About "ON TIME"

Interview by J.P Gamet, former journalist at Paris Match

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Hi Claude…! Or do I have to call you GODO now…?

Actually GODO is a very free contraction of my last name, many of my friends used to call me so. When I had to name my project, I didn’t hesitate for a long time, I didn’t have to look long…

To this nickname, you added an ampersand (&), why…?

 

I designed this album as a project… I had already written more or less all the songs, because I had them in mind for a long time… I thought that I was able to do everything by myself, since I had all the necessary instruments in my studio. When I started to record the demos, rather hastily, often on the corner of my bed, clumsily manipulating the sliders of my Zoom, I quickly realized that the case was going to be tough… And at that moment, I thought of an album that was once my bedside record, "Johnny Winter And," a great Live album, and I told myself that if he, Johnny Winter, had seen fit to surround himself with other musicians, I shouldn’t have any qualms about doing the same…! Then adding the word “and”, which said a little bit without saying too much, I thought it was a good idea… So I didn’t have too much trouble convincing myself that I needed to be build a team if I wanted to carry out well my project, and that’s how the idea of the ampersand symbol came to my mind to be added to my nickname, and also I thought it was aesthetically rather nice, and I was far from imagining which meetings it would take me to…

We know you through your commercial activities in the music industry, specially your guitar shops in the famous Pigalle area in Paris that you managed for a long time… It’s surprising to see you suddenly show up with a great album, to say the least, unexpected... When did you come up with the idea…?

 

I never really stopped playing…Most of the people in the musical instrument industry are often players. I took part in some music projects with friends, we managed to do things that were sometimes interesting, but the affair was always ending down the tubes… by lack of availability, involvement, seriousness I believe, for which I could include myself in this observation… it’s very complicated to manage multiple activities at the same time.... And there’s always a frustration in having to stop a project often because of things that have nothing to do with the music or the musicians. So, in my last experience, after a first gig with a trio that everyone thought was pretty promising, the band broke up, and I said to myself… Now It’s time…! Time for me to take matters into my own hands and somehow become my first critic.

Here we are… So tell us about ON TIME…

 

ON TIME, this title immediately came to my mind… For quite some time I had accumulated on my laptop dozens of melodies that passed through my head. Sometimes only embryos… I settled down in my studio in La Bernerie, and I started to clean up all this in order to make the demos of the titles. I also started writing the lyrics, using words that seemed to me to illustrate the melody well, with the concern of making the whole as harmonious as possible according to my voice, without trying to tell a story, but rather to create an atmosphere that is specific to the songs, and thus ensure that the album is coherent as a whole, even though I know that no one listens to an entire album today…

How long did it take you to make this album?

 

I will say not far from 3 years…!  I know it may seem long, but time flies…
The pandemic has also made things very complicated for everyone. The recording sessions were sometimes postponed or cancelled. My friend Phil Chen, who was supposed to come and record the bass tracks in Paris, was never able to do it. But also without really realizing it, I think I wanted to make this adventure last as long as possible. It was fun…I had no pressure from anyone, I was completely free to do whatever I wanted, and this exciting adventure took me on unexpected paths, exciting encounters… It is true that if I had gone back to the studio as it was originally planned, the affair would have been closed in a few weeks, but in the end it was not the option chosen, and it is so much better because the album certainly would not have looked like what it is...

How did the recording go then…?

 

First,  the demos, for which I did everything by myself. Very tough job actually… One hand on the recorder, the other on the instrument… starting again dozens of times because it was never stalled...  Where you thought you were capable, you get a big slap in the face. I even got to a point where I was close to giving up… As in an SOS, I called my buddy Marc Salama to tell him how lost I was… He then gave me the contact of Pier Alesandri. Pier is a former sound engineer of the Studio du Château d’Hérouville, very famous recording place in the 70’s, and he managed to put in order my demos what were - I must confess - a hell of a mess, and in the end to make a quality mix, and very faithful to what I was hoping for. Then I had to know if it was worth going to the studio to give life to this project. And as no one told me it was lame, so I went ahead…

In studio this time… How did you choose it…?

 

From the beginning nothing happened the way I though it would. After the experience of the demo, I had to reconsider my plans.  There was no longer any question of me combining the functions. First of all, I needed a good guitarist… Suffice it to say that in my address book there is no lack of that. I know almost all of them and some of them are friends… At a birthday party of my friend Gerry Plisson, a guy went on stage alone with his guitar and his amp and played for about 30 minutes, and then I thought… There he is...! I did not even talk to him until the following year, when I sat next to him and said, “Do you want to play in my album?” He said yes right away, without knowing what it was about, and immediately established a climate of trust between us, which would become a friendship. Not knowing which studio to turn to, Kim suggested I meet a friend, the brilliant sound engineer Michel Taitinger to lead the project. Gerry Plisson had also been one of the first to react positively to listening to my demos and to encourage me, and I knew from having already played with him, that his experience and talent would be useful to me. With Kim, Gerry and Michel, I had my three musketeers, and that’s how it all started Michel’s Bluegamm studio.

So let’s talk about this album… there are 17 musicians involved, not least… What a cast…!

 

As I said before, it didn’t all go as planned.... There was supposed to be a four-piece classical band for the whole album. But things immediately went wrong at the casting level, to the point where it was considered to give up the project. We were all confused, and at that moment, I felt that my Musketeers didn’t want to give up, and it gave me energy not to disappoint them. The big problem was the keyboard player. There are a lot of keyboards in my songs and I had to find one quickly. One night, I go to a Steven Wilson concert at the Olympia, and as I am obsessed with keyboards at this time, I wonder - for what I assume as being a North brand synthesizer (because it is red)- which model Adam Holzman plays. I search the Internet, I can’t find the answer, then I send him a message to ask him the question without really thinking that he would answer, but he does it… He tells me that although it’s a red color, his keyboard is not a North, and then the conversation goes on… I tell him that I’m preparing an album, he offers me to send him some tracks... Well that’s how Adam became the main keyboard player of ON TIME …

What about the others? Craig Blundell, Stu Hamm, Simon Phillips…?

 

When I listened to Adam’s shots, I was glued… I had the impression that my songs did not sound the same way and that they had taken on a whole different look. It seemed obvious to me that he had installed a level from which it was no longer possible to lower the cursor. At the same time, it gave me a lot of confidence, and I did not hesitate to contact in the same way musicians that I really like and suggest my songs to them. Craig on drums, Simon who does a stunning drumming on “Who Stole my car…?” along with Stuart Hamm on bass, not to mention the best of our frenchies who have all done a remarkable job.

There is a big name you’ve mentioned before who is absent in the album the late Phil Chen …

 

When I finished the demo for the album, the first person I sent it to was Phil. Phil is indeed a longtime friend and when I offered him to play on the album he said yes right away. I was really touched, but not surprised either from this extraordinarily humble and kind person, with whom I spent unforgettable moments. When I contacted him for the first takes, he told me despite of lock down issues that he didn’t feel able to play, that he had a sore shoulder. It had worried me no more at the time, but I couldn’t imagine that he would pass away few months later…

It’s your first solo album, but it looks like it has been the work of a band, so much you have highlighted all the instruments

I had the chance to work with great musicians and beautifull people too…Everytime I listen to my songs, I‘m surprised to hear them playing so well. My friend Gerry, who conducted the backing vovals, told me during the mixing sessions that they were sometimes too far ahead of my voice, which is true, but I still got the feeling that’s how the music sounded best.

In this album, you propose quite different tracks, but which retain nevertheless a real cohesion between them. Some say there is an atmosphere mostly Californian, what are your sources of inspiration?

 

As a great fan of melodies, I have always been fascinated by all genre of music. When there’s a good feeling and good vibes, no matter what style it is… However, I did not seek to draw inspiration from anyone, although composing a song is always the expression of our own musical culture and influences. 
It’s true that there are artists who have mattered more than others, and certainly helped shape my critical thinking, like Ian Anderson,Todd Rundgren, Mick Hucknall, Darryl Hall, different styles of musicians who have in common an extraordinary sense of the melody, which is for me the essential basis of music and therefore a source of inspiration.

The album will be released as digipack with a great 28-page booklet full of photos and pictures, as well as a limited 100-copy numbered vinyl, with the collaboration of a young painter…

I never really liked CD’s… So at least I wanted it to be as nice as possible…I have always regretted the disappearance of vinyl.... It is true that they are back in fashion, but it is no longer the same…Most of the Vinyl record shops that were so familiar to us have closed long ago… In the meantime, the object has been slightly desecrated, it’s no longer when we all used to look feverishly for nothing but the grail in the record racks… That’s why, while I was at it, I wanted to make a unique and original product since the vinyl album will be only 100 numbered copies in red color and will be accompanied by an exclusive work, also numbered, of the great painter Nicolas Brière.

The album is released for distribution on April 15th 2022. The promotion step is always a complicated and a thankless moment for DIY artists. How did you handle this phase?

 

I understand that the medias get tons of albums everyday, and to be even listened to, it’s already a feat… But that’s the way it is... I just wanted to make this album the best I could, hoping that those who listen to it will find it interesting enough to echo it, although I know that its little «old school» side has nothing to do with the current music standards...!

A word about the artwork on the album cover, fingers that move, as on the credits of your videos. Is there a special meaning…?

 

It’s a collaboration with the graphic designer Claire Chapuis. She was very good at translating my idea. Hands, fingers, with which we can express and feel so many sensations, touch, feel, imagine, play… and our idea was to draw fingers on the cover and make them move on each of our video messages that would precede or follow our videos. 

Are there concerts planed…?

 

There will be a showcase for the release of the album, because of course there is only on stage that the music can really express itself. Then we’ll see… I hope some concerts will be planed .I look forward to it…

And what will be after “ON TIME”…?

 

I’m working on a new album. I have songs almost ready that I couldn’t include with « On Time », and also I’ld like to work on a full acoustic album…