richard pinhas press

Inreview: 15 Questions to Richard Pinhas
Writer: Tobias Fischer

"New things will be added by new and young musicians", Richard Pinhas says, "that is the ultimate present and the future." For the past decade, however, a lot of groundbreaking new things have again come from an experienced Sound Artist like himself. In the 70s, Pinhas shot to fame in France on the strength of the futuristic fusion of Rock and Electronics championed by his formation Heldon as well as a string of solo albums. On the latter, he explored the boundaries of repetitive patterns using huge Analog Synthesizers Systems and the instrument which would later become his trademark: A Guitar fed through an array of effect pedals and looping devices. The popular comparison of Heldon with Tangerine Dream, as representing acts responsible for the formation of entire genres, is as understandable as it is imprecise. For while it is anything but obvious whether the Berlin-based Sequencer project was truly the grandfather of Techno and Acid, the basic ingredients of the unique Heldon sound can now be found in almost any group aspiring to being more than a mere Beatles-clone or retro-outfit. After a total of seven band full-lengths and five solo works, however, Pinhas disappeared from sight as suddenly as he had made his entrance. It wasn't that he had nothing more to say. It just happened, as he puts it himself. He simply "went off" music for a while, choosing to study Philosophy again and spending a lot of time in the French mountains, far away from the maddening crowds. It took a full six years for him to resurface, first on the excuisitely presented reprints of his classic albums from his early years, then to pick up his career right where he left it. Powerful records like "Metatron" or his recent collaboration with the master of Japanese Noise, Merzbow, have now turned him into a revered icon for a second time, capable of blowing your ears to pieces both on record and - as proven on his gig at Cologne's 'Stadtgarten' last year - in concert. And this time, he is back for good.

Tofaki: Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Pinhas: I am ok and well in Paris, France, after a long Eurotour including Germany, Sweden, Belgium, etc and culminating in two concerts with MERZBOW (Japan, "noise", great musician) in Cologne (Germany) and Paris - packed, absolutly packed. We recorded this great concert in a multitrack version.

Tofaki: What's on your schedule right now?
1) Working on the tapes of the tour. Selecting the good ones following two criteria: The quality of the recording and the quality of the music itself.

2) Answering to a lot of interviews from the USA, France and Germany... replying to emails etc...

3) Recontacting people concerning some possible concerts in North America with Merzbow (not the NO FUN in NYC-USA as previously discussed, but but probably one date in Washington in October perhaps and the Jazz Fest of Montreal in Canada). The 2009 USA tour for October to November has now been delayed, because the new album is still not finished. I'll be playing in Poland soon, though.

4) Most important of all is the completion of my next solo album. Like previous full-lengths, this should normally be out on CUNEIFORM records, USA, in September of 2009. I am very, very involved in working with this american label: Me and CUNEIFORM records have been working hand in hand for 20 years now and make a wonderful team. We can work on the basis of 100% trust and respect. That is very rare in this "industry"... :)

Everything has been recorded quietly this time, except for the Guitars... That seems" funny", because normally the Guitars, in my compositions, are what starts any project... It is simply more fun to do for me, but on this occasion, it is very complicated and I have to finalize the recording with the Guitar sessions and it is turning out to be extremely hard work... For the moment, we had recorded 3 tracks with the people from American group "Wolf Eyes", a lot of help from Masami aka MERZBOW, well-known drumer Antoine Paganoti from Magma and other brilliant musicians. So that is my main project. I hope to finish the Guitars and the other "solo" instruments before the end of January and then proceed to the mixing stage with my usual sound engeneer Laurent Peyron at Ramses studio in the centre of Paris.

So if every thing goes well, this will turn out to be a "big" project, including American, Japanese and French musicians. Tracks have been recorded in Detroit (USA), Tokyo (Japan) and Paris... So for the final mix, I will stay in Paris for 4 to 6 weeks, working hard in the studio every day. The drums part have been recorded with Antoine Paganoti just before the eurotour, last june, in Paris. So now I can wok in my small but high quality "home studio" for the Guitars, then head over to the main studio for the Mix.

5) Two or three new tracks have been recorded in 2007 and will be on different "compilation" CDs, one in France, another one in Germany and perhaps a third one. So those are completely new tracks. Each one is between 7 and 12 minutes long and they have all been recorded at Heldon studio, my own project studio.

Tofaki: How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
Pinhas: Close to zero!

There are of course some exceptions... And I have to admit that I don't know everything everywhere... But when some "brilliant" thing appears somewhere - and I mean anywhere in the world - friends will tell me that something has happened... If two or three good and competent friends tell me that this group or this musician are fantastic, then I'll go and check them out on stage or buy their CD and try to be aware of what is happening... The same goes for discovering young new musicians.

Tofaki: Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Pinhas: Of course. I feel an integral part of the repetitive music mouvement. In electronic music, ever since the begining (starting in 1971) and now a lot of musicians, groups, journalist and concerts organizers put me in the new Noise-or whatever mouvement too... In any case, I feel as though I belong to Rock and Roll music... But then again, for me, even Wagner is a part of Rock n Roll history.

Tofaki:What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What stimulates you to write music?
Pinhas:To wake up every morning, working with my instrument whatever happens and spending my life with composing even if it is very difficult sometimes. It is like a pulse and a pulsation... Then I realise that my life, without music, would be Impossible. So I am very happy to live with, for, and by means of my music... Even if, occasionally, it is very hard.

When you create a new track, there's this piercing sensation and you have to translate this into sound, melodies, rythms, noises... So you work and work... Then you go out onto the street to have a coffee, a little walk, seeing beautiful young ladies, then back to work.

Tofaki: How would you describe your method of composing?
Pinhas: I start with feelings and ideas, with abstracts. I have something very precise in my brain and try to realise it as a material audible thing... So composition is a sort of translation: You have to transform something invisible into an audible form and to give life to this form, without loosing the initial feeling that captured (raptured) you! And to have a deep respect for the initial feeling and pulsation!

Tofaki: In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your work?
Pinhas: As I mentioned before, my way of composing is really based on the philosophical concepts I use, such as: time, repetition, difference or material in addition to, to a great extent, feelings and, of course, work and practising Guitar every single day.

Tofaki: How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Pinhas: Generally, I work on them together, but at two separate times. Generally, I have an Idea of a sound in my head and I try to reproduce it or to produce it with the instrument I have (before, these used to be Analog Synths, now Digital Synths and Pro Tools recorders). Sometimes, the composition process itself comes at the same time as the sound creation. Or there will just be a composition, starting with the Guitars first, or, vice versa, ending with Guitars. That is rare but, as mentioned, it is what will happen for my next solo Richard Pinhas album which I am finishing right now.

Tofaki: How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Pinhas: I mainly improvise on "patterns" - pre-determined only on stage. On the CD, I hardly ever improvise... Let's say, it is very rare. But on stage it is very interesting to give an important part to improvisation over something "solid", a loop and the drums for example.

Tofaki: What does the term "new" mean to you in connection with music?
Pinhas: I don't think that there is something fundamentally "new" in any of the music that we can hear these days... When I use the term "new" in relation to me, for my compositions or sounds, it means that little by little there are transformations, different views on the same foundations. A sound can be new because you discover some algorithms or some new relationship between small sound elements. But when you want to apply "new" to the act of composing, it is a very hard question. A new thing for me is to completely change the perspective, the approach... Examples: Working with Merzbow is something new for me... But suppose that I'd do a CD based only on melodies some time in the future... Then, in my way of composing, that would be decidedly "new"... Or another extremity: Doing a full-length album without repetitions, without this trademark which are my long, fuzzy, sustained sounds. For example, a very clear sound on the guitar, without repetition... If the result is good, then I can think that it would be something "new" for me... But, mainly, new things will be added by new young musicians, that is the ultimate present and the future.

Tofaki: Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
Pinhas: Of course it is leading far away from the essence, even the essence of pure musicality... But there is also something positive about this: It force me to go towards a new approach, for example using video during my concerts.... I am not that much attracted by the images, but in another way I am glad to be "forced" to change the disposition of things, and have to put myself in question very often. Any way I am NOT a video fan nor a clip supporter...:(

Tofaki: What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your approach to performing on stage?
Pinhas: It is mainly what I feel at the end of the concert. I am glad if the public is satisfied but MAINLY, my feeling of what happened is the most important. aspect. Imagine you perform 10 concerts. One concert, for example, can be fabulous and you are really flying like a God, 2 concerts are very good, one is really bad and 6 or 7 are average... But what is horrible is that often, the public does not make distinctions. You feel that you have delivered a very bad concert and everybody will say: Oh, it was fantastic! Or something magical will occur and just a few people will realise that something atypical has happened... But the worst, the very depressive thing is when you feel that you have done a very bad concert and nobody cares at all... People come to you and say: Hey, it was great... It really makes you feel desperate!

My approach on stage is to try to fly, to not have to play, to hear the other musicians and feel that all the music we are creating is like a big machine or a big boat getting ready for departure... These are impressive, rare and magical moments... These rare moments justify your life as a musician. It is pure feeling, and as such, very difficult to describe with words.

Tofaki: How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
Pinhas: This is quite an impossible mission. The way our societies are structured, it is quite impossible. Look, the last effort of achieving something like this, as far as I know, was GOD SPEED U... And they didn't last more than three perhaps four years... Until they decided - not to split but to make an auto-destruction! If you are becoming successful, the machine is becoming bigger, Even if you dont compromise the music... But you're turning, essentially, into a merchandise... A wheel in the commercial machine... It's very hard to escape except if you disband. I am not very optimistic about this. The maximum of what you can do was reached recently by people like aforementioned GOD SPEED U or the Zawinul band... But when you have 500 or 600 people in a concert space, you loose control and anything can happen... Sometimes in a good way. Very often in a bad way.

Tofaki: You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Pinhas: Miles Davis
Jimi Hendrix
The Doors
God Speed U Black Emperor

Tofaki: Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Pinhas: Yes but it's really just a vision. Completely new sounds... Clean Guitars, melodies. A concept album and a work that will take at least 3 years, 3 FULL years of work for a single or double CD... Something like "Metatron" but 10 times more powerful, Metatron multiplied by 10, without a second of a doubt. No compromises. A perfect work for an imperfect life!

A recent video and extracts from the Merzbow/Pinhas gig in Paris are freely available as mp3s from Richard Pinhas' website.

latest releases

released january 2017
bureau b

Process And Reality
process and reality (w/tatsuya yosihda & masami akitra)
released september 2016
cuneiform records

mu (w/barry cleveland)
released september 2016
cuneiform records