Just like the postman, Le Sacre du Tympan always rings twice. With a second album subtitled ‘Le Retour’ (The Return), Fred Pallem's band confirms the iconoclastic, cleverly eccentric universe of their music, at the gates of the sixth dimension, the whole thing wrapped up in a very serious way of not taking themselves too seriously. Throughout the six original compositions and three covers, Fred Pallem imposes his extravagant touch and marks his territory while paying a tribute to the great André Popp, one of the important musicians who shaped his vocation, and with whom he shares the same mindset, injecting popular elements into learned music and learned ingredients into popular music. Interview and detailed explanations with Fred Pallem.
How do you consider this second album in comparison to the first? What is it’s intention?
The principle in ‘Le Retour’ is to be more focused, to base each tune on one idea, a single concept to be delved into as far as possible. For the first album, I was very much inspired by Charles Ives, the great american composer, who’s music always seems to be galloping a hundred miles ahead of the listener. Ives anticipates everything the listener might guess, and reacts to it by rushing in the opposite direction. His style is fascinating but pretty difficult to follow. So I not only wanted to simplify things but to make them clearer. If we were to establish a comparison with a comic strip, we can relate to clear lines. The first record was like Moebius, this one more like Charles Burns.
The music in this album may not be galloping a hundred miles ahead of the listener, but at least ten. It’s hard to imagine what the next bar might sound like...
Of course. You don’t get rid of your orchestrational reflexes that easily. When you have soloists like Vincent Segal or Médéric Collignon, you need to give them something to chew one, but not necessarily stretch their solos. Just the right length, neither too long nor too short. When I listen to the album now, I have the feeling I twisted traditional big band orchestration techniques...without really twisting them. It’s true that in a traditional big band, you don’t get an electric violin suddenly pouncing in like on Bloody Serenade. But at the same time I have the impression of carrying on the legacy of the radio orchestras, the Hollywood orchestras, where big bands did not necessarily have the old school line-ups like Duke Ellington’s band. On top of that, the big benefit of this album is that the cohesion of the band is stronger than ever. The musicians know each other well, do a lot of touring together and are connected by a form of complicity and emulation. I know how fortunate I am to be surrounded by them.
How did you conceive the album ?
Horny Biker was really written as a call sign, a rock tune to set the ball rolling. You come along, say ‘Hi’, no fuss. Then the serious business begins with ‘Train Fantôme’, a thirteen minute journey with a real, well thought of and structured story line. I like musical epics that break the mold, the big band format. That ‘Train’ took me six months to mature. The rest of the album is built on the interplay between different rythmns, colors, between serious and lighter pieces. I spent a lot of time thinking about the understructure of the record, the sequencing of the tunes. To a certain extent, I was already thinking of the track list when I was composing the different pieces! There is also the tribute to André Popp with three tracks in a row: Bloody Serenade, cœur Mécanique and Sexy Sax. I actually love the way Sexy Sax comes in: a gulp of fresh air, refined and fluid writing, with a killer sax solo.
Why André Popp ?
Because to my mind, he symbolizes an ideal. He’s the missing link between Olivier Messiaen and pop music. I love his melodic sense, his taste for gritty harmonies, his crazy orchestrations. I discovered André via his cult album ‘Delirium in Hi-Fi’, in which he covers standards such as ‘Perles de Cristal’ or ‘La Polka du Roi’ with his unique, madcap musical touch. Here I’m doing the same thing with his music: I’m paying him a tribute while humbly trying to inject a little bit of myself... I think André will be receptive to these covers. I met him three years ago. I got him to listen to the first Sacre album. At the first chord of the first track, he said ‘Hum, that’s a good start!’ Ten minutes later, at the end of the track, he said ‘The future is assured! Ok, what do you want to drink?’
Popp’s compositions really blend in with the rest of the album...
That was precisely the desired effect. The result is, if you listen to the album without knowing who did what, you’ll never guess which material is André’s and which is mine. The orchestra and the musicians’ personnalities also contribute to the general homogeneity. But to be honest, I compose in complete freedom. Then I show the material to the musicians. If they’re happy playing it, we just go for it. Le Sacre is now touring a lot, the audiences are both happy and surprised, especially abroad. In the future, I really feel like sticking to this kind of tightrope walker guideline: both erudite and popular. I’m not interested in making modern or contemporary music just to be modern. The more people say I’m making rock music, the less I’ll do it. The more they’ll say I’m not a jazz musician, the more jazz I’ll play. In any case, I’ll write whatever I feel like writing.
Interview by Stéphane Lerouge
released June 1, 2015
Bass, Arranged by – Fred Pallem
Drums, Percussions, Timbales, Percussion – Vincent Taeger
Flutes – Aude Challeat
Guitars – Ludovic Bruni
Piano, Synthesizers – Vincent Taurelle
Saxophones – Rémi Sciuto, Alban Darche, Fred Gastard
Saxophones, Clarinet – Matthieu Donarier (tracks: 2, 4, 6, 9)
Saxophones – Fred Couderc (tracks: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8)
Trumpets – Fabrice Martinez, Guillaume Dutrieux, Yann Martin
Trombone – Daniel Zimmermann, Julien Chirol
Bass Trombone – Pascal Benech
Tuba – Rénald Villoteau
Vibraphone, Xylophone, Glockenspiel – Nicolas Mathuriau