Jean-Pascal Boffo

 

 

 

(France)

 

 

&

Rodica Draghincescu

 

 

 

 

He is a guitarist who has collaborated with many artists (on some thirty records, including one with Christian Decamps of the group ANGE), co-founder of the group Alifair, sound engineer (Ampers studio), Jean Pascal Boffo regularly puts out solo albums (first artist signed in 1986 to the Muséa label) and one of his most striking characteristics is never being like the one who came before: the artist is an explorer who never retraces his steps. For over a decade, « Invizible » (from his 7th album « Parfum d’étoiles » [Fragrance of Stars]) has been used by Serge Levaillant as the theme for his radio program on France-Inter « Sous Les Étoiles Exactement » [Under the Stars Exactly]

 

http://jeanpascalboffo.com/

 

 

RD: – Any music critic, any theorist, any aesthetician, any philosopher would have begun this interview this way: music is the art of marrying sounds, senses and their silences, melodically, harmonically, rhythmically, according to the incantations we need.

 

 

Photo: Manu D. Andrea

 

 

It is therefore at the same time a creation, a work of art, a universe of symbols and metaphors of sound, and also a model of sentimental communication. It uses the body of the creator, his voice, but also especially designed musical instruments, and more and more all sounds (concrete, synthetic, abstract, etc.).

 

 

 

 

The musical sonorities are evanescent, they exist only in the instant of their perception, with hearing, which has to reconstitute its unity over time. Jean-Pascal Boffo, you’re a key figure in contemporary French music. I believe that listening to music is one thing, and understanding what music is is another.  What does music represent for you, as a musician and as a producer? What does it bring to you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

JPB: Music, to put it simply and directly, represents just about 90% of my life!

 

RD: – That’s enormous. An artist through and through.

 

JPB: – There’s hardly ever a moment when I don’t have music in my head or I’m not listening to music. I don’t think it’s necessary to understand or even to explain music, except for theory or learning an instrument…

 

 

 

 

It speaks to us or it doesn’t! But it doesn’t go through intellect or thought… otherwise, it’s not about music but an idea of music.

Music is just as vital to me as food, for example…

 

 

 

 

I’m more musician or listener than producer!

 

RD: – Producer, in the sense of someone who channels musical productions that are produced in your recording studio, where each day many compositions go through positive transformations… I would call that « production »…

 

JPB: – If there is production in the sense of investment of time (or money) in a musical project, it is because first an artist has fallen in love with it. It happens sometimes to me (and it’s happening now) with musicians I’ve met, usually during studio sessions. It’s never calculated or premeditated; it’s an encounter and an inner « call » that makes me to want to invest myself or help an artist or a particular project, but I am not seeking especially to play the role of producer in the usual sense of the word.

 

 

 

 

RD: Okay. Your passion for music has always been the engine of your choices. How far back does this calling go? How did you identify it?

 

 

 

 

JPB: As far back as I can remember, I have always been attracted by music and I have been listening to it since my earliest childhood!

I think I remember that at the age of 7, I asked for a guitar as a Christmas present…

 

 

 

 

RD: – And was Santa Claus good to you?

 

JPB: – Of course, I got an unplayable « toy »!!…

I had to wait another 7 years before I was given an electric guitar that was almost playable, good enough anyway to take part in the creation of rock band with 3 friends in the neighbourhood… But I had no desire to take lessons (I didn’t particularly like school and didn’t want to have anything to do with private lessons, even music lessons!) I had realized that rock guitar could be played without going through that…

 

 

 

 

 

I was shown a few chords, one or two Stones songs and I was off!… The rest came very quickly and I soon developed my ear by copying the albums I was listening to at the time (Pink Floyd, Genesis, Ange, Yes…) My every free moment was devoted to it! A few more experienced musicians helped me with that, but I never took any regular, formal classes…

Locally, I was spotted at my very first, very amateur concert (after barely one year of practice… with my first group, « Larsen ») and then was hired by regional groups that were a little more « serious »… And then after a series of encounters, through Bernard Gueffier, the co-founder of the music magazine « Notes. » We became good friends and since I had very early begun to compose my own music and he was planning to create a label, Muséa was born with the production of my first album (« Jeux de nains » [Dwarf Games] in 1985).

 

RD: – Who are the musicians who influenced and formed you?

 

JPB: In the very beginning, the progressive rock groups, and in particular the guitar of Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Robert Fripp (King Crimson).

Later I discovered jazz, and my hero then was Pat Metheny. I continued to pick up by ear everything I could (I’ve forgotten nearly all of it…)

 

RD: – Do you listen to a lot of music? Guitarists?

 

 

 

 

JPB: – I listened to a lot of other musicians and not necessarily guitarists… I had a period when I preferred listening to pianists, maybe because the instrument has a wider range and because you can produce harmonies on it in ways that are impossible to reproduce on the guitar… I am as much a music-lover as a musician and very curious to discover all kinds of new music  and sonorities.

I quite quickly get bored with hearing hundreds of « copies » or imitations… and I am constantly looking for sonorities that will surprise me.

 

RD – Your music finds its roots in many Apollonian galaxies, each more mysterious than the next. What are your revelations?

 

JPB: I’m sorry if I disappoint you, but I really don’t know where my inspirations come from! All my compositions come out of improvisations when I « let go » and the notes literally fall from my fingers! Usually the basis of my pieces comes to me in a few minutes… then it can take weeks or more, or on the contrary much less time, to put on the final touches. But the main part is there very quickly… it doesn’t happen consciously (unless there’s a commission! which is another way to compose…) and I can’t say where creation comes from… It’s really very intuitive and spontaneous…

I never sit down with the instrument saying to myself « today I’m going to compose some new music! » I am always « surprised » myself by those periods when inspiration knocks on the door and that, actually, is the most interesting moment of creation… It’s rather brief and really mysterious… like any intuition!

 

RD: – Since you’re the guest of honour of Levure littéraire, issue number 8, the theme of which is « Being or having. The secret story of things, » tell us, please, if music has helped you discover atypical stories, secrets?

 

JPB: I don’t believe in secrets!

 

RD: – Encounters…

 

JPB: – Encounters that led to stories certainly!… Everything is a matter of resonance.

Music can also be a revelation if you give in completely when you’re listening. It can sometimes reveal secrets about ourselves to us … or else permit intuitions to be heard.

 

RD: –  You have music in your blood, like philosophy and spirituality. You’re an extremely calm person, constructive,  conveying a beautiful energy. Does the magic of music soften the character of people?

 

JPB: It all depends on the music! And also the instrument practised I believe… It seems that the stringed instruments and particularly the guitar bring a certain form of calm and serenity… I’d like to believe it! In any case, that’s the effect it has on me when I start to play and especially when I compose.

It was a kind of refuge away from all the turmoil in the outside world… I believe that it still is, but maybe with time and practice, the calm took hold more deeply and its « action » expanded in distance and duration…

Some kinds of music bring peace, that’s obvious (the opposite is also true). The music-lover who doesn’t play an instrument feels it a lot!

In this case, the effect stops when the listening ends… Years of practice no doubt permit these states to become nearly permanent.

It’s quite easy to see that the character traits of musicians often correspond to specific categories of instruments!

It is easy to recognize a drummer, a singer or else a guitarist by their behaviour (not to generalize…).

 

RD: – Are there in your musical career, as a composer/performer, key themes that are repeated and which therefore give your discography a creative harmony, a common musical thread?

 

JPB: – The music imposes itself on me without necessarily being connected to images or themes… It’s often afterward that I « paste on » images or titles that are evoked by the music itself.

 

RD: – How does music coming into being?

 

JPB: – Music always comes from a moment of calm, of silence.

 

RD: – Does your music recount actual experiences, are they visceral or rather imaginary, futuristic, celestial, etc.?

 

JPB: – I would opt for the « celestial » theme… in a pinch, « imaginary, » although precise images are not the source of compositions. They can bring out images, often very different according to time or sensibility… Necessarily experienced but I don’t try to know where, how or why…

 

RD: – Of all the Lorraine musicians (since Lorraine is your native region), you’re the only one who has been able to go beyond the boundary of « regional » music (there’s nothing pejorative about that word). What is the concert/the show that propelled you the farthest?

 

 

 

 

JPB: – I actually play concerts very little, at least with respect to my « solo » repertoire. On average once a year! I spend much more time in the studio than on stage.

 

 

 

 

RD: – What would be your greater « sound » experience?

 

JPB: – My greatest experience (and surprise…) was the opening act by the Canadian group « The Musical Box » in 2006, first in The Hague in the Netherlands then at the Olympia in Paris…

Following that, the album « La boîte à musique [the music box] » took shape, my only completely solo and acoustic work.

 

RD: –  You have founded music groups with various friends, each one more original than the last. What is the band that clearly stands out among your collaborations with those artists? 

 

JPB: – The group I’m most involved with, and which also has had the longest lifespan is indisputably Alifair, my collaboration with the singer/author/composer Aurore Reichert.

 

 

 

 

RD- A long history of loyalty…

 

JPB: – A long history of friendship and a rare musical affinity. Even though the group is dormant right now, the magic is still working with each « reunion. »

 

 


CULTURE POP – Jean Pascal Boffo (guitariste… par culturepop_mirabelle

 

 

RD: – Discrete, talented, serious, faithful to long-term friendship, incredible but real, you live from your music and especially for your work as a music producer. How do you manage that in these times of crisis when many groups and publishers are going under, going bankrupt, disappearing like magic (the evil eye…)?

 

 

 

 

JPB – It’s precisely wearing all those « hats » that has made it possible for me to be able to live only from (and for) music. A true passion at every instant and the desire to always do my best whatever the project I’m involved in, whether it’s a personal project or not!

 

RD : – Patience ?

 

 

 

 

JPB: – Tremendous patience… and humour, are two other indispensable ingredients…

 

RD- What do you owe to music? And vice versa

 

JPB: – Music owes me nothing! It is always present and available to everyone without exception… You just have to be quiet and listen… I owe it listening, attention and more generally my life…

 

RD- How is musical art doing today, and above all where is it going, and with whom? (please, talk to us about fashions and trends, about the perishable values and everything that is still standing)

 

 

 

 

JPB: – I don’t really follow fashions, which do not only concern music anyway, and which are ephemeral (and therefore perishable!) whatever the domain… These are human creations without any importance nor interest other than financial… I don’t feel concerned! Today we have available a hundred times more music (and I’m likely underestimating the reality) than there was a few decades ago, but we are in a phenomenon of…

 

RD: – Overconsumption…

 

JPB: – Yes, overconsumption… and therefore very often on the « surface. » I remember that, as an adolescent, an album by an artist I liked could give me months of listening and joy…

 

RD: – And now?

 

 

 

 

JPB: – Now, we are so overrun that we don’t have time anymore to closely study a work that an artist has spent months or years constructing… We consume it in a few minutes and often most of it goes right past us, for lack of time or attention. However, I discover each month in that mass of sound, incredibly beautiful, interesting things… generally not well known or ignored.

 

 

 

 

RD: – Proof that?

 

JPB: – Proof that creativity still exists… You have to be a bit of an « explorer » and not necessarily follow the huge billboards of « indicators/enticers » that they want to impose on us…

 

RD: – A thought for the future…

 

JPB: – A philosophical epilogue… ?

 

RD: – A dash of musical… thoughts …

 

 

 

 

JPB: – « OK, then let us live in the present!   

 

With joy, discernment and an open mind, and the future is not something to be feared…

 

 
Translation: Howard Scott (MONTREAL)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reporter: Rodica Draghincescu

http://www.draghincescu.com

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