[Interview] Fred Pallem: “My music doesn’t need pictures and dialogue, it’s all there.”

On the occasion of the release of Fred Pallem & Le Sacre du Tympanum’s 10th album, we asked the conductor a few questions to discuss the 20th anniversary of Le Sacre, his adaptation of Fables de La Fontaine and, of course, “X.” .

© Sylvain Gripoix

BENZINEMAG: X is the tenth album for you and Le Sacre du Tympan in a 20-year career. How do you feel about all the work that has been done since the beginning of Le Sacre?

Fred Pallem : I never look back and listen to my old records again. Although I may experience great nostalgia in the eyes of some, I never question myself about Rite’s departure. A big orchestra is much more difficult than a small one, the journey is full of pitfalls, but I push on regardless (I believe some musician friends call me a “bulldozer”). Finally, as often happens with others, I realized that emergence is quite fast, but this continuity is more difficult. We played only three concerts before winning the Jazz de la Défense competition in June 2000, which was a real springboard for the orchestra, in the sense that people in the profession discovered us. I understand that in 1998 we were the only major band with no musicians over the age of thirty. Other orchestras were more professional, more established and already had careers behind them. When in 2003 Patrice Caratini He invited me to join the Grands Formats federation, I was very proud to play the young man on duty and obviously we had a lot of enthusiasm afterwards. I think it’s great.

Was there a clear musical direction on this 10th album? Did you bring new things with the band that you hadn’t approached on previous albums?

I wanted an album of original compositions, that’s for sure. I started writing a lot before the arrest. I am very inspired by this formation, the whole is coming together more than ever and I was encouraged by their enthusiasm, of course I wanted to offer them other pieces. different atmospheres‘Odyssey is our darkest album: more cheerful rhythms and melodies, like happy Girls in Marbella, disk lovebut also more calm and sensitive (Fulgurated, Goodbye Lougarok).

At least 25 musicians intervened during the recording, how is the work organized with so many musicians (writing, arranging, recording…)?

There are 13 of us on stage with 4 strings, 4 brass, guitar, keyboard, bass, drums and percussion. Some titles in the repertoire can also be rejected in the sextet formula. The 25 musicians are for recording sessions where the string section is augmented rather than doubling or tripling our quartet to achieve a fuller sound result. The work is always organized in the same way: I write alone, let it rest, then when I am satisfied with the forms I send the mockups, then the scores, and we set up the first rehearsal together. The first for this catalog is dated March 30, 2021.

X’s orchestrations are impressive in their richness, variety and depth. We get the impression that you’ve reached a kind of perfection in terms of orchestrations… like the title disk love this might be some sort of condensed version of the album…

Abundance is… possible. This mix of strings, brass and funky rhythm, sprinkled with harpsichord and glockenspiel, is very stimulating and uplifting. It’s a very wide sonic palette that allows for a lot of orchestral extravagance. In short, I enjoy it!

Title Girls in Marbella Release from prison in 2020 and 2021 is uniquely evocative. How did you live these two years remembered by the pandemic?

The first arrest was very cruel for me. A great tour with the Odyssée program was coming up, we had just been crowned with the second Victoire de la Musique, in short, everything was going great and then “clac”! We close! We were going to do a sound check in the room for the evening concert, and on the way I got a “cancelled, go home” call. He cut my legs. It is impossible to return to work. I was at my wits end. Then after ten days I picked up my guitar as I do every day and sang the songs I shared on Instagram to reconnect with my family and friends. The only good thing about this first arrest was that I really enjoyed my then 2-year-old grandson. When the prison ended, I had only one desire: to see the sea and dive! I couldn’t take it anymore, I was overexcited and fell asleep happily Girls in Marbella (title imagined by my manager Stephane Mariot I noticed that the first sentence of the topic sounded A peach in regalia of zappa). Back to school is coming, we’re releasing an album where I set Jean de la Fonte’s stories to music, the promo is off to a good start and the boom is building again in November. This time I decided not to be fooled by the darkness and decided to work more with my free time, I even organized a recording for models in my studio with a sound engineer friend. I set myself the task of improvising a title every day. He gave these titles USP and 62 Satellite / Put it into orbit. I took over all my notes, unfinished compositions, and at the beginning of March I had 80% of the compositions for the next album.

Fred Pallem’s Fantastic Odyssey and the Rite of Timpani

In 2020, you collaborated with Tom Poisson and Lucien Jean Baptiste on a side project called Les Fables de La Fontaine. How did you approach composition for such a project?

I didn’t want to go straight to another instrumental album odyssey, I needed parentheses. I have been looking for a long time to compose music for spoken text, as in cinema. Inevitably, the music recedes further to the detriment of the text. But I’ve always found it interesting to set such limits for a composer. I looked in my books, but I couldn’t find it. I needed texts with rhymes, structure, inner music. As in rap. Stephane Mariot (again) he offered me fountain tales and while not new, I thought it was a great idea, but anyway, I’m not chasing modernity at all costs. Several great composers have already done this exercise, and I do it with my influences of jazz, pop, funk, rock, but also repetitive, improvised, classical music, etc. I wanted to treat it with my own style. First I looked for storytellers. Singers, comedians, radio people. They chose the texts, I recorded them and composed the music according to their tone and diction. My friend Tom Fish He helped us a lot with the exterior and staging for the stage version. La Fontaine was a marginal character, atypical, very modern, sometimes cruel, who still deserves to be discovered today.

We rarely find you as a soundtrack composer for a film, which may seem quite surprising given your background and musical…

The music I composed for me Tympanum Rite no need for pictures and dialogues, everything is already there. This music would have a lot of place in today’s cinema, which mostly uses music as a subtext. Unless the film itself is built around the music…

Henry Mancini when asked the question, he answered: “What is a film score composer?”he replied “A film composer is someone who writes an entire score, which is ultimately abandoned.” That’s why I am a film music composer. I still wrote two soundtracks: New guard dogs of Gilles Balbastre and Yannick Kergoat, and by “Dieumerci”. Lucien Jean Baptiste. I get asked regularly, but it rarely works. This is a bit normal: we ask for models from several composers, sometimes the director and producer find what they are looking for, otherwise new tender announcements start. At this rate it can take a long time. The chances of the model working the first time is very low, it’s lucky and that’s what happened to me for the film. Thank God.

In fact, all composers are equal. Directors should work with composers whose works they already like. Then they prepare music for the film side by side in the studio. It works every time there.

It is important not to compare film scores in the digital age and the era when everything was on tape. Filming style, editing has changed, music has also changed. Before the first day of shooting, the director could concentrate only on the script, dialogues, rehearsals with the actors if necessary, music, the composer sometimes writing the main themes, and at best with the piano. He was forced to submit himself to orchestras and trust the composer. Music is sometimes recorded and mixed before filming. Today it’s the opposite, it’s in last place and you have to copy the headlines the editor has posted, so there’s little room for creativity.

What interests me more than anything else is the artistic meeting with the director. You need to build trust and respect in both directions. I am at the service of the film, but I must also be able to express myself. The composer is the third author.

Fred Pallem & The Rite of the Tympanum – X: 10 Reasons to Love Film Music

Your music has always been remembered by the influence of great composers of the 60s and 70s (Francis Lai, Michel Magne, François de Rubaix, Morricone…). Would you ever consider writing a pop or jazz song that would be a radical departure from film or television music?

Today, I am not going to start my career as a pop singer or an old jazzman. No, I want more than ever to continue digging the furrows I started more than twenty years ago. Maybe I would vote for him, who knows? But it would be treated as a musical instrument. Or bring out my double bass… but I’ll double it with a baritone guitar!

You’ll be playing at Café la Danse in December. Do we imagine an all-musician tour will see the light of day later?

Of course! The dates for the next season are coming down now, and it’s awesome. There will be very nice concerts. We are all impatient.

Interview conducted by Benoit RICHARD – November 2022

Fred Pallem and the Timpan Rite – X
Ghost Train / The Other Distribution – November 18, 1022

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