Claude Pauly: Fusion Sounds from Luxembourg

Inter­view: © Sinem Dinçer

“Now, being your­self is not easy these days, as we are bom­barded with an overkill of music, play­ers and influ­ences more than ever, and even the very notion of indi­vid­u­al­ity has been hijacked and for­mat­ted by the industry.”

Luxembourg-born gui­tarist Claude Pauly is per­haps the only name in his coun­try promi­nent in fusion style music. Except the sound­tracks he does for ads and films on TV, he is iden­ti­fied as “fusion gui­tarist” espe­cially in his indi­vid­ual works. It has been nearly four years since the release of his last album Mind Meets Mat­ter; how­ever, it still sees great inter­est in online envi­ron­ments. Pauly talked about his musi­cal works that have a long his­tory, about his pref­er­ences as a musi­cian, about the prej­u­dices and the inter­est in Fusion in Lux­em­bourg and in the world, about his sto­ries inter­sect­ing with other musi­cians, and about what it means to earn a liv­ing as an inde­pen­dent musi­cian in this interview.

Gar­licks was the first released album on which the lis­ten­ers saw the name of Claude Pauly for the first time, in 2001. “That’s a longer story…” says Pauly while telling how the group mem­bers came together.  “When I got back from Lon­don, I started to meet  a num­ber of musi­cians in Lux­em­bourg that had not yet been active at the time I had left Lux­em­bourg in 92.  I met them either in the con­ser­va­tory, where I took some lessons with Jacques Pirot­ton, or in a stu­dio where I had been doing some gui­tar ses­sions and jin­gle work. So I even­tu­ally met John Schlammes, the bass player, who had just started a trio project with Al Lenners, the drum­mer and the bril­liant pianist and liv­ing musi­cal ency­clo­pe­dia  Georges Urwald. He intro­duced me, we had a jam, and got along pretty well. The sax player Jitz Jeitz joined in at some point and we then rehearsed as a fusion 5-tet, play­ing sort of rearranged fusion and jazz stan­dards. After a while, Sascha Ley joined the band, and we sud­denly got more gigs because she as the singer and front woman was the Tro­jan horse that got us gigs as a fusion band, and that con­stel­la­tion even­tu­ally resulted in the final Gar­licks, and the CD Mutant Stan­dards, which was a big col­lec­tive body of work.”

Most of peo­ple know Gar­licks was the very first album he was involved in. But he had played on a num­ber of CDs from rather unknown Lux­em­bour­gish pro­duc­tions, pop, rock and zouk, before the Gar­licks CD came out, but just as a side­man. “This was my first real fusion and band CD, I was very excited and proud of the pro­duc­tion, which had taken a lot of metic­u­lous work. At the time, the inter­net was not as fully potent as it is today, or at least we did not know too much about tak­ing advan­tage of it.” And the reac­tions they got with this album back then…? “We just had a small review in all about jazz and in Gitarre und Bass mag­a­zine, and a lim­ited inter­na­tional expo­sure as we did not have a label. Locally, we got good feed­back, although a lot of jazz lis­ten­ers still seemed to not be able to han­dle the fusion side of things as it does not quite seem to fit into what they’ve come to know and define as ‘jazz’.…listening back today, I still get shiv­ers from ‘my funny valen­tine’ and a cou­ple of other moments, although the CD is gen­er­ally a bit too pol­ished and tame for my taste.”

The sec­ond one in 2002, Jaz­zper­i­ments was an album in which Pauly com­bined / inte­grated pop­u­lar ele­ments and jazz in a very stun­ning way. When I asked about the place  Jazzex­per­i­ments takes in his discog­ra­phy and in his musi­cal story, he replied; “To be hon­est, I have mixed feel­ings about Jaz­zper­i­ments. It was done at a time where I did not have a band and was basi­cally on my own in my stu­dio, with a lot of ideas, a lot of sam­ples from some unre­leased Gar­licks tracks and the cre­ative need for an artis­tic state­ment. I enjoyed the exper­i­men­tal, intro­verted side of that work, nights and hours of just mess­ing around under musi­cal lab­o­ra­tory con­di­tions. On the other hand, I played shock­ingly lit­tle gui­tar on that CD, and basi­cally just com­posed and recom­bined and genet­i­cally mod­i­fied sounds and musi­cal ele­ments.” C.Pauly gets a lot of very good feed­back then, “as it seemed to hit a cer­tain nerve in peo­ple at the time; the loop and ambi­ent thing were quite pop­u­lar, and I had basi­cally tried to jazz it up and rephrase it,  instead of falling into the Bud­dha Bar chill out cliché. The thing that nags me about it today is that because there were  so many ‘for­eign’ ele­ments that I used, it some­how feels like  more anony­mous artis­tic state­ment that did not really define me as an instru­men­tal­ist and made me stay in the back­ground. At that time though, I felt I needed to present and define myself , as a gui­tarist and with clearer styl­is­tic con­tour, which obvi­ously was not the case with Jaz­zper­i­ments. But all that made be really avoided  the same mis­take again, so I knew my next thing was going to have to kick some butt.”


Like every musi­cian, Claude Pauly remem­bers his first gui­tar very well too; “Oh yes! My first elec­tric was a cheap 60s Höfner strat type thing, a weird look­ing ani­mal in red to black sun­burst, an adven­tur­ously designed tremolo and 3 pick­ups. It cost like 80€ at the time in like 1980, and I was proud as punch…” But he trades it in at some point, “After some weirdos and bor­rowed “bet­ter” and “real” gui­tars, I even­tu­ally got my first used Fender stra­to­caster in 83 or so, a 74 sun­burst with a rose­wood neck. I still regret sell­ing it today.”

What kind of music you were lis­ten­ing to in those ages? “The thing is, at that time, I lis­tened to music like crazy, but I had not imme­di­ately started to try and emu­late any­body, at least not con­sciously. I had always lis­tened to a really large spec­trum of music, but it even­tu­ally shifted to gui­tarists in par­tic­u­lar once I started playing.”

Gui­tar heroes he used to emu­late or admire… “Actu­ally, hear­ing Hen­drix in a scene from ‘Apoc­a­lypse Now’ was the thing that so baf­fled me that I wanted to learn to play gui­tar in the first place. There was also John McLaugh­lin and the Mahav­ishnu Orches­tra, a  lot of old blues, Zep­pelin, a lot of psy­che­delic stuff, hard rock like Deep Pur­ple or Hawk­wind, some jazz like Tom Scott, Cole­man Hawkins and Louis Armstrong…but I guess what I really went for at first was Hen­drix. McLaugh­lin seemed tech­ni­cally so off the scale that I prob­a­bly did not even dare think of learn­ing that stuff until much later.”

Before start­ing to play gui­tar, he had played the flute and var­i­ous Orff instru­ments in school when he was a kid. “I actu­ally wanted to become a drum­mer at first, but the cou­ple of lessons I took with a weird and rather uncool guy from a local music school plus the fact that my par­ents did not really enjoy the thought of a drum kit in the house made me change plans…”

As a gui­tarist, of course Claude Pauly always had some favorite gui­tars, he explains that in this way; “They mostly were the ones I just hap­pened to play at that time , although I was never entirely happy with them… Thing is, as an instru­men­tal­ist, you start off with rather generic instru­ments before you start to form an idea of the sound you like and res­onate with most. Even then, after years of search­ing, elim­i­na­tion and refine­ment, you still often look for some­thing  you’re not too sure what it is exactly, or how to define it…it’s an intu­ition of what is your voice, your tone, your color. It’s some­times a long and tedious process, until you start to get a clearer pic­ture of what it is you’re after and what is actu­ally ‘yours’. Once the pic­ture becomes clearer, it helps to exper­i­ment and know about the tone woods, mate­ri­als, pick­ups etc. so that you can nar­row down and use the fac­tors that get you there. And when you’re there, you fine tune what you have and do, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even­tu­ally find your voice and instru­ment. It’s a con­tin­u­ous and chang­ing process, as your hear­ing, play­ing style and taste also keep evolving.”

Claude Pauly’s favorite right now is his new green tele­caster type gui­tar. “It’s an assem­bly of dif­fer­ent parts I bought sep­a­rately, it has 2 hum­buck­ers and a sin­gle coil, a Gotoh 510 tremolo with a steel block, a Korina body, a wood I dis­cov­ered last year and which I’ve instantly loved, as it has an incred­i­ble response in a cer­tain range of over­tones, which makes the notes develop and bloom in a way that I really love. Not really as full bod­ied as alder with its some­times obnox­ious low mids with dis­tor­tion, but very bal­anced, and a huge step towards the kind of tone I’m after these days.”


Pauly had been on stage as a kid a few times with his class for the very first time, “Where we made music for the­ater plays or just the Orff type con­certs with like 20 kids with xylo­phones and flutes etc.” And also he was on stage again with a gui­tar at age 16, for the first live per­for­mance as a gui­tarist, “We played at a small con­cert in a hos­pi­tal for hand­i­capped peo­ple, where the other gui­tarist and band leader Thierry Kin­sch was work­ing at the time. I was very very ner­vous but it went pretty well. After that, the band started to get a lot of gigs, and my ini­tial stage fright even­tu­ally changed into excite­ment and lov­ing to play live. Sadly, after I no longer played with Ty Break, there was a long time off stage, and the stage fright came back…” What does play­ing live on the stage mean to you? “Hmm that’s a tricky one. To be hon­est, I have not played live that much in the last cou­ple of years. I know that for me, the first cou­ple of gigs after a pause are always a bit uncom­fort­able, as I need to get my reflexes and rou­tines back and feel a bit self con­scious. It takes me a few gigs to get back into that life and stage vibe, but after that, when the band gets the chem­istry back and things start to flow, inside me and on stage, the whole thing gets to a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level and I man­age to let go and feel very com­fort­able and get adventurous.”

Some musi­cians would rather play in a stu­dio than a live per­for­mance. Pauly thinks that they’re really two dif­fer­ent ani­mals, and they each have their appeal. “Obvi­ously, in the stu­dio, you have more time to focus, you can lay out your solos bet­ter and cor­rect mis­takes and fool around edit­ing, but the energy is not as intense and immi­nent as on stage.”

When he is on the stage, accord­ing to him that’s hard to quan­tify how much atten­tion he pays to the reac­tions of the audi­ence, because it depends on a lot of fac­tors. “Ide­ally, I focus on the music and the play­ing and try to get that flow going, in myself and of course among us musi­cians. The chem­istry can get to a level where the audi­ence gets tuned in and there is an ener­getic inter­ac­tion that keeps spi­ral­ing up the band’s as well as the listener’s energy. The reac­tion of the audi­ence, in such a case, just reflects the ener­getic qual­ity of the con­cert and the band, and if all is tuned right and hap­pen­ing, that reac­tion is gen­uine and very good by itself, nat­u­rally, with­out effort. It’s some­thing that hap­pens more or less uncon­sciously, for every­body.”, and he con­tin­ues, “In such a case, there’s no need for polite applause after solos just because you’re sup­posed to do so, as peo­ple just feel and nat­u­rally respond to the musi­cians. On their side, no need for fak­ing or pos­ing, it all hap­pens when and because the energy is hon­est, intense, and things fall into place. This inter­ac­tion really is a com­plex phe­nom­e­non. One one hand, even with­out con­sciously know­ing,  audi­ences often do have a very sharp instinct of the ener­getic integrity and qual­ity of a per­for­mance, and I think that this is also exactly what they then react to. It’s not their job to decrypt how cool or dif­fi­cult your lines were over those changes, they couldn’t pos­si­bly know. But peo­ple often feel when things are tuned or ‘right’, and when the energy is real and intense, regard­less of how ‘ener­getic’ or heavy the music is. In such a case, the inter­ac­tion and exchange between musi­cians and the audi­ence really gets a dynamic that helps and car­ries the musi­cians, who in turn can gen­er­ate and deliver more energy via their music and per­for­mance. On the other hand though, I’m some­times just in dis­be­lief when I see how much ‘con­sumers’ as well as crit­ics seem to be impressed by pos­ing and fak­ing, by musi­cians who think they can  get away with wear­ing a funky hat, mak­ing the right faces and ges­tures to fake inten­sity or being so into it, or pimp­ing up CVs with end­less name­drop­ping and mean­ing­less quotes. The funny thing is, in rock and pop music every­body knows it’s pos­ing, it’s just part of the game.” What about jazz? “In jazz, peo­ple seem to think that as it’s all so much more adult and arty, and that jazz musi­cians would never do that… ”

“But con­cern­ing the  ‘ideal’ — every­one knows it can’t hap­pen on every gig.” says Pauly. “Much can go ‘wrong’, you might be out of sync and stand beside your­self when you per­form, be tired, sick, ner­vous, the venue, food, orga­ni­za­tion etc might be lousy, peo­ple might be unre­spon­sive to your music etc etc. Usu­ally , when you start to insist, push it or ‘per­form’, or try to impress or gain people’s atten­tion or get real sen­si­tive to their reac­tion and seek recog­ni­tion, the game is already lost. Find­ing that sweet spot inside myr­self where I can focus on the music and the energy and let go of expec­ta­tion and of being self con­scious, and stay in aware­ness is a long learn­ing process, at least to me.”

Claude Pauly says he hasn’t played live all that much; but very inter­est­ing things hap­pened to him while he was on the stage play­ing. Such as: “some years ago, my amp fell off a stand dur­ing a really good solo, bam!- no more sound and every­one in shock…talk about being in the flow.… Another time, some­one had switched off my amp on a gig where we were sup­posed to go on stage and imme­di­ately start play­ing on a show­case in Nashville. That’s the kind of panic you have in night­mares when you dream you have a gig of a life­time but can’t find your cable on stage or lost your gui­tar etc.” On the fun­nier side, Pauly lived a most inter­est­ing moment with their Grand Duke , “I once played for our Grand Duke and the ‘royal’ fam­ily. I had writ­ten a jazzy arrange­ment of our ‘Wil­hel­mus’, a tune that usu­ally gets played when the roy­als enter before they sit down on their spe­cial seats etc. They are usu­ally not allowed to sit down until the tune is fin­ished, and the tune is usu­ally just a theme, played once – which I didn’t know. I had writ­ten it out with solos for every­one to take turns over the changes, so the tune got longer and longer, and they were stand­ing there , smil­ing politely, until I saw the MC wav­ing like mad for us to STOP. I then gave every­one signs and we stopped…of course, the best and most reward­ing moments are those of totally unex­pected chem­istry and magic with the band and the other musi­cians dur­ing a tune.”


When we go back to the albums… MIND MEETS MATTER was an album which Pauly dreamt of doing for a long time and which he recorded not in Europe but in Cal­i­for­nia with sig­nif­i­cant musi­cians such as Kai Eck­hardt, Alan Hertz and Frank Mar­tin. This is also one of Claude’s  longer sto­ries ; “OK that’s a bit long, but here we go…when I made plans for my next CD after Jaz­zper­i­ments, I really wanted to make an instru­men­tal and com­po­si­tional state­ment that would also define me and my artis­tic iden­tity as a fusion gui­tar player. I wanted it to be some­thing big and really really good. At that time I did not have many con­tacts in Europe, and fusion musi­cians are rather rare any­way.” Actu­ally the story begins with the meet­ing of Kai Eck­hardt and Claude Pauly. “I had had inter­est­ing philo­soph­i­cal exchanges with Kai on his inter­net site, as he is a very much a seeker and thinker and had some sort of forum on his site where he stated ques­tions about a num­ber of musi­cal and philo­soph­i­cal or polit­i­cal top­ics. I liked the fact that a musi­cian of such qual­ity had an an approach to things that went beyond just music , and got into some cool con­ver­sa­tions with him and felt we were on pretty much the same wavelength.”

When the time came to pick the musi­cians for his CD, he got some­thing like a flash or intu­ition, and Kai Eck­hardt comes to Pauly’s mind. “The whole idea felt rather bold and intim­i­dat­ing at the same time, him being THE Kai Eck­hardt I had lis­tened to on McLaughlin’s ‘live at the royal fes­ti­val hall’ trio CD…but I really wanted him on the CD, as I loved his human and musi­cal approach to things, and thought he’d be the right man. Besides, I knew this CD had to be some­thing rather big, I kept hav­ing this  ‘either it’ll be some­thing kick ass or I’ll say good bye to my career’ thing haunt­ing me. So I gath­ered all my good spir­its and con­tacted him…and to my sur­prise, he said YES. After some mail exchanges, he pro­posed drum­mers I checked out online and I decided on Alan Hertz, as he was local too and they knew each other well because they both played in Garaj Mahal at the time. Alan had also just got­ten the Scott Hen­der­son trio gig, and I just thought ‘wow, cool’”.

Eck­hardt then pro­posed the pianist Frank Mar­tin, also a local, who was the biggest sur­prise toPauly, as he had never heard of him and sud­denly real­ized who that guy was. “He had worked with and for the biggest names in the indus­try, from Sting to McLaugh­lin, and was a total fusion lover! When I first met him, I was delighted by his enor­mous and friendly energy and urge to play…that guy just breathes music 24/7 and was a delight to work with.”

Well, to make a long story short, “3 months after my mail exchange with Kai, I was on a plane to San Fran­cisco, and it some­times felt like quan­tum leap­ing into a league I was not too sure I belonged…but well, I knew I had to really  break my bound­aries – which I sup­pose I did.” says Claude.


Inside cover of MIND MEETS MATTER, there is a note for the lis­ten­ers stat­ing: “I play and write music for a liv­ing. Mak­ing a CD costs Money and rep­re­sents a huge amount of work that is only rewarded finan­cially when it sells. So I sim­ply ask you lis­ten­ers out there to have the good sense not to copy and freely dis­trib­ute my music on the net or else­where. Please think about it: You pay for the cloths you wear, the food you eat and the things you buy, so please pay the artist for the music you lis­ten to and enjoy”. This note, of course, made peo­ple kind of curi­ous. And Pauly starts to explain the sit­u­a­tion or the occa­sion which made a musi­cian write such a note to his lis­ten­ers with all his sin­cer­ity; “Well, I actu­ally do make money with music or my stu­dio. This year’s been very good, with 5 cin­ema and TV spots, 2 doc­u­men­tary movie scores and some other stuff. Nobody actu­ally makes seri­ous money with gig­ging or CD sales these days, at least most peo­ple I know don’t. I never expected Mind Meets Mat­ter to make me rich, as I knew that fusion is a niche mar­ket with a rel­a­tively small fan base,  but I thought I might at least sell enough to get even with my pro­duc­tion costs.It sadly did not hap­pen.

I wrote that note appeal­ing to people’s good sense, because I knew the ille­gal down­load thing was going to be a prob­lem, as a lot of peo­ple con­sider it a sport or some sort of sub­ver­sive civil duty to upload and ille­gally dis­trib­ute copy­righted music. They think of them­selves as some sort of mod­ern day Robin Hoods, fight­ing ‘the indus­try’ , “the man” and the evil ‘con­tent mafia’. What they don’t real­ize is that they destroy liveli­hoods too, and rob inde­pen­dent musi­cians of their income. There seems to be absolutely no aware­ness of the costs, amount of time, work and ded­i­ca­tion involved in mak­ing a CD, and that the artists need to cover those costs in order to keep mak­ing music and new  CDs.”

After my ques­tion about the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive effects of inter­net on albums, Pauly says; “I’ve seen Mind Meets Mat­ter pop up on sev­eral shar­ing sites, even on sites where you have to actu­ally pay to down­load ille­gally uploaded stuff! There was a counter on one par­tic­u­lar site that showed close to 29.000 down­loads of Mind Meets Mat­ter...that lit­er­ally makes me sick, as I’ve only sold a few hun­dred copies! On some sites there was a com­ment area, and I kept writ­ing com­ments next to my own CD, say­ing, lis­ten, guys, if you like this, please go to itunes and spend the $9,99 to buy it, as this CD has cost me a small for­tune and a year’s work. Of course my com­ment never showed up, instead I could read peo­ple say­ing ‘great dis­cov­ery, thanks for the upload fusiondudeX777…’

I wish those 29.000 would donate 1 dol­lar each…

These days, Ille­gal down­loads have become a real plague and a threat to musi­cians’ sur­vival, which is as frag­ile as never before any­way. Even John McLaugh­lin has a blog about it on his site, and while most peo­ple have sen­si­ble and empathic  reac­tions, there’s a cou­ple of dick­heads telling him to go f**k him­self and adapt to the new dig­i­tal real­ity and that he should put up his tunes for free like every­body else …one guy was like “well John­ny­boy, I’ve given away hun­dreds of songs myself, so just get a life and stop whining”…etc etc. Very sad state of things, really.

Sebas­ti­aan Cor­nelis­sen, Claude Pauly, Frans Vollink, Coen Molenaar

One fea­ture of Mind Meets Mat­ter is the fact that Pauly doesn’t go on tour with the musi­cians he recorded with but  with dif­fer­ent ones instead. Pauly explains this sit­u­a­tion;As much as I’d love to play with the guys again, it’s far too costly to get them over from the US, espe­cially given the low wages paid on most gigs these days. Hav­ing said that, my new Euro­pean band is a fan­tas­tic com­bi­na­tion of most excel­lent and totally ded­i­cated fusion heads from Hol­land” and he intro­duces the musi­cians as “Sebas­ti­aan Cor­nelis­sen on drums, Frans Vollink on bass and Coen Mole­naar on keys, each estab­lished and tech­ni­cally highly versed play­ers with their own projects .

He talks about the places have they given con­certs that they’ve played Lux­em­bourg and Hol­land so far, but says they’re work­ing on get­ting a lot more gigs around Europe and hope­fully Turkey too in 2012.

Mind Meets Mat­ter got excel­lent review so far. While dis­cussing Pauly’s goals with this album and to what extent it suc­ceeded, he says that it’s hard to say, “given the ille­gal down­loads I can’t even tell how many peo­ple actu­ally have the CD or like it. My goals obvi­ously were to estab­lish myself in the inter­na­tional fusion scene and get my music around and heard. When you write music and put every­thing you are and have into it, you surely would like it to reach peo­ple and be heard . I’m always very happy when peo­ple from all walks of life and geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions write me mails about how they enjoy the CD, or how the com­po­si­tions touch and emo­tion­ally move them. That almost com­pen­sates for the lack of sales or gigs.”

The fact that he did not find a label at the time was prob­a­bly a neg­a­tive fac­tor in spread­ing the CD and get­ting it dis­trib­uted bet­ter, but it was on the well known fusion site Abstract Logix for a while, where he had booked some pro­mo­tion, “so I guess the CD is out there all the same. The actual role of labels these days is another big topic, but that’s a dif­fer­ent story.”


In fact, upon hear­ing Claude Pauly, peo­ple imme­di­ately have a men­tal pic­ture of an elec­tric gui­tar. But Pauly tells for the con­nec­tion between him and acoustic  gui­tar, “I love the acoustic! I use a Low­den steel string and a Chouard cut­away nylon string, for the jazzy side of things.  I had actu­ally started out on some old steel string months before I got to play my first elec­tric. But I do cur­rently not feel as fit on an acoustic as on the elec­tric, steel strings for exam­ple are phys­i­cally very demand­ing and if I were to use it more in a jazz con­text, I’d have to prac­tice a lot more to mas­ter it and feel really com­fort­able. It was very cool tough to play steel string for the sound­track work I just com­pleted with Maxime Ben­der, I played a lot of pick­ing stuff and some bot­tle­neck too.”

Pauly also has had expe­ri­ences with any other kinds of gui­tars, like a fret­less elec­tric, “which is basi­cally some old Korean tele­caster with a neck from which I tore off the frets and glued a metal fret­board onto. There is a metal shop around here , and they cut the metal sheet to size for me, I just glued it on. The thing works OK, but I find that it mostly sounds a lot like a slide gui­tar, except for chords of course. As much as I love guys like Fiuczyn­ski and the cool sounds they get from a fret­less, I decided at some point that for me, it was not worth the effort to get into it deeper.”

Actu­ally Claude Pauly had record­ings — not ‘offi­cial’ — which are entirely acoustic; but when he played with the acoustic Spire Trio, he wrote a lot of tunes for acoustic gui­tar, dou­ble bass and vocals. They had a series of gigs where he played steel string only, and there’s still some demos around some­where. Pauly has no plans for a sim­i­lar project, but would not mind join­ing  one if some­one asked him to play acoustic gui­tar on his project. He addes here as note “within my range of abil­i­ties of course.”

Do you also use/benefit from your gui­tar while com­pos­ing? “That depends. Some of my tunes were writ­ten on the gui­tar, oth­ers on the key­board, some come into shape using both. There’s sounds and voic­ings that induce a cer­tain mood or vibe, and lead to a tune, and some can only be found on the gui­tar , oth­ers only on the keyboard.”

One of the things is his rela­tion­ship, his com­mu­ni­ca­tion with other gui­tarists. He played in 2 gui­tar duos so far, “both were fun to play in, but a bit one dimen­sional after a while. It’s not some­thing that attracts me at this time.”

When I asked about where he draws his inspi­ra­tion from while com­pos­ing and  how he comes up with a start­ing point; through melody or chord changes or a groove; there were so many things that Claude  wanted to say. “That  changes from tune to tune. It can be a groove, a cer­tain mood com­ing from a ten­sion or the inher­ent dra­mat­ics of a chord or chord changes, a line that calls for a cer­tain way of har­mo­niz­ing it, or I’ll try out var­i­ous har­mo­niza­tions, which then might in turn call for the line to change and evolve, lead­ing to again new changes and so on. I never know where the tracks I fol­low  will lead me, it’s all reveal­ing itself step be step as the tune evolves. Things also hap­pen by acci­dent, a loop might have a wrong start­ing point, con­nect­ing 2 chords or parts that make total unex­pected sense in a sequence and become a start­ing point for a new sec­tion in the tune, you might play a wrong note or chord and it totally hits the spot etc etc.

As to the inspi­ra­tion, that’s one of those ques­tions that almost ask for one of those stan­dard answers peo­ple seem to expect , like, well, you know, love, pain, the land­scape, a good/bad day…etc

In my books, it does not quite hap­pen that way. It can hap­pen that way, but the actual trans­la­tion from the cre­ative energy or impulse into a piece of music is quite an unfath­omable process. Hun­dreds of books have been writ­ten about that, all try­ing to bring some sort of method or sys­tem into it, but in my expe­ri­ence, you don’t know when the muse strikes –or what makes it strike for that mat­ter. It can hap­pen on your worst days, in most pro­fane and seem­ingly most unin­spired and “ordinary”moments. More often than not, when I just sit down and start writ­ing,  also when I have to, like for a film score job for exam­ple, some­times some­thing great can hap­pen out of nowhere, with­out the need for a cer­tain mood, rea­son or feel­ing. It just hap­pens when you do it. Obvi­ously, you need to carry out and fin­ish the job by your­self once the muse has started you off, but then you’re usu­ally all set.

Some­times I don’t even know or pre­cisely feel what it is that dri­ves or induces a tune, I sense a cer­tain mood or feel­ing but the result­ing music may con­tain and reveal much more, or much hid­den stuff that popped up straight from the uncon­scious. It’s some­times down­right sur­pris­ing to hear what I’ve come up with, as it reveals a lot of a deeper emo­tional  land­scape and my inner world.

Thing is, there needs to be a source of some kind, or a reser­voir or field of some sort. Some peo­ple draw from a pool of uni­ver­sal or col­lec­tive exis­ten­tial expe­ri­ences. It seems they don’t need to leave their room to expe­ri­ence things in an explicit bio­graph­i­cal way, they are sim­ply con­nected to some sort of transper­sonal or col­lec­tive pool of human expe­ri­ence. Mozart for exam­ple could never have writ­ten music of such emo­tional depth and scope at such a young age with­out being con­nected to such a source. Such peo­ple sense what the human con­di­tion entails, are in touch with the inher­ent arche­typal energy and drama, as well as the ecsta­tic states that life con­tains, and they trans­form what they feel and cap­ture into music or any other art.”

He also thinks that once you open your­self up to the sources of cre­ative energy, you must accept and acknowl­edge  all oits emo­tional polar­i­ties. To him, one of the best exam­ples in jazz for this is John McLaugh­lin. He was able to touch upon  the purest and bright­est ecsta­tic energy and gen­er­ate incred­i­ble music with Shakti, but he would also com­pose dark­est works of epic dimen­sion with Mahavishnu’s “Apocalypse”.

“Oth­ers draw and feed upon their life expe­ri­ence, their joys and sor­rows, and trans­form those into music. Some­times your per­sonal sor­rows mix and res­onate with larger col­lec­tive human expe­ri­ences. Both are sources you can con­nect to, but I think you really do have to con­nect to one of them to write or play music with enough sub­stance for peo­ple to relate to on a deeper level . If you don’t, you may be tech­ni­cally versed and impres­sive but you’ll prob­a­bly never get your music across to any­one except your peer shred­ders via your web­cam. Of course music is also just fun or sexy to play or lis­ten to. It doesn’t always have to be a cos­mic soul search and all that. It can be any­thing from fun to nasty to angry to plain crazy and weird.”


“be your­self, every­one else is already taken”.

“I guess I’ll leave it to oth­ers to describe my music.” says Pauly, “I can always agree or not if what peo­ple per­ceive is too far off my own feel­ing or intentions…The influ­ence ques­tion has no sim­ple answer. I can­not help being influ­enced by musi­cians whom I respect and love, and who touch me, I guess no one can, and there’s a large num­ber of such musi­cians and music stored and doubtlessly work­ing in my sys­tem. The ques­tion how­ever is, to what extend do you let your influ­ences take over your artis­tic per­son­al­ity and work? I see so many peo­ple on youtube who seem to emu­late their heroes to an extent where there’s noth­ing left of them­selves. They either have just fun doing that, which is per­fectly OK when it’s part of the learn­ing path, or  when they have no fur­ther artis­tic ambi­tion, but they don’t real­ize that this cloning really is an artis­tic self-annihilation and won’t get any­one any­where. As the say­ing goes: ‘be your­self, every­one else is already taken’.

Now, being your­self is not easy these days, as we are bom­barded with an overkill music, play­ers and influ­ences more than ever, and even the very notion of indi­vid­u­al­ity has been hijacked and for­mat­ted by the indus­try.” he says. “Also, charis­matic gui­tarists like Holdsworth, Hen­der­son or Metheney have such an artis­tic weight and grav­ity that it takes some effort to avoid get­ting caught and  los­ing your­self in their huge aura. On the other hand, there’s also more free­dom than ever to be and real­ize your­self, but given the extreme expo­sure to such an over­whelm­ing amount of music, peo­ple prob­a­bly need to do some soul search­ing and anchor­ing to find out who they really are and what their indi­vid­ual sub­stance is in order to find and do their own thing. It’s also get­ting tougher to play or say some­thing that hasn’t been done before, so it’s prob­a­bly best to try and rely on your own story, your own per­cep­tion and iden­tity, as it’s the only thing that no one else has.”


Over time, Claude Pauly has also played a fair amount of stu­dio ses­sions for rock, pop and zouk musi­cians . Zouk is a style he occa­sion­ally does for a cou­ple of friends and pro­duc­ers who are into zouk, one guy in par­tic­u­lar, Claude Burg, is a pro­ducer for a num­ber of Capver­dian zouk singers resid­ing in Lux­em­bourg, France and Hol­land, he writes and pro­duces their stuff, and Pauly occa­sion­ally plays gui­tar on these tunes and helps out with arrange­ments. “I used to do some rock and pop ses­sion work over 10 years ago, but it’s become very rare.” he says.

” As for “World Music”, I think the term  has been totally over abused”. Pauly thinks it gets real when there are musi­cians of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and instru­ments that come together and  actu­ally fuse their music, cre­at­ing some­thing new and big­ger than the sum of their parts. “McLaughlin’s Shakti was the first real world music in my books, and there’s plenty of other great exam­ples out there. But there was a trend to just buy and mix some sam­ples from India and Africa, put a loop and a bassline under it and call it world music, which I really find very flat.”

“There’s inspir­ing and great music from Africa, there’s music like the Bul­gar­ian Voices that he finds deeply mov­ing, he also loves Japan­ese Koto music and  Arab oud and clas­si­cal music. There’s so much stuff out there I’m sure I’ve never even heard.” he says,  “Ever since I heard Ravi Shankar for the first time as a teenager, and also by lis­ten­ing to McLaughlin’s Shakti albums, I fell in love with Indian music and the sitar.”

Claude Pauly had joined the India meets Europe project by call­ing their man­ager when he heard the Benares mas­ter sitar play­ers Deo­brat Mishra and his father  were look­ing for Euro­pean musi­cians for a col­lab­o­ra­tion in Lux­em­bourg. “I really insisted as I felt it was finally a chance to play Indian music with very good Indian sitar play­ers and learn some­thing from them and fuse some of our styles and ideas.”

The project started off with sax, drums and  gui­tar accom­pa­ny­ing the sitar and tabla play­ers, and got larger and bet­ter each year, they finally ended up with a large band con­sist­ing of Al Lenners on drums, Marc Demuth on dou­ble bass, Roby Glod on sax, Sascha Ley on, Pauly on gui­tar, Deo­brat Mishra on sitar, and their last gig was really intense. “We had a week of intense rehearsals before the gig and put a lot of effort into com­plex arrange­ments. I had tried to har­mo­nize a lot of the sitar lines to give them a larger and jazzy har­monic con­text. We man­aged to really fuse some of our tunes and lines, and Deo­brat also got to impro­vise over some Euro­pean changes. Sadly the project ended because of ‘dif­fer­ences’ with thir man­ager. I’d love to take part in such an Indian project again anytime.”


Pauly still teaches from time to time, some­times in a local music school, some­times pri­vate stu­dents. “In Lux­em­bourg, young , moti­vated and hun­gry stu­dents seem to have became rare, at least as far as fusion goes. I often wish I’d have had a teacher in my teens, I’d prob­a­bly have killed him with questions…

Teach­ing again and again makes you con­front your own  knowl­edge — or deficits, it helps view­ing your play­ing and approach from new angles. Stu­dents can be inspir­ing and sur­pris­ing and boost your own prac­tice. I cer­tainly learned how to explain things, how to trans­mit knowl­edge in an under­stand­able and con­cise way. Also, see­ing tech­ni­cal mis­takes in people’s play­ing helps revisit your own dif­fi­cul­ties. It can be refresh­ing to see and remem­ber your­self in those teenagers, and redis­cover the sheer inno­cent fun they have play­ing guitar.”

As to the pro­fes­sional career ques­tion, he says “hon­estly I don’t know if I could rec­om­mend tak­ing that path to any­one these days. The busi­ness has changed so dras­ti­cally, and mak­ing money or a liveli­hood as a gui­tarist is more dif­fi­cult than ever if you have to build a career from scratch. A lot of peo­ple take the music col­lege path in order to make a liv­ing teach­ing later on, and try to have  that income as a base for a career as an active musi­cian or com­poser. I guess that’s a real­is­tic option, but with the hun­dreds of gui­tarists grad­u­at­ing every year, those jobs have also become sparse. I don’t know exactly, but it seems there’s also not that many ses­sion jobs around any­more, and gig­ging does not really pay the rent given costs of hotel and trans­porta­tion and the rather low wages on most gigs. There’s more musi­cians and more good musi­cians than ever, the place is get­ting pretty crowded, and  at the same time, the music indus­try faces its tough­est recession.”

Pauly would tell any­one who is dri­ven by a strong love for music and a strong ambi­tion to go for it but make sure to get as good an edu­ca­tion and train­ing as pos­si­ble, and to stay real­is­tic about the chances of “mak­ing it” as a gui­tarist. “Maybe I’s sug­gest get­ting another train­ing too, as a safety net. I hope I’m not putting any­one off, but becom­ing a pro gui­tarist really  seems pretty hard and even unre­al­is­tic at this moment in time.”

Gui­tar has been con­sid­ered as an instru­ment of rebel­lious youth since the 1950s but recently it started to lose this fea­ture. What is your opin­ion on the future of gui­tar as an instru­ment? “I’m not sure. The gui­tar has not really changed that much in a few hun­dred years, just like most instru­ments. There’s also been clas­si­cal 7 or 10 string gui­tars for quite some time in his­tory. After the elec­tric 7 string thing, some guys now use an 8 string. I guess it’s part of some dri­ving force in evo­lu­tion that peo­ple want to break and expand bound­aries, either in the music itself or on the instru­ment. I believe there’s always room for changes and evo­lu­tion, both in music and on the instru­ment, but the “nor­mal” 6 string will def­i­nitely keep a place in music for a few cen­turies to come. After all, there’s still so much to be told and expressed within the cur­rent musi­cal lan­guage , the range of expres­sive tools and instru­ments we have today. I per­son­ally don’t feel the need to expand the gui­tar or rev­o­lu­tion­ize it, I feel I barely scratched the sur­face of what can be done with the tra­di­tional meth­ods and sounds I have at my dis­posal right now.”


Except music, Pauly also takes pho­tos or pro­duces videos for TV or very diverse projects. “For quite some time, I relied on cam­era work as my main income. For­tu­nately, over the years  the music has taken over more and more. I still do smaller video pro­duc­tions and edit­ing, as it’s some­thing I’m good at and which gen­er­ates addi­tional income. I really love the image, and I’m quite a visual per­son. I have a cou­ple of ideas for short movies though, but the music, the gui­tar and the new upcom­ing CD still have pri­or­ity. On the other hand, pho­tog­ra­phy is some­thing I really do for the love of it, and I some­times really need it as a coun­ter­point to music and  gui­tar playing.”


He uses inter­net in order to pub­li­cize his projects and to reach var­ied audi­ence. “These days, noth­ing hap­pens with­out the inter­net.” he explains. “With­out the net, I’d never have been able to find and con­tact Kai, orga­nize my record­ing in the USA, find and buy the gui­tars I play, meet Sebas­ti­aan Cor­nelis­sen and the guys from the band. I sold a bunch of CDs over the Abstract Logix site, reach­ing out to peo­ple all around the globe – impos­si­ble or extremely costly and tedious with­out the hard­ware logis­tics of a label and world­wide dis­tri­b­u­tion  20 years ago. I would never have com­mu­ni­cated with you either, and I keep mak­ing con­tacts on face­book or my site and keep reach­ing out to venues and fes­ti­vals to find gigs. The net really has been invalu­able on my path.”

At these times there are some cur­rent musi­cal projects that he is now involved in. He just fin­ished 2 movie sound­tracks in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Maxime Ben­der, and right now he con­cen­trates on the new CD he’ll be record­ing with a new version of his band , the Mind­mat­ter 4-tet .