“You have three minutes to impress the whole of Europe” | plus video

Ticino-based musician Chiara Dubey has a good chance of representing Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon on 12 May 2018 with her song “Secrets and Lies”. The pop ballade was written at the songwriting camp organised by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA that took place in August 2017. In an interview, Chiara Dubey talks about her collaboration with her co-songwriters Jeroen Swinnen from Belgium and Janie Price from the UK. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Manu Leuenberger

As a performer, Chiara Dubey has the most Eurovision experience of the six finalists. The Ticino musician has made it to the final round of artists fighting to perform the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. She wrote her current song “Secrets and Lies” together with the Belgian songwriter and producer Jeroen Swinnen and the British artist Janie Price at the songwriting camp organised by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA.

Chiara explains how the song was written. “Jeroen played a chord sequence on the piano and I improvised a melody, based purely on gut instinct. Bit by bit we added more elements and tinkered with it, like a puzzle, until we had an outline we were all happy with. ” The lyrics came from Janie Price, who arrived at the camp with her own texts. “We adapted her lyrics to the new structure and melody”, says Chiara. “Janie wrote the words, and I gave them my own personal touch.”

Composing a song in this way was a new experience for Chiara: “It was a new feeling for me, not having everything under control!” The Swiss musician normally likes to have an overview of the composition, lyrics, arrangement and instrumentation of her music, but this wasn’t the case at the songwriting camp. “You have to relinquish control and create something that works for all of the artists involved”, explains Chiara on the subject of group composition.

In the end, it’s about coming up with the best possible result – after all, as Chiara says, at the Eurovision Song Contest, “You only have three minutes to impress the whole of Europe.”

www.chiaradubey.com

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Zibbz: “We wanted to write a song that suits us” | plus video“We wanted to write a song that suits us” | plus video Siblings Co and Stee Gfeller, better known as ZiBBZ, are battling it out for entry to the Eurovision Song Contest with their song “Stones”. They wrote the song together with Canadian songwriter Laurell Barker at the songwriting camp staged by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA in August 2017. In the video, the two siblings tell us more about how the song came about and why this kind of songwriting camp is so important. Read more
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Ticino-based musician Chiara Dubey has a good chance of representing Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon on 12 May 2018 with her song “Secrets and Lies”. The pop ballade was written at the songwriting camp organised by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA that took place in August 2017. In an interview, Chiara Dubey talks about her collaboration with her co-songwriters Jeroen Swinnen from Belgium and Janie Price from the UK. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Manu Leuenberger

As a performer, Chiara Dubey has the most Eurovision experience of the six finalists. The Ticino musician has made it to the final round of artists fighting to perform the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. She wrote her current song “Secrets and Lies” together with the Belgian songwriter and producer...read more

“We wanted to write a song that suits us” | plus video

Siblings Co and Stee Gfeller, better known as ZiBBZ, are battling it out for entry to the Eurovision Song Contest with their song “Stones”. They wrote the song together with Canadian songwriter Laurell Barker at the songwriting camp staged by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA in August 2017. In the video, the two siblings tell us more about how the song came about and why this kind of songwriting camp is so important. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Manu Leuenberger

Co and Stee Gfeller commute between Los Angeles and Switzerland. In their LA music lab, the two often take part in songwriting sessions with other musicians – a form of creative exchange missing from Switzerland until now. “It’s so great that now we have a songwriting camp for the first time in Switzerland”, says Co Gfeller.

When they took part in the songwriting camp at Powerplay Studios in August 2017, the siblings wrote two songs in two days. With the song “Stones”, they will be battling it out at the SRF decision show on 4 February 2018, hoping to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest finale in Lisbon.

The Gfellers co-wrote the song with Canadian songwriter Laurell Barker. Working as a trio proved to be highly productive; As ZiBBZ recall in the interview, the basic structure of the song was there in just 30 minutes. The song came about almost “magically” on the day, as they explain.

www.zibbz.com

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Siblings Co and Stee Gfeller, better known as ZiBBZ, are battling it out for entry to the Eurovision Song Contest with their song “Stones”. They wrote the song together with Canadian songwriter Laurell Barker at the songwriting camp staged by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA in August 2017. In the video, the two siblings tell us more about how the song came about and why this kind of songwriting camp is so important. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Manu Leuenberger

Co and Stee Gfeller commute between Los Angeles and Switzerland. In their LA music lab, the two often take part in songwriting sessions with other musicians – a form of creative exchange missing from Switzerland until now. “It’s so great that now we have a songwriting camp for the first time...read more

“You always want to write the best song you can” | plus video

Songwriter Kate Northrop is primarily a lyricist, a creative role that doesn’t often land her in the spotlight. Together with three other authors, the SUISA member co-wrote Naeman’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, “Kiss Me”. In a video interview, Kate Northrop explains how she came up with the song lyrics and how she was inspired by the songwriting camp organised by SUISA and Pele Loriano Productions. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi, video by Manu Leuenberger

Behind every good song is a good songwriter – and in the case of “Kiss Me”, there were four. The song is among the Swiss finalists for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, and is performed by Naeman. It was written by Alejandro Reyes from Lausanne, Ken Berglund from Sweden, Eric Lumière from the USA and Kate Northrop.

Kate originally comes from the USA, now lives in Switzerland, and helped write the lyrics. The story the song tells is the result of a team effort: “First, we all told each other what we thought the song’s story was”, the songwriter explains. “Then we tried to capture that with music, words and – above all – emotions.”

Kate had written songs with a number of different co-authors before, but the process at the songwriting camp was an entirely new experience for her: she had 12 hours to write a finished song with a group of artists she had never met before. Kate loved this method of songwriting: “Working with these artists was incredibly inspiring”, she says. “In order to create something, you have to be open to creative ideas from the rest of the group.”

The fact that the songs written at the songwriting camp were being written for the Eurovision Song Contest made no difference to Kate: “I don’t think writing for the Eurovision Song Contest is different from writing any other kind of song. You always want to write the best song you can.”

www.songwave.ch, Kate Northrop’s website

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Songwriter Kate Northrop is primarily a lyricist, a creative role that doesn’t often land her in the spotlight. Together with three other authors, the SUISA member co-wrote Naeman’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, “Kiss Me”. In a video interview, Kate Northrop explains how she came up with the song lyrics and how she was inspired by the songwriting camp organised by SUISA and Pele Loriano Productions. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi, video by Manu Leuenberger

Behind every good song is a good songwriter – and in the case of “Kiss Me”, there were four. The song is among the Swiss finalists for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, and is performed by Naeman. It was written by Alejandro Reyes from Lausanne, Ken Berglund from Sweden, Eric Lumière from the USA and Kate Northrop.

Kate...read more

“Taking part in the songwriting camp was a big win” | plus video

“Compass” is one of the final six Swiss songs competing for entry to the Eurovision Song Contest 2018. It is sung by Alejandro Reyes, who wrote it together with Canadian Laurell Barker and Swiss composer and producer Lars Christen. In an interview with SUISA, Lars Christen talks about the songwriting process. He also explains why he found the songwriting camp such a valuable experience. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Manu Leuenberger

Lars Christen is a much asked for producer and songwriter. He works with artists such as Bastian Baker, James Gruntz, Damian Lynn and – currently – Marc Sway. The August 2017 songwriting camp, which was staged by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA and took place at the Powerplay Studios in Maur, was a new experience for the SUISA member. But it paid off. Together with Lausanne-based musician Alejandro Reyes and Canadian Laurell Barker he wrote “Compass”, one of the six songs being considered for Switzerland’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The song is sung by co-writer Alejandro Reyes himself. “We talked it over with Alejandro – the things that are important to him, what he would like to sing about”, says Lars in the video about the development process of the song. The thing that “Lars the music guy” most valued at the songwriting camp was the exchange with other musicians from home and abroad. “In terms of building a network, taking part in the camp was a big win.”

The SRF decision show is coming up on 4 February 2018, and the songwriting team will find out if “Compass” will represent Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon in May. “I hope other people get as much enjoyment out of it as we did when we were writing the song”, says Lars.

www.larsthemusicguy.com

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“Compass” is one of the final six Swiss songs competing for entry to the Eurovision Song Contest 2018. It is sung by Alejandro Reyes, who wrote it together with Canadian Laurell Barker and Swiss composer and producer Lars Christen. In an interview with SUISA, Lars Christen talks about the songwriting process. He also explains why he found the songwriting camp such a valuable experience. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Manu Leuenberger

Lars Christen is a much asked for producer and songwriter. He works with artists such as Bastian Baker, James Gruntz, Damian Lynn and – currently – Marc Sway. The August 2017 songwriting camp, which was staged by Pele Loriano Productions and SUISA and took place at the Powerplay Studios in Maur, was a new experience for the SUISA member. But...read more

“I think it’s particularly exciting when I don’t know which direction a song is going to take”

James Gruntz recently released his new album “Waves”. An important role in the creation of this album is the composer in residence year that the 30-year-old songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and singer has been granted by FONDATION SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

James Gruntz: “I think it’s particularly exciting when I don’t know which direction a song is going to take”

“It’s a reality that I earn a living with the concert fees and remuneration from the collective management organisations”, explains James Gruntz. (Photo: Gregor Brändli)

With the album “Belvedere”, James Gruntz managed his breakthrough in 2014, corroborated by great chart positions and several awards (“Basel Pop Awards” 2014 and two “Swiss Music Awards” 2015). For the creation of the recently published follow-up album “Waves”, the pressure probably increased for the musician; he grew up in Nidau near Biel, came to Basel at the age of 16, passed his Pop Master degree at the Zurich University of the Arts and is now living in a factory loft in Dulliken near Olten, working on his songs.

James Gruntz puts this pressure into perspective during an interview. “Music has always been a very important part of my life – and it’s going to stay that way, completely irrespective of whether I can earn my living with it or not.” The songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and singer also highlights that his début album was already released ten years ago and that the recently launched album “Waves” is already his sixth. “There was a continuous development: At some point, my songs were played on the radio, and there were more and more engagements and concerts. And so far, reflecting this continued development, each album sold more copies than the previous one.”

The joy of scat

Next, James Gruntz makes the jarring comment that he was glad not having to be part of the golden era of the music industry. “As a consequence, I do not have huge commercial expectations in the album format. It’s a reality that I earn a living with the concert fees and remuneration from the collective management organisations.” His financial position is balanced because he is author, performer and producer, all at the same time, for his songs. In terms of his album sales, his only expectation is that he is able to cover the related costs.

Luckily, James Gruntz still realised the new album “Waves”, since it captivates the listener with an enchanting mix of soul, pop and electronic music. He didn’t have a vision of what his new album would be like when beginning its creation. “The only thing that was clear to me was that, just like in the case of the last album for the piece ‘Heart Keeps Dancing’ I wanted to do something again with scat vocals.” That was when he tried out this special tongue clicking technique for the first time and it found a lot of positive reception. And since he really enjoyed this “extremely”, he wanted to pluck the courage to do more on the new album in terms of this type of music.

Not in it for his own sake

The idiosyncratic use of his voice has an even bigger impact on the music than on his last album, this is also due to the falsetto he uses which is reminiscent of Prince at times, and due to the harmonizer singing for several voices which creates a peculiar alienation. “The playful manipulation of singing is something I simply enjoy very much. It’s important, however, that you don’t just do it, because you can or because it’s technically cool. It has to be able to function by itself and make sense.” At the end of the day, the voice imparts a high recognition value to the album.

The new pieces were created in rather different ways. James Gruntz always carries a Dictaphone on him and records ideas with it. Every now and then he listens to these recordings and searches for ideas “where I feel like developing something from it.” This is when he works on this idea at home alone in his home studio until the song form has been established. “I think it’s particularly exciting when I don’t know which direction a song is going to take. Only when I am aware of that, when I have found my version, that’s when I look for collaboration with other musicians – and I am open to their ideas and input.”

Different origins

He had the idea for the first single, “You”, as early as three years ago, in other words, shortly after the release of the last album. “This piece has been subject to some enormous development before it was finished, it actually became rather different.” Other songs such as “Waves”, were more or less plucked out of thin air and nearly completed within just one day. “This piece is still the demo to some extent. That was possible because it is closer to a mood than to a song and therefore it was more limited in terms of enhancing it.”

The composer in residence year valued at CHF 80,000 that James Gruntz received from FONDATION SUISA in 2016 played an important role in the making of the album. “Waves” was actually meant to be released this spring. “I realised, however, that I needed more time in order to design the album in exactly the way I envisaged it to be. That’s how I was able to postpone the release of the album by half a year without starting to panic that my bank account would drop below zero.”

Is the book the new CD?

The composer in residence year also made a rather special project possible: James Gruntz will publish a 64-page book in time for the tour. “It’s an experiment that I would have had to think about twice without the money from the FONDATION SUISA.” For each song of the new album, a male or female author was asked respectively to write a text, but without any instruction. “What came out of this were poems and stories which are very interesting for me, too, as they show what my music can trigger.”

Behind this book project is the contemplation of James Gruntz that “the CD is, despite its better sound quality, on a downward spiral.” He is still convinced, however, that the majority of the people wish to continue holding something in their hands when they listen to music, just like him. “And a book is a much nicer object than a CD! It also contains the song lyrics; that is good for those listeners that are streaming my music.” The project was also made possible due to the fact that his album is released by the publisher Zytglogge which also includes books in its assortment. That is why James Gruntz can now look forward to his music coming into the bookshops he loves so much since the book also contains a download code for his album (the book is also going to be sold at his concerts).

Concerts 2017/18: 17 Nov. Schüür Lucerne, 18 Nov. Eintracht Kirchberg SG, 24 Nov. Gaswerk Seewen, 25 Nov. Kaserne Basel, 1 Dec. Kofmehl Solothurn, 2 Dec. L’Usine Genève, 8 Dec. Salzhaus Brugg, 9 Dec. Hotel Wetterhorn Hasliberg, 17 Dec. Zauberwald Lenzerheide, 12 Jan. 2018 Salzhaus Winterthur, 19 Jan. Chollerhalle Zug, 20 Jan. Mokka Thun, 16 Feb. Kulturkarussell Rössli Stäfa, 23 Feb. Kulturfabrik KUFA Lyss, 24 Feb. Casino Herisau, 27 Apr. Kühltür Grosshöchstetten.

www.jamesgruntz.com, official website of James Gruntz

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James Gruntz recently released his new album “Waves”. An important role in the creation of this album is the composer in residence year that the 30-year-old songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and singer has been granted by FONDATION SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

James Gruntz: “I think it’s particularly exciting when I don’t know which direction a song is going to take”

“It’s a reality that I earn a living with the concert fees and remuneration from the collective management organisations”, explains James Gruntz. (Photo: Gregor Brändli)

With the album “Belvedere”, James Gruntz managed his breakthrough in 2014, corroborated by great chart positions and several awards (“Basel Pop Awards” 2014 and two “Swiss Music Awards” 2015). For the creation of the recently published follow-up album “Waves”, the pressure probably increased for the musician; he grew up in Nidau near Biel, came to Basel at the age of 16, passed his Pop Master...read more

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years’ old!

Julien-François Zbinden is a pianist, composer, writer and … 100 years’ old. On 11 November 2017, the honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his centennial birthday. For the occasion, the guest author Jean-Pierre Mathez has been invited to review the jubilarian’s life and work.

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years' old!

Julien-François Zbinden, former President and now honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his 100th birthday on 11 November 2017 (Photo: Yvan Ischer)

Ford Model T year 1913. (Photo: Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock.com)

Julien-François Zbinden was born on 11 November 1917, nine years after the Ford T. He was a privileged and attentive witness to the extra-ordinary technological, artistic, moral and spiritual developments which revolutionised Man’s life on this planet during his lifetime.

His musical adventure started with his beloved piano. In his own words:

“Still today, it shares my passion for jazz music, and our complicity is enshrined in the album ‘The Last Call…?’ which I recorded when I was 93. ‘It’ is my instrument, my more than one century-old piano: a Blüthner Model 190, No. 89293, built in Leipzig in 1910, to which I dedicate this Opus 111 (titled ‘Blüthner-Variationen’, published by Editions Bim PNO67, Author’s note) which completes my series of works for the piano.”

Self-portrait, engraving on linoleum, 1937.

Julien-François Zbinden first earned his living as a bar pianist, passionately initiating himself to jazz and then to composition.

When he was 30, he started his career with the music department of Radio Suisse Romande, which he marked with his administrative imprint and open-mindedness until stepping down in 1982. Glorious years with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Fanfare Perce-Oreille, classical and popular choirs across French-speaking Switzerland, stars of “la chanson française”, jazz orchestras; he participated in and hosted on-air debates with talent and respect for the opinions of others. He brought numerous celebrities from the musical world to Lausanne: the RSR archives contain a wealth of live interviews and recordings with famous artists. He opened the RSR’s doors to all genres of quality music, irrigating a pluralist culture in the Romandie and other French-speaking countries.

When he was in his mid-fifties, he passed his aviator’s licence, reveling in the emotion of his aerial arabesques and the thrill of the miniaturised view of life on earth.

Julien-François Zbinden in front of a Piper L4, initiation to landing (Glacier des Diablerets, 11.12.1975). (Photo: ZvG)

Julien-François Zbinden at the piano, January 2017. (Photo: ZvG)

On reaching retirement age, Julien-François Zbinden left the RSR and devoted himself heart and soul to composing (he would write over one hundred works), to his friends, to travelling and writing (an impressive bibliography and two more recent books), not to forget recording two recent jazz albums on the piano (TCB Montreux).

He was President of the Association des Musiciens suisses (1973 to 1979) and of SUISA from 1987 to 1991.

Julien-François Zbinden is also a valuable living memory, a well of knowledge, a man of letters who has observed and analysed his times with great perspicacity. His musical works have been played worldwide and are published by major European publishing houses (since 1988, all his new works have been published in Switzerland by Editions Bim).

We hope that the Swiss musical world, in the Romandie in particular, will not forget this exceptional artist and will continue to pass on his works to future generations of musicians and music-lovers in our country.

Read (much) more about Julien-François Zbinden: www.jfzbinden.ch

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Julien-François Zbinden is a pianist, composer, writer and … 100 years’ old. On 11 November 2017, the honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his centennial birthday. For the occasion, the guest author Jean-Pierre Mathez has been invited to review the jubilarian’s life and work.

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years' old!

Julien-François Zbinden, former President and now honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his 100th birthday on 11 November 2017 (Photo: Yvan Ischer)

Ford Model T year 1913. (Photo: Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock.com)

Julien-François Zbinden was born on 11 November 1917, nine years after the Ford T. He was a privileged and attentive witness to the extra-ordinary technological, artistic, moral and spiritual developments which revolutionised Man’s life on this planet during his lifetime.

His musical adventure started with his beloved piano. In his own words:

“Still today, it shares my passion for jazz music,...read more

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli was born on 18th July, 75 years ago. 55 years ago, on 19th September, the musician from Zurich founded the legendary beat music band Les Sauterelles. It is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts during the “Beatles week” in Liverpool. At the same time, Toni Vescoli continues to perform with his dialect projects “MacheWasiWill” (dowhatilike), “imDUO” and “Toni VESCOLI&Co”. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli, SUISA member since 1967 has not only influenced Swiss beat music, but has also been pioneering dialect performances, playing Dylan songs and narrating Pingu radio plays (Photo: Kessler)

Five years ago, during the TV programme “Stars extra”, Toni Vescoli said – with an embarrassed grin on his face – that he did not succumb to the DOG, the delusions of grandeur. The show’s presenter Sandra Studer had asked him what it had been like to have led the Swiss charts in 1968 with Les Sauterelles (“Heavenly Club”), topping even the Beatles (“Hey Jude”). With his statement, the singer, guitarist and songwriter from Zurich has described his own character pretty well. While it is obvious that he is still enjoying to perform at concerts to this day, it is because of the music, and not the limelight.

Toni Vescoli was already “extremely” upset, back in 1964, that their impresario had invented an additional name for Les Sauterelles and even printed it bigger than the original band name on the placards: “The Swiss Beatles”. He did not wish to compare himself to other stars but be a creator in his own right. No later than in during the 1970s did he choose to follow his own path, irrespective of trends and hip places.

The path to beat music

His passion for music had, however, not been triggered by the English beat music artists but by American stars such as Johnny Cash and especially Elvis Presley. Toni Vescoli told the author of this article in a former interview that he had already played such kind of music at the end of the fifties. He did so standing on a table in a hip café in Zurich’s Niederdorf quarter, and on a larger scale, sometimes accompanied by a Dixie band. The changeover to beat music was initiated by the Shadows with their unique sound using electric guitars.

He needed a band to do this which is why he founded Les Sauterelles in 1962 whose entire history has been influenced by many changes in terms of the band members. The single “Heavenly Club” brought about the commercial peak in 1968. It was released in the majority of European countries as well as in the US and in Japan. Sometimes they played up to seven hours, performing in up to 350 concerts per year. Nevertheless the band was facing financial problems which is why Toni Vescoli placed an obituary in 1970 announcing: “Les Sauterelles are dead”.

The legendary Swiss beat music band Les Sauterelles was founded 55 years ago. In 2017, the band is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts in Liverpool. (Photo: Gerhard Born)

American influences

It was folk music and especially Bob Dylan which lured Toni Vescoli back to American songwriting and music and influenced his solo career; his album “Bob Dylan Songs” (1993) is a tribute to this, featuring adaptations in the Zurich dialect of Swiss German. Folk music, together with the West Coast music of the 1970s was his entry point to his later mix of Americana music, Toni Vescoli explained in an interview. But his classic hits “Susanne” and “N1” had actually already been country music songs, bordering on bluegrass music.

In the early 1980s, Toni Vescoli returned to rock music, while influenced by Ry Cooder he became a fan of the accordionist Flaco Jimenez who then turned out to play on his album “Tegsass” (1999). Said Tex-Mex reminded him of his youth in Peru (between the age of four and nine), when they listened to Mexican folk songs on the radio. Together with Cajun music, this definitely rubbed off on the Americana album “66” (2008), in particular the lively single track “El Parasito”.

Dialect pioneer

More important than the change in style was Toni Vescoli’s pioneering change to dialect in 1970. He had been instructed by the magazine “Pop” to write a song for the unveiling ceremony of a Wilhelm Tell monument. Instead of writing the lyrics in High German, he felt that Swiss dialect was more apt – and the song hit the right note with the public. He wrote more songs in dialect but his producer felt in 1971 that the time wasn’t right for that yet.

As a consequence, his first album in dialect was not released until 1974 – and Reinhard Mey’s cover version of the song “Susanne” got released before Vescoli’s original. His song “N1” with which he broached the issue of the ambivalent character of the N1 motorway (today’s A1) connecting Switzerland, is also rather striking. “N1 Du bisch e Schtraass wo-n i hass, aber irgendwie han-i Di gern” (N1 you’re a road that I hate but somehow I like you, too); he had already written a popular hit about traffic: “Scho Root” (Red lights again) (1975).

Modest and down-to-earth to this day: Toni Vescoli. (Photo: Plain)

New combinations

What was unusual at the time was that Toni Vescoli combined his dialect lyrics with American music and thus broke open songwriter traditions. He did realise at the time that he was able to reach people much more directly by singing his songs in dialect. As a consequence, he developed his music into a style where the lyrics can be followed better. This led him to folk music which he could also perform on his own.

When he was consequently hired by a small theatre once, he realised that he no longer needed amplifiers and that an acoustic guitar was enough. He thus landed in a music environment which he had not been looking for but where he felt at ease: He continued to play without an amplifying system for nearly 18 years. At some point, however, he felt that this environment where people were “hanging on to his every word”, became too imposing for his liking. He wanted to play electric guitar again, and that’s what the song “Wäge Dir” (because of you) is about.

Words for a love song

The changeover to dialect had not been easy. If you sing in dialect, you have to be very careful about what you wish to sing, Toni Vescoli mentioned in an interview. It was not that easy to sing “ich liebe Dich” (I love you) – even if nowadays these words are not as embarrassing anymore, as the current world of dialect music shows.

Toni Vescoli broached the issue of the difficulty to find words for a love song with the title “Lady Lo” where he sings himself to the conclusion that: “öisi Schprach isch unbruchbar” (our language is useless). It was meant to be a love song for his wife, Toni Vescoli explained, but turned into a confession of failing with regards to finding the right lyrics. It all sounded kitschy and plump – and that is why he turned it into the theme of the song. Where words become useless for the purpose of expressing feelings, the question could be asked whether playing pure instrumental music might be the solution. Toni Vescoli replies to this and laughs that he simply wasn’t good enough as a solo guitarist to do just that.

Indeed, Toni Vescoli has not succumbed to any delusion of grandeur to this day. And he has continued to show that he does not have any fear of being in touch with young musicians or other styles such as hip-hop. In 2012, for example, he presented his interpretation of Baba Uslender’s “Baustellsong” (construction site song) in a show of the “Cover me” series on SRF television. Toni Vescoli has remained young in terms of his music – and may that be so in future!

Information and live dates: www.vescoli.ch (e.g. Performances with Les Sauterelles in Liverpool during the “Beatles week” from 25-28 August).

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  1. Ich lernte Toni in den frühen 80er Jahren kennen, als ich der lead Gittarist der Windows war. Toni präsentierte eine TV Show, in der wir auftraten. Ich erinnere mich ganz besonders an ein Konzert im Kongresshaus für die Neubürger Feier, an der Toni präsentierte. Zuerst spielte das Hazi Osterwald Orchester, dann wir. Während wir spielten, standen plötzlich Reihen von Gästen auf und gingen zum Ausgang. Wir hatten keine Erklärung dafür. . . bis wir das Tränengas ‘witterten’, welches ein Idiot in der Mitte des Kongresshauses abgelassen hatte. Toni, mit Tränen in den Augen, steckte seinen Kopf aus dem Vorhang und rief uns zu, “Mached witer, mached witer”. Der Anlass war dann leider zu Ende, da sich niemand dem Tränengas aussetzen wollten.

    Ich war lange zuvor auch mal mit dem Sauterelles Bassisten Freddy Mangili befreundet. Auch ein sehr netter Typ.

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Toni Vescoli was born on 18th July, 75 years ago. 55 years ago, on 19th September, the musician from Zurich founded the legendary beat music band Les Sauterelles. It is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts during the “Beatles week” in Liverpool. At the same time, Toni Vescoli continues to perform with his dialect projects “MacheWasiWill” (dowhatilike), “imDUO” and “Toni VESCOLI&Co”. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli, SUISA member since 1967 has not only influenced Swiss beat music, but has also been pioneering dialect performances, playing Dylan songs and narrating Pingu radio plays (Photo: Kessler)

Five years ago, during the TV programme “Stars extra”, Toni Vescoli said – with an embarrassed grin on his face – that he did not succumb to the DOG, the delusions of grandeur. The...read more

“As a songwriter, you’re some sort of a lone wolf”

Debrah Scarlett already enjoyed international fame before releasing her début EP “DYS(U)TOPIA” in mid-March. Prior to that, the Norwegian-Swiss musician joined SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Debrah Scarlett: “As a songwriter, you’re some sort of a lone wolf”

New SUISA member: Joanna Deborah Bussinger who has adopted the pseudonym Debrah Scarlett. (Photo: Stian Foss)

“I prefer to play it safe and don’t place expectations in myself and others that are too high”, explains Joanna Deborah Bussinger when asked about her future plans. It was not least because of this kind of caution that the 23-year-old avoided the risk of turning into a fleeting pop starlet that has to waive the control over its career. In 2013, the daughter of a Norwegian mother and a Swiss-Italian father had taken part in the Norwegian version of the talent show “The Voice” – and reached the semi-final.

“I didn’t even want to win”, she adds with a smile, “otherwise I would have had to subject myself to tricky conditions.” Still, she doesn’t want to miss the experience she gained there any less than the experience of representing Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015, where she reached eighth place under her pseudonym Debrah Scarlett together with her duet partner Kjetil Mørland.

Trying out new things

“I do like to face fascinating opportunities and challenges”, Joanna Deborah Bussinger explains. “Even if I am scared at first, I nearly always learn something from the experience.” This also applies to her commute between Switzerland and Norway. She grew up in her native town of Basel and moved together with her mother and her two brothers to Norway when she was six years old. At the age of ten, she decided to try out “what it would be like to live with her father in Basel”. When she turned 21, she moved back – “rather intuitively” – to Norway. “That was a point in time where a lot of things were open and nothing stood in my way.”

Her family also played a major role regarding her professional career. “My parents have always told me: If you want to do something, then do it.” Another characterising effect for Joanna Deborah Bussinger was that she comes from a family which had been art and music enthusiasts for generations. Her mother is a painter and singer, her father plays the piano and writes poems. “When I was five years old, I didn’t yet know that I wanted to become a musician but that I had to express myself somehow, whether visually or musically. Music turned out to be the most natural medium and means for me to create my own world.”

Fuelled by feelings

When she was 15, Joanna Deborah Bussinger began to play the piano and to write songs. Soon she took singing lessons and attended the preparatory class at the Academy of Art and Design as well as the prep class of the Jazz Campus in Basel. She became more and more active and was a singer with the project ‘The Rumours’, for example. What she really wanted to do, however, was to develop her own music. The début EP “DYS(U)TOPIA” which was released mid-March does, despite its many stylistic influences sound remarkably independent and proficient, and it isn’t just the captivating singing but also the dreamy atmosphere that stands out.

Joanna Deborah Bussinger has written most of the songs at home so far, alone in front of the piano. “I have, more recently, also started to collaborate with other musicians. It is exciting to try something that you wouldn’t do alone at home, after all, as a songwriter, you’re usually some sort of a lone wolf.” Most of her songs are fuelled by a feeling, present around her, and for which she was trying to find a melody. “From this, a theme usually emerges and I soon realise while I am composing which direction the journey will take.”

Still going in 40 years’ time!

Music has become her “language”, as she spoke several languages since childhood and yet never managed any of them to perfection. “Music allowed me to express myself properly.” Nevertheless, she also writes song lyrics subtle and pensive at the same time, which reverberate even more once they are sung. They are always in English even though this is neither her mother’s nor her father’s tongue. “Strangely enough, it feels better for me to write personal lyrics in English. It provides the story with a certain distance, as if I had experienced it three years ago and would now only sing about it.”

Joanna Deborah Bussinger hopes that her career will continue to develop steadily; she is already working on a début album. “I try to do what I can and all members of my great team are doing the same, helping me in Basel, Berlin, London and Oslo. Still, I want to keep a nice, slow pace, not too fast, so that I don’t get under commercial pressure. After all, I still want to make music in 40 years.”

Comforting knowledge

With such long-term plans in mind, SUISA also plays a role, even though Joanna Deborah Bussinger has only recently joined as a member. “I had not really seen the sense in a membership of a collective management organisation for copyright before, as I had not published my compositions at that time.” This changed since she has been signed to the management and label ‘Radicalis’. As the company has its offices in Basel, she decided to become a SUISA member even though she is still living in Norway. “This way, the specialists at Radicalis can check any questions directly with SUISA which is also known for the fact that settlements are made quicker than at any other collective management organisation.” She doesn’t know yet what exactly she can expect from SUISA in terms of royalties. “But I think it’s great for all musicians that this kind of cooperative society exists. After all, it simplifies our lives with its work and defends our rights – to know that is really comforting.”

Concerts:
4th – 6th April at the “Zermatt Unplugged Festival”.

www.debrahscarlett.com, Debrah Scarlett’s official website

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Debrah Scarlett already enjoyed international fame before releasing her début EP “DYS(U)TOPIA” in mid-March. Prior to that, the Norwegian-Swiss musician joined SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Debrah Scarlett: “As a songwriter, you’re some sort of a lone wolf”

New SUISA member: Joanna Deborah Bussinger who has adopted the pseudonym Debrah Scarlett. (Photo: Stian Foss)

“I prefer to play it safe and don’t place expectations in myself and others that are too high”, explains Joanna Deborah Bussinger when asked about her future plans. It was not least because of this kind of caution that the 23-year-old avoided the risk of turning into a fleeting pop starlet that has to waive the control over its career. In 2013, the daughter of a Norwegian mother and a Swiss-Italian father had taken part in the Norwegian version of the talent show “The Voice” – and reached the...read more

Marco Zappa: 50 anni di musica

A story of 50 years’ success: The only sustained career in Switzerland in relation to the “canzone italiana” – in all its dimensions. An undisputed, and undoubtedly significant fact about the singer songwriter Marco Zappa from Bellinzona, who has become the focal point of music culture in the Ticino again at the beginning of the year. This comes with the release of his new album “PuntEBarrier” which contains 18 unpublished songs, and a tour across Switzerland starting on 14 March 2017 in the Teatro Sociale Bellinzona. Interview/Text by Zeno Gabaglio – La versione italiana del testo si trova sotto.

Marco Zappa: 50 anni di musica

Interview with Marco Zappa in the studio MarcoZappaMusic in Sementina. (Photos: Manu Leuenberger)

50 years of music: This is a great opportunity to meet Marco and cast a look back into the past. We asked him to tell us how it all began and how his relationship with musical creativity developed; in the Ticino – an area which had never really stood out in terms of the “canzone italiana”, i.e. songs in Italian.

Marco Zappa: At the beginning of it all, there was my mother who regarded me as a pianist in the classical music sector. We lived in Bellinzona at the time, and I was still barely a child. I played the piano for two years – more or less ‘under duress’ – and I do recall that I really didn’t enjoy it: I had to practice every day, but had completely different things on my mind at that age. While I was a boy scout, I began playing the harmonica (mouth organ), an instrument which, unlike a piano, you can take with you and also share your music with others. My mother’s sister played the guitar. She had taught me my first view chords, exactly at the time when Adriano Celentano and the first “shouting singers” were all the rage in Italy. I was hooked right from the start and could immediately relate to that type of music. I founded a small band with my colleagues from the Gymnasium (grammar school) with which we performed at school parties.

Marco Zappa (l.) and Zeno Gabaglio.

Zeno Gabaglio: What kind of opportunities did those have who wanted to make music and share it – as much as possible – with others?
The desire effectively existed to meet up to make music, but it was mainly folk and traditional music. I have also spent a few years to sing and play la Verzaschina, il Boccalino and various other songs that nowadays would be called ‘folk’. When it comes to live music in the Ticino, there was quite a good supply of ensembles that performed light music, i.e. bands (even those with just 4-5 musicians) that performed a repertoire mix between jazz, swing and ‘Schlager’ [traditional German-language pop songs]. On my way home after school, I always stopped outside the bars of Locarno where they were playing in order to listen to their music. And I was totally enchanted and learned new chords.

But the music of such dance ensembles was “old” music, wasn’t it? How come that Marco Zappa found a more modern path to rock music?
It was the electric guitar. One evening where I performed with my band in the Oratorium in Minusio, the priest who had organised the meeting, played the song Apache by The Shadows, with those wonderful tunes at the beginning, played by a distorted electric guitar. It was love at first “sound”. And then there were, of course, the songs by the Beatles! …

New album “PuntEBarrier”.

The rock career of Marco Zappa thus goes back to a modern priest?
Yes, in a way: to an enlightened priest! But as we were – so suddenly – infected with the electric guitar virus, young people like us had a problem: How could we change our instruments so that we would manage to hit exactly that tone? A friend who was an electrical engineer told me that you would get a microphone if you unscrewed the lower part of a telephone receiver (i.e. the part into which you speak). So I did exactly that and mounted that piece onto my guitar, connected both wires to an amplifier of an old radio owned by my parents and voilà, I had my first electric guitar. I do remember how I rode through the city with the old radio, tied to the moped on my way to the rehearsals …

Shortly after, you began – with the Teenager Band – to create music, even though you would not reach the gravitational centre of your musical universe until a few years later, by changing from English to Italian. Could you explain to us what led to this important development?
I had grown up listening to English rock pieces on my turntable. I played singles a thousand times in order to practice the guitar solos and to learn the lyrics by heart. Even though our English wasn’t brilliant, we still wrote our songs and performed them in that language, as we mainly listened to English rock at the time. Strangely enough, I find myself criticising musicians of today a little when they – even though Italian is their mother tongue – sing in English only, and I do believe I have the right to do so, especially as that’s exactly how I started myself! Our first two albums were recorded in English and we were proud that EMI (the record label of the Beatles!) produced it; they would have never produced the albums with us in any other language than English.

“The words you choose are just like fingers on a guitar: You need to feel that they are your own. If this is not the case, then the musical result is not really authentic.” – Marco Zappa

So when did you change to Italian?
The transition to Italian took place in 1979. Musical tastes around us had changed, and so had certain connections to the concept of the “canzone italiana”; but it was mainly a case of a new awareness that had awakened in me. The language that you use is like the instrument which you need to own. The words you choose are just like fingers on a guitar: You need to feel that they are your own. If this is not the case, then the musical result is not really authentic. Since then, this is what has been happening: When I experience a story in my dialect, then I have to write it in my dialect, and if I experience it in Italian, I have to write it in Italian. The same applies to any other languages. That’s not a decision I have to take up front, it is the story itself that I want to tell which leads me onto an unavoidably expressive path.

And now, finally, for the music. What happened is that you have come off rather quickly from the young convention of the English language, and it was the same with your musical vision which had only been influenced by rock music. You thus went to look for less predictable and undoubtedly more daring solutions. What made you choose this direction?
Due to the change to Italian lyrics, I chose an unusual musical setup: a trio with flute and cello. Maybe, at the time, my subconscious told me to do something that even my mother would like. The setup of the band seemed to be classical, but the spirit was definitely committed to rock, even if many people were of the opinion at the time that you could only create rock music with a stratocaster with a distortion switch. Since then, I have always tried to be open to new musicians, instruments and ideas when it comes to musical collaboration. The principle is the same, as it also applies to the lyrics: The story that you wish to tell suggests different technical and poetic solutions – and sometimes it also provides them. If you use the same stones every time and also stack them in the same way, you’ll end up with the same wall, every time.

www.marcozappa.ch, official website


Marco Zappa: 50 anni di musica

Cinquant’anni di carriera: l’unica duratura carriera della canzone svizzera che si sia svolta dentro (ma anche sopra, sotto e accanto) alla lingua italiana. Questo è il dato incontrovertibile – e incontrovertibilmente fondamentale – che riguarda Marco Zappa, e che ancora una volta in questo inizio di 2017 ripropone il cantautore bellinzonese al centro della cultura musicale della Terza Svizzera. Con un nuovo disco con 18 inediti – «PuntEBarrier» – e con un tour nazionale che inizierà il prossimo 14 marzo al Teatro Sociale di Bellinzona. Intervista/testo: Zeno Gabaglio

L’occasione è dunque imperdibile per incontrare Marco e fare qualche passo indietro, per farci raccontare com’è iniziato e come si è sviluppato il suo rapporto con la creatività musicale; in una regione – il Ticino – che dal punto di vista della canzone in lingua italiana non aveva mai offerto esempi illuminanti.

Marco Zappa: È iniziato tutto da mia madre, che mi vedeva come interprete-pianista in ambito classico. Abitavamo ancora a Bellinzona ed ero appena un bambino. Ho suonato due anni quasi per forza il pianoforte e mi ricordo che non mi piaceva: dovevo studiare ogni giorno ma avevo ben altre cose per la testa, a quell’età. Negli scout ho poi cominciato a suonare l’armonica a bocca, uno strumento che, a differenza del pianoforte, si poteva portare in giro e con cui si poteva condividere la musica. La sorella di mia madre suonava invece la chitarra, e fu lei a mostrarmi i primi accordi, proprio nel periodo in cui in Italia imperversavano Celentano e i primi “cantanti urlatori”. Mi sono subito appassionato e immedesimato, raccogliendo i miei compagni di ginnasio in un piccolo gruppo con cui suonavamo alle feste degli studenti.

Zeno Gabaglio: Che possibilità c’erano per chi voleva fare musica, e magari anche condividerla con gli altri?
Il bisogno di trovarsi attorno al fare musica effettivamente c’era, ma in genere si rivolgeva alla musica popolare. Anch’io ho passato diversi anni a cantare e suonare la Verzaschina, il Boccalino e le varie canzoni che oggi diremmo folk. Per la musica dal vivo in Ticino c’era però ancora una buona offerta di orchestre di musica leggera, cioè gruppi (di anche solo 4-5 elementi) che si esibivano in repertori tra il jazz, lo swing e la canzone; tornando a casa da scuola mi fermavo sempre ad ascoltarli davanti ai bar di Locarno in cui si esibivano, restando sempre affascinato dalla musica che facevano ed imparando accordi nuovi.

Ma quella delle orchestrine era comunque una musica «vecchia»! Cosa portò invece Marco Zappa sulla strada ben più moderna del rock?
La chitarra elettrica. Durante una serata in cui – con il mio gruppo – suonammo all’Oratorio di Minusio, il prete che organizzava l’incontro diffuse dall’impianto il brano Apache degli Shadows, con quei meravigliosi suoni iniziali di chitarra elettrica riverberata. Fu un colpo di fulmine, e poi, naturalmente, le canzoni dei Beatles! …

Quindi all’origine del percorso rock di Marco Zappa ci fu la modernità di un prete?
In un certo senso sì: di un prete illuminato! Ma contagiato così – all’improvviso – dal germe della chitarra elettrica, per noi giovanissimi rimaneva un problema: come trasformare i nostri strumenti per cercare di ottenere esattamente quel suono lì? Un amico elettrotecnico mi disse che dalla cornetta del telefono, svitando la parte inferiore (cioè quella in cui si parlava), si poteva ricavare un microfono. Così feci, togliendolo e incollandolo alla chitarra, collegai poi i due fili risultanti all’amplificatore della radio dei miei genitori e ottenni la mia prima chitarra elettrica. Ancora mi ricordo quando attraversavo la città con la vecchia radio legata sul motorino per andare a fare le prove …

Di lì a poco – con la band Teenagers – avresti cominciato a fare le cose decisamente sul serio, anche se il centro gravitazionale del tuo universo musicale lo avresti raggiunto qualche anno più tardi, passando dalla lingua inglese a quella italiana. Ci puoi spiegare questa tua fondamentale evoluzione?
Ero cresciuto ascoltando pezzi rock inglesi sul mio giradischi, ascoltando mille volte i 45 giri per imparare gli assoli di chitarra e memorizzare i testi. E se anche la conoscenza della lingua era per tutti approssimativa, si scriveva e si cantava in inglese proprio perché i nostri ascolti di quel periodo erano focalizzati sul rock britannico. Oggi paradossalmente critico un po’ quei musicisti che – pur essendo di lingua madre italiana – cantano solo in inglese, e credo di poterlo fare proprio perché anch’io, in fondo, ho cominciato così. I primi due LP li realizzammo in inglese, e l’orgoglio fu che a produrceli c’era la EMI (la casa discografica dei Beatles!) che senza l’inglese non ce li avrebbe mai prodotti.

«Le parole che scegli sono come le tue dita su una chitarra: devi sentirle tue, e se non è così il risultato musicale non sarà sincero.» – Marco Zappa

E l’italiano quando arrivò?
Il passaggio all’italiano è avvenuto nel 1979. Attorno a noi erano cambiati certi gusti musicali e certi rapporti con l’idea della canzone; ma soprattutto avevo maturato io una nuova consapevolezza: la lingua che usi è come uno strumento, che ti deve appartenere. Le parole che scegli sono come le tue dita su una chitarra: devi sentirle tue, e se non è così il risultato musicale non sarà sincero. Da allora se una storia la vivo in dialetto, non posso che scriverla in dialetto, e se la vivo in italiano, devo scriverla in italiano, e così per le altre lingue. Non si tratta di una scelta obbligatoria e a priori che mi impongo prima di scrivere qualcosa, ma è la stessa storia che voglio raccontare a portarmi sull’inevitabile strada linguistico-espressiva.

Infine la musica. Perché se è vero che ti sei presto allontanato dalla convenzione giovanilistica dell’inglese, altrettanto hai fatto da una visione musicale esclusivamente rock, andando a cercare soluzioni meno scontate e – indubbiamente – più ardite. Chi ti ha spinto in questa direzione?
Proprio per la svolta testuale in italiano scelsi una veste musicale inusitata: un trio con flauto e violoncello. Forse inconsciamente volevo fare qualcosa che piacesse anche a mia madre. La formazione sembrava classica, ma lo spirito era chiaramente rock, anche se per molti si poteva fare rock solo usando una Stratocaster con distorsione. Da allora ho sempre cercato di aprirmi a collaborazioni musicali con musicisti, strumenti e idee ogni volta diversi, e il principio è lo stesso che vale per il testo: è la storia da raccontare che suggerisce – a volte imponendole – soluzioni tecniche e poetiche differenti. Perché altrimenti se usi ogni volta gli stessi mattoni e ogni volta li sovrapponi allo stesso modo, il risultato sarà sempre lo stesso muro.

www.marcozappa.ch

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A story of 50 years’ success: The only sustained career in Switzerland in relation to the “canzone italiana” – in all its dimensions. An undisputed, and undoubtedly significant fact about the singer songwriter Marco Zappa from Bellinzona, who has become the focal point of music culture in the Ticino again at the beginning of the year. This comes with the release of his new album “PuntEBarrier” which contains 18 unpublished songs, and a tour across Switzerland starting on 14 March 2017 in the Teatro Sociale Bellinzona. Interview/Text by Zeno Gabaglio – La versione italiana del testo si trova sotto.

Marco Zappa: 50 anni di musica

Interview with Marco Zappa in the studio MarcoZappaMusic in Sementina. (Photos: Manu Leuenberger)

50 years of music: This is a great opportunity to meet Marco and cast a look back into the past. We asked...read more

“New York forced me to be original”

Basel-based musician Manuel Gagneux has caused quite an international stir with his utterly unusual style mix of his project Zeal & Ardor. The composer and artist of dual Swiss-American nationality has recently joined SUISA. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

Manuel Gagneux: “New York forced me to be original”

New at SUISA: Basel-based Manuel Gagneux of Zeal & Ardor. (Photo: Matthias Willi)

Last year, Zeal & Ardor seemed to appear out of nowhere with their mix of gospel, slave song, blues and black metal. The renowned US-American magazine Rolling Stone wrote the following under the title “Best Metal Records of 2016 So Far”: None of this year’s songs sounded “as strange, unfathomable and wonderful” as “Devil Is Fine” by Zeal and Ardor. Said album will now be officially released globally, and international live performances will follow.

Broadly influenced style

It is not out of nowhere that this solo project by Manuel Gagneux has appeared, after all. He grew up in a musical home in Basel, where there was a piano that always invited to tinkle the ivories. Such are the memories that the 28-year-old shares during an interview in his cool and gloomy basement practice room in Kleinbasel. His mother is an Afro-American singer, his Swiss father has been playing percussion with the salsa formation Picason and in the funk band Grand Mother’s Funck for many years.

They sent their son to take saxophone lessons but Manuel Gagneux couldn’t get on with this instrument at all. At the age of 15, he began to play the guitar because he loved Rock and Metal – well, he still does. Soon, he fell in love with Black Metal because “it was the most extreme music around back then”, he admits with a laugh. “Of course I know now that a lot of things surrounding Black Metal are questionable”.

Looking for a challenge

Manuel Gagneux has already proved with three astoundingly versatile and pop-like albums of his solo project Birdmask that he does not want to be nailed down when it comes to his style. These albums were mainly created in New York where he had moved to in 2012, since he found that the Basel music scene was not challenging enough. “If you do something in New York, you can be sure that there’s someone that does it better. That requires a certain kind of humility but also forced me to be original, something I actually appreciated.”

Looking for a new creative approach, he followed unusual paths. On the internet forum 4chan, he posted the question which two music styles would be incompatible, intending to use it as a kind of exercise to combine them into a song in half an hour. Someone replied “Black Metal and nigger music”. While Manuel Gagneux didn’t find that too funny, what with his Afro-American mother, but he found it musically stimulating.

Combine the incompatible

The singer and multi-instrumentalist thus went on a search for original material of Black Music. He had particular success in the online archive of the US-American ethnologist Alan Lomax. He took his inspiration from songs sung by slaves in the fields, for example, and repeated them by singing parts of them in a modified manner, then combined them with Metal riffs and even added electronic sounds to three of the songs.

Following a trial & error method, he was able to combine these different elements, Manuel Gagneux adds. “The first songs turned out to be awful”, he recalls and rolls his eyes. “But at some point I realised that it would be best if I opened the pieces with Spiritual Music, as it has a welcoming effect: You want to bop along, join in. Metal Music, on the other hand, is like a slap in the face, and you can give the music an enormous push with that.”

From a solo project to a band

Manuel Gagneux played all instruments himself, apart from the drums which he programmed, as he does not regard himself “as a gifted drummer”. He also recorded everything with his laptop and “a simple microphone” and engineered it. “I only used bad equipment, but that was also an advantage”, he grins.

What he probably means: The recordings really don’t sound perfect but it amplifies their authenticity. In order to be able to give a captivating performance during his coming tour, he has assembled a band with five musicians – and he’s already writing new material for it – his album is, after all, only 25 minutes long.

“There’s no two ways about it”

Before his career kicks off properly, Manuel Gagneux registered with SUISA. His parents had already told him early on that he ought to become a member. “I used to laugh it off. And my opinion of SUISA was ambivalent because some of the bands had told me that they would not be booked by clubs because they had to pay SUISA fees.”

His manager, David Burger of Reelmusic, had, however, warmly recommended that he become a member, because there’s simply no two ways about it. He has no expectations as of yet what benefits this could bring him for definite. “I am a new member and have therefore got no clue what I can expect.”

Tour dates in Switzerland and adjacent regions:
14 April 2017 Czar Fest Basel, 3 May 2017 Magnolia Milano, 4 May 2017 Usine Geneva; he has also planned some summer festival performances.

www.zealandardor.com, official website of Zeal & Ardor

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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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Basel-based musician Manuel Gagneux has caused quite an international stir with his utterly unusual style mix of his project Zeal & Ardor. The composer and artist of dual Swiss-American nationality has recently joined SUISA. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

Manuel Gagneux: “New York forced me to be original”

New at SUISA: Basel-based Manuel Gagneux of Zeal & Ardor. (Photo: Matthias Willi)

Last year, Zeal & Ardor seemed to appear out of nowhere with their mix of gospel, slave song, blues and black metal. The renowned US-American magazine Rolling Stone wrote the following under the title “Best Metal Records of 2016 So Far”: None of this year’s songs sounded “as strange, unfathomable and wonderful” as “Devil Is Fine” by Zeal and Ardor. Said album will now be officially released globally, and international live performances will follow.

Broadly influenced style

It is not out of nowhere that...read more