Chatting with Celtic metal musician Pat O’May

Pat O'May

By José Oliveira and Rosine Alleva, Rock At Night Colmar, France Correspondents and Alain Moreau, Photographer

Venue: Woodstock Guitars Live – ENSISHEIM (FRANCE) 15th May 2016

Pat O’May

Born in 1961, Pat O’May is a French musician who blends heavy metal with the main elements of Celtic Music. He is very famous in France by his participation in major bands like MARIENTHAL but he also has produced several solo works and music for TV shows. A part of his family was born in Cork, Ireland, but he has a special link with Brittany (La Bretagne, a French Province). He took a large interest in major Rock Celtic operas such as Excalibur and Anne De Bretagne.

Celtic Wings, his seventh album is a masterpiece of his blending roots: metal and Irish-Brittany emotions. It is the rising of a new folk metal form.

He has been involved in different projects, touring with great musicians such as Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Alan Stivell, Moya Brennan, James Wood, Jonathan Noyce (Gary Moore) and many others.

Behind the Pics is the eighth and newest of Pat O’May’s albums. As the previous one, it was recorded in France and mastered at the BEATLES’ kingdom: ABBEY ROAD studios in London. It is a powerful and emotional masterpiece of Celtic medieval feelings linked to Metal adventures.

Pat O’May invited The New Symphony Orchestra of Sofia (Bulgaria) to participate in two songs of his last work. A kind of DEEP PURPLE’s dream!

ROCK AT NIGHT (RAN) went to Woodstock Live Guitars (East of France) to have a chat with this Celtic Guitar Hero!

An interview with Pat O’May

Pat O’May

RAN?: It’s a real pleasure to meet you Pat O’May ! By consulting your biography , we are particularly struck by the prolific side of your encounters ! JEFF BECK, JOE SATRIANI , STEVE VAI , MARTIN BARRE, GILLES SERVAT , DAN AR BRAZ , ALAN STIVELL and many others ! From these experiences, which musician impressed you the most ?

PO’M: (Smiling)…. Each of them, you see. Each time you meet someone, this person will bring you a different thing. It was a chance to meet this kind of open-minded people. Martin Barre, for example, is part of those who created the rock prog style, very innovative. Just like Alan Stivell, who for me, is part of the founding fathers of the world music. A few of them launched these ideas, it’s even more impressive that these people are still searching. They could now take it easy and say ok we made it. No, they keep looking deeper. They have no choice. They’re in this state of mind since they’re teenagers I think. Cause youth, is an important turning point, the ideal period to construct yourself as a human being, first of all, and also musically. You emancipate yourself from your parents, look for new things and create your own scenery. And for these musicians it’s vital, to keep searching, to discover, and try to bring something new in each album.

It was a real joy to meet them, work with them. Of course I’ve been inspired by them.

This is what I’m interested in, discover, trying to propose something different, even if some things do set up. if an album has less success, it doesn’t matter. It can only be better for the next one.

RAN : Tell us about your musical influences.

PO’M: The very first band I discovered was THE OSMOND BROTHERS. They were very famous in the seventies, with an incredible energy, diversity and amazing voices, still performing ! The “Crazy Horse”song really turned me on. After them came DEEP PURPLE, yeah, that’s what I wanted to do. Then with friends I discovered PINK FLOYD, ANGE, a mythic band to me, being also part of the evolution of progressive rock. Take the example of STEVEN WILSON from PORCUPINE TREE, he always mentioned Ange as a major influence. This is absolutely amazing !

Then I loved listening to Al DI MEOLA, JEFF BECK and more recently RAMMSTEIN, bringing some different perceptions.

RAN: You really have a wide musical range !

Pat O'May
Pat O’May

PO’M: You have to ! Everything is linked. I can’t compartmentalize. Life influences music as music may influence life.

As a self-taught guitarist, I only took 10 lessons with a guitar teacher, the best ones ever ! I had a decent cheap guitar and learnt by practising often. His name is Patrick Duplan. I was already playing guitar since 3 years and he straight understood there was no need to teach me any technical stuff. I had only focused on VAN HALEN, BLACKMORE with some lack of openness. He made me play Bossa Nova, Jazz, Classical music. I learned 10 years in 10 lessons! He really helped to reveal what I had inside of me probably since my childhood. (laughs)

I would upload my music to my social media pages and use things like this website to make sure my music got heard by lots of people. It worked really well and gradually people began to recognise my music.

After these courses, considering I’m part of the metal musicians family (hard rock, classic rock, all the new movements), I thought that if I wanted to compose and find a personality I had to enrich what I knew with things coming from the outside, from the different styles discovered earlier. So I slowly began to listen to lots of diverse music and integrated it into my own.

RAN: How did you get this idea to blend Celtic music with metal ?

Pat O’May

PO’MExactly through this evolvement. It’s possible to confront worlds which a priori do not seem to be made to coexist. However in all cultures, people tell the same stories. I like people traveling through my music. The guitar performance is gratifying but not essential. I want to tell a story mixing Celtic and hard rock, metal. Two very strong roots. Hard rock and metal are my personal musical culture and the Celtic one is coming from my Irish origins. It all exudes from every pore…bring two worlds together. Transport people, try to have a cinematographic writing. This is what led me to compose film soundtracks like Thalassa, television broadcasts . It’s exciting to mix all this. The Celtic music has such an energy and fabulous melodies, ballads. It became a real evidence to mix it with the Hard Rock power.

An example, in the GARY MOORE album Wild Frontier, the “Over The Hills” theme had been a real impact for me. We play it every night! GARY MOORE had an enormous influence on me.

RAN: Talking about Gary Moore ! A few years ago, you participated to a wonderful tribute to this virtuoso guitarist. What did he bring you as a musician ? Well, Pat, I also loved his voice!

PO’M: I agree with you José! Many people forgot that he was an amazing singer as well. His songs are very difficult to sing. He had a very high vocal range and represents the perfect balance between technic and feeling. You recognize his specific touch. As a melodist he tried many things including COLOSSEUM. He has been part of the first ones mixing Arabic music lines. These are the kind of people who fascinate me!

RAN: You’re on the road to present your 8th opus Behind the Pics . Can you tell me something about this latest work ?

PO’M: To me, it’s the most personal album. I know I say that, each time I release something new. Many people think their first album is the best one as they associate it, not to the music but to the affect, the memories. This is totally wrong. The best album is the current one you’re creating. You need this motivation, without which it wouldn’t make any sense.

RAN?: Did foreign musicians participate in it ?

PO’M: I just finished the Celtic Wings Tour which is oriented towards Celtic music. Well, I wanted to thank the people who influenced me in that Celtic trip. With Behind the Pics I wanted a new sound, try other things. So I changed the band line up except James Wood, first invited on Celtic Wings and now a permanent member of the band. We co-wrote the entire lyrics of the album. It was the first time I did this and it was extremely enriching. Musically I tried to be more in a Prog Rock way,even also more Metal with more committed lyrics like” No Religion”. For the musicians James also integrated the acoustic guitar, Tof Rossini was the new drummer, and then Jonathan Noyce, Jethro Tull bass player and the last one playing with Gary Moore.

We met through Martin Barre and immediately connected. I really wanted his sound.

RAN : Going to London to the famous Beatles studios–Abbey Road– to finish your recording sessions, must have made a real impression on you ?

PO’M: When you see all those posters and walk up the same stairs, holding the same handrail as your heroes, you can still smell them. You know , it’s very impressive! We master the albums there since Celtic Wings. It’s very difficult , it’s an art and the “Master” guy , Alex Morton, is a real sound genius. I’m going back now for another album, my label ordered me, a symphonic orchestra arrangement for Brittany Celtic songs.

IMG_5710RAN: Using the Sofia New Symphony Orchestra must have taken you to “Made in Japan” from Deep Purple ! How did you get this opportunity ? Why do rock musicians always aspire to achieve this type of event ?

PO’M: It’s the dream of many people, and it was a longstanding one for me. Having written many film soundtracks led me to work this type of composition. I admit it’s really helpful today to rewrite all the music with the new software tools. I met this orchestra on the Excalibur Tour in Germany, Alan Simon’s project. I met there, Martin Barre, Moya Brennan, and I sympathized with all these extraordinary people on the Tour. The idea raised to me when I began to write “On the Moore”. The orchestra conductor agreed and I presented it to my record company. Alain Le Meur listened to it, he could like it or not …. And he found it absolutely great ! And following this, he ordered me this album of Celtic arrangements with symphonic orchestra. It has been recorded last March in Bulgaria and will be released next June.

RAN: Let’s talk about your new guitar “LÂG PAT O’MAY SIGNATURE” …

PO’M : It’s a jewel. When you begin to play music, you’re full of dreams, so far from thinking what it all can bring you. I never would have thought to have this chance. Actually you get much more and that’s the real life.

RAN: The Canadians from GODIN also dedicated a PAT O’MAY SIGNATURE guitar to you. Why did you leave them ?

PO’M: I stopped with GODIN after 15 years as a few things happened with a lack of courtesy, which also touched the distributor. I still have contact with the French one, but I definitely couldn’t continue to defend a label with so little elegance.

So, LÂG proposed to dedicate me a signature guitar and we worked on it for 2 years: on the woods, diapasons, guitar neck curves. With little hands, I needed something perfectly ergonomic as well as closer switch contacts. We tried many mikes, as I hate active ones (you lose the wood sound), until Seymour Duncan, miracle, made it possible to fabric an active mike keeping the warmth of the passive. I have 5 different sounds which I use extensively.

RAN: And what about the amplifiers ?

PO’M: I just signed with CARVIN, the LEGACY 3 model.

RAN: Do you have a message for America, more specifically for Florida ? Did you ever play in Florida ?

PO’M -I never played in Florida and I would love to. So if you know anybody who can help us to make this happen, it’s whenever you want .

RAN : The last one but not least ! Do you approve AXL ROSE commitment with AC/DC ? Will it works ?

PO’M: I’m not interested in. I didn’t see it and have no opinion. The best album ever from GUNS N’ ROSES is “Chinese Democracy” … miles away from AC/DC.

RAN Many thanks!

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Jose Oliveira