As I have already mentioned, I consider Une éclipse total de soleil his most intimate album. Having said that, all of his albums reveal different aspects about him, even the least successful ones with one exception, the collected works box set by the German label, on which he had no input and that by its falsity and lack of elegance betrays the Ghédalia’s artistic spirit. Shame!
What would you say is Ghédalia’s place within the arts?
Ghédalia occupies a very specific place within contemporary music. On the one hand he has been tangential to both sound poetry (even Bernard Heidsieck told me once he was really impressed by one of his performances at Polyphonix) and to Concrete Music (especially by virtue of his friendship with Michel Chion). Also, one has to bear in mind Ghédalia’s interest in ethnic music (especially African music), his idealism and his political activism in France at the beginning of the 70s, his love for jazz, his passionate curiosity for different forms of poetry and art even in their most popular manifestations, and the fact that he is self taught as a musician.
Diasporas (LP), Cobalt, 1979
Tazartès Transports (LP), Cobalt, 1980 / (CD) Alga Merghem, 2006
Une éclipse totale de soleil (LP), Celluloid, 1984 / (CD) Alga Merghem, 2006
Tazartès (LP), Ayaa, 1987
Transports (10″), Syntactic, 1998
Check Point Charlie (CD), Ayaa, 1989 / (CD with two new tracks Bepe La Bulaka and I Believe in You) Gazul 2005
Voyage a l’ombre (CD), Demosaurus, 1997 – Hinterzimmer (CD), 2012
Diasporas / Tazartès (CD), Alga Marghem, 2004
Les Danseurs De La Pluie (EP), Alga Marghem, 2006
5 Rimbauds 1 Verlaine (EP), Jardin Au Fou, 2006
Hystérie Off Music (CD), Jardin Au Fou, 2007
Jeanne (CD), Vand’Oeuvre, 2007
Rapas Froid (CD), [tanzprocesz], 2009 / (LP) Pan, 2011
Ante-Mortem (CD), Hinterzimmer, 2010 / (LP) Hinterzimmer 2012
Granny Awards (LP), Alga Marghem, 2011
4CD Box, Alga Marghem, 2006
Works 1977-79 (4×12″, RM + 10″, RM + DVD + Box), Vinyl-on-demand, 2011
AS REINES D’ANGLETERRE (él-g / Jo Tanz / Ghédalia Tazartès)
Les Comores (LP), Bo’Weavil Recordings, 2010
Globe et Dynastie, (LP and CD) Bo’Weavil Recordings, 2012
Jac Berrocal / David Fenech / Ghédalia Tazartès,
Superdisque, Sub Rosa, 2011
AAVV, Erratum 3, Erratum, CD, 2000
tracks Ghédalia Tazartès & Elie Tazartès: Titus & Annick;
Ghédalia Tazartès: Je T’Aimerai Toujours
AAVV, Tabu, Ghédalia Tazartès: La Crabe n2 voice Yumi Nara, Cassette,
AAVV, Mind the Gap 95, Gonzo Circus, 2012, Jac Berrocal, David Fenech, Ghedalia Tazartes: Joy Divisé
AA VV, ELEVENELEVEN :: Vox, Alias Frequencies, digital, 2011 ?Ghédalia Tazartès: Live On Radio