|Lieutenant Caramel is both
musician and scenario writer, he runs films for the ear with a microphone.
But not documentary, fiction or literature - with the parts of each one,
in a search of the poetic image, an explosion of poetry: "I have a text
and I do not have anything other to film it ". This text is a frame within
the action evolves - the currents, filterings and the wind of the virtual
images resulting from the very human sensitivity of Lieutenant Caramel.
The penetrative listening: dice elements, obviously disorganized and scattered,
which forms a fragmentation of what follows, spouts out the breath, a mark
of primitive life; absence of organization and thought. All this breathes,
moves, changes, becomes voice, carrying significance in the chaotic thought...
When I was to school and very young, I used to stroll me in mountain. I was therefore always tanned. And thus it is why my friends have called me "caramel" because of burnt sugar and my skin very tames. Then, following a correspondence with the artist SARKIS, I have added Lieutenant. This is not to consider as an "soldier" atmosphere but rather as a celebrity of strip cartoon. Today, I am sometimes "Pierre Bouchet", that is the name it most widespread in France, or under my true name "Philippe Blanchard".
Please tell me about your personal roots and musical background. What makes you to be musician? Do you have formal musical training?
I have always wanted to be musician. My parents were bakers and were little favorable to my musical ambitions. To 6 years, I wanted to play accordion, later to be violinist and finally, I opted for percussions build with materials of recovery. But what has been determined was the present given by my godfather: a cassette / tape recorder. I recorded all what passed ahead my ears. Thus, I have many recordings of family feasts, resonant family photographs. Then, I have learnt to play the saxophone and there the history has begun.
As I know, you was a member of the band called Denier Du Culte.What is the history of this project? Please tell me about your experience with collective work - I can't remember if you ever had otherprojects and collaborations with other people. Do you find it useless?
Denier du Culte has started in 1981 to end in 1986. We were three: Sylvie sings, Alain played bass guitar and myself to percussions. We had met to school at Annecy. We were not a group of scene but we have nevertheless played at BEAUBOURG (PARIS) and at the PALLADIUM (GENEVA). We were a group who recorded a lot its repetitions. At the end, whole was organized around the microphone. The drums was completely thrown in thousand pieces in everywhere. There were effets pedals a bit everywhere on the ground. We have had a success of esteem. Then in 1986, we have met Bernard Donzel Gargand who was the director of the COLLECTIVE STUDIO in ANNECY. We have taken lessons in his electronic class. We were truly fascinated, we discovered Revox recorder, resonant setting inventions. From the first year to the Collective, we have separated. We had noticed that each other could be creative alone, each in his corner. It was at this moment that I have composed "Pandora box".
No doubts, french electro-acoustic music school with such masters as Michel Chion, Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, Francois Bayle is very important part of world musical history. If we take Metamkine mailorder catalogue, we can see many, many names of old and new french composers, some of which are pretty known, but more are completely unknown to me. What do you think about french experimental music? What is your place in it: are you follower or inventor?
We have effectively a past and a very rich present concerning the electroacoustic music. The book of Pierre Schaeffer "TO THE RESEARCH Of A CONCRETE MUSIC" has been publish again in 1999 (after a firt edition in1952). Pierre HENRY never made so much concerts. Denis Dufour, French composer, undertakes increasingly things: Festival FUTURA, collection MOTUS.... However, it is necessary to do not forget Luigi Russolo of your list. Arrived in France in 1929, this Italian has had enormously influence on the french electroacoustic music. He is elsewhere one of the great musical inventors of the XXÈ century. For me, I am more modest. I try only to make sentiment pass, give emotions with my music.
There are a lot of musical associations in France, specializing in contemporary music: IRCAM, GMEM, GMVL, CIRM and so on, almost in every city. It seems that this type of music has a strong goverment support, very civilised and efficient. For Russia it seems to be very strange situation. How easy it is for musicians like you to express his ideas and thoughts,to record and release albums, to produce them both emotionally and financially? Are there many interested people, public, intense contemporary art life?
We have effectively a lot of chance to have in France of contemporary music centers as the IRCAM, the GRM of Paris, the GMEB of Bourges, the Grame of Lyon. These are places of creation. However, the best thing for a French composer is to go elsewhere he has to enrich himself by doing trips, meeting new cultures, made new friends. These numerous french associations are often individual in their choice of life, they are interested often only in themselves. It is very difficult for young french composers to work in these places where the competition is rough. For me, I prefer to propose my music on internet, web where I sell my discs. There is a public who is interested in our music but it is a bit everywhere and nowhere...
Why did you decide to establish your own record label Acteon? What the artists had you produced? How successful it is commercially?
The label Acteon no longer exists. It concerns, now, solely of the name of my personal studio. I have created the LABEL "commercial Suicide" in 1998. It was important to produce projects that used the average system of creation. We have produced projects as SALETIMBALE (Tales for children) and GHOST TRAIN (exquisite Corpse with 128 participants of 26 countries). We have actually a new project: VIRTUAL ZOO. That concerns all peoples who have recorded their animal or compose with the help of animals. We are researching a dialogue, dynamic trades with the listener. We want to construct an art that develops with the computer a new spaces: the cybermusic...
Let us speak about your music. It is very spontaneous, chaotic, but it's a very structurized chaos. Can you express with words your conception, your aims while creating music? When I listening to it, I feel myself like in the crazy dream - nothing is stable, all is on move, all is alien. Am I share your own feelings or you feel something different ?
Yes, one of the first compositions of DENIER DU CULTE titled "Mission in the nothingness". Nevertheless, my music is really structured. The used language is simply different. My music is not inevitably built on a fundamental rhythmics or on a melodic basis. That provokes sometimes a disarray for the listener. I like to surprise. Generally, peoples return to see me by telling me: "what you have made 3 years ago, it was super!" There is no provocation, I try often to give the love! I work often with words! In my senses, the given message is essential!
The music of the past was based on melody and polyphonic harmony. The popular music of today is based on rhythm and synthesized sound. What is the counterpoint of experimental music? Where are the areas in society or person life, for which reason it exists?
I believe that the counterpoint of the current music is the life! Murray Schaefer realizes a music with the polluted sound of our society, John Cage learn us that the music is silence, Luigi Russolo asks us to use all the sounds or noises of our environment. We all try to research the lost time, moments of happiness too rapidly flying away. We want music express strong moments. A recording missed can be sufficient in order that. Composers of the third millennium, we have all liberty to express. I have always in my mind the sentence of RABELAIS "Make what you want!"
Do you like an idea to play your music on radio, on various live actions, or the record is only one way according for you?
I am very timid. I like to disappear behind my music. But I like peoples, then I work a lot for the theater where I communicate with creators and at the same time I am face to the public. The presence of a public is essential to progress. Alone in studio, one dies easily.
Although your music is obviously nothing to do with pop-music, they both have something common - I mean the electronic equipment you use. How strong is the dependance on technology and what you think about future union of art and technique - is it possible?
Today, information and emotions are pick up through screens of the television or the computer. The technology is a facility but it is necessary to tame it. Music writing has to profit some and non to depend some. I have begun to write the music without having a lot of equipment. The risk is not to be eaten by machines. However, I work today in my own studio. I have a computer that makes increasingly things. I wonder even if it will not make soon my cafe the morning. It is nevertheless very agreeable to be able to make the same things in 100 time less time as 10 years ago. I believe that we don't need machine to produce a masterpiece. Nevertheless, the technological art characterizes by to make participate the listener to the process of creation, sometimes radical manner. From a simple invitation, they are now to a more elaborate interactive participation. I think notably to the project "GHOST TRAIN" where peoples have participated without knowing to play the music.
I know that it may be your professional secret, but I am very curious to know how it is your compositional process like ? What the instruments you use, what was the inspiration for all these albums with bizarre titles : "Et Sonner Les Coucous", "J'ai dix doigts", "Presse Bouilles"?
Often, there are few instruments: a violin, some percussions. Whole is manufactured. I record the sounds during my holidays. I have gone last years in IRAN, OUBEZKISTAN, SYRIA,YEMEN and I bring back the raw material. These sounds allow me to compose my musics. In SYRIA, I have been very proud to record resonant testimonies of NORIAS in THE City of HAMA. There are great wheels of water that date 13e century. It remains some a twenty and they made all differents musics. "Et sonner les coucous" has been recorded and manufactured on an area of turnpike and in a plane at the takeoff. " I have ten fingers "has been thought in a Breton fisherman boat. "Presse Bouilles" is a souvenir of the film "An tramway named desires". I like my musics have an anterior life. They born often from personal experiences.
I have heard from someone that you put the small microphone in your ear and then walk with it between various sound sources to catch the points in the room where the sound phenomena are hidden. But I think it was just false rumours. Or it doesn't?
Yes, it is this manner that "La méthode du discours" has been realized. We were several in streets of ANNECY to get the voices of passer-by. And that with the help of hidden microphones. Then, all that had been mixed in the studio. It's a method used by many composers in France. We like to stroll the microphone to research surprising stereophonies. I record often voices from differents places in the house. The works and effects sounds are often thought before the recording.
The theme of musical instruments is very interesting for me. You probably know, that many russian musical ingeneurs and inventors dedicated their lifeforces to musical explorations - from Theremin to Eugene Moursin with his ANS-synthesizer (built in early 60s). Many of these inventions was forgotten and extinguished by totalitarian regime, but this little known part of history is very exciting. Do you ever try to build your own instruments?
You're right, and I notice that the Russolo's "bruiteurs" have equally lacked to sink in the f the history of the music. Effectively, I have conceived a soft to manufacture my own music instrument. His name is "Newtones". It is a computer program using theories of ISAAC NEWTON on the law of the universal gravity. One has a space with planets. Each planet possesses a sound. Images of planets can be transform by sounds. The universe is a musical partition. Movements of planets are musicals notes. We get some beautiful "DOPPLER" effects. That functions very well with the MIDI system. It remains to manufacture the version with files AIFF. It is a beautiful idea but it is necessary to find the money to end it.
What you think about all that electronic music styles like extreme noise, power electronics, industrial techno and neoclassic? Despite their contrariness, they all are very popular in non-academic underground. The independent musical scene is very pluralistic, and there are several pretty connections between the new genres.
I like all musics, all styles, all genders, all periods. I believe only in one thing: the quality of the artist.
Many people consider music as a kind of imaginery world in the order to flee from real life to feel more comfort, or on the contrary, to feel uneasiness and obscurity. But the real life isn't escapable. What is your personal life like? Do you have other jobs besides music? Any hobbies? What is the meaning of being for you (sorry if I want to know too much!)
I earn my life by meeting peoples. I help enterprises to control their economic management, fiscal, social : I am consultant who works in Paris, Lyon, Brussels and elsewhere in France and Europe. Furthermore, I manage with Bernard Donzel-Gargand the FORUM studio in Annecy. We record artists, groups, composers come to work there. We realize equally web sites. We founded last year the annual festival "The noise of the snow".
the interview conducted by Dmitry Vasilyev through the year 2000
Please visit the personal website of Lt. Caramel
where you can find all news about his projects: