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Xavier Garcia is a french musician from ARFI ("Association for the Research of an Imaginary Folklore") that, starting from electroacoustic music, develops most of his projects inside or around the jazz world (by example his collaboration in Guy Villerd/Ayler Project). We interviewied him some days before his concerts in "Plaza Festival 2003" in San Sebastian, Spain.
Interview by José Francisco Tapiz. Helps and other features, Diego Sánchez Cascado.


Tomajazz: You define yourself as a composer and impoviser. What’s your personal career as musician? How Xavier Garcia gets into improvisation?

Xavier García: I first studied piano... but more with single teachers than in Conservatory. (always Bach Mozart, Beethoven in the Conservatory was too much) I was fond of Debussy Ravel Messiaen.... since a long time I wanted to be a composer. When I was 14, I have a pop group in wich I tried my first "compositions". Then I composed some piano pieces (for 6 pianos) when I was 17. Later I met an Electoacoustic group called "Groupe de Musiques Vivantes de Lyon" in their first concert in 1978. It was a great shock: I decided to join them. Since 78, I’ve composed a lot of electoacoustic music for concert, theatre, dance, movies...
In 84 I discovered ARFI. They were doing the exact opposite thing to me. I was composing alone, in the studio, a music wich is fixed on a tape...without any musicians (just sounds...) They were making a collective music, very improvised, not very fixed... Since then I’ve been a little bit schizoid...because I was fascinated by the exact opposite music of what I was doing. Well, since 87, I joined ARFI... I remember the first time I had to improvise... I was terrified... I wasn’t really used to...
I hope I’ve got some experience now... but with improvisation (as in composition) you never finish to learn....

Tomajazz: In your curriculum you don’t quote the word jazz, but nevertheless you’ve played music from a historical classic jazz musician as Albert Ayler. What’s your approach to this music?

Xavier García: This is still a paradox: I’m not able to play any jazz standard. I don’t know this music very well. When I was young I hated this music. I’m still not a jazzman. But I play for 15 years mainly in jazz festival and clubs.. before playing in this group (Villerd/Ayler quartet) I never heard Albert Ayler’s music. Villerd asked me to join this group because we are very close (we played during 8 years, in a ARFI trio called "Ces Messieurs") and he probably wanted to add some electroacoustics sounds in this tribute to Ayler. I think that it isn’t interesting at all to play the music of Ayler with the same instruments and in the same way he did. Generally, what I consider in jazz is improvisation and energy. That’s the way I can recognize myself into this music. Otherwise, the structure theme/chorus or the "ternary rythm"... sha ba da... are not my favourite...!

Tomajazz: "You say that "generally, what your consider in jazz is improvisation and energy"... so, what do you consider (or try) in electroacustic music?

Xavier García: When I talk about electroacoustic music.... it is like "composed music". I'm used to link electroacoustic and composed, because that's my experience. On the other hand, instrumental and improvised are linked too... even if the instruments are electronic. What is important in improvisation is how you expose sounds to the audience. The important thing, composing electroacoustic music on a CD or on a tape, is what kind of space, what colour, what movement, what polyphony, what shape, duration etc… do you use, because all this things are going to be fixed on a tape or CD or whatever...
So improvising (jazz, improvised music, electronic or not) is "how", and composing (electroacoustic music) is "what" ....well my english vocabulary is so poor that it's difficult to answer...
Well I am improvising with an electronic machine.. I try to work on both the "how" and the "what"....

Tomajazz: You’re in Arfi since 1987 where you play synthesizers and samplers in a lot of groups and formations. What does it mean to you to get involved into this association?

Xavier García: I own a lot of things to ARFI. Guy Villlerd or Maurice Merle who ask me first to play with then teached me a lot. I would probably never improvise or play in bands or groups if ARFI didn’t exist. I was a composer... and they gave me the opportunity to become a "playing live musician" and an improviser. Thats a lot. I try to give my own force to the association, by getting really involved , organizing projects... setting up new groups... Sometimes the collective way of working is not so good that individual way (because the collective is never easy), BUT it is very often a real big force and energy.

Tomajazz: I would like that you talk us about the ARFIS’s groups with whom you are playing nowadays.

32 Janvier

Xavier García: The name was found by Lucia.... we made a "brain-trust" to find a name. That’s a day we are always free to rehearse and play! Maurice Merle got the idea of making this group. He really wanted to built a group with Lucia. He wrote all the thematic materials... we "arranged" the music collectively. At the beginning we were 5, with Erik M. But after 3 concerts he went out. Too busy at this time... then we decided to invite a musician in each concert. That’s the reason why you can find Paul Rogers and Fred (Frith) on the CD.... we invited them before on concerts. They were great meetings. This group mixes some themes and improvisations.... we play "tunes" in which we know who plays what and when. The improvisation is not radical at all, it is very structured. There is a good rock energy I think....

L’effet Vapeur

Xavier García: It’s the fist time I decided to create a group in ARFI. It was in 93, maybe... We have been 4 with Jacques Veillé (trombone) until 1999... then it’s a trio as you can hear in the 2nd CD. I love this group too.... It’s a real real collective work. We first improvise and we record. Then we listen to the tapes.... and decide what is interesting to develop... If we need to write some themes, or rhythm... we do it... if we don’t need it... we do not. I am interested by all the fields of music. I appreciate noise, harmony, rhythm, no-rhythm, melody.... then we try to use all this things as different ingredients to cook a good meal...

Guy Villerd Ayler Project

Xavier García: What I can say is this group is different from of the others. Guy Villerd is clearly the "boss". It is his project. Then he arranged the tunes of Ayler... and made the casting. Of course... as we know each other since a long time... the way of working is still collective..... for example, all the sounds I use in this project are on my own choice... I like the incredible sound level when we play in this group. It’s really loud. The energy is very high. It’s hot. I like playing hot. But it’s not an energy which is supposed to crash down this audience.... it’s suppose to be transmitted to the audience....

La Marmite Infernale

Xavier García: I joined this group may be in 89.... it was created when Arfi was born in 78. The name means the little bombs the anarchists were using at the beginning of last century. But "marmite" is also a thing inside you do cooking, too....This group plays the music of any of his members who wants to compose. So there is as much as "conductors" as there are "composers". Anybody is able to propose some changes in arrangements... instrumentation.... etc... Sometimes there can be a big difference between the initial score and what the music becomes after some rehearsals or concerts. It’s a big sound. 14 musicians! ....It’s really a pleasure to compose for this orchestra. Of course, as we are a lot of musicians, the part of improvisation is not so developed.... At the beginning, it was much more improvised. Even totally free. But after some years, little by little, the musicians decided naturally to write more and more. The music is very happy and generous.... and could really be popular.

Duo Recio García

Xavier García: Lucia proposed me to make this duet. She had a commission from a festival to do what she wanted. It very improvised but inside "tunes". In each tune we know what the texts are, what the sounds are... and who plays what. It’s a very large space to play inside (we are 2) . Last week some guy in the audience told me that he was fascinated by the way we use silence. Nice guy.... I hope we’ll make soon a CD.

Tomajazz: You’re also involved in some cinema projects as playing live music in films with short groups (quartet, quintet) as in "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" or in large groups as in "Potemkine". Are them closed projects ("Potemkine" has been recorded) or are they evoluting from time to time you play it?

Xavier García: Potemkine is a very old project. May be it’s the first time I played with Arfi ... 1985. so before becoming a member... We play it time to time now.... twice last year. The project is very fixed. There are precise "cues" fixed on certain images. It’s an orchestral work composed by a lot musicians, but the "musical screenplay" has been fixed bay Alain Gibert and Jean Méreu since the beginning. We have change some things inside.... along the years but not so much. Caligari is quite fixed too. It’s the same system. Even if there are improvisations, we always know when they start and when they stop.

Tomajazz: I suppose that playing music to this classics films one can try to do an absolutely new soundtrack, so one can disturb the spirit of this films or try to do an contemporary approach and then one could not create anything upon this base. What’s your approach (as group) to the music you create/play on this films?

Xavier García: I think that when we work on an old historical movie like those.... we can’t forgot that we create NOW a music for a film wich was made a long time ago... and for people who see it NOW. So, the music is much more a "look" on the film as a "dramatic element of the film". I mean that we are not working with Eisenstein or Robert Wiene at the same time. We are not producing a music who is part of the dramatism... We are making nowadays a music wich is a way of showing these films. For example, you can remark easely that we make much more silence and spaces that in the original scores. Why? because, the original composers were supporting, or helping the message or the action delivered by the film. Nowadays, we need sometimes to make "holes" to see the pictural quality of the film.

Tomajazz: We are going to see you in San Sebastian playing in "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and also in a fanfarre with a bunch of ARFI’s musician. What’s the spirit you are trying to invoke in this large group? What are we going to listen?

Xavier García: In San Sebastián we will play the Caligari project with the two orchestras who made 2 different versions.
We are not used to share the music. Usally, either the 4tet or the 5tet plays all the thing. But we did it once: sharing the movie. Both orchestras play their own music but not at the same time!!! I think it’s interesting to see 2 different styles of music playing with the same movie. It gives a different lightening on the pictures. The fanfare group will be constituted for the occasion. It will play basically the tunes of "La Grande Illusion", the show that the Festival wanted to invite first (but the place was not technically big enough).

Tomajazz: As far as you play with Lucia Recio in a number of groups, how can you define this wonderful singer?

Xavier García: Lucia is a very personal singer because she never wanted to sing like anyone. Since her family comes from the south of Spain… she’s got flamenco in her blood…. But, she doesn’t care to be a folk singer…she has got a personal world … Working on her own voice… out of any style (flamenco, jazz….) she tries simply to be herself and to sing like she is, like she lives. That’s all…. But you have to dare to it. I suppose that refusing to copy any style makes you really naked. For example, there is a tune in the duo called "Pas tes tics" where I play always the same loop of 10 chords. On this base, she sings what is "trying to sing and never succeeds" … there is not a lot of singers who accept to be naked at this point…

Tomajazz: Are we going to listen both of you in some record in a few?

Xavier García: The CD should be recorded in 2003/2004 and be released in the fist part of 2004.


 Tomajazz ©José Francisco Tapiz, 2003