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.”
PAST TO PRESENT : A JOURNEY IN GUITARS
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.”
“MIND MEETS MATTER”
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.
EARNING MONEY AS A MUSICIAN
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.”
ABOUT INFLUENCES AND DISCRIBING HIS OWN MUSIC
“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.”
ABOUT OTHER STYLES
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.”
CLAUDE PAULY AS A TEACHER
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.”
POWER OF INTERNET FOR A MUSICIAN
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 .