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[interview] Rendez-Vous à Bougival: Patrick Rondat

Post Posted Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:31 pm

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Rendez-Vous à Bougival: Patrick Rondat

Working on his 1993 album Chronologie, Jean Michel made a remarkable choice: he decided to blend his delicate sound of electronics with a raw twist of distorted guitars. The very man behind this sound kept working with him and joined him on stage from time to time. JM even produced his 1996 album Amphibia. But in fact, little is known about Patrick Rondat. We met him in a cosy café on the banks of the Seine river just near Bougival.

GJ When did it all start?
PR I started playing the guitar in 1977, I was 17, which is quite late. It just happened like that. I entered a record store and listened to an album by Ronnie Montrose, got hooked and started playing.

GJ So you only started after hearing that record? Did you listen to any other artists?
PR Yeah, the record was a shock. Because before I started playing, I didn’t care much about listening music. But after I heard the record, I started listening to bands like Rambo and Van Halen.

GJ What’s the one artist that influenced you the most?
PR Yeah, I mean, the most was Al Di Meola. He has a very technical style.

GJ Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t really know the guy, but I do know he worked with Jan Hammer.
PR The keyboardplayer! Yeah, of course! :D

GJ So in 1989 your released your first album, entitled Just For Fun. Do you remember how it was received?
PR I think it had quite some positive reactions. And you know, it was one of my dreams, to do your own album. It was one of the things I wanted to achieve. And when you go into a shop and see your own album being sold there, it’s very special.

GJ Honestly, I’m not too fond of hard rock music. It lacks melody and soul, but to me, your music sounds pretty melodical, despite the raw edge.
PR Yeah, that’s true. But we used the guitars because of the sound that I like. It’s not like traditional heavy metal. I hope it really is music. It’s in fact a mixture of a lot of styles, jazz, classical…

GJ In 1991 your released another album, called Rape Of The Earth. What’s the idea behind this style?
PR Well the first album was like a start, and from the second album on, I started to create my own style. I have always preferred the minor key in music. Not the major. And besides that I tried to combine the technical side and the energy of rock music with melody.

GJ The tracklist of Rape Of The Eart features a cover of a track by jazz legend Django Rheinhardt, called Nuages. What can you say about this?
PR I’ve always loved this piece. But I wanted to do something different, because Django is a very good player and there are so many good covers of Nuages. So I decided to not play it exactly like it was supposed to, but slowed down the tempo, to make it sound more spacey. I really like the melody of this track, but the original is played much faster, it’s a bit happy music, if we can say that. And besides that, it was to pay hommage to him as well, because he was one of the first guitarplayers to become wellknown as a solo artist.

GJ Jean Michel produced your Amphibia album, released in 1996. What influence did he have?
PR He was much like a producer, but he had quite some influence, he had many ideas. The album has more stretched-out parts, more atmospherical, longer songs. That’s different. To do Vivaldi Tribute was his idea. He thought we needed a song which would make people interested in my music. Something technical to keep my own style, but something everybody knows as well. This Presto worked very well for the purpose, so I recorded it for my album and played it live for the first time in Paris in 1995.

GJ And Equinoxe 4 was included as well.
PR Yes, but Equinoxe was different. It started like a joke. When we were touring with Europe In Concert, during one of the days off, I had the idea to change the tempo of this song and I recorded a quick demo before going back again. And I played this demo to Jean Michel and he liked it.

GJ So your latest album has just been released. I think it’s quite different. What can you say about it?
PR An Ephemeral World. Yeah, it’s more progressive in a way. More technical in a way. Especially the drum part is more technical, I composed all of it in odd tempos, like 7/4th and 5/4th. I always use this kind of thing, but even more on this album. I my opinion I’ve found the right balance.

GJ How do you compose your music? I mean, to me it doesn’t sound like an ordinary song structure with choruses and verses, but rather like classical pieces.
PR They are definitely no songs, it’s not like that. It’s more like classical music indeed, one melody goes into another. To compose this is a long process, because I compose every part, including drums, bass and keyboards. I write down all partitions, and program the keyboard parts.

GJ What about the future? Have you got any upcoming albums?
PR First a Best-Of. Dreyfus called me a while ago and told me they wanted to release a Best-Of of all their artists, so I agreed and soon an album with a selection of tracks from all the old albums will be released. This is not a very exciting project for an artist, but it’s necessary for the recording companies from a commercial point of view. My next album will probably be recorded in September [2006], and it will feature only classical music. It will be recorded with a concerto pianist and electric guitar. It’s not comparable to Vivaldi Tribute, because with that piece, we put the original melody in a heavy metal sound. With this album, I’ll try to respect the original music as much as I can. It will be just like a sonata for piano and violin. I won’t try to create a heavy version, but the electric guitar is necessary, because we need long notes with lots of sustain and vibrato.

GJ Tell us about this Elegy project.
PR You don’t know it? It’s a metal band from your country! :D It was in a period when I needed to do something else. You know, I just released 2 solo albums, then worked with Jean Michel, recorded On The Edge and after that I needed a break again. It was just to refresh my mind, do something different and get some new ideas. At first, I worked with the singer of Elegy, on 2 solo albums, but then I went on to work with the band itself as well. It’s metal music with a bit of progressive style in there too.

GJ Consortium Project?
PR Yeah, this is the project with the singer of Elegy. So in fact I recorded 4 albums with them, 2 of which were with the singer.

It’s the same with this classical album, in fact. It’s just to do something different and get new ideas, not to keep going on and on doing the same.

GJ So I’ve heard you’ve been working on Francis’ [Rimbert] new album as well?
PR Yeah, Francis asked me to. In a few weeks I will meet him at his place to record some parts. He asked me to play the guitar on some songs, and I’m pretty excited. I did the same with Dominique Perrier for his band Stone Age, where I played the guitar on the first 2 albums. And just recently he asked me to work on his new album as well. And you know, this allows you to discover parts of yourself you didn’t know before. In the past years, they got to know me pretty well, and they knew what I could do on the guitar, so they asked me to come over and play a solo here and there. It was not much like doing my style in their music. I tried to make it work as good as I could with their music.

GJ How did you in fact get involved with Jean Michel?
PR That’s quite a long story. I first met him in 1991, at a metal concert and I just walked past him backstage. I just saw him, walked past him and got back home. But when I was home I realized I should have talked to the guy, because I knew he did electronic music, but if he was visiting these kind of shows, he must have been into guitars. So a while later, I went to Dreyfus, to their office and I chatted to the lady at the desk, and left my latest album and a presskit there and asked her if it was possible to give this to Jean Michel and I explained why, and I told her that I wanted him to listen to it. So she accepted and I went back home. I think I did it because I felt I missed something at that time. Then two weeks later, I already forgot about it, and the phone rang. I was just practicing some guitar parts, so I didn’t bother to pick up, but when I listened my answering machine, it said… “this is Jean Michel, I love your album, we should meet”.. and I was like WOW! And that’s how it started. So I went to Jean Michel’s place, and we had a long chat about music. I guess we had a good feeling about each other. I think I contacted Dreyfus in December 1991, and got in touch with Jean Michel in January 1992. In the meanwhile, I recorded a few demos for him, just to show him what his music with guitar was like. I worked on Rendez-Vous 2 and a few other tracks. So I gave him the tape, because at that time it was tape, just so he could get used to his music with raw guitar on it. So after that he invited me to work with him in the studio, and I went there a lot of times with Patrick [Pelamourges], we did some more tracks with guitar, and then the ideas came, and that’s how things started.

GJ So I suppose you knew Jean Michel before that time.
PR Yes, of course.

GJ Did you listen to any of his music?
PR Yeah, I mean, I had a few of his albums. Oxygene, Equinoxe, Revolution and Zoolook as well. And I saw his shows on TV, of course. And at that time I thought… wow, that could be nice! But I was afraid he didn’t like my kind of stuff. Then I heard this interview, in which he said he loved Jimi Hendrix and played guitar first. So that’s when I thought… why not?

GJ And it worked.
PR Yeah, that’s why you have to try things. You have to be aware of the possibilities. I have never ever contacted any other French artist before. You know, because, I’m not into doing commercial music, to play with a singer or something like that. That’s not my type of thing. With Jean Michel it was different, I think because of the classical approach and because it was instrumental music, there was a link that I haven’t found with other French artists.

GJ Do you like other electronic music as well?
PR Yeah, when I was younger, I listened to bands like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwork. I liked their spacey sound, it was a bit dreamy. I’m not much into techno or something like that, although I played with a band who tried to mix this type of music with rock.

GJ So you went on to work with Jean Michel, to record his album Chronologie. What do you remember of all this?
PR Oh it was cool :D It was a very good experience. Jean Michel was very open. He was not like, play this, play that, do that, don’t do this. He was very open. So first, he gave me some ideas, and after that I recorded 2 or 3 solos. Then we sat down and discussed it, like… “I like the beginning of that, but I don’t like that” and “Oh that’s cool”, etc.

GJ After that you went on tour, the Chronologie tour. What do you remember?
PR This was a great tour. I was like a kid, you know. I had played in big shows before, with 30 000 people. But with Jean Michel, it was like a space ship, on which you arrive somewhere. First we rehearsed in his studio in Croissy, and then we moved to Villacoublay, this military place… and I saw the stage for the first time, with its huge screens. It was just like a space ship. There was a great atmosphere there. And he gave me a big part of the show, you know. And that’s not very usual, many artists work with session players, but to give them such a large role. For example Vivaldi Tribute. It was a great opportunity to play my own music. It’s a great memory. Everytime I play with Jean Michel, it’s so different than all the rest.

GJ Many people have a hard time putting Jean Michel’s music into a genre. What do you think?
PR Well, you know. At one point, your name becomes your style. I think it’s something everybody wants to achieve as an artist. And it’s a big compliment after all.

GJ What is your opinion about the combination of electronic music and hard rock guitar?
PR With guitar it is, you know, it brings some extra dynamics. What I like in electronic music is, that you have many sounds, many layers, with a lot of harmonies. It’s very smooth, almost orchestral. The only thing that it can miss sometimes, is the intention of playing music. If you are a drummer or a guitar player, you are very hungry you know, you can feel the music. With electronic music, it’s very much like this [draws a straight line in the air], but on some songs, you may want to get some kick. Guitars can give some more edge to the music, and I think it works well with electronic music.

GJ What’s your favourite JMJ track to solo on?
PR Wow, that’s difficult. Pfff. [thinks for a while] :roll: - I think it’s Rendez-Vous 2. And, I think I’m one of the few people who really love Chronologie 1…

GJ Me too. You’re not alone… ;)
PR Oh, well, then you’ll understand why I like it.

GJ It has a very good built-up. It’s very majestic.
PR Yeah, exactly. During the Chronologie tour, I was waiting to get on stage, and they played this song at the start, and I was like… wow! And I like Chronologie 2 for soloing as well.

GJ So you have played quite a few solos. Starting with Rendez-Vous 2 and 4 during Europe In Concert…
PR Yeah, Chronologie 4, Chronologie 2…

GJ Ethnicolor and Souvenir Of China during the Tolerance concert…
PR Yeah, and Revolution. I played guitar on Revolutions in Greece. At first, they wanted to have a violin player on this track, but he had to cancel on the last minute, so I suggested to play guitar on this track.

GJ Is there any track you’d like to solo on someday, which you haven’t done before?
PR Ooh. That’s difficult. Ethnicolor was nice. I think I would like to play Rendez-Vous 2 again one day.

GJ I head you had been doing hard rock versions of Jean Michel tracks. Although rather as a joke, is there any chance we could hear them sometime?
PR Honestly, no. I don’t think I still have the tapes…

GJ During the last few shows, you have played Vivaldi Tribute. Don’t you want to play another of your own tracks one day?
PR No, no, not really. Like I said, I would like to play some of his older stuff again. During the last show in Gdansk, it was very hard to get into the show with just 2 songs. So I’d like to play a little more next time.

GJ Jean Michel has only worked with a guitarist once before, Hank Marvin. What’s your opinion about this?
PR Well, I listened to the music of the Shadows, and I have always found it a great idea to play the melody on lead guitar. So I want to thank this guy for having that idea. And Guy Delacroix was great on bass guitar during the tour. And Laurent Faucheux.

GJ Don’t you miss this band on stage sometimes?
PR Yes, sometimes I do. But I think I know why Jean Michel is doing that. I think he doesn’t want to sound too much like a pop/rock band. And I think that’s not much like his identity. But overall, being a rock musician myself, I’m fond of playing in a band. But just like Concert Pour La Tolérance in Paris, those extra instruments, you know, bass, drums, percussion, give more edge to the sound. It was easier for me to join in, and I like the interaction with other musicians as well. It’s very different.

GJ Do you prefer it?
PR For my own part, yes.

GJ Just recently, Jean Michel started working with another guitarist, Claude Samard.
PR Yes, I know him. I mean, I know his name, I have only recently met him, but I knew him as a session player. We have a very different approach to playing the guitar, but there is a big respect between the two of us.

GJ Prior to your collaboration with Jean Michel, Dominique Perrier was the soloist of his band. What do you think of synth solos, as compared to guitar solos?
PR Ouf, that’s a hard question. Ehm. I think it can be great, as long as it’s not too close to a guitar. That’s what I like about Perrier, he has his very own style of playing, and although it was sometimes close to a guitar style and sound, you could hear it wasn’t, right away. That’s cool. That’s my opinion about synthesizers anyway, they shouldn’t imitate existing instruments. They should produce sounds you can’t get out of any other instrument. So it makes sense. For backing, it may work great. Whereas you have violins and horns in an orchestra, you can use them as synthesizer sounds in the background, but for soloing it’s different. For example this sound used by Jean Michel for Oxygene, it’s very special, because you can’t get this sound with any other instrument.

GJ A very famous solo is played by Dominique Perrier over Magnetic Fields 2, and it’s one of the few you haven’t ever played…
PR Yeah, I may want to try that one day. When I was working on Rendez-Vous 2, I had to imitate his solos, and it was funny, it was a challenge, because the fingering is different. It’s always a technical challenge, but it works well most of the time.

GJWhat about the future of your collaboration with Jean Michel?
PR I don’t know. Yet. I guess I will be part of his future shows, and I will be very happy in that case, but I don’t think I will work with him in the studio. I think he will use this as a live ‘option’.

GJ I’m out of questions. Anything you’d want to say to Jean Michel’s, or perhaps your own fans?
PR Yeah, to Jean Michel’s fans. A thing that I always appreciate is that wherever I go with Jean Michel, I meet people from Europe. You can meet his fans everywhere. And I know, in the beginning, people were like… [crosses fingers]… hard rock guitar, hmmm? But nowadays, I have a nice contact with his fans, which is great. I hope to meet more of them in the future, and I hope I don’t disturb those who don’t like my guitar sound…

GJ Thanks a lot.
PR You’re welcome! :D

Patrick Rondat has recently told me he plans to release his forthcoming album around October. But that's no official release date, yet.

GeeJee and Beatle would like to thank Patrick Rondat and Marie-Laure Leboucher for the great time spent in Bougival.

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