How and when was the band born?
Grégoire Garrigues: Before even thinking about a band, Robert Lloyd, Sonny Sharrock and I were in Bill Laswell’s studio in New York in 1993 to record an album and we improvised a 10-minute piece of feedback with a view to incorporate it into a track. The result was so beautiful that it became a track in its own right, and was titled ’Tribute to Sun Ra’.
The group came together somewhat by chance in 1997 when recording tracks that would be released 9 years later. I started off recording feedback on guitar and bass on my own, then I asked Iann Assuied to play drums on 2 tracks, Michel Guikovaty to compose piano parts for another one and Robert Lloyd came to play on ’Catalyst on the List’. As a result: The Cool Feedback Quartet was born and an album ’Dash My Mind’ was released in 2016 thanks to Thierry Los / 3 Jeunes Tambours !
What have you been up to since then?
GG: Only a few concerts, a live album and 2 other studio albums, so 4 albums, which is no mean feat!
How would you describe the Feedback technique?
GG: Feedback is pretty simple to explain: take an electric guitar, the sound of the instrument comes out of an amp, this sound is picked up by the instrument’s microphone and this forms a sound loop that can last as long as you like.
And why feedback specifically?
Robert Lloyd: I’ve always been spellbound by and in love with the Pibroch music of the Scottish Highlands (long solo bagpipe improvisations, very similar to Indian ragas). Somehow I knew I had to get into ’that world’. I was very fond of Pete Townshend’s experiments, which nowadays would be described as ’noisy’, in his inspired heyday, but it wasn’t until I saw Jeff Beck, equipped with a Telecaster and a Vox AC30 amp in June ’65, immersed in feedback, that the revelation, like Claudel at Notre-Dame, overwhelmed me: THAT’S WHO I AM AND WHERE I WANT TO GO! It was as if Viviane and Merlin took me by the hand and said: ’we’re with you, you are one of us, go for it, this is your duty’.
GG: Feedback is really unique, it’s a bit like continuous breathing applied to the guitar. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to play loud to get feedback, but when there’s volume, it’s a unique pleasure to feel everything vibrating, the air, the amps, your body, everything around you, it goes completely crazy! You just have to see Jimi Hendrix in action, for example.
What is today’s line up?
GG: Since the first concert in June 2018 there has been Robert Lloyd-guitar, Jean-Bernard Lepape-drums, Gilbert Artman-bass clarinet and drums, Jac Berrocal-trumpet, Morgan Lanoë-bass and over the course of the other concerts Laurent Lanouzière-bass, José Ortuno-guitar, Tullia Morand-saxophone, Pierre Mimran-saxophone, Didier Léglise-synthesizer and Vincent Chavagnac-saxophone. The new album features Jérôme Pons-piano, but he hasn’t played live with us yet.
Grégoire, I know that Laurent and Jean-Bernard have been playing rock with you for a long time, but Tullia, Pierre, Gilbert and Jac, who come from other musical backgrounds, how did you end up playing in this group?
Tullia Moran and Pierre Mimran: Grégoire is first and foremost a friend. He’s open-minded about his style of music, he comes from rock and he’s curious to discover and integrate other musical worlds. He invited us to take part in the recording of 2 Cool Feedback albums and we were really taken with the idea. It was a great experience for us, a human and a musical one!
Gilbert Artman: Robert and I have known each other for a long time, and we used to go to the same venues and concerts. From time to time, we’d meet up at the end of the evening at the Lloyd’s, where the welcome was very warm, and the discotheque full of little gems and discoveries for me. It was also a place where Philippe Bone and Gilles Yéprémian were preparing actions and concerts with bands such as Half Human Band, Ricky Darling and others.
It was undoubtedly during one of these preparatory meetings for the Noisysson-Sec festival that Patrick Eudeline and the proto Asphalt Jungle, later joined by Grégoire Garrigues, first came together.
It was only too logical – after the very fine Robert Lloyd album - that surrounded by relentless noisy groovers, with the palette augmented by a pair of saxophonists bringing other colours and adding extra space, I joined the group at their invitation.
I’d like to thank them for their willingness to welcome us to this adventure with Jac from time to time, and to share our eternal thwarted well-being.
Jac Berrocal: We ended up playing together because the 4 of us know each other, along with Gilbert and Robert, but we don’t really come from different worlds - I listen to music from the Middle Ages to the hardest metal!
And Grégoire has a lot of experience in common with me, particularly through Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke.
Is it a group or a collective?
Laurent Lanouzière: The Cool Feedback is a collective and a group whose line up is liable to change, where each member brings his own sensitivity, his own stone to the building. In concerts, we sculpt this same stone as if we were cutting the facets of a precious stone to make it sparkle, properly calibrated and unique. To find its essence.
It’s all about nuances, suspended moments, listening, where one is standing, the silence and the noise, the stupor that rubs shoulders with a state of grace, where everyone finds their place.
A shared experience of swirling waves, feedback, crystalline sounds, distortion, reverb... Music to blow your mind!
Jean-Bernard Lepape: It’s a group that functions like a collective. Each concert so far has been performed with a different line up of people. It’s great to feel the shared pleasure of coming together around an unusual sound.
How would you define the Cool Feedback musically?
GG: The simplest way would be to say “Free-Form Music”, it’s not really free-jazz or ambient or experimental music.
JBL: It’s a unique blend of jazz and rock, but it’s not just that, nor is it jazz-rock, it’s also free music, which is why it’s so interesting.
As Grégoire says, Free-Form Music is great because in this music there’s freedom, there’s Free.
You’ve just released a new album, Free Spirit. Where and with whom was it recorded?
GG: It was recorded in Paris with the musicians mentioned above, except for Vincent Chavagnac who only played live.
How do you record: do the horns rehearse together, and guitars too?
GG: For this album 3 tracks were written with the drummers, Gilbert and Jean-Bernard, for the other musicians I prepared the basics which the musicians listened to on their own, then during the recording they knew in which direction to go. The rehearsals only take place before the concerts.
How would you describe this new album?
GG: It’s a continuity of the previous album, with the addition of new instruments (Dan Bao, mandolin, MS20). Gilbert Artman plays drums this time and Jérôme Pons is taking part for the first time.
How do you go about composing?
GG: I always start by finding chords on piano, then I think about the instruments that will be there. Tempo and key are also important, and must be taken into account for certain instruments. I then record demos that gradually turn into songs.
The Cool Feedback could be compared to certain types of jazz music. Does improvisation play a big role in this?
GG: Yes, the fact of improvising is what brings the group closest to jazz. And to do that you need musical support, which is provided by feedback from the guitars and enhanced by the drums.
JBL: Yes, of course, improvisation plays a big part, it has its place, it contributes to the construction of the tracks.
It’s a music that we’re trying to build and that’s influenced by so much other musical forms, the members of the group know a lot of things, that’s why they manage to find themes, colours and improvise together and that’s what makes it a whole.
PM: Improvisation is fundamental to this project. It’s essential and it offers a great deal of freedom that you find in free jazz, but with a more classical aesthetic in the solos.
How does this work out on stage?
GG: The music is written down and allows the soloists to improvise, but each of them makes it evolve as they see it. I indicate the changes of theme, I act a bit as conductor and with Jean-Bernard we mainly wave to each other and all the musicians listen to what the others are doing, and we have to know how to stop at the right moment together!
PM: For me it was a great pleasure to play on stage with the group. The total openness allows you to explore infinite possibilities of improvisation.
JBL: On stage it’s all about listening, it’s all about magic. There’s no recipe for it, that’s why I use the word magic, the band’s sound really takes shape, there’s really a sound that’s there, and it plays, and it plays, and it plays!
It’s amazing to get together with people like Jean-Bernard who’s a magnificent drummer. Everyone is tuned in to what’s going on.
What are your plans for the future?
JBL: To find a tour manager and a circuit to do more concerts.
GG: Yes, that’s what we miss the most. Making records is great but live shows are irreplaceable and we miss them.
How can we buy your records?
The last word!
GG: Feedback has no end, it’s a living immaterial material that you can nevertheless shape to your heart’s content.