By Rosine Alleva and José Oliveira, Rock At Night Journalist/Photographers – France.
ALAIN PIRE EXPERIENCE – February 2018, Woodstock Guitares Live.
Psychedelism is a current born in the second half of the 60s. It was intended to recreate, awake and conscious, the distorted sensations resulting from the use of drugs such as LSD and based on sound and visual effects.
Often associated with the Hippie movement, Psychedelism lived its glorious splendors incarnated in music!
GRATEFUL DEAD or PINK FLOYD and later the BEATLES, were the flags of this flowering movement.
ALAIN PIRE, one of the great European specialists of this movement (thanks to his work “Anthropologie du rock psychédélique anglais”- British Psychedelic Rock Anthology) performed at the venue Woodstock Guitares Live with his project ALAIN PIRE EXPERIENCE.
ROCK AT NIGHT went to Ensisheim to listen to the trio. We were wise! No need for drugs to live this awesome experience… Our only drug is and will always be MUSIC!!!
Alain Pire- Guitar, Lead vocals, René Stock- Bass, Marcus Weymaere- Drums.
RAN– Since you came to Woodstock Guitares with SUBSTITUTE, tribute to Who, what happened in your life as a musician? Are you still turning with the band?
ALAIN PIRE– We played 25 dates in Belgium last year including the FrancoFolies de Spa, it was also very nice. I also did a concert for SERGEANT PEPPERS’ 50th Anniversary in Huy, our hometown. With my friends here, we played the whole album. We were 27 musicians on stage. The next day we played in Mons for THE BEATLES day. We filled the venues both days. There were strings, brass – it was a real big show, magical moments. I say this now because before the show I was quite stressed (laughs). It was called Alain Pire’s Lonely Heart Club band, It was heavy on the shoulders (laughs).These 2 concerts were quite exceptional.
RAN– Did you record an album from this project?
AP– No, but it was filmed. There are videos on YouTube. With artists more known in Belgium as Perry ROSE, an Irishman who lives in Belgium and tours quite well, Marc YSAYE, director of radio Classic 21, HUGO, a French singer, English musicians from London and Liverpool, strings ‘brass, a great moment. It was a lot of work, because it’s a mythical album, we had to respect all the details.
RAN– Do you plan to play abroad with this project?
AP– The problem is that we were not the only ones to have this idea. As it was the 50th Anniversary, it happened in Paris, in United States, in London, with different musicians and we made the Belgian version, which is not bad.
RAN– You know this year is the 50th Anniversary of THE BEATLES “DOUBLE WHITE”?
AP– Yes, but we are not going to get specialized in the 50th anniversaries, it was one shot. We still have other music to do.
RAN– Are you still touring with the Who’s Tribute, SUBSTITUTE?
AP– We don’t have too many dates at the moment, but Yves (Woodstock Guitares) just asked me if we could come back this Autumn, so we’ll come back with Substitute in Autumn. We have already been asked to play TOMMY’s entire album, but it takes a lot of work and it’s not worth it. We play some pieces of TOMMY, “Pineball Wizard” “See me, Feel me” but not the full album. For the moment we put more emphasis on our trio ALAIN PIRE EXPERIENCE, it ‘s no covers but it’s more rewarding as a musician.
RAN– When was ALAIN PIRE EXPERIENCE founded?
AP– We started in 2013, Marcus and René played with a guitarist, a friend of mine and I thought they were really playing great. I gave them my phone number. I brought them home, and at home I have a studio. When we had songs we were recording them, they thought we were doing demos to find dates but actually I was doing an album (laughs).
So, we released the album and we had almost not played yet. We were lucky enough to spend a little bit on radio and then we did the second album last year. We’re back in radio, we’re very proud of our stuff, it’s our thing, we’re three and all concerned about the music we make.
RAN– What are the influences of the band?
AP– The psychedelic music of the 60s, both THE BEATLES in their psychedelic period but I like THE BEACH BOYS with lots of voices and much more exploratory guitar stuff. I also like to improvise on stage, a little like big bands, which doesn’t happen much anymore nowadays. We know when a piece starts and ends but what we play in the middle is different each time. So this is the improvisation side, we motivate each other and some songs are different at each concert.
RAN– Tell us about your 2 albums. CAMBRIDGE in 2014 and SONGS FROM THE 13TH FLOOR, 1 year ago.
AP– We sold them well but you know that the record market is quite complicated. I also use more modern technologies. I have a site, either people download and buy directly online, or they buy by mail and I send the album and then at concerts we also sell a lot of records. I had to let it repress several times, luckily there is the title “Cambridge”.
RAN– I really like the video …
AP– Yes, it’s a title that sounds very Beatles. And for the second album, the same, I have also let it repress several times. I also made vinyls because it’s a music that goes well on vinyl and there is an audience for it. I have a distributor in Greece who distributes all over Europe and even the whole world. These are not always large quantities but it’s diffused and we will play this year in Liverpool at THE CAVERN in May and then we’ll go to a psyche festival in Wales in August (The 16th Dream of Dr. Sardonicus).
We start to export our trio, it’s cool. It’s a festival that is full every year, which works well and we’re really happy to be part of it. And of course in Liverpool, in this mythical place. I have been there as a spectator but never to perform.
RAN– You played with Mario GUCCIO, MACHIAVEL lead singer, who left us a few weeks ago. On which occasion was this? Je
AP– A few years ago, I replaced Thierry PLAZ, Machiavel’s guitarist who was sick, so I did a whole concert with Machiavel. Mario also invited me sometimes when he was playing in the area, so I was joining to play with the band. It is one of the big Belgian groups. Marc YSAYE, director of RADIO 21 is the drummer of MACHIAVEL, it is a great loss for the Francophone musical world. Yes I played an entire concert. He called me on the Wednesday for a concert on the Saturday. On the Thursday he brought me a tape (at the time it was still tapes) that did not turn in the right tone, no grids, no partitions. Friday was the rehearsal and Saturday was the concert. It was a bit hasty but hey, I did it (laughs).
RAN– You played with a lot of people on the Belgian blues scene. Jo Lemaire + Flouze, Burning Plague, Ladies Sing the Blues (with BJ Scott and Dani Klein).
AP– B.J SCOTT is a fairly well-known American in Belgium and is part of the jury of THE VOICE Belgium, and Marcus, who is with us tonight, is her drummer . Ladies sing the blues is a band of soul music covers with 4 singers, Motown covers. It was great, we played everywhere, even at the Amsterdam PARADISO. It was just before Dani Klein founded her band, VAYA CON DIOS. They sold hundreds of thousands of albums. We couldn’t know it was going to work, otherwise I would have asked her if she wasn’t looking for a guitarist! (Laughs)
RAN– Are you a studio musician? Do you sometimes substitute musicians in different bands?
AP– No, I’m not a studio musician because I’m not a reader, I never learned music so to play as a studio musician is not easy. No, my thing is to do what I love. So, either we compose our songs, or we did the tribute to the Who because we liked it, Sergeant Pepper because I wanted to do it. But I’m not looking to play any kind of music, I really prefer to play the music that pleases me. That’s not my thing at all, Markus and René are much more studio musicians than me.
RAN– René Stock, tonight’s bassist, played, among others, with Rob Tognoni who was here at Woodstock Guitares for a concert in June 2016. We interviewed him and finally Rob interviewed me about Frank Zappa!! A crazy night! To speak about this Belgian scene, I confess that apart from Arno, I find that the Belgian groups can’t export themselves. Yet France is next door, how do you see that? There is a kind of chauvinism maybe …
AP– There are a few!…GIRLS IN HAWAII, PUGGY, a group that works well for the moment. GHINZU, TRIGGERFINGER too. We must ask this question to the French. The Belgians often sing in English, because either they are Flemish, not everyone sings in French. Stromae does yes, but in another register. I don’t know why it’s the case … We’re concerned as well (laughs).
RAN– How do you see the rock scene in France? For example TELEPHONE revival, LES INSUS?
AP– It was one of the big French bands and we are in a period of revival too, we are more in nostalgia, tributes. People want to listen to things they heard when they were younger.
I often go to the Francofolies in Spa and we see a bit of a glimpse of the French scene. The music changed too. Before the Rock was the music majority, this is not the case anymore. Now there is the R’N’B, the techno … whether we like it or not. Rock is just one of the music that is present on the market, like jazz and classic, which tends to age. The public who loves rock is not twenty anymore like it was thirty or forty years ago.
RAN– Now I would like to come back to this famous psychedelic movement, I personally lived this period in Portugal, we were aware of all these groups, even more than in France. We knew the names of all the musicians, for example PROCOL HARUM. ROBIN TROWER, the guitarist of PH was recently in Paris. I must admit that I was disappointed and naive because I read the biographies of THE WHO, STILL, NASH AND YOUNG and everything that was done musically is great but there was a lot of drugs. Besides, they criticize themselves, it was a surprise for me. So the question I’m asking you, do you really think that everything that was so beautifully made of would not have worked without going through LSD, and all these drugs?
AP– If you have nothing to say artistically, it is not because you will take LSD that you will suddenly become a genius. So, it was a way, as Steve Jobs said, of “think different”. For people who were gifted, psychedelic drugs was a different way of looking at things. Of course, with the problems it could cause (Syd Barrett). To have taken these drugs opened to them universes which they would not have thought before. Before the psychedelic rock was pretty basic and it’s from the psychedelic that we started making pieces like the GRATEFUL DEAD that lasted 45 minutes…with great or even ugly stuff, concerts with lots of improvisations. It could be great one day and the next day crappy. We do not remake history, we can not erase this dimension of the drugs influence. It had tobe creative people with a musical technique, who had melodies in their heads, wanted to do things. I think each group is different, with a different story. It’s not monolithic, you see.
In my book – Anthropologie du rock psychédélique anglais (British Psychedelic Rock Anthology), there is a big chapter that is dedicated the relationship between psychedelic drugs and creativity. Creativity was not only exploited in art but before it was banned in 66, there was research that was done with designers, architects. In an extremely controlled environment it could possibly give different points of view to explore the same problem.
RAN– Beyond all this creative movement that appeared in album covers and artists’ posters, BILL GRAHAM, the owner of FILMORE EAST was one of the first to exploit this new creative form scenically…
AP – Absolutely right José ! This is where all the magic of light shows began to develop. The first multimedia shows rose also in London with the psychedelic movement in 65-66. First and foremost, it focused solely on music, and there they started adding visuals to make it a total visual experience!
RAN – And of all the groups mentioned before, were THE BEATLES the representative group of this movement?
AP – They represented a certain facet always focused on the songs. Psychedelia came to the level of orchestrations and “Sgt.Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band ” is indeed a typical example. But there were a bunch of bands that used jam sessions to focus on improvisations that could last over an hour. They were two completely different facets of the same movement because each individual reacted to drugs differently. It was part of an atmosphere of the time. Even the STONES made a psychedelic album (SATANIC MAJESTIC see) and yet it wasn’t such a psychedelic band.
RAN – To conclude this wonderful interview, I would like to add the facet that I think that the Psychedelic Movement, often nowadays, so underestimated and even forgotten, deserves a great Exhibition across Europe. What do you think?
AP – Yes, that’s right. But I don’t know if it has already been done but there is a kind of comeback over the last years, otherwise we would not be here. Certainly, these are niches, it is not mainstream as they say but there is this neo-psychedelic Australian group TAME IMPALA, that goes on very well. There are bands that continue to play this same kind of music. There are always people who are interested in this. There are even festivals, maybe more in the UK and the US, finally psychedelism is not forgotten! Because there is something sincere in that music, it’s not business, you play with your emotions and try to communicate them to the people.
I’m talkative, right? Laughs !!!
RAN– No, it’s really interesting, we love it! Thank you very much Alain!
We would like to thank Alain MOREAU for his great pictures and Woodstock Guitares Live for their usual warm welcome!