Monday, October 10, 2011

Black Devil Disco Club Interview

Now that several years have passed since Bernard Fevre re-emerged from obscurity, he no longer has to deal with the question of who he is or whether he even created the music of Black Devil Disco Club himself. It is now established that Fevre produced several albums of quirky synthesizer music in the early to mid 70s before releasing the now infamous Disco Club EP in 1978. Over the course of the following two decades, he continued recording music largely in private and purportedly produced soundtracks for movies. The 2004 re-issue of "Disco Club" brought Fevre back into the public eye amidst rumours and claims that the album was too advanced and modern in sound to have really been recorded in the 70s or that it was in fact, the side project of a more recent producer.

This renewed interest in Black Devil Disco Club resulted in Fevre returning to the studio to record the new albums "28 After" (2006) and "Eight Oh Eight" (2008) both of which expanded on  the ideas explored on the original Disco Club EP. However, for his latest offering "Circus", released in April 2011 on Lo Recordings, Fevre enlisted  the services of a wide range of guest vocalists as diverse as Nancy Sinatra, Afrika Bambaataa and Faris Badwan of The Horrors amongst others. Musically, the distinctive Black Devil sound remains intact, the spacey synth leads, the sequenced bass riffs and ominous, repetitive drumbeats all remain, but the addition of more traditional vocalists has certainly added a new and previously unexplored dimension to the strange but always engrossing world of Bernard Fevre.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Bernard via email about the new Black Devil Disco Club album and his career in general:

"Circus" is the first Black Devil Disco Club release to feature guest singers. What made you decide to collaborate with such a diverse range of vocalists?

They all embody something different with their style, voice, career, aesthetic, generation... They are real characters, bigger than life, and it was a challenge for me to see if my music could "dress" them. I wanted to prove I'm a good at A&R as well, moving forward, always trying something new, sexy and dangerous. Trying to be pop and experimental at the same time, like the Beatles which are my favorite band. I must say I'm very happy and proud of the result. Being 65 is not always easy so I'm trying to have fun as much as possible and to open my disco club to other people. It's now time to come together. I've been a solo artist for so long :)

How closely did you work with the vocalists during the production of the album? Was the music recorded first?

The whole structures (lyrics and music) were being finalised at the same time I was getting approval by the guests to sing on the record. It's been written & composed during 2 years before but I had to keep some arrangements and possibilities open depending on the people who were keen on working with me. It took some time to figure out who was the best to sing on which song as I hadn't really planned this at the beginning, it was more a natural process. Some came in my studio like Nicolas Ker (from Poni Hoax), Nancy Fortune or Afrika Bambaataa. I met some abroad like Faris Badwan (from the Horrors), YACHT or NZCA/LINES (Michael Lovett). Some hadn't much time or couldn't travel and did this on their own, but it was something pretty easy and funny to do. I was impressed by the result as they are real performers and professional. Jon Spencer was one of the first to agree and to do it in his NY Head studio, which was a perfect way to start. That's maybe why his track Fuzzy Dream is opening Circus.

How aware were they of your previous releases?

I don't really think they knew me before my proposal, except maybe NZCA/LINES, Nancy Fortune and Nicolas Ker. I guess they googled my name or asked some friends to know if it was a good idea! No one turned down my proposal, some never answered or some didn't work out although it was almost done but who knows, maybe next Bryan Ferry who was kinda OK as far as I understood but started touring, releasing a new record and having some medical issues... I guess I was the fan, not them :)

What made you decide to return to the public eye in recent years having been producing music largely in private since your releases in the 70s?

Being in my 60s and knowing that my music which no one cared about before is being appreciated by cool boys and girls from all over the world is a great reward. They could be my children... So I decided to make music again under BDDC name and tour. I'm being curious and thankful for this. Really.

Did you fear that you might lose some of the mystique that surrounded the history of Black Devil Disco Club?

When I did this music back in 78 I wasn't planning to make it legendary or so. How could I know? How would have I done? I guess I was just a bit ahead of my time and have been lucky that famous electronic performers like the Chemical Brothers or Aphex Twin loved my music. I might have lost some mystique dimension but I replaced it by another artistic life in which I'm having fun and recognition. I'm not a shadow anymore. I can live my black devil disco life.

EP featuring the track you did with Faris Badwan of The Horrors along with four remixes. How do you feel about other artists remixing your songs? 

It feels pretty strange and exciting at the same time as I've never been part of this culture. I didn't even know people where sampling other artists before the Chemical Brothers took my song Earth Message for their song Got Glint. Same with Aphex Twin, I didn't know people were re-issuing, re-editing music... But I'm now more into this, I'm just a bit afraid that my "soul" might disappear, that the core of the song vanishes, but after a few listen I generally discover new images, new visions inside mine. I can be seduced by something else than my own music of course. A good remix for me is when the producer is building something new inside the world of the original tune. But as usual it's a lot of work, not only looping two bars and replacing the drums by a random one :)

Are there any new musicians who have caught your attention lately?

In France I really like Pilooski, Mondkopf, dDamage or Sauvage. They are talented people who look for something new. They work a lot and have a vision. Abroad I would say Sal P from Liquid Liquid (but he's not that young anymore, though is younger than me, but still he's a nice kid), YACHT, NZCA/LINES, Planningtorock...

If there was any other vocalist you could collaborate with (living or dead), who would it be?

Maybe something with John Lennon, Serge Gainsbourg, Nino Rota, David Lynch, Lindstrom & Prins Thomas...or Grace Jones. David Lynch recently opened a club in Paris so who knows...