Name: Jacques Barbéri, Laurent Pernice and Philippe Perreaudin are Palo Alto
Current Release: Difference and Repetition A Musical Evocation of Gilles Deleuze on Sub Rosa
Recommendations: J&B: The Instrumentality of Mankind by Cordwainer Smith /Licht: The Seven Days of the Week by Karlheinz Stockhausen
LP: John Cage’s 4’33" /Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
PhP: Comme à la Radio by Brigitte Fontaine, Areski / The Art Ensemble of Chicago
Kustom Kar Kommandos directed by Kenneth Anger
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Jacques Barbéri (J&B)
I must have been 12/13 years old when I inherited (I don't remember how) a Beatles album: Revolver. I didn't have anything to listen to it, but the title aroused my interest. I took a ball gun and played ball trap. The record became impossible to listen to. After that, I was not interested in The Beatles for a very long time.
Laurent Pernice (LP)
It was at my parents' house, I must have been 14 or 15 years old, in the attic that I had set up as a "studio" with all the equipment I had; an old acoustic guitar, an electric bass with an echo pedal and a big muff, an amp and a cassette recorder. First passions: King Crimson, Fripp & Eno, Miles Davis (70's period), Jimi Hendrix, Kinshi Tsuruta… At 13 years old I listened to Hendrix on this cassette recorder through the stethoscope of my big brother doctor to amplify (and saturate) the sound. Ha! I forgot to say that, at the same time, I was sniffing the fumes from the sandalwood incense I bought in pseudo-Indian stores.
Philippe Perreaudin (PhP)
I started manipulating sounds in the mid-80s at the age of 18/19. I had a small keyboard, a microphone, an echo chamber and a tape recorder I bought at the flea market. I feel like I've always listened to music. From French songs during my childhood, then rock and mainstream pop in the early 80s, until the discovery in 1983 at the age of 16 of Joy Division / New Order, The Cure, Siouxsie, Kraftwerk… But the real trigger for me at that time is the discovery of Half-Mute, the first album of Tuxedomoon. I was first attracted / intrigued by the cover when I saw the record in my local public library. I borrowed it. And when I listened to it, I discovered a musical universe that I didn't know and that immediately fascinated me. I think that the desire (the need?) to make music came at that time.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Attempt to adapt Magma and Satie. My weak musical technique and the frantic search for ways to overcome it did the rest.
I practiced copying quite a bit at first. And I soon realized that the songs I played very badly led me to other melodies, which became purely personal. It's the mistake, the flaw, or even the chance, that is at the origin of my creativity. It is a concept that I have developed a lot in my composition work and that I continue to exploit.
The period during which I played alone is quite short. I experimented, a bit like in a poorly-equipped laboratory, without trying to copy. But I was certainly unconsciously influenced by the artists I listened to. Then, in a band, things are different. Everyone comes with their own musical background and their own influences. It's the confluence and mixing of these influences that can, if this desire is shared by the whole group, create an originality or an identity of its own.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Destructuring and restructuring. Metamorphosis and mutation. Through words or sounds. First musical experience: remix with solo saxophone of a piece by Luigi Nono whose title I have forgotten but which appears in due place on an old magnetic tape in a box filled with other old tapes that I have been planning for years to exhume.
All the sounds in the world deserve to be heard, to be listened to. Even the most horrible ones. Sometimes it's just a matter of placing them in a context that enhances them. That's why I'm attracted to industrial music...
In its early days, Palo Alto's main challenge was interpretation. We had no problem composing but we tended to write pieces that required a technical mastery that we didn't always have as instrumentalists. A few titles remained as a demo because we never managed to play them, or rather to interpret them well enough for them to sound as they were meant to sound. Then we began a period of improvisation, radical but very liberating because we suddenly left the straitjacket of the score. Eventually, with time, the writing came back in a different, more open form. A form that leaves freedom to the soloists.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
At the beginning of the 70s, my first studio, or rather what took its place, was a room in the basement of my parents' house, fully upholstered with a thick carpet that provided a semblance of soundproofing. It was equipped with an upright piano, which I had exchanged at the time for a Renault 4CV. I also played a rented saxophone, the mouthpiece installed upside down, rubber bands stretched around a plastic box that was a sound box for the bass, a metal ashtray with a push button and an American harp played with a hammer. The tinkering, either solo or in collaboration with friends who played the flute and darbouka, among other instruments, was recorded on a DUAL TG28, which allowed multiplaying and recording of two simultaneous channels with different settings, plus a whole host of other functions that the manufacturer may or may not have wanted me to perform.
This passion for do-it-yourself sound craftsmanship coupled with the irrepressible desire to use anything that could be found, including instruments that I had absolutely no idea how to play, never left me.
My first album was recorded with a Pearl microphone, a Fostex 4-track cassette tape recorder, a Roland drum machine and various instruments... I didn't evolve so much: I just replaced the tape recorder and drum machine with a computer and a sound card...
My installation evolves from time to time but it is always 20 years behind schedule. I'm going to end up believing that I like it. By the way, the most important thing for me at the moment is the power plug of my keyboard because it's starting to show signs of fatigue...
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
The technology is what makes my instrument the equivalent of Colonel Austin, a kind of bionic instrument "The Six Million Dollar Sax".
For me technology does not exist in itself. If I lived in the 19th century, or 2000 years ago, my technology for composing would consist of a sheet of paper and a pencil (and probably an eraser too). What exists are sounds... I don't know the difference between two pebbles hitting each other and a modular synthesizer. Machines excel in producing new sounds, man excels in the art of bringing them out.
In each field of human activity, tools and techniques are constantly evolving as a result of research, discoveries and inventions. In music, the question of sound is central. How to generate a sound, how to modify it, how to imitate it, etc. The question of recording and reproduction techniques is also important and finally very recent. In a little over a century we have gone from the first phonograph engravings to digital. These evolutions, which can be revolutions (the appearance of electricity, digital...), inspire and influence artists who, themselves, are sometimes the inventors, the researchers... But, until now, tools are only tools and the works themselves come out of the human brain.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
The idea of co-ownership suits me well. I also see myself as the biological extension of my instruments.
One sound leads to another. They fit together most naturally in the world. The less ego I put into their arrangement, the better. The only thing that motivates me is to make my hair stand up when I listen to a song. What I'm looking for is that continuous, overpowering orgasm. Everything is good to achieve it: software, stones, microphones, motors, instruments, voice.
Nothing to add. But I didn't know that you were looking for a continuous and overpowering orgasm with rocks. I'm not judging...
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
For me, the ideal collaboration starts with improvisation sessions. This is often where the creative process, through catalysis and neural feedback loops, breaks down psychic barriers and creates creatures that even Dr. Frankenstein would never have imagined.
I love collaborations in the sense that they bother me. I hate repeating myself. So, anything is good to get me out of my comfort zone. Collaborations are perfect for that.
Working with other artists is one of the characteristics of Palo Alto. Musicians of course, but also writers, videographers...We like to have guests. This is the case for the 4 tracks of our new album. They come to bring their touch, their sound, their universe. And the choice of the guests is not decided at random, it is entirely part of our creative process.