Photo courtesy of Jos KNAEPEN
Michel Delville was born in Liège in Belgium, and he is the founder of The Wrong Object, a group founded in Liege, Belgium in 2002. Combining the cosmic energies of the Nu-Jazz with the sensibilities of modern rock and electronic devices, the music of The Wrong Object is influenced by a wide range of artists ranging from Canterbury progressive rock to the Soft Machine, Gong to Béla Bartók, Squarepusher, Aka Moon, Charlie Mingus, Sonic Youth and Frank Zappa. I wanted to learn more about this musician, and offering to conduct the following interview. If you do not know the Nu-Jazz and you're curious, I highly suggest that you read on.
First of all thank you for accepting to answer a few questions.
The Wrong Object is little known in Quebec, how would you describe the band's philosophy, which looks more or less like variable geometry to me?
The group was born in Liège in late 2001 but our international reputation only started to grow in 2004, when we started to collaborate with Ed Mann, Frank Zappa's drummer, during the Zappanale festival in Germany. Since then, we have continued to work on covering the repertoire of Zappa live while producing albums featuring our own compositions. The first official album - one that opened our collaboration with Leonardo Pavkovic on his MoonJune label , with whom we are still working today - is a live album co-produced with Elton Dean (ex -Soft Machine) based on material designed specifically for this collaboration.
Arguably the Wrong Object is a group of variable geometry insofar as we regularly invite guests like Harry Beckett, Annie Whitehead, Benoît Moerlen, Stanley Jason Zappa, for specific projects. That being said, our studio albums always feature a stable line-up playing our own compositions.
How would you describe the music of Wrong Object? What are your main musical influences?
Our influences go from Stravinsky to Aka Moon, including Mingus , the Canterbury scene, Squarepusher , Brad Meldhau , psychedelia , post- rock ... not to mention Zappa , of course. More recently, we expanded our range of electronic sounds with the addition of Antoine Guenet's keyboards (Univers Zero ) to complete my guitar synth .
As far as I know and if my information is correct, you teach literature at the University of Liège. How were you introduced to music and how do you manage to do it almost full time?
I started to play the classical guitar at 14; I studied six years at the Academy, and then went to the United States where I turned to rock and jazz rock, although I am self taught in these styles. I do work full time at the University of Liège, where I lead interdisciplinary research (including the loop and repetition) which keeps me connected to my musical activities more than ever before.
Music is an essential part of my life and my activities and projects have increased a lot over the past fifteen years. Fortunately, there are evenings and often nights ... Let's say my calendar is full!
What can you tell us about your latest album «After the Exhibition "?
I am proud of this album, which is regarded by the press and the public as the best the band has produced so far. After a transition period due to important staff changes (drummer Laurent Delchambre and myself are the only ones remaining from the line-up of "The Unbelievable Truth ", our first official release in 2005), we managed to build a strong repertoire and more importantly, to develop a clean sound while remaining anchored in line with our previous albums. It is a varied album but a very a coherent one as it is the product of a strong group effort. And the icing on the cake is the presence of singer Susan Clynes and Benoît Moerlen (ex- Gong, Mike Oldfield ...) on the marimba and vibraphone.
Many people agree that this album is the most accessible of your discography, do you agree?
Yes, paradoxically, this is our most complex album but also the most accessible. It is very rich in terms of sound research, polyrhythm, harmony and polyphony, but what the public and the critics appreciate mostly, and rightly so, are the catchy hooks , a certain lyricism and beats that make you tap your foot , or even dance if you feel like it.
«After the Exhibition " is the first album I've heard of The Wrong Object , but I also had the chance to hear you on Doubt latest album « Mercy , Pity and Peace and Love ." Can you talk about your experience with Doubt and Alex Maguire?
I met Alex for the first time at a concert of Pip Pyle's Bash. Then he played and recorded a CD with The Wrong Object (the album was released under the name of Alex Maguire Quintet). In 2009, Leonardo Pavkovic - who is never short of ideas to promote new musics - suggested to create a ″power trio ". He recruited Tony Bianco, the perfect partner for our first album in the studios of Beppe Crovella ( Arte & Mestieri ) in Italy, and also Richard Sinclair, guested on the album and took part in our Japanese and European tours in 2010. Alex, Tony and I have in common that we all worked with Elton Dean - despite our differences. We somehow speak the same language and have common musical interests; whether in jazz, improvised music in or progressive rock (Alex had replaced Dave Stewart in the latest incarnation of Hatfield and the North, of which we played some songs on stage with Richard).
I understand you collaborated a lot with other well-known musicians. Do you think fusion jazz or nu-jazz is in danger? Is the newer generation of artists interested in this style of music?
I have been trying for years to answer this question by attempting to push the boundaries of these genres which are sometimes said to be neglected or out of breath. This work has been recognized by critics, particularly with regard to the latest CDs of Wrong Object and Doubt. It will be the same thing with the next CD of Machine Mass feat: Dave Liebman. More generally, the future is bright with bands like Led Bib, Elephant9, Jaga Jazzist, I Know You Well Miss Clara (a band from Indonesia that was recently revealed by MoonJune), some albums by Dave Douglas and John Zorn, and others.
I never thought that I was doing "fusion" music, a term that evokes the decline of progressive jazz and its artistic and intellectual death in the late 70s in the 80s: the true question is how did we manage to go from Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, Tony Williams' Lifetime, the Hot Rats of Zappa, Third by Soft Machine to the easy-listening material of the likes of David Sanborn and Kenny G. I do not have a short and precise answer to this question , but I think the future of alternative music in general depends on a reinterpretation of the best music the 20th century had to offer – in all genres – but we need to be open to current trends and favor friction over fusion, favor the true encounters over dilutions , clashes over nostalgia ... In other words, rather than doing jazz rock , or pseudo- jazz with funk and rock accents (overtones?) , we should ask ourselves the following question, how can Bartok, Messiaen, Coltrane, Amon Tobin or Radiohead teach us to better understand the musical phenomenon as a whole and then allow our own imagination to feed off of this universe of immeasurable richness .
I observe here in Quebec that progressive music in the broadest sense of the term is particularly popular with people between the ages of 40 and 60 years, is the same phenomenon in Belgium? Do you believe that the younger generation might possibly be interested in this style of music?
Yes, I'm confident, a number of ″nu-jazz ″artists that I mentioned earlier seem to appeal to a younger audience. The problem is that they are getting little or no airtime at all on the airwaves and the program directors are often too reluctant to play them. It's a big mistake because playing what sells does nothing to attract young audiences. In Quebec, the FIMAV (where I had the opportunity to play with Comicoperando in 2011) is an example that some European and U.S. programmers should follow.
Do you think it is possible to live from your music today?
Yes, but more often than not, it is done at the price of concessions and painful compromises, especially if the income is not complemented by a teaching position. One advantage to work outside the traditional channels is to benefit from the most complete freedom in terms of artistic choices. This is the case with the label MoonJune where Leonardo Pavkovic is doing a tremendous job to help discover new talents while still attracting some big names like Allan Holdsworth, Vinnie Colaiuta , Chad Wackerman , Paolo Fresu , Gary Husband, and more recently , Dave Liebman with whom Machine Mass (my duet with Tony Bianco) will release a studio album in February 2014.
Since you started, what is your fondest memory?
It's hard to say - there were memorable concerts and recordings, and there are all those meetings and the dozens of fantastic musicians with whom I had the chance to play until now.
What is the dream you want to fulfill?
Continue to play and play the music that runs through my head and I do not hear elsewhere.
What are your future projects?
Play on stage the albums of The Wrong Object , Doubt and Machine Mass , work on new songs and arrangements for these bands , take the " power trio " Together Mosae ( Laurent Delchambre drums and Damien Campion on bass ) to the next level , make an album of songs with Beppe Crovella ... There is also a new very exciting project : a collaboration between The Wrong Object and the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra which which should see the light of day in spring of 2014 but the content is still confidential -
Photo courtesy of Elisabeth WALTREGNY
You have the last word...
Let me share my favorite John Coltrane quote: " I start in the middle of a sentence and move in both directions at the same time" , a way to challenge the linearity of time and change the course of history. Coltrane succeeded and remains a model of courage and integrity.
Thank you for taking some of your precious time to answer a few questions.
Thank you to you for giving me this opportunity to share these thoughts with you.
Interview by Richard Hawey
Translate Jean-Philippe Peretti